Green Libertarianism: the 2016 Stein-Johnson Debates on Tavis Smiley
I define myself as a “Green Libertarian” (slightly modified from an earlier system I defined for myself, Social Libertarianism.). I wrote part of this Wikipedia entry, but it needs to be completely redone elsewhere, since the Wiki parameters exclude any original material. But some of the concepts are presented well enough.
I thought that it was better for Greens and Libertarians to have their own debates rather than participate in the charade of the “official debate” which debated nothing of any importance or relevance to the present campaigns, or the current state of the world.
Stein is a sort of “composite candidate” – the best the fractious Green Party could come up with, and she’s a good example why we probably shouldn’t be running candidates for President – at least until we have a couple of dozen members in Congress (and that simply isn’t going to happen short of a major revolution or different Constitution).
I’ve grown pessimistic about the prospects for any sort of electoral outcomes that aren’t profoundly negative. There simply aren’t any good guys out there, and when they try, they usually don’t get to 1st base. So, the best thing to do is keep trying, and make every campaign an educational one, devoted to exposing the extreme dangers we face from nuclear war and an environmentally ravaged planet. And in this case, Jill is proving to be a very useful “foil” either to Gary Johnson or to Hillary, who shares much of her class and intellectual presuppositions.
Step forward, Gary Johnson. When I first read about him, he didn’t sound very libertarian at all – he seemed like a moderate, sane Republican, much like the Cobb’s in Montana, or the Jeanette Rankin Brigades. Now, most of those people are Democrats, but nothing like the great ones of the past. Usually, they can’t even get a credible candidate to run for Congress.
After watching both parts of the debate, let me see if I can “iron out” (pun intended) some of the rough spots in the Stein-Johnson campaigns. This is really “a pair to draw to” for our side. (I used the same expression when Ted Cruz chose his “running mate” – Carly Fiorina – the woman who destroyed Hewlett-Packard.)
Jill is really doing well, and needs to be freed of any committments to support some obsolete socialist “line” that more subsidies and “government programs” are going to solve these problems. Academia (and the public employee unions) have had a lock on government policy since long before I was in college at UCLA in the 1960’s. Indeed, UCLA was seen as one of the pre-eminent “trainers” for the elite bureaucratic class – “The Country Club of the liberal jet set,” as one of my YR comrades put it.
So, I know the drill. The Ivy League vs. The Rest of the Country. In the West, it’s more diverse, and universities have their own agendas and alliances. So, we’re the perpetual “outsiders” (isn’t “Utne” Norwegian for that?).
As a Montanan, I’ve been building strong alliances with New Mexico since the 1970’s when I worked with a guy I won’t name from one of the old Mexican families. Taos artists and our own CM Russell were tight – and there’s always Los Alamos, one of the largest Unitarian-Universalist congregations in the Mountain-Desert District. Santa Fe (along with Cut Bank, Montana) is a center for the arts, music, and culture. Is Montana doing its part to advance a truly esthetic and humane lifestyle and agenda for the American West? We hope so.
Gary Johnson was apparently a popular governor (of New Mexico), for he was re-elected. He also vetoed more bills than probably any other governor in history, or so he claimes. He’s a “casual,” hip Westerner – the New Model for a 21st Century President. He doesn’t want war or confrontation. He doesn’t want to build walls. He wants to restore the ancient borders of New Spain, or else remove all borders entirely – the preferred strategy, I believe.
Libertarian history – more Green than Republican
Prior to, say, 1945, “libertarian” was equated with traditional communitarian anarchism, pacifism, nature worship, and the values and traditions of indigenous people – essentially what the Green Party was originally conceived to be.
The “libertarian” label is ancient – a believer in liberty, not capitalism, wealth, the stock market, or the 1%. It means small, local, self-governing communities, not an empire which encompasses hundreds or thousands of such self-governing communities, and exploits them for political and economic benefits which are rarely shared or “worth the cost.”
People should intentionally govern themselves and their communities instead of being owned and controlled by the State – a respectable theory which maintained that strong central governments and standing armies were inimical to human freedom and prosperity, not to mention survival, itself. Seems harmless enough, doesn’t it?
