What’s a Libertarian to Do?

With the election a little over 2 weeks away, the question of what to do presents itself with some urgency.


Donald Trump for the Republicans

The candidacy of Republican Donald J. Trump does not need a lot of discussion. He has spent the last year or so demonstrating that he is a simpleton who is spectacularly unqualified for any political office, let alone the Presidency. He has displayed an astonishing ignorance of even the most basic features of the government he proposes to lead. His policy knowledge concerning the important questions of the day is largely non-existent. His entire thought process, to the extent he thinks at all, is driven by narcissism. Unable to speak in complete sentences, he has the temperament of a psychologically disturbed adolescent, with all due apologies to psychologically disturbed adolescents.

He should be dismissed out of hand.

Hillary Clinton for the Democrats

Truth be told, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has not spent the last year or so demonstrating her unsuitability. It has been more like a 30-year project.


The public has had a chance to observe Mrs. Clinton as First Lady, Senator from New York and as Secretary of State. And if the polls are to be believed, the public views her as Lady Macbeth: scheming, unscrupulous, ruthless and dishonest, with a driving ambition that knows no bounds. The public’s estimation is essentially correct.


Mrs. Clinton invariably describes her own experience in terms of process, not measureable results. That is because once we go beyond the bumper sticker slogans that represent the bulk of Mrs. Clinton’s public utterances, we are left with a record of unremitting policy failure. It was Mrs. Clinton who got us into a war in Libya for no good reason. It is Mrs. Clinton who has supported piling on the regulations that have slowed GDP growth to a trickle. It is Mrs. Clinton who led the Russian reset. And it is even now that Mrs. Clinton wants to set up a no-fly zone over Syria, the enforcement of which would require us to shoot down Russian war planes and risk a war with Russia—and for what reason, exactly?


But while Mrs. Clinton’s record of policy failure is unsettling, it alone does not disqualify her from occupying the Oval Office. It is her lawlessness that does so.


The incoming President of the United States swears an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of United States” which includes the duty to see to it that the laws are faithfully executed. Mrs. Clinton’s suitability for this is on the order of hiring John Dillinger as a bank guard. Time and time again she has shown her disdain for the rule of law both as it pertains to limits on government power and with respect to her personal behavior.


Mrs. Clinton does not stand on the shoulders of giants. She stands on a mountain of sleaze. From the early days in 1978 when she managed to “earn” $100,000 trading cattle futures, to the mixing of the business of the State Department with the family slush fund otherwise known as the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton and her husband have mastered the art of selling policy and access to the highest bidder. The entire Clinton operation is corruption on an industrial scale.



Still it is not Clinton’s personal and petty corruption that is so problematic. It is the transformative nature of her corruption of fundamental institutions of government and civil society that she and her husband leave in their wake wherever they go. This corruption, the cynicism it breeds, and its continual redefinition of deviancy down represents an existential threat to the cultural conditions necessary for the maintenance of ordered liberty.


Consider for instance, the now infamous “homebrew” server Clinton used for her State Department e-mails.


She has consistently (sometimes under oath) lied about why she had it set up and what was on it. She lied about the system’s security. Again and again, she lied about receipt and delivery of classified messages on the system. She lied about turning over all work related e-mails to the FBI. And she illegally destroyed something in the vicinity of 30,000 e-mails that were already under subpoena that she was legally obligated to protect.


And then FBI Director James Comey declined to prosecute what should have been an easy case. But only after he lied when he insisted that the senior staff of the FBI backed him. He gave himself cover by giving Clinton a public tongue lashing, while publicly (and incorrectly) asserting that no reasonable prosecutor would make the case. In so doing he took Attorney General Loretta Young off the hook, shortly after she met privately with Bill Clinton in the back of an airplane parked on a tarmac in Arizona.


And so with this sordid affair, she damaged the institutional integrity of the FBI, the Department of Justice and the State Department, all to achieve her political ambitions. And even that is not the worst of it.


