THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 468, May 18, 2008
"Terrorism is the price a nation
pays for having an empire"
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
In just a few weeks, the Libertarian Party's national convention delegates will choose our party's 2008 presidential nominee, who will become our de facto leader and public face of the party for the next four years. Will we choose wisely? Will we choose someone who believes in liberty?
When I first ran as a Libertarian candidate for public office in the early 1980s, many of our positions were very unpopular. For example, our call to end the drug war was considered by many to be an endorsement of drug usage and addiction. Because we didn't see the War on Drugs as a solution to the drug problem, people automatically assumed that we condoned the problem itself. They supported the War on Drugs because they thought that a ban on them would keep drugs out of the schools.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The black-market profits created by drug prohibition virtually guaranteed that pushers would target our children. Although alcohol and tobacco have been consistently illegal for minors, students had a much harder time getting drinks and smokes than purchasing crack cocaine or heroin. The best reason for doing away with the War on Drugs was to protect our children, even though most Americans thought just the opposite was true.
These days, even many law enforcement officials support an end to drug prohibition (www.leap.cc). This shift in public perception did not occur overnight, but was largely brought about by courageous Libertarian candidates who were willing to teach the American public about the benefits of liberty, even as they were "slimed" by the media. I am proud to be counted among those candidates, proud to be saving lives and protecting our children. More recently, banning guns has become the cause du jour to "save the children." Because libertarians don't see gun bans as a solution to violent crime, some people automatically assumed that we were content to see children die in gun accidents and school shootings. The American people supported gun bans because of their mistaken impression that they were saving the children.
Consequently, when courageous Libertarian candidates called for an end to these bans, they were often scorned and ridiculed. Studies now show that permitting peaceful citizens to carry concealed firearms lowers the homicide rate. For every life saved by gun bans, 400 lives are lost to predators who would have otherwise been stopped by their armed victims, usually without a shot fired.
Women, people of color, and children make up a disproportionate number of these 400 lives, since, once disarmed, they are much more vulnerable to attack. The fabled Gun Free School Zones are, in reality, prime targets for rampage shooters, because the teachers have been disarmed. The best reason for doing away with bans on firearms is to save the lives of our children, even though many Americans think that just the opposite is true.
For years, myself and other libertarian candidates have pointed out that "when guns are banned, only criminals will have guns." The shift in popular perception has come about primarily because courageous Libertarian candidates are willing to teach the American public about the benefits of liberty, even at the cost of being "slimed" by the media. I am proud to be counted among those candidates, proud to be saving lives, especially the lives of our children.
Today, other bans, such as the ones against child pornography, are touted as panaceas to "save the children." Like drug prohibition and the ban on firearms, these bans backfire, harming the very innocents they are intended to help. Anyone who believes in liberty can see the pattern. Bans and prohibitions drive vices underground, where participants have no legal recourse when they experience exploitation.
Bans make criminals out of 17-year-olds having consensual sex with 15-year-olds, because the younger partner is presumed too immature to make an informed decision. These draconian laws destroy the lives of our young people by making them carry the label of "sex offender" for the rest of their lives. Yet as late as the last century, it was not at all unusual for American boys and girls to marry and start families in their early teens!
Bans based on arbitrary age limits aren't needed to protect those too young to make informed decisions about sexual conduct. Pre-pubescent children, for example, don't have the physical or emotional maturity to even understand what sex is all about. When an adult engages in sexual conduct with a young child, we don't need a law specifying an age limit in order to convict those adults of rape. All we need to do is show a jury that the child wasn't competent to consent.
These kinds of age-based bans put prosecutors and regulators in charge of a weapon that can be used against those whose views aren't politically correct. One of my fellow contenders for the LP presidential nomination, Steve Kubby, has had devastating first-hand experience with this fallout.
Mr. Kubby's efforts were instrumental in passing Proposition 215, which removed the ban against medical marijuana in California. Many of you know the story of Mr. Kubby's subsequent life-threatening incarceration for the crime of passing a law disliked by the police, his move to Canada, and his heroic return (www.kubby2008.com/). While Steve was in prison awaiting the court action that would clear him, his wife, Michelle, was told that their children would be taken away and placed into permanent foster care if Steve lived with them and used medical marijuana.
It didn't matter that several doctors in two countries have confirmed that Steve has a "life and death medical necessity" to use medical marijuana; the courts, which are part of the same government apparatus that prosecuted Steve, routinely favor purported evidence presented by "child protection" officials over testimony from physicians and other real experts.
Michelle did the only thing she could reasonably be expected to do; she began divorce proceedings against the love of her life while he languished in prison. Although his girls still spend holidays with him, and while they talk by phone twice a week, Steve Kubby's biggest heartbreak in life is that he doesn't get to kiss his two children good night each evening. He isn't there to hold them when they hurt. He isn't there to look into their eyes and hear them whisper, "Papa, I love you."
Meanwhile, another fellow presidential contender, Wayne Allyn Root, reaps all the rewards of parenthood. He talks about the joys his four children bring to him in virtually every speech he gives. Mr. Root supports bans on vices ([link])at least the vices he doesn't engage in for a living. He supports the very laws that empowered the state to take Mr. Kubby's children from him to punish him for believing in liberty. In fact, when I told Steve I wanted to discuss his situation, he agreedprovided I not name the agency that threatened his family, under orders of his attorneys, who still are concerned about reprisals against Steve for his role in legalizing the medical use of marijuana.
