Jacob Hornberger: Justin Amash, LP Interloper, Parts 6 & 7

2020 Libertarian presidential candidate Jacob Hornberger, whom the readers of IPR previously interviewed, has started a series on his campaign blog about Independent Congressman Justin Amash.  Amash is reportedly considering a bid for the Libertarian presidential nomination.  Parts 1 and 2 of Hornberger’s series were posted here.  Part 3 was posted here.  Parts 4 and 5 were posted here.  Parts 6 and 7 published yesterday and today, are posted below:

Part 6 – LP State Conventions

As expected, Congressman Justin Amash has just announced that he is now seeking the 2020 LP presidential nomination … well, sort of. Amash announced that he is now “testing the waters” with an “exploratory committee” to determine whether he should seek the LP presidential nomination, which is set to be decided in about 3 weeks. But in an interview with Reason magazine, Amash made it clear that, for all practical purposes, he is now in the race.

This is all for the good! Amash’s entry into this race now adds a new element of excitement for LP members. Moreover, notice what he has accomplished: national media focus on the Libertarian Party’s presidential race. That is fantastic! One thing is for certain: Whoever wins this nomination is now guaranteed national media attention.

Why did Amash wait until 3 weeks before the national nominating convention to enter the race?

As I explained in Part 5 of this series, his strategy has always been to avoid the crucible of LP presidential debates, where the conservative part of his overall philosophy, positions, and beliefs would be subjected to scrutiny, examination, and challenge.

We all know that Amash is libertarian-leaning. That’s good. But we also know that he’s also a conservative, which is why he favors such things as sanctions on the Iranian people, the CIA, “stimulus” checks, and other positions that are antithetical to the principles of liberty.

In the long series of LP presidential debates, Amash would have been placed in a position of defending those positions and explaining why it would be in the interests of the Libertarian Party to have a presidential candidate espousing such positions on behalf of the party.

About two weeks ago, Amash announced that he was set to make his big announcement in a few days. More than a week passed without such an announcement. Why? Because Amash obviously discovered that there were 3 more LP presidential debates last week. To miss those, he had to delay his announcement, which is what he did.

The Mises Caucus is the most prestigious and fastest growing caucus in the Libertarian Party. It is named after the famous libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises. Immediately after Amash made his announcement, the Mises Caucus sent him an invitation to participate in a LP presidential debate on May 10. Amash should participate, especially since he is devoted to Austrian economics. However, I think there is a distinct possibility that he will decline.

What was Amash’s reason for waiting until 3 weeks before the national nominating convention to announce his candidacy? He tells Reason magazine that he just hasn’t had sufficient time to think about it, discuss it with his family, and make a decision. The coronavirus crisis, he says, made the decision that much more difficult for him.

Except for one thing he didn’t mention: Freedomfest.

What is Freedomfest? It is an annual conference in Las Vegas that is attended by conservatives, libertarian-leaning conservatives, and libertarians. Last year it was held in July.

Amash was there. So was I. The entire buzz at the conference was: “Justin Amash is thinking about seeking the LP presidential nomination.” The reason that buzz was out there was because Amash himself had initiated the buzz.

In fact, in a Freedomfest panel discussion that included Amash, Mark Skousen, the organizer of Freedomfest, light-heartedly asked whether any of the panelists wanted to make an announcement about running for president. He looked at Amash and smiled, and Amash smiled back.

That was 9 months ago!

There is another factor to consider here: state LP conventions.

Anyone can attend a state LP convention. An attendee does not have to be a member of the party or a political candidate. Last year, for example, I attended 8 or 9 state LP conventions, where I gave a talk entitled “Adhering to Principle Is Everything.”

That’s what Amash could have done all this year. He could have been attending state LP conventions as a guest. I will guarantee you that he would have been invited to give a talk, which would have inevitably drawn the focus of the statewide and local press. That would have generated bigger audiences. He could have been helping us build the party.

He didn’t do that. From November of last year, he has not attended one single state LP convention. Why not?

