Tag Archives: libertarian

The Gaping Hole in the Libertarian Immigration Debate

I watched with interest the debate on immigration between Dave Smith and Spike Cohen. I encourage everyone, libertarian or not, to watch it as well. Neither participant called the other a fake libertarian, a racist, a communist, or (insert pejorative here). On the contrary, Smith hurt himself by spending too much time praising Spike during his opening.

Instead of dumb name calling, the debate included thoughtful and thought-provoking arguments for both positions, which were “open borders” and “not open borders.” As to who won the debate, I’ll leave that to the judgment of the viewer. There were no knockdowns.

Like Dave, Spike, and host Marc Clair, I am an ancap. So, my ideal solution would be privatizing everything. And as for my personal feelings about all three, I can only say:

However, especially since it was largely representative of most libertarian discussions on immigration, I am compelled to point out a startling omission in the debate. That was the apparent false assumption by both Dave and Spike that the only options were between the federal government regulating immigration and open borders. Neither even mentioned the constitutional, historical argument: state regulation of immigration.

I was waiting for the conversation to get there until Spike made a statement (about the 43:43 mark), unrefuted by Dave, that since there was no Ellis Island or similar federal immigration enforcement operation for the republic’s first one hundred years, the United States had “straight up open borders” during that time.

No, they didn’t. It is true the federal government wasn’t regulating immigration because the states were regulating it. As I explained in more detail here, the federal government only got involved in immigration as a result of Supreme Court decisions dealing with state immigration enforcement, particularly Chy Lung vs. Freeman, arguably the most spurious decision the Court ever issued on the constitutionality of a federal power.

Without rehashing the linked article above, they didn’t really make an argument the power was delegated. Their decision was based solely on the reasoning that it would be disastrous if the federal government didn’t have the power to regulate immigration, so therefore it must have it. They explained why the federal government should be delegated the power, not that it had already been delegated the power.

It wasn’t the first time the federal government attempted this usurpation. Most people remember the Alien and Sedition Acts for their suppression of free speech, but that was only half the problem. The other half, emphatically argued by both Jefferson and Madison in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798, was that the Alien Act was unconstitutional because it exercised a power (regulating immigration) reserved to the states. Their argument for state nullification of the Alien Act amounted to the same argument made by “sanctuary cities,” only at the state level.

Conservatives often argue the power to regulate immigration is granted to the federal government because it is part and parcel of the power to regulate naturalization (becoming a citizen). This is ludicrous. The vast majority of people who cross the border have no intention of becoming citizens and the two powers are completely distinct.

Others point to the 1808 clause, which has slightly more superficial merit, but you can read my arguments against that in the linked article as well.

For the record, Jefferson addressed the 1808 clause in the Kentucky Resolution and Madison, who wrote the words of both the Naturalization and 1808 clauses, nevertheless stated regulating immigration was a power “no where delegated to the federal government.”

Since there hasn’t been an amendment to delegate this power since then, it must still reside with the states or the people.

The constitutional approach provides two alternative solutions to the immigration question that could work for both conservatives and liberals and be more tolerable to libertarians:

  1. Acknowledge the federal government does not posses this power and propose an amendment to delegate it to the feds.
  2. Acknowledge the federal government does not posses this power and allow the states to resume their authority as protected under the Tenth Amendment.

The amendment suggestion is more than just a formality. If an amendment were proposed, it would require a supermajority of states to ratify it. Out of the dogfight that would naturally follow, something agreeable to both sides might emerge.

If not, alternative #2 would be the default position. While that may appear unthinkable at first glance, allow me to point out that states are already availing themselves of this option right in front of our eyes.

Blue states are declaring “sanctuary cities,” meaning they won’t expend their own resources to enforce federal immigration laws. The governor of Texas says his state is building its own border wall. Florida governor Ron DeSantis wants $8 million from his legislature to “create a new program that would allow the state to contract with private companies to transport ‘unauthorized aliens’ out of Florida.”

Just like marijuana laws, states are beginning to nullify federal immigration laws and any honest proponent of strict construction of the Constitution should admit they have the right to do so.

It’s a far cry from a private property system, but it’s much closer than either federal enforcement of immigration laws or federal subsidization of immigration into the states. If we can’t have a libertarian solution, we can at least have a constitutional one.

