Burlison on a budget

One of the most frequently asked questions—and usually one asked in a “yeah, like that will ever happen” tone—is “how would Libertarians govern if elected?” Springfield, Missouri city councilman (and long-time Libertarian Party activist) Doug Burlison provides one answer to that question with his budget proposal (courtesy of The Libertarian Guy, a/k/a Greene County, Missouri LP chairman Keith Rodgers).

I see this year’’s budget process as an opportunity to make a decisive “course adjustment” in the direction of our ship of state, so that our children inherit a city full of promise, not problems. To progress towards this goal, I believe it is prudent to transfer monies from non-critical budgets to the essential needs in our more fragile fiscal areas. In this scenario, we reduce the level of peripheral services only, keeping the impact to the community at a minimum.

Burlison names some obvious and easy cuts (taxpayer-funded lunches for politicians and such), some which are of obvious interest to libertarians (drug testing), and some which attempt to at least partially disentangle the city from various “public-private partnerships” that have turned into budget-busters.

Then he takes it a step further:

I believe that to reduce our debt and create additional one-time repair funds for the fire/police pension and the workers compensation insurance programs, the liquidation of appropriate city-owned properties or facilities should also be considered. There is a market for the outright purchase of municipal assets, as well as a market for the purchase with lease-back options of certain other city assets. Again, the focus should be on non-critical areas that could transition to private ownership with the least negative impact on the community.

This isn’t the kind of stuff calculated to set Rothbardian abolitionist hearts on fire, but it is the kind of stuff that real politicians who actually get elected have to deal with … and if Burlison’s proposals are adopted, Springfield’s government will be smaller than it was before.

Springfield is a tough nut to crack. When I ran for city council there in 1997 (Doug was a key volunteer on my campaign) it was a fast-growing, Democrat-leaning island in the Republican sea of Missouri’s 7th US House District. Growth of government has more than kept pace with private sector growth there in the last decade (which has been considerable—every time I visit the place, I recognize less of it). Burlison faces a daunting task in trying to prune back the city’s political sprawl. It’s nice to see him eyeing the outfield instead of trying to bunt as he steps up to the budget plate.

8 Responses to “Burlison on a budget”

  1. Scott Lieberman Says:

    Thank you for posting this, Tom.

    I hope that Mr. Gordon encourages more writers to post real-life examples of what elected Libertarians are doing to decrease the size of their local governments.

  2. Thomas L. Knapp Says:


    It’s not so much a matter of Steve encouraging it as it is a matter of us KNOWING about the efforts of elected/appointed Libertarians (and other third party officeholders).

    Naturally, all of us at TPW have various Google alerts, etc., set up to catch these stories, but they don’t always make the news. If anyone knows of a good story of this type, by all means email the Third Party Watch tip line or me ... I love covering this kind of stuff.

  3. Sean Scallon Says:

    I think it would behoove the big non-major parties (Green, CP, LP) to set up candidate seminars with their members that have been elected to local government to talk about their experiences and what they can expect. I’m not talking about producing some Little Red Book so that some city councilman can refer to it on whether or not to support a sewer bond. I’m talking getting those candidates who run for local offices to envision the kind of community they want to live in, how that reconciles with their political beliefs and then how translate all this into public policy.

  4. Thomas L. Knapp Says:


    A fine idea. I know that there will be a panel of serving Libertarian officeholders at the Heartland Libertarian Conference in Kansas City next month, so that might be a start. Another possibility is that the Libertarian Party Public Service Caucus, once organized (IF organized—most of my projects are on a “build it and see if they come” model), might do something of the sort.

    When I ran for school board awhile back (has it really been 8 years?), one of the requirements if elected was to attend some training sessions on how to function as a board member. In actuality, these were bureaucrat-sponsored-and-operated sessions intended to pre-indoctrinate board members to go along with whatever the salaried “administrators” recommended.

    The focus of political pressure is to do exactly that in most local positions (replace “school board” with “city council” and “administrators” with “city manager,” etc.). An independent seminar for new officeholders on how to successfully and productively resist that kind of pressure rather than melting down and trying to read Atlas Shrugged into each metting’s minutes, would probably be a very useful thing indeed.

  5. Rex Bell Says:


  6. Sean Scallon Says:

    Exactly Tom! No runs for local office for the money (ambition buit certainly not the pay) so it’s not about knowing how to function as a board member. You run for local office because you want to try to change things about the community you live in or provide a new perspective. If you think costs and spending are out of control, how would you control them? What would the city or village do different than its doing now and how would that fit into what you envision your community becoming. What do you like asbout your town and how do you wish to preseve it? How do you make it grow and how fast?

    I don’t care if you’re running for dog catcher, if you can’t answer these questions, then don’t run. The last thing people need to be doing (and certainly Libertarians for that matter) is reading Atlas Shrugged into the meeting minutes.

  7. David Says:

    In Texas they give a labotomies to all newly elected school board members at the board tranning sessions. Do I have any hard evidence to back up that statement - no. But I have over 25 years of watching people running for office to represent the taxpayer citizens get elected to the school board and immediately start representing the school district bureaucrats. Seriously if you are elected to local office don’t forget that the local bureaucrats are experts in the care and feeding of local elected officials they will try as hard as possible to lead you by the hand and to totally control your sources of information and access regarding their activities. Their favorite montra is you are suppose to function as a board of directors not as managers. Meaning of course do thing our way and don’t make waves

  8. The Libertarian Guy Says:

    Tom, belated thanks for the blog hat-tip.

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