That Perennial Western Malady, the Revolt of the Individual Against the Species

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Friday, November 19, 2004

The "Libertarian 13" Program

Stop the Selective Service System!

Mailed to Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, March 27, 2004. Received replies from each. They assured me of their support for the all-volunteer force, but ignored the subject of my letter, draft registration. If our representatives claim to oppose the draft, they ought to prove it by abolishing the law requiring all adult males to register with the Selective Service System.

Since the reinstitution of the SSS in 1980, over 3,000,000 names have been referred to the justice department for possible prosecution for failure to register. I plan on joining the list. The Military Selective Service Act of 1980 has the highest rate of noncompliance since the prohibition of alcohol. Resist the coming draft! Don't register!

Dear Representative Brown-Waite

As I approach my eighteenth birthday, I am faced with ever growing concern regarding the Selective Service System. I do not recognize conscription as a morally legitimate function of Government, nor can I find any evidence supporting the necessity of such an institution for the defense of our nation.

It is ironic that such a system exists in a country that has for so long and by so many been considered a land of liberty. The Selective Service System can justly be described as an antithesis of founding American principles—those of self-ownership and protection from tyranny. Conscription meets every definition of slavery and despotism. The Selective Service System, through coercion by the threat of imprisonment, forces men to give their sanction to such an institution.

Conscription, and therefore draft registration, is totally unnecessary for the defense of our nation. Throughout our history, Americans have risen and volunteered to serve every time the country was in need of defense. In a recent report, the Pentagon acknowledged that "suspending peacetime registration could be accomplished with limited risk to national security considering the low probability of the need for conscription." Yet, the upkeep of the Selective Service System costs Americans about $25million every year. Since its reinstitution in 1980, the system has cost taxpayers over $400million. Even discarding the moral and philosophical arguments, why should Americans be burdened with the upkeep of such an unnecessary program?

It is my sincere hope that my representatives in Washington will stand by the principles of liberty and patriotism by supporting any measure to terminate the Selective Service System.

"The question is nothing less than whether the most essential rights of personal liberty shall be surrendered, and despotism embraced in its worst form... A free government with an uncontrolled power of military conscription is the most ridiculous and abominable contradiction and nonsense that ever entered into the head of man." --Daniel Webster


Spencer K. Neff

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Instant Runoff Sucks

Posted October 24, 2004 on the forum. Information from

Our voting system is inherently flawed. The main reason we are stuck under this two party system is not unjust ballot and debate access, but because our voting system dictates, mathematically, that two parties share all power. I haven't talked to or heard of anyone not in support of the above statement besides high level Democrats and Republicans and the partisan hacks that run the mass media.

For the last few months I've been slightly in favor of Instant Runoff Voting, in which voters rank their candidates by preference. For instance, of the eight presidential candidates on the Florida ballot, Florida voters would choose their top choice and as many alternate choices as they wished. After all votes have been cast, the officials will total the candidates' first choice votes. If one receives a majority, nothing else needs to be counted and that candidate is elected. If no candidate receives more than 50%, then the candidate who received the fewest number of first choice votes is thrown out, and the people who chose him as their first choice have their second choice candidate counted in the recount. The process continues until one candidate has a majority.

Supporters of the IRV method argue that it will eliminate the "wasted vote" problem. However, in the past week I've learned that this is only true as long as the third party candidates have a very small chance of winning. As soon as the pundits begin predicting that a third party candidate will make a substantial showing, we'd be put back in the same "strategic vote" boat we're in now. For example, we can pretend that in 2004 there will be three candidates on the ballot, Bush, Kerry, and Badnarik, and that one will be elected using the IRV process. If the analysts predict that Badnarik could take upwards of 20% or so, many of the people who planned on voting Badnarik but favor either Bush or Kerry strongly over the other, would be worried that giving Badnarik their first choice vote would lead to their second choice being thrown out. If Bush received the fewest number of first choice votes, but a larger number of second choice votes than Kerry or Badnarik, the Badnarik supporters have "spoiled" the election in Kerry's favor.

