Part 3 of an ongoing series of inside baseball stuff about the Libertarian Party.  I’m not happy about things.  See part 1 and part 2.


After much gnashing of teeth, accusations and counter accusations, (see, for example, here and here), and long trips to Reno for many people, it’s over.  The Libertarian Party Mises Caucus made essentially a clean sweep of party officers and platform revisions.  What all happened?

Well, simply put, they had the numbers.  Thomas Knapp alleges parliamentary shenanigans and an illegitimate convention; he’s got a lot more credibility as a longtime member of national committees to comment on such things.  From my perspective it is a fiat acompli, and so the question then becomes what does this all mean for the future of the LP? 

Here is a pdf of the MC’s action plan, which seems to have been followed almost to the letter.

Honestly…most of the proposed changes either were good, or not terrible, with a few exceptions.  Most of the parliamentary reforms proposed were fine, and LP conventions are legendary for their inefficiency, so making them go faster is not a bad goal in and of itself.  I do take issue with raising the delegate count for presidential and vice presidential nominees; it seems to be targeted directly at people like Vermin Supreme, and quite frankly reeks of the kind of exclusionary ballot access restrictions we’re perpetually railing against.  Yes, we have some oddball candidates, but part of what makes us special as a party is allowing for a lot of different voices.  To say nothing of the fact that you never know where the next Spike Cohen is going to come from-the joke candidate that quickly became the best serious public speaker the libertarian movement has had in decades.

Now…on to the platform change recommendations.  The good?  Aggression, foreign policy, migration, free movement of goods, firearms accessories, electoral reform, “if you’re the age of majority you get all your rights”, etc.  I’ll gladly admit that a lot of the language is better, and makes for nice updates.  I do, however, take significant issue with three recommendations:

  • Deleting the abortion plank:  yes, abortion is absolutely a contentious as hell issue among libertarians.  But you know what?  It’s an issue that matters to a lot of people, including libertarians, and new voters will absolutely be looking for some kind of official statement on the matter.  And the old language as written represented probably the best, and maybe even only possible compromise on the issue.  While some commentators have pointed to 4.0, “Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination, should not be construed to imply approval” or the plank on medical freedom as still covering things, it’s still weak tea on a subject that should be addressed by a national political party.
  • Deletion of “We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant”.  Yeah…the stated rationale for this, “One of the major goals of the Mises Caucus is to make the LP appealing to the wider liberty movement that is largely not currently here with us. That movement strongly rejects wokism and the word games associated with it. This along with the deletion of the abortion plank will display that there are serious cultural changes in the party that are more representative of that movement” is gross, and flat out ignorant.  MC people, along with conservatives generally (who are not libertarians!), are so suspicious of anything “woke” that a)it regularly blinds them to wisdom from any camp other than their own (maybe read this, or my takes on similar ideas?), and b)it blinds them to terrible behavior in their own camp.  To elaborate a bit from my twitter post, we can defend someone’s right to hold & express horrible, idiotic, repugnant views while still choosing to condemn those views as horrible, idiotic, & repugnant, & refusing to have anything to do with the holders of said views. And really, who the hell are you trying to appeal to that wouldn’t think bigotry is irrational and repugnant?  Where are you trying to pull people from, MC?  This REALLY shouldn’t be a difficult concept.  But in certain quarters there’s such a fear of anything labeled “woke” that a lot of you forgot to discriminate against assholes, and somehow forgot that doing so (such as in this story that floats around the internet regularly), as long as you don’t use the force of the state, does NOT make you anti-liberty.  Instead, the fear of the woke has let a holocaust denier and an actual groomer into high esteem in the MC’s ranks.  Likewise,
  • Recommending against the amendment to plank 1.4 that explicitly recognizes individuals’ right to determine their own issue of gender expression.  Everything I said above applies, with the rational for no being “an issue of biology” and more anti-woke rambling.  This is both completely ignorant of biology and science, as well in direct conflict of the LP’s long history with LGBTQ rights.  Spoiler alert:  we were always in favor, we ran an out gay man as our first presidential candidate in 1972, and while we of course would much rather see the originally racist government marriage licensing regimes abolished altogether, we were in favor of marriage equality LONG before it was cool.  Furthermore, it would be one thing if trans people were simply not liked by some people.  But even though things are better now than they were, trans people are still under considerable assault from the state, in the form of bathroom bills, bans on care for trans youth, bans on trans athletes, and continued allowance of “trans panic” defenses.  People are facing the full face of state oppression and even being killed for expressing their individuality, and a party that claims to be founded on the sanctity of the individual damn well should be speaking up for them.

I’ve already renounced my support for the Libertarian Party until things change, and announced myself as politically homeless for the first time in my adult life.  Was it worth it over three bad proposals and some terrible people?  Absolutely.  The three bad proposals are very bad, and represent rejection of core libertarian values and core support for individuality.  And the terrible people?  Wouldn’t we-haven’t we-jumped down the throats of major party politicians for the exact same things Borysenko and Woods have done?  Wouldn’t we be furious if a Kennedy had said it was ok to get a woman drunk to sleep with her?  And wouldn’t we-haven’t we-brought up that thing at every opportunity to our major party supporting friends, acquaintances, and audiences?  How dare we not hold ourselves to the same standards?

