Wow.  It’s the end of my first calendar year writing here at Flawed Jewel.  Something I’ve been meaning to do for at least a decade has finally come to life.  In about 5 months of doing this I’ve written 17 full essays and a couple of minor posts, and gone from zero to over 1200 followers on twitter.  Rookie numbers, almost certainly, but not a terrible start for someone writing part time with no actual name recognition.

This year was, in many ways, a terrible one for liberty.  Police murdering people in very public ways all year.  Federal troops used against protestors.  Corporate welfare out the ass.  Continuation of awful wars, and footing the bill for other peoples’ awful wars.  98% of the country voting for one of two bastards rather than one of the good candidates on the ballot.  A virus that made people on both sides act like complete idiots, and where both the disease and the response caused vast amounts of destruction.  Ever escalating national debt.  Protectionism.  Rumblings about repealing important protections of free speech.   Racist bullshit.  Transphobic bullshit.  The usual assault on the right to keep and bear arms.  The drug war is still a thing.  A small but obnoxious contingent of former libertarian stalwarts decided to support Trump, for some reason.  Impeachment was tried for the weaker of possible reasons, and failed.

It’s easy to be depressed about all of that.  All of that is real, and depressing.  But there were bright spots too.  There was massive resistance to police murder.  There were people all over the country that finally fought back, and gods bless the commies with cardboard, umbrellas, and hockey sticks.  A DA was elected in LA on the explicit promise to, and I quote, “end the racist drug war”.  The Libertarian Party picked up 2 state representatives and a bunch of local offices, and ran its best presidential ticket in a decade and a half.  The drug war lost BIG at the state level across the country.  Economic liberty made real gains at the ballot in places like California (I know, right?).  3D printed guns made major advancements.  Bitcoin and other crypto currencies soared in value as more people finally put money in them.  The liberty movement itself, for all its infighting and crankiness, picked up a lot of new members, reinvigorated many of its old guard, and went to places that it had never existed before, let alone been received positively.  And maybe, just maybe, people are listening about making 2021 the year of libertarians rather than waiting for the next presidential cycle.

And for me personally I finally got back into things after a decade away, and a lot longer of planning on doing this but never actually doing anything about it.  The result has been that I met a lot of wonderful people, both online and in person, I’ve learned a lot more, I’ve examined my beliefs and tried to understand them and the beliefs of others better, and dare I say I’ve even had fun doing it.  For the tens of people that actually read this, thank you.  For the people that follow me on twitter, thank you.  For those of you that get up every day and try to make the world a better, freer place, thank you.  And for everyone who survived 2020, thank you.  You made it. 

The clock turning to January 1, 2021 is not a magic panacea.  There is still so much to be done, so much to rebuild and so much to build anew.  There are bastards to be fought at every turn.  But as Neil Gaiman says, the point of fairytales isn’t to show that dragons exist.  It’s to show that dragons can be beaten.

2021.  Let’s go slay some dragons.


In Liberty,


Trump just signed a massive, damn near 5600 page bil, which among MANY, MANY other things includes a $600 second covid relief check.

While normally I would be automatically opposed to any cash handout from the government to anyone, my feelings are more complicated here.  Anti-lockdown folks would say that given that the government ordered shutdowns that wrecked small businesses and decimated entire sectors of the economy, this is a glaring example of the government breaking your legs and then selling you crutches, all while telling you to be grateful for the beneficence…and they would be right.  And yes, some kind of UBI nonsense or stay at home payments is just more bad government on top of more bad government.  Some libertarians would point out that that stimulus is a refund of money that was stolen from you…which is also correct.  Yet others might counter that given the insane amount of money printing that that $600 will cost a fortune in interest, and therefore in future taxes…which is yet again correct.  People on many chunks of the Nolan chart would tell you that $600 is a bullshit amount…and they would also be right.  I would say that while the virus is natural, the whole covid mess was caused by an absolute crisis of leadership at the beginning…and I’d like to think I’m right.  But…we are here, and while I think the ship could be righted by doing what we should have done in the first place, ie have the government acknowledge the reality of the disease, set a good example, stay out of creating yet another liability cap, and otherwise let people live their bleeping lives, in the meantime we are still in a government mandated lockdown.  There’s no good answer here.  I think it’s like marriage licenses-the government should have nothing to do with them in the first place, but as long as they do they need to treat everyone equally before the law.  Here?  Ideally the government would get the hell out of everyone’s way, but as long as as they’re making a mess they should do something to make the people they’re screwing over whole, right?  If someone’s got a better way to cut this particular Gordian knot I’m all ears (or eyeballs, as it were).

