Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Delaware Libertarian Exclusive: Interview with NC Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Mike Munger

Dr Michael Munger, Libertarian candidate for Governor of North Carolina, does not dodge questions.

You may not like his answers, but as Toby Keith says, you'll know just where he stands.

Mike is so committed to keeping himself and his party in the debate in the Tarheel State this year that he was willing to take what must have been at least an hour out of his schedule to answer some detailed questions for me.

[An aside to my non-Libertarian friends, especially in Delaware: is there anything really fringe about these answers? You tell me. I'm specially asking you, geek, pandora, and Dana Garrett, because I'm really curious about your perceptions.)

At any rate, here are the questions and the answers. Some are quite long; other succinct to the point of web addresses.

All of them--it bears saying again--are responsive to the intent of the question.

I wonder how well Bev Perdue or Jim McCrory would do with these same questions.

1. If elected Governor of North Carolina, what would be your three major priorities for your term of office?

First priority: I issue an executive order placing an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in the state. Then I commute the sentences of everyone on death row to life in prison without parole.

Second priority: I announce a new task force, composed of development experts and economists, headed by North Carolina State University's Mike Walden [The Wm Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Agriculture], to look at ways to improve the attractiveness of North Carolina for new jobs. We would focus on the big three: improved education, at both primary/secondary and community college level; improved infrastructure in highways/utilities, and improved regulation/paperwork burdens for small businesses. Then, I announce ANOTHER new task force, composed of city planners and experts on road construction, to make recommendations for the use of the Highway Trust Fund. I would work to depoliticize road construction, using something like the Federal Base Closing Commission, to make recommendations about roads. And then I would publicize every instance where the legislature deviates from the expert recommendations. I actually think that lots of folks in the legislature would welcome the chance to be able to do the right thing, relieved of political pressure to bring home the asphalt bacon.

Third priority: I would create a study commission to check over the cases of all citizens incarcerated in NC's prisons for purely nonviolent crimes. (Embezzlement is violent, by the way, even though it is theft by stealth.) These crimes would include: possession of small amounts of any drug, prostitution, etc. And then I would take the resulting list of nonviolent offenders, after it had been checked to make sure that NO crimes of violence had been committed by anyone on the list, and commute their sentences to time served. The money saved by reducing the number of folks in the steel hotels of our state would be spent on treatment and addiction programs, and adjustment programs to try to reduce recidivism.

2. One of the big issues among Demopublican candidates this year involves promising some form of government-sponsored universal health care; what does the Libertarian Party offer people worried about lack of insurance or under-insurance?

The problem we have is that insurance is tied to employment. If you have a certain kind of job, your health care is "free," at least to you, at least at the margin. The reason health care is so expensive is that we have no competition to keep costs low. We DO have competition among HMOs and insurance companies to keep benefits low.

Look, health care is expensive. As it stands, we have a bizarre kind of socialized medicine, where emergency rooms have to treat people who got real sick because they didn't get preventive care or treatment earlier. Health care should not be free, and it should be provided at public expense in emergency rooms. We need PRIMARY care, PREVENTIVE care, available widely and cheaply.

My solutions:

A. Lower state and federal barriers to Physician's Assistants and other highly trained persons practicing primary care and diagnosis. Most people, most of the time, don't need a doctor. But barriers to entry force high costs and low service from doctors trying to pay off their college loans!

B. Encourage the use of generics and older medicines, rather than emphasizing the use of new drugs that cost ten times as much and are little more effective.

C. Allow competition among medical firms to provide lower cost and higher quality service. INCLUDING an incentive to be able to see a doctor within an hour of your so-called "appointment."

3. You have advanced an energy policy [available here] that looks, frankly, like a national policy. What would you do about energy-related issues as Governor of North Carolina?

Energy policy HAS to be national. At the state level, I would let high prices do their important work. I would work with local power generators and providers to expand capacity. And I would be perfectly willing to consider facilitation of another nuclear power plant in NC, if we can get approval from the federal government. Cheap, reliable power is one of the keys to economic growth.

4. The LP of NC was spectacularly successful this year in regaining ballot access, and you in particular are performing better than expected in the polls. What is your long-term campaign strategy for moving forward?

