Number 265, April 4, 2004

Boycott Verizon Communications!

TLE Interviews Michael Badnarik
by L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to TLE

TLE: First things first, Mike. Why are you in competition for the Libertarian Party's nomination for the Presidency of the United States?

BADNARIK: During my 2002 campaign for State Representative in Texas, I was invited to be a speaker during a pro-gun rally in front of the capitol building in Austin. During my speech I announced that I would NEVER relinquish my guns to any state or federal agency—period. My mother was horrified when I shared my comments with her over the phone. "You didn't say that out loud, did you?" she worried. When I confirmed that I had, she said, "Oh, Michael! The government is going to pick you up!" I asked her if she was worried about my safety because she thought the government was benevolent—or because she KNEW that our government is dangerous and out of control. After pointing out that our government isn't likely to correct itself, I asked her (rhetorically), "When I was growing up, who taught me that I should always do the right thing—no matter how difficult that may appear to be at the time?" The answer, of course, is that my mother drilled that ethic into my brothers and me when we were young. In other words, I am compelled to run for President because that is the best way I can think of to help restore the Constitutional protection of our individual rights.

TLE: You have a well-deserved reputation for your knowledge of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. At the same time, you're a libertarian of good repute and long standing. In your opinion—the opinion of a potential President of the United States—what comes first, the Zero Aggression Principle or the Constitution?

BADNARIK: The Zero Agression Principle, of course! That principle is summarized by the Declaration of Independence which states that ALL men are created equal, asserting that their rights to life, liberty, and "property" are unalienable. The purpose of the Constitution is simply to outline a form of government that will put the Zero Agression Principle into practice. When it fails (and some think that it has) we have the right "to alter or abolish it, and to institute NEW government, laying its foundation on such principles (such as Zero Aggression), and organizing its power in such form, (such as the Constitution) as to them, shall seem, most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

TLE: Given the amount of government we have today, what percentage of that amount do you see as acceptable or desirable? If you were able to cut the size of government, what percentage would you leave?

BADNARIK: That is difficult to estimate because there are undoubtedly government agencies that I am not even aware of at this time. Like any other clean-up project, the job will take longer than the original estimate. I would be happy to whittle the government down to 10% of what we can see, and then we can reevaluate the project when we get that far. Right now, the most important thing is that we start eliminating unconstitutional agencies. We can worry about when we should stop at a later date.

TLE: Do you think there's a "fair" or "proper" rate of taxation? In good conscience, could you, as a libertarian, levy taxes at some level, and what level would that be?

BADNARIK: The IRS didn't come into existence the day the Constitution was ratified in 1789. The 16th Amendment and the IRS didn't come into our lives until 1913—over 100 years later. How did the United States government exist until then without the income tax? The most important part of that answer is that the federal government was extremely small, as outlined by Article I, Section 8. Since the government was so small, the founding fathers arranged for it to be funded by excise taxes on foreign imports so that American citizens wouldn't have to bear the burden. Contrary to what most people think, the money collected by the IRS is less than 15% of the government's annual revenue, and most of that goes towards paying the INTEREST on the national debt. (The debt continues to grow because Congress always operates at a deficit.) If we eliminated the IRS, the government would not come to a grinding halt, as is generally believed. So to finally answer your question, I am opposed to ANY individual taxes until we eliminate all of the unconstitutional agencies, and I suspect we wouldn't need a tax after that.

TLE: As you know, the Ninth Circuit Court recently decided that the Second Amendment doesn't mean what it says, and when that was appealed to the Supreme Court, they refused to hear the case, affirming the Ninth Circuit's view that there is no individual right to own and carry weapons. What is your position on gun control? What about licensing individuals to carry weapons?

BADNARIK: With all due respect (which is none at all), the judges on the Ninth Circuit Court are complete idiots. The only type of rights that exist are INDIVIDUAL rights. There is no such thing as "community rights" because communities do not exist in the literal sense. They are abstract concepts. Only the individuals within a community have rights. My definition of gun control is "being able to hit your target". Furthermore, neither the federal, state, or local governments have the authority to require a license before individuals can carry a weapon for self-defense. If the government can require a license to carry a gun, then the government has the "right" to require people to obtain permits that "allow" them to go to church on Sunday. On the other hand, if the First Amendment protects your freedom of religion from government control, (which it clearly does) then the Second Amendment protects your freedom to keep and bear arms without government control. The Bill of Rights is not like a Chinese menu where you get to pick and choose the items you like.

