2020 Can be the Year of the Libertarians

I know what you’re thinking: Every year there’s a situation where there’s a lot of animosity towards both Republicans and Democrats, some Libertarian claims, “This is it! This will be our year!” Typically, the result is a disappointed base with little to no success, especially in state and federal elections. This is not what I’m about to talk about.

The other two parties will be distracted

First and foremost, I think we should address the elephant in the room: Republicans and Democrats are going to be distracted as heck in 2020. It’s Trump’s re-election year and the Dems want to get him out. Dems are also planning on gaining more seats in Congress and state legislatures. This is going to be an extremely expensive year for both sides at both of these levels, especially after the Janus decision in the Supreme Court. They’re likely going to leave local offices in the dust, financially speaking.

To think big, think smaller

Every election cycle, we find a small handful of people willing to put themselves in the public eye. However, many of them seem to run for bigger offices like state legislative and congressional seats. These are flashier sounding offices that usually come with some kind of pay. Unfortunately, these races tend to have debates that Libertarians are often excluded from.

So how do we work around having our message muted? The answer is simple, but it involves sacrificing a flashier sounding race: Run for County Commissioner, City Councilor, School or Utility Board seats, etc. A Libertarian that is running in a race they honestly think they won’t win should ask themselves why they’re running. Is it to make a difference in the community or is it to have the bragging rights of “I ran for something?” Every party has people that do it for both.

Let me be perfectly clear: I’m not trying to discourage anyone from running for a legislative or congressional seat. Rather, what I’m trying to encourage is people getting into races they will not only take seriously, but actually believe they have a good chance of winning. Larry Sharpe believed that he would either win or come in second place — that didn’t happen, but he took his race very seriously and was a great example to the party’s candidates.

What “lesser” offices have to offer

For many, they don’t understand what kind of power or impact they would have if they ran for something as low in the political hierarchy as school board. Many don’t really even know what a school board does! In short, they’re (often) elected (or appointed) officials tasked with holding their district’s leadership accountable. They also make extremely important decisions, such as what should be taught at what grade level. Though some states don’t require an actual economics or personal finance class in high school, the school board could pass a resolution to incorporate it into a curriculum. You read that right: If your state’s department of education isn’t cutting it, the school board can make a school district try something out.

City councils often make a lot of impactful decisions (no surprise there!). In Eugene, Oregon, Uber and Lyft used to be banned. Of course, they lifted that ban after a long stretch of public outcry over the corporatism behind appeasing local taxi companies. In either case, the city council and mayor were ultimately the deciding factors in both of these decisions. The city council could vote to cut wasteful spending and even lower (or cut) property or payroll taxes — certainly a Libertarian issue.

County boards are also seriously impactful and are often the best paid out of these lesser viewed offices. Another paid county office that Libertarians should be lining up to run for — given they have the proper background, of course — is Sheriff. County commissioners are essentially city councils, but for counties. Sheriffs, on the other hand, can tell law enforcement to stop enforcing certain laws (within reason). If you’re the Sheriff in a blue state and the legislature passes gun control laws, you can tell local law enforcement within your county to back off. Can you imagine the possibilities for Libertarians in such an office!?

Local officials need a good challenge

Believe it or not, so many people don’t run for local offices to the point that some stay in office for a decently long time. In fact, some make a career out of being a local official. A friend of mine was a city councilor in her town and eventually became the Mayor. She didn’t win her State Representative race, but I believe she’d make a fine State Rep. or Governor. That said, those who make a several decade career out of local politics should be challenged. Who better than Libertarians to give it to them?

Remember how I said that we often have our message muted in debates by polls in the bigger races? Since most local and county offices aren’t partisan, everyone is given the chance to speak in an open forum (or debate, depending on what they decide to call it). In 2018, most Libertarians that were able to participate in these functions either made some decent points or totally mopped the floor with their opponents.

It’s not hard to hold a local official’s feet to the fire. Whomever you’re running against, point out what they did that you disagreed with and what you would’ve done differently. If they’re from Oregon, they likely spend anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands on a volunteer position. To the vast majority of people who know about this, they’re going to wonder why it’s necessary to spend tens of thousands on an unpaid gig.