As evidence, Australia has been using instant runoff voting for a number of years, yet they are still stuck under the same two party system they were before.

Recently, I've found out about Condorcet voting. Condorcet voting takes each candidate in the election, and pairs them up into as many one-on-one combinations as possible. In the example above, one could vote Badnarik over both Bush and Kerry and still be able to vote Bush over Kerry. No candidates are thrown out, and points are spread about all candidates, as opposed to only the "first choice" candidates. The strategic vote is effectively eliminated. I haven't found any compelling arguments against Condorcet voting. It is the fairest and most just method I've come across.

For a more in depth discussion of Condorcet voting, as well as a few other voting methods: The site is for advocating "approval voting," which is interesting as well.

Every supporter of election reform and every third party sympathizer needs to research this issue and become vocal about it. This is the issue we need to address, not ballot access, not debate access criteria, not campaign finance restrictions. If you support IRV, you need to reconsider your options. Every single unit of energy spent advocating IRV is wasted. IRV offers no advantage even to our current system.

UPDATE: February 01, 2005

This is for clarification. I fully support Approval Voting as an immediate solution to the problems caused by the current system. Approval Voting allows the voter to vote for multiple candidates for a single office. For instance, I would have voted only for Michael Badnarik, but my family could have voted for both Badnarik and President Bush. Implementation would not require any new equipment, and the alterations to the existing ballot design would be limited to changing the wording of the instructions from "choose one" to "choose as many as you wish." It can be implemented immediately and costlessly, and is a huge advancement over Plurality Voting and much better than Instant Runoff. Approval Voting is not as accurate as Condorcet, but the potential financial costs and the learning curve that would be associated with switching to Condorcet make Condorcet desirable as a long term goal. Approval Voting is a practical solution with definite positive results that can be implemented TODAY.

Why the Tampa Tribune is Wrong in Non-Endorsement

In response to the Tampa Tribune's editorial Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush For Re-Election. Written and submitted to editor October 17. Unpublished.

The Tampa Tribune editorial staff are not alone among conservatives in their reluctance to endorse President Bush for re-election. Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, syndicated columnist Robert Novak, assistant to President Reagan Doug Bandow, author James Bovard, financial commentator Jonathan Hoenig, and the members of the Log Cabin Republicans are just a few of the many fiscal conservatives who have withdrawn their support of the president's re-election. In 2000, Bush promised he would not increase taxes, stated that the U.S. needed a "humbler foreign policy," and warned that Gore would "throw the budget out of balance." But after four years, Bush has turned a $5 trillion surplus into a $5 trillion deficit (increasing future taxes, with interest!), engaged in worldwide nation building, and increased federal spending to over $20,000 per household. George Bush did not veto a single bill passed by the GOP-controlled Congress. A recent article urges that "conservatives must not vote for Bush."

Thankfully, true conservatives will have a real choice on November 2. Michael Badnarik is the Libertarian candidate for president. He is on the ballot in 48 states and D.C., and promises to return the federal government to its Constitutional description. Badnarik's campaign website is

Vote or Die: The Two Party System

Defend or refute the following two statements:
There is little difference between a Democrat and a Republican.
What this country needs is a third-party alternative.

America has always suffered under the two-party system. George Washington warned America in his farewell speech of the great dangers that a party system would present to our country: "It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions..." Our Plurality Voting system multiplies this problem by guaranteeing that the party which chooses a candidate most like their opponents will be elected. Our two-party system obscures the public’s true choice of representation, forces the media to engage solely in false debate and partisan hackery, and restricts American democracy to a nearly total degree.

Many have commented that today we are given the choice of selecting one of two candidates from the same party. The upcoming election will affect only which group of friends will be feeding at the taxpayers’ trough. Republicans claim to support limited government, yet the GOP controlled Congress has increased the federal budget more in the last four years than all of Clinton’s eight. George W. Bush did not veto a single spending bill passed by Congress. Our national debt has skyrocketed, with Bush’s and the Republicans in Congress’s blessings, to a record breaking $7.4 trillion dollars. Democrats, on the other hand, claim to represent personal freedom and the downtrodden, yet they have done nothing to reform our draconian war on drugs or a welfare system that loses over 70% of its funds in administration overhead. A Libertarian candidate for Congress in Texas recently called the choice between Bush and Kerry "like asking ‘who’s your favorite Menendez brother.’" The season premier of South Park depicted the 2004 election as a choice between a giant douche or a turd sandwich.

