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Jewish World Review May 15, 2000 /10 Iyar, 5760

Don Feder

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Libertarians, party on! -- THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY is having its national nominating convention at the Marriot Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., from June 30 to July 3.

But there's a much better site in the same city -- namely, Disneyland. What could be more fitting for these laissez-faire visionaries than to convene in the theme park's Fantasyland? Goofy might even be available for their national ticket.

I recently sat down with the man who will likely be the party's presidential candidate this year (as he was in 1996), Harry Browne. An author and investment guru, Browne is charming, articulate and, well, about what you'd expect of a libertarian ideologue.

The party boasts that there are "over 270 libertarians serving in public office" nationwide. But its highest elected official currently is a Vermont state legislator. Of course, there is also Art Olivier, who served one term as mayor pro-tem of Bell Flower, Calif. Based on his resume, Olivier is now running for the party's vice presidential nomination.

In 1996, Browne drew 485,120 votes. As the candidate of the Green Party (which wants to repeal the industrial revolution), Ralph Nader pulled 651,771 votes.

Still, I'm surprised Browne did as well as he did. I have to assume that most of those half-million voters didn't read the party's platform and were unaware of the nominee's more exotic stands.

Libertarians are anarchists at heart. They've taken a good idea -- opposition to the bullying brute government has become -- and turned it into a crusade for a utopian agenda.

The party's ideal society could exist only in the realm of theory. Its platform calls for "the elimination of all restrictions on immigration." If 50 million Mexicans chose to move to California and Texas, resulting in chaos and the obliteration of national identity, why should that concern libertarians?

If these new Americans (then constituting a majority in the states where they settle) decided they wanted to secede and reunite the territory with Mexico, presumably Libertarians would do nothing to stand in their way.

The party's position on national defense is equally loony. In a Browne presidency, no American soldier would set foot on foreign soil. "What if China invaded Taiwan?"
I asked. None of our business, the investment counselor replied. Well, what if it invaded Mexico? In that case, Browne said he'd fortify our southern border and await an invasion.

Is there never a role for alliances or the use of U.S. forces abroad?

According to Browne, even our involvement in World War II was a mistake. The Nazis and Japanese posed no direct threat to us, Browne claims (a la Pat Buchanan). Hitler couldn't even invade England in 1940, he says -- due in part to the Lend-Lease he would have opposed.

And after Germany had conquered Russia and England, overran North Africa and allied itself with several proto-fascist Latin American states -- what then? Harry would have started building gun emplacements along the Atlantic coast.

The Libertarian Party's aversion to government often leads to strange dichotomies. Browne assumes "that life begins at conception." He believes Washington should be neutral on abortion. (Roe vs. Wade was "an example of judicial activism at its worst.") Sound reasoning.

Abortion policy should be set by the states, Browne declares. However, "Do I believe the states should outlaw abortion?" the libertarian rhetorically asks. "I do not."

But, wait a minute, I said. "You assume that the unborn child is human life, but you don't think government at any level should act to protect that life? What about laws against murder?" Browne doesn't think much of them, either (look at all of the murders that occur, despite the police) -- though he hastens to add that he's not calling for their repeal.

A libertarian government would consist of open borders, no troops abroad, no alliances and the repeal of laws against prostitution and drugs. If someone on crack cocaine kills your family, you can go to your private arbitration agency for adjudication.

Impractical? Delusional? Let's just say that if there were libertarians in the Third Reich, they would have probably been drawing up plans to privatize the autobahn when the Gestapo arrived to take them away.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate