My twitter feed (which you should follow) is still abuzz with angry words about Kyle Rittenhouse and the Covid crisis, especially where lockdowns are concerned.  I’ve already touched on both of them here, here, and here in long form.  In all of them I’ve made rare calls for nuance, and yet for some reason my blog with readership measured in the 10s of people on a good day hasn’t resulted in making the screaming stop.

I think I know why people are still so intense about it on both sides:  the legality and the morality of both situations don’t line up neatly with each other.  In the case of Rittenhouse he may well be legally innocent, he may well have acted in self defense, and he may go free.  Given that two people are dead and another is seriously wounded behind it, it’s an ambiguous situation and exactly why we have courts.  Even in ancapistan there would nigh certainly be a referral to one, if not several private arbitration services about this, and they might not all come back with the same ruling.  BUT…why people on the other side are so pissed is that he was on the wrong moral side of the issue.  In a year where anger over the state murdering people boiled over in many public ways, Rittenhouse was on the side of…the state.  He brought a gun to the wrong side of a protest and wound up shooting protestors.  Even if he was legally in the right in the moment, he was morally wrong and put himself in an incendiary situation. 

In the case of Covid, libertarians, including a lot of people I have great respect for, and Trumpers are screaming about lockdowns, business shutdowns, school closures, and curfews like it’s the greatest abuse of power since the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and a permanent mental crippling of our youth.  On the other hand, just about everyone who’s had the virus, along with the bulk of the center and left is flat out saying @#^! you to anyone who won’t wear a mask, or who protests, or who threatens to have Thanksgiving with their family.  And the thing is…both sides actually have a point.  Yes, government mandated lockdowns and curfews (although not, I’d say, shutdowns of government specific services, such as schools) are unconstitutional and awful, and they set a terrible precedent.  Yes, entire sectors of the economy have been tanked by this intervention, and way too much corporate welfare has been given to large businesses at the expense of small.  Yes, school closures are absolutely taking a real toll on our students, depriving them of experiences they will never get back.  But the flip side is that the virus is real, and the low risk is still a lot higher than other diseases (such as the normal flu), along with much longer lasting after effects and a much higher death rate.  The appropriate legal thing to do is to not come with 100 miles of government with a mandate, but the right moral thing to do is chill out for a minute, stay home at least through regular flu season, and let’s get through this.

Herein lies the problem.  For libertarians especially, most things are pretty cut and dried, and most things are so long overdue and so wrong that quick, decisive, drastic action is called for.  Ending the wars, ending the drug war and pardoning/exonerating people.  Declassifying files on US war crimes.  Ending corporate welfare.  Ending the war on guns.  Ending the war on immigrants.  And we love to be contradictory almost for its own sake, which most of the time makes sense because the status quo answer sucks.  But some things actually are complicated, and need to be treated as such.  Yes, Rittenhouse may have been acting in self defense, and no, you don’t always get to pick the people that you should defend (Clive Bundy, anyone?), but that doesn’t mean we should hold him up as a hero, or that we should hold him blameless, or that we should blindly stick up for him without acknowledging context.  And we should especially recognize that in a summer of very visible public murders by police, which, yes, fits inside a longer history of police abuse and racism in the United States, people are going to take the shooting of protestors as more evidence of the racism of our society, no matter how legally justified he might have been in the moment.  For the lockdown yes, kids can’t recover from mental health issues if they’re dead, but the toll that months of isolation and missing important events and rites of passage is still a very real toll.  No, governors shouldn’t be trying to lock people down, but it would be really nice if we the citizenry would actually chill out for a minute on our own. 

Or in other words, most of the time we should fight hard and take no prisoners.  But sometimes?  We need to calm the @#^! down and acknowledge the other side has a point.

Because people on both sides can both have good points, and/or be complete assholes to each other, let’s try to keep some things in mind.

Libertarians and other anti-shutdown folks, how about we recognize that even though yes, mandates are shitty and unconstitutional, Covid is a real disease that has killed a lot of people (somewhere between 2 to 7 or 8 times what the flu kills in in a season) and has left a lot more with very serious after effects.  And let’s recognize that there’s a difference between mandating closing private businesses and keeping government stuff like schools closed.  Finally, something that libertarians can and often do forget in a heartbeat:  just because something shouldn’t be a law doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea-crack should be legal, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to put it in your lungs.

Llikewise, keep it all closed folks, recognize that the mental health consequences of isolation, especially for kids, are real and awful.  And after 8 months of it a lot of people are more than a little fried.  Yes, it would be worse if they were dead.  But that doesn’t make the reality of what we’re living with any more fun.

Or in other words, a little @#^!ing nuance and civility in this whole thing would be nice.

Big take here, followup as part of this



In both parts of my previous discussions of the Jorgensen campaign I’ve stressed the point that the next big year for Libertarians is 2021.  Now is not the right time to talk about 2024.  We should be worried about city council runs, not our next presidential ticket.

This is still true.

