Anarcho-capitalist Libertarian Congressional candidate Nathan Larson (VA-1) debates opponents

Writing in LP Radicals yahoo group, anarcho-capitalist Libertarian candidate in Virginia’s 1st congressional district election Nathan Larson assesses his debate performance:

Today I was in a Congressional debate in the 1st District of Virginia, which was held in Williamsburg. (Kudos to the League of Women Voters, by the way, for inviting the 3rd party candidate!) I think there were about 150 people there.

For the most part, I pretty much had my libertarian doctrine down, so most questions I had an answer for. A couple questions I ran into trouble with were when they asked about what we should do about the national debt. My instinct was to say we just default on it, since logically the only way to pay it down is through taxation, which is immoral. But, not having studied that issue, I just said that we should cut spending. It turns out Rothbard did address this very issue.

Another thing they asked was whether I would support a GI Bill for education for veterans. I reiterated my stance against government involvement in education, and said that the best long-term solution to all veterans’ issues was to privatize the military and have private defense companies compete to offer the best salary and benefits packages to soldiers. (There was some unrest in the audience at that point.) I said that if we had made contracts with the soldiers to give them educational benefits, we should go ahead and make good on those, though. (Although after reading Rothbard, I’m not so sure about that!)

Another moment that brought a big gasp from the audience was when I said we should simply abolish Medicare. Noticing the reaction, the moderator asked how I would convince Congress to do such a thing. I said that it would be a tough sell, because there is a strong constituency for keeping Medicare, but that abolishing it was the right thing to do, because the only way we can give money to older generations is by taking it from younger generations that need the money just as badly; a better alternative would be to let people save up money in their youth (rather than taxing it away) so that compound interest will give them enough money to afford insurance.

They asked about health care in general, and I said that many of our problems could be solved through simple prevention. I pointed out that we have an obesity epidemic, which is related to many other diseases, such as type II diabetes. If we get rid of the government subsidies for health care, people will have more of an incentive to take better care of themselves. (I might also have mentioned ideas such as FDA abolition, pharmaceutical patent abolition, etc.; although there’s only so much you can say in one minute.)

They asked what I would say to the next President about dealing with partisanship and leading the way forward, etc. I said that if I met the President, I would give him some books about economics (this got some laughs). And I said that neither of the two parties knows how to solve our current problems, so I didn’t see the big deal about partisanship.

Someone asked about Indian tribes and whether we should recognize them and give them benefits. I said that since they’re sovereign nations, they should support themselves; we shouldn’t spend tax money on them. Had I thought more deeply about it, I might have said that it’s not good for the Indians to receive support from us, because they become dependent on us, lose their sense of self-reliance, and become all that susceptible to intrusions on their sovereignty, because how are
you going to stand up against a country that’s subsidizing you? My opponents said that they absolutely favored recognizing the tribes and showering them with benefits (although the incumbent had qualms about the casinos).

One of the questions was what I will do to get us out of the recession. I basically said that we need to separate Freddie and Fannie from the government, and stop subsidizing risky investments. My
thought was that we need to stop the boom and bust cycles and allow a shakeout to occur. The challenger talked about the need to re-regulate the economy and the incumbent talked about having a better tax policy that would help the economy.

Someone asked about civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, and I said that we should repeal the PATRIOT Act. The incumbent said that in our approach to civil liberties, we could “look at the PATRIOT Act,” and then promptly changed the subject. I notice “looking” at the PATRIOT Act doesn’t necessarily mean taking any action at all.

A question was asked about alternative fuels, and I said that it would basically take care of itself; if fossil fuels become too expensive or their supply too unreliable, people will switch to alternative energy sources. I said that government can’t be trusted to invest research dollars wisely; we should leave that to private industry instead. Had I thought about it more, I might have said that holding polluters accountable can also encourage the use of cleaner fuels. My opponents talked about tax credits and diverting certain funds to research, etc.

