|Montréal, 16 septembre 2000 / No 67
(Source: Statistique Canada)
Entre les deux principaux candidats à la présidence des États-Unis qui se feront la lutte d’ici le 7 novembre, le choix du moins pire est clair: avec le républicain Georges W. Bush, les taxes des Américains risquent de baisser un peu et le poids du gouvernement fédéral, s’il n’est pas réduit de façon significative, restera au moins plus ou moins le même.
Son adversaire démocrate, le vice-président Al Gore, est quant à lui un véritable socialiste qui promet de relancer l’activisme gouvernemental, dépenser tous les surplus budgétaires, créer de nouveaux programmes sociaux ou accroître l’ampleur de ceux qui existent déjà, et enfermer le pays dans un filet de réglementation environnementale.
Pour un libertarien, c’est un choix entre un désastre et un moindre mal. Il y a toutefois une autre option plus attrayante, même si elle n’aura d’effet qu’à plus long terme: celle de voter pour un véritable candidat libertarien, Harry Browne.
M. Browne avait obtenu seulement un demi de 1% des voix lors de la dernière campagne de 1996. Malgré cela, le Parti libertarien est maintenant mieux financé, aura plus de candidats aux multiples postes en jeu dans les différents paliers de gouvernement et risque de faire élire un plus grand nombre d’entre eux dans les courses locales à travers le pays. C’est, sur le plan organisationnel, le 3e partie en importance aux États-Unis – même si les candidats beaucoup mieux connus que sont Ralph Nader (Parti Vert) et Pat Buchanan (Parti réformiste) obtiendront sans doute plus de voix dans la course présidentielle.
Harry Browne a expliqué sa philosophie lors d’une récente entrevue à l’émission Talk of the Nation sur la National Public Radio il y a quelques semaines. Le texte qui suit reprend mot pour mot ses principaux éléments. On peut aussi l’écouter au complet, avec la tribune téléphonique qui a suivie, sur le site de NPR.
Site officiel d’Harry Browne: www.harrybrowne.org
Site du Parti Libertarien des États-Unis: www.lp.org
Juan Williams (host): This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Juan Williams.
Although it's been around less than 30 years, the Libertarian Party is a surprisingly well established part of the American political scene. It was founded in 1971 and since then, the party has run a candidate for president in every election. The last presidential race in 1996 was the third straight election in which the Libertarians were on every ballot in all 50 states. Harry Browne was the party's nominee in 96 and won less than one half of 1% of the national vote. But the party is bigger than the presidential race. In 1996, the Libertarians had over 1000 candidates running for office nationwide, including 218 for Congress. There is a Libertarian mayor in California, as well as a Libertarian in the Vermont state Senate. There are almost 300 other party members holding local offices around the country. This had led Libertarians to claim that they are bigger than either the Reform Party or the Green Party and in fact are America's major third party.
While complaining that the government is too large and too powerful is not an outside the mainstream idea in American political thought, the Libertarians do have some radical ideas. They believe in a totally free market capitalist economy with no welfare for anyone, including children. They would eliminate all taxes, they would end Social Security [ndlr: le régime public de pension pour les retraités]. As Harry Browne recently told a reporter, Libertarians
Harry Browne: Thank you very much, it's a pleasure to be here.
Juan Williams: Congratulations on winning the Libertarian Party's nomination. Did it come as a surprise?
Harry Browne: No, it didn't. I've been working very hard to get it, and of course we have been running a general election campaign for over a year in preparation for this, and we are getting better coverage than we got in 96 by a long shot. I expect that we will be far more visible this year because as you pointed out, we are bigger and stronger and better financed than we were four years ago.
Juan Williams: Harry Browne, tell me, let's go through some of the things that I think stand out, for one, no welfare, not even for children?
Harry Browne: Well, I didn't say no welfare, what I said was no government welfare. It doesn't make any sense to turn over anything to the government because the government makes a mess of everything it does. Its war on poverty has escalated poverty, its war on drugs has expanded drug use in America and created the worst crime wave since alcohol prohibition of the 1920s. And government welfare is a very clumsy, inefficient way to help people. We want to see people get real help, we want to see people change their lives, not become wards of the state for the rest of their lives. And so, we think that it is much more important to put more money in the hands of individuals who can support churches and other forms of charity that really make a difference in people's lives.
Juan Williams: Now, you also said no Social Security, what about that?
Harry Browne: Well, Social Security is a very very bad deal. If you could put the same amount of money that they're taking from you in Social Security, just in a bank savings account, you could retire with three to four times as much monthly income as you get – as Social Security promises, and we don't even know whether it will deliver it – plus you would keep and estate then of a half a million dollars that you could pass on to your children, and Social Security gives you nothing. So, I want to unlock the door and let you out of Social Security so that that 15% tax that's going to the government can be used by you in whatever way you think is best, spend it, save it, give it away, do whatever you think is right. If you're a free person, you should have control of that money.