So, Mises Caucus, the ship is yours.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe you’ll nominate Spike Cohen for president, get a bunch of city council members elected that repeal zoning laws, business licenses, and deprioritize the drug war, fully audit the LP books, come to your senses about trans people, and keep the David Duke types out.  Maybe.

But I’m not holding my breath.



My previous entry was something I’ve been meaning to write for a while (sorry, not all of us have the luxury of being full time pundits), and was written when I could dismiss the Mises Caucus as a group of people that attracted some assholes and said some things I disagreed with, but were generally moving in the same direction as me.

And then it hit that Tom Woods met his first wife when he was 26 and she was 15.  The details, including significant corroboration from his ex-wife’s sister, are spelled out here.

Mr. Woods is already a controversial figure in the libertarian movement, being dogged by allegations of racism given his founding of an organization called League Of The South 30 or so years ago.  Personally I thought he did a pretty good job of setting that all to rest here, with receipts.  Moreso since almost every libertarian starts off in one of the big two camps and migrates to a vision of a freer world, and therefore allowances should probably be made for what we believed then if we can prove, by our actions, that we believe different and better now. 

I don’t know that I’d describe him as a personal hero, but I do think he’s done a lot of important scholarship and helped advance the intellectual case for liberty.  Contra Krugman was great work, consistently refuting one of the dumbest people to ever get a PhD.  Without him I wouldn’t know about the Depression of 1920-21, which is one of the clearest historical refutations of Keynsian economic interventionism in modern history.  The man has done the work.

Which makes the revelation here very disappointing.

Let us be clear:  as of right now, Woods is being accused of grooming, which is a crime in the court of public opinion, not in a court of law.  No one has come forward with any evidence that the relationship was consummated before she was 18.  But Wood’s response was…bizarre at best, arrogant and dismissive at worst.  Especially troubling to me was his claim that “traditional Catholics marry young”.  Well fine, yes, more conservative religious folk often do get married young…to other young people, not people eleven years their senior.  If he had responded in pretty much any other way-the timeline is wrong, we were acquaintances and our relationship only deepened after she became an adult, or even something along the lines of “you know what?  This does look bad and it wasn’t my shining hour, but it worked out ok”-it might be grounds for a different conversation.  Instead the whole response basically boils down to “@#^! you, nothing to see here, it’s all ok because I’m a traditional Catholic”.

That’s just gross.

Let’s open the whole can of worms here.  What children are, in a legal sense, is something that can give libertarians, which like nice and neat answers carefully derived from first principles, absolute fits.  Two of the three major answers-that children are the legal property of their parents or that children are immediately completely sovereign individuals from birth-have really awful implications very quickly if carried to any kind of logical conclusion.  The third-that children are in the custody of their parents until they obtain majority, unless the parents screw things up-leads to all sorts of questions about who decides what’s appropriate and when majority happens.  And I’ll even acknowledge (in what I’m sure will please libertarian critics everywhere) that situations like the 17 and 364/18 and 1 make things very messy, and probably indicate a need for some kind of reform.  But regardless, everyone with a modicum of human decency agrees that there is a very strong dividing line before which one cannot consent to sexual relations (or most other adult responsibilities), and after which one can.  Moreover, it’s not anything unreasonable to point out that while age gaps do get smaller and less important as people get older, 15 and 26 is a giant eleven years that pretty much guarantees a huge imbalance of power in the relationship.  You know, the perfect circumstances for grooming, especially if the older person was in a position of trust with the younger person’s family.

If Woods had acknowledged any of that and shown any kind of humility, as long as his ex-wife wasn’t alleging any kind of abuse, this probably would have been a non issue.  Instead his response, again, was basically “@#^& you, I’m Catholic.  Also buy my homeschool course”.

Which brings me to the most galling part of all of this:  the absolute hypocrisy of Woods’ defenders, usually fellow Mises Caucus people.  Since I got back into things during the Jorgensen campaign, I’ve heard all manner of jokes about how pedophiles need to go straight into the woodchipper.  At least in spirit I agree-child abuse is horrific and disgusting, and the only addendum I’d make is “after due process of law”.  I’ve also seen conservatarian after conservatarian attack LGBTQ folk as “groomers” and “child molesters” for daring to say that Johnny might have two moms, and they’re cool, or that Uncle Steve might show up next Thanksgiving as Aunt Barbara, and that’s ok too.  This is, of course, fully ignoring that libertarianism is a whole philosophy based on the sanctity of the individual, that celebrates the individual defining their individuality in their quest of life, and that the LP itself has been pro-LGBTQ since 1972 and ran a gay man as its first presidential candidate.

What, then, have the responses been?  Well how about this from Dave “getting a woman drunk to sleep with her isn’t so bad” Smith?  Or Eric July getting the article yanked from Being Libertarian?  Or the counter accusations of grooming I’ve seen.  Two years of yelling about pedos (sure) and grooming (against people that aren’t groomers, using accusations almost as old and debunked as the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion), and then when presented with an unrepentant groomer in their own midst, the responses are nothing but deflect or excuse.

As libertarians, we claim the moral high ground.  And we usually come to libertarianism because we find ourselves disgusted by the either the inability of the major parties to do good for people, or the shameless power and bloodlust usually on display by their highest standard bearers.  We say, with great regularity, “this is what I believe.  My ideas derive from clear first principles and are not only the best for practical reasons, but because they are morally right.  My ideology, and the people and policies I support are consistent because of this.” 