Supporting this position checks all the boxes brought up by the participants in the debate. No libertarian candidate would have to support the disastrous federal immigration system. Instead, they could tell voters in each state they support their right to determine the rules themselves, without interference from Washington.

It would also be eminently more practical. It would not mean routine interstate travel would be disrupted by authorities attempting to physically stop people from crossing state lines. The federal government has already shown that to be futile.

State government immigration departments could focus on those people establishing residence within the state rather than attempting to prevent anyone from merely driving through. Those arriving at airports or ports from foreign countries could be processed the same way by state officials as they are now by federal officials, at each state’s discretion.

Not every state would regulate immigration the same way. Those states that wanted open borders could have them. Those that wanted border walls could build them. Those that wanted something in the middle could have that, too.

Nothing governments do can be truly called a market solution but allowing up to fifty different immigration policies would much more closely approximate one than the current one-size-fits-all approach. And it would allow a more scientific way to answer not only whether more or less immigration is good for the current state populations but how much or little regulation is optimal. There may be up to fifty answers to the latter question.

No, the constitutional approach is not perfect, just as neither solution proposed in the debate was perfect. But it beats a civil war between the very unlibertarian factions currently seeking control at the federal level. And it has the potential to evolve into something closer to a private property system than could ever emerge with Washington in charge.

Tom Mullen is the author of It’s the Fed, Stupid and Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Homeless in Ancapistan: Throw the bums out?

Ancapistan was rocked by controversy recently when one of its leading citizens, comic Dave Smith, suggested homeless people living in public parks designed for children should be removed by the police. His argument is based on the homeless people using drugs and engaging in lewd behavior in the presence of children, a situation virtually everyone agrees is undesirable. It’s what to do about it that is at issue.

The dilemma proceeds from the unfortunate reality that the ancap population is not living in its home country, but rather held captive, Babylonian Exile-style, in what purports to be a democratic republic – with the “democratic” part increasingly in the ascendant. That raises the question of how to try to apply libertarian principles in a decidedly unlibertarian world.

The argument against calling the cops goes like this: The parent taking his children to the park doesn’t own the park; it is “public property.” And in public spaces, the inalienable right to liberty trumps any individual’s preferences for rules of conduct. After all, the parent doesn’t own the park and one’s rights are limited to what one owns. So, he has no right to eject anyone from land he doesn’t own. The homeless person has as much right to be in the park as the parent, the children, or anyone else.

Not to mention it is decidedly unlibertarian to call the police, the domestic occupying force of the empire, for any reason.

Here is the problem with the argument against ejecting the homeless people. It is not true that the parent doesn’t own the park. He does. Like the public roads, he hasn’t consented to own it, but rather has been dragooned into ownership by the state. Depending upon how the park is funded – from property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, etc. – he may or may not have contributed to the creation and maintenance of the park. As money is fungible, he has at least indirectly contributed if he has paid any taxes at all, which are mostly collected to provide benefits to people other than the taxpayer.

But contributing to the associated costs is not a condition of ownership of the park, which is just one of the reasons “public” anything doesn’t work. Public property is owned by every citizen of the polity in question (the town, the city, the state, or the nation) equally. Therefore, the homeless person is also an equal part owner in the park, no more voluntarily so than the parent, but an owner all the same.

It should not be assumed the homeless person has contributed zero funding. He likely has paid sales taxes on items he has purchased. That his contribution is probably miniscule compared to the average parent in the neighborhood reveals another defect of public property: ownership and voting rights over disposition and use are not proportional to the financial contribution made.

That said, doesn’t the homeless person have as much right to be there and do what he pleases in the park as the parent bringing his children to play on the swing set, even if statist rules against “loitering” or “vagrancy” might be employed by the state to remove him?

Of course not. He doesn’t have that right here in Democratica and he wouldn’t have it in Ancapistan, either. In an anarchist society, all property would be privately owned. While it is true that some property may be jointly owned by multiple parties, those cases would be governed in precisely the same way jointly owned private property is governed here in Democratica – by an agreement between all parties as to how the property would be used, what each partner was entitled or not entitled to do with the property, etc.

The only difference in Ancapistan would be that use of the park would be governed solely by the rules agreed to by the partners, without additional rules dictated by an outside force like the state. And the park would be entirely underwritten by the owners, with no outside parties forced to fund it.

