Last monday, you were given the chance to Ask Questions of the Libertarian Party's US Presidential nominee, Michael Badnarik. Today we present to you 15 of the most highly rated comments, and the answers from the man himself. Thanks to Mr. Badnarik for taking the time to talk to us. His answers are yours with just a click of the mouse below...
How can we change the system so people have the choice between multiple candidates and not just two?
It's a long, hard, uphill battle. A lot of Americans don't know that until the 1890s, the government didn't print ballots at all. Voters wrote their own, or used pre-printed ballots provided by the party of their choice. The adoption of the "Australian ballot" gave the politicians control of what choices were put in front of voters.
Today, the Libertarian Party -- and other third parties, of course -- have to fight to get on the ballot. In some states, we have to gather enormous numbers of signatures. In others, we have to drag the state to court. We've been very active on this front. In 1980, 1992, 1996 and 2000, the Libertarian Party's candidates appeared on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This year, it's 48 states and DC -- we missed the signature requirement in New Hampshire and are in court in Oklahoma.
A better question, of course, is how do we offer the American people REAL choices -- choices they can vote for without fearing that their vote will be "wasted" on a candidate who "can't win?"
There are various alternative voting systems that address this problem.
Instant Runoff Voting allows the voter to assign a rank to each candidate; if no candidate gets a majority of "first place" votes, then "second place" votes are counted, and so on, until someone gets a majority. This allows people to choose a "third party" candidate as their first preference, but still get a vote between frontrunners if their candidate loses.
Personally, I prefer Approval Voting. In this method, each voter can select as many candidates as he likes -- he can vote for all the candidates whom he can live with. All of the votes are counted, and the candidate with the most votes wins. The result is that the winner is not necessarily "the most popular," but "the one that the most voters are okay with."
Of course, the "major" parties don't approve of anything that might threaten to break their shared monopoly on power. That's why they've instituted the Australian ballot and draconian ballot access laws. But we'll keep fighting them until we win.
I fully support the Libertarian platform and ideals and I have every intention of voting for you in November. My only beef with the libertarian approach is timing. You've stated that in your first couple months of holding office you'll eliminate the federal reserve, kick the U.N. out of the country, and bring as many of our troops home as possible, among other radical (but good) changes. My question is this: how do you plan to handle the societal impact of these changes? Eliminating the federal reserve is not something I'd expect to go over lightly in the financial markets, for example. Much of the Libertarian platform is a severe departure from the current state of the nation -- I feel that society would need time to adapt to these changes.
I guess my first response to that has to be that for a Libertarian to be elected to the White House right now would indicate massive social upheaval already. Yes, my ideas are radical -- but my election would prove that America is ready for radical solutions.
You're right, though. It isn't as simple as that. Stating my goals and what I'd attempt to do is not the same as stating what would happen. The presidency is an office of limited power, and I'd actually spend a good deal of time struggling with Congress and the courts to get my solutions implemented, giving Americans time to prepare for the changes.
Of course, with some of the changes I'm proposing, I've set a longer timeline on anyway. With American troops in more than 135 countries around the globe, I don't plan to just buy them all airline tickets and tell them to catch the next plane home. My plan for Iraq is a 90-day phased withdrawal concentrating on the physical security of the troops. For drawing down the US military presence in Germany, Korea, Japan and elsewhere, I've proposed a two-year timeline, with the first actual troop pullouts beginning at the end of the first year. That's quicker than George W. Bush's 10-year timeline, but it isn't unduly hasty.
My expectation is that if we eliminate the Fed's monopoly on currency provision, the Fed will continue exist -- it will just have to compete with other currency options on a truly level playing field without the government demanding that its currency be accepted instead of others. People can decide whether they want to hold their wealth in green pieces of paper backed only by seven trillion dollars in debt, or in currency coined of, or backed by, some scarce commodity. I'm not planning to haul Alan Greenspan and the Board of Governors off to Indiana for death by lethal injection or anything like that.
My job as a candidate is to articulate a vision of the changes I propose and to argue forcefully for their implementation. The checks and balances which our nation's founders wrote into the Constitution provide a framework in which those changes can be implemented with the minimum possible chaos.
There have been proposals to eliminate the electoral college. Notably, Slate has run a series of pieces calling it "America's worst college." Slate's coverage has examined some of the political difficulties in trying to change the system and has proposed some possible solutions.
It's clear from the results of 1992 that the electoral college, as currently implemented at the national and state level, tends to turn small spreads into large ones, and eliminates 3rd parties altogether. As a 3rd party candidate, this must be an important issue to you (after ballot access, perhaps the most important one).