What you can do to get the ball rolling

After reading about the possibilities, are you considering a local run? Even if you’re not, the hope is that you’ll be a bit more pumped to volunteer or encourage a Libertarian friend of yours to run for one of these several offices. If you’re running or considering a run, head over to LP Action, the Libertarian Party’s free resource for Libertarian leaders and candidates. I’m also offering consultation services to Libertarians either at very low-cost rates or pro-bono in most cases.

Another helpful way to get involved is to get in touch with your state’s Libertarian Party as well as your county affiliate (if available) and volunteer and/or fundraise. Unfortunately, the national committee can’t dole out huge donations like the other guys can. LP Action is seriously an amazing resource that even the other parties don’t really have — use that to your advantage.

The vast majority of our wins in 2018 were local offices. Given the power and opportunity for meaningful impact I described earlier, can you imagine what a Libertarian-Majority city council, county board, or even school board would look like? Whether you’re in awe or scoffing at the idea, it’s a very real possibility. We just have to come together and work hard to spread the ideas of Liberty. After all, if you’re going to go big, you should consider going small.

Libertarian Food for Thought in 2019

With 2020 just around the corner, Libertarians have a lot on their plate they need to think about. No, I’m not talking about the various elections next year. I’m referring more to the fact that we need to figure out what we’re going to do about the infighting and widespread misconceptions surrounding the Libertarian Party (LP) and its ideas.

We’re the party of freedom, not an “alternative”

Most often, I’ll see a lot of candidates using the “End the Duopoly” tagline. Stop. It’s too damn cliché. Instead, why not communicate the LP’s message? What’s wrong with “Get the government out of your wallet and your private life?” I suppose it’s not three words. But if we’re nothing more than a mere “alternative” in a system that is viewed as being a “duopoly,” we’ve seriously missed the point.

An alternative isn’t chosen. People choose A or B, not C. Here’s a better way to go about it: Become choice A or B. No, I’m not telling you to run off and be a Democrat or Republican — I’m telling you to take one over and make them irrelevant. If a Democratic incumbent failed on the war on drugs and a Republican incumbent passed on an opportunity to shrink the size of government, capitalize on it! Make Democrats and Republicans angry about the failures in their incumbents and promise to fulfill their old promises. Guaranteed, if you’re loud enough, they’ll squirm when the people start biting.

Enough with the purity tests! 

Stop saying someone else isn’t a real Libertarian just because they don’t espouse the same level of voluntarism you do. Not everyone is a “statist” in the way you portray them to be. It’s great to see that you’re principled, but don’t be a jerk about it and then whine when nobody sticks around.

No more paper candidates

If there’s anything good to be said about Democrats and Republicans, it’s that they often have more people running serious campaigns than not. I’m not entirely sure if that’s true for the LP. I don’t want the party to ban them, but if you decide to run for office, you should put in as much effort as time will allow you.

Perhaps my biggest frustration with people telling me “I’d rather have people’s names on ballots so people know we exist than not” is that they’re not thinking about the biggest problem: What if they’re elected? Don’t get me wrong! I would be over the flipping moon if they were elected! But what if they win the election just to say, “Meh. I didn’t really want it, so I’m not accepting this.”

Not only that, what if they’re elected but didn’t realize they can’t find a place to stay nor can they afford a second home near the Capitol (if they’re running for a legislative seat). It is far worse for our candidates to win and look either unenthusiastic or completely unprepared than to not have a name with an L next to it on the ballot. On the flip side, what if the paper candidate is a perennial candidate and wins the primary against a more serious candidate? That does us more harm than good in the long run.

Volunteer, donate, or do both

If we want to get anywhere, we’re going to need to seriously compete with the other two. That takes manpower and it takes money. If you don’t have time to volunteer, donate. Even if it’s just $5 to your state affiliate. If you don’t have money, make time to volunteer. Even if it’s just 30 minutes per week for a Libertarian candidate you support.

Democrats and Republicans kill us in elections for two reasons: They have money and they have volunteers. Volunteers help spread the word through canvassing, making phone calls, and even stuffing envelopes for mailers. The money helps with ads (of course), mailers, voter rolls (data), brochures, and even yard signs. I’m not saying Libertarians need hours of ad space, but without literature, you’re doomed.

Some will undoubtedly ask what I’ll be doing to help (aside from sitting in my ivory tower). I’ll tell you exactly what I’ll be doing: I’m starting a political consulting business focused on helping Libertarians get elected through content, strategy, and grassroots activities. If you’re planning on running for office as a Libertarian and want to run a serious campaign, let’s talk.