What I can tell you though is that bundling this issue inside of an insanely large omnibus bill that includes billions in foreign aid, corporate welfare, military spending, and making streaming copyrighted content a felony is COMPLETE bullshit.

Vanity Fair just published this piece about Ross Ulbricht.  He’s not a fan of the Silk Road or what Ulbricht did.  I disagree, as much (though not all) of the commerce the Silk Road facilitated was commerce that never should have been illegal in the first place.  There were also plenty of problems with his trial, including the corruption of some of the agents involved.  Ulbricht is not the same level of hero as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, or Edward Snowden, but unless that murder charge actually resurfaces and is proven he certainly doesn’t belong in prison for facilitating commerce between consenting adults.

But fine.  Nick Bilton disagrees with me and my take on things.  That’s ok.  But what’s not ok is this supposed gotcha paragraph:  “I find it reprehensible that people on social media are so adamant that Ulbricht should be freed because he performed his crimes from behind a computer. That a Black man—without a smattering of Ulbricht’s power, resources, education, or support network—will spend the next two and a half decades of his life in prison for committing a fraction of the crimes that Ulbricht engaged in is not a part of that discussion, and that, to me, is an argument of privilege. If Ulbricht’s supporters really cared about the war on drugs or libertarian ideals, they’d be demanding that the nearly half a million people currently in U.S. jails for drug offenses should be pardoned too.”

There are plenty of reasons to criticize libertarians and libertarianism-hell, I offer plenty, and I’m in the movement.  My friends across the political spectrum usually offer plenty more…but they’ve actually read some libertarian thinkers and have at least an ok idea of what we actually think and believe, even if we disagree vigorously on interpretation and worldview.  But this statement?  This is the height of ignorance.  This is some “yellowcake uranium” level of stupidity.

So.  Newsflash for you Nick Bilton.  The Libertarian Party and the entire libertarian movement have been calling for the complete end to the drug war and immediate pardons & exonerations for its victims for as long as there’s been a libertarian movement.  It’s been the signature issue of every LP presidential candidate since at least Harry Browne, including Jo Jorgensen and and Spike Cohen this year.  We’ve been decrying the drug war for a host of reasons, including but not limited to its racist enforcement, its destructive effects on minority communities and individuals, its use to justify every other bad thing that government does from theft, to domestic spying, to eminent domain, to insane foreign policy, to economic protectionism, to its stifling of medical research, to its environmental destruction, to straight up murder, and the fact that it’s completely anti-freedom. I’m glad you’re finally catching up to where we were in the early 1970s.

I recommend the following reading, so you never write anything so divorced from reality on this issue again:

But really dude.  This took 30 seconds worth of googling.  Yet somehow you write for Vanity Fair and have a book deal, and I’m just some rando small activist on the internet.

Being transgender isn’t strictly a libertarian issue, but I’ve seen it come up enough lately in various libertarian threads around the internet where it’s just easier to have one link to reply to everything rather than retyping everything.  Because, as with many internet arguments, it gets a little old hearing the same thing over, and over, and over, and having to respond the same way to the same objections.

So…transgender.  People that don’t fit in the convenient male/female box.  And for whom it often takes a lot of time, money, therapy, medication, and surgery to get them into the box they do feel good in, or for them to make their own box.  Religious conservatives, along with socially conservative people in general, are often still REALLY not big on trans folk, for reasons of faith or just being squicked.  Even generally relatively sane Democrat Tulsi Gabbard just introduced a discriminatory bill against transgender athletes.  Libertarians generally do much better (and of course Outright Libertarians includes many trans members), and I haven’t seen any libertarian call for any kind of legal discrimination, but there’s definitely a small but vocal contingent that keeps calling being trans mental illness, claiming that trans people and their supporters deny biology and science, or saying stuff like “I don’t care if a dude wants to cut their dick off and wear a dress.  I’ll call them what they want to be called.  But they’re still a dude”.  That attitude is not a terrible start, and generally reflects libertarians’ live and let live attitude, but it could be so much better.  Libertarians, as individualists, often have as part of their story a long journey to define themselves, and live as authentically as possible.  I would think that someone else trying to do the same would be something that resonates with all of us.  I think a lot of it comes down to ignorance, so…I’m going to try and help everyone be less ignorant.

First off, terms.  Because agreeing on terminology is important, otherwise you just talk past each other (cf Libertarians and Marxists talking about labor bringing in more for an employer than the employee is paid). 