For me, I absolutely love these state conventions. Since November 2, I have attended 18 state conventions and participated in 12 presidential debates! In fact, this race for the LP presidential nomination has been a transformative event in my life. I have never seen a higher level of energy and electricity at state LP conventions. Speaking at these conventions, hanging out with fellow Libertarians, and participating in these debates as been a big battery charger for me. I can’t figure out why Amash would not want to attend even one single state LP convention.

When I entered this race on November 2, I knew that I was starting at the bottom. Since that time, I have told LP members that ultimately this race would boil down to a choice between a Republican-lite campaign, one that provides people with a libertarian-conservative hash and that emphasizes reforming the welfare-warfare state serfdom under which we live versus a campaign of principle for the Party of Principle, one that employs pure libertarian principles that will lead our nation to liberty, peace, prosperity, health, and harmony with the people of the world.

As most everyone knows, since last November we have had lots of electoral successes

—primary wins in four states, caucus wins in three states, and straw poll wins in 10 states.

But that is all under the bridge. Today, this is a brand new race for the LP presidential nomination, one in which — I make no bones about it —Amash is now the clear favorite.

But make no mistake about it: I may not hold first place anymore in this race, but we are going to fight as hard for this nomination as we have since last November. I want to be the party’s 2020 presidential spokesman. I want to be the one that tells the American people what we Libertarians are all about, what we stand for, and what we are fighting for. I want to wage a
campaign of principle for the Party of Principle.

Part 7 – Liberty and the Dole

Yesterday, the members of the Libertarian Party got a taste of what’s in store if they make Congressman Justin Amash the 2020 LP presidential nominee. 

In a video interview on MSNBC, Amash told the American people that he favors having the federal government send a $1,200 check on monthly basis to every American indefinitely during the coronavirus crisis. 

Even the MSNBC host was taken aback. He said to Amash that his proposal didn’t sound like “limited government” to him. 

Amash doubled down and said that of course it is. Big government, he said, is when the federal government sends free checks to corporations and banks. Limited government is when the federal government sends free checks to individuals.

This is exactly what I’ve been talking about since the beginning of this race when I have referred to a Republican-lite presidential candidacy for the Libertarian Party. This is Amash’s conservative side coming out. The dole system is what conservatives favor. For that matter, it’s also what liberals or progressives favor. (Recall Democrat presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s similar proposal to send a monthly $1,000 check to everyone.)

But when it come to libertarianism, Amash is wrong, dead wrong. Libertarianism stands in firm opposition to sending a welfare dole to anyone, crisis or no crisis. It is not the role of government to take care of people, to provide for people, or to give a dole to people. It is not the role of government to be people’s daddy. Libertarianism entails the right of everyone to keep everything he earns and to decide for himself what to do with it. That’s what genuine freedom is all about.

But we can see what Amash is up to. Given his long history with the Republican Party, it is easy to picture him in the upcoming campaign for the general election pandering to voters by telling them that he, as the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, would have the federal government send every voter a free monthly check for $1,200 for the indefinite future.

Everyone had better be prepared. This is the type of thing that is going to be happening if Amash is made the LP presidential nominee. There will inevitably be instances where Libertarians will be saying to themselves, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe he just told Americans that that’s what we stand for.”

Where does Amash say the government should get the money for his free checks? He doesn’t say. Conservatives and liberals don’t ask that question. Not surprisingly, the MSNBC host didn’t ask it either. Conservatives and liberals alike think that Uncle Sam is everyone’s rich, caring, and compassionate uncle who can give everyone lots of free moolah. 

Libertarians know better. The only way the federal government gets the money to pay for Amash’s dole program is by taxing the American people. 

Don’t forget, after all: the federal government is broke. $23 trillion in debt. Before the coronavirus crisis, it was spending $4 trillion and bringing in only $3 trillion in taxes. 

So, where does this broke entity get the money to fund Amash’s dole program?

One option is to have the IRS collect higher income taxes from the American people to get the money to pay for Amash’s monthly dole to everyone. Both conservatives and liberals have long believed in the IRS and the income tax. Libertarians have long opposed them.

Another option is for the federal government to borrow the money. That’s what the feds are doing to fund their free checks to both corporations and individuals. They are adding adding a whopping $3 trillion to the federal government’s debt load. 