Obviously, in such a scenario, no single owner or partnership would invest in the land and equipment necessary to create a park for children and allow homeless people to live in it or commit lewd acts in it in front of children, just as Disneyworld doesn’t allow these things here in Democratica.

Like the roads, the libertarian living in Democratica is not obligated to abstain from using the public park he has been forced to partially own. After all, he likely did pay for them, whether voluntarily or not. But how to settle the dispute between him and his partner in ownership of the park, the homeless heroin addict?

In Ancapistan, they would fall back upon the terms of their consensual agreement. In Democratica, they have no choice but to refer to the terms imposed upon them by their so-called elected representatives. These would be the laws or regulations imposed upon users of the park by the flawed, democratic system which created the park in the first place.

No, it is not a perfect solution, and neither would perfect solutions be available in every situation in Ancapistan. But it is the best solution available to the libertarian forced into a partnership with the homeless person by the state.

As to the libertarian revulsion with using the police, it is understandable but also flawed. Should libertarians ever be allowed to return from exile to Ancapistan, they would find it a similarly imperfect world, albeit a better one. There would still be crimes (violations of property rights) committed there and we would still need to use force to restore equity (there is a proper use of that word) to the victims.

You can call them something else if you want, but we would still need cops to go out and get perpetrators who refused to voluntarily show up for private arbitration hearings or whatever we’d call dispute settlement procedures. There would still be a need to physically remove the occasional trespasser who refuses to leave. And just like no libertarian believes he would be making his own shoes or drilling his own oil in Ancapistan, we would employ professionals to do this work.

Public property doesn’t work. From drilling oil on public land to what is taught in public schools to how fast one can drive on public roads, there is constant conflict and unhappiness with the way public property is governed. That’s why “public property” should be considered an oxymoron. If it’s owned by everyone, it’s really owned by no one for all practical purposes.

It is interesting that some libertarians are concerned about this particular situation. It seems unlikely they would similarly object to physically removing a person screaming in a public library every day or a rich person parking his Mercedes in the center lane of a public highway. Why the homeless guy masturbating in a public park is different is anyone’s guess.

The only just solution to this is to abolish public property and the state along with it. If and until that happens, libertarians should do their best to approximate Ancapistan within the rules dictated at gunpoint by the tyrannical state. If the state has forced them into a partnership with homeless people not following the rules of the partnership and prohibited them from “taking the law into their own hands” to settle the dispute, they should call the cops and ask them to throw the bums out.

Tom Mullen is the author oWhere Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Resisting the Nitwits: Strategies

Simpsons-Mob homer runningSo, I’ve been giving some thought to approaches we could take to free ourselves of the Nitwits. Again, I didn’t start this group because I thought I had any answers, but rather to ask the question of any who see the problem the same way I do.

I thought it might be worthwhile to break down approaches into general categories and people could add to them in the comments (I’ll amend the OP). Below are the first I’ve thought of off the top of my head, along with the results of any already tried and/or foreseeable challenges. Please add and comment.

For those employing any of these means, I ask in advance to control the urge to be defensive about any challenges I suggest. We’re all here because we recognize one thing: nothing so far has worked or we wouldn’t be here in the first place. However, there may be ways to innovate/improve within the general categories listed below:

  1. Political action. This seems like the most obvious failure. Could anyone have done better taking the message to the Nitwits than Ron Paul or Harry Browne? And no, Ron’s campaign didn’t fail because the media blacked it out. Ron got way MORE exposure than his votes warranted. The Nitwits just didn’t want to hear about less government. I don’t see how this avenue could be exploited significantly better than it has been. The Nitwits will make zero effort to understand the message, no matter how well it’s presented. They’re still answering polls about whether the U.S. should have a third party as if third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. parties didn’t already exist. This seems hopeless to me.
  1. Free State Project. This was an admirable effort and certainly creative. But the most optimistic thing one could say about it is it has yielded no fruit so far in terms of affecting New Hampshire politics. As proof, I’d point to the last U.S. senator elected in 2016 – a Biden/Clinton-style Democrat, just like the other elected in 2008. I am open to why this isn’t true, but let’s please refrain from holding up that one position any Republican or Democrat holds that might be slightly libertarian as if it’s helping. You can find those all over the establishment. Yet, we have the system we have.