Hillary Clinton has repeatedly shown her contempt for Constitutional norms, the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, and constraints on executive power generally. As recently as the third Presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton, graduate of Yale Law School, demonstrated that she still seems to have trouble differentiating between the legislative and judicial branches. In response to a question about the Supreme Court Mrs. Clinton replied:


“The Supreme Court should represent all of us. That’s how I see the Court… And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on our behalf of our rights as Americans.”


But Mrs. Clinton’s defense of rights rings a little hollow when you realize that she excludes individual rights explicitly specified in the Constitution meant to restrain government power. She continues to attack the the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech by promising to overturn Citizen’s United. She made it demonstrably clear that she means to break religion to the saddle of the state so religious organizations might serve as instruments of state power. That is what explains her opposition to the Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The same goes for the hacked Podesta e-mails describing efforts to foment a “Catholic Spring”.



Nor is Hillary Clinton a fan of the Second Amendment that protects a citizen’s right of self-defense. It is pretty hard to square the vast snooping apparatus of the NSA (supported by Hillary Clinton) with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, and a requirement for a specific search warrant.


And then there is the Fifth Amendment that prohibits the taking of life, liberty or property without due process of law, which would seem to rule out the summary execution of American citizens who find their way onto a Presidential “kill list.” Not only does Hillary Clinton support such a disgrace; she actually suggested “droning” Julian Assange, a political nemesis of hers. Finally, it is or ought to be, clear that Clinton has no use for the idea embodied in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments that the legal use of federal power is limited to those activities enumerated in the Constitution, and that all other powers are reserved to the States and the people.


In the end it ought to be clear to all who are not willfully blind that Hillary Clinton is lawless and corrupt; that her corruption is endemic and infects everyone and everything in her orbit. Driven by blind ambition she will continue to subvert the institutions and norms that protect liberty and decency. She, no less than Donald Trump, represents an existential threat to freedom and decency in America.


For the Libertarians: Gary Johnson


The candidacy of Gary Johnson is a profound disappointment. At a time when so many citizens have expressed regret at the choices offered by the two major political parties, the time should have been ripe for a libertarian alternative. But it has not turned out that way.


Gary Johnson has shown himself to be unprepared for the job. He has displayed an appalling lack of understanding of U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, his view of world politics seems bereft of an analytic framework that extends beyond saying that we will respond if attacked.


On the domestic front his enthusiasm for unfettered free markets in refreshing. But it is troubling when a libertarian seems so eager to use state power to enforce emerging social norms, as Johnson seems to be willing to do. All citizens are entitled to the protection of the law, and so discrimination in public accommodations or the provision of public goods, should be prohibited. But Johnson does not seem to recognize that government policies that seek to force some religious organizations and owners of small businesses to provide goods and services that are antithetical to their religious beliefs are in collision with the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech, religion and association.


In fact, Johnson seems only barely familiar with the arguments; has repeatedly adjusted his positions, and in the end decided that the Hobby Lobby case was wrongly decided. He has voiced agreement with the Obamacare mandate that required religious organizations (and certain business owners) to provide certain contraceptive services and abortifacients over religious objections. In Johnson’s view, the mandate trumps the First Amendment. That is deeply troubling.




Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld are pro-abortion extremists, though not quite as extreme as Hillary Clinton. (Or for that matter Donald Trump before his conveniently timed change of heart.) Hillary Clinton makes clear her desire to get rid of the Hyde amendment to pave the way for government-financed abortions. Johnson still supports the Hyde Amendment, but that’s about the only difference.


The “prime directive” so to speak of libertarians is the non-aggression principle (NAP). It prohibits the initiation of the use of force or coercion; the use of force is only permissible in self-defense. While abortion is a fiercely debated topic in libertarian circles, this libertarian leaning writer finds it difficult to square abortion rights with the non-aggression principle.


Unfortunately, after toting up the pros and cons, the Libertarian ticket has not shown itself to be up to the task.


So What’s a Libertarian to Do?


Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have shown themselves to be fundamental threats to liberty. Gary Johnson has not shown himself to be up to the task. The remaining options are (1) to sit it out or (2) write in a name. Possible write-in candidates will be addressed in the near future.



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