  • biological sex-what your genes make you.  Usually this is traditional XY=male, XX=female in humans (the rest of the animal kingdom can get REALLY complicated), although as I’ll talk about in a minute, even in humans it can get past that quickly.
  • gender-for lack of a better way of putting it, what you feel you are.  This is a complicated interplay between genes, social expectations and mores, and science doesn’t completely understand it yet, but that’s the basic idea.
  • gender expression-what you do to fit in your gender box, or build your own.
  • your gender options-male, female, trans variants of both, and nonbinary/agender/genderqueer/genderfluid, which are varying degrees of not fitting comfortably into either side of the binary or feeling the need to move between the two.
  • cross dressing-dressing as the opposite gender.  Not the same as being trans, though for a lot of trans folks it is a first step.  Depending on who you’re talking to and context, “dressing in drag” is either a direct synonym for cross dressing or the performance art version.
  • sexual orientation-what you’re attracted to, including not being attracted to anything.
  • body dysphoria-the feeling of major uncomfortableness when part of someone’s body isn’t what their brain expects.
  • TERF-trans-exclusionary radical feminist, a contingent of feminist thought that says because men are always the oppressors and heterosexual sex is always rape trans women are just carpetbagger men trying to gain access to feminist stuff.  Related term is SWERF, for sex worker exclusionary radical feminist, which says that sex workers are sellouts and participants in their own exploitation.  And probably gender traitors to boot.

Usually sex, gender, and gender expression occur in relatively regular patterns, but not always.

Next, let’s look at the science of being trans.  As I said above, we don’t completely understand this yet, because humans are complicated.  But…given the documented evidence of trans people in lots of cultures for a long time, it’s a thing that exists.  Even if you wanted to argue just genetics, well, this thread from an expert shows pretty quick that no, it’s not just XX and XY.  And for trans folks, the best understanding we have so far is that it’s not mental illness per se, it’s a lot more like phantom limb syndrome.  The human brain is really good at knowing where it is in the world, in part because it’s really good at knowing where all of its body bits are.  But when a bit is there that shouldn’t be, or when the brain thinks something should be there that isn’t, it doesn’t do very well. 

Which brings us to the brains of trans people.  While biology as destiny is still @#^!ing dumb and everyone is an individual with all the potential therein, there are some biological differences between men and women, broadly speaking, which extends not just to the visible stuff, but to brains as well.  There’s now a lot of scholarly articles out there showing pretty conclusively that the brains of trans people more closely resemble the brains of their “target” gender than their birth gender.  Cf here and here, among many others.  It’s a mismatch between what their brains expect and what’s actually there.  When people say “trust the science”, well…science may not be able to say exactly why or how they exist yet, but science is saying pretty conclusively that trans exists.

And again, granting that the interplay between biology and social and cultural experience is complicated, it turns out that the therapies we have now-hormone replacement therapy, surgery, social transitioning, and a goodly amount of therapy-actually provide much better outcomes for trans people than leaving them untreated.  While the Heritage Foundation disagrees, I find this Cornell metastudy to be much more robust in support of the pro-transition argument.  It’s not quite DS9 era Star Trek, where we can redo someone’s whole plumbing and switch it back in the space of an episode, but it works reasonably well.

So that’s the science, now let’s look at the politics.  You can’t talk about the politics of transgender people without talking about the lived experience of transgender people.  It’s a lot better than it was, but it’s still not great, especially for trans folks at the bottom of the economy.  This article sums it up pretty well, but the short version is that trans people are much more likely to have serious mental health issues, to attempt or commit suicide, or to be disowned by their families (even more than the rest of the rainbow), and also violence and harassment…unless their families and communities accept them for what they are, in which case they tend to turn out no more messed up than the rest of us.

How does this all translate to politics and culture?  In some pretty crappy ways, unfortunately.  Despite the potential advantages of (mtf) transgender athletes being relatively negated over time with hormone replacement therapy (like most things here, it is complicated), and despite lots of local school and private organizations coming up with solutions that work for them and their local communities over the past few years, there’s Gabbard’s bill, which would cut off federal funding for athletics unless the organizations banned trans athletes.  You might say that the federal government has no business subsidizing athletics, or even any business in education, and I would completely agree with you, but it’s like marriage licensing.  The government should have nothing to do with it, but as long as it does it needs to treat everyone equally before the law.  There’s also bathroom bills.  Most worrying to me is that the gay panic defense is still allowed in most of the union, which is entirely too close to a license to murder someone for being LGBT+ than I’m comfortable with.  And even in terms of workplace discrimination yes, I believe in free association, including the right of people to discriminate and be non-violent, non-thieving assholes to each other.  But just because there shouldn’t be a law, do you really want to live in a society that says it’s ok to not hire an otherwise qualified person because of what they are, or some immutable biological fact about them, rather than who they are and what they can do?