How do you propose to address this? Would you support an amendment to the US Constitution to abolish the Electors in favor of direct popular vote? Or, would it make more sense to address it state by state, using legislation to split the electors proportionately within each state (as Maine and Nebraska do)?
I have to tell you that I'm skeptical of electoral college reform at the federal level. Yes, the system has flaws, but I haven't seen any alternative proposals that don't have serious flaws themselves.
On the state level, I do advocate choosing electors by congressional district as Maine and Nebraska do, with the two non-district electors going to the overall winner of the popular vote. That would be more reflective of overall American voter sentiment.
Going to a straight popular vote would, perversely, represent the end of American democracy. Candidates would be inclined to cater to a few urban areas where they can buy the most votes for their buck (or their promise), effectively disenfranchising rural voters. To the extent that the presidency is a representative office, it should represent Peoria and Birmingham as much as it represents New York and Los Angeles.
When somebody you strongly dislike is running, it's very tempting to vote for the person who is more likely to win against them rather than the person whose views you agree with more.
What is your response to the people who say that a vote given to a third-party candidate is wasted and should have gone to one of the main two parties, if only to make sure that the "bad candidate" doesn't win?
If the "wasted vote" argument ever held any water, it doesn't any more. The two major parties have moved toward a weird, non-existent "center" for the last 50 years, to the point where it's difficult to tell them apart.
We could argue all day about whether Bush or Kerry is the "lesser evil." The fact is that they both support the war in Iraq. They both oppose gun rights. They both supported the PATRIOT Act. They both support the war on drugs. They both support confiscatory taxation. They both support ruinously high levels of spending, huge deficits and increasing debt.
It's hard to tell them apart on the real issues. They spend their time scrapping over "swing votes" in the gray area of the "center" -- which means, in practice, "how do I not make too many people too angry to vote for me?" That's no way to do politics. Politics, in my view, should be as unimportant as possible -- but where it's important, it has to value freedom, remain rooted in principle and be forward-looking.
All I can tell the "lesser of two evils" folks is that if they keep voting for evil, they'll keep getting evil. If you don't like the way things are, how do you change it by voting for more of the same?
Libertarianism certainly is an appealing ideology, but are you concerned that ideological based politics (whether yours or others) often precludes the adoption of pragmatic solutions to real problems?
I guess that depends on the ideology ;-)
Seriously, all politics is ideology-based. Unthinking majoritarianism, Machiavellian strategizing and centrist compromise are ideologies too. If they weren't ideologies 100 years ago, they are now, because they are the lodestones which guide our politicians' every action. And you see where that's gotten us.
I'm not an impractical man. I know that I can't snap my fingers and get the results that I want without consequence. I realize that my ideas will face resistance in implementation. The extent to which I am willing to compromise is that I'm willing to fight for what I can get, and wait for the rest only as long as absolutely necessary. What I'm not willing to do is abandon my goals or trade them away.
My approach is geared to a single criterion -- does this policy or that action serve freedom? I'm willing to be pragmatic in pursuing policies that affirmatively answer that criterion. I'm not willing to compromise that criterion away.
Regarding your description of free trade vs. state corporatism at your website, How can we prevent the propagation of Multinational corporations without resorting to government regulation? Is that form of Government regulation a necessary evil, or is there a method for preventing the formation of huge multinationals and monopolies without the government restricting free trade? If so, how would this method be implemented?
"Free trade," like any other term, is often coopted to mean something other than what it should. In the context of modern America and the globalization phenomenon, it is often used to refer to a web of regulations, restrictions, subsidies, government-created monopolies and privileges. That's not free trade.
First, let's look at the nature of corporations. They come into existence with the grant of a government charter. They sell stock under the auspices and pursuant to the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In court, they are treated as "persons" with "rights" -- and for purposes of liability, their stockholders are held harmless beyond the value of their stock itself.
A market in which single proprietorships and partnerships must compete against what are essentially mini-branches of government, with all the attendant privileges and immunities, isn't a free market. It's a rigged game.
I don't oppose growth or success. I support unrestricted trade across international borders, and I support companies developing themselves internationally. But the fact is that corporate growth today isn't natural market growth. It's growth encouraged and enhanced by government-dispensed privilege. It's artificial, and it distorts rather than serves the market.
We need to restore justice to the system. Stockholders are owners, and should be liable for the consequences of that ownership like any other owners. I have no doubt that the market will come up with "portfolio insurance" to protect the stockholders from ruinous claims, but that in itself will provide a market check on unrestrained, unaccountable growth -- companies which act irresponsibly will find that their stockholders can't buy, or have to pay unreasonably high, insurance premiums, and therefore aren't interested in having the stock.