Libertarians Aren’t Liberal

If you’re a Libertarian for long enough, someone will either call you a “liberal” or imply that Libertarians are somehow leftist. Of course, the classic liberalism we all know and love isn’t what most conservatives mean when they try to call us liberals. Part of the issue is a lack of understanding. But why haven’t many Republicans figured it out yet? After all, if they were to listen to what we said, they’d agree with us more often than not.

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Image: George Skidmore

School Choice Changes How Teachers Strike

Evergreen School District in Vancouver, Washington is delaying its first day of school due to the teacher’s strike. Many parents are frustrated with their tax dollars being spent on empty schools with picketing teachers. It’s even more frustrating that many of these parents don’t support the one thing that would change these strikes: School choice. Unions hate school choice because they know it would make strikes harder to organize.

They also hate it because teacher’s actually need to care more about the students than their unions. There’s no question that most great teachers care about their students. But the unions aren’t really thinking about the kids. Rather, their interests lie in getting the best pay and benefits for teachers. Why, then, do they act like they’re doing what’s best for kids?

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Why Socialism Won’t Work in America

There’s a big push for socialism in the United States. The problem is that it just isn’t going to work in America. With socialism, there’s a lot of centralization, especially with regard to economic policy. Real socialism wouldn’t allow for many things most Americans take for granted. Economically speaking, people would have to completely disregard their personal utility (satisfaction). We need to be honest when we talk about socialism. Tens of millions have died at the hands of its ideology, mostly from starvation. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading

It’s Time to Privatize OHSU

We often fail to realize that “privatize” is not a dirty word.  In order to understand this, we must first understand what it means for a public university to privatize. Next, we must come to terms with the reality that private institutions are often highly esteemed compared to their public counterparts. Lastly, there needs to be a good reason for a public university to privatize if people are going to support such an action.

After diligent research, I believe that there is a very convincing case to privatize the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

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Exclusive — Oregon Libertarians Can Learn a Lot from Larry Sharpe's Gubernatorial Run

The November 2018 election in Oregon has an interesting twist — 16 State Legislature seats have incumbents with the Democratic, Independent, and Republican nominations. Most of them are Democrats, but some are Republican. Out of these 16 seats, there are six House seats, and one Senate seat, with Libertarian candidates. Assuming the Green Party doesn’t have candidates in most of these districts, these Libertarians will get a taste of what the two-party system is like.

After seeing video after video and several headlines about Larry Sharpe, the Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate in New York, I decided to reach out to him and ask if he had some details from his campaign or a little message he’d like to include in this article. He graciously offered to do a phone interview. I was excited to take him up on his offer.

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Disney's Chicken Little from 1943 is More Relevant Today Than We Realize

My daughter and I were watching Disney’s Silly Symphonies on Netflix this week and it was great to reminisce about when I was her age watching these same cartoons. I was also reminded just how political these cartoons got sometimes. Chicken Little is probably one of the more powerful wartime propaganda cartoons that I’ve seen. To the unsuspecting viewer, it’s just a cartoon about a timeless story with several explanations. However, Disney’s Chicken Little is much darker and has a message that is timeless even 75 years later.

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Free Online Economics Education

Being in the age of the internet, we have the luxury of YouTube. Over time, university lecturers have recorded their lectures and posted them on the internet. Nowadays, you can find lectures on most topics, including economics. In fact, there are enough uploads for someone to practically earn a degree if it were a matter of watching videos. You can even find older versions of textbooks online for free.

To fulfill an economics major at most schools, you need to have principles and intermediate courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics, a class in econometrics (sometimes split into two classes), international economics, and a bunch of topics courses of your choice. Here’s a list of videos to help you get started.

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A Keynesian Nightmare: Saving Money Helps Shorten Recessions

There’s a popular notion in Keynesian economic theory known as “The Paradox of Thrift (or Saving).” Since Keynesian economics focuses on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — which is, frankly, a measurement of spending — saving money is paradoxical because it lowers GDP due to consumers not spending it.

The reason why economists care so much about GDP is because it’s an important indicator of where the economy is in a business cycle (boom or bust). When GDP constantly drops for a period of time, this is known as a recession. How exactly does saving money help shorten a recession?

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