What does this mean for us as a libertarian movement?  It’s kind of like us and race.  Yes, the live and let live attitude, and starting with the individual is a great start, and the proper start, but for my more socially conservative or socially isolated brethren in the movement I say that we have to move beyond that.  We need to recognize peoples’ real, lived experiences, and recognize that while the goal is a society of autonomous, freely interacting individuals, in the meantime the groups that we’re part, especially the involuntary ones, impact our lives in real and different ways.  We should seek out people that are different than us and talk to them to understand this-there are plenty of trans libertarians out there who can talk Austrian economics with you, in addition to all the hippies and commies.  And we need to recognize that just because it isn’t the age of Jim Crow anymore that there are real social and legal challenges that need to be addressed as matters of our policy and activism.  It’s how we build a freer and a better society, so we can all go about the business of being individuals.



For libertarians there’s plenty to hate about giant corporations.  The insane amount of subsidies they often receive.  Bailouts (and these).  Sweetheart government contracts.  The horrible connection between the military and oil.  The way they often get the US military to do their bidding (dramatic reading).  See also this, this, and this, among others.  Often despicable labor practices (and yes, I know that grinding urban poverty is often the first step out of even worse grinding rural poverty, but when you don’t pay people what they owe on a massive scale, or you hold them prisoner and threaten them with deportation or other terrors, you suck).  The way they’re often exempted from any accountability for the environmental damage they cause.  All of these are real things that happen, they’re concerns we tend to share with the left, and they’re terrible.  However, having the government break up corporations because they supposedly get too big?  That’s just dumb.  And the current antitrust investigation of facebook, which may result in facebook being partially broken up is part of a long tradition of dumb. 

The idea that corporations will tend towards absolute control of a market absent government regulation is natural monopoly theory, and it’s a common complaint amongst the left about corporate power…except in a free or relatively free market it doesn’t hold up to history.  While perhaps this could be dismissed as a bit of “one data point and you’re jumping for joy”, I think two of the largest examples in the public eye illustrate the point nicely.

The classic example is the classic monopoly, Standard Oil.  At the height of its power in 1904 Standard Oil had about a 90% market share, but when it was broken up just 7 years later it was down to about 64% market share-still big, still powerful, but a company in decline.  It was in decline because competitors were figuring out how to beat them at their own game, and it was before major oil subsidies took over.  Likewise, the biggest example of my lifetime so far is the the Microsoft antitrust suit of 1992 to 2001. Now…Microsoft as a company was no saint, and there were plenty of criminal and civil charges that could have been brought about their conduct with Stac Electronics, the crap that went down with them and IBM, and more.  But monopoly? Why? There was basically a decade of investigation, from 1992 to 2001, during which Apple revitalized, Blackberry and later Android came on the scene, Linux was developed, and any number of other things happened that ate a lot of the market share of Windows.

Now let’s look at facebook.  Facebook is a giant, an absolute titan of tech, to be sure.  A LOT of people use its services, at no out of pocket cost to them.  It buys up potential rivals regularly and locks them out of its platform.  There’s concerns (vastly overblown to my mind, but that’s a separate post) about the role it played in the most recent election.  It is arguably at the absolute zenith of its power.

We’ll put aside for the moment the really obvious fact, which is that facebook charges its users nothing unless they buy advertising, in exchange for the use of their data, and pretty much everyone agrees to this contract.

And yet, like myspace before it, like Microsoft, like Standard Oil, like IBM, like buggy whip and typewriter manufacturers before them, they’ve made missteps as of late.  While many decry them as safe spaces for racist snowflakes (and probably not without reason), parler and mewe are exploding.  Specialized discussion forums are still very much a thing.  Bitchute has become an alternate content hosting site.  The market continues to respond faster than the state ever could.

The only companies that survive are either those that figure out how to compete and innovate and keep giving people what they want, or those that keep getting bailouts from your wallet. In a libertarian world, only the first would survive.

If you want to hate amazon for their CIA contracts, fine.  If you want to hate car companies for getting bailed out by the government when they weren’t make things people wanted, fine.  If you want to hate  any number of companies (and the California department of corrections) for slave labor, I’m with you.  But if you want to hate them simply for getting too big by giving people what they want, I suggest you calm down, read a bit of history, and let the market do its job.

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.