- Richard Boddie
We Need More Liberty, Less Politics
This article is a reprint of an original opinion piece published in The Orange County Register.
Back in 1990 when I was running to become the 1992 nominee for president as the Libertarian Party candidate, and again when I actually ran for the Senate in California against Dianne Feinstein and John Seymour in 1992, and then against “DiFi” again and Michael Huffington in 1994, reporters would often ask me, “How many Libertarians are there”?
My late friend and mentor David Bergland, the 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, used to often tell reporters, “Most Americans are libertarians. They’re just in the process of discovering it.”
I pray that he might have been right, and I have reasons to believe so.
I believe that many Americans just want to be left alone to live their own lives freely, and that most abide by a live-and-let-live philosophy in their daily lives. It’s clear to me that we would probably all be better off if we stopped using the state, or so-called government, as the vehicle by which we try to impose our values on others. Voluntary anything beats mandatory anything every time.
But current political frameworks and debates don’t actually lend themselves to maximizing personal freedom, or even freedom from politics.
My initial political beliefs came from my home, as is most people’s experience. My dad, a Negro church pastor (this was in the early 1940s and that’s what we were called and also called ourselves when not using the term “colored”) was a Democrat, mainly because of FDR’s influence on the Black communities nationwide with his New Deal. Thus, I too was a Democrat. Rev. Boddie (pronounced “body”) strongly opposed war and questioned any and all United States military intervention worldwide. I also do to this day, most likely as a result of dad’s pacifist influence.
As an adult, after college and law school, I observed that the vast majority of Black folks in my city, Rochester, New York, were Democrats, likely for much the same reason as most people: you inherit political perspectives from those around you.
In those days in the minds of most people, politically, there were only Republicans, Democrats and Communists.
The concept of liberal, conservative, or even independent had yet to surface as political divisions in the minds of the citizenry. And surely there were no color-coded red, blue or purple shortcuts until recent times. And as for that recent innovation, it’s obvious that somebody definitely got the red and blue colorings backward. Who ever heard of a blue progressive or socialist, or a red Republican? Come on. But I ramble.
Unfortunately for our nation, the word “libertarian” and understanding thereof appears to be much too late in coming, just now breaking through to the masses. Instead and as a result, most of our politics are dominated by factions committed to using government to achieve what should be achieved voluntarily or as close to the individual as possible.
Libertarianism as a political approach is much closer to the intuition most people have of live and let live, for it is based on the common belief and understanding that this nation was predicated on respect for the individual first and foremost.
We would probably all be better off if we stopped using the government as the vehicle through which we seek to solve every problem, from the personal to the cultural to the economic.
This current divisive culture war and craziness that we are experiencing could ultimately be better handled by individuals and communities, often voluntarily, instead of being botched up and exacerbated by politicians at all levels.
I believe that we wouldn’t have our lives dominated by headlines about Trump or Biden or whomever if we didn’t trust in government to do so much that it shouldn’t be doing. Isn’t it obvious to you yet where the actual obvious problem is here? As the late American businessman and libertarian activist Robert LeFevre put it, “Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.”
The late co-founder of the Libertarian Party, David Nolan, established that there are five basic elements that one must believe in if she or he professes to be a libertarian: 1. You own yourself; 2. A belief in the right of self-defense; 3. Opposition to “criminal possession” laws; 4. Opposition to taxes on productivity; and 5. Support for a sound money system. That’s basically it.
Or more concisely, by yours truly: “Do all you agree to do, and do not encroach on other people or other people’s property.” Or, “Don’t hurt other people and don’t take their stuff.” Or, “Thou shalt not aggress.” And this especially goes for people calling themselves government, too.
These days so many decent American voters are clamoring for a third party. It is quite understandable considering all the bipartisan angst. But, for some strange reason, perhaps due to the Libertarian Party’s principled and consistent positions and belief that “thou shalt not aggress” or “live and let live.” and absent the traditional cut-throat and too often blind political tactics, few are aware of or making the switch to the only political party that could fix the mess.
The LP has been in existence for almost 50 years now, it is in all 50 states and has been for years, and has run presidential and congressional candidates since its inception, as well as state and local candidates. It’s interesting to note that very few Americans have been allowed to even consider that political party choice. What’s up with that?
Whether you vote for the LP or not, whether you call yourself a libertarian or not, wouldn’t our lives all be better if we were less bombarded with politics? The only way to get there is to stop playing the usual games, stop sticking to the usual scripts and stop putting so much power in the hands of politicians and the state.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.
Richard Boddie is a member of the Southern California News Group's editorial board. He is a longtime member of the Libertarian Party and sought the party's nomination for the 1992 presidential election. His opinion pieces can be read on The Orange County Register.