The media, controlled by the Democrats and Republicans, has a vested interest in making sure that third parties do not enter the political picture. They devote their programming largely to shallow, scripted "debate" designed to magnify the tiny differences between the two parties. Both Bush and Kerry support the continued occupation of Iraq, the failing No Child Left Behind Act, a foreign policy of intervention and imperialism in over 135 countries worldwide, increasing the federal budget, continued deficit spending, continued tax increases, increasing the number of federal programs and bureaucracies, an immigration policy which forces honest and hard working immigrants to become criminals, the horrible failure of the war on drugs, illogical, harmful gun control laws, and the egregiously unconstitutional USA PATRIOT Act. Indeed, on every issue of importance to ordinary Americans, the two entrenched party candidates’ positions differ only in wording.

When Michael Badnarik and David Cobb, the Libertarian and Green parties’ candidates for president, were handcuffed and arrested while trying to enter the presidential debate in St. Louis, none of the major media reported. When an anchor on CNN began mentioning the event the following morning, he was inexplicitly cut off. Guests on Bill O’Reilly’s talk show are required to explicitly agree not to mention Michael Badnarik or the Libertarian Party on the air. A search for "Badnarik" (a presidential candidate who is on 48 state ballots and expected to take at least 2% of the national vote) on yields zero results.

The government has an even greater vested interest in stifling the voices of the third parties. Bipartisan ballot access laws are increasingly ridiculous and unjust. Earlier this year, the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma spent thousands of dollars and the time of dozens of volunteers collecting the 60,000 signatures required of any party other than the Democrats or Republicans to appear on the ballot. Because signatures are often tossed in the validation process for being illegible, the Libertarian Party added a line to the form for people to print their name on. Over 80,000 signatures were submitted one week early to the Republican supervisor of elections. He threw out every signature on grounds that the form had been illegally altered. Not only did this keep Michael Badnarik off the Oklahoma state ballots, it removed the Libertarian Party’s status of an "acknowledged" party in the state. Similarly, the democrats have spent millions of dollars to keep Ralph Nader off state ballots. They have engaged in disruptive, rowdy, unlawful protests at his rallies and meetings. The same party that in 2000 urged the government to "count every vote" is this year doing everything it can to stifle dissenting voices.

Throughout American history, it has always been the third parties that have brought any substantial change. The right of women to vote, the abolition of slavery, child labor laws, and the balanced budget are just a few of the changes that came about as a direct result of third party action.

A vote for the lesser of two evils is by definition a vote for evil. It is intellectually cowardly and morally reprehensible, a fraud against one’s self and countrymen, to vote for the lesser evil when good candidates are on the ballot. To continue repeating the same action and expect eventually a different result is the definition of insanity. The Democrats and Republicans will do nothing to cause change. To vote Kerry with the expectation that he will undo Bush’s policies is insane. He will not end the Iraq occupation, he will not alter our terrorist-breeding foreign policy, he will not restore any of our liberties lost to the USA PATRIOT Act, he will not do anything to establish a lasting balanced budget, he will not decrease the role of government in our everyday lives. Both Democrats and Republicans are committed to keeping us traveling down the road to statism. No person, whether they be progressive or classically liberal, can vote Democrat or Republican in good conscience.

"When our political process and independent voices are strangled out of our ballots and out of the debates through increasingly discriminatory ballot access and debate participation rules, our country stagnates: THE LOWEST voter turnout of ANY country on earth where as many (in this race) as 140 million eligible voters WILL NOT, CANNOT bring themselves to vote for a Republican or a Democrat." –John Hagelin, Natual Law Party presidential candidate, September 28, 2000.