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Check out LPNY Convention videos #4: David Andrew Gay’s on government, liberty, social morality and freedom
Check out videos from LPNY Convention #3–Joanne Naughton of LEAP addresses the LPNY 2013 Convention on the evils of the drug war.
Two minute introduction from LPNY State Chair, Mark Axinn.
Volume much better for Joanne than it is for Mark.
Spoke to the NY LIbertarian Party Convention
(Speech starts after LPNY introduction, by LPNY Chair Mark Axinn @ 7:00
April 27, 2013, at the Rhinecliff Hotel, Rhinecliff NY
On May 14, Libertarian Party elder statesman Gary Greenberg spoke to the Manhattan LP meeting on the subject of why Libertarians lose elections and what we need to do to win.
While there were a few early victories at the national level, most elected Libertarians for the past forty years have won small local offices. Typically, their victories resulted more from being personally known in the jurisdiction rather than having sold Libertarian values. Mister Greenberg, a veteran campaigner and New York party leader himself, has come up with significant insight into how to move the Libertarian party forward.
Refreshingly, Greenberg did not waste time whining about lack of media coverage or campaign finance laws, hurdles that while real, are out of the party’s control. After forty years, he cites the LP’s biggest challenge: we have not established a coherent identity in the public mind. While some voters may think of us as “gun nuts” or anti-big-government, most Americans cannot state what the Libertarian party stands for. (Like me, Greenberg observes that the same is becoming true of the Republicans and Democrats as well.) Even when a Libertarian position aligns with mainstream voters, we are easily drowned out by the major party bullhorns.
While the Libertarian party is the most successful 3rd party in America, other parties such as the Greens and the Right to Life Party have eclipsed the LP in media attention and votes by creating a strong identity or organizing around a single issue.
Applying these observations and his own campaign experiences, Mister Greenberg says the way forward for the LP is to stake out territory that reflects libertarian values, but upon which the major parties dare not tread. While quick to say these are not the only possibilities, he came up with three compelling examples:
- “90/90”: A proposal that no more than 90% of public employees should make more than 90% of the wages for the same jobs in the private economy. Because of their dependence on public union votes and union benevolence in general, Democrats and Republicans would have to publicly reject this idea, but it has common sense appeal to voters. 90/90 expresses the LP’s value of limited government with a specific proposal that can be publicized all year every year, building an identity in the public mind.
- “All schools, all vouchers”: Again, school choice is popular with voters, but no Democrat or Republican candidate could take a view so threatening to the union/government oligarchy, so the LP will stand apart.
- Mister Greenberg’s third proposal was “Zero% Sales Tax”. Most people understand the cruel and regressive nature of the sales tax, but Democrats and Republicans would never support slashing a major funding source.
These positions share qualities of catchiness, coherence with political philosophy, and common sense appeal. Mister Greenberg believes that if the LP stresses a few clear and unique positions in a memorable way at year-round events as well as during elections, we will finally become the go-to party for the defense of individual rights our founders envisioned.
Conventional wisdom says a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote. The Free Agent posits that in New York this November, the only way your vote will count is if it’s cast for a third party candidate.
The Free Agent probably shouldn’t say this, spokesmodel that she is for the Manhattan Libertarian Party, but this November, New York will cast its 29 electoral votes for Mister Obama. The city of New York in particular absolutely adores him. Gothamites will pay forty thousand dollars just to watch the man chew groceries. The poor, immigrants, lower middle class, middle middle class, young people, old people, they not only love Mister Obama, but they are thoroughly conditioned to believe they are incapable of renting an apartment, seeing a doctor, or selecting a beverage without a politician’s guidance and a lawyer’s business card. Mister Obama will carry New York. If you vote for him, your vote is wasted.
If you don’t want Mister Obama to renew his lease on the Executive Mansion, you might be tempted to vote Republican, but a vote for Mister Romney says nothing. Are you demanding X% or X+10% growth in the defense budget? If you favor the repeal of Pee-Pee Ca-Ca, with no replacement, Mister Romney has promised he will replace it, presumably with the not-uncoincidentally named Romneycare. Do you want an end to federal attacks on legal marijuana producers? Would you have the USA Patriot Act repealed? Would you like to see business and state as separate as church and same? Your vote for Mister Romney communicates none of that. Your vote is wasted.
The Free Agent suggests New Yorkers choose one of two candidates whose votes will actually communicate your desires (if anyone bothers to count votes in New York, which they don’t always do). A vote for Socialist Party USA’s Stewart Alexander loudly proclaims Mister Obama has not been aggressive enough in demolishing the constitutional limits to federal power, while a vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson says you want the federal leviathan poked back into its constitutional cage.
You know The Free Agent will urge you to vote for Governor Gary Johnson, a candidate she has supported both with her limited resources and her shoe leather. A vote for Mister Johnson could not be more unequivocal—your vote says you demand an immediate end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (or did every single soldier return home by last Christmas as the current Commander-in-Chief promised?) as well as the devastating war the US has been fighting against its own citizens dubbed by Richard Nixon, the ‘War on Drugs’. Your vote will acknowledge that a third of the federal budget must be cut, and accept that many lives will be disrupted, but that living on borrowed money is passing unearned consumption of today onto non-consenting taxpayers of the future. Voting for Mister Johnson communicates that you jealously defend your rights and the rights of others, and want the natural consequence of those rights—peace and prosperity.
