Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Seeming Contradiction That Is Colorado Gubentorial Candidate Jaimes Brown - A BIG-L libertarian Who Wants to Have a Big Tent.

I just had a shocking interview with Jaimes Brown, libertarian candidate for Colorado Governor. No, he didn’t come out for progressive taxation or banning alcohol; actually, we spoke for about an hour, and Jaimes Brown stated standard libertarian positions on all the usual topics: immigration, foreign policy, the drug war (including hemp cars!), income v. sales taxation, etc. Instead, what made Jaimes Brown a truly interesting interviewee was that he was a Big L Moral Libertarian who supports a big tent for the libertarian party.

Just as Gaul was loosely divided into three parts, Libertarians are loosely divided into two – Moral Libertarians and Pragmatic Libertarians. Moral Libertarians, otherwise known as the Big-L Libertarians, vote libertarian because they believe it is morally correct to be free and let other people be free. Pragmatic libertarians, otherwise known as the Small-l Libertarians, vote libertarian because we believe that libertarian policies lead to the best outcomes. The trouble is that moral libertarians tend to have a bit of a civil war with us pragmatists, with moral libertarians generally chasing us pragmatists away. The perception that we pragmatists (and others on the right) have is that the moral libertarians are so obsessed with purity of belief, that they would rather endlessly debate the minutia of any policy and leave this country to the progressives instead of agreeing to agree on 90% and building a movement. Of course this doesn’t win elections. So when Jaimes Brown made clear early on in the interview that he was a Moral/Big-L Libertarian, I prepared myself for the worst.

Jaimes Brown though then utterly surprised me with this quote “the only reason the libertarian party exists is to get candidates elected now or in the future.” He made clear that the libertarian party had little purpose if it is just a debate club. He bemoaned fighting “over the leftover scraps” when we agree on 90% of philosophy. Instead, he stated his philosophy of what the libertarian party needs to do to go forward – put off fighting over the minutia that divides and unite behind picking off the low-hanging fruit of statism.

To see a Big-L Libertarian reject the civil wars that have helped keep the Libertarian Party on the fringe got me curious. Could his view of the Libertarian Party welcome, contrary to the opinion of one prominent libertarian running for congress, a social liberal/fiscal conservative that supports an aggressive foreign policy? “Yes, so long as the aggressiveness is aimed at protecting the country’s defense and not raiding our enemies’ resources.” Does the Libertarian Party have a place for somebody who supports Personhood? “Yes, even though I disagree with it.” In fact, Jaimes Brown then went out of his way to tell me that he would have voted for Ron Paul (Republican) over Bob Barr (Libertarian) had the former won the Republican nomination.

This is the sort of analysis that a Libertarian running for Governor in Colorado needs to have. We all know that the Libertarian is not going to win this cycle – even Jaimes Brown seems to know it. However, it is impossible for a party to build for the future if it is constantly tearing itself apart. If Jaimes Brown’s future actions match his current rhetoric, maybe libertarians will actually have in the future a political party that is worth supporting instead of a debate club that is fighting for relevance. And in an election where your other options are Maes, Tancredo, or Hickenlooper, taking a chance on that future could be worth your vote.

About the author (updated in July 2012): Elliot Fladen is an attorney practicing law in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Nothing in this blog is meant to constitute legal advice unless explicitly stated to the contrary.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tom Tancredo – Not A Free Market Conservative Before He Was Not A Republican
Tom Tancredo is threatening to enter the governor’s race, ostensibly to ensure that a conservative will hold the seat instead of a liberal democrat. The problem is that not only will Tancredo’s threatened actions, if he carries through with them, almost undoubtedly ensure that Hickenlooper will be our governor for the next 4 years, but even if Tom Tancredo somehow won the race, a free market conservative would still not be our governor. That is because although Tom has stopped being a Republican this past week, he stopped being a defender of free market conservative principles long before.

The heart of being a conservative is to defend free market capitalism, but Tom is not a defender of it. In January of 2010 he put forward an op-ed piece in World Net Daily that appeared to deal with the subject of immigration.

In it, Tom called for a three year moratorium on all legal (not illegal) immigration. Although wise people may disagree over whether this is an intelligent position, it is not — by itself — outside the free market conservative movement. The trouble was not the position itself – rather it was the justification – you see, Tom Tancredo justified this freeze in legal immigration as a necessary measure to protect American workers’ jobs.

Think about that. Tom Tancredo, the alleged defender of free market conservatism, advocated a government economic intervention of business X (who would have fewer workers to choose from) for the express purpose of protecting person Y’s paycheck. Regardless of your feelings of the topic of immigration and whether it should be restricted for culture, national security, political equilibrium, or rule of law reasons, how can one justify the restriction of immigration to protect the “right to a job” as possibly being compatible with being a free market conservative? Simple – one cannot do so.
This was not an isolated instance. On July 5, 2010, Tom Tancredo sat in for Peter Boyles on KHOW 630 AM Denver to substitute for Peter who was off motorcycling that day. While hosting the show he spent the end of the 6:00 am hour talking to a representative from Numbers USA (a successful immigration restriction organization).

During the conversation, Tom Tancredo said we are only bringing in people who take jobs (49:50) and that he was against immigration because it suppresses wages (54:30). These remarks were not limited to illegal immigrants – they appear to include legal immigration as well.

It gets worse – while on the same radio show, after lauding Numbers USA as the premier organization to deal with both legal and illegal immigration (37:40-38:10), he was rewarded with the following response from the Numbers USA representative: Numbers USA believes “legal immigration needs to be reduced for a variety of reasons including quality of life reasons because the more people you add to this country to the population the more infrastructure you need, the natural resources you need to use, the more farmland you need to pave over and all the things that come along with population growth …we also believe that American workers have the right to not to have to compete with third world workers and third world wages” (39:57 – 41:00) The Numbers USA rep also said we are moving towards a have/have not society due to legal immigration during the same time frame in the audio. Later, the Numbers USA rep blamed almost the entirety of our unemployment on our immigration policy – legal and illegal (44:00).

Did Tom Tancredo, our supposed defender of free market conservatism, tell the Numbers USA rep that “use of natural resources” was not an appropriate reason to restrict immigration? Did Tancredo, our supposed defender of free market conservatism, tell the Numbers USA rep that “paving over farm land” was not a legitimate reason for restricting immigration? Did Tancredo, our supposed defender of free market conservatism, tell the Numbers USA rep that it is preposterous to blame almost our entire unemployment on immigration or that there is no “right” to not to have to compete with third world workers and third world wages? Well, if he were a true free market conservative he would have done so.

Tom Tancredo in fact did not tell his esteemed guest that she was wrong on any of these accounts. Instead, not only did he appear to agree with the Numbers USA rep throughout the interview, but he even said at its end how proud he was of the organization. A true defender of free market conservativism would have done neither, regardless of their feelings on the topic of restricting immigration on other bases (again – national security, political equilibrium, culture, government expenditures, etc.) So when you hear that Tancredo is the only free market conservative candidate running, or something to that effect, realize that can only be true if the word “free market conservative” is stripped of its core meaning.

Update – To be absolutely clear I am not saying that a free market conservative must support open borders. Rather, I am saying that a free market conservative would not stand silent or egg a radio guest on while that guest supported the idea that workers are entitled to a job, a high wage, or the other stuff indicated above. Or write an op-ed along the same lines.

Second Update - This is originally a PPC post, but PPC is down, so I'm posting it at my long defunct blog for now.

About the author (updated in July 2012): Elliot Fladen is an attorney practicing law in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Nothing in this blog is meant to constitute legal advice unless explicitly stated to the contrary.