I think the problem with the Free State Project model is it requires such an uprooting of one’s life and uncertainty about making a living, etc. Not everyone is built to live in NH. I wasn’t built to live in FL. I moved back to NY after 10 years, knowing how much more statist it was here (they’ve upped the ante since I moved back – sheesh).

  1. Free Country Project. This is a variation based on what Doug Casey has been saying to individuals for a long time: find a backwards, poor country that presents opportunities and become a big fish in that little pond. It’s conceivable that a bunch of libertarians could try to do this in a small country somewhere and become the so-called “elite” there. But it has the same challenge as the Free State Project times ten.
  1. Free City Project. The same strategy, but in a smaller geographical area/population. This is probably the most realistic, although to some extent we can observe the results now. No, there aren’t pockets of libertarian communities anywhere, but my little rural community in New York, for example, is decidedly pro-Trump. But the residents here do not live any more a Trumpist life than anyone else in deep blue New York State. The county, state and federal governments control so much of daily life that whatever differences a contrary political view make (and I can point to zero here in my town) are minor at best.

Now, if a community my size were taken over by libertarians, instead of Trumpists, what differences could they really make? Maybe get rid of some zoning laws, maybe not. Every county has an urban center and I’d bet it would be hard to change much here without the “permission” of those in the City of Niagara Falls where all the population lives. That’s not even to mention something truly libertarian like privatizing the water utility, police force, or garbage pickup (and I mean really make it private, with free entry into the market, not the way some of these are “privatized” right now).

  1. Civil Disobedience including Agorism. I know people do this now and have some measure of success. But let’s be realistic: the success avoiding taxes and regulations is based solely on flying under the radar. In other words, not doing enough business or acquiring enough wealth for it to be worth the state taking an interest in confiscating it. Were there a way to get a significant number of people to do this en masse, I believe the Nitwits would immediately call in their keepers out of sheer envy, but certainly it might be worth a try.

The problem again is geography. The people doing this would have to be in the same geographical area to make the movement rise above what it is: a few, relatively poor rebels eking out a subsistence or barely above subsistence living too small for the state to care about. It’s analogous to convicts trading contraband inside a prison.

  1. Promoting Homeschooling. The homeschooling population has grown tremendously out of necessity during the Coronasteria. Even before it, the population had approximately doubled in the past twenty years to 2 million. Apart from still being barely more than a rounding error compared to the whole population, I can say from firsthand experience libertarians make up no more a percentage of this subset than they do the general population. My experience has been the most prevalent category are mothers who don’t think their child(ren) would do well in school because of some medical challenge (extreme allergies, autism, etc.). There is also a large contingent of people who object to school merely because they do not teach the Bible as a history and science text. Some of these are conservatives, which means they aren’t libertarians. My wife and I are the only people I personally have met who homeschool for the purposes of providing a libertarian-friendly education.

It is an open question whether there is an opportunity to promote home schooling very hard right now to at least get a larger chunk of the child population out of the public school system. No matter what their parents believe, not having them literally marching back and forth to bells and buzzers can’t but help. But we need to approach this with open eyes.

  1. Armed rebellion. I mention this only because I’m sure someone will bring it up. I don’t think this is a realistic option, not for the reasons the Nitwits give that the state has superior armaments (“because you can’t fight a government army with only rifles and small arms against planes, missiles, etc.”). Obviously, the Afghans have disproven that. But armed rebellion is a bad idea for three reasons:

A) We’re completely outnumbered. Unlike the Afghans, there is no significant portion of the population who would support this. We’d all end up dead and held up as nutcase militia types and leave no freer a world behind us.

B) The history of armed rebellions has not shown them to yield more freedom. I know someone will bring up the American Revolution, but I submit that was much more an example of a population expelling a foreign invader than it was an armed rebellion against the existing political structure. The colonists’ objection was that Parliament was changing the political structure by acquiring new powers. And like the Taliban, the domestic population included a significant percentage (1/3 at least) that supported the revolution. This is not the case here.

Besides the American Revolution, what was the other armed rebellion(s) that resulted in a freer society? I’ll hang up and listen.

C) War is destructive and miserable. If the rebellion had any success, which it won’t, it would destroy all sorts of infrastructure and private property, not to mention innocent lives. War is the means of the state. It is humanity at its nadir. Surely, we non-Nitwits can think of a better idea than resorting to this, can’t we?

