THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 463, April 13, 2008
"Throw it Together and Go Lie Down"
Are Bob Barr or Mike Gravel at all libertarian?
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
So, I attended the Heartland Libertarian conference in Kansas City this past weekend. It was sort of interesting.
The setting was the Intrigue Park Place hotel. Right in the middle of an industrial park, and apparently a paper mill or something was responsible for the fumes. What a headache.
There were about 130 people in attendance on Saturday. There were six presidential candidates in the debate on Saturday morning, including George Phillies, Wayne Root, Christine Smith, Mike Jingozian, Mary Ruwart, and Mike Gravel. Yes, the Mike Gravel who used to be a Senator from Alaska and was, last you might have heard, running for the nomination of the Democrat party.
Saturday afternoon, there was an announcement by former Republican congresscritter Bob Barr to the effect that he was announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to determine whether to seek the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. Naturally, I was pleased to see extensive news coverage of this story, including on CNN.
George Phillies is certainly a libertarian, but he seemed quite hostile to the idea of other people choosing to believe scripture. Several comments of his during the debate indicated that he is certain that anyone who thinks the Earth is about six thousand years old must also think it is flat. He also seemed to think that the current economic crisis is presenting us with higher commodity prices entirely because of demand in India and China, which I think represents a facile and jejune look at the economics. There is, in fact, a large supply of oil, and many commodities are in greater supply due to new discoveries since 2003 when exploration and re-development began again in earnest. But, of course, the dollar is collapsing, so we consumers aren't seeing much from the rise in supply. I did not get a good sense of his position on monetary, fiscal, or trade policy. His anti-war policy is sound. His web site phillies2008.org includes significant coverage of the debate at the conference discussed here, so you can evaluate the candidates yourself.
Wayne Root might appeal to others. He won the straw poll taken at the convention. (I picked "none of the above" of course.) However, his position on immigration and freedom of choice in hiring do not seem libertarian, to me. On the plus side, he would legalize online gambling. His views overall do seem mostly libertarian, though some would likely disagree here or there. I found his position on a flat tax to be worse than Ron Paul's suggestion of no personal income tax. Unfortunately, with a flat tax, I'm not sure how much pressure there would be to dramatically reduce the size of government, as he also, apparently, wants. His middle initial is "A" and I gather he has only lately come out against the war, previously emphasizing his initials as WAR for America, or some such. His campaign site is here: www.rootforamerica.com
Both Root and Smith claimed victory in the California LP presidential preference primary. I was unable to find a clear statement from an independent source on who won that primary, though it is clearly a sort of "straw poll" anyway.
Personally, I don't think the straw poll at the Heartland Libertarian event was at all sound. I was able to pick up four ballots on the conference meeting room tables and cast all four without any difficulty, so the vote is not even representative of those attending.
Christine Smith made a very impassioned presentation about the war, and seemed quite libertarian in all her views. The same is entirely true of Mary Ruwart. I've heard Mary speak on several other occasions. I think either of these ladies would qualify as a definite libertarian. Mary's views on open borders correspond closely to my own. I first met Mary several years ago at an International Society for Individual Liberty event. You may have heard of her from her book, Healing Our World which applies principles of individual liberty, private property, and free markets to contemporary issues.
I forgot to review what Jingozian said. He mentioned that his web site has gotten a lot more hits ever since Gravel joined the race. Apparently Gravel keeps talking about how bad jingoism is, and people want to know more! You can see his ideas at www.resetamerica.com/main.html
Mike Gravel in his debate presentation and Bob Barr in his announcement speech both indicated their view that a "fair tax" is needed. I gather from other reading that each of them means a revenue neutral national sales tax to replace the income tax. Gravel writes about replacing payroll taxes as well as personal income tax on his web site.
Obviously, I don't see either of these guys as being libertarian. Both seem to be more interested in becoming big fish in the smaller pond of the Libertarian Party by switching their allegiance. I would identify either one as a LINO or "libertarian in name only."
If the tax substitution is revenue neutral, then that is not a libertarian approach to government. A dramatic, substantial, aggressive reduction in the size and scope of government is vital. There is presently way, way too much government, way too many minions of the state searching for ways to steal property from individuals. There needs to be a substantial reduction in the cost of government. With the ongoing collapse of the dollar, Americans cannot afford a "revenue neutral" approach.
Obviously, the cost of implementing a sales tax would be borne by merchants. Great, just another way to screw over the productive. Lots more paperwork, lots more records, lots more ways to get the government to seize your biz if you make a tiny error.
The worst part of these plans is the experience with them all over the world. There is always a "transition" when both taxes are collected. And, somehow, the income tax never goes away.
Sales taxes are terribly regressive. Plans to rebate taxes for the poor or exempt them from the tax are ways to create a welfare dependency on the one hand, or a permanent underclass on the other.
Gravel's presentation emphasized his enthusiasm for national referenda, to be similar in direct democracy to the various state-wide popular referenda. As we know, voters in many states have used this power to, e.g., decriminalize marijuana for medical use, and the nationalist socialist government has refused to recognize state laws on the matter. I wonder how the nationalist government would ignore a nation-wide referendum on the topic. Of course, I am not a proponent of direct, nor of any other kind of, democracy. Gravel's proposal would require amending the constitution, which is not a reliable way to increase liberty, in my view of history. Gravel's web site is here: www.gravel2008.us
There is some talk that a Bob Barr candidacy might take votes away from McCain and improve Obama's chances for victory in the Autumn. But, of course, the LP nomination is determined by delegates to the national party convention in May, in Denver. And, I wonder how many LP members are really taken in by these ersatz libertarians?
Barr is a member of the Libertarian Party and on its politburo. Or, central committee, or whatever they have. I've heard him speak twice, now, and, in my opinion, he's an authoritarian. Barr's web site is here: www.bobbarr2008.com
On the one hand, I think it is great that the tedious politics of the two major parties has caused Gravel and Barr to flee. I think it is probably a welcome development that the Libertarian Party is old enough (founded 1971) and strong enough (has had 50-state ballot access in two previous presidential election years, is likely to have 48-state access this year making it better than Green or Constitution parties by far) to attract refugees from the other parties. If they would give up their socialistic tax and spend policies, Barr or Gravel would be very welcome as participants in the Libertarian Party, in my view. But, as banner carriers for the party, as the nominee for president, neither is sufficiently libertarian, in my view.
Of course, I was at the event to promote my company, Vertoro.com, a book being written by my buddy Ben Woods, freedom-engineering.com, and a different political party, the Boston Tea Party, bostontea.us of which I have been chairman for some months. So, like any gathering of libertarian sorts, it was not entirely without merit.
One of the companies at the event, LPstuff.com had some really nice merchandise, including a gold on gold embroidered necktie with the statue of Liberty icon. They would be a fine candidate for advertising on this site, in my opinion.