1) War on Drugs
by Tim Doran
The War on Drugs has been a consistently neglected topic in discussions surrounding this federal election. My question is, do you believe the War on Drugs has been an unqualified success, and if not, what would you change about it if elected president?
The question I most wanted to ask Al Gore and George Bush in the debates was, "Would you be a better person today if, for your youthful indiscretions, you had spent 10 years in prison? If not, why do presume to sentence young people to punitive sentences for doing nothing more than "experimenting" with drugs as you did?"
The War on Drugs has been every bit as successful as the War on Poverty, the War on Prostitution, and the War on Gambling - meaning it's been an absolute failure. As with other wars, the War on Drugs has bred enormous crime, corruption, and expense. I want to end the nightmare of Prohibition - with its black market, criminal gangs, drive-by shootings, bootleg drugs, and corrupt law enforcement.
I'm so committed to ending this insane war on our civil liberties, that I've promised that the very first thing I will do as President, from the Inauguration stand, is sign an unconditional pardon for all non-violent drug offenders currently serving their sentence in federal prison.
The war on drugs is not only a failure, it is the wrong war. Heroin is a sad addiction but one we need to accept and allow addicts to get heroin through doctors. Marijuana, the most widely used illegal drug, is not addictive, no one has died from an overdose, it is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and it should be legalized. Unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale and from time to time still do.
I'm not sure of what to do about cocaine but one thing I know you don't do is send American helicopters into Colombia, and you don't spray crops in Bolivia, Peru, etc. The problem isn't there - it is here, in education and treatment. End the drug war.
2) Minority Religions...
by Electric Angst
What will you do to protect the rights of atheists and those who hold minority faiths, such as Wicca, Santaria, Shinto, et al?
As an atheist I have an interest in this topic. (Perhaps I'm a Buddhist atheist, which is not actually a contradiction, as "orthodox Buddhists" out there will understand). All faiths, from Wicca to Shinto should be protected on the same basis as Judaism, Christianity, etc. All I could do is make clear the Bill of Rights covers this, and pledge to defend the Bill of Rights, which remains a radical document which probably could not be passed into law today. Thank God we have it. I believe in it.
Minority faiths should vote Libertarian because we're the only party that will take away the power of government to inflict one person's values on another. This not only will make those who practice minority faiths safe from those of differing values, it will also make groups like Christians feel safe from other faiths - so each will no longer feel the need to fight the other.
Specifically, I intend to do more than talk a good game - as so many politicians have. I intend to get the federal government out of everything not authorized in the Constitution, so that all anti-religious, or religious for that matter, will be eliminated automatically.
By preaching "family values," conservative politicians like Pat Buchanan and George Bush keep you on the hook - even though they are doing nothing to actually promote such values or free you from government oppression.
I want to completely repeal the Income Tax. This would better enable individuals to live by their values, and would empower parents to choose schooling for their children that supports their values.
I am the only politician in this race who refuses to pretend I know what's best for you. I don't want to be your leader, deciding everything about your life, especially who and how you worship. That's a decision for each of the 270 million "leaders" that live in our nation.
3) Why give a tax cut?
With the surplus, everyone has been saying "Let's have a tax cut, Let's have a tax cut." In the meantime, Alan Greenspan and friends are trying to keep inflation and the speed of the growing economy in check so it doesn't burst. Which they are doing by raising interest rates periodically. (6 times this year)
A tax cut flies in the face of what Greenspan is trying to do. A tax cut will inject more money into the economy and do what Greenspan is preventing.
Why is a tax cut so big? Wouldn't the money be better spent on the deficit so when worse times roll along, a tax cut can be easily given by not paying as much on the debt?
What deficit? Al Gore and George Bush are both claiming we don't have a deficit? Gore says that we have no deficit because Bill Clinton managed the economy so well. Bush says we have no deficit because we had Republicans in Congress.
But the deficit does exist, and the way we know is that the national debt is still increasing. We're robbing Peter to pay Paul, or more precisely the politicians are robbing your future to pay for all their wonderful programs today. The Social Security program is currently bringing in more money than it spends, and that money is being used to pay for the current operating expenses of government.
We're really the ones paying the bill. It's not the Russians, or the Martians who will end up paying the bill -- it's you and me. That money the politicians are spending is ours.
