Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Raising the Barr...

I just got home from my third Libertarian Party National Convention. In some respects, it was a lot like the first two. This one was in Denver. They always hold them in some big city where the posted speed limit is apparently merely a suggested minimum.

It's something you can count on at every convention. Just like you can count on one of our more colorful members from California to show up in what might be described as "unconventional" attire. This year for the first session it was pirate attire, followed by the ever popular Statue of Liberty, and then a couple of mystery outfits that I was unable to identify. He always manages to maneuver himself to be in front of the C-SPAN cameras, I guess in hopes of lending his own version of credibility to the party. This years costumes were at least less revealing than the mini-skirt that was worn a few years ago, a thinly veiled reference, I suspect, that the LP is simply too small to hide its nuts.

There was the usual mind-numbing by-law and platform discussion and rewriting, pitting the purists against the pragmatists, and the ever present argument over whether the LP should simply be working towards reducing the cost and intrusiveness of government, or spending its energy opposing the cult of the omnipotent state.

Also as usual, the attendees were treated to a long list of Libertarian speakers, some famous, and some not so famous. I was especially impressed by one of the not so famous, a certain Libertarian judge from Hagerstown, Susan Bell. When the convention committee first asked her to speak, she said she was inclined to decline. I'm glad I was able to convince her to accept the invitation. So was the audience. So was she, I think.

One thing that did happen at this convention, that usually doesn't happen, is that the delegates nominated a presidential candidate that people outside of libertarian circles have actually heard of. His name is Bob Barr. He was a United States Representative from Georgia. That was when he was a Republican. When he became disenchanted with the GOP, he joined the Libertarians. Like most everybody that was something else before they became a Libertarian, Barr brings some baggage from his past. He wasn't always accepting of individual rights.

A number of Libertarians are unwilling to forgive Barr of his past transgressions, and some question the validity of his transformation. Not me. Maybe because I used to be a Republican. I used to believe that since drug abuse is bad, the government's war on drugs must be good. I used to believe that government had the right to license marriage. I used to believe that government had the right to take something from someone and give it to someone else. I used to believe that government had rights. Now, not so much.

So I'm willing to give Mr. Barr the benefit of the doubt. Even though he may not be as far in his libertarian journey as some of the other candidates in Denver, and even though he may never get as far in his libertarian journey as some of the other candidates. Along with some past baggage, he also brings the ability to attract some badly needed press to a very worthy cause, and as I mentioned in this article before the convention, all of that could go a long way toward helping local and state candidates in their efforts to reduce government, and in opposing the cult of the omnipotent state.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Libertarianism version

In a recent discussion, one of the participants blamed the lack of aid to the Myanmar cyclone victims on some Libertarian characteristics of the military government there. It's a common mistake. Libertarians haven't always explained their principles all that well.

And a lot of people, through choice or misunderstanding, fail to draw a distinction between what are called large "L" Libertarians, small "L" libertarians, and anarchists. While there are similarities, there are also some differences. Anarchists are probably best described as being in opposition of all government. Small "L" libertarians are a little more accepting of a little bit of government, as long as it doesn't interfere with an individuals rights.

Large "L" Libertarians, which I consider myself, are pretty much in line with the small "L" libertarians, with a dash of pragmatism added. They generally support a constitutionally limited government, while realizing that our original Constitution fell short of protecting every ones' rights, and might need an occasional amendment. I think they are more likely to belong to the Libertarian Party, although there are certainly a lot of small "L" members. I can personally testify that it makes for lively conventions.

One thing that Libertarians, libertarians and civilized anarchists generally agree on is the non-initiation of force. That doesn't mean you don't have the right to defend yourself, or to help others defend themselves. It simply means you don't have the right to initiate aggression against another person, or another person's property.And you don't have the right to designate another person or group to initiate that aggression on your behalf. It is what sets the Libertarian Party apart from other parties, and it's one thing that prevents Myanmar and other governments around the world from ever being considered libertarian.

As simply as possible, the Libertarian Party holds these principles:

• That all people possess certain unalienable natural rights, and that among these are rights to life, liberty, justly acquired property, and self-governance.

• That the only moral basis of government is the preservation and protection of unalienable natural rights.

• That no person or institution, public or private, has the right to initiate the use of physical force or fraud against another person, and that all people are bound, without contract, to abstain from infringing upon the natural rights of other people.

• That all people are entitled to choose their own lifestyles, as long as they do not forcibly impose their values on others.

• That the voluntary and unrestricted exchange of goods and services is fundamental to a peaceful and harmonious society.

Somebody once said that "There may be two Libertarians somewhere that agree on everything, but I'm not one of them." I'm not either, but I think you will find that most agree that we need a smaller, less expensive and less intrusive government.

Of course, there are a lot of people that don't consider themselves to be Libertarians that will agree with that.

As I said at the outset, this is just my version, and I'm pretty sure that even if we find that other Libertarian out there that agrees with me, I'm just as sure that with just a little effort we can find something here to disagree about. Thats another thing Libertarians do.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Things are tough all over...

There was a story on the evening news about the financial difficulties the city of Louisville, Kentucky is facing. In order to stay afloat, the mayor has decided to park non-essential government vehicles.

