Olson Against Bush, Hospers Against Kerry

The estimable Walter Olson, one of the keen intellects behind overlawyered.com and a principled advocate of individual liberty and limited government, has come out against the reelection of George W. Bush. On the other hand, John Hospers, former chairman of the department of philosophy at the University of Southern California and the only Libertarian Party presidential candidate to receive an electoral vote, has vigorously endorsed Bush over Kerry in an open letter to libertarians. (I couldn’t find Hospers’ letter on a web site, so I’ve posted the letter in the “Continue reading” section.)

I’ve known Wally and John for many years and respect them both. (I met Wally in libertarian politics when I was at the University of Southern California, which I attended in order to study with John Hospers when I was an eager 16-year-old philosopher.)

An Open Letter To Libertarians
by John Hospers

Dear Libertarian:

As a way of getting acquainted, let me just say that I was the first presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party back in l972, and was the author of the first full-length book, Libertarianism, describing libertarianism in detail. I also wrote the Libertarian Party’s Statement of Principles at the first libertarian national convention in 1972. I still believe in those principles as strongly as ever, but this year — more than any year since the establishment of the Libertarian Party — I have major concerns about the choices open to us as voting Americans.

There is a belief that’s common among many libertarians that there is no essential difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties — between a John Kerry and a George W. Bush administration; or worse: that a Bush administration would be more undesirable. Such a notion could not be farther from the truth, or potentially more harmful to the cause of liberty.

The election of John Kerry would be, far more than is commonly realized, a catastrophe. Regardless of what he may say in current campaign speeches, his record is unmistakable: he belongs to the International Totalitarian Left in company with the Hillary and Bill Clintons, the Kofi Annans, the Ted Kennedys, and the Jesse Jacksons of the world. The Democratic Party itself has been undergoing a transformation in recent years; moderate, pro-American, and strong defense Senators such as Zell Miller, Joe Lieberman and Scoop Jackson are a dying breed. Observe how many members of the Democrat Party belong to the Progressive Caucus, indistinguishable from the Democratic Socialists of America. That caucus is the heart and soul of the contemporary Democratic Party.

Today’s Democrats have been out of majority power for so long that they are hungry for power at any price and will do anything to achieve it, including undermining the President and our troops in time of war; for them any victory for Americans in the war against terrorism is construed as a defeat for them.

The Democratic Party today is a haven for anti-Semites, racists, radical environmentalists, plundering trial lawyers, government employee unions, and numerous other self-serving elites who despise the Constitution and loathe private property. It is opposed to free speech — witness the mania for political correctness and intimidation on college campuses, and Kerry’s threat to sue television stations that carry the Swift Boat ads. If given the power to do so, Democrats will use any possible means to suppress opposing viewpoints, particularly on talk radio and in the university system. They will attempt to enact “hate speech” and “hate crime” laws and re-institute the Fairness Doctrine, initiate lawsuits, and create new regulations designed to suppress freedom of speech and intimidate their political adversaries. They will call it “defending human rights.” This sort of activity may well make up the core of a Kerry administration Justice Department that will have no truck with the rule of law except as a weapon to use against opponents.

There are already numerous stories of brownshirt types committing violence against Republican campaign headquarters all over the country, and Democrat thugs harassing Republican voters at the polls. Yet not a word about it from the Kerry campaign. Expect this dangerous trend to increase dramatically with a Kerry win, ignored and tacitly accepted by the liberal-left mainstream media. This is an ominous sign of worse things to come.

Kerry, who changes direction with the wind, has tried to convince us that he now disavows the anti-military sentiments that he proclaimed repeatedly in the l970s. But in fact he will weaken our military establishment and devastate American security by placing more value on the United Nations than on the United States: for example he favors the Kyoto Treaty and the International Criminal Court, and opposed the withdrawal of the U.S. from the ABM Treaty. He has been quoted as saying that it is honorable for those in the U.S. military to die under the flag of the U.N. but not that of the U.S. Presumably he and a small cadre of bureaucrats should rule the world, via the U.N. or some other world body which will make all decisions for the whole world concerning private property, the use of our military, gun ownership, taxation, and environmental policy (to name a few). In his thirty-year career he has demonstrated utter contempt for America, national security, constitutional republicanism, democracy, private property, and free markets.

