Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
A website called “I Side With” poses various quizzes and questions on a host of public issues like political candidates, taxes, immigration, sanctuary cities, lobbying, voter fraud, whistleblower protection and an endless supply of other current events. They then reveal the results based on responses from specific categories like race, ethnicity, income, ideology, political party, country, geographic region and the like. This poll question appeared recently on their site:
“Should a politician, who has been formerly convicted of a crime, be allowed to run for office?”
Libertarians will almost certainly smell a trick question and ask “What other kind of politician is there?”
The poll was posted on January 6, 2017. By early March of that year, there were nearly 8,000 responses from “All” with nearly 2,000 of those answers coming specifically from libertarians. But what libertarians? If ever there was a truly diverse group of politically, socially and culturally oriented people that group would be libertarians, not liberals.
Liberals are nowhere near as “diverse” and “welcoming” as they pretend to be. After all, they specifically identify as collectivists—“the group” being their fundamental unit of society—and will not welcome any sort of diversity that doesn’t fit into their rigidly self-defined politically correct cocoon.
Modern American Libertarians understand that “the individual” is the fundamental unit of society and therefore exclude only those who fail to accept, or at the very least pay lip service to, the non-aggression principle against physical coercion, intimidation and fraud.
Because of this diversity, it takes a very large three-ring circus tent to hold such self-identifying libertarians as left libertarians, right libertarians, socialist libertarians, communist libertarians, Republican libertarians, limited government libertarians, political libertarians, cultural libertarians, voluntaryist agorist mutualist post-statist libertarians and others too numerous to name.
The big tent concept of libertarianism even includes Ron Paul and Rand Paul Libertarians and their supporters who believe they can beat back dirty politicians with clean politicians, even if all they can do is win a political office just to hold it hostage against the greedy grasp of some unprincipled politico.
Fortunately, the “I Side With” people offer not just YES or NO answers but allow for a few expanded responses. Since the majority of libertarian votes landed on the NO side it deserves the first look.
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Remember, the question is “Should a politician, who has been formerly convicted of a crime, be allowed to run for office?”
The vast majority of all libertarian respondents (83%) simply hit the NO box and moved on. While anarchists, voluntaryists and other post-statist libertarians don’t want any kind of politicians they all should be questioning what exactly constitutes a “criminal.” Most libertarians reject the idea of “victimless crimes,” i.e., if no one has been the victim of physical coercion, intimidation or fraud then no legitimately defined “crime” has been committed. This is typically expressed as “If there is no victim there is no crime.”
In today’s world of course a “crime” is anything the political-legislating-lawyering classes want it to be. Ingesting any kind of substance into one’s body that hasn’t been sprinkled with the ruling law-givers’ holy water makes one a “criminal.” A person who has sex following dinner and a movie is not a criminal but if she or he has sex after accepting Federal Reserve Notes they are “criminals.” Virtually all forms of gambling make people “criminals” unless they’re doing it at state-licensed casinos or using Lotto tickets and scratch-offs so The State can skim its “legal non-criminal” take off the top.
Victimless crimes are the province of non-libertarians who demand conformity from others. Traditionally it’s been fundamentalist conservatives imposing their preferred laws on others but today it’s just as common for intolerant social justice warriors to demand obedience to its own self-ordained orthodoxy.
To legitimately click NO here the question would have to read “Should a politician, who has been formerly convicted of an actual crime resulting in an actual victim, be allowed to run for office?”
But there is another option under the NO column:
“No, and Disallow Politicians That Are Under Investigation for a Crime”
This might be an even worse answer. Imagine if this was the law throughout the country today. In every village, town, city, county, state and on the national level where powerful political incumbents cahoot with their fellow despicable attorneys general, prosecutors, judges, law enforcers and other control-wielders to successfully engage in such profitable activities as influence peddling, bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement no one will ever get voted out of office.
Any opposition candidate who even appears to have the ability to unseat such a current officeholder won’t have a prayer. First, there will be a leak: “The challenger is under investigation for a crime” followed by the official announcement “We cannot comment on an on-going investigation” followed by a steady drip of more leaks. The investigation will naturally continue until after the election.
The most popular answer on the YES side of the issue is YES. Nothing more, nothing less, just YES. This means that these libertarians have no problem with convicted criminals running for public office. These would seem to be how those in the general public misidentify all libertarians by calling them “libertines,” those who have no or near-zero conscience and will accept no restraints on their actions, even the voluntary self-restraint of the non-aggression principle.
A simple YES answer means all convicted rapists, murderers, kidnappers, child molesters and similar types—those who actually do victimize others—could run for public office. This is a direct rejection of “If there is no victim there is no crime.” There is no explanation of why any voter would want such people holding such power over their heads.
These responders, as any libertarian can attest, are not libertarians under any meaningful concept of the word; these are sociopaths and psychopaths. Or, even more likely, they’re just run-of-the-millstone anti-libertarians pretending to be libertarians voting YES to push their anti-libertarian agenda to create, in now-popular parlance, Fake News.
Fortunately, there are other options than “Just Say NO.”
“Yes, as Long as It Was Not a Felony, Violent, Financial, or Sexual Crime”
This is a much better answer, one that libertarians would simply rephrase as “Yes, as long as it was a victimless crime.” Of course, it will still take a very heavily populated libertarian and/or libertarian-minded constituency to get even this kind of candidate elected anywhere in the country.
“Yes, as Long as They Have Finished Serving Their Sentence”
This could be combined with the previous choice but there’s still a problem with both choices. There was once an attitude about “justice” in this country that after a person has finished serving one’s sentence they are considered to have “paid their debt to society.” No more.
With rare exceptions, everyone’s adult past follows them everywhere they go forever. Even a victimless crime on a person’s record will make it extremely difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, obtain a government license to enter into any kind of professional career, or be accepted in much of mainstream society.
While libertarians reject the notion of “paying one’s debt to society” on the basis that nobody ever commits a crime against a concept—“society” or “the people” or “the state”—but only against other specific individuals, re-introducing the idea of paying one’s debt by scrubbing a person’s criminal and victimless criminal past at some point, say after a successful probationary period, would go a long way in allowing people to reenter society and get their lives back again.
“Yes, as Long as the Crime Was Not Committed While in Office”
This is the last and oddest YES answer, which might explain why only 1% of libertarian responders picked it. The obvious question here is why it would matter whether a person became a convicted rapist, murderer, kidnapper or child molester while in or out of office. All of the above considerations should apply in either case.
And a final note on this from the “I Side With” website:
“The U.S. constitution does not prevent convicted felons from holding the office of the President or a seat in the Senate or House of Representatives. States may prevent convicted felons candidates from holding statewide and local offices.”
The next question ought to be: Do libertarians, especially limited government “minarchists,” agree with this constitutional position?
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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.