The Vermont towns that formed Libertarian Committees are Bakersfield, Barnet, Barre Town, Bennington, Bethel, Bradford, Burlington, Fairfax, Grafton, Grand Isle, Hyde Park, Marshfield, Randolph, Rupert, Sheffield, Shelburne, South Burlington, Underhill, Vershire, and Westminster.
The number of Libertarian Town Committees is twice that of two years ago. This Libertarian growth stems from increased resentment of government encroachment on the private and economic lives of our citizens--encroachment that has been led by the major incumbent parties.
All Libertarian Party members,
and all citizens interested in the fate of
Liberty in Vermont, are welcome to attend.
Back to Top
It starts innocently. In one town, a group of concerned parents opens an adult-supervised center for teen-agers--a place kids can go, relax, have a good time, and escape outside pressures towards drugs and liquor. The center is run by volunteers, and its minimal expenses are easily met by donations. Well and good.
But then the center gets a grant from the state's publicly funded alcohol abuse agency, and another from the human resources office. Finally, it solicits a grant from the town itself--a small amount, maybe a couple of hundred dollars. What the heck, it only amounts to a few pennies per taxpayer, and look at the benefit it brings to our community! No one dares to protest.
Yet, the minute it accepts public funds, this apparently innocuous and good program, run by good and decent people, transforms itself into a great evil. It forces individual citizens to give to someone else's charity, even if they don't want to. It means that the public has forgotten one of the basic principles of American freedom, which is that taxes are to raise revenue to run the government, not to confiscate a citizen's wealth to pass it out to someone else. And that's how it begins! Once it became acceptable to use the taxing power to force donations to charities, we get onto a slippery slope that has no bottom. The idea of government charity has grown and grown and grown. Today the number of government departments and agencies and public employees in America doing some sort of charity work at the federal, state, and local level is uncountable, and they deal in areas way beyond the basic requirements of the needy and of the community. The welfare establishment --its administrators, supportive politicians, as well as its recipients--represents one of the most insidious and debilitating vested interests in America.
Among the wisdom teachings of ancient Israel is the hopeful utterance that some day no one will be poor. Yet the same writings also say that the poor will always be with us. As was recently pointed out in the National Review, both statements are true. Even in times of great prosperity, when nobody is truly needy, there will always be some people less prosperous than others who are worthy of voluntary help from their neighbors. And there will always be politicians and bureaucrats who will redefine them as "poor," and thereby justify the coercive redistribution of wealth by taxation, the expansion of bureaucratic welfare mechanisms, and their own reelection and reappointment to power.
All this political bribery requires money. Your money. And it doesn't end just with charity. There is always be more and more that the government "must" do in the public interest. For example:
Despite Vermont's very democratic political structure, the politicians now maintain that political campaigns must be regulated by the government, and that politicians may now subsidize their campaigns with government funds and new taxes. In Vermont, despite the unprecedented extent of our forests, the government now insists that it must regulate timber cutting on private property, which of course will require more personnel and more expenditures. Vermont's educational funding, previously controlled by local communities, now must be centralized and controlled by the state machine. Vermonters and their representatives who petition the legislature in the statehouse now must pay a special tax for the right to do so. Vermont land owners, coerced by excessive taxation into entering the government's current land use program, now find that they must open their land free of charge to the public, and this of course will be enforced by state agencies. Liberty has had a very bad year in Vermont!
And, always, on top of it all, they will make sure that the poor will indeed always be with us!!
Back to Top
On June 6, 1996, I pled not guilty to a violation of Barre City Ordinance 11-5, the carrying of a loaded firearm within city limits. My attorney, Cindy Hill, to whom I was referred by the Second Amendment Foundation, filed an oral motion to dismiss. She argued that the city ordinance was in direct violation of Title 24 Section 2295 of the Vermont Statutes as Amended, which prohibits municipal governments from regulating, among many other aspects of firearms, the carrying of firearms.
The judge requested that Ms. Hill file the motion in written form, which she did several days later. As a response to our motion to dismiss, Barre City Attorney Oliver Twombly filed a motion in which he argued that "a loaded firearm presents the real and present danger of discharge." I took this argument, superimposed a newspaper article, attached several remarks directed at gun owners of Vermont, made five-hundred copies, and distributed them in gun shops in the state. The response was overwhelming.
On June 24 a Conference Call was held on the case and Judge Suntag gave the Barre City attorney fourteen days to cite legal precedent as to why the Barre firearms ordinance was legal in view of the listed state statute. The City of Barre did not file a response. At the same time Barre City Attorney Twombly sent an internal memorandum to the city manager, Mike Welch, stating they would lose the case. Yet they still refused to drop the charges and return my property. On July 24, the judge dismissed the criminal charges. I had to make two trips to the Barre City Police Department but I was successful in having my firearm returned to me.
I was interviewed for articles in the Rutland Tribune, the Times Argus, and the Boston Globe. Each time I identified the reasons I was challenging this ordinance as my very strong libertarian beliefs. This fact was not published in any of the articles.