Except that the politcal/military/imperial forces of both the Left and Right are based on the premise of a Totalitarian State. If any opposition is allowed, the State will collapse. And that is what we have, today. Were it not for Tavis Smiley and an unannounced appearance on American Forum from the University of Virginia (both on PBS), there would have been no national appearances for Johnson at all, and he is on the ballot in nearly every state.
Stein, with a strong base in New England among the highest intellectual elites, hasn’t done any better. In the West, she’s basically unknown, and in Montana, at least, an above-ground Green Party is basically non-existant, although I still try to keep up appearances, just in case a Jill Stein should happen to show up.
I vetted the idea of a Stein-Johnson debate to several GP leaders, including both of her campaign managers, and they encouraged me to contact the Libertarians, since they weren’t about to do that, themselves. So, I asked Ron Vandevender, a leading local Libertarian, if he might present the idea to his party leaders. Next thing I know, abracadabra, it’s on Tavis Smiley. And Tavis did a great job in the limited time available.
There was no posturing or attacks – just a solid discussion of the real issues – peace, military spending, foreign policy of fomenting wars and terrorism, etc. And there was remarkable agreement on most of these. Obviously, these two candidates (and Parties) are on the same side, just as the Republicans and Democrats are on the same side – for total destruction of the planet, just so long as they maintain the 1% monopoly on wealth and power.
My two closest contacts (not exactly “comrades”) in the Green Party have been Jill’s campaign managers in the past two campaigns – David Cobb and Ben Manski. Cobb, the 2004 Presidential candidate (and General Counsel for Nader in 2000) had previously worked for the Jerry Brown and Jesse Jackson campaigns, and still maintains ties to the PDA. He also started the Move to Amend and Democracy Unlimited in Humbolt County, CA (against corporate power). Ben Manski (recommended to me by Cobb) was a leader of the Campus Greens (at Wisconsin, Madison) when I first became active in 2000. Now he is 42, and a professor at UC Santa Barbara, where I also worked for time.
Ben Manski managed the 2012 campaign, which used as its centerpiece a “Green New Deal”, which is a widely-used metaphor for what we should be doing. Both Clinton and Obama used it (or something similar) as a talking point, but the Obama version sank with a large subsidy to a solar producer which went bankrupt, costing taxpayers $1 billion or so.
Jill and her spokespeople keep saying they can make it work, but after the revelations in Part 1 of the debate on Tavis Smiley, it seems my worst fears were realized.
Now we know, as the Daily Beast reported, Jill is a certified capitalist, with an extensive portfolio including many bad companies, which she only recently “divested” from (her word), while her husband is still active in Merck and other major corporate brands. And she advocates all sorts of spending and government programs to address climate change, “picking winners and losers”, as Gov. Johnson puts it (and all Libertarians oppose) – a strategy which is absolutely doomed to failure, as are any sort of taxpayer subsidies to private companies or other “producers.” This is also obvious to the critics of the ACA, which is a vast scheme of taxpayer subsidies to fund compulsory corporate racketeering (in the guise of “Health Insurance” which is nothing of the sort.)
The same is true of producer subsidies anywhere else – agriculture is probably the worst offender. Those who really defend “free markets” (and most Republicans say they do), must be made to understand that any sort of taxpayer subsidies to private corporations totally negates free-market principles and the possibility of a beneficial market economy. Gary Johnson understands this very well, while Jill is still mired in “New Deal” fantasies of “minimum wages,” “full employment,” universal health care and free K-PhD public education.
Doesn’t this require a totalitarian surveillance over all economic activity (just as long as it stays out of our bedrooms and libraries, I suppose), and confiscation of the “social surplus” which is being stolen from the people by corporations? Or is it to promote some ill-defined “social justice” – usually more “government programs” or other state-directed policies to politically benefit those who support the Party, all the while protecting and bailing out the corporate elites. This is where libertarian principles can really make a difference.
The best policy in every case is to tax or prohibit the bad things (nuclear and fossil fuel industries, in this case,) along with chemical agriculture, the Military-Industrial-Education-Medical complex, and other major parts of “government” which are killing and enslaving us on a daily basis. This allows individual firms and co-ops to act as they see fit, subject to the usual general rules of accounting and business practice, torts (they cannot injure their neighbors, workers, or customers), etc.
