Brett Bittner

Recent Posts From Brett Bittner

Which libertarian are you?

As the libertarian philosophy gains popularity in response to the repeated failures of government, we need to define which type of libertarians we want to be. Our numbers are growing, and as we reach critical mass, we need to start to specialize our political activities. In my mind, there are three kinds of libertarians in politics: the candidates, the party or cause leadership, and the activists.

You should recognize this specialization as the division of labor. Previously, libertarians had to “wear many hats,” because of how few our numbers were. Today, that is not the case.

Have you ever waved signs at a rally or a busy intersection for your favorite candidate or “pet” issue? Have you ever made statements to the press, defining an organization’s position on an issue? Have you ever run for office?

Chances are, most libertarians can answer “yes” to the first two questions, with a slightly smaller number answering affirmatively about the third one. I am among those who can say yes to all three.

Those days are, hopefully, coming to an end.

Activists

Our hard-working activists are recruiting new libertarians through their efforts “on the ground,” working outreach booths, attending rallies, going door to door, passing out literature, and writing op-eds and letters to the editor about libertarian issues. These are often thankless jobs that happen in extreme weather, on weekends, and bring attention to our philosophy at the actual grassroots level.

Many who “get off the couch” and get involved in politics for the first time start here, but it is not just for beginners. There is an art (and a LOT of effort) to a successful event or outreach activity, and there are some who find their niche here.

Party or Cause Leadership

Lead By Example, Not With A Label

“I’m not sure how active I can be in the liberty movement while I’m building my business.”

That is pretty close to what I recall from a conversation over dinner last week, where I was having my brain picked by someone who is “dipping their toe” in the world of politics after previously being fairly apathetic.

The response to my guest was probably not what he expected, but it led us into a great conversation. I told him, “Lead by example, not with a label.”

While that may sound simplistic, I know many in the liberty movement who may as well wear a sign around their neck that says “I’M A LIBERTARIAN. HOW CAN I PISS YOU OFF TODAY?” Typically, these are the same people who cannot stop talking about the evils they perceive in government, pausing only to breathe and possibly to find their original point after they take the conversation off course. Unfortunately, these are the first and only conversations some hold with a libertarian.

Often, these libertarians are so consumed with “spreading the message” that they forgot conversations involve both talking AND, the more important aspect, listening. They have an agenda to push that will not be deterred by their conversation partner’s interests (or lack thereof), concerns, or beliefs. In my experience, this results in a very few follow-up conversations and even fewer converts.

I am guilty of doing this myself, but I sought a better way to build my own team for liberty. What I found was an easier path that is also a better way. By “walking the walk” conveyed in the talking points prepared for conversations, I found by being a positive example of libertarianism, people sought out to talk to me, instead of my constant searching for the next potential target/victim.

How Libertarians CAN Win

If this post got you fired up, thinking that I’m a defeatist who sees nothing good coming from the efforts of Libertarians/libertarians and other grassroots candidates, keep reading.  I rarely identify a problem, oppose an idea, or “play pessimist” without having an alternative or a plan.

Civic Involvement

Anyone considering a run for office should attend meetings for that office, long before announcing or qualifying for the post.  Our civic involvement should have others asking us to campaign and lead, rather than being an afterthought once already committed to running.  Not only will we garner the attention and favor of those already involved, this is an opportunity to get to know the intricacies of the procedures and practices of the body, the “power players,” and to have people know you.  How many of you know why your City Council or County Commission uses a “consent agenda”?

I vaguely and briefly noted my advocacy (in the aforementioned companion post) for serving in a volunteer capacity in an appointed position prior to seeking elected office, but I would like to strongly state that this is a result of involvement at the local level and a way to further build your network and name recognition in the community.  Additionally, it removes the need to run strictly with a platform of philosophy and promises on which you may not be able to deliver.

Planning For the “Long Game”

Why Libertarians Lose

“Libertarians will never win.”  “Why don’t you just join the Republican Party?”  I’ve heard all the reasons I’m “doing it wrong” from people outside the Libertarian Party.  “We don’t have ballot access.”  “We aren’t able to raise money, because we aren’t bought by special interests.”  I’ve heard every excuse inside the Libertarian Party about why we do not win elections.  Aside from the ballot access issue and joining the Republican Party, what you’re about to read is also valid for “small L” libertarians, grassroots campaigns of either the Democratic or Republican variety, and nearly any recently “off the couch” activist-turned-candidate.  There are obvious exceptions in the case of independently wealthy individuals or celebrities or athletes cashing in on their fame, but these are generally the “rules.”  Also, there are “wins” that can be achieved without actually having more votes than the others running, but that is for another day.

The “mistakes” I outline below are not the fault of the candidate, their staff or their volunteers.  It is my opinion that they are just unaware of the “mistakes.”  The first and most devastating mistake that Libertarians make is that they are not involved in government until they are ready to run for office.  They have not attended a single City Council, County Commission meeting, or visited their state legislature to watch them in action, let alone been involved enough to know the players or the game.  At the local level, there are many opportunities to get involved without winning an election.  This mistake hurts potential candidates for two reasons: no one knows who they are, and they do not have any record on which to run.

Book Review: It Is Dangerous To Be Right When The Government Is Wrong

Fox News analyst and best-selling author, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, released a new book Tuesday October 18th entitled, It Is Dangerous To Be Right When The Government Is Wrong: The Case For Personal Freedom. I have not read any of Judge Napolitano’s prior books, yet I have watched his television show on Fox Business, Freedom Watch, and I find myself agreeing with nearly everything that he says.

