Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang promises in his platform to “decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of opioids,” citing similar policy in Portugal to address their own addiction crisis. However, in his April 14 CNN Town Hall, moderator Ana Cabrera pushed Yang about the specifics of his drug decriminalization policy; would he decriminalize drugs like cocaine as well?
John Keller | United States
The Libertarian Party
John Hospers (1918-2011) was the first Libertarian presidential candidate. He defined Liberty best in 1971, during his campaign for President in 1972, that “Liberty is the absence of coercion by other human beings.” The Libertarian Party began forming on July 17, 1971, with a meeting of David Nolan, John Hospers, Ron Paul, Tonie Nathan, Edward Crane, and others. The new political party was officially announced January 31, 1972. The first platform of the party focused on ensuring a gold-backed currency and a return to the classical liberal thoughts held by many of the Founding Fathers of America. The Libertarian Party’s goal was, and is, to shrink government and return rights and liberty to the citizens of the United States of America.
“The only proper role of government, according to libertarians, is that of the protector of the citizen against aggression by other individuals. The government, of course, should never initiate aggression; its proper role is as the embodiment of the retaliatory use of force against anyone who initiates its use.” – Dr. John Hospers
A Brief Introduction to the Philosophy
The philosophy of libertarianism is rooted in texts from the Age of Enlightenment (1685-1815), such as the theories of John Locke (1632-1704), in his The Second Treatise of Civil Government, written in 1689 as well as the philosophies and writings of Thomas Paine (1737-1809), who wrote Common Sense in 1776.
In addition, the Libertarian Party has been influenced by many modern-day philosophers as well. The most notable of these philosophers is Ludwig von Mises (1891-1973) who wrote Human Action in 1949. His philosophies dominate the Libertarian Party’s economic platform, and his work was so influential the Mises Caucus formed within the party. After his death, the Mises Institute was founded in Auburn, Alabama in 1982 with the mission, “To advance the Misesian tradition of thought through the defense of the market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations, while opposing government intervention as economically and socially destructive.”
History of the Libertarian Movement (1972-2000)
The Libertarian Party has historically been the strongest third party in the 20th century. In 1972, John Hospers received 3,674 votes. In 1996, the presidential ticket of Harry Browne and Jo Jorgensen received 485,759 votes.
As the presidential election began to get started in 1976 there were serious doubts in the minds of conservative voters on the integrity of the Republican Party following the Watergate Scandal in 1972. The Libertarian Party become a place to vent frustration with government, and with their message for smaller government and personal accountability attracted many new voters.
The 1976 presidential ticket consisted of former state representative of Vermont Roger MacBride for president and California lawyer David Bergland for vice president. His campaign focused on issues, such as ending the Federal Reserve and returning to a gold-backed currency, as well as non-interventionist foreign policy. Democratic nominee “Jimmy” Carter spoke of being an outsider “untainted” by the politics of Washington D.C. while Republican nominee Gerald Ford focused on his ability as the chief executive, relying on his incumbent status to help carry the election in his favor.
By the end of the campaign, Roger MacBride and David Bergland had won over 172,557 votes, almost 170,000 more votes than the first ticket just four years prior and having ballot access to thirty-two states.
In 1980 the Libertarian Party hoped to capitalize on the moment of the previous year and nominated Ed Clark, who had received almost 378,000 votes in his campaign for Governor of California in 1978, for the presidency. David Koch, a successful businessman and vice-president of Koch Industries. The election began heavily contested.
President Carter faced immense backlash for his foreign policy in the Middle East and many Americans had deemed it improper for an actor to be president. The Libertarian Party and the Libertarian presidential ticket was seen as a viable third option. Although Reagan won in an electoral landslide, the Libertarian ticket received almost one million (921,128) votes.
The Reagan Administration proved to be very popular, and in the 1984 election, it showed. Former vice presidential candidate, now presidential candidate, David Bergland was only able to generate a quarter million votes.
