Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Interview from the Archive: Libertarian Nicholas Sarwark says, unlike Dems and GOP, his party "stands for all freedoms, of all people, all of the time"

Editor's note: This interview was originally published on March 29, 2017.

This is the final article of my discussion with Nicholas Sarwark. The firstsecond, third, and fourth pieces are available. 
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Libertarianism has seen better days.
A few years ago, certain political forecasters claimed that the future of America's center-right belongs to libertarians. Since the 2012 presidential election, however, protectionism surged -- not only in the GOP, but among Democratic ranks as well. Now, amid the age of Donald Trump, libertarianism's once-ascendant nature seems a distant memory.
"I fear that the classical liberal/libertarian idea and ideal will be seriously tarnished by the policies and politics of the Trump Administration," Dr. Richard Ebeling, one of our time's greatest Austrian School thinkers, recently told me.
He continued: "Virtually all of Trump’s proposed policies involve a continuation or an intensification of government involvement in social and economic life. He acts as the all-knowing government central planner when he calls in business executives and tells them where to invest and what products they should make to 'create jobs.' He undermines respect for and protection of essential civil liberties when he ridicules the freedom of the press and their way of reporting on his administration’s actions and his words."

Ebeling went on to state his worry "that with the assistance of the mainstream media the Trump Administration’s anti-freedom policies will tarnish the real case for a free society and a free market. That is, people who want lower taxes and fewer regulations on business will be identified as the people who also believe in torture, discrimination against immigrants, violations of civil liberties, and the instigation of trade wars because of aggressive nationalist attitudes." 
Perhaps we should hear more about libertarianism's brass tacks -- namely how it functions real-time in American politics. Few people can better explain this than Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian Party's national committee. 
According to his LNC biography, Sarwark "is an unabashed, second generation Libertarian" who "has been an active member of the Libertarian Party since 1999" in which he "served as chair of the Libertarian Party of Maryland and as vice chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado where he .... supported the passage of Colorado’s historic marijuana legalization initiative in 2012.
"Professionally, Nicholas Sarwark has been a criminal defense attorney and has worked over ten years in the private sector. He served as a deputy public defender in Colorado, trying more than 30 cases before a jury and arguing in front of the Colorado Supreme Court. He also has more than a decade of experience in computer consulting and sales. In 2014 he moved to Arizona with his wife and two children to join in the operations of a family business, the oldest independent auto dealership in Phoenix, founded in 1942."
Sarwark recently spoke with me about libertarianism's role amid the American landscape. Some of our conversation is included below.


Joseph Ford Cotto: Many libertarian theorists claim that the surest way for America to enjoy monetary stability is a return to the gold standard. Does the Libertarian Party endorse this perspective?

Nicholas Sarwark: The Libertarian Party supports free market banking and an end to legal tender laws that would allow gold and other commodity-backed currencies to compete with fiat currency. There are good arguments for and against a gold standard, but they can't be settled theoretically.

Cotto: Why is libertarianism, generally speaking, a better philosophy for the average American than conservatism, progressivism, or even centrism?
Sarwark: The Libertarian Party is the only political party in this country that stands for all freedoms, of all people, all of the time. Our vision is one of a country where individuals are free to live their lives, raise their children, run their businesses, and pursue happiness any way they choose as long as they don't hurt other people or take their stuff. That vision is fundamentally different from a politics defined by different groups fighting over political power to use it to control other people, which is what "conservatism, progressivism, or even centrism" boil down to.

Editor's note: In early 2014, while a columnist at Communities Digital News, I interviewed former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential nominee in both 2012 and 2016. We spoke about the idea of replacing America's income tax system with a consumption-based policy called the 'fair tax.' Our discussion remains timely, both in terms of understanding libertarian fiscal philosophy and the more general movement for substantial tax reform across our country. Some of this conversation is included below. 

Cotto: If a fair tax system were instituted, would the federal government realistically be able to ensure that all due taxes are collected and reported?

Gov. Gary Johnson: Given that the current tax code is complicated beyond comprehension and rife with loopholes, subsidies and potential abuse, compliance with a simple consumption tax will be significantly easier, less costly and more reliable than what we have today.  In fact, the Fair Tax will allow us to abolish the IRS.  State and local governments across the country have been collecting and administering sales taxes for decades.  They know how to do it, as do businesses.  In short, I am confident that reporting and collection will improve a great deal under such a simple and transparent system.

Cotto: Right now, is there much support on Capitol Hill for the fair tax?

Johnson: A version of the Fair Tax was first introduced more than 20 years ago.  Today, the Fair Tax has more cosponsors in Congress than ever before.  Obviously, such a dramatic reform takes time and does not happen overnight. However, with growing awareness of IRS abuses, the inherent unfairness of a tax code that designates winners and losers, and the dampening effect of the current system on the economy, the idea of a simple, fair tax is gaining more support every day.

Cotto: What makes the fair tax truly fair, as opposed to America's current tax system?

Johnson: It is simple, it is transparent, and it treats everyone equally.  That is obviously the exact opposite of the current system.

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