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The Libertarian Party: A History From Hospers to Johnson

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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The Case for Liberty – Phil Anderson for WI

By John Keller | United States

Dodge County, a rural bastion in Wisconsin, is in a desperate position following increasing control from Madison. Whereas the inner cities have been struggling under the Walker Administration, rural Wisconsin has begun to suffer in ways they haven’t since the market crash of 2008.

In the last fiscal year, Dodge County had a proposed budget of $111,693,552, an 11.39% increase from 2013. A property tax rate of 5.6% is the average in Dodge County. But the main source of income for the Dodge County government, the property tax, brings in only $33,281,315. So, other taxes and revenue sources had to cover $78,412,237 of appropriations in the county. The reason for such an imbalance is unfunded mandates.

As of mid-July, there are 99 unfunded mandates and restrictions on how local counties can govern from the Walker Administration. Essentially, this means there are 99 instances in which Scott Walker is telling the county how to run itself and how to spend your money, without paying for it with the state’s taxpayer funds. This leads to budget imbalance and growing debt at the local level.

Phil Anderson: A Solution

Phil Anderson offers a different option. Running for governor in 2018, he is campaigning to increase local control. He stated in his platform, “Local municipalities, counties, and school boards ought to be as free as possible to pursue the priorities of their communities without interference from the State. State regulation ought to be limited to those things that only the State should do. All unfunded mandates should be eliminated.”

There is only one candidate that wants change the way Wisconsin runs so that local governments can run their own affairs. He is running to find local, common sense solutions for local problems, not statewide, bureaucratic decisions. In order to keep your money in your pocket and allow Dodge County, and all of Wisconsin. to spend less, vote Phil Anderson for Governor.


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Justin Tucker: All Politics is Local

Justin Tucker, Chair of the Chicago Libertarian Party, is running for Illinois State Representatives in District Four.

71R: With thousands of career options, what inspired you to seek a career in politics?

Tucker: I have been interested in politics since I was a teenager. I have been a libertarian since I learned about Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party nominee in 2000. It was only in 2015 that I jumped into activism and joined my local LP chapter. What inspired me to join was the gross misconduct of the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago amusement tax imposed applying to Netflix. I felt enough was enough. I could no longer be willfully apathetic or believe I couldn’t make a difference.

I am currently the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Chicago, serving since 2016. I also worked on the Gary Johnson’s 2016 campaign as Volunteer Coordinator in Illinois. This year, I collected over 1600 signatures for our statewide candidates to be on the ballot this November.

I choose to run for Illinois House of Representatives in District 4 with the purpose of telling my neighbors about our candidates and maybe getting a few signatures for myself. My energy, however, was better spent circulating petitions for the statewide slate than circulating my own.  Also, as a Libertarian, I didn’t want to deal with all the government paperwork to get on the ballot. I will instead be running a write-in campaign to have a platform to talk about why our candidates are the best choices for Illinois and to share our ideas with the electorate.

71R: Many people when they think of government they think of Congress or the presidency. Why is politics at the state level, and in the state House of Representatives, so important and motivated you to get involved?

Tucker: It is often said that all politics is local. Politics at the state and local level are so important because they are closest to the people, and thus easier to make an impact on policy. That’s why I chose to involve myself in a run for a State House seat and also why I support statehood for Cook County.

I’m a fan of local control. It’s easier to hold the crooks accountable when they’re in your neighborhood as opposed to far away legislature.

71R: For over 150 years the United States has been locked in the two-party duopoly. What attracted you to the Libertarian Party?

Tucker: I was attracted to the Libertarian Party because it’s the only party that is for small government and means actually means it. One of the biggest issues for me is getting the government out of the way of my LGBT friends. Republicans claimed to be for smaller government but fought against the right of gender and sexual minorities to marry. When I discovered the Libertarian Party, I saw they were consistently for small government across all areas of life. I’ve been a fan ever since. My only regret is that I didn’t get involved with activism sooner.