All in all, I think these anarcho-capitalist responses are a big pill for the uninitiated to swallow all at once. I think some of these issues are kinda difficult. In reference to the veterans, should we really repudiate what the country has promised them? Then again, what alternatives are there, given that taxation is not a morally acceptable option? I guess that’s just the way it has to be, and would-be soldiers need to take notice not to work for the U.S. Government if they don’t want to get ripped off in the end, when the country goes anarcho-capitalist.

The incumbent seemed pretty cautious not to be too controversial, while the other challenger basically had a socialist platform. People thanked me afterward for spicing up the debate some. (At times when I was speaking the audience got out of order and the moderator had to say, “Settle down!”) I was pretty surprised at how many supportive people I ran into afterward, considering all the sour faces I was staring into during the debate. The conclusion I draw from all this is that next time I want to be even more frank and upfront by just outright saying early on, “We need to abolish government.” I don’t want there to be any confusion about what exactly I’m proposing; the only way these ideas work is when they all hang together as part of the complete anarcho-capitalist system, and it needs to be described with as much clarity and precision as possible.

Anyway, here is my closing statement:

“Now is the time to begin restoring freedom to America. Congress should completely deregulate the economy, so that businesses can thrive to their fullest potential. We should break the government
monopoly on money, so that entrepreneurs can create gold- and silver-backed currencies that will be stabler than our present U.S. dollar. Government services should be privatized and funded entirely
by user fees, so that the different needs and desires of customers can be better accommodated through a competitive marketplace. Taxation should be abolished so that Americans will be free to devote their money toward productive investments, charitable contributions, and improvements in their quality of life, rather than having their incomes siphoned off into wasteful government programs, including unnecessary foreign wars and bailouts of poorly managed companies.

“Historically, we’ve seen that nations such as the Soviet Union, in which government tried to exercise too much central control over the economy, have often collapsed. At best, they tend to experience
economic stagnation compared to freer countries. The current recession is a result of some of the same kinds of harmful government interference. By electing a Congress that will simply rein in
government, and let the market correct itself, America can get through the recovery faster and continue on to a more prosperous future.”

IPR previously covered the race here.

10 thoughts on “Anarcho-capitalist Libertarian Congressional candidate Nathan Larson (VA-1) debates opponents

  1. Ross Levin

    From what I’ve seen (and honestly that isn’t much) the best arguments for anarchy or libertarianism are “why should the government have the right to hurt you?” and looking at the spirit of the American Revolution (eg, the Declaration of Independence).

    Not sure how those things would go over in a debate, but they make it easier for people to “swallow the pill.”

  2. kiddleddee

    Ross, from the Augusta Libertarian Meetup group site:

    “ARE YOU A LIBERTARIAN?

    Simply answer the following 2 part question:

    1) Do you think anyone has a right to take your property, liberty and/or life by using force or fraud?
    2)Do you think you have a right to take anyone else’s property, liberty and/or life by using force or fraud?

    If you answered “No” to this 2 part question, you may very well be a libertarian.”

    Follow that with, “If you (or someone else) don’t have the right to do it individually, you have no right to delegate someone else (eg, governments) to do it on your behalf.”

    Every other libertarian political policy statement flows from that.

  3. Gene Trosper

    Seems to me that true anarcho-capitalists wouldn’t set foot in a voting booth, much less run for office.

    It’s hard to smash the state when you endorse politics.

  4. G.E.

    I disagree with Gene. One can use politics as a means of spreading a message. Walter Block has written on this. One could even hope to take elected office as a means of dismantling the monopoly state. The pre-War of Northern Aggression U.S. Constitution was not incompatible with anarchy or panarchy.

  5. paulie cannoli Post author

    You might also say that a true anarchist would never walk or drive on government roads and streets, or that a true communist would never sell party newspapers, bumper stickers, buttons, etc.

    Regardless of what kind of world we want, we live in a mixed economy with binding political elections. Dealing with that reality as best we can does not mean we don’t want to change it in one way or another.

    As anarchists who choose to participate in politics often say, if you choose to ignore the government that does not mean it will choose to ignore you.

    If the ring of power in The Lord of the Rings can be taken as a symbol of political power, the objective is to take the ring only to destroy it; and destroying it can not happen unless you take possession of it first.