One of the most iconic, although not the most successful, presidential runs of the Libertarian Party took place in 1988. Former congressman Ron Paul of Texas received the nomination and Andre Marrou, a former member of the Alaska House of Representatives, was nominated as the vice presidential candidate. The campaign Ron Paul ran was described by one reporter as a “Kamikaze Campaign” for being so dedicated to the issues while he stood, according to the journalist, “as much chance as I” at becoming president. Ron Paul focused on non-interventionist foreign policy, ending the Federal Reserve, getting the government out of education, and focusing on returning the American dollar to the gold standard. On top of these key issues, former Congressman Ron Paul made a pillar of his campaign the War on Drugs.
Although unsuccessful, the Ron Paul for President Campaign raised the campaign standard and redefined the Libertarian Party, highlighting the power and ability of a grassroots campaign as he raised over $2 million in donations.
In 1992 Ron Paul’s former running mate, Andre Marrou, took the nomination and continued the message of Ron Paul, but faced limited success as Americans flocked to Ross Perot, an independent from Texas who attracted over 19,000,000 votes.
Following the success of Ross Perot, the Libertarian Party knew that large success against the two-party duopoly was possible. Harry Browne received the 1996 presidential nomination. As a veteran, he pressed Bob Dole for claiming “My generation won [World War Two]” and his strong ties to the past and not to the future. When election time came he had attracted nearly half a million votes – losing votes to the popular Ross Perot who gained over 8,000,000 votes for the Reform Party.
In 2000, Harry Browne again took the nomination and ran a similar campaign to the campaign run in 1996. He won nearly the same number of votes but served a larger role.
In the controversy over the election in Florida, where Ralph Nader arguably detracted enough support from Al Gore to allow George W. Bush to win the state, the story in the state of Washington is often forgotten.
Harry Brown’s campaign attracted enough votes, alongside Pat Buchanan’s campaign for president, to swing the state away from George W. Bush and in Al Gore’s favor, ensuring the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, Al Gore, took the state, winning him an additional 11 electoral votes.
As the century turned and George W. Bush took the White House, the Libertarian Party began to go through a reformation process.
New Age Libertarianism (2004-2012)
In the twenty-first century, the Libertarian Party began to reform its priorities in its platform. The reformation became highlighted in the 2004 Libertarian National Convention as it became the most contested presidential primary in the thirty-two-year history of the Libertarian Party.
The three leading candidates were Aaron Russo, Gary Nolan, and Michael Badnarik. Aaron Russo was leading in pre-convention polls for the nomination. He was running his campaign on criticizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and ending the War on Drugs.
Gary Nolan, polling second, focused his campaign on Anti-Bush doctrine. He planned to focus campaigning on his home state Ohio with the goal of swinging the state away from Bush and winning the state for the Libertarian Party. His platform consisted of repealing the USA PATRIOT Act, ending the war in the Middle East and bringing home the troops, while rallying against the income tax.
Going into the convention Michael Badnarik was predicted the least likely of the three major candidates to win the nomination. His campaign was built on the principles of laissez-faire economics.
With Aaron Russo in the lead, it seemed clear that the Libertarian Party was beginning to switch away from the Ron Paul Era of economic focus and begin focusing on social issues, with economic policy on the back burner; however, a surprise came at the 2004 Libertarian National Convention.
On the first ballot, the vote counts for the nomination were all within twelve votes of each other; with Russo gaining 258, Badnarik 256, and Nolan 246. On the second nomination ballet, Nolan was eliminated and surprisingly endorsed Badnarik. In the final vote for the nomination, Badnarik took the nomination 417 votes to 348 for Russo, with six delegates voting “None of the Above”.
Although the focus on economics continued in this election cycle, a focus on social issues was beginning to grow within the party. Badnarik began his run immediately, trying to build off the momentum of the convention, but he struggled at first getting the Libertarian Party on board, especially those who had supported Aaron Russo who felt “cheated” at the convention.
