Newsday Columnist Praises Libertarians

New York Newsday columnist Raymond J. Keating discusses the Libertarian Party as a possible force for positive political change in this editoral.


Too many Democrats and Republicans on Long Island are indistinguishable on too many issues, from education and the environment to housing and taxes. Call them Democrats and Republicans, or Depublicans and Republicrats; it doesn’t matter. They’re interchangeable.

That’s why libertarians can be so refreshing. They’re all about individual freedom and free markets - ideas often foreign in local politics. Indeed, can any full-blown libertarians be found on Long Island?

As a matter of fact, I’m scheduled to speak tonight at the Suffolk Libertarian Meetup, held one evening each month at John Harvard’s Brew House in Lake Grove. No doubt, it’s a small gathering. But the few times I’ve attended there’s always been lively political conversation. In addition, Long Island will host the state convention of the Libertarian Party of New York on April 28.

The big question is: Can Libertarians ever have a political impact around here? Last week, I spoke with Richard Cooper, a Westbury resident who is the party’s state chairman, and asked him for the Libertarian take on some key local issues.

Regarding the ever-popular open-space preservation movement, Cooper labeled it “unspeakably arrogant.” He noted that land preservation with tax dollars serves “the interests of very wealthy people . . . not the poor.” He added: “Let the market decide” what’s the highest land use, “not the politicians, not the activists.” Libertarians locally and across the nation also have fought for property rights by challenging eminent-domain abuses.

On the related topic of housing, Cooper highlighted libertarian trust in the free market. He remarked: “We wouldn’t have illegal apartments if people were able to build apartment buildings.” Quite true.

As for public education, Cooper pointed out: “The school system is being run for the benefit of the school establishment, rather than for the parents and the children.” That’s for sure, but what’s the libertarian solution? Cooper spoke about the need to “separate school and state.” But there is disagreement as to what this means. Hard-core libertarians want government out of education completely, while others support school choice through vouchers or tax credits.

Finally, on taxes, Cooper offered a libertarian challenge to the voters: “The problem is that the public keeps saying they want lower taxes,” but then they say “gimme, gimme” in terms of “government favors.” Cooper summed up: “The solution to suburban problems lies in liberty and markets. The Libertarian Party stands for individual liberty, free markets and responsibility in order to promote a society that enjoys more justice, abundance and peace.” That probably sounds good to lots of people.

So why isn’t this a Libertarian hot spot? How many members of the Libertarian Party are in New York anyway? Cooper knew but would not tell me. Translation: very few.

Unfortunately, libertarians always have had a tough time getting their act together as a party. Organizing the colorful, sometimes eccentric, argumentative characters the party can attract must be the political equivalent of herding cats. Perhaps this should not be surprising given the libertarian emphasis on radical individualism.

But why not a simple political agenda - a few issues including taxes, property rights and housing - that Libertarians could rally around locally and present to the public? Think of a Libertarian version of the Republican “Contract With America” in 1994.

It’s hard to envision the Libertarian Party winning an election on Long Island. But it lies within reason that Libertarians could inject ideas into the political debate that Depublicans and Republicrats have neglected.

If those ideas catch on, major party politicians eventually will get the message. An actual debate over ideas might ensue. That would be a valuable contribution by Libertarians to Long Island politics.

6 Responses to “Newsday Columnist Praises Libertarians”

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  6. undercover_anarchist Says:

    For the LP to be taken seriously, they need to start existing in this world, not in some Randian, philosophical construct:

    1. Accept the Federal Reserve. No one is interested in abolishing it, and if you people understood how banking worked, you wouldn’t be against it either.

    2. Work on reforming Social Security (not “privatizing” or abolishing it) and welfare, etc. Your message isn’t popular on these issues and never will be.

    3. Accept the Civil Rights Act as part of the legal-social framework of our society. The public sees anyone who opposes this as a guaranteed racist, and 99% of the time, they’re right.

    4. Accept the income tax and the fact that it is legal. Work on reducing spending and simplifying the tax code, i.e. a flat tax.

    5. Stop demonizing the poor.

    Taking these steps, the LP message would be about 10,000 times more palatable. THE PARTY PRESENTS ITSELF AS “FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE, SOCIALL LIBERAL.” Most people don’t consider the radical “capitalism” of the LP’s position on the above five to be “responsbile” They consider it to be nuts. And they’re fucking right.

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