Monday, August 3, 2009

Blog Interviews: Mr. David Colborne

For this round of Blog Interviews the Liberty Pen is going local. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. David Colborne, Secretary for the Nevada Capital Libertarian Party. It is my contention that the impressions of Libertarianism are artificial and carefully effected manipulation, and I state this position because of the multiple conversations I have had via person-to-person and on blogging forums. A carefully scripted depiction that conveys the fundamental character of a thing, without the infusion of nescience and personal bias (both cognitive factors), could be called an explicit definition. If you want specificity the example would be; libertarianism is a political philosophy that advocates limited government; personal responsibility; free markets; and individual sovereignty. As a corollary I would like to add the following as a supplementation;

"...disparate reciprocity is a key element of individualism; the acknowlegement that fundamental distinctions exist between dissimilar elements, and to ensure social equilibrium a consonance must be afforded to the protean aspects of individual sovereignty."

In other words; if we except as the normative that all individual beings are different, we must also accept that the pursuance of one's self-interests will also vary. During the advancement of our cause we must remain cognizant not to infringe upon the rights of others. Respect for this form of individuality will effect the inferred element of disparate reciprocity. I sumit that any real social balance will only manifest when we disengage ourselves from other people's lives.

But, I will concede that this is my viewpoint and I do not speak for the bulk of Libertarians. Therefore, for your reading pleasure we would like to present the following interview. We hope you enjoy it.

tLP: To begin, please tell our readers what a Libertarian is, and what does Libertarianism mean to you?

Mr. Coborne: Do you like telling people what to do? Do you enjoy it when people tell you what to do? If your answer to both of those questions is "no", you're a Libertarian. Libertarianism, at least to me, means taking the same attitude and same instinct that we use on our friends, coworkers, and neighbors, and applying it on a local, state, and national level.

tLP: Why did you decide to become politically active?

Mr. Colborne: Part of it was upbringing - my mom was rather politically active in her younger years and she made it a point to pass that on to me. Part of it was that, as I grew up, I noticed that politicians seemed to hew to two basic paths: Either they were willing to let me do whatever I wanted with my life but wanted to reach for my wallet, or they were happy to let me keep my wallet but wanted to tell me what to do in the privacy of my own home. I wasn't terribly excited about either prospect, so I decided to do something about it.

tLP: Do you have friends that are Democrat or Republican? If so, what are your political conversations like?

Mr. Colborne: You bet! My best friend is a Republican and my wife's best friend is a Green. Believe it or not, we each have quite a bit in common politically, though we may not necessarily realize it. My Republican friend and I, of course, agree on issues like gun control, taxes, and most government regulation. However, he's a little more reluctant to approve of things like gay marriage and, amusingly enough, people forgetting to use their turn signals. My wife's friend, meanwhile, is about as interested in government control in the bedroom as I am - on the other hand, she's not convinced that corporations can be made to behave responsibly without serious government intervention. Personally, I just try to avoid arguing with them and instead focus on coming up with compromises that both can live with. Libertarianism makes this surprisingly easy.

For example, on the issue of gay marriage, many Libertarians will tell you they're not in favor of government-sponsored gay marriage - in their view, the government shouldn't have their nose in marriage at all! I think that might be a little extreme, at least for now, but I do think there's some value in the spirit behind this idea. For my Republican friend, he's upset that a group of people with no religious affiliation are attempting to take over the institution of marriage via government fiat. For my wife's Green friend, she just wants to see gay people receive equal treatment under the law. From her viewpoint, if we call a contractual union between two straight people a "marriage" and a contractual union between two gay people something else, it will be far too easy for some opportunistic legislator to declare that the union between the two gay people no longer shares the same rights as the union between the two straight people. I think both are valid concerns. One possible solution, which both of them found reasonably acceptable, was to simply pull government out of the "marriage" business entirely and declare that, as far as the government was concerned, straight or gay, everybody just had a civil union. If two people wanted to get "married", they could either just decide they're "married" or take it up with a religious figure of their choice.