By election day, the highest poll for the Libertarian ticket was at 5%, a poll conducted in New Mexico. On election day Badnarik, who held high hopes, pulled in about 400,000 votes, only about 0.32%. Following the results, he pursued, with support from Green Party candidate David Cobb, a recount in the state of Ohio, which President George W. Bush had won by about 100,000 votes. If the recount had been “successful” then Ohio would have swung to be a blue state, and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) would have been president.
In 2008 the election became key as there was a rejection of the Bush intervention policies. Former congressman Bob Barr was nominated by the Libertarian Party to run for president. He held high hopes going into the general election as many conservatives were growing tired of the pro-war leanings of the Republican Party, and the dedicated hawk candidate John McCain (R-AZ). However, Barack Obama (D-IL) came out as a strong anti-war candidate and supported social liberty and Barr began losing support. He tried to shift focus towards an economic policy where he believed he held the edge over the other candidates, but the American people were more focused on issues regarding foreign policy, and Barr was only able to gain a half million votes come election day. As the election cycle wore down the Libertarian Party began to strategize for 2012.
Libertarianism in the Modern Age (2012-Present)
In 2012 the upcoming nomination for president at the Libertarian National Convention was projected to be a toss-up between former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Libertarian Party Vice Chair R. Lee Wrights. Going into the convention, Gary Johnson was being seen as an unlikely choice. He was a former two-term Republican governor in the state of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. He had joined the Libertarian Party December 2011, just six months before the national convention after he failed to gain any traction in the Republican New Hampshire primary. On the other hand, R. Lee Wrights had been a member of the Libertarian Party since 2000 and had served for two years, prior to the 2012 Libertarian National Convention, as Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party (2004-2006).
Just as in 2004, the convention turned out to be an upset. Gary Johnson, on his platform of fiscal responsibility and social equality, won a surprising landslide victory at the convention, receiving 419 delegates (70.4%). Jim Gray, a California judge, received the nomination for vice president. The pro-immigration and anti-intervention ticket won considerable support as anti-war Republicans who could not support Mitt Romney voted Libertarian. Gary Johnson, on election day, made Libertarian Party history by receiving 1,275,971 votes.
Gary Johnson continued to fight for the Libertarian message and in 2016 sought to be renominated for the Libertarian presidential ticket. He was renominated in a landslide, gaining more than 30% more delegates than the runner-up Austin Petersen. Bill Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, was selected as the vice presidential nominee.
The 2016 election proved to be pivotal. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld began speaking throughout America on the message of peace and prosperity, speaking to the people about pro-immigration policy, low taxes, balanced budgets, and more. In short, the campaign rested on the idea that the government should stay out of your wallet and out of your bedroom. Bill Weld ran a strong campaign under Gary Johnson, and together they received 4,489,235 votes for the message of peace and prosperity.
Leading to the 2020 Libertarian National Convention much is unknown, but it is clear that even if there is not another Bill Weld or Gary Johnson, the idea and message of Libertarianism will spread. As the message spreads and more and more people are informed of the principles of peace and prosperity, it is clear that the breakout year for the Libertarian Party is coming soon as momentum grows.
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By Max Bibeau | United States
On November 7, in the aftermath of an intense midterm election season, Americans could finally breathe a sigh of relief. And, as if this relief wasn’t enough, Trump decided to give America a little gift: Jeff Sessions’ resignation.
While many have been celebrating this news, it may still be a bit too soon. Trump is reportedly considering his longtime friend and fellow 2016 Presidential Candidate to replace Sessions – Governor Chris Christie.
Christie, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2016, did not have much success during the primaries and ended up endorsing President Trump after dropping out of the election in February. Christie has been repeatedly criticized for his long absences from his home state and for his “Bridgegate” scandal, which began as long ago as 2013.
Sessions is well known for his anti-drug stances, advocating for a resurgence in drug education such as in the 80s and 90s, stating that marijuana is “slightly less awful” than heroin, and that “using drugs will destroy your life.” Needless to say, Sessions adamantly opposes the legalization or even decriminalization of any currently illegal drug. He even reversed an Obama era policy in order to encourage federal law enforcement agents to crack down on marijuana use, even in legal states.