However Libertarians, being Libertarians and, well, people can’t help but think about the next presidential cycle in the immediate aftermath of this one.  And as such, I’ve got Some Thoughts on what I’ve been reading in libertarian circles post-Election Day.  In no particular order…

Justin Amash 2024Simply put, no.  Don’t get me wrong-Amash was an amazing congressman, especially in light of having to be in Congress during the Obama and Trump years.  His regular explanations of his votes were illuminating.  His nearly successful attempt at defunding the NSA was amazing.  And his last potshots at Trump over foreign policy have been wonderful.  He conducted himself with ethics, principles, and intellect.  He was wonderful for a Republican, and he’s continued to move in the right direction since officially joining the LP.  The US could do a lot worse than him as president.  However, he should not carry our standard in 2024.  And the reason is simple:  he’s still a carpetbagger.  He’s still kind of wishywashy on immigration.  Although he seems to be moving in that direction (which I support!) historically he wasn’t the strident non-interventionist that the LP needs and that I feel most comfortable voting for.  And, as a matter of appearances and strategy, as of right now he’s only won election as a Republican.  He needs to win a local office-any local office, whether governor or sanitation board rep-as a Libertarian first before he deserves a shot at our big seat.  For a long time (and still, to a large extent) the LP was seen as a vanity project for failed Republicans.  For whatever the failings of the Jorgensen campaign, the return to homegrown talent was the smartest thing our party has done in years.  It was the beginnings of reclaiming the LP’s identity as its own entity, not just a rump Republican party, and even more importantly the effect of homegrown talent was that the candidates were firmly committed to the message, and as such campaigned harder, articulated the message much better and much more consistently, and brought people in that were motivated rather than meh.  That’s the kind of person we need again in 2024, whether it’s Spike Cohen, Jorgensen again, Hornberger, or one of our many recruits from this cycle-or someone I don’t know yet.

Further thoughts on the presidential nomineeThey should be a proud libertarian of strong principle, but also someone who’s willing to reach out to groups well outside the stereotypical libertarian constituencies-this is another thing that Jorgensen and Cohen did exceptionally well.  They should have a solid body of work behind them.  Ideally we would draw from our stock of officeholders, but I know that’s not always how it goes in the LP.

What issues should we focus on?:  As I said in part 2, there are a lot of local issues to focus on that can make our communities better and prove our ideas can work in the real world, most of which we don’t know about yet. We have such an information gap in our party between what’s happening on the ground and what we’re aware of that it’s tragic.  We need to be out in the world (metaphorically, in the age of quarantine anyway) in a way that we haven’t been.  Even having a libertarian watching a city council meeting and reporting back on it would be an improvement.  And I think that’s where a lot of our energy needs to be. 

That said, the state and national stuff is always bigger and far more egregious.  I think we need to recognize, if we don’t already, that we’re a small movement, and as such look for single issue coalitions on what’s important to us, across the entirety of the traditional political spectrum.  The goal should always be to move society in a more liberty oriented direction and to improve peoples’ lives, but we shouldn’t be ignorant of how things will play out in recruitment either.  In the year of Black Lives Matter and police murder being in the headlines we continue to have natural allies there on qualified immunity, civil asset forfeiture, the drug war, and, in time, ultimately the very nature of the relationship between the state and the individual.  The Jorgensen campaign did a great job of starting that conversation in a way that no Libertarian ticket had done before.  And, when the Biden/Harris administration inevitably lets down that constituency, whether through backburnering criminal justice reform or simply being true to their historical track records, that’s a major opportunity for us to pick up new supporters.  And to anyone who’s screaming pandering right now, or “dirty commie thugs” or somesuch nonsense, my response is here, but more importantly, hear them in their own words.  How anyone-especially those who have been railing against the abuses of the state for so long-can hear the stories of those people and not be moved to tears is beyond me.  Also…in SoCal George Gascon was just elected DA on a campaign of, and I quote, “ending the racist drug war”.  It’s an issue that I wish wasn’t necessary to pursue, but it’s also an issue that wins both morally and at the ballot box.

Given Biden’s stance on guns, expect a lot of people on the right to suddenly care about gun rights again after ignoring Trump’s abuses.  The NRA is in decline (thankfully), but many better groups are out there carrying on the good fight-Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners Of America, and Citizens Committee For The Right To Keep And Bear Arms all come immediately to mind.  There are also a lot of groups that are reaching out in minority communities, often also doing work (or overlapping with the work) of dismantling the drug war and reigning in police abuse.  Maj Toure and Black Guns Matter. The National African American Gun AssociationThe Latino Rifle AssociationArmed Equality.  The delightfully named Not Fucking Around Coalition.  I don’t agree with every stance these organizations and people have taken on every issue, and I have serious disagreements with some of them on some things.  But they are all doing important work on an issue that’s very important to us as libertarians, and we need to reach out to these people, go to their meetings, and offer as much support as we can.