Any "third" party candidate has to rely large on earned media appearances, with some carefully placed ads on radio and in "town shopper" papers. I have been really fortunate in catching the attention of the media, particularly talk radio. I have been running paid radio ads this week, and will be starting with ads in local newspapers next week. It will build slowly, but the campaign is building!

5. Repeated poll results indicate that many of your supporters think immigration issues are very important; what would be your policy toward immigration as Governor of North Carolina?

Here is an article from the Durham Herald-Sun, from December 2007, which spells out my view.

Help the Governor with Law Enforcement
Michael Munger
Duke University

There is an old metal sign on my office wall. It's dated 1928, and says, "Help the President with Law Enforcement. Repeal the 18th Amendment. For Prosperity." The sign had hung on a barn wall in eastern NC for more than 75 years. I bought it at an auction, and had it framed.

The sign is old, but the message is timeless. The only reason that lots of things are illegal is that they happen to be against the law. We can spend more, and give up more freedoms, for enforcement. Or we can get rid of the law. The 18th Amendment of 1919 prohibited the sale of alcohol. But Prohibition proved too expensive, too intrusive, and too difficult to enforce. So we helped the President with law enforcement: Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

"Law enforcement" has been the key issue in the last few weeks for North Carolina's community colleges. On November 7, the NC Community College System issued a mandate that read, in part: "To comply with the State Board's regulation requiring an open-door admission policy to 'all applicants'...colleges should immediately begin admitting undocumented individuals." What? Why should illegal aliens be able to attend community college?

Because that's our policy, and Governor Easley has rightly stood by that policy. But we could "help the Governor," just like my old sign says. The problem is not with community college admissions. The problem is the law that makes folks "illegal" in the first place.

Political scientists refer to the coalition that kept Prohibition in place as the "the Baptists and the Bootleggers." The Baptists for moral reasons, and Bootleggers for economic reasons, wanted states to crack down on "illegal" liquor sales. Strange bedfellows, I suppose, but Baptists got their morality, and the bootleggers got a protected monopoly.

Well, the Baptist and Bootlegger coalition has come back. Demagogues like Lou Dobbs are playing to a resurgent nativist sentiment widespread in our population. We are all immigrants, but the ones who got here first want to pull the ladder up. "I've got mine! You have to stay out!" So they play the moralistic loudmouth role.

And the Bootleggers? Well, that role has been taken on by the giant agriculture corporations, and the meatpackers, and other companies that depend on keeping immigration illegal. We don't block immigration; we block legal immigration. That's the way we keep labor costs low to unscrupulous employers. That's the economic part.

Employment, welfare, insurance, education, crime....all these issues are dumped on the Governor, as law enforcement problems. One way to address the problem is to spend more money, and divert more resources, to a hopeless attempt to enforce a useless law. But the other way, the sensible way, to solve the problem is to change the law itself.

Allowing illegal aliens access to community colleges, at out-of-state tuition rates, is the right policy, but it's a baby step. The real way to help the President, and the Governor, with law enforcement is to change the law. The solution is complicated, but I think it has three parts. Remember, as it stands, we don't block immigration. Millions of people have crossed our border in the last decade. No, we just use paper barriers to prevent people from coming here legally.

The first step, then, would be to gain control of borders, giving us confidence that we can keep criminals, repeat offenders, and terrorists out. Second, start a guest worker program. Make it possible for people to be legal, and go through a probation period. Law-abiding, hard-working immigrants shouldn't be deported. And, if we have control of the border, deportations of the law-breakers and the chiselers would stick, because we can use fingerprints and retinal scans for positive IDs.

Finally, full citizenship for guest workers who qualify, after five years. In America, if you want to be an American, you should get a chance to be here legally. Help the President with law enforcement. Change the law, to achieve a comprehensive solution to the immigration problem.

6. What is your stand on medical marijuana and the Federal war on drugs?

The federal government should restore the police power to the states. The federal power grab on local drug policy is appalling.

States should be able to allow medical marijuana, or even full scale legalization, according to their own views.

I certainly favor decriminalization of marijuana possession, in NC. But as a federal matter, the feds should just back off.

7. What, if any, role should the North Carolina state government play in the current mortgage crisis?

Very difficult for the legislature to do the right thing in an election year. Too tempting to try to "help" in ways that would actually make the crisis worse.