If there were a surplus, that's money were being overtaxed. If, on the other hand, there's a deficit, that's money that's a debt our children will have to pay. Deficit spending also means higher interest rates for home, auto, consumer, and college loans. You're paying one way or the other.
There is a solution, and only I am proposing it -- not Bush, Gore, or Nader. End the Income Tax and the IRS, and replace them with nothing. Our country became the greatest, free nation in the world without an Income Tax. But the Income Tax funds all the unconstitutional programs that exist today. If we ended the Income Tax we could finance all the constitutional functions of government such as, defense, the courts and a couple other permitted functions.
But more importantly, you would be free -- free to save, invest, or spend as you see fit.
I'm not for a tax cut. I'm for higher taxes, lower for the poor (in fact a "negative income tax" for those at the poverty level, which means they would get cash back) and much higher for the wealthy. I'm for an estate tax on the very rich which would confiscate the bulk of their money at the time of death - not because they were bad people, but because vast concentrations of economic power distort the fabric of democracy.
There are many projects - from expanding Amtrak to health care - which need funding. Some of that can come from the Socialist Party's proposed 50% across the board cut in military spending.
4) electoral reform
Some people, especially those that favor '3-rd' party candidates, have called for the ending of the electoral college system to be replaced by a simple purely popular vote, or at least allowing for splitting the electoral votes by each state. The best recent example was the Bush-Clinton election. Clinton received 43% of the popular vote (but a sufficient majority of the electoral vote), whereas Perot got at least 10% of the popular vote but zero electoral votes. If memory serves, Vermont is the only state which does currently allow for its votes to be split; if someone wins 60% of the Vermont popular vote, they get 2 votes and the 40% candidate gets 1. This in contrast to California, where someone can get 51% of the popular vote, and therefore gets 53 (or whatever it is nowadays) electoral votes. What is your position on this issue?
First, abolish the electoral college. It discourages voting (if
in Texas and are a Democrat why vote? If you live in New York and are
Republican, why vote?). Second, have an instant run off system for
President, which is how the Mayor of London was elected. It is very
and "empowers" smaller parties. You would cast your ballot with, as
example, your top five choices. Let's suppose it was:
If Al Gore got enough #1 votes on the first count, he is the winner - end of story. But if on the first count no one gets a majority you take the lowest candidate (let's say it was me) and find out who my #2 choice was, so that is added to Nader's total. It is possible - not likely but possible - that Nader might be #2 on enough ballots that he would have a majority. But probably he wouldn't and you'd go on down the list, transferring Nader's "second choice" to the next candidate, etc.
This means that if you voted for a Socialist Party candidate you weren't helping elect Bush. Also means if you voted for the Libertarian candidate you wouldn't be helping elect Gore.
5)How Do You Feel About Intellectual Property?
by Phil Gregory
In this age of the Internet, intellectual property has become a very important concept to many people. Many companies make their living on the artificial scarcity provided by intellectual property laws, selling information that they have either created or aggregated. Some others, mostly in the Free Software world, make their living seemingly in spite of these laws, selling their services based on information that is freely given.
Do you feel that our current system of intellectual property is a good one? Which parts of it (e.g. trademarks, patents, copyrights) do you feel are well suited to the world of the Internet and which do you think need to be changed (and, if changes are needed, what changes are needed)?
I'm not going to dodge - I'll admit I have not studied this enough to know where I stand. I certainly am against the monstrous profits going to studio chiefs, but I also want to make damn sure that poor writers are ripped off. Have to pass on this one./i>
I believe the marketplace will develop ways of protecting intellectual property if the government stays out of it. Witness the way software companies send you trial programs that automatically go dead after 30 days. Similar innovations will be found to protect other kinds of intellectual property. No, they won't be perfect, but they will work a lot better than laws written by politicians and enforced by bureaucrats.
Many tech people think that strong encryption is one of the best ways we have to protect freedom both now and for future generations. For example to preserve information that future not so friendly governments may think we don't need to have and to make sure that things we want to have remain private remain private. Given this what would you do to help preserve our right to privacy through the use of strong encryption? Also in a related question what are your thoughts and what do you plan to do about the fact that we can not export many forms of strong encryption?
No one should prevent you from encrypting anything you want, and the government should have no access to your encrypted messages, unless you want it to.
I favor a total absence of export controls. They are not used for national security. They are used to favor those with access to political power and to harm the competitors of those with access to political power.