War will be another issue which we will need to pursue with great vigor.  With the return of Democrats to the White House the antiwar (mainstream) left will most likely go silent, and I don’t think there’s a lot of antiwar Republicans left among the elected class.  However, the American people have very rarely liked war in the modern era, they’ve just dealt with it as the price for supposedly getting the domestic policies they want.  We can become the antiwar party.  We can reach out across the spectrum to help stop the next war, which we all know is coming giving Biden’s track record.  We can reach out to a broad variety of people here; Adam Forgie’s excellent series of interviews with all of the third party candidates this cycle had one unifying thread-every third party, from nativist to Libertarian to flaming commie, is profoundly antiwar and anti-empire.  This should tell us something big.

The issue we shouldn’t pursue though, or at least seriously modify how we talk about it?  Covid-19.  I have heard entirely too many libertarians, including a lot of candidates and official representatives, talk about the virus almost as if it didn’t exist, and talk about the quarantines and lockdowns as if they’re the second coming of the Soviet Union. 

This is not a winning strategy for us, morally or politically.

I have a more detailed take on this here, but to summarize I agree that lockdowns of private enterprises are unconstitutional and wrong, and they’ve been horribly economically destructive.  However, Libertarians need to have some damned nuance when we talk about this.  In mid-November as I’m writing this we’re facing flu season on top of a resurgence of Covid cases in various places.  And regardless of the percentage of surviveability (the case fatality rate is hovering at about 2%, according to that study), the reality is that almost 250,000 people have died because of this disease, which is somewhere between double and 7 or 8  times typical flu deaths.  Anecdotally Covid support groups have been talking about a lot of dead members, and side effects that linger for a lot longer than a typical flu.  And yes, the numbers might be goosed some (a charge I’ve heard frequently), but there’s still a substantial number of Americans that have been really affected by this.  To not acknowledge this, even as we criticize the abuses of the lockdowns, will win us no friends and quite frankly makes us assholes.  And it may well put us on the wrong side of history-we run the risk of becoming like the early AIDS denialists.  We need to point out the realities of the virus, the people that have died, and what people are living with and risking even as we point out the effects of the lockdowns, and we need to emphasize that private solutions are better here but solutions are still needed for a very real problem.  Simply going out and railing against the lockdowns and calling anyone wearing a mask a cuck or some nonsense just makes us sound like Trumpers.

Finally, tone:   Tone is always the toughest thing for libertarians, and really any ideologues.  We’re often angry and self righteous, and not without justification-there’s a lot to be angry about.  A lot that has been going on for a long time, and didn’t just spontaneously arise in the age of Trump.  The state has been killing people, and robbing people for a long time.  The ideology of control of the individual has had a powerful allure for a long time.  Suppression of dissent is almost as American as dissent.  And while Trump’s loss is welcome, Biden’s election is hardly a cause for celebration.

It’s hard not to be angry.

We should be angry.  We should continue to stand firm against what is wrong, in no uncertain terms (and that was one of the very refreshing things about the Jorgensen/Cohen campaign).  And those in office deserve every bit of the ire and venom that we can give them, especially since a large chunk of the formerly angry populace will probably be turning a blind eye to the sins of the new administration and will need to be reminded that their enemy just pulled a lot of the same crap a year or two ago.

But for those not in office?   We need to be kind.  I’m not talking about the knock down dragout debates we have with our close friends, although some kindness there wouldn’t hurt.  I’m talking about when we go out into the world.  When we’re at a community fair, or a city council meeting, or a protest, or a meeting of a non-Libertarian group.  First off, if we’re going to claim the moral high ground we damned well better act like we deserve it, and lead by example.  Ron Paul said it very well:  “Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms”, and while he was talking about international relationships, if you substitute force of arms with “yelling and screaming and calling someone a filthy statist idiot” it translates pretty well to interpersonal ones too.  More practically, again, we need to recognize that as a small movement if we want to actually affect positive changes in the world rather than self righteously jerking off in our own echo chambers we need to actually convince people to work with us, whether on a single issue or in fully coming over to our camp.  That does not mean compromise our message, change positions, or pretend to be what we’re not.  But it does mean we need to listen a lot more than we talk, we need to be empathetic, we need to hear what peoples’ real concerns are based on their lived experiences, and speak to them in their language, based on their concerns, not just theoretical abstractions.  We also need to recognize that good ideas can come from other camps, that (for the most part) if someone comes to a point of agreement with you on a particular issue through a very different path that’s ok, and that people can and often do come to good faith beliefs that are very different than ours.  The way to reach them isn’t to beat them down.  It’s to listen to their story, to figure out how they got there, to find out where we agree, and build out from there.

Good luck out there.

So…the election is over.  Jorgensen didn’t win, or even hit 5%, but she’s left behind a ton of motivated voters, ready to keep fighting for liberty and lay the groundwork for 2024.  Some of them might be ex-Republicans, disgusted at Trump’s authoritarianism, nativism, and selling out completely on gun control.  Some of them might be former Democrats, disgusted by the DNC’s choice of a major architect of the drug war and a cop in the era of Black Lives Matter.  Or maybe first time voters, inspired by the message of liberty.

Maybe even you reading this 🙂

So what is there to be done?  Plenty.  And spoiler alert:  the next big year for Libertarians isn’t 2024.  It isn’t even 2022.  It’s 2021.