Corporations don't have rights and don't face consequences. People do. Tinkering with that has been disastrous. It's time to get back to full responsibility for individuals instead of government privilege for corporations.
As the official Libertarian party candidate for president, where do you stand on the issue of intellectual property? Should it be considered the same as traditional property, or should IP be not subjected to the same protections that physical property is? And do you feel that your personal views on the subject reflect the views of the majority of the party itself, or is this an issue that has the potential to polarize your party much the same way that abortion does for the Democrats and Republicans?
I think the issue is moving too fast for true polarization within the Libertarian Party. Libertarians hold disparate views on intellectual property, but we also realize that it's an issue that will resolve itself as time goes on.
The Constitution empowers Congress to protect intellectual property with copyright and patent laws. Sans a constitutional amendment, they'll continue to grapple with the problems that the new technologies represent. And they'll probably make mistakes, like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
But, ultimately, the marketplace will decide how intellectual property is handled. The "file-sharing wars" are proving that. How much money have the older firms put into trying to pour new wine -- MP3s, CD burners, peer-to-peer networks -- into the old skins of copyright law? They've done some damage, but they've been completely ineffective in forcing the market into their preconceived notions of how it should operate.
I can't give you a more substantive answer about intellectual property. It's an issue that I've thought about a lot, but the only conclusion I've come to is that freedom will out -- and that we'll know what that freedom looks like when the smoke clears.
What are you views and hopes for privacy and security for the citizens of the internet age, and how do you proactively aim to safeguard and give back our rights that have been eroded away. (INDUCE act, PATRIOT act, et al)
I'm firmly on record as opposed to the PATRIOT Act and the INDUCE Act. As president, I'd veto those acts or renewals or extensions of them, and I'd direct the Justice Department not to avail themselves of their unconstitutional provisions and to fight them in court where necessary.
In the larger realm of privacy, it's already apparent to me that the good guys are going to triumph. Strong crypto, a robust movement to provide privacy solutions to ordinary people by the Free Software Movement and others, and ongoing resistance to invasions of privacy are winning the battle. It's just hard to see that right now, when there's so much blood on the floor.
As a politician, my job is to sign the surrender papers -- to get government to stop trying to ride roughshod over your rights. You're going to win either way. I'm just the candidate who recognizes that, who thinks it's a good thing, and who's ready to proclaim the ceasefire.
How do you enforce rights in an ownership society? (Score:5, Interesting) by zzyzx (15139)
As we've learned over the past few decades, free speech only applies to public property. Private owners can evict anyone they want for whatever reason. If there is no public property, how are free speech rights protected? Would there be any free speech rights at all in a Libertarian world for people who aren't well off enough to buy property?
You seem to be referring to what we call "real property" -- land. There are all kinds of property. The Internet connection I'm using to post these answers is my property in the sense that I have purchased that part of the bundle of rights attached to it for the purpose of sending my answers over it.
Even in a libertarian society where all property is privately owned, there will be distinct incentives for its owners to allow, even encourage, free speech. It's not a matter of me owning an acre and telling you that you can't talk there.
If I want sell you a piece of pen and paper, will you buy it if I say "you can't write a political tract on it?"
Will you buy your Internet service from me if I prohibit you from pointing your web browser at Slashdot?
And if I do either of those things, do you think it unlikely that you'll be able to find someone else to sell you those things without those restrictions?
In a libertarian society, more people will own more things than ever before. But owning something doesn't reduce it to a static, unchanging quantity. Things are used -- they're traded on the market -- and the desire to profit from doing so is the best guarantor of all that property owners will encourage free speech. It's just good business.
What's your view on the Patriot act? What, if any, parts do you think need to be changed, and why?
The whole thing needs to be repealed.
The PATRIOT Act removes the "governor" from the engine -- it lifts needed restrictions on the use of government power. It makes law enforcement and the bureaucracy unaccountable for their actions.
In my view, the bounds set by the Constitution are entirely compatible with the powers that law enforcement legitimately needs. Letting government run outside those bounds doesn't enhance our security -- it just compromises our liberty.
Where do you see America in 5/10/15 years under its current leadership? Where do you see America in the same timeframe with you as the president? What broad steps will you take to get us there?