In my very first real essay here, I made the point that if you claim membership in a group, such as a fandom, or a political movement, you also claim responsibility for the baggage of that group unless you acknowledge it and qualify your loyalty.  Well, Mises Caucus folks, here we are.  You have an actual, unrepentant groomer in your midst, and most of you have either shut up or said “NO U”, because he happens to be from your camp.  If you’ve got credible evidence of other groomers and abusers in our movement, let’s drag them all into the light.  I’m sure Cliff Maloney wasn’t the only garbage lurking in the bowels of #YALtoo, and there’s a reason why this group exists.  But your response to the one that belongs to you is disgusting, galling in its hypocrisy, and absolutely unworthy of people who try to claim the moral high ground.

And speaking of calling out garbage in one’s own camp, to give a final addendum to this horror show, the national Libertarian Party voted down a motion to disinvite Woods to this year’s convention.  Meaning that’s who my party chooses to have on their stage.


“Party of principle” my ass.

If the LP gets its collective shit together and repudiates this garbage I’ll be happy to start working for party causes again.  I’ll support individual candidates as I see fit.  And it’s still better and less scandal ridden than either of the majors.  But this is a bridge too far for me.  I will not donate to LP National, and I will not support any candidate or local affiliate that does not clearly repudiate Woods and his actions.

This is foul, and all of you know it.




Here’s the essay I would have written before the Tom Woods revelations dropped.  I feel it’s important to post in its relatively unaltered form to give context, and to give proper perspective to my feelings on the Woods problem.

Over the last year or two, the Mises Caucus of the Libertarian Party has been at the center of, well, a civil war inside the Libertarian Party and the broader libertarian movement.  Accusations have flown from one side to the other-from the Mises Caucus, they’ve alleged corruption, pandering, appeasement, and the classic not being real libertarians.  The retorts have been homophobia, transphobia, cop worshiping, racism, sexism, and just flat out missing the point, among others, and of course not being real libertarians.  Also there have been many accusations of rules lawyering and rules violations from both sides, which are harder for me to comment on.

I’m a 20+ year veteran of LP politics.  I’ve seen a lot of things in my time in the party, including some successes, some colossal failures, and some seriously missed opportunities.  I left party activism for a long time over my own frustrations with the deficiencies of party leadership.  But the Mises Caucus overall…it makes me uncomfortable. 

To show why, a good deal of background is needed.

First, the modern libertarian movement has its roots as a fusion of ex-Republicans and ex-hippies.  There are socially conservative libertarians.  Internally we disagree on things, most notably abortion and the death penalty, although also strategy, and relative importance of the many issues we do agree on.  That sometimes uncomfortable fusion means that there are libertarian spaces that intersect with the left, sometimes even the asshole left, and some that intersect with the right, including (although far less than our leftist critics would believe) sometimes the alt-right.

Second, there are plenty of very valid criticisms of the Libertarian Party to be leveled.  In my time the most glaring would be:

  • Outright scandals:  in my time there were serious allegations during the second Harry Browne campaign about missing money, and later on with Carla Howell’s campaign for governor.  There were probably a few others along the way that I missed.
  • Mismanagement and unnecessary party expenditures:  The LP’s physical office has always been a source of contention, for location, for expense, for any number of things.  More important to me is the lack of coordination between national and local affiliates.  If the point of a political party is to run candidates that win and thus advance the ideological agenda of that party and ideology, it’s an absolute travesty that national and most local parties have no idea what the elected offices even are, let alone put any real time into candidate recruitment.  I will say that one of the most refreshing things of the Jorgensen/Cohen campaign was actually trying to have some coattails and support local races, and of course Pennsylvania recently kicked ass in local races, but it’s still a major issue.  I’ve also heard tell of significant lack of coordination between the Jorgensen and Cohen sides of the campaign this time out.
  • Everyone wants to be president, no one wants to be dogcatcher:  related to above, and again better than it was in the early 00s, there’s still a cultural problem where everyone wants to run for the top spots, and no one wants to run for city council.  Yes, the top spot campaigns are important, but the only way to build a farm team, a track record of effective, non-societal ending governance, and proving that Libertarians can win is at the local level first.  We need city council members to run for mayor, mayors to run for county supervisor, county supervisors to run for state assembly, and so on.
  • Botching the war issue:  My final disillusionment with the party came in 2002, with the onset of W Bush’s Iraq War.  Despite peace, non-aggression, and anti-imperialism being in our DNA since before our movement had a name, the LP dwaddled on a response at a time when the country was begging for a proper anti-war movement and party.  And since then, while individual libertarians have certainly been leading anti-war voices, the party as a whole hasn’t done a great job on what could be the issue of our time.
  • Soft messaging:  We’re the Libertarian Party, damnit.  Don’t just call for the legalization of marijuana, call for the end of the whole damned drug war and immediate pardons and expungements for any non-violent convictions relating to it.  Don’t just call for no war in Syria, call for the end of the whole damn empire.  This hasn’t always been applicable, to be sure, but there have been a lot of times when LP National should have come out swinging with the biggest bat it could find, and instead was wielding a kid’s whiffleball toy.
  • Running Republican retreads:  Bob “Defense Of Marriage Act” Barr was simply disgusting.  Gary Johnson is, as far as I can tell, a nice guy and a successful governor, but libertarian lite.  And Bill Weld, he of the praise for Hilary and the calls for gun control, had absolutely no business on a libertarian ticket.  Every time we put a former Republican on the top of our ticket (that hasn’t won lower office as a Libertarian first), we a)give credence to the criticism that Libertarians are just Republicans that like pot and b)far more importantly dilute the message.  Libertarians are libertarians, not Republicans or Democrats.  Also, when the LP runs homegrown talent that are committed libertarians, like, say, Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen, the people that are brought in are so much more motivated and so much more inclined to stick around.  Johnson’s campaign brought in some fair weather annoyed Republicans.  Jorgensen’s campaign brought in the next generation of city council candidates.