Christie, while almost 20 years younger than Sessions, seems to share his hyper-traditionalist mindset. Christie has repeatedly stated that marijuana should never be legalized for medicinal or recreational purposes, and has deemed any profits made from the legal marijuana industry “blood money.” He made it clear back in 2015 that he would never put the “lives of children and citizens at risk to put a little more money into the state coffers,” which might be a noble sentiment if marijuana had caused even a single overdose death in the last year.
Sessions and Christie both share a similar anti-drug sentiment. But given a few past statements, it’s very possible that Christie may take a more direct approach to opposing marijuana legalization, even in states that have already legalized the drug for medicinal or recreational purposes.
In 2015, Christie was asked whether or not he would enforce federal drug laws. His response was “absolutely. I will crack down and not permit it.” He went on immediately to say that “marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country. And we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.”
While Sessions was more bark than bite, only implementing one or two federal changes to marijuana policy, Christie seems like he will plan to take a much more aggressive route, actively stopping businesses and farms from supplying their product. If Christie follows through on his word, direct conflict between federal law enforcement and marijuana institutions could be likely in the future.
So, while many considered Sessions the worst possible Attorney General for drug legalization, none should celebrate his resignation yet – his replacement could be far worse.
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By Ian Brzeski | United States
For many people, morality is relatively subjective. To some, sex before marriage is a sin, and to others, it is perfectly reasonable. Some people love taking drugs, and others are appalled by them. People of all kinds differ in their values on these issues and on many others such as access to guns, homosexuality, and prostitution. Whether or not committing a particular act falls under someone’s values, everyone should realize that committing victimless “crimes” should not be punished by the state.
What are Victimless Crimes?
In essence, a victimless crime is a “crime” under the law where there is no identifiable victim. It is performed when no other person or party is involved in the action taking place beside the perpetrator or consenting adults. Consuming drugs is a prime example of a victimless crime. The only party that person would potentially be harming in that act alone would be himself. He or she willingly chose to engage in this act; thus, there is no victim. The same goes for that person when they engage in obtaining the drugs through consensual means. These means include joining into a contract with his “dealer.” The two adults here both agree on terms in this exchange. The dealer provides the drugs, and the consumer provides a means of exchange for his desired goods, presumably money.
Freedom of Choice
Locking people up like caged animals for committing victimless, nonviolent crime is complete nonsense. It does not matter what a person’s morality says about drugs. One could think that they are awful and downright immoral, but that does not change the fact people can do as they please as long as no other person is harmed or brought into unwanted affairs. Those people, out of their own free will, chose to engage in that exchange and then go on with their lives as they please. Nobody was hurt, and everything was purely consensual. Fundamentally, it is not that much different than going out and buying groceries.
If you do not like drugs, don’t do them. Nobody forces you to take them, and if somebody does force you, then that is a crime in itself as it takes away your freedom to make those decisions for yourself. Just as people want the freedom to decide to say no to drugs, others should also have the freedom to take drugs without fear of being imprisoned by the state. It is inconceivable to think that drug abusers belong in a prison cell. Drug abusers need help, not prison time.
While incredible amounts of funding have gone towards decreasing drug use, the drug addiction rate is the same as it was about 40-50 years ago. Instead of spending over a trillion dollars in incarcerating these people, spending should be focused on helping these addicts. Portugal decided to do this about 17 years ago, decriminalizing all drug use and focused their spending on rehabilitation for drug users. At one point, about 1% of Portugal’s population were drug abusers, and now that number has been halved.