One of the common criticisms of Libertarians from major party opponents is “you need to win at the local level first!”.  While we do in fact do that better than any other third party (including 15 new seats this year), there’s some truth to that statement.  Even now there’s definitely a strain of “everyone wants to be president, no one wants to be dogcatcher” in Libertarian activism.  I get it.  School board meetings are boring, tiresome affairs, and sign regulations are not remotely sexy.

But they matter.

From a practical politics perspective, most of the mainstream either doesn’t know the Libertarian Party exists, or thinks our ideas are crazy and unworkable.  The only way to change that is to prove that we can win races and that our ideas work when implemented.  From a principle perspective, there’s so much that can or does happen at the local level that directly impacts the liberty of the people.  Business license fees are often incredibly protectionist and disciminatory in nature.  Zoning laws affect housing costs, and what people can do with their own property.  Stadiums are usually excuses for eminent domain seizures and corporate welfare.  Bond initiatives are always taxes on housing costs that last for generations.  City controlled monopolies on services, such as cable tv and trash collection, can be opened up to competition.  There are often laws that prohibit rainwater collection, or regulate the colors that houses can be painted, or have restrictions on how signs can look, all of which libertarians can push to repeal or reform.  Neighbors can be encouraged to talk with each other to solve problems and resolve disputes rather than using the power of the government.  And, even though local governments can’t repeal state and federal laws, there’s a lot they can do in how law enforcement does their jobs.  They can set parking regulations.  They can renegotiate police union contracts to have greater accountability.  They can choose not to defend bad officers.  They can choose what higher level agencies they cooperate or don’t cooperate with.  And, most importantly, they can set enforcement priorities.  Imagine a host of libertarian city councils that all decided to make enforcing the drug war the lowest priority?  Oh wait, you don’t have to

All of this could have a huge positive impact on communities, and it will build our farm team.  Planning commission members become city council members.  City council members become mayors, and county supervisors, and state house representatives.  School board members become community college trustees, or state superintendents of education.  DAs and judges can become state attorneys.  State house representatives become federal legislatures, and so on.

Seems like a lot though, right?  What can you, specifically do?

Quite a bit actually!  First, get involved with your local LP affiliate.  Usually they’re organized at the state and county level, with even smaller affiliates for really populous counties.  If there’s no group close to you, reach out to the state party and start one.  If you have a pre-existing group, they’ll probably have stuff for you to do and regular gatherings to go to.  But here’s what they probably don’t have…


Right now the most pressing need I see for local LP affiliates, and the easiest way for someone to jump on board activism, is information.

First, compile a list of every elected office in your county. Usually this means city councils, mayors, school boards, county supervisors, and possibly community college districts, water boards, and fire boards, in addition to any state legislature and US House seats. Get the eligibility requirements for each one, as well as when they come up for re-election.  And if you’re feeling ambitious, compile a list of the appointed positions too, as many cities have a multitude of appointed commissions dealing with issues from planning, to public safety, to senior issues, to parks and recreation.  I can almost guarantee you your local LP does not have this data.  Luckily it’s pretty easily available on the web, although you will have to compile it from the sites of each individual government.  In parts of SoCal, for instance, there’s over 150 elected offices in a space that takes a half hour to drive across, 30-50 of which come up for re-election every year.  It’s a huge opportunity for us-but a wasted one if we don’t know what those offices are.

Next, every local government body has regular-usually monthly or biweekly-meetings. Usually there’s public comment time available at each one.  Get a list of all of those too.  Again, your local LP probably does not have this.

Finally, once you have your affiliate set up (if you’re starting from scratch), go to your county registrar and get a list of every registered Libertarian in your county. Party affiliates tend to focus on dues paying members, in my experience, but the real gold is in the registered voters, which is a much bigger list.  If you’re in a state that doesn’t allow third parties or has especially onerous ballot access laws you may have to skip this for now.

All of this information is powerful stuff, and leads to the next bit of information gathering.  The LP should have at least one person watching every local government meeting in the country.  After a few of these (and talking to people before and after) you can find out the issues.  Look for things that can be worked on, improvements that can be made, and usurpations and corruption that can be fought-and as I said above, it won’t take long to find some of all of these.  This interview with Cara Schulz is excellent as an introduction to both campaigning and the types of issues that can have libertarian solutions at the local level.  And once you have people that are familiar with the issues, well…those are your first batch of candidates.  Or the first batch of people to go for commission appointments.  Jeff Hewitt has said that the planning commission is usually the stepping stone to the city council, but any appointment is a chance to advance libertarian solutions and help your community.

How many offices can your local LP contest every year, first with paper candidates, and then with more serious runs as you learn?  That will be big metric for judging your success year over year, and as I said above, it’s also your farm team for higher office.