So what about that Mises Caucus then?  Well…I can’t say they’ve done no good.  There are a lot of MC people that are awesome personally and doing good work.  Bringing motivated people into campaigns and activism is generally a good thing.  Some of them have had the sense to reach out to non-LP groups on different issues and start to coalition build, which is essential for actually changing policy when you’re a small movement.   And personally I’m all in favor of radicialism and being unapologetic and loud about one’s beliefs.

BUT…the Mises Caucus’ central conceit seems to be a complete inability to acknowledge good ideas from outside our own camp.  The constant condemnation of anything and everything, including traditionally very libertarian issues, as “woke”-and thus worthy of complete dismissal-is just ignorant.  Some of the posts from Mises affiliated sources have just been idiotic, such as LP New Hampshire’s assertion that “libertarians suffer more oppression than black people”.  Second, the caucus doesn’t isn’t just an intersection between libertarianism and the right, it’s often an intersection between libertarianism and the alt-right.  In the Mises Caucus facebook group and from various members I’ve seen entirely too many posts decrying Black Lives Matter and acting as police apologists (to say nothing of all the “pandering” bullshit during the election season, which I had a lengthy response to), claims about Trump being the most libertarian president ever, a lot more homophobia than I’d expect from libertarians, courting of anti-semites and entertaining their theories (especially gross given that the namesake of their caucus escaped Germany before the rise of the Nazis), and especially a lot of transphobic postings.  Just a little while ago there was a fresh post complaining about “males competing in womens’ sports”, never mind that the current science on the matter is complicated but generally falls on the side of trans athletes, and the very phrasing denies the individuality and identity of people. Some of whom, might I add, are otherwise with us but ready to quit the movement because enough of us can’t get it together there.

And there’s stuff that’s flat out gross, like Dave Smith dismissing the idea of getting someone drunk just to sleep with them being bad, or the way Cliff Maloney had MC affiliated defenders even after being fired in the wake of the #YALtoo revelations, or the embrace of Kyle Rittenhouse as not just legally innocent or in a bad position, but as an outright hero of some kind.

Oh, and then there was Lew Rockwell publishing an article that ends with praise for literal fascists.  No, isn’t MC, but there’s enough overlap to not look very good.

Now…all of this is not an everyday occurrence, and the various Mises Caucus groups are still far more tolerant places than a mainstream Republican gathering these days. But it’s still a lot more than I think is appropriate for those claiming to hold libertarian values. And enough of them hold beliefs that I find repugnant for me to be fully comfortable with them.

If you’re doing good work for liberty, keep it up.  But please think carefully about whose banner you choose to wave. Those banners often come with a lot of hidden baggage.  And while yes, the LP absolutely needs a serious housecleaning on a lot of levels, but I don’t think the Mises Caucus is the right group to do it.




In the latest round of internecine libertarian infighting, Delta Tkasch and Dave Smith have gotten into it about “normalization of sex work”, with Tkasch, a sex professional, taking the pro side and Mr. Smith dismissing the idea as “goofy”, and even detrimental to the cause of libertarianism.  This twitter thread and its subthreads get into it.  I’m going to try to be as fair to the positions of both sides as possible-some of it is disagreements over terminology-but I’m definitely going to be taking the pro-sex worker side on this, and I wanted to respond in a longer form than I could accomplish in tweets.  Here I’ll be using sex work broadly, so including not just prostitutes, but also strippers, pornographic actors, etc.

Both “combatants” and their respective supporters agree with the longstanding libertarian position that sex work between consenting adults (always an important qualifier, and will be assumed for the remainder of this essay) should be completely legal.  There are a number of core libertarian positions this idea involves, along with many questions of practical effect which I’ll address later.  The core questions include bodily autonomy, self ownership, and freedom of contract.  The question is whether such work should be “normalized”, and if so what exactly normalized means. 

As an aside, terminology matters, and terminology is at the heart of many internal debates in political movements.  Most (though definitely not all) of libertarian debates start with an agreement over the NAP, and then start fighting about what qualifies as aggression.  Tkasch has repeatedly argued specifically for “decriminalization” rather than “legalization” of sex work, although even there qualification is necessary.  In most instances of “decriminalization” being used in non-libertarian contexts that I’ve seen it means that decriminalized activity is still a matter for law enforcement, just with much less priority or serious consequences.  The most notable example would be marijuana possession being punishable by a civil fine like a traffic ticket, and/or pushed to official lowest priority enforcement.  Legalization, on the other hand, means the activity is now completely acceptable in the eyes of the state, and faces no more or less regulation than any other activity.  Tkasch, on the other hand, and some though not all other libertarian commentators, use decriminalization to mean free of state interference, with legalization being undesirable because it subjects that activity to the regulatory regimes of the state, including licensing, taxation, and regulation.  Personally I think that legalization is a lot better than converting something from a cageable to simply a fineable offense, but I can see their point.  Either way though, clarity of definitions is important.