David Nolan, the founder of the Libertarian Party, is fond of pointing out that history seems to run in cycles of 70 years or so. We rebelled against the British and set up our own nation. 70 years later, we fought the War Between the States. 70 years after that, the Depression and the New Deal. If Nolan is right, and I don't find any fault in his logic, we're about at the end of a natural societal cycle. Barriers are breaking down and new things are coming.
To put it bluntly, I don't think that sticking with "our current leadership" is an option. Look at the questions you're asking me. Do we ditch the electoral college? How do we handle intellectual property? What about globalization? How do we reform our method of choosing those who govern? Those are questions that reflect a society in the throes of change.
As my friend L. Neil Smith puts it, "a great explosion is coming." As a matter of fact, we're right in the middle of it and it's hard to see what shape things are going to take when the smoke clears.
I see the next decade or so as a time of change, whether we like it or not. If Americans try to stick to the old way of doing things, the dislocation will last longer, be more disruptive and possibly tip us over into totalitarianism or some other nightmarish societal paradigm. If they adopt the libertarian way of doing things, it will be shorter, not as disruptive -- and usher in a better era to follow.
The broadest step I've taken is to run for the presidency. With the support of my party, I'm offering Americans a chance to peacefully transition back to policies that served America well for more than a century -- free trade, a non-interventionist foreign policy, minimal government, minimal taxes, maximum freedom -- rationalized into the paradigm of the 21st century.
If I'm elected, I'll do my utmost to implement those policies.
If the current leadership continues in power, they'll continue their efforts to snuff out what remains of American freedom in the name of national security, health security, job security, social security. They're offering you the security state. I'm offering you freedom.
Do you believe that the U.S. Government has the right to invade countries run by dictators like Saddam Hussein and liberate the people by establishing a free society even if those countries do not threaten the United States?
In a nutshell, how does the libertarian principle of non-initiation of force apply to foreign dictators? Who or what has the right to unseat these dictators?
If Iraq had posed a clear and present danger to the United States, and if Congress had declared war and thus empowered the president to act in the nation's defense, that would be one thing, although some of the corollaries to that action might still be problematic.
But Iraq didn't pose a clear and present danger to the United States. It didn't pose a danger to the United States at all. And the US has not, in fact, "liberated" the people of Iraq. They still have a dictator. For awhile, his name was Bremer. Now it's Allawi. And the US has the innocent blood of thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,000 of its own young men and women on its hands.
If you or I want to unseat or kill a thug like Saddam Hussein, we're morally free to do so. He's a tyrant and a murderer. We'd only be acting on behalf of his victims.
Once we bring other people unwillingly into the equation, it gets more complex. We don't have a right to kill the innocent. We don't have a right to pick our neighbors' pockets to finance the project. We don't have a right to conscript their children into our army, as some in Congress are now advocating.
As an aspiring president, my interests have to be the interests of the United States. As a Libertarian, my priority has to be pursuing those interests in a manner consistent with freedom and without initiating force -- against anyone.
One of the questions above mentions pragmatism, and this is an issue where it comes into play. From both a pragmatic and principled perspective, the best foreign policy is one of non-intervention: Refusing to interfere in the internal affairs of, or intervene in the disputes of, other nations. From a pragmatic perspective, it's the best approach for the security of the United States. From a principled perspective, it avoids violating the rights of others.
That doesn't mean that I have to like Saddam Hussein. It just means that the legitimate interests of the United states are not served, nor are the legitimate rights of Americans and Iraqis respected, by invading and occupying Iraq.
What would you do about the spread of nuclear weapons and other WMDs? Iran is now working on the bomb while Europe wrings its hands. North Korea has the bomb. What is the Libertarian position? Would you ever support attacking Iran to prevent them from going nuclear?
I think the nuclear issue is somewhat overblown -- no pun intended.
The nuclear cat is out of the bag. That's the way it is. The world is therefore a more dangerous place, but let's not lose our heads.
If you look at history, only one country has ever used atomic or nuclear weapons in war. That country is the United States.
The Soviet Union had nuclear weapons and considered itself the arch-enemy of the US. Yet they never unleashed nuclear weapons on us. Ditto for China.
Pakistan and India have a history of 50 years of conflict. They're both nuclear powers. Yet they haven't used those arms. Israel has nuclear weapons, is surrounded by enemies and has had to fight for its very survival, yet has not used them.
The fact is that becoming a nuclear power entails a certain "growing up" on the part of nations. They suddenly realize that the stakes aren't a transient gain or a temporary loss, but the destruction of their entire nation. And so they keep those weapons as a deterrent and those weapons are never actually used.