If anyone needs subsidizing, it’s the poor who have no means to participate in the market economy. Give them some chips so they can play, and provide them with the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, health care, cultural enrichment, etc.) Then they won’t be forced into lives of crime, drug abuse, prostitution, and other rackets which depend on poverty and deprivation.
By outlawing all these things, a “black economy” is created based on exploiting others. And our present rules don’t distinguish criminal activities from an “informal economy” of barter and exchange, “under the table” wages, etc., which is absolutely essential for the survival of those excluded from the corporate state and its police power.
Most people only ask to be left alone to do their own thing. They’re not interested in politics, and if they participate at all, they’re usually led by some party officials to vote against their own (and everyone else’s) best interests. Fear is a strong motivation, and that is what the major parties use to maintain their power, along with some grandiose vision of American Full Spectrum Dominance over the entire planet. And that is what is costing us our freedom and threatens our very survival as a species.
“Natural Law” may in this case be taken literally – Nature is sovereign. We, as humans, cannot do anything which permanently alters and destroys the ecosystem on which we all depend for survival. This fundamental principle of Green Libertarianism follows Hayek in distinguishing between two kinds of law, and leaving most human activity to follow general rules and principles (enshrined in the English Common Law and other traditional systems) rather than a myriad of specific laws and regulations which no one knows about or understands.
If we are to be law-abiding, the laws must be simple and self-evident -not created by sold-out and ignorant legislators at the behest of corporate bosses, ALEC, union bosses and other special-interest groups and the courts which are now utterly dominated and overwhelmed by them….
The Green New Deal
So, what’s wrong with the Green New Deal? I’ve written a lot about it, largely based on Gabriel Kolko’s “Triumph of Conservatism” (describing the original New Deal). But free market economists have always been critical of it, along with the phoney “Keynesianism” which they think underlies it.
In the first place, it’s blatant stealing (or at least unauthorized “borrowing”) from FDR’s New Deal. The Democrats have always charged that Greens are “stealing our votes” and trying to recruit members from within the traditional supporters of the Democratic Party. Now, Jill is verifying that charge.
The Greens are definitely the “idea party” with voluminous solutions to ever policy issue or question. Yet, Stein, acting as though she’s “really just a New Deal Liberal,” piggy-backs on something which all working people, minorities, and leftists in general once identified with. Even WWII veterans and those who think we somehow “won the war” because of FDR’s wise and skillful leadership, will automatically support a “Green New Deal,” won’t they? Not necessarily. That’s traditional political thinking, not Green Politics.
In any case, such people are largely gone. Even in the 1950’s and 60’s, the New Deal didn’t seem like such a good deal after all, so we had a “Fair Deal,” “New Frontier”, “Great Society” (actually a concept taken from Adam Smith), etc. And another war (or series of them) which FDR (an anti-imperialist) would have vehemently opposed, but which Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson pursued “with vigor.”
East vs. West
“Frontier” was the key metaphor in the West, and we continue in that frame of reference, whether it’s in biomedical resarch or space exploration. We don’t want to be “centrists.” We want to be on the edge (das Rand, in German), whatever we’re doing. We want to be unique individuals who work with other rational people for mutual aid and benefit, not to exploit the poor or enslave minorities, or be part of some unthinking herd called Democrats, Republicans, or “the majority.”
The words “New Deal” must always represent State Socialism and a strong central government which will overcome all the evils which exist in the backward rural areas and inner cities – primarily by disarming and imprisoning everyone who resists. Economically, the New Deal is widely reccognized today as American Fascism, and the opposite of anything really Green (“grass-roots Democracy”). It was a corporate deal to save capitalism from the surging socialists and populists who were outraged by the abuses of the 1% and the gangster fiefdoms created by alcohol Prohibition and the establishment of the FBI – a completely unconstitutional abuse of federal power… See any parallels with today?