Now on to the heart of the matter-normalization of sex work.  Does normalization mean that everyone needs to embrace prostitution, pornography, stripping, writing terrible fanfiction, etc. as  great and noble profession, and the best of our society?  I don’t think so.  We all have different interests and passions, there are many matters that libertarianism is purposely silent on to give space for religion, ethics, etc., and dare I say it being socially conservative is ok as long as you don’t impose those views on others.  But to simply have it treated as other professions, a part of life like fast food, lawyers, garbage collectors, etc.?  That’s a lot more reasonable proposition.  Elsewhere Smith agrees that there is a major social stigma around sex work, and says that that stigma exists for a reason, and in the same tweet he says that sex workers often have lots of bad things in their early childhoods. 

Let’s take those apart.

As for the idea that all sex workers are traumatized or coerced into their jobs, maybe that was true in the 1970s, but these days?  In my conversations with sex workers I’ve known in real life, reading accounts online, and dare I say it occasionally reading/watching interviews with favorite porn stars (shut up, you’ve done it too), the overwhelming takeaway is…it’s just like any other job these days.  Some people get into it because they’re really passionate about the work, whether it’s the sex, the theatricality, the therapeutic aspects, the technology, etc., some people do it because it’s a job and a means to an end, and yes, some have bad things happen to them early on that lead them to it.  The idea that everyone is in the profession simply because they’re traumatized, desperate nutcases is way too broad a generalization these days.  Ditto for assuming all sex workers are women.

For the second part, the stigma.  Well yes, it exists, and it exists for reasons, but why?  What are those reasons?  They aren’t as cut and dried as you might think, as even a cursory study of history shows that societal attitudes towards sex work have changed many times through human history, including even within Western cultures-even within American culture.  Who’s to say that it can’t change again?  I think the stigma goes to one of the big problems of libertarians, and one that I’ve addressed from a different perspective before, namely failing to recognize that while the state is the greatest threat to human liberty, it is not the only threat to human liberty.   Social stigma can’t send drones to a wedding party like the state can, or kill on an industrial scale the same way, but it can enable terrible laws and completely upend the power dynamics between people.  It’s a lot like Rand’s description of racism as “barnyard or stockyward collectivism”; it gives people permission to view other people as Other and less than.  This is not entirely a bad thing, as there are absolutely good things and bad things, good and evil, and they should be called as such.  But does sex work really worthy of that shame here?  Are services that, to one degree or another, most people avail themselves of, that concern a natural function, that provide people outlets to explore their sexuality and desires, really worth the violence, the terrible law, the empowering of the state, the spreading of disease, and the shame that the social stigma that comes with it all?

I don’t think it is.  And I think as libertarians even though we may choose not to approve or partake ourselves we have a responsibility to speak up for those who are consistently crapped on by society without good reason.  You don’t have to subscribe to someone’s onlyfans, you don’t have to hire your local hooker, but you should be speaking up for them and doing your best to make sure the boot of the state drops as far away from them as possible.

Not because it’s special.  But because it’s normal.


[note:  some of this concerns discussions I’ve seen in passing on twitter or conversations I’ve had in my personal life, so this will have less direct documentation and links than my usual essays.  This essay is less about Rittenhouse’s actual guilt or innocence-I’m not going to be discussing the minutae of the trial much-and more about the lessons that should be taken from it.]

This week the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict came out in his trial related to shooting three people during a Black Lives Matter protest last Augst:  not guilty on all counts.  Reaction from across the political spectrum has been incredibly polarized, usually along partisan lines.  People on the left (with a few exceptions, such as Glenn Greenwald and Jimmy Dore) are generally appalled and disgusted, screaming racism, judicial impropriety, and accusing Rittenhouse of crocodile tears during his crying in court.  On the other side, the right and a LOT of libertarians (often but not always Mises Caucus types, and some of the state affiliates) have come out in favor not only of the verdict, but of Rittenhouse’s actions.  He has been praised as a hero by many, as a picture of cool and collected self defense in a crisis, and as an antidote to violent rioters and the woke mob.

It seems like both sides have made some critical errors in reasoning, desperate to find either a hero or a villain in a mess that left two people dead and one seriously injured.  And the all or nothing arguments have obscured the reality of what happened and what it means in context.  At the same time, both sides have made some good points about the reality of our justice system and our society, and its flaws.

On the left, the argument that Rittenhouse crossed state lines never really held water, and was shredded in court.  Same for being too young to possess a firearm.  While the idea that if minors can’t consent and aren’t legally responsible they shouldn’t be allowed the full exercise of the natural rights of an adult has merit (and opens up a much bigger debate beyond the scope of this essay), under Wisconsin law he was probably ok.  And if he was old enough to fully exercise his right to bear arms, the geography shouldn’t matter.  Rights are rights, wherever you are.  Certainly the law as written, along with the prosecution’s failure to have the gun measured (since the relevant portions hinge on short barreled rifles vs. long guns) is ambiguous enough to make him legal on that aspect of things.  And likewise characterizing the AR-15 as a “high powered rifle” is a bit of a misnomer.  Anything more powerful than a BB gun can be lethal pretty easily.  They’re not designed to be squirt guns. 

