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.

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