This blog will be updated with new approaches as they are suggested.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trolling Bernie Sanders Part 1

I know. It’s a little like when Kramer was beating up those ten and twelve-year-old kids at his karate school on Seinfeld. But it’s just too hard to resist trolling the commie con man, if for no other reason than to expose him to his confused supporters. So, by popular demand, some highlights from my past few months trolling Bernie.

IMG_0798 IMG_0812 IMG_0814   IMG_0873 IMG_0901   IMG_0785 IMG_0796

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Earth to Bill Weld: Trump’s foreign policy is more libertarian than Clinton’s

william_weld_by_gage_skidmoreLibertarian Vice-Presidential Nominee Bill Weld has a legitimate beef with the media. On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported Weld “plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks.” Weld denied that claim in an interview with Reason, adding, “No, somebody’s making that up,” in reference to a further claim by the Globe that Weld would henceforth be focusing exclusively on red states.

But libertarian talk show host Kennedy wasn’t entirely satisfied with Weld’s explanations, and with good reason. For while the Boston Globe and other media may have exaggerated or even distorted Weld’s statements, they didn’t just make all of this up out of thin air. Weld himself admits he has been less antagonistic towards the campaign of Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, since accepting the nomination.

Weld says he does not want to see Trump gain the White House because his “proposals in the foreign policy area are so wrongheaded that they’re in a class by themselves.” Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives may agree with him, but virtually no libertarians would. On the contrary, many libertarians ignore Trump’s many odious positions and support him precisely because his foreign policy is so much less hawkish than Clinton’s.

Even Weld’s running mate recognizes this. He’s said on numerous occasions, including during an interview with this writer, that he considers Clinton “a major architect of the conflict going on around the world.” He also said during that interview he agrees with Trump that the next U.S. president should sit down and negotiate with Russia, and went as far as to say he is willing to go “all the way down that road” regarding withdrawing troops from Europe, Japan, and Korea.

Weld has on occasion muddied the water on what “foreign policy proposals” consist of, lumping trade policy in with military intervention, possibly to justify his preference for Clinton. But that dog won’t hunt, either, as Clinton is as protectionist as Trump at the end of the day, with only superficial differences in emphasis and rhetoric. The real difference in foreign policy between Clinton and Trump is on military intervention and Trump’s stance most closely aligns with Johnson/Weld’s. If foreign policy is the chief measuring stick, Clinton is the worse of two bad choices for libertarians, not Trump.

To say Libertarians were skeptical of Weld at the party’s convention in May would be an understatement. Presidential runner-up Austin Petersen endorsed Gary Johnson during his concession speech, but refused to endorse Weld, who failed to gain the nomination on the first ballot. Kennedy’s openly hostile interview of Weld crystalized the accumulated frustration with Weld’s many disappointing statements (from a libertarian perspective) since then. Her charge that Weld was merely using the Libertarian Party for personal advancement may have been unfair. To his credit, Weld handled it well.

What is more concerning for libertarians is that Weld may truly believe his positions are libertarian, rather than merely “centrist” or “moderate Republican.” Contrary to Johnson/Weld rhetoric, libertarianism is not merely “fiscally conservative and socially accepting.” It certainly is not a combination of the “best from both sides” of the Democrat/Republican divide. It is a self-contained political philosophy with its own first principles, most of which depart completely from conservatism and progressive liberalism.

Neither Johnson nor Weld have demonstrated a firm grasp of those principles during the course of their campaign, leading them to positions most libertarians outright oppose. And while there is still a strong case for libertarians to support the ticket, Weld needs to come up with a more believable argument on why he’s #NeverTrump, rather than #NeverHillary. His foreign policy argument for Clinton makes no sense at all.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Dallas Police Chief, Diamond Reynolds and Yale Go Libertarian After Shootings

Black_Lives_Matter_protestAfter the spate of shootings involving police (as both alleged perpetrators and victims) last summer, I suggested limiting the role of the police to responding to emergency calls and serving warrants. A year later, the article is being widely circulated again following a tragically similar series of events.

If the comments or e-mail responses are any indication, this seems to horrify most conservatives in the so-called “land of the free,” even though limiting the government to reactive (rather than proactive) power is the whole idea behind the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments.