Many of you know that I am a Libertarian (card-carrying, candidate-supporting Big “L” Libertarian), so it should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the latest work by Judge Napolitano. While most libertarians or Libertarians use the Constitution as their basis for political philosophy, the Judge goes beyond the Constitution to its roots as a protection of natural rights and Natural Law for all people. As someone who believes that the Constitution serves as our protection from the government trampling on our natural rights, I found this book aligns nearly identical to my political philosophy, as well as my sense of morality. Do not let that alignment keep you from reading what I found to be one of the best cases for personal liberty and the responsibility that an individual pays for such liberty.

EconStories Releases “Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two”

The folks at EconStories released their latest video today, depicting a “Round Two” of their earlier Keynes vs. Hayek hip-hop battle, as the two economists battle over the amount of government spending that should occur to bring America out of tough economic times, what defines prosperity, and whether spending should be top-down or bottom-up.

You should see some other familiar faces portrayed, and the security guard at the beginning is played by Duke University economist, Michael Munger.

Gary Johnson Announces His Candidacy For President

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson today announced that he is seeking the 2012 Republican nomination for President of the United States. Johnson served as governor from 1995 to 2003. The announcement was made Thursday morning on the steps of the New Hampshire State House.

Announcing his candidacy, Johnson released the following statement:

Let’s talk about America.

Today’s mess didn’t just happen. We elected it — one senator, member of Congress and president at a time. Our leaders in Washington, DC, have “led” America to record unemployment, a devalued currency, banking scandals, the mortgage crisis, drug crisis, economic crisis, loss of our nation’s industrial might – and a long list of other reminders our nation is way off course.

Why am I telling you this? Because America is better than this. And because I can help fix it.

I’m a fix-it man.

Before I was governor of New Mexico, I started a one-man fix-it business that I grew into an American dream with more than a thousand employees. My formula for success was simple. I showed up on time, did what I said what I’d do, and knew what I was doing.

I did the same thing as governor, exactly. Within two terms, I’d eliminated New Mexico’s budget deficit and cut the rate of state government growth in half while reducing the state workforce by over 10%, without laying off a single qualified state worker. Saying no to waste, corruption and political games is easier than you think. During my two terms I vetoed 750 pieces of bad, unnecessary and wasteful legislation, and used the line-item veto to save millions of dollars. I was called “Governor Veto,” and accepted that nickname proudly.

Earth to Congress: It’s a SPENDING Problem

In recent weeks, the debate over the the retention of tax cuts initiated during the George W. Bush administration monopolized the political discussion, aside from a few politicians showing us that they care nothing for the First Amendment as they condemn Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange. What Congress and President Obama seem not to grasp is that regardless of tax policy, the underlying issue for our economic situation is spending, specifically our affinity to borrow money to pay for spending beyond revenue.

No matter what the Presidential Budget Commission recommends with regard to taxation, a value-added tax (VAT), a broader-based income tax with few exemptions, or a switch to a consumption-based tax system, the Federal Government has an addiction. That addiction is to spending taxpayer money.

Whether it is funding for our imperial efforts to expand the American reach across the globe in the name of democracy and fighting terrorism, to continue to fund Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlement programs, or a variety of other government programs, substantial cuts to spending MUST crop up in the debate over how to “right the ship.” The addiction to spend is not a Democrat problem, and it is not a Republican problem; it is a bipartisan problem, and the only answer lies in a nonpartisan solution to break the addiction.

I understand that there are significant obstacles to breaking any addiction, and the Federal Government committed funding to many people and programs. Currently, we are at a point that difficult choices must be made NOW to avoid necessary, drastic, and clumsy choices when the funding is no longer available.

New Jersey Man Sentenced To Seven Years In Prison For Lawful Possession of a Firearm

In this clip from a Fox News, we learn about Brian Aitkens, a father, Foundation For Economic Education scholar, and an entrepreneur in transit from Colorado to New Jersey during a change of residence, who was arrested in January of 2009 for illegal possession of firearms.  Subsequently, he was convicted of that offense, even though the guns in question were legally owned, disassembled, and with ammunition segregated from the weapons, as he fell under the exceptions to the particularly onerous New Jersey gun control laws.

Several days prior to traveling to his new home with his personal belongings, loading his car so full that it took police nearly three hours to reach the firearms, he contacted the New Jersey state to inquire as to how to legally transport them to his new residence.

A full rundown of the circumstances, as well as the movement to set Brian free can be found here.

Wikileaks: Criminal Enterprise or Useful Check On Government?

With the recent release of information likely to embarrass ambassadors and diplomats, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have become targets for the government’s latest arrows in the “War on Terror.” Even the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), has called for the Justice Department to aggressively investigate and prosecute the site and its founder, an Australian, for the releases that many government officials have cited as “putting lives at risk.”

While I haven’t read every word released by Wikileaks, I find it hard to believe that leaked information about the American government and their actions will endanger lives. In fact, I like the “new normal” in terms of government transparency. I hardly think that accepting and publishing information given qualifies one, as King asserts that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should declare, as “a foreign terrorist organization.”

The investigation into Assange’s involvement in a suspected rape in Sweden aside, the work being done by his organization opened many eyes about the Federal Government’s actions in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their publication of government information on the Iraq War in October provided a valuable release of information to the public with statistics, documentation, and accounts of war activities that the U.S. Government feels is too dangerous for us to know. In fact, Time Magazine stated that Wikileaks “Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

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