Interestingly, there already is some precedent for this idea. Mormons, for example, recognize both regular marriages and "temple marriages". According to the Latter-Day Saint faith, temple marriages have a very different and far more restrictive set of rules than regular civil marriages; as far as the government is concerned, however, there is absolutely no distinction between the two. Whether two people choose to follow the government's rules or the more restrictive LDS rules is a voluntary choice between those two people, one which the government is completely indifferent to.

tLP: What are some misconceptions about Libertarians?

Mr. Colborne: Probably the biggest misconception is that we're a bunch of gun-toting, drug using hedonists. Personally, I don't have a gun - to be honest, if you gave me a gun, I'd have a very limited understanding of what to do with one. I don't use drugs; I've tried marijuana but, frankly, didn't like it. I barely even drink - honestly, you could count the number of times I drink anything alcoholic in a year on two hands. As for wanton hedonism, well, my wife and I are very happy with each other and neither of us are particularly interested in sharing.

tLP: How would Libertarian principles benefit our country?

Mr. Colborne: Libertarian principles are based around the concept that, ultimately, people are motivated by self-interest. Contrary to what people think, we don't think that people are incorruptible - on the contrary, we simply assume that people in government are just as corruptible as any capitalist and vice-versa. When you have power, it's in your best interest to exercise it. All Libertarians want is to make sure that people can pick and choose who they're dealing with voluntarily and, just as importantly, choose to stop dealing with them if they're dissatisfied. For example, if people really wanted GM to continue doing business, they would have bought GM products.

tLP: If not already answered in the previous question, how would a Libertarian limit the size of government?

Mr. Colborne: The answer, of course, is depressingly simple: Slowly.

Ultimately, Libertarians are going to be constrained in how they can limit the size of government by the mandate given to them by the voters. Consequently, in order for a Libertarian to meaningfully decrease the size of government, they will need to prove - through action, when and where possible - that less government really does provide more for everyone. However, we have to remember that many people rely on the government for food, shelter, health care, education, and retirement. If we're going to meaningfully reduce the size of government, we will need to provide better alternatives, and that will take some time and some imagination.

Remember, it took generations for our government to reach its current size. It's not going away in four years, no matter who gets elected. The Libertarian goal is a long-term goal.

tLP: Do you feel that there is an assault on fundamentalist principles, as they pertain to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, individualism, self-reliance and self-responsibility, and limited government?

Mr. Colborne: Hanlon's Razor states, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." For this question, I'd like to replace "stupidity" with "indifference", though the end result is the same.

I think that most people think they believe in the country's fundamental principles. I think that most people in this country think they believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, individualism, self-reliance, and self-responsibility. If you ask most people in this country about their government, they'll tell you (regardless of party affiliation) that our government is a gigantic and intrusive waste of oxygen. However, if you ask them about individual principles, there will be a "but".

  • People believe in free speech... BUT they believe that, y'know, maybe people shouldn't be allowed to say hateful things about minorities. That sounds reasonable, right?
  • People believe in the right to defend themselves... BUT there are a lot of people killing each other in our cities with guns! We should do something about that!
  • People believe in search warrants, that we should be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures... BUT you can flush drugs down a toilet awfully fast, and do we really believe that terrorists won't cover their tracks if a police officer has to knock first?
  • People believe that cruel and unusual punishments shouldn't be inflicted... BUT, man, child molesters sure do seem to re-offend a lot, don't they? We should do something about that!