While I doubt any form of encryption can defy decoding I think people have a right to use it, the government is wrong to try to block its use or prevent its transfer to other countries.
7) Rising Political Protests
In the last year or so we have seen a tremendous escalation in the quantity and size of political protests against globalization and the rising power of corporate multi-nationals. Do you believe that these people have reason to be concerned? If you do believe that they have reason for concern, what steps would you take as president to deal with their concerns?
Obviously they have reason to be concerned! At two levels. First, workers in this country see their jobs floating to other countries were trade unions and environmental protections are weak, wages are low, and thus profits are higher. To have a level playing field we should support the international organization of working people, so that workers in Korea or Thailand can fight for protection, increase their wages, and force the capitalist investors to settle for a lower profit. The struggle is to increase labor's share of the pie. As a socialist I am very strongly for that.
The problem is, however, much deeper. Captialist modes of production, unless controlled by strong state intervention (or unless placed under social ownership within a democratic society) exploit the resources of the world without any concern except for profit. Biggest and best example - the Tobacco Corporations, who have known for decades they were selling death, but found it profitable. The forests of Brazil are being destroyed because it is profitable. Cars instead of railroads are produced because it is profitable. The environment is threatened by industrialization and technology - but very much more so when those processes are carried out by profit-driven global corporations which are more powerful than almost any nation state.
The greatest guarantor of peace isn't a strong military or an international organization. It is free trade among countries. When people can buy and sell freely with people in another country, they have a good reason to discourage their leaders from going to war with that country. This interdependence is a far more reliable guarantor of peace than foreign aid, arms sales, and treaties.
Winston Churchill put it very well back in 1903: . . the fact that this great trade exists between nations binds them together in spite of themselves, and has in the last thirty years done more to preserve the peace of the world than all the Ambassadors, Prime Ministers, and Foreign Secretaries and Colonial Secretaries put together. When a government excludes other countries from sources of raw materials or from markets for their wares, it undermines the economic motives for maintaining peace.
Free trade doesn't cost jobs, it improves them. Money spent on foreign products doesn't disappear from the American economy. It's true that an American company loses a sale when an American buys a Japanese car. And if it loses enough sales to foreign competitors, it will stop hiring for a while--or even lay people off (just as it would if it lost sales to an American competitor). But the total number of American jobs doesn't decline, because the money spent abroad will come back here in one form or another.
When an American buys a foreign car (or any other foreign product), the foreign seller receives dollars. He (or some other foreigner to whom he trades the dollars) will use the money to buy an American product. Or he'll buy an American investment--which also puts the money into circulation in America. Or he'll leave it in a bank--which will lend it to someone who will spend it in America. One way or another, the money creates jobs somewhere in the American economy. When a foreign industry outsells an American industry, the lost American jobs are highly visible. But the new American jobs aren't so easy to see, because they're spread out over many different industries. So politicians can score points railing against foreign competitors--even though their arguments have no basis in reality.
Politicians describe foreign trade as though it were a war between countries--with winners and losers. Here, for example, is a statement by one of the 1996 presidential candidates: The Japanese in the last 25 years have bought 400,000 American cars and sold us 40 million. Now if that is not trade aggression, I don't know what is. You've got to wake up and start defending the national interest of the United States and of American workers, American businesses, and American auto workers.
But every one of those 40 million Japanese cars was bought by an American who wanted it. Providing what someone wants isn't aggression. Barring Japanese companies from selling cars in America is forcibly preventing Americans from getting what they want--which is aggression. And if someone thinks Japanese sales here are aggression, what are American sales in Japan? Here are a few areas in which U.S. companies "aggressed" rather aggressively in 1994: Was this trade aggression? Should American companies be forcibly prevented from selling products they can make better than foreign companies?
Most politicians miss the whole point of international trade. It isn't a game or a battle or a war. Each transaction benefits both sides. To quote Winston Churchill again: . . both the selling and the buying of these things were profitable to us; that what we sold, we sold at a good profit, for a natural and sufficient return; that what we bought, we bought because we thought it worth our while to buy, and thought we could turn it to advantage. And in this way commerce is utterly different from war, so that the ideas and the phraseology of the one should never be applied to the other; for in war both sides lose whoever wins the victory, but the transactions of trade, like the quality of mercy, are twice blessed, and confer a benefit on both parties.
