February, 2001



Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Harry Browne is not a newcomer to the rubber chicken network in politics. Already the most successful Libertarian candidate in a generation from his Presidential campaign in 1996, the 2000 Browne campaign was shooting for a vote total that simply could not be ignored by the national press or by the Dems and Reps. The mood of the American electorate appeared to favor greater freedom in our lives. Even the money available for campaigning was a lot more plentiful than it was for past campaigns. Party registration had grown 40% since 1996. With his experience and expanded backing, Harry Browne was assured of surpassing 1% of the national vote and could well go as high as 5%!

So why did the 2000 Harry Browne campaign end up with less than one-half of 1% of the national vote and fewer overall votes than the Libertarian ticket achieved in 1996?

The reasons are certainly many. The one offered by party apologists is that the close contest between Bush and Gore convinced voters to not "waste their vote" on a third party. After all, Nader and Buchanan's vote totals fell well below expectations also. Another reason for the disappointing results was that the protest vote itself was split four ways and Harry Browne had far less to spend than anyone with the exception of the National Taxpayers' Party. This is also true. But these facts are far from the whole story.

In this paper's view though there is another important reason the Harry Browne campaign did not capture the imagination and support of the American people. It was a failure of courage at a critical moment.

Last spring Harry Browne floated the idea of openly disregarding the campaign finance laws since they are unconstitutional in any event. Such a move would hopefully flock the press to a rebel candidate who was risking imprisonment for his views on individual freedom. With the openly partisan FEC as the government inquisitor and an accused who would never receive corrupting contributions from special interest groups anyway, this strategy had the potential to display for all to see the wall-to-wall hypocrisy that afflicts American national elections. The flood of media coverage over the heroic candidate could have catapulted Harry Browne to 10% in the polls and maybe provide him with a chance to debate Bush and Gore. If the idea flopped, even then, the Dems and Reps could only afford to be so punitive toward Harry without it backfiring. The Libertarian Party would have made a courageous stand on principle all the way to the Supreme Court proving what the present election laws really are.

On the critical side of this issue some question the spending priorities of the Browne campaign. Others question the effectiveness of the much-touted Browne television ads. Was recommending the abolition of Social Security in a 30 second ad the best way to appeal to voters? Was there too much of a focus on a less than glamorous candidate in the television spots? Bush and Gore did not display their monotonous sides much in their television ads. These are valid criticisms.

But someone or everyone chickened out. There was not enough money to pay Beltway lawyers for their predictions about how the lawsuits might go. We could not risk the future of the national party to judgments owing to the FEC. What if people actually had to go to jail for their beliefs? No one wished to contemplate the usual price for civil disobedience towards tyrants. So, not surprisingly and as the old truism goes: No guts, no glory.

Hopefully someday our party will have a national candidate with all of the courage of his or her convictions.


It was an election doomed to be decided in a less than satisfactory way. Gore could only win the Presidency by convincing the Florida courts to give him a third chance. Bush could more easily win the Presidency, but with fewer overall votes than Gore.

But the way this election was decided did more lasting harm to our nation than shady deal making in the Electoral College or in the Congress could ever have done. The five "conservative" justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who chose to decide the election on their own trashed not only their own supposed philosophy of lesser federal power, but even more so the very notion that the law constitutes more than the mere whims of powerful people.

Look at some of the constitutional principles this Washington power play flaunted: 1. The States are the final arbiters of their election procedures, 2. Equal protection scrutiny is largely for the benefit of historically disadvantaged groups, 3. Presidential Electors can be selected as late as when Congress convenes in January following the election, 4. Courts are to stay out of election controversies to the maximum extent possible, 5. Judges should not take nakedly partisan stands under circumstances where their own independence of judgment is already in question. In the end, not one of these limitations could sway the temptation to reach out to control the future. No judicial decision in the history of American jurisprudence has twisted the Constitution so savagely in order to reach a desired result.

The Rehnquist court, and especially Justice Antonin Scalia, will always be best remembered for the day the Presidency was stolen. Justice Scalia obviously has little interest in "strict construction" when it comes to the opportunity to become Chief Justice with newly appointed soul-mates. President Bush is certain to show his gratitude for the central role five Beltway Scalia Reps in black robes played in winning the White House for the good guys. Count on it.

When the opportunity to seize power presents itself, America now knows whose votes are the only ones that truly count.

Power Grabber


Although the Libertarian Party was invisible in national news coverage of the 2000 elections, some milestones were met.

