Libertarians are an amorphous bunch; their adherence to property rights and the infallibility of capitalism ties them to the right wing, their liberal social stances associate them with the left, and they tend to shower, so they you can’t really call them anarchists. It’s all very confusing for people who believe in the standard political spectrum.
To help clarify, I recently sat down in a Wall Street deli with Anthony Librera, the Libertarian candidate for New York State Assembly from District 60, which includes the east shore of Staten Island and the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn. We talked about college, movies, drugs, being in our early 20s and his political campaign — wait, what?
Anthony Librera, Libertarian candidate for New York State Assembly
Arv: So you’re running for New York State Assembly, and you’re how old?
Antohony Librera: Twenty-one.
That’s surprising only because I don’t think anyone our age — I’m 23 — even knows what the New York State Assembly is, much less is interested enough in politics to run for office. So how did you get interested in politics?
When I got out of high school, everyone was going to school, everyone was going away, and I wasn’t really interested in going to school anymore. I was supposed to join the military; I actually enlisted in the Air Force in Fall of 2007. Then my brother, who was going to school in Florida at the time, came home and told me to watch a documentary. Before I joined, I ended up watching the film.
What was the film?
Zeitgeist. I just kept looking into things from there, and I became interested in Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.
So you saw Zeitgeist and you became interested in Ron Paul. How did that initial interest catapult into actually running your own campaign?
How does somebody know about this stuff and not want to do something about it? I was an activist for two years, an anti-war activist. Then my friend told me, “There’s a Libertarian meeting, you’re into Ron Paul, you should go.” I went down. Next thing you know, the campaign is looking for people to run.
People tend to portray Libertarians the fringe of the Republican Party. Do you think they’re related? Are Libertarians the equivalent of Republicans’ weird uncles who come to the family reunion jabbering about conspiracy theories?
No, not at all. In fact, when I explain the principals of libertarianism to most people, they’re like, “Oh, that makes sense.” The Founding Fathers, for the most part, if they were around today, would be considered Libertarians.
What about social positions? Do you think a lot of Libertarians hold the same social positions as the Republican Party, like anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, pro-gun rights, anti-drug?
No person I know from the Staten Island chapter, that I’ve spoke to about the issue, is anti-gay marriage. I believe in it. Some would say love is bigger than government. I think there should be a separation between church and state. These days there are ministers who endorse candidates. I think it’s mostly up to the person to decide what’s best for them. I think that Republicans try to step in and have the government choose a view for the people, when Libertarians say let the people decide what’s best for them.
From that, I guess you’re pro-choice and anti-drug laws?
I consider myself pro-life because the abortion issue, I think it’s a separate issue that could be debated on both sides.
What about drug legalization?
Totally for it? Everything?
I think pot is, right away, something that should be looked at, then maybe take it from there and see how it works out. But pot should definitely be legalized.
What would be the criteria to legalize them? Which other drugs do you personally think should be legalized? Don’t you think that would increase their use? I know if they legalized speed, my Friday nights would be a lot more interesting.
The only current illegal drug that should be legalized right off the bat … is marijuana. A study concluded that nearly 20 percent more Americans have tried or used marijuana than residents of the Netherlands, where marijuana is legal in Amsterdam. I think it’s a correlation to the education and loss of “mystery” appeal that it has here. It’s a normal thing out there; people know about it, and it’s not such a big deal. We could progress towards that.
So you do believe in degrees of regulation, you’re not a free market absolutist. In that case, what is government capable of doing?
Supplying the military, maintaining law and order, collecting taxes, building roads. Pretty much what we have now, but not overdrawn. Invoke the 10th Amendment, let states decide what states should do and not have the federal government so big.
Should the government be responsible for schools? They don’t do a perfect job, but would private business do better? Wouldn’t the profit incentive lead them to inflate students’ grades or leave poor kids in the worst schools? Both problems already exist, but wouldn’t they be magnified if there were only private schools? What about the voucher program?
Right now it would be foolish to dismantle the entire public school system, however there are still plausible ways to improve it. The voucher program is something that is on my platform. Schools will have to do better and allow for parents and their kids to decide where the best place for their kids to be educated. Grades can be inflated in any situation; that’s based on faith of the system, and in this system, parents and their kids would be able to choose a situation that would see how successful the alumni turned out and could choose a school that is either private or public based on that. The money could be spent from the current education budget as N.Y. State spends more money per student than any other state. The problem is where the money goes and where it should go. This would by default cause schools to either improve or lose prospective students.
What’s corporatism? Do you agree with it?
Corporatism, as I have heard it defined, is when the state is an intervening body of a society, especially in regards to property and the regulation of the access of property.