    Of course, that’s not necessarily true of government – there may be ways of convincing enough people to ignore it to make it irrelevant, or it might collapse in other ways.

    But, it’s one possible tactic of several. It presents opportunities for education that don’t exist otherwise, at a minimum; more people might encounter anarcho-capitalist ideas through electoral politics that would never encounter them in books, websites, etc.

  6. Michael Gilson-De Lemos

    While I congratulate his efforts, unfortunately the candidate is way off the US LP’s Dallas Accord (as is muchof the LP), which makes it a positive reposibility for candidates and LP leaders to present the range of Libertarian solutions so the public or person may choose.

    Presenting one mode of Libertarian application as ‘the’ answer is an unconscious remnant of collective thinking, and I suspect this is what is happening here.

  7. paulie cannoli Post author

    MG,

    I see no violation of the Dallas accord here. As I understand it, the Dallas accord was that anarchists and minarchists would coexist in the LP and neither would try to make the party solely anarchist or minarchist or drive the other out.

    I see nothing in Nathan’s statements that minarchist Libertarians may not run on a minarchist platform. He is speaking only for himself, as an anarchist Libertarian, much as any minarchist Libertarian would run on a platform of minarchism (as many explicitly do).

    Even if this were not so, who all signed the Dallas accord? I did not. I signed a membership pledge that says I reject the initiation of force to achieve social and political goals. One interpretation of what that means would rule out coercive monopoly government.

  8. HumbleTravis

    I liked reading about the audience reactions to certain statements. It is interesting that even though we’ve heard so many pro-privatization soundbytes from the GOP and yet people are shaken when this logic is taken to the logical conclusion.

  9. Ross Levin

    I think the GOP has screwed the LP in a way. They’ve co-opted the LP’s most legitimate, for lack of a better word, talking points and made them unappealing to a lot of people.

  10. MarcMontoni

    It might be true that the GOP has ‘co-opted’ some of our most ‘legitimate’ talking points, but… Those GOP-stolen talking points weren’t always so ‘legitimate’.

    For example, Republicans weren’t even talking about privatizing SS in 1975 — Libertarians were. It was as much a “marginal” issue then as privatizing Medicare is now.

    In 1980, no one was talking about abolishing welfare — then a Demoncrat implemented a phaseout of the program in the 1990’s (yes, I am aware it wasn’t a particularly effective phaseout — many of the welfareites are now on disability instead — but what do you expect when republicrats manage a tranistion?).

    Libertarians in the mid-eighties were suggesting that government get out of the transportation infrastructure business, and we were ridiculed for it. Now, D’s and R’s are tripping over each other to sell off transportation infrastructure, and the only people who still smack Libertarians upside the head for daring to mention privatizing roads are other Libertarians who foam at the mouth any time they detect any Rothbardian excess.

    At the same time Libertarians were becoming all embarassed and paranoid about saying “Taxation is Theft”, “Repeal the Income Tax”, and “Abolish the IRS”, Republican politicians were adopting that language as their own, with a couple of dozen of them calling for that very reform at the CPAC conferences on C-Span.

    In any case, Libertarians Party candidates and libertarian think tanks popularized these ideas and made them ‘mainstream’ to the point where Republicrats think them valuable. This is a perfect example of the maxim that alternative parties tend to serve the function of introducing the public to fresh ideas the mainstream parties initially refuse to address. I understand that most Republicans don’t walk the talk, but some do — but what’s more important is the mere fact that the ideas **are** getting circulated.

    Nathan’s suggestions generated gasps, laughter, and snorts when people in his audience heard them said for the first time. However, when those individuals hear his ideas repeated a hundred more times in the future, do you really think they will continue to generate the same shock?

    Nope. They will eventually become “just ideas” that those people will discuss amongst their own family, friends, and neighbors. They will be ‘mainstreamed’. Libertarians only need to keep repeating. Ideas have power, and the right ideas have the most power.

    Only if they don’t get said will they remain weak.

    While I wasn’t there, and therefore have to go by what Nathan reports, if his summary is accurate (and I have no reason to believe it isn’t), then Nathan did exactly what a Libertarian candidate is supposed to do: spice up the debate with fresh ideas.

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