I had become aware that the cities of Rutland and Montpelier had enacted similar illegal firearms ordinances. I did not want to leave those ordinances intact, hence I began a campaign to encourage these two cities to repeal their ordinances. I mailed two copies of a letter outlining the results of my case, as well as a copy of the decision of Judge Suntag, to the City Attorneys in both Rutland and Montpelier. I sent one copy by first class mail and the other by certified mail for which I have a receipt of delivery. The response of the municipal officials in each city was that they would continue to enforce the same illegal ordinances. I promptly mailed them another letter, again explaining why their respective ordinances were illegal, as well as a copy of the Vermont Supreme Court decision in State v. Rosenthal (1903) which relates a precedent for holding their city ordinances illegal. Although I used the same types of mail service, I have received no response from either city.
After holding several public hearings, on November 12, 1996 the Barre City Council repealed its firearms ordinance. On December 6, 1996, using the same mail service, I sent a letter to the legislative boards of both Rutland and Montpelier pointing out the clearly illegal status of their ordinances, and informing them of the two previous letters and court decisions I had mailed to their respective city attorneys. I told them the copies of the documents and the signed certified receipts were in the possession of my attorney. The letter further related that their cities were undertaking a tremendous and needless civil liability, particularly given the number of state statutes calling for the prosecution of all dangerous and criminal acts carried out with firearms. I cited each statute and encouraged the boards to use these statutes instead, and to repeal their ordinances.
I have also contacted the Vermont A.C.L.U. and one of their referral lawyers obtained copies of the Rutland and Montpelier ordinances. After his legal research, he advised the Vermont A.C.L.U. executive board that these ordinances are clearly illegal. This lawyer advised me that the A.C.L.U. is poised to challenge these illegal ordinances if they are enforced.
Back to Top
Sometimes we Libertarians are our own worst enemies. We often express views that strain the perceptions of even our most liberty-leaning citizens. This usually happens when we let others force us into defending untenable positions. People to whom we talk will often take our principles to extreme logical conclusions, and then ask us to justify them as workable current political programs. We are then lured into defending Libertarian political theory in all its abstractions. But people don't want to hear political abstractions. They want real programs that can work now.
The Democrats used to be asked how they justify communism, but they always refused to be lured into such a position. Instead they dealt primarily with current workable issues.
When the Republicans were asked to defend the principle of the authoritarian corporate state they too avoided defending such an extreme position.
Yet, when we Libertarians are asked to justify what seems to be the logical conclusion of our principles--a country virtually without government, without taxes, with little collective national involvement in foreign affairs, with no borders, with no provision for government action to remedy extreme problems, and with no program to educate future generations--we often foolishly attempt such a justification. We must not always insist that our ultimate ideals be a goal of every political program that we advocate. Americans will not take seriously anyone who comes across as an unrealistic idealist.
In libertarian theory, we look at taxation as theft because it involves the use of coercion to deprive free people of their wealth. But our function as a party is to convey workable solutions, not abstract theories. Americans will not support anyone who appears to advocate mindlessly the repeal of all taxes whatsoever. It is much more effective to say that taxation should, at most, be solely for the purpose of raising revenue to run the government and carry out its constitutional functions. And we can insist that taxation not be for the purpose of redistributing wealth, and that it not be a tool to encourage or discourage any form of personal behavior, nor be implemented in a manner inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. But we can't advocate a repeal of all taxes.
Similarly, Americans will not vote for a party that seems to advocate a state with no laws, and therefore appears to be anarchistic. As Libertarians, we believe that the fewer the laws the better, but we are often trapped in debate into advocating the repeal of almost everything. Americans won't support that. It is much better to maintain that, at most, our laws must only define the outer limit of permissible activity. Laws should provide clearly-understood boundaries within which citizens may do as they please, but the laws should not provide for ongoing government regulation of our activities.
Americans will also not vote for a party whose program seems to weaken our national sovereignty. We argue strenuously against immigration barriers, and there are many good economic and social arguments in favor of our position. However, it is bad politics to argue that all foreigners have a basic "right" to come to America. Most Americans believe that an inherent aspect of national sovereignty is that nobody has the right to access a sovereign country except its own citizens. Americans will not vote for a party that advocates any reduction of our sovereignty. The only way to argue the immigration issue, in terms of a workable program, is to point out that immigration law would be unnecessary if we would truncate our current welfare system.
How about the welfare system! Any Libertarian who calls for the immediate ruthless abolition of all welfare is also committing political suicide. I have actually heard a number of Libertarians publicly justify the immediate cessation of welfare on "survival of the fittest" grounds. How much better it is for us to demonstrate that a massive reduction of welfare will lead to greater productivity and prosperity, and that, eventually, those who are really and truly needy will be reduced to a manageable number--manageable by local government, and probably even manageable by private charities. But we must never say, or even imply, that we might be willing to allow people to starve, for it is not true and downright wrong.
It is a curse of the Libertarian Party that some of our abstract reasoning and theoretical applications of ultimate Libertarian principles have found their way, as ostensible practical programs, into our party platforms and into our official utterances. It repels liberty-leaning common-sense Americans who are tempted to join our Party but cannot justify, on real-world grounds, some of our proposals (e.g. our national platform calls for no more issuance of passports). We must remember that a platform is neither a political creed nor a theoretical application of ultimate political principles. A platform should be a statement of workable policies that address current issues. Nor should adherence to a platform be a litmus test to judge whether someone is "really" a Libertarian. Libertarian spokesmen and Libertarian candidates must have the freedom to say that they disagree with portions of our platform. Our tendency to forget all this when addressing our platforms has done us terrible political damage in the past.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Back to Top
Vermont Libertarian Party Home Page