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Interview with Michael Badnarik

Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik with North Carolina activist Tara Grubb

While he was still a year from winning the Libertarian nomination, Michael Badnarik talked with TFL Publisher Kevin Rollins about his campaign and his ideas.

April 2003, Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Libertarian Party State Convention

Kevin Rollins: Have you ever run for office before?

Michael Badnarik: I have run for office twice, in Texas, as a state representative, first in district 47, and then after the redistricting, in district 48 Ė the same physical territory. I won 16.9% of the vote in the year 2000 in a two-way race. And I was in a race that was hotly contested with a Republican and Democrat in 2002 and I was able to get two and a quarter percent.

KR: Whatís your vision for your campaign for president?

MB: My vision for the campaign is to at least be self sustaining. I donít anticipate a lot of financial help from the Libertarian Party and Libertarians seem to be somewhat frugal. So, rather than rely on their benevolence, Iím teaching my constitution class Ė an eight hour class that Iíve developed. I tend to come to the conference and then teach my constitution class immediately after the conference to be self sustaining.

KR: Thatís a money raiser for you?

MB: That would be a money raiser for me. And, according to the election law, everything that I was doing before the election is basically, you know, my own money. And I was teaching the constitution class for two years before I was running for president. So I can continue to take all of that money as my own and most of it will go right into the campaign. I am unique in that there are no limitations on contributions in my own name. Everyone else is limited to $2000.

KR: So you can spend as much as you want on your campaign?

MB: I can spend as much of my own money on my campaign as I have. Unfortunately, I donít have very much.

KR: What are the issues you want to bring out in this campaign?

MB: Fundamentally, Iím trying to educate the general public about the constitution and let them draw their own conclusions. Most of what the government does, is unconstitutional. Thatís the basic fundamental.

The issue that is closest to my heart is the 2nd Amendment. If we lose our 2nd Amendment rights, then all the others are just a matter of time before theyíre taken away from us, because we canít defend ourselves.

Probably the next issue of importance, would be privatizing education. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare started in 1953, the year before I was born, and over the last 50 years of government controlled schools, the students in the United States went from first place in math and science to twenty-first place. So even if the Department of Education was constitutional, which it is not, it is not doing what it was intended to do. Our students in the United States are becoming dumber instead of smarter. So we need to go in the opposite direction, and have less government control instead of more.

I would like to privatize schools completely, and take state governments out of the loop as well, because parents know where the good schools are and where the bad schools are. I have personal friends who packed up the furniture and literally moved across town so they could live in a proper school district. Thatís how important education is.

The parents know what the right schools are. We can privatize them all, and make each school a competitive company, and then parents will send their kids to the good schools and the bad schools have two choices: either improve and become a good school or go out of business. And thatís what the free-market is all about. Right now, you only have one choice: to send your children to government controlled schools. Americans would be upset if we only had one choice of peanut butter, but we seem to be satisfied when we only have one choice in education? These are our children, this is ridiculous.

I think that privatizing all the schools, would not only increase competition, increase the level of education our children were getting, it would also decrease the price. One of the arguments is that without public schools poor children wouldnít be able to afford education. With competition the price of education would be so low, they could afford education. Probably, a much better education than they are getting right now, paid for by the government.

KR: So thatís two out of three. Guns, Education, ...?

MB: Well, I would definitely like to put an end to the drug war. It's a difficult [issue] to present to the general public, because people think that all we want to do is legalize marijuana so we can smoke dope.

Iíve never smoked marijuana, Iíve never taken any kind of drugs. Iíve never smoked cigarettes. I donít drink alcohol and I rarely drink caffeine, although Iíve been drinking more of that now that Iím on the campaign trail. [Using drugs] is not my motivation for ending the drug war.

I want to end all of the abuses to our rights. The drug war has spawned this idea of asset forfeiture. Under asset forfeiture, a police department can discover a marijuana cigarette underneath the seat of your car. They can confiscate the car. Sell it at 10 percent of its original price and keep the money. Well, if the police department can keep the money, that fosters an environment where they are very likely to find a marijuana cigarette in a greater and greater number of cars. There was a statistic that I remember seeing, that half of the police departments that had an anti-drug program, were corrupt.

Theyíre coming into our homes, theyíre searching our homes, theyíre searching our cars, not because youíve been indicted for something, but because youíve been suspected of doing something. And now under the drug laws, you are required to prove your innocence. This is in direct contradiction to the American Way.

KR: How do you feel about a candidate like Jim Gray, and his focus on just the drug war?

I donít think it would be good for the Libertarian Party to isolate one thing, because there are a lot of people who dislike and wonít join the Libertarian Party for a single issue. The Libertarian Party needs to be more aggressive in our stance, we canít allow the Republicans and Democrats to get away with this stuff without pointing out publicly that they are violating the constitution, theyíre violating our rights and theyíre guilty of perjury. We have to cover as many topics as we can to appeal to as many issues as possible. But, contrary to many of the other candidates, I refuse to compromise. I will not modify my message, or use euphemism to attract a much wider voting audience. If you want a [sound]byte message, vote for the Democrats and Republicans. Iím a Libertarian. I stand with Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the constitution. If you donít like what I have to say, then donít vote for me. But, if you ask me a question, youíre going to find out exactly how I feel.

