Why I'm Voting for Nader

The real libertarian in the race

By Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute

11/01/00 11:20 a.m., National Review Online

I'm a life-long registered Democrat; most of my political friends are Republicans; and in my heart I'm a Libertarian. So why am I going to vote for Green party candidate Ralph Nader? Because a vote for Nader, strangely enough, offers the most practical opportunity to actually reduce the power of the government, especially the federal government.

The choice between Bush and Gore is the choice between growing the government medium-fast versus very-fast. I respect people who vote for Bush because he won't increase government as rapidly as Gore, but the record of Texas Governor Bush, and of former President George Bush, III, offers no reason to hope that another President Bush would actually shrink government.

What about Libertarian Harry Browne? The Libertarian party platform is wonderful, and I agree with about 95 percent of it. But there are two major problems with voting for Harry Browne this year. First, it is obvious that Browne will capture the usual dismal 7/10th of 1 percent that Libertarian presidential candidates usually get.

Second, as detailed in Liberty magazine, Browne has turned the national Libertarian party into a feeding trough for his consultants, and he has ripped off Libertarian party donors with direct-mail advertisements making patently absurd promises of imminent electoral success. The LP needs to get rid of Harry Browne; to vote for him is only to encourage Browne's crowd to maintain their chokehold on the national party.

In contrast, Ralph Nader's Green party is on the cusp of getting 5 percent of the popular vote, and thus qualifying for federal campaign funds. (Which shouldn't even exist, but that's another story.) Voters in states where one major party candidate has an insurmountable lead can still have a national impact by helping the Greens get to 5 percent in the popular vote. With federal funding, the Greens can become an important long-term influence in the political process.

Why would the Green's influence be positive, given its hysterical and unscientific positions on environmental issues, and their demands for more federal regulation of the economy? Well, on these issues, the Greens are only worse in degree — not in principle — than the Republicans and Democrats.

George Bush believes in the dystopian fairy tale of global warming, while Gore wants to outlaw the internal combustion engine. The first President Bush lobbied for and signed the two biggest regulatory expansions in the last 25 years — the revised Clean Air Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. (Both of which are nice in principle, but badly miswritten, and often pernicious in practice.) The current Bush can't even bring himself to say that he'll end the Clinton/Gore persecution of Microsoft — probably because his campaign has gotten so much money from former Netscape executives and other computer "entrepreneurs" who asked the Department of Justice for help when they failed in the marketplace.

But there are two important issues in which the Greens are starkly different in principle — not just in degree — from the Republocrats. The first of these is corporate welfare, which the Greens adamantly oppose — and which the supposedly "radical" Republicans in Congress and the supposedly "populist" Clinton/Gore administration have boosted to record levels.

The best way to increase the size of government is to increase the number of people who are directly dependent on it. Political genius Franklin Roosevelt knew this when he created Social Security. Clinton and Gore likewise know that when they call for "a hundred thousand new [fill in the type of government employees]" they are calling for a hundred thousand more families directly dependent on the federal government.

The most important reason why most American big businesses have been missing in action from the fight for smaller government is because many big corporations make more money from corporate welfare than they could save from smaller government. When we take big business off the dole, we remove the most powerful political force that supports a complex federal tax code with taxes that are too high for most people, but which can be jerry-rigged with "tax credits" and the like for businesses with good lobbyists. Get rid of corporate welfare, and you'll find a lot more corporations willing to stand up for liberty.

Nader also differs dramatically from Gore and Bush in his forthright opposition to the failed drug war. Gore prattles about "privacy" and "choice," but his Department of Justice killed California writer Peter McWilliams, by preventing McWilliams, who had AIDS, from using marijuana in compliance with California law, in order to keep his AIDS medications down.

The Texas record of Bush, and the national record of Clinton/Gore/Bush the Third, plainly illustrate that the drug war is the most dangerous current threat to the Bill of Rights. People are being killed by machine-gun wielding home invaders wearing masks and breaking down doors with "no-knock" raids for trivial amounts of contraband. Prison capacity has tripled in the last two decades, and drug prisoners now outnumber violent prisoners. Wiretaps are at record levels, as is the size of the FBI, and the amount of federal money being used to subsidize police militarism in every state.

National Guard helicopters fly over people's houses looking for marijuana plants on the front porch, while sophisticated thermal sensors are used to pry into the privacy of the home. Federally mandated drug testing invades the privacy of the human body, forcing employees to disclose detailed information about their prescription medications. Financial privacy is being abolished, in the name of preventing money laundering. Neo-Stalinist programs like DARE encourage schoolchildren to inform on their friends and family. And drug war forfeitures amount to little more than legalized piracy.

More generally, the violence that results from the turf wars which the drug war generates are one of the most serious dangers to Second Amendment rights. Remember that the drug war was the pretext for the import ban on so-called "assault weapons" during the first Bush administration; and the law which led to the creation of the current FBI gun-registration system was part of the 1988 "anti-drug" bill.

The biggest group of losers in the whole drug war are the people who don't use drugs, since their rights and privacy are devastated, in exchange for the government "protecting" them from using something which they wouldn't want to use anyway.

The Bush/Gore response to this civil-liberties disaster is "we need more." Ralph Nader's response is "we need to end it." Nader's major point is to end the war on marijuana users, but in practical terms, this is as good as ending the drug war itself. Marijuana arrests far outnumber all other drug arrests, and without a large and steady diet of marijuana prosecutions and forfeitures, the current drug-war machine cannot sustain itself.

If you're for limited government, think about almost any topic on which Ralph Nader is wrong (there are lots of them), and you'll see that his differences with Gore/Bush are usually only a matter of degree.

Do you believe that it would benefit the nation's general political dialogue (and especially benefit the Democratic party), to have a forceful new voice against one of the major foundations of the welfare state? Do you believe that the most precious part of our American heritage is the Bill of Rights, and that the number one political priority ought to be stopping the gravest threat to our fundamental liberties? If so, then consider whether a strategic vote for Ralph Nader might, ironically, be the best way to vote for limited government this November.

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