The following article originally was published by Grand Junction’s Free Press.
Candidates discuss economics, self-defense
September 29, 2008
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
For many of us, the election can’t be over soon enough. The same goes for many of our candidates. Those running for office, with rare exception, believe that they are running for the cause of good government. They become emotionally vested in the race and their proposals. They spend a great deal of time and money (sometimes their own) seeking office. It’s exhausting.
When candidates attend forums, often only a few voters show up. Candidates have little opportunity to communicate directly with the voters at large. Usually there are two types of people who attend these forums: those looking for handouts or political favors and those trying to keep from suffering more abuse at the hands of politicians. For those looking at the big picture, these forums offer a painful reminder that politicians have pushed government well beyond its proper bounds.
Your senior author recently attended two forums for candidates. The Pro Second Amendment Committee (PSAC) hosted its forum on September 19; the Mises Economics Study Group held its event on September 24.
PSAC has been around since 1989, motivated by the threat of California’s so-called assault gun ban. We’re pleased to note that, while the federal government imposed a ban on the sale of certain “assault” weapons in 1994, that ban sunset in 2004, thanks in large part to the work of groups like PSAC.
Sandy Caskey, president of the group, did an excellent job of organizing and conducting the forum. All of the candidates running for office in Mesa County attended, except Marcia Neal, a candidate for state school board.
The candidates shared their views on the importance of the Second Amendment. They all strongly support it, of course. Some of us half expected to see Charlton Heston descend from the heavens to shake their hands.
Unfortunately, the next segment could have aired on Saturday Night Live. None of the candidates seemed to know that Colorado is an open-carry state. Most of them thought the question of open carry should be “studied.”
Dan Robinson, a candidate for county commissioner, suggested that technology circumscribes our rights. “Plastic guns cannot be identified in metal detectors and should be controlled,” he said. Setting aside the fact that no such gun exists, we wonder if Robinson would extend his argument about technology to the First Amendment. Should we restrict freedom of the press because we now have electricity and the internet?
Your senior author asked the candidates if they would use the power and prestige of their office to press for gun safety in the schools. Some candidates dodged the question by assuming this meant mandatory classroom instruction. Janet Rowland, a candidate for county commissioner, said she would promote voluntary gun safety, and for that she earns our high marks (despite our previous differences with her on other matters).
For the Mises group, Don and Sue McFarland opened their home to over 40 guests. Marcia Neal again offered a very persuasive reason for not attending, this time joined by D. D. Lewis, a candidate for county commissioner. Representative Bernie Buescher failed to respond to several requests to attend the forum.
As an aside, this discussion group is important. With various politicians — including our Republican president — promoting $700 billion in new corporate welfare, now is a great time for candidates to turn to the wisdom of master economist Ludwig von Mises. Even though we sometimes disagree with the outfit now bearing his name, at least it makes available many of Mises’s works at www.mises.org/misesbooks.asp. To take one example, readers who think of themselves as liberals ought to check out Mises’s book Liberalism, which promotes the concept at its truest.
The first pitch to the candidates was a hardball: defend the morality of capitalism or socialism. Such fundamental issues rarely concern today’s politicians. The good news is that no candidate choose to defend socialism. The bad news is that none seemed to be able to defend capitalism. We were mildly impressed by County Commissioner Craig Meis, who started down the right path.
We suggest candidates read Ayn Rand’s book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Then they’ll be ready for the question next time. In fact, voters too might ask themselves whether they can outline the differences between these fundamentally opposed economic systems and defend one over the other.
If more people would read Mises and Rand, they would be on the lookout for the sorts of misguided political controls that caused the current financial crisis. Notably, in her book on capitalism Rand notes that economic crises “blamed on businessmen were caused, necessitated, and made possible only by government intervention in business.” That perfectly summarizes recent events.
Today’s pragmatic political climate turns most candidates into invertebrates. The major political problem is fantasizing about how best to spend other people’s money. So we sincerely appreciate those candidates who made an effort to talk about central ideas, if only for an evening.
Linn is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son Ari edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.