His wife’s foundations have funneled millions of dollars into far-left organizations that are virulently hostile to America and libertarian principles. Not only would these foundations continue to lack transparency to the American people, they would be given enormous vigor in a Kerry administration.

Already plans are afoot by the Kerry campaign to steal the coming election via a legal coup, e.g. to claim victory on election night no matter what the vote differential is, and initiate lawsuits anywhere and everywhere they feel it works to their advantage, thus making a mockery of our election process, throwing the entire process into chaos — possibly for months — and significantly weakening our ability to conduct foreign policy and protect ourselves domestically. Let me repeat: we are facing the very real possibility of a political coup occurring in America. Al Gore very nearly got away with one in 2000. Do not underestimate what Kerry and his ilk are going to attempt to do to America.

George Bush has been criticized for many things — and in many cases with justification: on campaign finance reform (a suppression of the First Amendment), on vast new domestic spending, on education, and on failing to protect the borders. No self-respecting libertarian or conservative would fail to be deeply appalled by these. His great virtue, however, is that he has stood up — knowingly at grave risk to his political viability — to terrorism when his predecessors, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton did not. On many occasions during their administrations terrorists attacked American lives and property. Clinton did nothing, or engaged in a feckless retaliation such as bombing an aspirin factory in the Sudan (based on faulty intelligence, to boot). Then shortly after Bush became president he was hit with “the big one”: 9/11. It was clear to him that terrorism was more than a series of criminal acts: it was a war declared upon U.S. and indeed to the entire civilized world long before his administration. He decided that action had to be taken to protect us against future 9/11s involving weapons of mass destruction, including “suitcase” nuclear devices.

Indeed, today it is Islamic fundamentalism that increasingly threatens the world just as Nazi fascism and Soviet communism did in previous decades. The Islamo-fascists would be happy to eliminate all non-Muslims without a tinge of regret. Many Americans still indulge in wishful thinking on this issue, viewing militant Islam as a kind of nuisance, which can be handled without great inconvenience in much the same way as one swats flies, rather than as hordes of genocidal religious fanatics dedicated to our destruction.

The president has been berated for taking even minimal steps to deal with the dangers of this war (the allegations made against the Patriot Act seem to me based more on hysteria and political opportunism than on reality). But Bush, like Churchill, has stood steadfast in the face of it, and in spite of the most virulent hate and disinformation campaign that any American president has had to endure. Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists. Saddam’s regime is no longer a major player in the worldwide terror network. Libya has relinquished their weapons of terror. The Pakistani black market in weapons of mass destruction has been eliminated. Arafat is rotting in Ramallah. Terrorist cells all over the world have been disrupted, and thousands of terrorists killed. The result: Americans are orders of magnitude safer.

National defense is always expensive, and Bush has been widely excoriated for these expenditures. But as Ayn Rand memorably said at a party I attended in l962, in response to complaints that “taxes are too high” (then 20%), “Pay 80% if you need it for defense.” It is not the amount but the purpose served that decides what is “too much.” And the purpose here is the continuation of civilized life on earth in the face of vastly increased threats to its existence.

Bush cut income tax rates for the first time in fifteen years. These cuts got us moving out of the recession he inherited, and we are all economically much better off because of them. 1.9 million new jobs have been added to the economy since August 2003. Bush has other projects in the wind for which libertarians have not given him credit. For example:

(l) A total revision of our tax code. We will have a debate concerning whether this is best done via a flat tax or a sales tax. If such a change were to occur, it would be a gigantic step in the direction of liberty and prosperity. No such change will occur with Kerry.

(2) A market-based reform of Social Security. This reform, alone, could bring future budget expenditures down so significantly that it would make his current expenditures seem like pocket change. Kerry has already repudiated any such change in social security laws.