But while the White House regurgitates its gun control talking points and conservatives predictably line up with the police, hardcore libertarian ideas are coming from some unlikely sources.

Diamond Reynolds, the grieving partner of Philando Castile, who died after being shot during a routine traffic stop, didn’t demand a government solution for blacks being disproportionately stopped and/or shot by police. She said “the powers of those whose job it is to protect the people need to be curtailed.”

At least one prominent member of the police forces agrees. In the aftermath of the Dallas tragedy, in which five cops and two civilians were killed, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said cops are trying to do too much.

“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said at a briefing Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

Just a few weeks back, The Atlantic ran a story in which Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter acknowledged a reality libertarians are often ridiculed for pointing out:

“Every law is violent. We try not to think about this, but we should. On the first day of law school, I tell my Contracts students never to argue for invoking the power of law except in a cause for which they are willing to kill. They are suitably astonished, and often annoyed. But I point out that even a breach of contract requires a judicial remedy; and if the breacher will not pay damages, the sheriff will sequester his house and goods; and if he resists the forced sale of his property, the sheriff might have to shoot him.”

But the most strikingly libertarian view came from none other than Black Lives Matter activist Jessica Drisu:

“Here are the solutions. We need to abolish the police, period. Demilitarize the police, disarm the police, and we need to come up with community solutions for transformative justice,” said Jessica Disu, drawing some shocked reactions.”

Murray Rothbard smiled in his grave.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly displayed typical establishment tone deafness in response, asking, “How do we protect the community if we abolish the police?”

Disu had just told her how she proposed to protect the community. But Kelly, though highly intelligent and trained in the law, just couldn’t muster enough imagination to even consider that perhaps securing life and property could be handled privately.

For all of the twentieth century, Americans led by establishment media turned to the government during times of crisis. But after several generations of government failure in the wars on drugs, poverty and terrorism, better informed Americans seem to be thinking out of the box. And libertarian ideas are beginning to blossom in the most unlikely places.

It’s no accident that a libertarian presidential candidate is polling in double digits for the first time in the party’s 40-year history. Imagine what would happen if he were allowed into the presidential debates.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Tom Mullen on WBFO 88.7 FM Buffalo, NY – Libertarian Party, Johnson/Weld

libertarian_conventionI sat down with Jay Moran of WBFO 88.7 FM here in Buffalo, NY to discuss the Libertarian Party and the Johnson/Weld ticket. The short version that aired is at the top of the page; the full conversation can be found at the bottom. Listen here.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What Gary Johnson Should Have Said About Legalizing Heroin

maureen-morella-cnnIn one of the more predictable moments from last night’s CNN Libertarian Town Hall, Gary Johnson was confronted by the mother of a young man who ingested a single line of heroin and was disabled for life. Jacob Sullum has already weighed in on what Johnson should have said from a libertarian perspective, but his thoughtful and informed piece is still too verbose for a political campaign.

Libertarians like to make fun of “sound bites” and slogans, but if they ever want to win an election for dog catcher, much less President of the United States, they need to face the reality that people stop listening and stop reading when the answer is long and developed. Here is how Gary Johnson should have answered:

“Ms. Morella, I am very sorry to hear about what happened to your son. It’s a tragedy. But I have to tell you the truth, even though it’s not what you came here to hear. What happened to your son may not have happened if heroin were legal. Here’s why:

When drugs are illegal, they’re sold by criminals who have no business address. You can’t sue them if they’re negligent or prosecute them when they willfully defraud you.

Reactions like your son’s usually occur with what’s called a “hot load,” meaning there was another substance mixed with the heroin. If the heroin he ingested were sold by a legitimate business in the light of day, there would be an immediate investigation. If the product had dangerous ingredients in it or otherwise wasn’t what the package said it was, the owner would be sued. If it were discovered he did it intentionally, he’d be prosecuted.

Ms. Morella, no one in America is concerned that when they buy a bottle of gin, there is going to be foreign substances in it that are going to kill them. But they used to be. Know when that was? When alcohol was prohibited. They called it “bath tub gin” and tragedies like your son’s occurred all the time when only criminals could sell alcohol.

There is absolutely no difference between alcohol prohibition then and drug prohibition today. Your son’s tragedy is the 2016 equivalent of what happened to people drinking bath tub gin.

