by Justin Tucker
It’s already a few weeks into 2016 and I’m already sick of hearing about the presidential election. I’m repulsed by the authoritarian garbage that spews out of Trump’s tiny mouth; Hillary is on her way to the next scandal she’ll get away with; and the Bernster sounds like a broken record quoting his dank memes while debating.
The major media outlets give little to no coverage to any candidate outside the Democrat/Republican alliance, which ensures Americans will be subject to eight more years under the rule of hacks, insiders or assholes. At a time when 42 percent of Americans identify as an independent, according to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are in dire need to hear the ideas of independent voices like Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Austin Petersen.
Recently, I was able to shoot a few e-mails back and forth with Petersen, asking the fellow Missouri native to explain how he intends to govern as President, how big cities like Chicago can benefit from libertarian principles, and where he sees the Libertarian Party beyond the upcoming election.
UR Chicago: For those perhaps unfamiliar, please explain briefly what the Libertarian Party stands for and why you are the best candidate to lead America as President of the United States.
Austin Petersen: The Libertarian Party stands for individual liberty. This means economic freedom and personal liberty. The party attempts to run people for office who stand for the rights of every individual to have the freedom to choose what they do with their lives, provided they harm no one else.
I believe I would be the best candidate to lead our nation because, in spite of my belief in unregulated, free markets, I am not sponsored by any corporations, nor do I owe anyone anything. I am fully independent, and interestingly enough, I was born in Independence, Missouri.
I like to joke that I might be the only candidate who supports the Koch Brothers, but the Koch Brothers don't support me back! I have the right ideas to drive America forward into the 21st century, so that the promise of the American Dream can be enjoyed by each and every individual who has the courage and the drive to pursue it.
I believe that government needs to get out of the way, and I have lived my principles. My entire life I have worked not only to advance myself, but to lift up others and support anyone who has ever asked me for help. Using social media, I connect personally with each and every individual who wishes for a piece of my time, because that's the only way that an outsider movement can be built: with flesh and blood. I would be a great president because I truly care about the people of this great nation.
I love America, and I love the principles upon which we were founded. I will forever be loyal to my oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign, or domestic.
UR: What will be the major initiatives of the Petersen Administration, should you be elected President?
AP: As president, I would not be a dictator.
I would work with Congress to pass an agenda that will reduce burdens on small businesses, cut regulations, spending, and lower taxes. I will request that Congress give me a budget that cuts spending by 1% every year, so that we will eventually have a balanced budget. This is the Penny Plan, and it would cut one penny out of every federal dollar from every program. I would also seek to eliminate the payroll tax, cut corporate taxes, replace the progressive income tax with a flat rate, and look for ways to streamline federal agencies, so that they will be required to do more with less.
I will also decriminalize all drugs at the federal level, effectively ending the federal war on drugs, and sending the responsibility of drug guidelines back to the states where they belong.
I will also respect the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which outline that states should have more local control, and that the rights of individuals are more numerous than could ever be printed on one single piece of paper. States don't have "rights," states have powers, and the federal government should have authority only over those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
The government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.
UR: In the contest for the Libertarian Party's Presidential nomination, you are facing competition from former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who was the Party's nominee in 2012, as well as security software pioneer John McAfee, among others. Why are you more qualified to represent the Libertarian Party than your opponents?
AP: Governor Johnson is a good man, but his time is past. My campaign reflects the future of the liberty movement. Less focused on just legalizing marijuana, and more on advancing free markets and social liberties as a whole. Governor Johnson's campaign temporarily energized the Libertarian movement but then faded away after the election. While Johnson bragged about his mountain climbing expeditions, I was at home fighting for our common cause. I have dedicated myself full time to campaigning for liberty over 10 years, and nominating me over Johnson would see returns on investment for decades to come.
McAfee is a brilliant cybersecurity expert and someone I listen to for his expertise on such subjects. However, I worry that with his erratic personal lifestyle and history that he is not capable of rising to the challenge of Commander in Chief. While he has tremendous insight into tech policy (and is someone who I would gladly consult on these matters), he is not the steady hand that we need to be a good leader for our country. I am the type of person who rises to any challenge and can withstand enormous pressure. I have a history of performing under stress and can easily provide the types of professional references who would testify to my ability to lead.
UR: Chicago faces many challenges. City Hall is a cesspool for waste and corruption. We are facing a major budget crisis that could render the city insolvent. The Chicago Police Department is continually embroiled in scandal. Crime and gang-violence plagues many of our neighborhoods and keeps good citizens living in fear.
How can the principles of the Libertarian Party be applied to solve the problems facing many of America's big cities? What is your strategy to bring your message to folks in America's metropolises, who tend to overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party?
AP: I worry about my fellow Americans who are suffering at the hands of Democratic administrations in our inner cities. Wherever a Democrat holds office, you can be sure that rampant crime, poverty and suffering will abound.
Libertarians would provide relief in the form of equal opportunities, breaking the backs of the legal cartels which choke out small businesses trying to compete in such hyper-regulatory environments.
Also, individual citizens should be empowered by the Second Amendment to defend themselves, their families and their businesses. Wherever there is gun control, there is high crime. Politicians have armed guards, but they don't think their citizens deserve the right to protect themselves in such a way.
I would work with local leaders to bring cities in line with the types of policies which would stimulate economic growth, by empowering individuals. Our President should set a moral example and give hope to our citizens that the future can be better, if we believe in ourselves and are willing to fight for a freer America.
UR: Downstate Illinois is a different story, but in a town like Chicago, many folks are uncomfortable with concealed carry and gun ownership in general. How can you convince them that exercising their Second Amendment rights is a viable option for making the streets safer?