The American electorate is not yet psychologically prepared for a completely libertarian society. A transition to such a society takes time and effort, and involves altering the mind-set of most Americans, who labor under a plethora of economic fallacies and political misconceptions. It will involve a near-total restructuring of the educational system, which today serves the liberal-left education bureaucracy and Democratic Party, not the student or parent. It will require a merciless and continuous expose of the bias in the mainstream media (the Internet, blogs, and talk radio have been extremely successful in this regard over the past few years). And it will require understanding the influence and importance of the Teresa Kerry-like Foundations who work in the shadows to undermine our constitutional system of checks and balances.

Most of all, it will require the American people — including many libertarians — to realize the overwhelming dangerousness of the American Left — a Fifth Column comprised of the elements mentioned above, dedicated to achieving their goal of a totally internationally dominated America, and a true world-wide Fascism.

Thus far their long-term plans have been quite successful. A Kerry presidency will fully open their pipeline to infusions of taxpayer-funded cash and political pull. At least a continued Bush presidency would help to stem this tide, and along the way it might well succeed in preserving Western civilization against the fanatic Islamo-fascists who have the will, and may shortly have the weapons capability, to bring it to an end.

When the stakes are not high it is sometimes acceptable, even desirable, to vote for a ‘minor party’ candidate who cannot possibly win, just to “get the word out” and to promote the ideals for which that candidate stands. But when the stakes are high, as they are in this election, it becomes imperative that one should choose, not the candidate one considers philosophically ideal, but the best one available who has the most favorable chance of winning. The forthcoming election will determine whether it is the Republicans or the Democrats that win the presidency. That is an undeniable reality. If the election is as close as it was in 2000, libertarian voters may make the difference as to who wins in various critical “Battle Ground” states and therefore the presidency itself. That is the situation in which we find ourselves in 2004. And that is why I believe voting for George W. Bush is the most libertarian thing we can do.

We stand today at an important electoral crossroads for the future of liberty, and as libertarians our first priority is to promote liberty and free markets, which is not necessarily the same as to promote the Libertarian Party. This time, if we vote Libertarian, we may win a tiny rhetorical battle, but lose the larger war.

John Hospers
Los Angeles, CA

10 Responses to “Olson Against Bush, Hospers Against Kerry”

  1. Bill Woolsey

    Hospers’ remarks are over-the-top.

    Castro is part of the international
    totalitarian left. The Clintons?
    Is totalitarian just an empty insult?

    Kerry’s modest social democratic agenda
    wouldn’t be good, but it would hardly
    be a disaster. Or did I miss where he
    was calling for the nationalization of
    all industry?

    Hospers has always had an excessively alarmist
    view of foreign threats. Let’s remember that
    Hospers didn’t argue that the Reagan buildup
    was a good idea in order to force a collapse of
    the Soviet Union. He beleived it was essential
    to stop an imminent invasion of the West.

    As for his view of Islamism, it appears to
    be even less reasonable both in terms of the
    threat and any plausible soution.

  2. I understand the benefit of having people in the driver’s seat who are friendly to your cause. Kerry is definitely not a friend of the social security reform the Cato institute has been working so long and hard toward. There may be some value in a Bush vote for those who really want to go for that first down, but I’m not in a position to judge how authentic the recent talk is. Since Bush is a centrist conservative, my hope is that the mass in the center stays with Bush, and my libertarian vote registers on the radar to help pull the culture further north on the Nolan chart. Since Kerry is a (less than) centrist (American) liberal, my hope is that a Republican congress can keep him in check, and my libertarian vote registers on the radar to help pull the culture further north on the Nolan chart.

  3. Jacob T. Levy

    I’m with Bill– of all the disturbing things in Hospers’ latter, I found the casual use of “totalitarian” the most disturbing. “Fifth column” and “fascism” are close behind. And– “Progressive Caucus, indistinguishable from the Democratic Socialists of America”?

    Along the dimensions that some libertarians use to identify *all* non-libertarian politicians as socialists and facsists– that they do not believe in the non-aggression principle and that they deny pure self-ownership, etc– Bush and Kerry both qualify. On all other uses of those words, neither qualify. How it could possibly be the case that Kerry, but not Bush, is a socialist fascist totalitarian escapes me entirely.