The same decriminalization practices should be used for prostitution, pornography, owning guns, and any other victimless crime. If you do not like any of these things, then don’t partake in them- it’s as simple as that. Not to mention that decriminalizing and accepting all of these would make them safer. No more back alley pimps who abuse and drug their prostitutes to make a quick buck. No more sketchy and untrusting drug dealers who may lace their products. No more massive cartels as the majority of their products would be legally imported in the country; thus, losing the majority of their funding. Everything listed here would run as a legitimate business which would then promote competition, naturally making these businesses safer. Interdiction on all of these things is no different from the prohibition of alcohol, and we all know how well that went.
Legalization in Amsterdam
I recently went to Amsterdam where marijuana, certain psychedelic drugs, and prostitution are all legal. The prostitution is all kept in one sector of the city, known as the Red Light District. The Red Light District was bustling with people and seemed as if it were just another business center. These businesses are basically “forced” to care for the health of their laborers as they would have an incentive to because it would be horrible for business if one of their workers had some disease such as an STD. One could find drugs anywhere, but nobody is forcing others to take them. If you want to smoke a blunt, then you can, and if you do not want to, then you do not have to.
The overall cleanliness of the city was surprising. One would think that by allowing drug use and prostitution, the city would be pretty dirty, but that is not true in the slightest. Homeless people and garbage on the streets were not to be found, at least from my experience. Amsterdam has experimented with decriminalizing some of these victimless crimes, and it seems to be going pretty well for them.
Victimless crimes are not real crimes. People should not be punished for doing things that do not harm others or their property, and we must put an end to decades of government control over people’s choice of how they treat their bodies.
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Tatar: I am tired of the Democrats and Republicans promising everything and delivering NOTHING! Each “public functionary” has no clue about our Republic and has no clue about the US Constitution and the MI Constitution. These “public functionaries” have no idea that their power to govern comes from the people who delegate power to them to rule. If we don’t delegate it, they do not that the authority to do it. Yet their responsibilities to take care of the infrastructure has been seriously neglected, They claim they have no money so they must raise taxes, yet they have enough money to purchase a 17 million dollar building for 48 Million, and they get away with it. The “public functionaries” are over paid and under worked while the people they represent are over worked and under paid, This REPUBLIC is upside down. The Candidates that are presently running are ALL part of the SAME ilk. I could go on and on about what is wrong, but complaining will not fix the problem RUNNING for governor will..
I have always been involved with politics, I have tried to correct some of the problems as a citizen but educating the masses is very difficult.
Tatar: Less government more liberty. This government is much too large and too many rules, ordinances, and enforcement officers, Consequently too many fines, and too many people incarcerated for non violent crime. Much to much government. Have you been to Lansing lately? This is a mega city.
Keller: In continuation of the last question, what is one area of government you want to see cut or even erased?
Tatar: Dept of education, Dept of transportation cut, Dept of State cut, Eliminate the Senate, part time legislature on and on.
Keller: What would a libertarian governorship look like in Michigan? In other words, what policies would you want to see enacted?
Tatar: Follow the US Constitution, Follow the Michigan Constitution, re write the oath of office to include if anyone in the legislature, executive or judicial takes a bribe or promises anything that is a felony.
Seriously cut back the size and scope of government. More liberty to the people. Also eliminate the state income tax and cut back on many other taxes if not eliminate them. Concentrate on fixing the MI infrastructure. See my website: johnjtatar.com
Keller: The “Flint, Michigan” story was national news for sometime. How do you view the handling of this issue, and what would you change, if anything?
Tatar: Flint is in the national news because the government was caught “usurping” authority. All of Michigan water is polluted. That is a sin. The infrastructure in MI has not been kept up. All citizens must do house keeping from time to time and so the government needs to do house keeping also. Instead, the “public functionaries” line their pockets and walk away laughing at the people in MI.
Keller: As Governor, what would be more important to you: following federal mandates from Washington D.C. or serving the state of Michigan?
Tatar: All federal mandates if unconstitutional are “null and void”!!! Michigan is its own country, we are not a colony of Washington.
Keller: If someone was interested in your campaign, how could they get involved?
Tatar: Go to my website johnjtatar.com and there are ways of contacting me.
Keller: Do you have any final remarks for the audience?
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