I don’t agree with it. I think individual’s should choose what is best for them. I think the idea sounds Utopian and by having a vision for a community, you take away from the unique characteristics of each human being.
It sounds like you’re talking about socialism, not corporatism. What I meant was the legal limbo that corporations inhabit, where they have the rights of an individual without actually being one, and shareholders not having full liability for their corporation’s actions. It also leads to really sheisty behavior, like UPS trying to fuck FedEx up the ass with help from the U.S. government.
I see. Well in response to that, I’m obviously no expert on the issue, but I can’t see how a corporate body is equivalent to an individual and carries with it the same rights, yet doesn’t get held to the same responsibilities and is less protected. I wouldn’t agree with that and would like to see the government treat the body as it is. This also could lead to conflicts of interest, with government involvement, as seen in the UPS vs. FedEX case.
How do you feel about the immigration law that Arizona just passed?
I understand that they’re trying to crackdown on illegal immigration, that people do pay taxes for illegal immigrants. But the fact that, as I understand it, the law is you could go up to somebody and ask them for ID … I think that goes back to sacrificing liberties for security, when really there could be better ways of doing it. But I don’t agree with the law.
You mentioned that you’re a big Ron Paul fan; does that also extend to his son, Rand Paul?
From what I know about him, I like him, but I don’t know a lot about him like Ron Paul.
There was a big controversy surrounding him and his opinion on the Civil Rights Act. Basically he said that he doesn’t disagree with it, but he did criticize it, saying that government shouldn’t determine who a business can serve.
I agree with him on that. The Civil Rights Act was based in the 1960s. The ’60s was a different time than today. I think that it’s another way for the government to try to step in and naturally evolve humans towards whatever beliefs they were going at. Let’s say a white business owner or a black business owner doesn’t want to let a white person in or a black person in; in 2010, there would be people who would organize and boycott that place, and they would lose business anyway, and naturally they would allow people in and naturally progress that way — instead of having the government say you have to do this and you have to do that.
Obviously people wouldn’t stand for that today. If I heard my deli would not let Vietnamese people in, I would be like, “That’s pretty dick-ish,” and not go there.
Yeah, exactly. But it was a different time. Maybe it was necessary then, but today I think people are more aware.
How do you feel about Sarah Palin?
I think she’s a quitter, she resigned in the middle of her tenure. Other than that, I don’t really think of her.
What about Obama? How do you feel about the policies he’s implemented?
Foreign policy is more or less a direct continuation of Bush’s foreign policy. I disagree completely with troop escalation. We just keep sending troops in and troops in and troops in. Bring everybody back and re-evaluate the way you’re going about doing the war, instead of staying on steps that haven’t worked. His policy towards Iraq: He’s going to leave 50,000 troops there this year, 2010 — that was signed by Bush in December of 2008. That wasn’t even [Obama’s] policy. And yet he campaigned that, “Day one when I get into office, I’m bringing the troops back home, I’m bringing the troops back home.” Day one.
Would you characterize yourself as isolationist?
No, I would classify myself as non-interventionist. You can have relationships with countries, trade with countries, but don’t go around the world putting your point of views on other countries. Let people decide what’s best for them.
You mentioned international trade. I’m not sure what your specific beliefs are, but a lot of people who support the free market as a national policy, don’t support it internationally. People are always talking about how outsourcing is the problem and how we need to keep jobs in America — that’s government intervention in a huge way, to say that we’re going to start put up tariffs, customs charges on imports, tax companies that outsource. How can you not trust government inside your own country, but you’re OK with government dictating the way your country interacts with other nations?
I’m not saying that I don’t trust government in my country. I think people should be able to build up enterprises here in America. But if you trade internationally, you don’t promote smarter competition and human ingenuity to compete with that.
Can you explain how the mortgage bundling scam was not the free market’s fault?
To the best of my ability I will try … for the first time in history you had individuals purchasing homes with no money down, people were duped into buying homes they couldn’t afford by banks. The reason why anything like this is possible is because our system is based off of credit. While it is the fault of the system we currently have, our system isn’t really a free market, we just think it is. The system is as free as the banks allow it to be since it’s based off of credit and not off of a sound monetary backing. If you had a sound monetary backing, things like what happened wouldn’t be possible. But it would be free because it would have true value rather than artificially created value through banks.
What’s your organization focusing on right now?
We got to get petitions, we got to get signatures to get on the ballot. Once we do that, we’ll continue to knock on people’s doors and let them tell us the issues that they’re most concerned with.
The New York State Assembly election is slated for November 2nd. Find out more about Anthony Librera’s bid at the campaign’s website, LibreraForAssembly.com.
Originally published on Street Carnage.