Still, The Free Agent would rather you vote for the Socialist than either of the major party candidates. If what you want to say is that all humans are part of one collective, that we should all reap the same rewards regardless of our ability to pay for them, if you favor “putting workers and consumers in control of the economy” and—to be fair—repealing the USA Patriot Act—if you consider Mister Obama a traitor to the march of history for failing to create a political health-care monopoly, say it with a vote for Mister Alexander.
Can’t bring yourself to vote for either a Libertarian or a Socialist? You still don’t have to vote for a Republicrat. Tick or write in ‘None of the Above’, and your silence will speak volumes.
But, who would take care of the roads! Or the airports! Or the [insert state-monopolized capital asset here]! And that’s where someone asks you a question that is impossible to answer. The Statist Roads Argument (SRA) rears its silly head.
If someone asks you how a pencil is made, I’ve come to realize you should simply say, “I see what you’re trying to do here. You’re not going to trick me.” Why? Because no one knows how a pencil is made. The point of Leonard Read’s classic “I, Pencil” is that no one person alone has the knowledge required to describe how something as simple as a pencil is made from start to finish.
The more nuanced point is this: even though no one person can tell you how a pencil is made, pencils are made. Thus, we can conclude that the existence of pencils doesn’t depend on any one person knowing how to produce pencils. Instead, it depends on a complex network of economic activity that results in a pencil.
The same is obviously true of any provision of roads without state monopolization. The how and who would take care of the roads is the same as the how and who would take care of pencils: a complex network of economic activity that results in roads.
Burden of Proof
At this point I think it’s obvious that the burden of proof is on the naysayer to show how something as ubiquitous as automobile transportation would fail despite giving people the freedom to create the complex network of economic activity that results in roads. I can give a few reasons to suspect it would not fail.
In the first place, there’s a high demand for roads. People want them. A lot. However, not every road is equal. So the upkeep for a road without government supervision would depend on how likely the road is to be used, and therefore incur maintenance costs. That is to say, if a road is valuable enough to the people that use it, they will pay for it.
This begs the question, “Can all the users coordinate in order to maintain the road?”
The typical Statist answer to this question is, “Only through government.”
Which brings me to my second point: entrepreneurs exist.
The answer on a free market is, “Yes, and that responsibility falls to the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur coordinates goods such that a specific good or service is provided by coordinating users’ demand in the form of revenue, and perpetuating the provision of said good or service using profit margin analysis. If the entrepreneur fails, he loses money. If he succeeds, he benefits by profiting, and the provision of the good continues.”
Let My People Drive!
A third reason for thinking roads would thrive is that roads are capital assets with predictable fixed costs. The marginal cost of letting another driver on the road is minimal. So the obvious solution to maximizing profit is to have as many drivers on the road as possible. It is in the interest of a road entrepreneur to allow as many people as possible on any particular toll road, excepting dangerous drivers. Variable costs are definitely the products of accidents on the fixed capital assets known as roads. Your GPS will send you to an alternate route. And there goes the day’s take.
A fourth reason is that roads are essentially nothing more than long pieces of rock. I mean, really? Roads!? The market makes fake body parts for crying out loud. Complex molecules are created by private firms in order to coordinate biological activity inside a human being and you’re worried about long pieces of rocks and metal? Shame on you.
Less Talky, More Experimenty
The real farce about the SRA is that the Statist position is merely a hypothesis, but Statists refuse to make any experiment to test it, and accept it as an already established fact.
The real test of the matter isn’t how well a Libertarian can answer an unanswerable question. It would rather be to let Libertarians have their day and let the test be made. It’s unscientific to hypothesize, “The private ownership experiment concerning roads will fail,” and then not undertake the experiment to confirm or deny this hypothesis. It’s rhetoric, plain and simple. That’s all it is.
What Statists are doing when they posit the SRA is confirming a hypothesis out of hand. So I think no matter what I write here today, it’s all beside the point if Statists are going to write off private ownership of roads by entrepreneurs based on unscientific analysis.
Until the experiment is made that confirms or denies roads can be handled by private parties, the suggestion that the same is a fact is nothing more than rhetoric.
And even without the experiment, we know at least one thing for sure: taking from one person to pay for another’s road is just as bad as taking from one person to pay for another’s car. What others posit as “public” goods are really goods enjoyed by private parties, but whose costs have been socialized by force by a bureaucracy that has exhibited an agency problem involving lack of cost control, roads being in a state of disrepair (I live in New Jersey, it’s like a virus), and the creation of artificial barriers to entry for alternative means of transportation.
You can’t really assume that any specific ownership type or maintenance process for roads would prevail in the market due to its dynamic nature. It might be the case that some roads would be owned and cared for directly by the people who have property on the road. In other cases, people on the same street all get together and hire a road maintenance company that receives regular fees and fixes potholes when they come about. In yet another possibility, a toll collection company would take care of roads.
In order to see how roads would be provided without the government, one simply has to let people take care of the roads themselves.
So who would take care of the roads absent a state monopoly? The same people who make pencils. That’s who.