Fifty Years of Voting

I cast my first vote in 1964, shortly after turning 21, the legal voting age in those days. I voted for Barry Goldwater who, although he described himself as a conservative, didn’t fit that category by today’s standards. He was for free markets but he was not particularly religious and he held a laissez-faire attitude toward alternate lifestyles. He was, unfortunately, a war hawk, so he wouldn’t fit very well into today’s libertarian category, either.

Four years later I voted for Richard Nixon, sad to say. I somehow thought he was for free markets, being a Republican. I was cured of that delusion by a wakeup call at 8:15 AM on Monday, August 16, 1971. That was the moment I saw the headline in the L.A. Times announcing Nixon’s dastardly Sunday evening perfidy: price controls, closing the gold window, and an import tariff surcharge. All of these statist actions very quickly played out disastrously. Their personal import was to cure me of any notion that Republicans were necessarily friends of liberty. I became a libertarian that Monday morning and never looked back.

Of course that decision meant never again voting for a winner.  I voted for John Hospers in 1972, and he actually got one electoral vote from a renegade Republican elector, Roger MacBride, who was the LP candidate in 1976. Ed Clark’s 1980 campaign on the Libertarian ticket, generously funded by the Koch brothers, gave me brief hope for the new party, which we all know has come to naught. I’ve “wasted” my vote on Libertarian candidates ever since. Thanks to Proposition 14 in California, I can only vote for Libertarians in the primary elections; minor parties are shut out of the general election. In many races the general election is a contest between two Democrats. I resist any urge to vote for the lesser evil of the two so now I just leave most of my ballot blank and vote against all tax measures.

If we must have voting, I offer a couple of common-sense reforms:

  • Raise the voting age to 30. People under that age are clueless.
  • Require voters to pass a stiff qualification exam, something far more rigorous than the simple literacy tests of yore.
  • Institute a stiff poll tax, at least enough to cover election costs. Why force non-voters to pay?

I’m tempted to throw in land ownership as another criterion, but the foregoing should suffice. Of course this reform would leave many people feeling disenfranchised, but so what? Most people are far too ignorant to judge issues and candidates rationally and should be kept away from voting booths at all costs. Anyway, the system would leave a path open for people to earn enfranchisement by working hard to satisfy the above criteria.

Would I apply for enfranchisement under my proposed system?  No way; I have better things to do.  Will I vote this year?  I suppose so. I have no idea what will be on the ballot, but there will doubtless be some lame-brain propositions to vote against.

Libertarian Countries and Libertarian Societies

by Fred Foldvary

Michael Lind in the 4 June 2012 salon.com in his article “The question libertarians just can’t answer,” asked, “Why are there no libertarian countries?”  One answer is simply that there are very few pure libertarians. But another answer is that most folks are libertarian enough that they establish libertarian societies, by which I mean not just organized clubs but also informal social gatherings and happenings.

The essential libertarian proposition is “live and let live.”  In a libertarian society, there are no restrictions on peaceful and honest human action.  Most people believe that it is morally wrong to coercively harm others, and they have been brought up to have some sympathy for others, so that they don’t want to hurt others.  Therefore most gatherings such as concerts, athletic events, and street traffic is peaceful. Thus much of the world operates in a libertarian way, without governmental direction. If you host a party in your house, you seldom need a government official there to keep the peace.

This social libertarianism has limits, as those who do not conform to cultural standards such as dress codes would encounter some intolerance.  Nevertheless, there is an almost universal agreement that assault and theft are evil, and a widespread aversion to such anti-social behavior.  When most folks are pro-social in their behavior, they demonstrate a wide and deep level of libertarianism.

Why does the US government impose restrictions such as prohibiting trade with Cuba?  Most Americans probably favor free trade with Cuba. But a minority special interest opposes trade with Cuba and has the political clout to stop it. So the basic reason why the US does not have full freedom is the inherent dysfunction of our system of selecting the chiefs of state. That system is mass democracy.  The failures of mass democracy have been documented and analyzed by the branch of economics called “public choice.”

The two basic reasons why there are no libertarian countries are:

1. Very few people understand or even know about the ethics, economics, and governance of pure liberty.  Pure freedom is not taught in schools, and it is not in the predominant culture.

2. Mass democracy enables special interests to skew policy that favors a few at the expense of the many.

However, the general concept of “freedom” and “liberty” is universally admired.  People have a genetic dislike of being controlled. But their moral views have been skewed by thinking their religious and cultural views are universal.  Ignorance is therefore the ultimate reason why libertarianism is not more widespread.

In another essay on 13 June 2013 Lind says, “Grow up, Libertarians!”  It shows that Lind does not know the meaning of the word “freedom.”  He writes that fighting evil requires limiting the “freedom of employers to buy and sell slaves.”  He has a physical definition of “freedom,” rather than the ethical meaning of there being no restrictions other than on coercive harm to others.  The ownership of a slave is not ethical freedom.

He then says that libertarians propose “the replacement of all taxes by a single regressive flat tax that would fall on low-income workers.” Anyone who advocates such as tax is not a pure libertarian. Lind confuses libertarianism with conservativism.

Michael Lind concludes with the statement, “libertarianism as a philosophy is superficial, juvenile nonsense.” Wow – perhaps he has never read freedom philosophers such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, and John Hospers. We need a serious explanation of why the basic libertarian idea – live and let live – is superficial nonsense.

There seems to be a simple explanation for Lind’s views on libertarianism – he simply does not understand it.