Vote your conscience, not your fears…
OK, forget the label “Green New Deal.” Am I voting for Stein? I wouldn’t if I thought a vote for Gary Johnson would be more “effective” or whatever in re-establishing National Sanity. I’ll let you know how I voted after the election. And I would encourage others to vote Green in every case – even if they offer a badly misinformed and misleading candidate. (People thought Obama was essentially Green, anti-war, pro-justice, etc., so few voted Green that year). I will even vote for a good Republican (we still have some in Montana – I need to talk some more with Ed Buttrey) over a bad Green or Libertarian.
Most of what is wrong with Stein is due to her Harvard education (which I must say, has also badly contaminated Denise Juneau, the Democratic candidate for Montana’s lone seat in the House). Indeed, they sound much the same on issues involving the academic elites, the need for more government spending, aggressive foreign policy, and more “success” in the existing educational and other public institutions.
Do we really want our schools and prisons to be more “successful” in establishing a Totalitarian State? That’s a distinction which Juneau, at least, seems to have missed, since she still supports fossil fuels and “Nuclear Deterrence” – easily among the top 5 threats to human life and civilization, and especially indigenous peoples everywhere. The idea of forcing people to spend more time in a dysfunctional “school to prison pipeline” is certainly nothing to be proud of.
I’ve heard nothing from her about less spending on prisons, the military, Homeland Security, or any other aspects of the National Security State. She seems to think she’s “supporting our Warriors” or something. Whatever “Peace Democrats” used to exist in Montana have largely been hunted to extinction. That’s simply not part of their platform anymore, and that’s why we desperately need for the anti-war candidates, whether Green or Libertarian, to be listened to and supported.
Meanwhile, the Montana Democrat and Republican parties continue their insane demands to foment more and more social crises with the War on Drugs and other ALEC initiatives to destroy the environment and any sort of independent politics and media. This is all in the name of “creating jobs” to make sure Montana-educated kids have jobs here at home – except that the most important ones, like manning the nuclear Doomsday Machine, are exclusively under Federal control. I imagine it’s much the same in New Mexico, yet their governor has allied himself with the forces of reason, culture, and peace, instead of the Military-Industrial-Complex.
My home town of Great Falls, MT is presently being occupied by the most horrendous Doomsday Machine in history – 150-200 strategic nuclear “Minuteman” missiles which can deliver a couple of hundred thousand tons of TNT-equivalent almost anywhere in the world, in less than an hour (hence the name).
Imagine what people think and believe growing up in the midst of such a facility. “It’s just for Deterrence,” we’re told. “They’ll never be used.” But we should spend another trillion dollars to keep a “better version” for another 50 years? Only if we plan to use them, which is the big news apparently being suppressed for election purposes.
The following article from Global Research, a Canadian foreign policy institute, makes specific reference to Montana’s nuclear capabilities, but the numbers and technology is from the 1990’s. Half or more of the world’s nuclear arsenals in Russia and the US have been dismantled, but now there is another nuclear arms race underway….
Global Research, October 18, 2016
Region: Russia and FSU, USA
Theme: Militarization and WMD, US NATO War Agenda
In-depth Report: Nuclear War
PHS comments/corrections for this article…
When MIRVed, our Minuteman IIIs had three warheads each, not 8. It is Trident and MX missiles (once deployed in Wyoming, before being cancelled) which carry 8-10 IRV’s, and I believe that treaties have also cut down that number, perhaps to one per missile. Non-MIRVed ballistic missiles are much less destabilizing, since it’s a one for one deal (hard to explain, but everything about strategic nuclear warfare depends on “balance”, counterforce, and the preservation of a “deterrent” – which is really just a mental construct, not an actual military strategy).
Every military operation involves threats to a real or potential enemy. That is what “deterrence” literally means. But if a country is already in a state of hostilities like the fabled “Cold War” between the US and USSR, “deterrence” has no meaning. It becomes, in Helen Caldicott’s pithy phrase, “Missile Envy.”
Which guy has the biggest stuff? Who can intimidate the other in a cosmic game of chicken? That’s really all it is. And when we politicize it, and put it in the hands of the corporate crime syndicates posing as Republican and Democratic Parties, we are certainly asking for disaster, and probably suicide as a civilization, if not the human species, itself.
At some point, we must choose between supporting a military government, coup, or revolution which ends these policies, or the actual Doomsday which Democrats/Republicans are preparing for in the name of “National Security.”