... and so on. They're all legitimate objections - they really are! Who wants to speak out for racist idiots, or gun-toting gangbangers, or drug dealers, or sex offenders? Nobody with sense, that's who, and I'm not about to start. However, people need to realize that freedom isn't really freedom if the only choices we can make are right ones. If we want to be free to openly criticize our government, to say that Bush is a chimp or that Obama is a socialist, we have to accept that some people will be free to say some incredibly stupid and hateful things. If we want to be free to defend ourselves, we have to accept that the reason we need that freedom in the first place is because some people out there wish to harm us. If we want the freedom to avoid random invasions of our homes by the police, we have to accept that some people will get away with a few things they wouldn't otherwise get away with. If we want the freedom to serve our time after a crime and try to live a normal life afterward, we have to accept that some people will exercise that opportunity better than others. Otherwise, we're going to live in a world where political speech is controlled by whomever is in power, a world where it's against the law to protect yourself from someone who values your wallet more than your life, a world where SWAT teams can barge in anytime, and a world where 17 year olds can ruin their rest of their lives, unable to live in certain neighborhoods or hold certain jobs, simply by attending the same party as their 14-year-old classmate.

tLP: How would you describe the Nevada Libertarian Party? Please name some of the members and describe your function within the party.

Mr. Colborne: We're a small but growing minor party, full of a healthy mix of old guards and new blood. Personally, I'm the secretary for both the Libertarian Party of Nevada and for the Nevada Capital Libertarian Party, which is the regional affiliate for Washoe County (Reno/Sparks), Carson City, and Douglas County - considering how I only became active in the state party in January, I'm not complaining with my current position in the party. Our State Chairman is Joe Silvestri, who has been active in Clark County for a number of years. Of course, Wayne Allyn Root lives in Las Vegas, so he's been moderately active in the Party as well - he spoke at our convention last March, and we're working on securing him for our next convention in February. In northern Nevada, Nik York was undoubtedly the one that got the ball rolling, which would explain why he's now the Chair for the regional affiliate. Dave Thomas and Vicki Hargrove have both been active in the Tea Party movement in northern Nevada, Isabel Isherwood has been working to organize another affiliate in Nye County, Kris McKinster has been working on updating our web site... honestly, I could go on like this, but I'm afraid I'll forget someone!

tLP: What are some of the goals of the Nevada Libertarian Party?

Mr. Colborne: We're a political party, so I'd say goal #1 always has been and always shall be to win elections! Unfortunately, we haven't had much success on that front, so our focus has been on getting our name and our platform out there and doing what we can when and where we can to ensure that Libertarian-minded people in Nevada realize that somebody is speaking for them. For us, that means going local. We need local organizations that reflect and speak to the local needs and desires of the electorate throughout Nevada. Needless to say, Libertarians in Elko might disagree with Libertarians in Las Vegas on what issues are most important in a given moment and we need to be flexible and local enough to work with that.

tLP: What are the chances that Senator Harry Reid will loose his re-election bid? How would it benefit Nevada to have a new representative in the Senate?

Mr. Colborne: The chances are better than zero - to be honest, Reid isn't terribly popular in Nevada, especially in many of the more rural portions of the state where his public land use policies have done an excellent job of strangling the mining industry and killed off numerous jobs, especially in Ely. Of course, what he lacks in popularity, he makes up for with strong political and financial connections, which will make it difficult, albeit not impossible, to push him out of there.

Though you would think that having the Senate Majority Leader would be a boon to Nevada, Reid's results for Nevada have been, to put it diplomatically, mixed. As Senate Majority Leader, his attention is drawn to a more national focus, frequently at the expense of Nevada's interests (hence why over 66% of our state is still owned by the federal government). A freshman Senator would be far better motivated to focus on their local constituents and their needs.

With that, I think I've pontificated enough for one night. Let me know if you need anything else or wish to go into any further detail on any of the points I've touched on.

There are fundamental differences between Libertarians and Conservatives, and this has led to divisiveness and an irrational animus against divergent political orientation. This fracturing has detracted our attention from the commonalities we do share, and if we persist in manifesting ideological dissimilarities our Republic will fall. What would your opinion be?

The Liberty Pen would like to thank Mr. David Colborne for taking the time to do this interview. We hope that he will visit us again and provide some keen insight into the relevant issues of the day. Until next time.....

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