TLE: I'd like you to tell me a little bit about the Federal Reserve banking system, and what, if anything, you think should be done about it.

BADNARIK: Article 1, Section 8, clause 5 grants CONGRESS the power and responsibility "to coin money, and regulate the value thereof..." It does NOT give Congress the authority to transfer that responsibility to another branch of the government, much less to a private company such as the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve has been inflating our money supply ever since 1933, which makes our money worth less than Monopoly money. (I estimate that Parker Brothers prints far less money than the Federal Reserve does!) In order for the United States to survive economically, we need to reestablish a non-inflationary currency based on some commodity, not necessarily gold and silver, though I admit a preference to precious metals. Eliminating the unconstitutional Federal Reserve is a logical and necessary first step.

TLE: A major excuse for the existence of government in the view of many libertarians, is to provide for the national defense. Would you say the current administration is acting in the interest of national defense, or merely practicing foreign adventurism?

BADNARIK: The foreign policy of the United States has been one of "empire building" ever since the First World War. The Constitution authorizes government to provide for "national DE-fense", not "international OF-fense". If Americans were really interested in promoting our national safety, they would realize that a policy of constant foreign intervention directly undermines that stated goal. Our country has military forces stationed in 135 countries around the world, and we are influencing their governments and economies either directly or indirectly in every case. That is the political equivalent of poking them in the eye with a sharp stick. It is little wonder then that dozens of countries and millions of people around the world harbor more than a little resentment against us. The recent mutilation of American civilians is just the beginning of the violence that will be directed toward us if we do not bring our troops home where they belong.

TLE: What would you have done if you had been the President when the World Trade Center was attacked?

BADNARIK: A policy of strict non-intervention should not be construed to be an indication of weakness or pacifism. The Libertarian philosophy says that you cannot INITIATE the use of force. Most Libertarians strongly support the use of lethal force to protect life and property. The same rule applies to international relations. We cannot justify sending our troops around the world because it makes some people feel better, however we have every right to retaliate against an unprovoked attack. Had I been President on September 11th, I would have gathered all of the evidence available to our intelligence agencies, and I would have shared that information with the American people. Then I would have insisted on a declaration of war from Congress before I deployed any of our troops. More important still would have been a well defined mission statement that would clearly identify what conditions constitute an end to the war. The current administration has declared a "war on terrorism" which is a broad, abstract concept. Since there are no clear boundaries as to what constitutes terrorism, this war is one that could presumably last even longer than the ill-fated War in Vietnam.

TLE: Would you please comment on this government's invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and, more generally, the "War on Terror"?

BADNARIK: I think I've covered these topics in my previous answer.

TLE: What percentage of the current government do you think is Constitutional?

BADNARIK: This question is similar to #3. Again, I suspect that less than 10% of what the federal government does is authorized by the Constitution.

TLE: What would you do on your first day in office?

BADNARIK: a) Declare that all four national emergencies are immediately terminated, as well as the presumption of Emergency War Powers. Senate Report 93-549 has found that the "national emergencies" announced by FDR in 1933 because of the Great Depression, by Truman because of the Korean War, and two initiated by Nixon because of the Vietnam War, are still in effect today. (Skeptical readers can search the internet for this report and read it for themselves.)

b) Declare that all 20,000+ gun control laws in the United States are unconstitutional and unenforceable. I would also issue a valid executive order to the BATF and other pseudo police agencies informing them that any agent who confiscates a weapon of any kind, from someone who is not currently engaged in a murder or robbery, will not only be terminated from their position, but they will also be prosecuted for violating the unalienable rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect.

c) Issue another valid executive order to my subordinates executives working for the IRS. That order would instruct them to come to work, make a pot of coffee, and begin working on their resumes' pending a federal grand jury investigation as to the legitimacy of the Sixteenth Amendment and the Internal Revenue Code. High ranking officials from that department would be closely monitored as flight risks, pending indictments for fraud in the event that evidence proves that they knew that no statute exists that requires Americans to fill out a 1040 form and relinquish a significant percentage of their hard earned money to an unconstitutional government that refuses to operate within a budget.