The Libertarian Party became the first third party in U.S. history to achieve over 1,000,000 votes for candidates running for the House of Representatives. We already knew before the election that this was the first time any third party had so many candidates on federal ballots.

Virginia's Sharon Wood


Few of those groundbreaking congressional campaigns were more successful than our own Sharon Wood's campaign for Virginia's 1st Congressional District.

Starting with little more than a desire to advance the cause, Sharon received almost 4% of the vote cast in a close contest for an open seat. Maybe as importantly, Sharon took the message of real freedom to the public and the press in a relentless, effective way. She debated the Dem and/or Rep seven times earning the respect of the media and thousands of voters. She campaigned in parades and shopping malls and public events and everywhere else she could find. Without benefit of name recognition or campaign money, a woman who moved to Virginia just last year made a difference for freedom in a congressional district considered anathema to slaying the beast in Washington, D.C. So can we all!

Carla Howell of Massachusetts

Also take heart in the whirlwind achievement of Libertarian Senate Candidate Carla Howell of Massachusetts in the 2000 election. Organizing thousands of supporters and contributors, the Howell campaign brought the message of freedom more thoroughly to the voters of Massachusetts than any Libertarian candidate in any state has ever done. Shut out from debates or balanced news coverage, Carla Howell received 12% of the votes cast: just 1% behind the Republican candidate. If Ted Kennedy ever runs again, it is now near certain he will have to debate a Libertarian to keep his seat unlike this past year.

Who says women are a smaller part of the Libertarian movement?



(Reprinted from the Economist of London)

Many Americans say that the new administration's education plan is too bold. Actually, it is much too timid.

George Bush, striving already to give substance to " compassionate conservatism", has made education his first order of business. Fine: American education needs reform. On January 23rd he sent Congress his first legislative proposal, a plan to spend more on schools, with measures, he say's to ensure that the money gets results. The president wants children to be tested each year in math and English. Schools, districts and states that improved their performance would get more cash; the others would face, in effect, a financial penalty. States would be given more flexibility in the way they spend some federal education money. And, almost as an after thought, Mr. Bush advocates a limited voucher plan, which would help some poor parents of some students in some failing schools to pay for private tuition, maybe.


The educational establishment - the teachers' unions and, to the extent these two can be separated, the Democratic Party - applauded the early emphasis on more money for schools but deplored the partisan, divisive, immoderate, knee-jerk, reckless, ideological idea of allowing a few parents a bit more say in their children's education. The timidity of the plan's thinking on vouchers, and the hostility that greeted even that, spell doom for hopes that a Bush presidency might transform American education. The opportunity to do it is at hand, or so it seemed. It isn't going to happen.

A better bureaucrat: When Mr. Bush presented his plan, his remarks were widely seen, with reason, as signaling willingness to drop vouchers altogether. He avoided uttering the v-word. He promised to work with the Democrats, and they are ready with a plan of their own, quite like the president's except that the voucher part is excised. Their formula - "invest in reform, insist on results" - is regarded as radical in the party. (That "insist on results" part, you understand, could be construed as holding teachers to account in some way, which must be a mistake.) But the truth is that more spending plus more targets is not a new approach: it is only an improved version of the old approach. Welcome though improvements may be, it is not the bold departure that is needed.

Yes it makes sense to tie additional funding to performance targets: susceptible as they may be to evasion or manipulation, such devices are better than more money with no strings attached. But what is missing is the important pressure to compete for the business of individual, empowered consumers. That pressure is what makes the private sector of the American economy the most vibrant in the world. It is responsible for the excellence of bad schools. Vouchers, with generous funding, are the best answer. The evidence that greater parental choice, however arranged, raises standards is already persuasive. On all this Mr. Bush seemed convinced. How did this chance come to be missed?

The president would answer that the strength of opposition to market forces in education is daunting, especially for the opposing party. What is so disappointing, however, is that such a collaboration ought to have been possible on this issue. The Democratic Party is not entirely monolithic on vouchers: the idea commands support, interestingly, among black politicians familiar with the desperation of families trapped in the educational ghettos of many American cities, who see vouchers as the best way out. The charge that these Democrats should have leveled against Mr. Bush's voucher plan is that it offers too little money to make school choice a reality even for the targeted parents, let alone for parents in inner cities more generally. It is too timid, not too bold. Nobody on the left is saying so. That is a betrayal of the children that the American economic miracle will continue to leave behind. And all the centrally managed targets and top-down accountability in the word are not going to put it right.