I don't see any reason to believe that North Korea or Iran will be exceptions. They'll rattle their nuclear sabres to enhance their influence in their respective regions. They'll hold them up as a deterrent to attack by their enemies. But they won't just start popping nukes because they have them.
The real proliferation problem is the possibility that terrorists will acquire nuclear weapons. And the best solution, although not a perfect one, to that is to not give marginal nuclear powers reason to fear us and to want to support those terrorists.
Mr. Badnarik, I see that the Environment didn't make your web site's issues list. If elected, what would you do to help preserve the planet?
Actually, there's a section on my web site which specifically addresses environmental concerns:
I also have a new position paper on these issues. It just hadn't made it up on the campaign site yet when you asked the question. Here's a URL for it at the League of Women Voters' site:
The short answer to your question is that I'd work to get the government out of the business of polluting, selling "rights" to pollute and protecting polluters from suits for damage. I'd also work to get wilderness lands into the hands of private groups who want to preserve them.
The Libertarian Party platform advocates separation of education and state. How would you go about reforming the nation's educational system without a massive disruption to a student's schoolwork?
I don't think that a transition from government schooling to market schooling would be particularly disruptive in that respect. "Public" education has been such an unmitigated disaster that most children would almost immediately be well ahead of where they had been when the transition took place.
Ever since the inception of government schooling in the 19th century under Horace Mann, the US has been on a downward trend in literacy, numeracy and science learning. Sometimes that trend is briefly halted, but it always continues. To the extent that there might be some mild upheaval, it seems to me that the more quickly we exit the downward spiral, the shorter the climb back up will be.
What's your position on illegal immigration and/or outsourcing? I would think a libertarian would say "keep the gov't out of it". However, at some point, doesn't having too much of either outsourcing or illegal immigration ultimately impact our national socio-economic stability?
We have two -- actually three -- separate issues here. I'll handle outsourcing first.
Capital migrates to where it is most profitably invested. That's just a fact of the market. If I can get a 10% return in Country A and a 25% return in Country B, you know where I'll be investing.
We can deal with that reality, or we can fight it. If we fight it, we'll lose. The future is not in trying to restrict trade or outlaw outsourcing -- it's in allowing innovation and competition, and in removing government impediments, like high taxes and expensive regulation, to keeping jobs here.
When a particular job or skill _does_ move offshore, all other things being equal, it merely frees Americans -- the most productive workers in the world -- to develop the NEXT job or skill or to come up with a more efficient, profitable way of providing the old one. And those innovations are make us the wealthiest country in the world. Instead of wondering where our jobs sewing soles on shoes went, we should be looking to what we can do that the sewing machine operator in Korea CAN'T do yet.
People also migrate to where they can make the most for their labor. Once again, that's just a fact of the market. One can hardly expect a Mexican agricultural laborer to work for $2.00 a day in Guadalajara when he can make $8.00 an hour in the San Joaquin Valley.
And, once again, we can deal with that reality or we can fight it -- and if we fight it, we'll lose.
Legal immigration is a net economic benefit to our country. The fact that workers come here to pick our crops, work in our poultry plants, -- even take coding jobs at computer firms -- lowers the cost of the goods and services we buy, and frees us up to pursue ever more profitable opportunities. That may be cold comfort to a particular worker who's just been sent home while an Indian on an H-2 visa sits down at his old workstation, but it's a fact. If that worker hadn't come to the job, the job would have gone to him via outsourcing -- or it would have gone undone because the profit margin was unattractive by comparison to other investments in labor.
I advocate lifting all restrictions on peaceful immigration. Immigration is not something we can stop. We might as well get the benefit of it instead of tying ourselves into knots fighting it.
This brings up the third issue: Borders. Some people believe that lifting immigration restrictions implies "open borders." That's like saying that an invitation to my house means it's okay for you to crawl through my bedroom window at four in the morning.
Immigrants should be welcome to come here -- as long as they're willing to come in through the front door. They should enter the US through a Customs and Immigration checkpoint, identify themselves, and let us verify that they aren't terrorists or criminals.
People who come across our borders at remote locations under cover of darkness, when they were free to enter through the front door, aren't immigrants. They're invaders. Illegal immigration creates an industry of "coyotes" to guide people across, and it provides cover for the non-peaceful -- terrorists and criminals -- to enter the country.
The border is a national security feature. I propose to treat it as such. In tandem with lifting immigration restrictions, I'd free our military to defend the border against invaders. And those invaders would no longer have a place to hide among real immigrants, or an underlying infrastructure of support for getting them across, because the peaceful immigrants would be entering legitimately.
Thanks for the chance to respond to Slashdot's members. It's been a pleasure!