Prohibiting alcohol also led to the rise of heavily armed, violent gangs like Al Capone’s. You don’t see sellers of alcohol today behaving like Capone. Do you know why? Because that’s not how business is conducted in the absence of prohibition.

You said, “Can you people in positions of power please get rid of the drugs?” I’m the only politician who is going to tell you the truth. No. We’ve had a war on drugs for decades and there are more drugs now than ever. It’s a little like the government war on terrorism. Is there less terrorism today than fifteen years ago or more?

What we can do is stop subsidizing criminal drug dealers by taking away their legitimate competition. If you want someone to tell you what you want to hear about drugs, I’m sure Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be happy to do so. Their parties have told you they’ll get rid of drugs for fifty years. If you want the truth, the only way to make America safer is to end prohibition and allow all drugs to be sold like alcohol.”

The answer above is chock full of sound bites. Sound bites become headlines. That’s how you get your message out to 315 million people.

It also answers the woman’s question, something Johnson’s rambling answer failed to do.

This is the way Gary Johnson has to start answering questions if he’s going to take any advantage of the opportunity the Libertarian Party is being presented with during this election. Hopefully, his debate coach is listening.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Buffalo News Political Coverage Belongs in the Fiction Section

clinton valentineToday’s Buffalo News print edition features five articles on the Hillary Clinton campaign, including a front page, feel-good piece about how Clinton’s (almost) nomination has inspired other women. The News also chose to run a Politifact piece that endorses Clinton’s criticism of Trump’s trade policies, a criticism this writer happens to agree with.

The other three pieces could at best be described as neutral/supportive, although one questions whether the media has been too quick to pronounce Clinton the nominee. Nothing in these or any other recent articles the News has run on Clinton, outside of reader letters, can be described as remotely critical. This despite a large constituency within her own party that views Clinton as wholly-owned by Wall Street and a war hawk.

There are also five articles on Trump, including the Politifact article. Four of the five are negative. One is neutral, a reprint from Bloomberg News which reported Trump “distanced himself from his own fundraising estimate of $1 billion.”

Even this article could be construed as an attempt to cast a negative light on what Trump’s supporters consider a positive – that he’s not bought off by powerful special interests, as many on both the right and the left believe of Mrs. Clinton.

There is nothing in the Buffalo News that remotely suggests Trump might be better on foreign policy than Clinton, who has a lot to answer for regarding her role in the chaos raging throughout the Middle East and now spilling into Europe. Neither would readers of solely this paper know Trump set a record for votes in the California primary on Tuesday.

This is what passes for reporting on the 2016 presidential election in Buffalo’s only newspaper.

Make no mistake, this writer has no problem with a newspaper being biased. All media are biased and always have been. But there is a difference between bias and severing all connection with reality. Anyone relying on the News for their understanding of national politics might as well go to the fiction section of the nearest public library.

Full disclosure, I won’t be voting for Trump or Clinton in the November elections. I plan on voting for Gary Johnson.

Buffalonians reading this just started making owl noises, because in the fictional Buffalo News universe, neither Johnson nor the Libertarian Party exists. A search on the paper’s website yielded no headlines – ever – mentioning the candidate’s name, despite Johnson polling in double figures in three polls before his nomination and 16% in the latest poll in Utah. Even the left-leaning Washington Post describes the Libertarian Party as “so hot right now.”

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but in a year where the candidates in both major parties have record-high negative ratings, wouldn’t a presidential ticket featuring two former two-term governors (of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively), nominated by the only third party with ballot access in all fifty states, be at least newsworthy enough for its existence to be acknowledged?

Not to the Buffalo News.

That’s not bias. That’s misleading the public. And it’s a disservice to the good people of Buffalo, who may not be receptive to the messages of campaigns other than Hillary Clinton’s, but certainly have an expectation that their only newspaper will acknowledge they exist.

Unlike Mr. Trump, I would never support any legal action against the News, no matter how poorly they serve the public. As a libertarian, I truly believe in free speech. I don’t even support libel laws if a newspaper outright lies (which I’m not suggesting is going on here). I believe the market can sort this out, when it’s allowed to work.

So, maybe it’s time the Buffalo News had some competition. What do you think? Let us know in the online poll below. Who knows? Perhaps an alternative is waiting in the wings (wink).

Does Buffalo need another voice on politics besides the Buffalo News?

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No
I don’t know

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Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.