My question would be, if they are non-essential, what was the government doing with them in the first place?

Here in Wayne County, the City of Richmond is finally considering limiting take-home police cars as a cost cutting measure. Again, I don't understand why elected officials and bureaucrats only worry about saving taxpayers money when there is a crisis. Wouldn't it make more sense to operate the government as economically as possible all of the time?

At any rate, I hope the city is able to save a lot of gasoline with its new policy. Maybe we can combine it with the gas the sheriff will save with his new motorcycle, and perhaps come up with enough to drive the department's Armored Personnel Carrier around the block to show off its new paint job.

Maybe not.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Guilty as charged...

In a recent Courier Times article, my honorable Republican opponent for this fall's District 54 race, Tom Saunders,
states that "Rex wants you to do away with a lot of government, but I'm not sure that's what the public wants." He's right about me wanting to do away with a lot of government.

Here in Wayne County, the Economic Development Commission is getting ready to take $50,000.00 from the taxpayers and spend it on a feasibility study to see if we need another industrial park next to our industrial park. Last year the EDC took money from workers that were making $7.50 per hour and gave it to a company that grossed $2 billion the year before. The year before that taxpayers paid to build a road through a county commissioner's business development property. In Indianapolis, the government took $625 million from the taxpayers to build a stadium for a multi-millionaire NFL team owner. They also took $3.5 million to demolish the old stadium that the taxpayers still owed $70 million on.

You can't build a shelter for your family without asking for the government's permission. Your barber can't cut your hair unless the government gives it's permission. It's nearly impossible to find three things that the government doesn't tax or regulate.

So yes, I have to plead guilty. I do want to do away with a lot of government. I want to do away with a lot of government agencies that exist simply to transfer wealth from one person to another. I want to do away with a lot of government agencies that exist only to protect us from ourselves, even if it is for our own good.

I certainly don't want to prevent people from investing in businesses or stadiums if they so desire, and if a person wants to find someone to oversee his or her personal affairs, I don't want to stand in their way. But those of us who prefer to make our own financial and personal decisions should be able to do so with a lot less government interference than we have currently.

As far as to Tom's opinion of what the public wants, I'll have to admit that in past elections, people haven't been voting to do away with a lot of government. But then again, they haven't really had the opportunity to vote that way. They could either vote for the Democrats version of a lot of government, or they could vote for the Republican version of a lot of government. Or they could not vote at all.

And I'll grant you that there are a lot of people out there that like a lot of government. Somebody once said that a government that robs Peter to pay Paul will always have the support of Paul. I'm pretty sure those people won't vote for me.

But there are also a lot of people out there that are tired of being robbed and managed, and whether they have been voting for something they didn't want, or not voting at all, I plan to give them a chance to vote for what they do want. Less government.

That's what Libertarians do.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

They just can't help it...

Addiction can be a terrible thing. When were first married, my wife worked at Reid Hospital as a Respiratory Therapist. She tells of a man who was given a tracheotomy, and continued to smoke cigarettes by holding a lit one next to the plastic tube coming out of his throat.

Some habits are extremely hard to break. Knowing that, I was pleased when the Hagerstown Town Council decided at its April meeting not to renew its membership with the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) last month. Apparently IACT felt the need to increase its dues, and it was heartening to hear the town council president state that the council needed to start being more prudent with the way taxpayers' money was spent, in light of the projected upcoming revenue cuts.

Admittedly, I've never been a fan of IACT. As I've stated in the past, IACT offers nothing for taxpayers. It is fanatical in its support of new and higher taxes, and increased government power. So I was happy to see the council's decision to stop sending any more of our money to such an organization.

Now, I realize the town council is still spending public money buying and tearing down houses to increase the amount of government owned property and deacrease the amount of privately owned property in town. And I know that they have agreed to give 10,000 tax dollars to a consulting firm to study the feasibility of building an industrial park next to an industrial park. Still, I was happy to see at least one instance of some real hard-core fiscal responsibility.

But then, much to my chagrin, Tom Bredeweg from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns showed up at the May meeting and asked the board to reconsider its decision not to renew its membership.

The board agreed to study more information and then reconsider its decision.

To which beleaguered taxpayers cry, "Stand firm, town board, stand firm!"

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Can I get an Amen?!?!...

Third party candidates usually face an uphill battle. For one thing, incumbents get re-elected about 95% of the time, and third party candidates are rarely the incumbent. For another thing, districts are often designed as safe havens for one of the major parties through a process called gerrymandering.

There is also the money thing. I was tickled to raise almost $12,000.00 for my campaign for the Indiana House District 54 seat in 2006. Unfortunately for me, my Republican opponent raised and spent over $200,000.00. He also won the election.

Still, I believe that our government needs some radical changes, and I believe the Libertarian Party has the best ideas for change, so I'll keep working for change, even if the odds are long.

That doesn't mean that Libertarian candidates shouldn't work to cut those odds, if possible. With that in mind, I called Reverend Paul aside after church this morning, and asked him if he had plans to appear on national TV over and over again, ranting and raving like a crazy man about something that displeased him.

He said he had no such plans.

I thanked him kindly.

Libertarians need all the help they can get.

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