More seriously and more defensible, friends of mine have raised the contention that self defense laws as written, combined with a still too racist society, give people open license to murder minorities as long as they can scream self defense afterwards.  They cite numerous examples of cops “fearing for their lives”, along with George Zimmerman.  They argue that this case shows the need to reform self defense laws, and that it will have a chilling effect on protests.  While I can see why they’re concerned, I don’t think this is a completely fair comparison.  Rittenhouse was being attacked right before at least one of the shootings, and was definitely on the opposite side (of the issues) of most of the protestors.  More knowledgeable people than myself have waded through the minutae of law (you can read the relevant WI statues here) and made the case that legal innocence rested on whether Rittenhouse had moved back into the legal prerequisites for self defense for each shooting, regardless of what brought him there .  I’m not a trained lawyer, and this is more complicated than simply saying to the typical politician “hey asshole, follow your oath of office!”, so I can’t comment on the validity of this line of reasoning.  But what I can say is there’s enough there there to make it a real question. 

I don’t think this trial raises huge implications of law.  Wisconsin self defense statutes include a duty to retreat and specify that only life can be defended with lethal force, not property.  And I think no matter how self defense law is written, there will always be situations that are very clear cut, and some that are ambiguous enough to be matters for a judge and jury.  In that regard, at least, the system worked as it should.  Likewise, I don’t think there’s any real implication for gun laws either way here.  Rights come with consequences, and sometimes people use their rights really stupidly, to the point where they need to be punished for it.  Whether that punishment comes in a court of law or the court of public opinion depends on the nature of the stupidity, of course, but both are valid and necessary.  Here while you can certainly argue that there wasn’t enough consequences in either court, Rittenhouse was arrested and at least faced the threat of serious consequences for his actions.  The system churned on him rather than simply ignoring him.

On the other side we have a number of errors as well, and since this side includes a lot of people in my camp I find their errors a lot more disturbing and/or infuriating.  Let’s start with “he was just there to protect property”.  If that was the case, how come we had an entire year of Black Lives Matter protests that often had Redacted Bois guarding property and supporting the protestors with essentially no incidents that I know of, except for Garret Foster (RIP) getting run over by a counterprotester.  If he was there to defend property he did a crap job of it, and given that it wasn’t his property it didn’t justify lethal force to defend.  Holding Rittenhouse in the same light as Kenneth Walker (and by extension capitalizing on Breonna Taylor’s death) is not a good look.  Walker and Taylor were in a private residence, assaulted by agents of the state acting in bad faith under laws that should never have existed in the first place.  Rittenhouse…far more questionable (more on that later).  Bringing up the criminal pasts of those that were shot is simply idiotic; however horrible they are (and they’re not good) either Rittenhouse had no way of knowing who/what they were beforehand or he went to the protest to shoot those three specific people.  One assertion is dumb and insane, the other is simply dumb and irrelevant.

Most important is Rittenhouse’s character.  He was not, to put it mildly, a moral exemplar.  It came out pretty quickly after his arrest that he was a cop worshipper, and then he partied with Trumpers after his release.  Partying with Trumpers perhaps doesn’t automatically make one a racist, but it’s certainly strong evidence in that direction.  When I’ve made this argument in online discussions the response has usually been Biden whataboutism or pointing out some of Trump’s policies and reforms, which did include some minor criminal justice reform.  Here’s the thing though-both Trump and Biden said a lot of horribly racist things and implemented a lot of horribly racist policies, usually connected to immigration, empire, and the drug war.  @#^! them both for it.  But it was only Trump that had a large number of avowed racists and nationalists among his supporters.  Trump voters may not have all been racist, but they joined the fandom with all the racists and were ok with that.  It tars anyone still in a MAGA hat with an ugly brush.

This is not to say that all of the keyboard pounds spent on this haven’t gotten anything right.  The allegations of judicial bias and prosecutorial incompetence ring very true.  Introduction of evidence painting Rittenhouse as a racist was disallowed, and that could have gone strongly to motive, which would seem to be important in relation to a claim of self defense.  The prosecutor pointing a potentially uncleared weapon, with his finger on the trigger, at a jury (although the details are disputed) was insane.  On the other hand, a defense lawyer acquaintance of mine has argued that the public eye on the case forced the judge and prosecutor to do their jobs, and that most prosecutors are generally incompetent, but are granted wide latitude by judges.  Also, this slate article characterizes judge Bruce Schroeder as generally pro-defendant-this time the defendant happens to be white and high profile.  I would guess that most of the people yelling about Klan robes under Schroeder’s judicial one would probably agree that the justice system tends to railroad the accused and favor incarceration over conviction.  There is a potential disconnect here.

The comparison with women in jail for killing their abusers absolutely has merit.  The immediate solution would be jury nullification, but over the longer term carving out exceptions in self defense law specifically to cover this is probably a good idea.  How exactly to word this I’m not entirely sure, and I welcome suggestions.  Many of these situations would most likely still be matters for a jury, but given how insidious and long lasting domestic abuse can be, and how destructive mentally and physically it is for its victims, protecting them from punishment for defending themselves seems like a necessary thing.