People took risks. If they won, they got the profits. If they lost, they socked it to taxpayers. Bailouts don't help the poor homeowners who got hammered, and bailouts encourage mortgage gamblers to take too many
risks again next time.

To be fair, things aren't so bad in NC. Housing prices are not really falling in most places, and that is the problem that is hammering the urban areas of the northeast and the west coast.

8. In which areas of North Carolina do Libertarian candidates appear to have the most support?

Go here and find out.

9. Why is a vote for a Libertarian candidate in 2008 not a wasted vote in a close gubernatorial race?

No one vote "counts," in the sense that it determines the outcome. Even Florida, in 2000, a very close race for Electoral College Votes, was determined by more than 530 votes. If one person more, or less, had voted it would have been 529, or 531. Unless you think you are a Jedi, and can control weaker minds by how YOU choose to vote, ALL votes are wasted.

The reason votes, for most people, are NOT wasted is that they are casting a vote, expressing support, for a cause that they believe in.

So, WASTING your vote would be voting, again, for the lesser of two evils. WASTING your vote would be casting your ballot in a setting where you don't really like either alternative.

How can you make your vote COUNT? In NC, if I get 2% of the vote, just 2%, then Libertarians are on the ballot without having to worry about signature petitions or qualifying for the 2010 or 2012 elections! Your vote really, REALLY counts in 2008. Help me get that 2%. If you hear a third party candidate, and decide not to vote for her, then she has lost a vote. If you don't even get to hear that alternative, then YOU have lost a choice.

Strike a blow for choice, for fairness, and for democracy by helping me get that 2%. Don't waste your vote on business as usual, voting in a race where your ballot doesn't even matter.

Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, and hoping for a
different outcome. Think about it: how has your choice to vote for the lesser of two evils been working out? NOT TOO WELL!

10. Can you explain why polling results suggest a strong appeal for the Libertarian message among African-Americans and those of "other" ethnicity? [PPP suggests that both you and Bob Barr poll more strongly among black voters than white voters right now.]

Think about it: A black man, walking on a city street. Police car pulls up. Black man thinks, "Oh, good, the nice policeman is here to give me directions. He must think I'm lost. Because this is a WEALTHY section of town." No! Blacks have been systematically mistreated by government at every level.

Understandably, this has resulted in attempts to control at least parts of government, to prevent discrimination and bigotry. And the strongest supporters of charter schools, and voucher programs, are the inner city poor, many of them African - American. As Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children then to repair broken men." We have to do better in the schools. Many African - Americans are tired of waiting for someone to come save their schools. They can do it on their own, if they can just get some small part of the resources available to the wealthy suburban enclaves.

Thanks, Mike.

For those of you who find these views worthy of consideration by the voters of North Carolina, help keep Mike Munger and his Libertarian cohorts (I'm thinking especially of Chris Cole for US Senate, Jan MacKay for State Senate, and T. J. Rohr and Susan Hogarth for the State House) in the news, in the public view, and in the debate in '08 by insuring that any friends you have in North Carolina get to see this.


Brian Shields said...

Is it too late to move to NC to vote for him?

Very refreshing and very honest.

We need more candidates like Mike.

JaaJoe said...

Did you see the Bunk study stating 2/3 of doctors in America want National Health Care. The doctors who did this study also conducted one in 2002 and found that the majority of doctors did not want national health care, the problem with this is that the 2 question surveys drastically differ in there 2nd question. I found this article, 60% of Physicians Surveyed Oppose Switching to a National Health Care Plan, It's worth a read.

LiberalGeek said...

is is a great interview. Dr Munger has the third party candidates' freedom. He can say what he thinks is right and not worry about it costing him the election.

He also reinforces my view (or at least your areas of questioning) that Libertarians are at least as close, if not closer to Democratic views than Republican views. On virtually every issue, I thought Dr. Munger was at least in the right ballpark.

I was particularly struck by his immigration position. It is hard to sell, but it is morally and economically superior to most of the other plans out there.

As for his "fringe" status, yes, his views are "fringe" because they are not in any way triangulated. It is a particularly disheartening fact that we have to vote for what we think our guy is going to do when he gets into office, because the things that he should do would make him unelectable if he said them.

Again, bravo. I owe you a beer.