KR: How do you feel about the gold standard?

MB: I much prefer the gold standard to the fiat federal currency that we have now. Federal reserve notes are constantly being inflated. I think we would literally be better off using Monopoly money, because I donít think the game company prints as much monopoly money as the federal reserve does. So, the inflation rate would be significantly lower.

Iíve had people smarter than I am tell me that the metal base is not necessary and there are many inherent problem with a gold or silver standard. However, I think that would be a good first step and certainly better than what we have now. If Iím ever in a position to start making policy, I would certainly surround myself with economic people that understand the situation better than I do.

KR: How do you feel about abortion?

MB: My stance on abortion has changed. And it is without a doubt, the most difficult to answer. It is the most emotional issue and I donít claim to have the final answer. I was originally pro-choice and my position was that abortion in the first trimester, would probably be appropriate. However in my constitution class, I teach that rights derive from property. I can walk across my land without asking for permission, but itís a privilege to walk across your land. And your right to life derives from the fact that you own your own body. If you donít own your own body, then youíre a slave. Well using my own logic, I deduced that the child must own its own body so the child has a right to life. The question then becomes, when does the child take ownership of that body. And my stance right now is that, you cannot identify ownership of your body at an arbitrary point within the pregnancy. Because, thatís going to be an arbitrary point and people are going to continue to argue. That leaves two choices. Either birth, or conception. But, I donít think anyoneís willing to argue that the child doesnít own his body until birth, because that would allow us to do partial birth abortions. And I donít know anybody, who supports that view.

So the only choice left is that child will necessarily own its own body at conception. And so Iíve switched, from a purely pro-choice to a pro-life, I donít think abortions are proper. Iím pro-choice, as long as you make the choice before you have sex. We have rights that have inherent responsibilities.

KR: No abortions ever?

MB: Up until this morning, I would have said no abortions ever. And I had someone come up to me this afternoon, and explain that we identify a clinical moment of death when we lose mental brain signals. And using that, it would be logical, that the beginnings of life, would be at the beginning of brain activity. Which seems perfectly logical, and having only considered that for the last six hours, it seems plausible. I may in the very near future postulate that as my theory. And again, I donít claim to know the final answer. I donít claim to be able to settle the issue, all I can do is tell the voters what my particular stance is. And I am struggling with it, just as everybody else is.

KR: What do you think about the war in Iraq?

MB: Well, the one thing that I can say conclusively is that we are not prosecuting the war constitutionally. Congress has not declared war. They have done some little inter-office memo to give the president notice that ďweíre not going to censure you if you go to war.Ē They donít have that authority. The president of the United States does not have the authority to go off and send troops all over the world. Now we canít answer that question in the small scope of just what has happened since Sept 11th. The reason that weíre in the trouble that weíre in is that it has been our foreign policy over the last 20 years. Given where we are right now. I'm fairly certain that something needs to be done.

However Article I, Section 8, clause eleven, that gives Congress the right to declare war, also gives congress the right issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal. What we are being told of course, is we are given this false choice of either peace OR war. As if those are the only alternatives. Since the World Trade Center has fallen, obviously we have to go to war and stomp their country into the ground. Well, the truth of the matter is, that we do not require a complete and total assault with our entire military. However we could, on good constitutional procedure, issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and send small groups. Anyone whoís ever seen James Bond knows that the double zero in the number means that heís got a license to kill and thatís not something that Hollywood dreamed up, basically thatís Hollywoodís understanding of Letters of Marque and Reprisal. We have the power to go and stomp a country into the ground, we also have the ability to go in and do far less damage. Not being privileged to all of the security information, I really couldnít make an educated guess. But, with what I know now, I strongly suspect that we could go in and solve the problem with a far less show of force and without irritating the rest of the world in the process.

KR: How do you feel about Ron Paul being a Republican?

MB: I like Ron Paul. I am very glad that he is in Congress. He is one of the few people who consistently defends my rights protected by the constitution. I think that heís wonderful. Iím glad that heís there. I wish I had a dollar for every person who has told me that Iím a wonderful candidate, that I should ride the elephant to victory. Iím a smart guy, if I wanted to be a Republican, I would be a Republican. I am a Libertarian because I am based on principle. And you know, Ron Paul is doing a good job, but somebody has to set the standard, somebody has to set the goal for the future and I am happy to set that goal.

KR: Nuclear weapons in peopleís backyards?

MB: I donít know why everyone asks that. The 2nd amendment allows you to protect yourself. You have a right to keep and bear arms. You do not have a right to pull it out and point it at me. Even if you havenít pulled the trigger, you present a clear and present danger. I am not required to wait until you put a bullet into my shoulder before I respond. So, a nuclear warhead constitutes a clear and present danger. It is the equivalent of you pointing a gun at me. Thatís why we have the authority to prevent you from having a nuclear warhead. But, one of the problems libertarians have, is answering unanswerable questions. Usually, the question is, do you think the 2nd amendment allows you to have a bazooka, or do you think the 2nd amendment allows you to have an F-16. If I say no, the 2nd amendment does not allow an F-16, then the debate becomes where we draw the line.