71R: Illinois is often brought to the political forefront and were put into the national spotlight during the gun control debates, a debate that still exists today, due to Chicago’s crime. Where do you stand on this critical issue?

Tucker: As a Libertarian, I believe in the right to protect yourself. Chicago residents like Otis McDonald stood up to the city’s infringement on the right to self-defense and ended up changing the course of history. The fight, however, is not over. In Illinois, we need to abolish the Firearm Owner’s Identification card, conceal carry licensing and waiting periods. The Second Amendment is the only permit anyone needs.

Drastically reducing gang violence in Chicago is more of a complicated task. We can start by ending drug prohibition, cutting taxes and regulations to attract economic development, and reforming education.

71R: Our Founding Fathers even disagreed on how to interpret the Constitution, shown in the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist debates. What is your interpretation of the Constitution, and how does that influence your view on government?

Tucker: The Constitution has, without a doubt, contributed to the development of liberal thought. It was a document designed to limit the power of the federal government and protect the rights of the people. I have a tremendous amount of respect for it. The problem, however, is that it hasn’t prevented the federal government from overstepping its authority.

If our federal government followed the Constitution literally as it is currently written, the size and scope of government would be drastically reduced. I certainly wish that’s how it operates today.

Ideally, the feds are allowed to do only a handful of things. They get out of the way for the rest of the stuff and let the communities in the several states do their things. That’s how I interpret the Constitution. Local control is key and the Constitution influenced me in that regard.

71R: Libertarians tend to believe less government is better government. What is one area of government, however, you would like to see operating?

Tucker: I believe that the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people. That would include courts, peace officers, and a defensive military.

On a municipal level, I think there’s a little more flexibility in what the government can do if its available to all people. Chicago has gorgeous parks, stocked libraries, and an extensive mass transit system, all of which I use.

Ideally, all these things should be paid for by the most voluntarily or least coercively means possible. In the case of the parks, the libraries and the transit system, these could be fully or partially privatized.

71R: Branching off of the last question, what is one area you think there should be cutbacks or even elimination in the state of Illinois?

Tucker: It’s hard to pick just one, but in Illinois, it would be taxes. We should cut or eliminate as many taxes as we can. Property taxes, incomes taxes, sales taxes, taxes on vices, taxes on bags. Let’s take a chainsaw to as many taxes as we can.

71R: What can the people of District Four expect should you be elected?

Tucker: If enough of the people of District Four write me in, they can expect me to work many things that would help to reduce the size and scope of government. My major initiatives include establishing 401(k) plans for all new state government employees, slashing spending, cutting taxes and or abolishing as many taxes and regulations as possible, legalizing cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms and reforming the criminal justice system. I would also make the case for Cook County statehood any chance I could.

71R: If someone was interested in getting involved or donating, how can they reach out to your campaign?

Tucker: Folks can reach out to me through my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/JustinTuckerforIL) if they want to get involved. Since I don’t want to deal with government authorities, I am not accepting donations; however, I highly recommend donating to Kash Jackson’s campaign for Illinois governor (www.kash2018.com/donate) or to the Libertarian Party of Illinois (www.lpillinois.org/donate).

71R: Do you have any final remarks for the readers?

Tucker: The Libertarian Party is not possible without our candidates, our volunteers and our donors. Please consider volunteering a few hours a week to a Libertarian candidate. Be an activist in your local chapter, or if there aren’t any available, get a few friends together and form a LP chapter yourselves. If you want to share the LP with your neighbors, consider running for office or becoming a precinct committeeman. If you can’t donate your time, please donate your money. Every volunteer hour and every dollar helps us fuel the fires of liberty. Thank you!

I would like to thank Justin Tucker for his time. Be sure to visit his website for more information.


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America – The Land of the Free! Not so Much.