Mr. Root is new to the LP; he doesn't understand how liberty works because he hasn't done his homework. He doesn't understand the hidden dangers in government's monopoly on force; he scorns the notion that justice is best served when we have competition in everything, including courts, police, and national defense. He calls such competition "anarchy;" I call it "freedom from government oppression." Had Mr. Root walked in Steve Kubby's shoes and had his children ripped from his arms, he might consider more carefully the unintended consequences of bans and prohibitions.
Instead, as Mr. Root freely admits, he reacts emotionally to the superstitious belief that passing a law "makes it so." He doesn't understand how private courts work, and so assumeswronglythat underage victims couldn't easily press charges. In fact, the opposite is true. Prosecution by government requires that a victim or the victim's advocate persuade the prosecutor to take on their case; if that person refuses, there is no recourse. In a system of private courts, no such bottlenecks exist. You may win or lose, but you will have your day in court.
Mr. Root could have asked me for clarification of my positions and I would have gladly given it to him. In spite of repeated efforts by phone and e-mail to persuade me to drop my presidential bid and run in coordination with him for VP, Mr. Root did not ask me to enlighten him on my views. I can only assume that truth doesn't matter to himor at least that it doesn't matter as much as the prospect of getting rid of a competitor does.
Mr. Root concludes his latest press release with this question: "No matter how one might attempt to present the position, do you believe we will grow the Libertarian Party, or damage it, by promoting the removal of the age-of-consent laws or any other laws that the vast majority of Americans believe protect innocent children from adults who would sexually exploit them?"
For the record, I have never "promoted" the removal of the age-of-consent laws. I discussed the issue ten years ago in a book written to help libertarians deal with some of the tough questions we get. It is Wayne Allyn Root, not I, who has made these issues campaign centerpiecesafter telling me in writing that he wanted the issue to go away and wasn't responsible for earlier statements made by his campaign manager or the posting on his web site asking me to withdraw from the presidential race.
Do we want a presidential candidate who highlights issues he himself says are damaging to our party... if he thinks he can use those issues to drum an opponent out of the race? Do we want a presidential nominee who won't take responsibility for his own campaign's actions and statements?
We have always been able to grow the Party and get millions of votes. The choice has always been ours; all we've ever needed to do was sell out. All we've ever needed to do is denounce liberty so that we could avoid scorn and ridicule. All that has ever been required of us is that we stop being the Party of Principle and become the Party of Expediency. All we've ever needed to do was stop telling the truth to the American people, stop trying to help them understand the price they pay when they fall for statist propaganda. All that was ever needed was to support bans that harm our children, but give us the illusion of protecting them.
If I and other Libertarian candidates had taken this path years ago, the Libertarian Party might be bigger and more popular than it is today. In all likelihood, however, discussions about doing away with the War on Drugs or getting rid of gun bans wouldn't be part of the agenda. If we hadn't talked about liberty when it was unpopular to do so, Ron Paul wouldn't have been so well received in his grassroots presidential campaign. Instead, we would be talking about protecting and enriching ourselves, and sacrificing our children on the altar of appearance to do so.
Is that the kind of future we want for the LP? If so, we have several candidates ready and willing to take us down the path of least resistance. Wayne Allyn Root isn't the only "establishment-lite" candidate running. He's not the only one who wants to keep the truth from the American people, to soft-sell our message, to denounce our most cherished values in order to make ourselves look "mainstream." He's not the only candidate ready to sacrifice our children so that we can have the illusion of heroism without the substance.
I'm not interested in that kind of future for our party. If we really care about the children, then we'll tell the truth about liberty until the American public hears us instead of selling out for fifteen minutes on Fox News and the occasional mention in Jay Leno's monologue.
For decades, Libertarians like Steve Kubby and I have told the truth about liberty. We've held our party's beliefs high instead of hiding like cowards behind America's children, even when it meant we might be subject to abuse or ridicule. Mr. Kubby has put his life, his fortune, and his family on the line for libertyand because he did so, his fellow Californians and Americans in several other states now have access to a healing plant that relieves their suffering. If my fate is to take some slings and arrows from my fellow presidential hopefuls, the price I pay for speaking the truth of liberty is indeed small.
I'm not about to start lying to my fellow Americans now, not after all these years of telling the truth, not after seeing Ron Paul inspire so many people with an uncompromising message of freedom. 2008 is a year for us to strike while the iron is hotto stand on our record of speaking truth to power.
We were right on the war on drugsand now that fact is almost universally acknowledged. Around the country, states are legalizing medical marijuana, cities are telling their police forces to go after real criminals instead of drug users, and the masses are revolting against a "justice" system that now imprisons more people than any other nation on earth, mostly for victimless "crimes."
We were right to stand firm against victim disarmamentand over and over the correctness of our stand has been proven on America's streets. What was once our courageous minority stand is quickly becoming the conventional wisdom.
We're right to stand up for a non-interventionist foreign policy and against the war on Iraq. The American people are already with us on that one.
We're right to stand up for getting the market back into health care and the government out of it. The American people were with us when "Hillary care" was proposed in the 1990sand will be once again.
And yes, when the issue is discussed, we are right to stand up against the arbitrary and capricious age of consent laws that make our young men and women into "criminals" while saving not a single child from rape or molestation. I don't see that issue as a major presidential campaign theme, but if Wayne Allyn Root or anyone else expects me to sacrifice liberty, truth and our children to public relations considerations, think again. It's not going to happen.
Do you believe in liberty enough to join me?
Our national convention in Denver will be a fight for the heart and soul of the Party. Will we remain the Party of Principle or will we sell out for a few more votes and a few more television shows? Will we stop telling the American people about liberty in the vain hope of gaining a bit of fleeting popularity for ourselves?
Do you believe in liberty? If so, now is the time to show it!