Some of this is probably for you, some of it might not be.  But between data collection, watching the watchmen, and actually running against them there’s plenty for everyone to do, and enough different things where everyone can do something. Take all of that amazing energy you brought to the Jorgensen campaign and take it your local government.  Stop a stadium.  Fight a bond.  Demand accountability for police brutality.  Get rid of a zoning law.  Let people collect rainwater on their own property, or grow food instead of a lawn.  Get rid of some occupational licensing.  Don’t cooperate with ICE.  Lower the business license rate.  Demand that the city contracts actually be public record, and have proper votes.  Make your community better.

That is how 2020 becomes 2021.  And that is how 2021 begets 2022, and 2022 becomes 2024.

Liberty in our lifetimes, and liberty starts at home.

The results are in.  The campaign of Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen…did not meet expectations.  We didn’t win, we didn’t get 5%, we didn’t crack into the debates, and it looks like Biden is the major party asshole that one.  We had some infighting over charges of pandering, or of people claiming they were too scared of one major party candidate over the other, or that Spike wasn’t a serious candidate, or that the campaign was poorly run, or that Jo was a bad interviewee.  It’s a lot of disappointment, and some of those charges have some merit.

However, is that really all there is to the story?  Was there no good news for liberty on election night, or in the campaign that preceded it?  There, dear reader, I must strongly disagree.

Note:  I will only briefly address the major party charges of “you should have run sooner” (she was the first candidate to be nominated, and if the LP nominates any earlier they run into legal issues in some states), “you’re a secret plant for Trump/Biden!” (bullshit, and your candidates were terrible anyway), and “you should have run as a Republican!” (ew, the Republican party hasn’t even paid us lip service in a decade, let alone ever actually being a home for Libertarian ideas, and it’s now an authoritarian cesspool completely overrun by racists, nativists, and protectionists).  All of these objections are generally dumb or ignorant.

Let’s start with the negative.  A few of the charges fall apart quickly.  First, the charge of pandering is complete bullshit, as I’ve discussed at length.  And Spike not being a serious candidate?  Sure, his primary campaign was a parody campaign in the spirit of Vermin Supreme, and that’s fine.  But he got deadly serious as soon as he had the nomination, as this interview and this speech (and pretty much any other public appearance he made) will attest.  Jo not being a good interviewee I think is pretty subjective.  For my tastes she definitely was not nearly as firery as Cohen, and she did feel like she was perpetually campaigning in 2000, not 2020.  She came off as someone wasn’t so much angry as disappointed in Ronald Reagan.  On the other hand she was a clear communicator of our ideas, she never compromised the message (see “pandering”, above), she was consistent in every interview she gave, and she definitely got a lot better as the season went on.

The other charges that have been presented do have something to them.  I’ve heard some rumblings that the campaigns did not get along with each other, and the Jorgensen campaign especially was reluctant to integrate the infrastructure of the Vermin Supreme/Spike Cohen campaign and the Hornberger campaign into their own.  I’d welcome clarification from anyone with more information on that.  Certainly anecdotally Jorgensen merch was either not available or very shipping delayed until July or so, which is somewhat damning given that the nomination was secured on May 23 and several candidates ran (for us anyway) strong primary campaigns.

There’s questions of budget and strategy as well, especially concerning TV and social media advertising.  Looking at her campaign’s list of expenditures, the biggest expense by far is to Skyline Media.  What I don’t know, however (and would love to be illuminated on) is whether that covers ad production, ad purchasing, or both.  One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard is that there was almost no social media advertising, let alone tv or radio buys, in favor of retail campaigning and the bus tour.  I can’t tell from the expense report how true or not that is, but it seems to have some merit to it.

There’s also some lingering questions as to why she didn’t do the minor party debates, although from what I understand CPD rules ban you from their debates if you do someone else’s.  It’s lame.

And then there’s the down ballot races.  I really thought Donald Rainwater and Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr. were going to win, or at least put up a lot better numbers than they did. 

That’s the negative.  What about the positive?

First, the vote total.  Sure, 1.2%, which is crap, but 1.8 million votes and the LP’s second best finish ever.  We had an incredible dollar to vote ratio.  We achieved ballot access in all 50 states for the second cycle in a row, despite the usual onerous garbage and even despite the pandemic.  We beat back lawsuits to kick our candidates off the ballot.  That’s nothing to sneeze at, because all of those people that signed are potential talent for the next go around.  Our propaganda game got GOOD.  Next, Jorgensen and Cohen campaigned for down ballot LP candidates like no other presidential ticket I’ve ever seen, and my history goes back to the Harry Browne days.  Cohen’s social media was a daily barrage of endorsements for Congress, state assemblies, county commissioners, tax assessors, and more.   There were regular mailers from the Jorgensen campaign about other candidates.  At campaign stops they were regularly greeted (and gave speech time to) local LP affiliate volunteers and elected officials.  They made perhaps our first concerted effort to have coattails, and to get the other candidates on them.  We won a state house seat in Wyoming, as well as several local races.  And while probably negligible in how much impact the LP had in the races, there were pro-liberty victories across the country.  In California felons will automatically regain the right to vote, and our disastrous AB5, which basically eliminated independent contractors, has been dealt a huge blow thanks to Prop 22.  Gambling was legalized in Nebraska.  And most notably, the war on drugs got kicked in the teeth at the ballot box, with every marijuana legalization proposition passing, Washington, DC legalizing (almost) psychadelics, and Oregon decriminalizing everything. 