AP: Ask anyone who worries about the implications of carrying a weapon about the tradeoffs in a life or death situation. Would they rather be judged by 12, or carried by six?
UR: The Chicago Transit Authority has been paramount in linking together Chicago's neighborhoods and is one of the symbols of the city. Cook County has, without question, benefited from the "L" system. It's how I get around town. What is your position on mass transit?
AP: Can you show me some links to research which shows that Cook County has objectively benefited from the L system? Because those who actually use it might offer their anecdotal reports, and those who don't might disagree, considering they're forced to bear the burden of paying for it.
Transit should be paid for by those who use it, otherwise like sports stadiums, we're all forced to subsidize something which we may not all enjoy.
UR: I haven't done the research, but being crammed in a train during rush hour indicates to me that there is a demand for such services in densely populated areas. I voted with my feet and settled in Chicago in great part because I can rely on the CTA. I am certainly not alone when I say that I don't mind subsidizing the system as a taxpayer in Illinois.
Do not the libertarian principles of local control and federalism allow for citizens to institute such services at the city and state levels?
AP: Local citizens absolutely have those controls, and the federal government should have no business except where such transit is interstate.
UR: How has growing up in Missouri — the Show Me State — shaped your libertarian outlook?
AP: As the son of hardworking Missouri landscapers, I spent the summers of my youth working alongside my father in the fields. Growing up on a farm in Peculiar, I learned to ride a horse, bale hay, and how to use and respect a gun. The values of Missourians are that of hard work and strong skepticism, hence the "Show Me" State. I always was taught to question everything, and then once you think you've arrived at a conclusion, question it again to make sure your premises are correct and you're not just confirming your biases. Growing up on a farm allowed me to develop my sense of individualism and self worth. Missourians are loving, caring and gracious people.
As a matter of fact, having moved back here recently from the East Coast, I find that people here are so nice that it's no longer special for me to treat everyone with courtesy and respect. I enjoyed being the lone nut in NYC and DC who said "please and thank you" whenever I met people. Now that I'm back home, I have to really work hard to be more polite, since kindness is expected here. It gives you a good sense of perspective. I love and miss my friends in NYC and DC, but there's just something special about going to a grocery store and having a clerk approach you with a smile to say, "How may I help you?"
It's a charming state and will always be my home of homes.
UR: You have been causing controversy for your criticism of the non-aggression principle, considered to be the hallmark ethic of libertarian philosophy, which states that the initiation of force or coercion against others is immoral. In a recent post on The Libertarian Republic website, you've called for the non-aggression principle to be "scrapped."
Why does it need to be scrapped? Why not hold the non-aggression principle as a relative ideal to be strived for as opposed to a moral absolute that should be rejected?
AP: That's a very good question. The simple reason is because without laws to determine what is a just use of force, then the definition of what is aggression becomes arbitrary. In fact, Mr. Libertarian himself Murray Rothbard argued in The Ethics of Liberty that it would be perfectly legal (if still immoral) to allow a child to starve to death, since a parent has no positive obligation to feed them. This means that in a society based around the NAP, no one would have the right to initiate force to remove a child from neglectful parents, seeing as how the parents didn't initiate force, they merely allowed the child to die as a result of their inaction.
Constitutional minarchist libertarians such as myself argue that children do have some positive rights, and those include the right not to be left in a dumpster or starved to death by neglectful parents. I believe in a government whose role is relegated to a Night Watchman, protecting the natural rights of all individuals, including children. If a parent starves their child through inaction, then the Night Watchman should have the legal authority to initiate force to protect the child.
Am I causing controversy by getting people to question their most deeply held beliefs? Good. Then our philosophy will only be stronger to be able to withstand the attacks we will receive from our real detractors, the statists.
If your libertarianism is logic based, you have nothing to fear from a debate. If it's faith based, then I will happily sacrifice your sacred cow on the altar of intellectual honesty. If you're offended, well, perhaps you might fit in more with the liberal left, whose hysterics match that of those who have been watching in horror as I eviscerate the tenets of their false god: the NAP.
UR: In your view, what does the future hold in store for the libertarian movement beyond 2016?
AP: I cannot see the future, and I despise all prognosticators. I am a skeptical libertarian, not Nostradamus. I can only build the infrastructure today of a freer society, in hopes that others will come along to add their own beams and concrete. I do not know what the future holds; I can only hold out hope that my efforts will not have been in vain, and that our future generations will be freer, as we are more free than those who came before us.
If libertarians work together and put our differences aside, we can accomplish great things. If we sit around debating the finer points of a failed, narrow, misguided, esoteric philosophical viewpoint, we will fail.
UR: When I'm not interviewing folks, I write film reviews. One can learn a lot about a man by the types of films he enjoys, especially if that man is planning to lead America. What is your all-time favorite movie, and what about it speaks to you?
AP: My favorite film is The Shawshank Redemption because I've always felt I've had unfair adversity in my life that I've been forced to overcome. But like Andy Dufresne, I may wade through a river of slime, but I will come out clean on the other end.
UR: How can the electorate find out more about your campaign?
AP: There are many ways for individual citizens to help us in our campaign to take over the government and leave everyone alone! First, they can register as a volunteer at austinpetersen2016.com and put boots on the ground to take our country back. They can donate at austinpetersen2016.com/donate, just as our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Also, get involved online, by liking and participating in our discussions at facebook.com/producerpetersen. Our event schedule is publicly available there, and you can RSVP for a local event where I will be traveling to in the coming months. We also are on Twitter (@AP4LP) and Instagram (@petersenforpresident). Join me there, and let's make a difference in our local communities and around the world!