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

The first brave immigrants who came to the US arrived knowing that they were in the land of the free, as long as they did not hurt others. In the 242 years since this nation was founded, we have been manipulated, used and tricked into giving up our liberties in exchange for the completely illusory concept of safety. This 4th of July, consider how being truly free means we must remove the chains of government from around or wrists, and demand that we be placed in control of our own lives.

Perhaps the most cynical form of government control is the way that the state holds our liberties hostage. In many ways, they require citizens to hold a license to engage in standard activities. When the government mandates that we must obtain a license to lawfully participate in an activity, they take one of our natural, God given rights. Then, the land of the free sells it back to us.

Permits, too, follow a similar immorality. In many instances, public assembly permits restrict on the right to free and open assembly. Though the First Amendment guarantees this right, government restricts it nonetheless.

Requiring permits also violates private property laws. A great example of this is a building permit. Building permits allow the government to control what you can and cannot build on your own land. What one does with their own property that they have legally acquired is no business of an ever meddling government.

Permits and licenses also interfere with the market. An individual permit is not a large expense for a business. However, when government forces them to purchase several permits at once, it can be a great financial burden. The added costs of obtaining the license can make it difficult for the business to turn a profit and expand their enterprise. Maintaining compliance with the permit or license can also impose added costs in the long term, preventing the business from ever reaching its full potential. If an area loses many businesses due to bankruptcy, their local economy will tank and unemployment will rise. Damage to local economies can affect generations, especially in secluded, rural areas where people do not have much access to different employment opportunities.

Licensing can further lead to cronyism within our economy. Corporations can lobby the government to require certain license to join the marketplace. These licences make it more difficult for new businesses to enter the market, and protects the existing ones from competition. It is in this way that corporations can use the government as a weapon against potential competition and maintain their near-monopolistic control on the market.

It may be easy for us to gripe about our great loss of liberty in the alleged land of the free. Despite this, compared to many other industrialized nations, we still have considerably more freedom. The 4th of July holiday should serve as a reminder of how fortunate we are to still have the freedoms we possess. But, it also should also serve as a rallying cry to gain back those we have lost.


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Michigan at a Crossroads – John Tatar for Governor

By John Keller | United States
John Tatar is a libertarian campaigning to be the next governor of Michigan.
Keller: Running for governor is no easy task. What inspired you to run for office and pursue a political career?

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.

Keller: When entering politics, what drew you to the Libertarian Party over the Republican Party or the Democratic Party?
Tatar: The Libertarian party has not been compromised at this time.  If you haven”t been a delegate to either of the other two parties that is a true eye opener,  They are corrupt and compromised as the candidates who are running.  I was a delegate at one time to the Republican party, during the Ron Paul run for president.  When Ron Paul met the criteria for speaking at the convention, that is getting 3 states that supported him, then he would get a chance to speak at the Republican Convention.  Well, at the Republican Convention, in front of everyone that was watching on TV saw the chairman of the republicans change the rules to 10 states.  What a criminal behavior! 
Keller: In Michigan’s history, since 1842, there has been 17 democratic and 28 republican governors – no third party governors. Why is the time for a libertarian governor now
Tatar: I believe that many of the Citizens who are involved with the electoral process is fed up with the present political graft and corruption system.  Many have given up, and so when I was out personally gathering the 18,800 signatures, many people who signed for me signed for me because I am running on the libertarian ticket.  I think it is time for a change,  The candidates presently running are running for an office they have no idea what that office is about.  They trample on the Constitution and the peoples rights without any consequences.  Lansing has become totally cloaked in darkness.  We need to change this.
Keller: Libertarians commonly follow the motto, “Less government is better government.” What is one area in which you think more government would actually be better?

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?

Tatar: We are on the very edge of losing our Republic and sliding back to a Democracy where the Oligarchs will become kings and we will become slaves to those in charge.  What way do you want to go?
I would like to thank John Tatar for his time. Be sure to visit his website to learn more.


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