Next, lets look at the positives of the candidate choice and the candidates themselves.  The LP finally had a very strong field of presidential contenders this year, with even our satire candidate (Vermin Supreme) and our carpetbagger (Justin Amash) being pretty good.  Very importantly, Jorgensen and Cohen were both homegrown talent, not Republican carpetbaggers.  We had three cycles in a row of carpetbaggers, with Gary Johnson being a nice guy and certainly libertarian adjacent, but not fully bought in to our ideas.  He was the best of the bunch though; Bill Weld and Bob Barr were absolute disasters and had no place in the LP.  This time we fielded our own candidates and the results were much better, because the buyin from the candidates was much better.  Jorgensen and Cohen both campaigned their asses off.  They both hit 48 states on the campaign trail, along with countless appearances on local media and podcasts.  They reached out to groups where libertarians had never even existed, let alone had a positive reaction, such as Black Lives Matter groups and Native American groups, in addition to more traditional constituencies for us like tax protests and gun rights groups, all without ever compromising the message or saying anything that wasn’t libertarian.

Which brings me to the biggest takeaway of the election-what Jorgensen and Cohen inspired.  Johnson voters were “meh”.  Bob Barr voters were desperate.  Jorgensen voters though?  They’re passionate in a way I haven’t seen, maybe ever in the LP or the broader movement.  They believe in Jo, they believe in Spike, and they believe in the message.  And they’re a greater diversity of people than I’ve ever seen in the movement.  When I started out it was seven old white guys, me, and one of the old white guys’ old white wife.  Wonderful people all, to be sure, but not exactly the basis of a mass movement.  When I see the all the “I wasted my vote” posts on Jorgensen groups, or when I went to Jorgensen and Cohen events, it’s an amazing mix of young, old, first time voters, party diehards, white, black, latin, asian, straight, bi, trans, all genders and the whole spectrum of America.  And they all want better for the world. 

They said (depending on how embellished the story is) of both the Velvet Underground and Husker Du that they didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one of their records started a band.  Jo Jorgensen voters have the exact same energy.  They are the ones that are going to be the next wave of libertarian thinkers, activists, candidates, and office holders.  They are going to be the ones that change the world.

To summarize:  there are real lessons for next time around.  Whoever the nominees are, the campaigns need to work with each other and everyone in the primary should have a good plan to pass off their infrastructure to whoever the nominees are.  The ground game needs to better.  Candidates for the highest office need to be prepared to campaign as their full time job during the duration of the campaign season.  Figuring out the CPD mess earlier is important.  There are real questions about where money should be spent to have the most impact.  But having real, homegrown talent rather than a carpetbagger was far and away the right thing to do.  So was reaching out to everyone that would hear us, including groups traditionally considered outside of the libertarian orbit.  Taking a vocal, principled stand on the state murdering people not only was the right thing to do, it brought our message to new places and new people.  And whoever did the Jorgensen ads this year needs to be rehired by every Libertarian campaign in the future.

There is light in the darkness.

Next:  how to keep going and do better.  Spoiler alert:  it’s not about 2024, or 2022.  It’s about 2021.


At press time the election results are not great for Jorgensen/Cohen, or any federal Libertarian candidates.  I have a post-mortem written, which I will publish after all the votes have come in.  However, before all of the analysis, criticism where necessary, and yelling at everyone else where appropriate, let me say this.

Dr. Jo Jorgensen and Mr. Spike Cohen, you both campaigned your asses off.  You worked tirelessly to bring the message of liberty to people all across the country, including to many places and groups that that message had never even existed before.  You never compromised the message, you spoke truth to power, and you were our voice for the entire campaign season.  I have nothing but thanks and gratitude to both of you.  It was an honor meeting both of you at your campaign events.  You inspired me to get back into activism after many years away, and to start this little blog after a decade of dreaming about it.  You’ve inspired a whole new crop of activists, volunteers, and candidates who will take the message forward into the future.

My words are insufficient to convey my gratitude.

Thank you.  From the bottom of my cynical heart, thank you.

For those that study history, the history of World War I is considered one of its great tragedies.  While the Gilded Age is often decried on many of the left (and not without some merit), it’s also worth celebrating as the First Age of Globalization, producing major advancements in human lifespan, health sciences, physics, inventions such as x-rays, radio, the automobile, and powered flight, industrialization, and greatly increased global travel, all in an era of relative peace outside of Africa.  This came crashing down when an obscure nobleman by someone from a tiny country led the entire world into four years of sickeningly deadly war, all because everyone had entangling alliances with everyone else that blew up (literally) in everyone’s faces.  It wrecked Europe for a generation and directly set the stage for the rise of the Nazis and World War II.  It was, in short, not a good time or a good time or a good idea for anyone involved.