Juan Williams: Now, what about eliminating the income tax completely? That seems wild to me!
Harry Browne: Well, it's hard for us to believe, but government got by without an income tax for the first 120 years of its existence. It wasn't until 1913 that an income tax become a permanent part of American life. That provided virtually unlimited financing for the government. They could get into anything they wanted because the money could always be gotten by just raising taxes and taxes and taxes and taxes, and more and more. So now, the government has stuck its nose into education, into health care, welfare, law enforcement, areas that either were meant to belong to the citizens themselves or to the states or local governments. And the result has been tragedy.
We have a very deteriorating educational system, the best health care system in the world has been destroyed over the last 30 years by the federal government, to the point where they just keep passing more and more laws to try to fix all the problems that have been created by the previous laws. And all of this would end if we would limit the government to just those functions in the Constitution, and if we do that, then the current level of tariffs and excise taxes would be more than enough to finance national defense, the judiciary and the other things that the Constitution does ask the federal government to do. And you would be free of the income tax, your children would be free of it, and your grandchildren could go through life without ever knowing the burden of taxation that you've had to face.
Juan Williams: Now, Harry Browne, as the Libertarian Party's candidate for president, why do you think that American foreign policy is, and I'm quoting you here, reckless? I told the listeners in the introduction that you think that in fact it puts the American children at risk of dying in wars, and makes American cities targets for terrorists. Explain why you're saying that.
Harry Browne: Well, let's start with the terrorist part of it. Why is it that terrorists don't target Switzerland? That's as prosperous and rich a country as America is, but terrorists come here and bomb the World Trade Center, they shoot down the TWA plane over Scotland, they do other things to try to get back at America for interfering in other countries' affairs. We have the strongest national defense in the history of the world. We can annihilate any country in the world, we can bully any two countries into settlement on terms that please the president of the United States, we have troops occupying almost 100 countries of the world as though we were the Roman Empire. All of these things take place, and right now the president has brought two people from the Middle East to Washington to make a settlement and of course, why do they come to Washington for the settlement?, because if they make a settlement the president will promise them more foreign aid from your pocket book.
All of this creates animosities around the world. We arm one country and its enemies hate us, so then we arm that country and its enemies hate us. Sooner of later almost every country in the world has people that hate the United States government. They still love McDonald's, but they hate the United States government. And by having mutual defense treaties with countries all around the world, we could easily get sucked into another world war. And those mutual defense treaties do nothing to make us safer, because we know that Turkey and Italy and countries like that are not going to run to our aid if we were attacked by China or some other country. All they do is pull us into their wars, and of course if Turkey and Italy start a war against each other, we're gonna have to enter the war on both sides because of our mutual defense treaties! So this is what I call a reckless foreign policy that puts us at risk of going to war and having your children die.
Juan Williams: Well, what about immigration? The Libertarian Party is in favor of totally open immigration. That seems again like a radical idea.
Harry Browne: Well, that's virtually what we have now, because government is unable to close the borders any more than it is able to keep drugs out of the country. The fact of the matter is that illegal immigrants come into this country all the time, that's why they're continually railing about it on Capitol Hill, and that's why people like Pat Buchanan and others always have an issue to push because they'll never be able to stop them from coming. You could put up a Berlin Wall along the border.
Libertarians recognize that the problem is not the people coming into this country, the problem is the welfare state that attracts the wrong kind of people. People can come here and get immediate free benefits, better than the benefits they can get at home, and so it tends to attract the wrong kind of people. We want to get rid of the welfare state, leave the borders open and let the people come in who want to come to find peace and freedom and opportunity, and to be in a country where nobody will ask for your papers, be in a country where nobody will put a number on you, be in a country where nobody will extort a percentage of your income as a price of getting a job. This is what America was meant to be, this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. This is what the Statue of Liberty means, standing there in harbor at New York which those beautiful words inscribed upon it. But instead, what we have is a giant welfare state, just like the old world of Europe, and so we are virtually indistinguishable from those countries.
What do Libertarians want?
Juan Williams: I was thinking as you were going along there, what is it that you do stand for? We've been going on about policies that you're opposed to, tell me what you think the government should be doing.
Harry Browne: Well, you said: what do I stand for. Let me say first of all that I stand for you. I don't believe you are a dysfunctional child, I don't believe that people like Newt Gingrinch and Al Gore and Georges W. Bush have to decide how big your toilet should be for you, which they do now. I don't believe they need to decide how much of your income you should put away and where it should go and how you should live and what you should be allowed to look at on the internet, and what you can be allowed to smoke and what to drink and all of these things. I don't believe that. I believe in you, I believe that you are capable of making your own decisions. And there are people in this country who can't make good decisions, but the best way we can make them more mature and more responsible is to set them free, to see the consequences of their wrong acts, so that they get grow and mature instead of being kept as wards of the state.
