The partial federal government shutdown is entering its fourth week. So far, the biggest inconvenience to the general public seems to be overflowing trash cans in national parks. Libertarians advocate private, voluntary solutions to public problems, so a group of Libertarians in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia decided to take direct action by cleaning up the National Mall. From the Thomas Jefferson Memorial to the Ellipse, and from the Lincoln Memorial past the Washington Monument to the Smithsonian Castle, nearly 40 area Libertarians gathered, bagged, and hauled away all trash in sight.
“Libertarians pitched in today to pick up trash on the National Mall, practicing what we preach about stepping up in absence of government,” said Joe Bishop-Henchman, chair of the Libertarian Party of the District of Columbia. “President Trump and Congress have decided a clean National Mall is not important, so I’m grateful so many people stepped up to help make it a little better for our residents and visitors. NBC4 was on hand to interview the volunteers, and local NPR radio covered it. Many people who passed us said ‘thank you,’ helping change stereotypes about Libertarians.”
Adam Theo, chair of the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia, organized the project alongside Bishop-Henchman and Bruce Powell Majors, the 2018 Libertarian Party candidate for D.C.’s at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Participants split into groups of five people in order to cover the area quickly.
Government does many essential things, but the fact that they are essential does not mean that government must do them. Picking up trash in parks does not require federal involvement. Libertarians are more than happy to help, and so are countless other people across the country when need and opportunity arise.
Taking out the trash is a handy metaphor for the vast array of government bureaucracies, edicts, and actions that we can all do without. It’s time to eliminate the burden of paying for public services that don’t actually serve the public.
“It’s no secret that Libertarians believe the federal government does too much,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “Everyone who can read a balance sheet agrees that the federal government does more than it can afford to do, spending far more money than it takes in. The two old parties have worked reliably together for decades to increase the budget deficit and our national debt to crisis levels. The Libertarian Party is the only political party that has consistently called for spending reductions to get the federal government to live within its means. Shutting down a few departments for a few weeks is not the way to do it.”
As long as President Trump insists on staging this political theater over funding for his border wall, it will be necessary for Congress to secure the two thirds majority it takes to override his vetoes. Not a single penny should go toward building it — and the same holds true for the endless other forms of discretionary spending in the federal budget.
“The president is throwing the lives of thousands of federal workers into turmoil not because he wants to reduce spending, but because he wants to increase spending on one particular pet program,” Sarwark said. “Congress is not interested in taking on its responsibility to balance our country’s budget and make choices about what the federal government should and shouldn’t do with the limited resources it has; it just doesn’t like the news stories about closed national parks.”
Immigration is a win-win scenario. Every immigrant taking a job in this country expands the economy and creates jobs for others. The United States functioned and prospered for its first 100 years with unfettered open immigration. If we stop wasting resources on keeping hardworking immigrants out of this country, the same would hold true for the next hundred years.
U.S. Border Patrol agents and Transportation Security Administration employees would better serve the American people by finding more rewarding jobs in the private sector producing things that people want — rather than bothering travelers.
Although the economic and cultural benefits of widespread immigration are crystal clear, some people will argue that open immigration is too dangerous, despite the fact that immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than native-born Americans, are less likely to consume welfare benefits, and generally consume a lower value of welfare benefits when they do use such services. Immigrants, almost across the board, are a net value to the United States.
Most of the danger we see along the Mexican border can be attributed entirely to violent black markets created by U.S. drug prohibition. Marijuana is already legal in many states. Hemp has been legalized at the federal level. It would be only a tiny step further to emulate the success of countries like Portugal that have legalized all drugs and moved toward helping addicts recover rather than imprisoning them.
One of the primary reasons people seek asylum here is to flee the horrible crime and violence caused by drug cartel violence and gang warfare. Ending drug prohibition would demolish black markets and could eliminate much of that violence outright. The United States has spent about $1 trillion on drug prohibition in the past four decades, so ending the drug war would save tons of money. It would also keep countless nonviolent people out of prison, enabling them to contribute productively to society and the economy and allowing the justice system to focus on people who are actually dangerous.
There are innumerable other ways that discretionary spending can be reduced, and Congress can’t achieve such goals in the next few weeks. It can move in that direction, though, and it can start by securing enough votes to override a Trump veto. The long-term solution, though, is to elect more Libertarians to public office.
“When faced with tough financial conditions, good managers evaluate priorities and make tough choices to keep the organization moving forward,” Sarwark said. “If that means layoffs and cuts, they make a plan, talk to their staff about the plan, and never forget that they are impacting the lives and livelihoods of people. Bad managers do the opposite. Bad managers in the private sector drive their companies into the ground and eventually pay for their arrogance by losing their jobs and money. Bad managers in government drive the country into the ground, with the American people losing their jobs and money. If we want something better for our children and grandchildren, it’s time to replace bad managers and the politicians who hire them with Libertarians.”