Bennett, Dissenting

The first time I got to vote in a presidential election was in November 1988. I was a sophomore at Rice University, registered to vote in Texas. The race was between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. I voted for Ron Paul, who was running as the Libertarian candidate.

I believe that the answer to “how much government do we need” is, and probably always will be, “less,” but I am not an anarchist.

Do away with government, the anarchists say, and the market will fill the role of the state—keeping us free, protecting our property, keeping us safe.

I don’t share the anarchists’ rosy view of human nature. Do away with government, and for a while the strong will dominate the weak. Then the weak will band together and dominate the strong. Then the strong will band together and dominate the weak again. Some of the weak will join the strong until finally more than half of the collective power is dominating less than half. Whatever this dominant 50+% is called, it will be, for practical purposes, the state. Over the long term, anarchy is impossible.

Less government equals more freedom; I see it as a zero-sum game. I’m willing to give up some freedom to have fire protection and paved roads (for example), but we could do with less government, and every day we have more. More government and less freedom.

So: Ron Paul. Ran as a Libertarian in 1988. “Intellectual godfather of the Tea Party.” Running as a Republican now. Doing well for a Libertarian. But the Tea Partiers come out in droves for Rick Santorum, who is unabashedly opposed to personal liberty:

They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world, and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone, that there is no such society that I’m aware of where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.

Santorum is half right. Most conservatives are, as Santorum says, authoritarian rather than libertarian. (He’s wrong about there not being a successful society with radical individualism.) Ron Paul runs as a Republican, I suppose, not because there’s anything inherently libertarian about the Republican Party, but because it’s somehow a better fit than the Democratic Party.

Libertarianism in national government serves authoritarianism in state and local government. Traditional conservatives—Santorum conservatives—if they favor less government, favor less federal government, as though state governments are benign. I suspect that their reasoning is that government is not dangerous when it is close to home. And for those in the majority, this may be true—it’s easier to remove a school board member who disagrees with you than to remove a senator. But for anyone who might not share the political views of the majority, the opposite is true: the nearer government is to us, the more it can intrude in our lives and interfere with our liberty.

I am cheered to see Ron Paul pulling down good numbers (maybe better than you’ve heard) in the Republican primaries. He may have some influence on the party’s platform, if not on its choice of candidate.

But libertarianism can’t be imposed from above. Libertarianism in federal government but not in state government is not libertarianism, but mere federalism. Libertarianism has to start at home and grow from there.

That, friends, is why I’m running for office.

“What office?,” you might ask.

My first thought was to seek a seat on the Texas legislature. But when I learned that the Libertarian Party of Texas needed a candidate for one statewide office to have a full ticket, and that the office was right in my bailiwick—not politics, but criminal law—an office that ought to be beyond partisan politics, an office that is polluted by the two-party system, and an office in which I could do real and lasting good, I knew that was the race for me.

And that’s why I’m running for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

41 Comments

  1. You know, if you get elected – and I hope you do – the phrase “interesting opinion; I shall bookmark it for further review” will take on a whole new meaning.

    Make us proud. We always knew you were the smartest one of us all.

  2. Outstanding. Good luck!

    BTW, I’m a small-gov’t type who’d like less federal and more state, but not because I think local gov’t is any more benign. It’s not. But I see the role of gov’t as doing those things we can’t do for ourselves. Things the family can’t take care of should be handled by the locality. Things the town can’t do should be handled by the county. And so on up to the state and the feds. The stuff that’s left over by the time you get to the feds is important stuff, but there’s not quite so much of it.

  3. Fantastic! I hope you win. We need more honest people taking the chance and running for political office. I am currently of the opinion that every judge in this country is corrupt to one degree or another. However, if you are elected I’ll be happy to change that opinion because I know that you have too much pride, self respect, and your convictions are too strong for you to ever make a ruling just for political gain as the rest of them do.

  4. If it wouldn’t embarrass you too much, I’d love to have a poster for my yard here in Virginia. Of course that would put you in close proximity to exactly what you’re writing about, a state that tramples on individual rights to the point of being the butt of jokes on national TV.

    If your lovely mug is on it, it would be looking out towards Richmond and the unholy trinity of A.G. Cuccinelli, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Senator Cantor. I’m going to put bicycle reflectors where your eyes are and rig up a blinking spot light to shine on them. That’ll put the fear of God in them!

    I’ll email you and let you know when it’s up. If you don’t hear back from me, please check with Homeland Security and, after you’re elected, GET ME OUT! Ric

  5. Who is your campaign treasurer? Where can we sign?

    I personally would rather see you run as a Republican – you’d stand a much better chance of winning. That, of course, goes with the dubious nature of partisan judicial elections, but that’s another thread for another day.

  6. Good luck Mark! One thing is for sure. You’ll find out who your real friends are, and who your enemies are. Especially if there is a chance that you will win. Be careful. Ric

  7. Let judges secretly despair of justice: their verdicts will be more acute. Let generals secretly despair of triumph; killing will be defamed. Let priests secretly despair of faith: their compassion will be true.~Leonard Cohen

    Best of luck, Mark.

    Regards,

    Nino

  8. Personally I don’t think the great state of Texas deserves you as a lawyer or a judge, but they’ll prove me wrong if they elect you, one time I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I wish you every good fortune and electoral success in this, not so much for your sake but for everyone else’s, and not just the people of Texas either. We would all be better off if you were on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.|

    1. Thank you. I’m hoping for many votes from people who aren’t libertarians. We can’t opt out of partisan judicial elections, but we can opt out of the two-party system.

  9. Don’t mix up anarchism and libertarianism. You americans have proud traditions on both strands of the antiauthoritarian spectrum, give them both credit :). Last time I heard of an ‘anarchist’ in government was back in pre-civil war republican spain (Minister of Justice, ironically), and the guy who first coined the word in its modern political context was also a member of his national parliament (Prouhon, of ‘property is theft’ fame / France) for a period. But they are rare, unlike the libertarians, who seem often involved with big government of any particular colour.

    But that’s just my view from semi socialist aussie down under.

    Good luck in the coming dust up.

    1. The two threads of mainstream (!) libertarian political thought in America are minarchism and anarchocapitalism.

      It’s possible that I mischaracterize the anarchocapitalists when I call them anarchists, but I don’t think so.

      Thanks, Mark.

  10. You’ve got my vote! I’ll even donate money to your campaign. The CCA could use a jurist who isn’t just a former prosecutor now acting as co-counsel on the bench for the State. Good luck!

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