d) Declare the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to be unconstitutional, and prohibit that organization from printing even one more dollar of fiat currency. I would immediate appoint Bernard Von Nothaus, Monetary Architect for the Liberty Dollar, to be my Secretary of the Treasury, placing the stability of our economy in his capable hands.

e) I would announce a special one-week session of Congress where all 535 members would be required to sit through a special version of my Constitution class. Once I was convinced that every member of Congress understood my interpretation of their very limited powers, I would insist that they restate their oath of office while being videotaped. Those videos could then be used as future evidence should they ever vote to violate the rights of Americans again.

f) I would take a short break for lunch.

TLE: If you and I agree that the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional and that the Constitution is the highest law of the land—which makes the Patriot Act unlawful, would you regard the people who forced it through Congress as criminals and treat them accordingly?

BADNARIK: Absolutely! The fact that Congress signed that act into law before it was even printed—suggesting that they couldn't possibly have read the entire 280+ pages—makes them guilty of gross negligence and dereliction of duty at the very least. The fact that twelve states and nearly three hundred cities have passed resolutions declaring the Patriot Act unconstitutional, and therefore null and void within their respective jurisdictions, is compelling evidence that Congress is becoming more and more flagrant with their abuses of power.

TLE: If you've been reading recent accounts of the atrocities being committed inside the prison system at Guantanamo, the beatings, the chaining, the drugging, the use of heat, cold, terror, and sleep deprivation as implements of torture, what would you do to rectify this situation?

BADNARIK: I would make arrangements to release non-violent drug offenders and anyone convicted of tax evasion in order to make room in our domestic prisons. I would immediately provide food, clothing, and medical examinations to everyone at Guantanamo, and then proceed to transport them to prisons within the United States. All prisoners would be given the option of having court appointed attorneys assigned to their case to ensure that every single prisoner was given due process of law. Under a Badnarik, Libertarian administration, no one would be labeled a terrorist until AFTER the trial.

TLE: Realistically, a Libertarian candidate for President doesn't expect to get elected. If he does, he needs some serious couch time. So, that being the premise, what do you hope to accomplish with your campaign?

BADNARIK: Libertarians are metaphorically pushing a huge rock up a steep hill. The deck has been stacked against us, and the recent Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BiCRA) makes the Alien and Sedition Act initiated by John Adams look like a moderate inconvenience. Benjamin Franklin made a distinction between revolution and rebellion. Revolution was an astronomical term which refers to the fact that a planet invariably returns to its starting location. In Franklin's view, the American Revolution occurred between 1760 and 1775 marked by a change in the way people thought about the government. It was during that time that people reacquired an appreciation for the importance of private property. The bloodshed that began in 1775 at Lexington and Concord began what Franklin labeled the American Rebellion. He felt that it was possible to have a revolution without a rebellion, but only if the revolution happened soon enough. The goal of my campaign is to stimulate another American Revolution—in other words, a change in the way Americans view their government. That is why I am working so hard to win the nomination, and to teach my Constitution class wherever I can find students. If I can educate enough people to realize that "We the People" created the government, and therefore they work for us—perhaps we can still salvage the republican form of government our founding fathers created for us in the first place.

TLE: I wouldn't ask you this, but my readers want to know—in the event that you fail to win the LP nomination—would you be happier supporting and voting for?

BADNARIK: I dislike questions like this because they explore subjective personal opinion instead of philosophical ideology. I would prefer that your readers were confident enough to form their own opinions based on personal investigation of all three candidates. Although I confess to having a personal preference, it would be inappropriate for me to share it with you in this venue. (I know my rights! I plead the fifth.) I would like your readers to know that I will enthusiastically support whomever the party membership decides to nominate. That is because I am fighting for the cause of Liberty, and not pursuing any personal agenda. For that reason, I strongly encourage your readers to attend the National Convention in Atlanta so they can vote for the candidate they think best represents the party. As an added incentive I will be presenting my eight-hour "Introduction to the Constitution" at the Marriott hotel on Thursday, May 27th, from 9am until 6pm. The cost for my class is normally $50 per person, however anyone who registers by Sunday, May 23rd can attend for the reduced price of only $25. I look forward to meeting everyone there!

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at Autographed copies may be had from the author at


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