Flash forward to 2020, shitshow that it’s been.  Enter onto the world stage Armenia and Azerbaijan, two small and (at least to Americans) relatively obscure countries in Central Asia.  Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed border region that has had multiple flareups over the past several decades, finally erupting into more or less open warfare in late September, and October ceasefires falling apart quickly.  It has already killed hundreds of people and wrecked countless lives, along with the trust between the different groups of people that lived there.  It’s had ripple effects among the Armenian diaspora worldwide as people scramble to help their families and worry about relatives.  It’s a human tragedy.

However, it has literally nothing to do with the United States.  Neither side is attacking us, and even the most collateral of damage could never come close to any of our territory.  Other than a general interest in peace, there’s no interest here.


Enter those entangling alliances that Washington warned us against.  Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Warsaw Pact alliance centered around Russia and former Soviet republics.  Azerbaijan, on the other hand, is a strong ally of Turkey, and Turkey…is a member of NATO. 

Which, for some reason, we’re still in 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Right now Armenia could officially request assistance under the CSTO, and Russia would be obligated to get involved in the war in a big way.  Turkey could do the same with NATO, and the United States would be similarly obliged. 

Thankfully at the moment Armenia has made no such official request, which is the fig leaf Russia has used to not jump in.  And neither Putin nor Trump, nor their domestic constituencies, seem to have the stomach for a fight right now.  This is good.

But the world seemed peaceful on July 27, 1914 too.  No one would have thought there was much stomach for a fight then either.

I hope this gets resolved peacefully quickly.  I hope that there continues to be relative sanity on the issue from the great powers.  But it presents one hell of an argument for bringing the troops home and getting the hell out of NATO.  We should, in the words of John Quincy Adams, be the well wisher to the freedom and independence of all, and be the champion and vindicator only of our own. 

And this would be one heck of a time to do it.

Thankfully, after a bit of arguing about it in the early 00s, libertarians seem to have come back around to a pro-immigration, more or less open borders consensus, assuming minarchy rather than ancapistan.  Why, you might ask?  Because immigration both satisfies important parts of our principles, and produces dramatic net benefits economically, and because immigration enforcement produces a horrible human cost.  It is a win-win, or a complete lose.  Let’s look at these in some detail-

First, the practical effects of immigration.  A quick google search reveals a multitude of studies on the economic effects of immigration, from groups across the ideological spectrum ranging from the Cato Institute  to the Center For American Progress, and almost all of them agree that even with our welfare state factored in, immigrants are a net benefit to the United States economy.  And since it factored into the Brexit debate, I also looked up the impact of immigration in the UK, which has a much bigger welfare state than ours.  Turns out that most studies agree that immigration has a positive impact on their economy too.  Moreover, immigrants start businesses at much higher rates than native born Americans, providing more jobs, more value, and more prosperity for the entire country.  Immigrants are also, contra Trump and his ilk, less likely to commit crimes than native born.  And, just in case anyone tries to pull the Islamic terrorism scare canard, I always love to point out Dearborn, MI, which has the highest percentage of Arabic immigrants in the United States…and a crime rate that’s actually a bit less than cities of its size

Beyond the statistics, what about the contribution of immigrants to our country?  What about the inventions from immigrants, ranging from the telephone to rechargeable batteries?  What about the music and entertainment, from Neil Young and Rush to Idris Elba and Salma Hayek?  And what about the food?  If you eat in America, thank an immigrant.

Second, there’s the effects of immigration enforcement in the modern era.  Our immigration system is byzantine, overregulated, and takes an astoundingly long time to get anything doneHundreds of people die  trying to cross the border every year, all for the “crime” of wanting to work.  Children who came here at a young age often face deportation to countries they never knew.  Native people are separated from their families and from sacred events.  And most publicly there’s the way that children are pulled from their families…resulting in some separations that might be permanent.  Beyond the human cost, there’s also the immense environmental destruction that building a full border wall would cause, and the bill for it all.

And let’s not even look at how US intervention, such as in Latin America and the Middle East, created so many refugee crises in the first place.

Where’s the morality in any of that?

Some will respond that sovereign states have the authority to regulate their borders, and, again assuming minarchy for a moment, I agree.  However just because someone or some entity has power doesn’t mean they need to wield it.  The United States did just fine without any immigration restrictions for the first 120 or so years of its existence, until the Chinese Exclusion Act-which by its very name should be obvious that it was racist as hell.  And every immigration law since has been tinged with that racism, that fear of the unknown, the fear that the foreigners will take our jobs and destroy our country…when the history doesn’t support it at all.

Finally, as valuable as the arguments from data, hunger, and humanity are, there’s the arguments from principle, which in my view are far more important.  As Ron Paul said, any wall that can be used to keep people out can also be used to keep people in.  That should be terrifying in any time, but especially in the current moment, when the United States government has become much more brazen about waging war on its own people, we should all be suspicious of any effort to pen us in. 

Most importantly of all though is this:  free people should be allowed to move freely, and free people have nothing to fear from new people and new ideas.

Open the borders.  Bring on the next wave of what’s truly made America great.