    (Moreover, I think it’s generally indecent to identify non-mass-murdering, ordinary-election-contesting, center-left or center-right politicians as totalitarian at all. At a suitably high level of abstraction they may share certain premisses with, e.g., Communism; but at that level of abstraction very nearly every human who has ever lived has shared premisses with Communism. That makes that the wrong level of abstraction at which to draw the boundaries around the category “totalitarian” lest we drain it of its really distinctive evil.)

  4. I hope that Hospers is exaggerating the beliefs of the Left, but I’m not sure that he is.

    Giving Michael Moore a VIP seat at the Democratic convention says a lot. If most of the Left were moderate, that would not happen.

    Most of my friends are on the Left, and I don’t think I could count on them to keep the Democratic Party out of the hands of the wackos.

  5. This is an excellent letter and I must say that he is correct. As for this comment:

    And– “Progressive Caucus, indistinguishable from the Democratic Socialists of America”?

    If you look up the Progressive Caucus, you will see that it was created by the Democratic Socialists of America and that all the members there sign onto a policy declaration written up by the DSA. This is the actual socialist wing of the Democratic Party, and the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, is a member of this caucus. That says an awful lot.

  6. sillyblindharper

    Mr. Hospers has given a clear elucidation of the storm of thoughts and feelings that are in my heart at this time. Not since reading Ayn Rand as a thirteen-year-old kid have I felt such simple relief at reading someone’s words. My thanks.

  7. As a resident of Texas — a state wherein Bush is certain to win — I have decided to vote for Badnarik precisely to make my point, and to make the Libertarian party a recognized permanent political party. In fact, I have managed to get others, including Kerry supporters, to do the same (we have early voting here in Texas). However, if I were not living in a state where it is clear Bush will win, I would likely vote for Bush, for all the reasons Hospers gives above. So our votes should strategic: if you are in a state where it is clear who the winner will be, vote Libertarian, and try to get others to do so on that argument, that their vote will matter more only if they vote Libertarian. Otherwise, in the states where it’s close, we have to vote for Bush. We cannot elect someone who says 9-11 didn’t change him at all. If it didn’t change you, you are heartless (a bad trait for a President) and naive. Kerry has his head in the sand (he also said terrorism was a nuisance). Bush is right about this: if Kerry is elected, we will get attacked again. Aside from the fact that a transition weakens us, so that we are more vulnerable to attack (this is likely one of the causes of 9-11 after all — the transition), Kerry also obviously doesn’t take thie threat seriously. If 9-11 won’t make you take it seriously, what will?

  8. I found Hospers’s letter not only unpersuasive, but deeply, deeply sub-intellectual. To drop the major context of the current wars with Islamic peoples is unconscionable; America’s actions in the mid-East for the last fifty years is not uniformly noble, and had Americans been treated by a foreign power in the manner their government has treated Islamic peoples, they themselves would have cheered a 9/11 type event directed against their enemies. The commonplace defenses of Abu Ghraib and other systematic torturing is pretty much evidence for this. To talk of Kerry “stealing the election” by claiming victory, etc. etc, is risible, considering the vile tactics the Republicans used in the last election over the shenanigans in Florida. Talk about forgetting history! The litany of anti-left complaints sounds like nothing other than a person who has been listening to too much right-wing talk radio. But worst of all, in a sense, is his utterly unreflective belief that a Kerry win would mean a mandate and a complete lurch in a leftward direction. Instead, a Kerry win would mean, once again, that Americans would be blessed with divided government. Divided government has so far proven the only significant brake on government growth. But then, I see little real evidence in Hospers’s shameful right-wing ranting that he really wants to decrease the size of government. He has bigger things on his mind, like a never-ending war against Islamofascism. I’ve lost a great deal of my respect for the man. He should be very ashamed of himself, and his abandonment of rigorous thinking about politics.

  9. Nicholas Weininger

    What Jacob Levy and Wirkman Virkkala said.

    Also: the most grotesque part of the letter for me was the bit where he treated Bush’s rhetoric about tax reform and Social Security privatization as if they were indications of actual policy directions. After 32 years in politics, he should know that whenever a national Republican leader says such things they are foul lies concocted to keep libertarian-minded Republicans from straying off the reservation. They never, ever, ever mean what they say about shrinking government. It’s terribly disappointing that Hospers seems to have been gulled into believing that this time they do.