Third Party & Independents Archives

Evaluation of Michael Badnarik, Libertarian Candidate for President

There have recently been some interesting posts on watchblog about how to get attention for libertarian candidates, and I decided to compliment these with a position-oriented analysis of Michael Badnarik’s candidacy. I accomplished this by using his questionnaire results outlining his views and his position papers on his official campaign website. There are too many issues for me to discuss, so I have picked just a couple of the more interesting ones.

What I like:

1. Income Tax: As a full libertarian on economic issues, I love his plan to eliminate the federal income tax. The income tax punishes people for working- which makes no sense because when people work, American productivity and standard of life goes up. A simple example from a paper I once wrote will explains why I join Badnarik in opposing the income tax:

Suppose that two men work at the same job, and try decide if they are going to work overtime to get more property than necessary to fulfill their basic needs. One of those workers prefers walking in the woods during his leisure time and decides not to work the extra hours, while the other prefers watching movies, and works longer to earn extra money to afford movie tickets. The person with nonmaterial desires proceeds unimpeded in his enjoyment of his leisure time, while the man who wishes to go to the movies, and thus offers his services to someone willing to pay him and helps fund the movie theatre, movie makers, and popcorn makers, has to pay more taxes then his park-walking co-worker.

2. Gay Marriage: His position on gay marriage is a great solution to the current conflict and could draw broad-based support if sold to the American people in exactly the way that Badnarik puts its. He believes that marriages, as far as the law is concerned, should be treated exactly like any other contract and the government’s only role should be to enforce the obligations in the contract. This way, a homosexual couple, a polygamist and his partners, or even two friends who just wanted to raise a kid together, could come together and form a contract with all of the legal trappings they wanted without any government oversight or discrimination. This approach would not only be acceptable to the American people, but would be unequivocally constitutionally required under the contract clause (maybe the left would learn to respect the contract clause if this happened!). As a side note, I do not understand how so many Democrats, who are strongly for gay marriage, can continue to support John Kerry despite his repeated equivocations on the issue.

There are other numerous issues I agree with Badnarik on- from opposing campaign finance laws to eliminating welfare to legalizing drugs to eliminating social security. But these are standard libertarian fare, and I will not go into them into detail unless someone posts in response and wants me to.

What I kind of like:
1. Abortion: Abortion is the one issue that has made me unable to vote for libertarians in the past (see my position on abortion). Badnarik is pretty advanced on the issue, however, recognizing that unborn children have a right to life and do not lose that right just because they are located in a different place (the womb). As a result, he opposes abortion- because opposing the killing of human beings is completely consistent with a libertarian philosophy.

Confusingly, he claims that abortion should be a “STATES-RIGHTS ISSUE.” While this would be a step in the right direction because of Supreme Court’s egregious judicial fiat in Roe v. Wade, Badnarik’s background as a constitutional scholar should have taught him better than to take such a position. The 14th amendment clearly guarantees that all Americans have certain human rights that the states cannot take away. Since Badnarik understand that unborn children are humans, it would be a reversion back to the 1850s to allow them to be murdered in some states but not others. This nation fought a bloody civil war to determine that someone’s right to life does not depend on what state they happen to be in.

What I did not like:
1. International Relations: While Badnarik has a strong grasp of both the importance of constitutionality limited government and human rights, his views on international relations are rather unsatisfactory. Badnarik has a radical isolationist viewpoint. He believes that free trade would prosper if we withdrew from NAFTA and the WTO. He also believes that the Iraq war was a mistake and that we should get out as soon as possible. I think it is a fair summation of his position that he does not think that the United States should ever involve its military in any way unless our safety is directly at stake.

His international views are narrow-minded because the libertarian approach does not operate well when dealing with foreign nations. Libertarians correctly believe that if you remove force and government intervention, people will run their own lives better than the government can. However, hands-off minimal government does not work when we wish to interact with people who live in regimes whose leaders are brutal thugs or limit their people’s freedom in less dramatic ways (like not allowing them to engage in free trade). Also, if all countries ignored every atrocities in the world that didn’t directly threaten them, the rest of the world would likely become overrun with murderous thugs- something that Badnarik must understand is bad for our freedom, as well as morally unacceptable. This is especially compounded by the fact that Badnarik believes the U.S. should withdraw from the U.N., which would leave no organization to protect people without the military might to protect themselves. If we withdraw from the UN, it should be to establish a different international organization that is actually concerned with human rights, not to remove ourselves from concern for such rights outside of our boarders.

2. Internet Policy: Badnarik believes that the federal government should have no role as it relates to the internet and stopping cyber crime. Yet, as a constitutional scholar, Badnarik should understand that our federal government was set up in large part because there are some problems that states cannot handle by themselves. Stopping cyber crime is in the true spirit of the commerce clause, not part of the muddle of unlimited power that the liberal courts have turned that clause into since pushing through the unconstitutional New Deal. E-commerce and e-crime are the very definition of commerce between states and between the U.S. and foreign nations. Moreover, because cyber crime can come from anywhere in the world, it is unrealistic to insist that cyber crime enforcement can occur through the states. Our federal government has a tough enough time trying to prosecute malicious hackers because of international boundaries problems, the states would be completely powerless in this respect.

Posted by Misha Tseytlin at June 28, 2004 5:48 PM