Finally, there’s one more bad argument that brings me to the two things at the heart of what bothers me about all of this.  Many on the pro-Rittenhouse side have asked “how can Rittenhouse be racist?  His victims were white!”.  There’s been a lot of screaming about the woke mob, and how Black Lives Matter is this evil communist group (that one is an easy refute, and I’ll take it on again later in this essay), and how it wasn’t really a “peaceful” protest.

All of that misses context, and context matters here.  Ultimately both sides are so focused on what they want to see that they can’t see the full picture.  The left can only see how Rittenhouse fits into the broader social and historical narrative, while Rittenhouse’s supporters can only see his actions in microcosm and isolation during each specific shooting.  One misses the points of law and what may have been legitimate actions of self defense, while the other doesn’t ask the important questions of how this happened in the first place.  What started this all?  Sure, it was a riot.  Protests aren’t always peaceful, which begs the question why were people pissed enough to riot in the first place?  2020 was the year of Black Lives Matter protests across the country as a lot of people got very pissed off at years of police murdering people, usually not white people, and facing zero repercussions for it.  These shootings ranged from people who may well have been guilty (and had criminal pasts) to children, and were never about situations where officers were being fired upon.  Much of this happened in the context of the drug war, which is arguably the most horrible thing that government has done to its own people post-slavery.  For libertarians, I have to remind too many of us again that we’ve been opposed to the state murdering people since before our movement had a name.  We’ve also been arguing for the moral legitimacy of violent revolution and shooting back for just as long, even though most of us hope that such times never come to pass and that real change can come either through the political system, building competing institutions, or both.  Sure, we can be dismayed that a lot of the rage tends to be directed at private businesses and residences rather than police stations and legislative headquarters, but it shouldn’t be any kind of stretch to understand why the rage exists in the first place.  Yes, much of the leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement came from the left, including some outright communists.  So?  They’ve also done more to bring attention to a core libertarian issue in a year than our movement has done in three decades.  While the contention that the Black Lives Matter movement has been co-opted by the Democratic Party is very valid (and a hell of an argument for voting third party), dismissing a whole group of people that are angry about some of the same big things we are because they started from a different point on the Nolan chart is stupid.  

One commenter argued that Rittenhouse’s cop worship can be dismissed at the naive beliefs of a young kid.  This is fine as far as it goes, but lots of kids draw tanks and planes as a kid, or dress as a cop for Halloween before growing out of it as they get older.  Most of them, however, don’t actually steal a tank and run over people with it, or go out and shoot people thinking they’re helping.  He may well be young and dumb, but his actions crossed big lines into serious consequences and went a lot farther than the usual young and dumb sort. 

It’s easy enough to dismiss conservatives as simply pro-cop, racist to one degree or another, or both.  I think libertarians, on the other hand, are so concerned about gun rights and the right of self defense that we often can’t see anything else.  It’s like our version of one of the great moments from The Boondocks.  To riff a bit on Huey’s speech towards the end, not every person with a gun made a heroic last stand against a rape gang!  Yes, the government does conspire to put a lot of people in jail (or straight up kill them) for acting in self defense, and yes the right to bear arms is still under constant legal and legislative assault.  But just because someone has rights doesn’t mean that every use of those rights is smart or moral.  Rights should not mean freedom from consequences when those rights are abused or otherwise used stupidly.  Again, those consequences can come in a court of law or the court of public opinion, depending on the nature of the stupidity, but we can’t be so zealous in our defense of rights that we’re blind to the context of their use.  If we can’t defend someone’s right to do something while also acknowledging that what they did was terrible, or supporting terrible people, or just really dumb we’re doing it wrong.

I think that’s at the heart of it all.  The ex-Republican chunk of the libertarian movement is so suspicious of anything that smacks of communism, and so paranoid about gun control (and not entirely without reason) that they can’t see that even if he was a dumb and naive kid, Rittenhouse was a cop worshipper and probably a racist on the wrong side of a protest against state murder.  Yes, he had the right to be there.  Generically speaking, he had/has the right to defend himself, and in the moment it’s very arguable that he was defending himself.  Even if he was legally right, which he may well have been, he was morally wrong.  He should have been allowed to be at that protest, but he shouldn’t have been there.  He should be allowed to hold his beliefs, but his beliefs are wrong.  He has the right to defend himself, but he shouldn’t have been in the situation where he needed to in the first place.  To hope for his acquittal is defensible.  To hold him up as any kind of hero, anything other than either a piece of crap or young and dumb is deplorable.

Finally…I wish this wasn’t a footnote, but unfortunately it fits.  The country has spent several weeks talking about this dumb white kid, which has sucked all the metaphorical oxygen away from what the protests were about in the first place.  People are still being shot by police.  Gods help you if you’re mentally ill and have a runin with the cops.  The drug war is still a thing, with too many people in jail for bullshit as a result.  Occupational licensing that stifles the poorest from working and holds convicted felons back from better jobs is still all too prevalent in our country.  The bigger structural factors behind poverty and racial injustices are still there.  What those factors are can and certainly is debated between, say, the left and libertarians, but either way they’re still there.  Where is the outrage over any of that?  Electing a Democrat (especially the particular Democrat) didn’t fix any of that.  When will there be enough anger again to truly change things?

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,


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.

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.