This is not my post-mortem on the Jorgensen campaign.  That will come after election day, and after the winner of this election has finally been decided.  No, this post is about addressing one of the most persistent criticisms of Jorgensen, usually from the more socially conservative wings of the libertarian movement and/or Republicans on the fence, namely that she’s been coopted by Black Lives Matter and antifa, and that she’s somehow a secret commie, a collectivist, diluting the message, or Not A Real Libertarian

Let’s put aside that she was Harry Browne’s first running mate for a minute and as such has almost 30 years of party activism under her belt.

Instead, let me tell you a story, about me.  I got involved in Libertarian Party politics in the very late 90s.  At the time we were talking about many things-war, corporate welfare, taxes, censorship (oh, the days of the Communications Decency Act)…oh, and the drug war and police murdering people.

The drug war, to the extent that it was mainstream, was wildly popular.  The idea of police killing people for no reason was farcical to most people that weren’t black.  And yet here were the libertarians, saying over and over that the drug war was a bad idea, that it was contrary to human liberty, that it led to mass incarceration and the rise of gangsters a la alcohol prohibition, that it had destroyed minority communities, and especially in the case of marijuana prohibition had denied countless people access to real and effective medical treatment for a whole host of ailments-not to mention all of the industrial products that could be made from hemp.

Standard libertarian stuff so far, right?

The libertarians were also the only ones (barring of course a few commies and conspiracy theorists, although I didn’t really know much about them at the time) screaming about the state killing people without any due process.  Read through just about any Vin Suprynowicz article from the time, for example.  The names and events that rang out the most for us were Amadou Diallo, Don Scott, Peter McWilliams, Ruby Ridge, and Waco.  Regardless of whether any of the folks killed were personally likable or not, all of them were brutally murdered by agents of the state, and the entire gamut of libertarian thought at the time, from Cato to Lew Rockwell to (RIP), was uniform in condemning them.

And let’s look back further.  As a movement and a philosophy we look to many places that explicitly sanction the right of rebellion, and vigorously protest the brutalization of the individual by the state, such as the radical abolitionists and Thomas Jefferson (I know, it can be odd to see the two mentioned in the same sentence.  But they’re both part of our tradition).  We count William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman as some of our heroes.  We’ve been against police brutality since before there was a Libertarian Party.  And all of this is before we start on the brutalization of the individual that is war, which libertarians have an even longer and prouder history of opposing.

Hopefully all of this sounds familiar to anyone who’s been in the libertarian movement for more than five minutes.

Which brings us to the present day.

Over the last few years there have been a number of high profile shootings and killings of black individuals by police-Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, George Floyd, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, and many others-along with some white folks that were also brutally killed by police, such as Kelly Thomas, Duncan Lemp, and Ryan Whitaker.  The (accurate or perceived-it’s actually not really relevant here) feeling that many-even most-black people have had for decades about being under siege from police, and facing a real risk of police harassment or violence every time they leave the house, and even moreso if they go into the wrong neighborhood-is finally mainstream.  The chant of “Black Lives Matter!” has rung out now for months in response to the fear, the anger, and the frustration of real people.  While I think that the best solution-that of repealing terrible laws-has gotten lost in favor of addressing the immediate problem of Not Being Killed, the fact is they’re voicing the same concerns that the libertarian movement has been shouting to the rooftops since its inception, and before.  Sure, some of the people angered by this are professed Marxists.  So?  When did libertarians get a monopoly on being offended by murder?

One of our biggest issues is finally mainstream.  The violence of the state is laid bare for all to see.

And along comes Jo Jorgensen, longtime Libertarian activist, and Spike Cohen, a slightly less longtime activist.  Jorgensen is at a Black Lives Matter rally within a day or two of George Floyd’s murder, and she eventually went on to also visit the site of the Tulsa massacre.  Spike Cohen has been to several Black Lives Matter events on the campaign trail, including the Get The Strap rally with Black Lives Matter 757.  They’ve called repeatedly for ending the drug war, pardoning and exonerating its victims, ending qualified immunity, ending civil asset forfeiture, and ending the war on guns.

And somehow this makes them communists?  Panderers?  Secret collectivists?  Democratic plants?  All charges I’ve seen in various threads, believe it or not.  Nevermind, of course, that the commies have been the ones getting their asses kicked fighting the state…  No, Harry Browne’s running mate is the sellout somehow.

Not on your life.

The only difference between what Jorgensen and Cohen have done vs. any other Libertarian candidate is they’ve actually gone to the people affected and heard them out.  Libertarians, as I’ve said in this entire essay, have been saying “The state murders people, and that’s a Bad Thing” for as long as there have been libertarians.  Our presidential ticket has now had the audacity to say “The state murders people, and that’s a Bad Thing” to people who are saying “The state is murdering us, and that’s a Bad Thing”.

That’s not pandering.  That’s consistency.  And for whatever else they’ve done as candidates, Jorgensen and Cohen were both completely right to do so.  They are right for themselves, for the outreach to communities where Libertarians have traditionally been absent or perceived negatively, and they’re right as a part of a continuation of one of the proudest parts of our tradition.

Liberty in our lifetimes.

Black lives matter.