Now, what should the government do? Governments are instituted among men to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That means we look to government to protect us from foreign predators and to protect us from violent people in our society, the evil people, the people who want to get what they want in life by knocking other people around. Those people should be in prison.
Juan Williams: So you're in favor of a military that would oppose foreign forces that would come and try to take over the United States, and you're for a domestic police force here in the United States.
Harry Browne: Yes. But the Founding Fathers were very careful not to set up a federal police force, because they knew that's what was the big trouble over in Europe where countries became police states.
Juan Williams: So, you would be opposed to the idea...
Harry Browne: Yes, absolutely. And the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] and the BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] and all of these federal agencies with these gun-toting employees walking around with guns on their hips. Even the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has employees that go around carrying guns, and the engineers. All of these different agencies of the government have gun-toting people at the same time that they're trying to tell us that we shouldn't be able to defend ourselves from criminals. Why are they an elite who should be defended, while we can't be defended?
But to get back to the point, the idea was that you should have local law enforcement so that if law enforcement got out of hand, you could escape from this by moving to the next town or at the worst the next state, but you wouldn't have to move out of the country in order to escape an oppressive government.
The role of a government
Juan Williams: Now, let's keep going. Beyond having a military, beyond having local police forces, what would government do?
Harry Browne: Well, at the federal level, the Constitution is very clear: that it should provide a national defense, a judiciary system, a post office – which of course was probably the one big mistake that was put in the Constitution –, a mint and a few other things. There is the provision for an immigration and naturalization service but I think that it's highly overrated. But beyond that, the federal government really shouldn't be involved in anything else. At the local level, it's up to the people in each state to decide what they want their state to be. And if we restore the federal system that the Founding Fathers had in mind, then what you would have is a checkerboard of states around the country where the state of Arizona might be for bigger government than the state of Nevada, and people could choose which of those two states they want to live in.
Juan Williams: Harry Browne, I wanted to read you something, I saw this come across the wires yesterday, it was a story from Reuters and it said that almost a third of U.S. voters believe it would not make much difference whether vice-president Al Gore or Texas governor Georges W. Bush is elected president in November. In fact, it said 30% said they thought it didn't make any difference, compared with only 18% in 1976 and 1992, in those presidential years. So the number of people who think that it's really just an exercise in futility to go to the polls this fall is now a third of the American public, a third of the American voters, I should say.
Harry Browne: Well, that's very interesting, and it certainly belies the idea that the American voter is dumb, because the American voter recognizes that whoever gets elected, government is simply going to go along the same path. It did no matter whether Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton is in office, it just goes in the same direction. Incidentally, I meant to say earlier, your introduction of me and of the Libertarian Party was one of the most accurate descriptions of the party, how it stands, its background, everything else, that I've ever heard either in an introduction on a show or in a newspaper article, and I really want to thank you for that.
I also wanted to mention, if I could, that we've been talking about things here so far in this conversation that may seem like a dream world to people, in the sense that these things are not likely to happen in the near future, that we're not likely any time soon to reduce government to its constitutional functions and nothing more, and to create the kinds of conditions that I described. But it's important I believe that before you decide how you're going to vote, you have to decide what it is you want. Do you really want government to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger, or would you like to start a process where we're moving in the other direction, where instead of far-off regulators in Washington and the state Capitol and other places who don't know you, don't know anything about the special needs of your children, don't know anything about you, are making all kinds of decisions about your life and taking large chunks of your money and spending it for you on things that you have no interest in, you have to decide if that's what we want. It is to continue along that path or do we want to start changing this and moving in the direction that I'm talking about. We won't get there overnight, but we have to decide first of all which way we want to go before we can decide what we want to vote for.
Juan Williams: Now, Harry Browne, let me ask you something very quickly. You won only one half of one per cent of the vote in 1996. Why are you running? You don't expect to win, do you?
Harry Browne: Oh, I will admit that it's a very long shot, and we can get that out of the way right away! That I am not going down to my local bookie and putting a mortgage on my house and betting that on winning the election this year. But the fact of the matter is that what I got in 1996 was twice what we had gotten in 1992. Now the party is twice as large as it was then, we will spend many times as much on advertizing this year as we did in 1996, so we should be far more visible than we were in 96. And we have to start somewhere.
(...) But the important point is that if you vote Republican or Democrat, you are saying to these politicians in the Republican and Democratic Party: just keep doing what you're doing. It doesn't matter if you vote for Al Gore because you can't stand Georges Bush, or you vote for Georges Bush because you can't stand Al Gore, they won't take your vote in that light, they will take it as an endorsement of what they're doing and they will keep going in the same direction. If you vote Libertarian, even if you're not voting for the winner, you are at least telling them that they no longer have you vote in their pocket, they can no longer take you for granted, and they are going to have to start making changes.
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