Two bits of good news this morning!  First, the feds have decided to leave Portland.  Yay, but let’s see if it actually happens. If there’s one thing that’s truly universal among the political class, it’s lying.  If they do leave, they sure as hell won’t be missed.

Second, Jo Jorgensen is polling at 5%!  It’s not a lot, but for a Libertarian in July it’s phenomenal, and represents a real, if outside shot of victory.  I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Neil Gaiman: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be _beaten_.”

And in American life there is no dragon more rapacious or violent than the duopoly.


This post is not about why I’m a libertarian.

That’s another post, hopefully a story worth telling, involving history, research, and fanfiction.  No, seriously.

This post is about my frustrations every time someone tells me “your candidate has no chance of winning”, or “why don’t you win some local elections first?” or “a vote for your candidate that you actually believe in (or can at least tolerate) is a vote for the other scumbag, who is worse than my scumbag”.  Or the ever popular “This is the most important election ever.  This is not the time to waste your vote with a third party protest vote, because it’s too important to get scumbag of the moment out of office”.  I hear this a lot, especially in presidential election years.  In fact I’ve heard these lines not just this year, but in every presidential election year since I became politically aware.

Counterpoint one, of course, is the fact that the Libertarian Party has well over 200 elected officials and while there’s definitely still a strain of “everyone wants to be president, no one wants to be dogcatcher” in party activism, we can and do win local offices better than any other third party, and have for a long time.  But that does leave open the question of why contest the presidency and the other federal offices each year.

Let me tell you a bit of my history.  I started to become politically aware in early high school, but didn’t really get interested in things until the late 1990s when I started college.  Discovering libertarianism, and realizing that there was actually a name for a lot of what I was already thinking was a huge moment for me.  As I started to look out at what was happening in the world I was troubled by many things, but especially the drug war (despite being a straightedger myself) and its ensuing mass incarceration and police murder, stupid foreign wars, corporate welfare, and insane taxation.

At the time the most recently murdered by police were Peter McWilliams, Don Scott, and Amadou Diallo.  We were bombing Iraq mostly, and supporting less than wholesome regimes across the planet.  My favorite example of corporate welfare at the time was the Export-Import Bank giving handouts to Campbell’s Soup to buy foreign advertising.  And taxes were what taxes were.

In the next 20 years we’ve had only presidents from the two major parties.  We’ve had one actual independent, one nominal independent, and one Republican turned Libertarian in Congress.  The duopoly, I think it’s safe to say, has completely controlled politics at the federal level.  So…what has that gotten us?

It’s true that there have been some good things from the courts, or at the state and local level.  Obergfell and Heller/McDonald were awesome, although for every Obergfell there’s definitely been a Kelo.  Colorado just ended qualified immunity.  Florida passed major occupational licensing reform.  Many states in the ensuing 20 years have fully or partially legalized marijuana and started to crack the evil (slightly anyway) that is the drug war.  These are things to be celebrated, to be sure.

But I can’t help but feel like these are just shifts around the edges, and that nothing has really changed.  Let’s look at that federal list from 20 years ago, shall we?  Cops are still killing people-Philando Castile, George Floyd, Kelly Thomas, Breonna Taylor jump immediately to mind.  We still incarcerate more people than any other country in the world.  We’re still bombing Iraq, and we’ve added Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen to the package, along with the occasional assassination of an Iranian leader.  And we’re still propping up terrible regimes.  We’ve lived through auto industry bailouts (multiple), bank bailouts, and most recently covid relief that mostly went to the already rich.  And though the rates get tinkered with every few years, our paychecks are still raided constantly by all levels of government, we still rent our cars from the state long after buying them, most of us still pay a tax on every economic transaction we make (now across state lines).  Only the names of the dead and bombed have changed.

And in response to such circumstances, who do the major parties keep giving us?  Architects of war.  Champions of corporate bailouts.  One of the most venally corrupt politicians in the history, who is not the only racist president, but is probably the most racist to hold the office since Nixon or FDR.  The guy who bragged for decades about writing the Patriot Act.  People who believe in nothing save either their own ambitions or their own aggrandizement.  If the major parties had actually succeeded in nominating someone like a Bernie Sanders, or Ron Paul, or going back a little Dennis Kucinich, someone who, love them or hate them you know acts from clear principles and generally lives by them-and who actually cares a bit about the people they represent, I might buy the strategic voting argument, or the lesser of two evils  argument.  But the major parties keep putting up more of the same, and the result is that we keep getting more of the same.

That is why it is so important for Libertarians and Greens and all manner of other voices to keep contesting the highest offices, even though the game is rigged and it’s fantastically expensive.  When I go to cast my vote for Jo Jorgensen this November-and in fairness all of the rest of what I’m about to say can be said of Howie Hawkins as well, I’m voting for someone who stands for something.  Who directly addresses the biggest issues of our day and says “No.  What we’ve done for 20 years or more is wrong, and we need to do something different”.  And who not only has been consistent herself over her lifetime, but is part of a broader movement that has been consistent on these issues for a long time. 

When this question first came up this cycle, my immediate response was “we keep running presidential candidates because the major party candidates are so bad.  Run someone better and we’ll think about voting for them”.  This is true, but as I think about it it’s more than that.  Voting major party in my politically aware lifetime has always been about voting against the other guy.  Voting third party?  That’s a chance to vote for something.  And I’ll always embrace that.