And take a wild guess who is responsible for repaying all that debt. You guessed it! The taxpayers, including those who would be receiving Amash’s free monthly checks. 

A third way is just to print the money through the Federal Reserve and impose an inflation tax on everyone. 

Any way they do it, it is the American people who would end up paying for Amash’s free monthly welfare program.

Meanwhile, the reform wing of the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party are going gaga over Amash’s entry into the race. Why not? His devotion to reforming the welfare-state way of life represents everything they stand for. They love his dole program. It’s right up their alley because it reforms the welfare-state way of life rather than dismantle it. They call it a “public policy prescription” or a “free-enterprise” plan based on “choice.”

Soon after I entered the LP presidential race last November 2, I wrote a two-part article about the reform wing of the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party entitled “The Bill Weld Phenomenon.” (See here and here.) When Weld was being groomed to be 2020 LP presidential nominee, the reform wing was as excited about him as they are about Amash because Weld, like Amash, is a libertarian-leaning conservative, one whose platform is based on reforming, not dismantling, the welfare-state way of life.

As I argued in that article, this race for the 2020 LP presidential nomination is much more than just a political race. It is actually a battle for the soul of the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party.

Where do people like Ludwig von Mises, Frederic Bastiat, and Leonard Read fit in this political battle?

Mises came to the United States during World War II, at a time when Keynesianism was being taught in every college and university across the land. Austrian economics was ridiculed and vilified. Mises, the greatest economist who has ever lived, couldn’t get a teaching position. He finally was hired at New York University but he had to secure his own funding for his salary. Nonetheless, Mises never bent, he never compromised. He stood fast against the tide. He was heroic.

Frederic Bastiat. George Roche, the former president of Hillsdale College, a college that takes no government money, on principle, wrote a biography of Bastiat entitled Frederic Bastiat: A Man Alone. He wasn’t suggesting that Bastiat had no friends. After all, he had been elected to the French parliament from his district. He was saying that Bastiat was willing to stand against his entire country in favor of libertarianism, never compromising his principles.

Leonard Read started The Foundation for Economic Education in 1946. The welfare state was firmly entrenched. The federal government was being converted to a national-security state. Keynesianism was the dominant economic philosophy. And here was Read going against the statist tide and establishing a principled libertarian educational foundation, one that changed the course of my life and the lives of many others. I highly recommend his book Elements of Libertarian Leadership because libertarian leadership is what the world needs right now.

I am reminded of the quotation above the fireplace in FEE’s library when it had its headquarters in an old mansion in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York:

“If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The rest is in the hands of God.”—George Washington

2 thoughts on “Jacob Hornberger: Justin Amash, LP Interloper, Parts 6 & 7

  1. Jose C

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    I agree with Jacob Hornberger’s assessment. For this and other reasons Amash should not be our nominee. He can run and hide and avoid debating our presidential candidates but we as delegates and alternates should not allow him to get away with it. I urge all delegates and alternates not to vote for Amash to receive the nomination for president of the Libertarian Party.

    I believe an Amash candidacy will be considered just another attack by never Trumpers’ in the Republican Party and the conservative movement who hate Donald Trump. Amash will be considered a tool of never Trumpers’. Any Libertarian message given will be lost.

    Amash should have joined the Libertarian Party months (years) ago and he should have done what Lincoln Chafee did when months ago he announced his candidacy for President and he visited various state party conventions and participated in various debates against other presidential candidates. Amash as a Johny-come-lately should be told no, now is not the time. Reject an Amash candidacy.

  2. paulie

    I believe an Amash candidacy will be considered just another attack by never Trumpers’ in the Republican Party and the conservative movement who hate Donald Trump. Amash will be considered a tool of never Trumpers’.

    He’s mainly been attacked for hurting Biden. Trump’s supporters aren’t wavering. People who normally tend to vote Republican but can’t stomach Trump are not going to vote for the orange gasbag. Some will skip the presidential line but some won’t. Some would vote for an alternative candidate they never heard of, or one who promises to dissolve the federal government, but some won’t. Amash may give them someone they can feel OK with voting for. If he’s not the LP nominee they would vote for Biden.

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