Punishing the Innocent
But what about American companies that are shut out by foreign governments? Just as the sale of foreign goods in this country blesses both buyers and sellers, a foreign government that prevents its citizens from buying American goods injures both the would-be buyer and seller. But our government's response to such wasteful policies is to double the harm by imitating them. If the Japanese government interferes with American car companies, our government wants to forcibly reduce the number of Japanese cars sold here. But why should American car-buyers be punished for the sins of the Japanese government? The politicians don't address that point because they don't care about the American buyer. But if pressed for an answer, they'd probably say it's the only way to pressure the Japanese government to open its trade doors. Hurting innocent people in order to make someone else bend to one's will is the tactic of a terrorist. Governments have been using this tactic for centur ies--which it why there still are so many trade barriers.
Again, Winston Churchill in 1903 had something to say to those today who believe we can open foreign markets by closing our own: There's a feeling that England has only to retaliate and foreign tariff walls will immediately collapse. But all the great nations of the world are Protectionist; they have been for 100 years past, and perhaps for many years before that, endeavoring by every dodge of reciprocity or negotiation to force each other to reduce their tariffs in each other's respective interests. Where have they come to? Have they reached Free Trade? On the contrary, their tariffs have risen higher and higher, and at this moment Free-trade England, which does nothing, Free-trade England, with masterly inactivity, occupies in regard to the nations of the world so far as tariffs are concerned, a position of advantage to which few of the Protectionist countries have attained and which none of them has surpassed.
With virtually no tariffs of its own, England had become the world's leading exporter--while governments that used trade barriers to jockey for advantage did more harm than good to their own exporters. Too bad England eventually fell off the Free Trade wagon.
8) Asteroid Defenses
by Ethelred Unraed
Would you renew funding of programs to research and develop global defense systems against asteroids or other such threats from space?
In 1983 Ronald Reagan made the most sensible military suggestion of the past 50 years -- that America should have protection against a missile attack. Unfortunately, he assigned the job to the Department of Defense, and now -- 17 years later -- we are no closer to being protected than we were then. The only thing the government should do is post a reward -- $25, or even $50 billion -- to be given to the first private company that can demonstrate a working, functioning, fool-proof missile defense system. Not a prototype, not a plan -- but the actual system.
Perhaps a properly functioning system could deal with "global threats from space" though that wouldn't be our first or primary objectives.
An interesting idea. If this can be totally separate from the crackpot idea of a Star Wars program, and made an international program under the United Nations I would favor it.
9) The Future of the Country, and of Humanity
I'm very concerned with the future of the country, and about what our national mission seems to be. Looking back through American history, every period seems to have a defining popular mission - like the "manifest destiny" movement in the 19th century, the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. During these times, there would be one struggle or idea that captivated the attention of the nation, sort of providing a national mission.
I'm a little confused as I look around today. What is our mission? To me, it seems to be "to watch TV and use the Internet." What would you say the defining national mission of today is? What should it be? Furthermore, how would you show this in your activities as a lawmaker? (For instance, if our national mission is the pursuit of science, then would you increase funding for scientific pursuits in the budget?)
This nation doesn't have to have a "mission". The United States is an exceptional country in many ways, and certainly unique. But one problem we have is this damn "need" for a mission. Finland doesn't have a "mission". China doesn't have a "mission". Costa Rica doesn't have a "mission". Beware of missionaries! Build a good and decent country, compassionate, democratic, heading toward socialism, and make time to sniff the roses on the way. We don't need a "mission".
This question concerns me. I have no national mission in mind and no broad plan to herd you into, as if this was the Fatherland. You're an American. That means you have a rich history handed down to you from men who risked, and in some cases lost, their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in the pursuit of liberty.
Not only would I not increase scientific funding in the budget, I'd end it altogether because the truth is government doesn't work. It doesn't keep our streets safe, educate our children or provide a secure retirement. It doesn't aid progress, it hinders it. Government is politics, not progress. Government is bureaucracy, inefficiency, and brute force. It is the least desirable, least effective and least likely to succeed means of getting anything accomplished.
What is my vision for you? I want you to be free -- you and every other American. You should be free to live your life as you see fit, not as Al Gore, George Bush or Ralph Nader see fit. I want you to be able to spend, to save, or to invest all the money you earn. I want you to be responsible for your life. And if you choose to watch TV and use the Internet all day, that's ok with me, so long as the rest of us aren't required to subsidize your lifestyle choice.