We came upon a column about America’s challenges with immigration and the border, and we were intrigued by the libertarian approach. Since the new healthcare proposal Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) summarized on Wednesday includes a mandate for individuals to carry health insurance, we thought it timely to interview someone whose politics revolve around the core ideal of freedom. Garry Reed writes the Dallas Libertarian column for The Examiner media brand. Reed describes himself as “a longtime freewheeling freelance libertarian opinionizer.” With characteristic humor, Reed says, “The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, River Cities Reader and several assorted sordid websites are among my victims.” Reed says for his writing, the goals are fun & freedom. We wanted to learn more about his politics and his person; Reed agreed to a Q&A.
Q: In a recent column, you mentioned a maxim about libertarians: "[T]rying to get libertarians to agree on anything is like herding cats." But if someone asked you to define libertarianism in one sentence, what would you say?
A: I can do this one in only four words, "maximize freedom, minimize coercion." I know most conservative libertarians will say you're not a true libertarian unless you embrace much more than that, like laissez-faire capitalism and small government and minimal taxes, and left libertarians insist that the ultimate goal must be the withering away of the state leading to anarcho-capitalism. But I just want freedom and I don't much care about choosing a sub-position under that position. As long as the goal is clear I'm all in favor of taking every possible pathway to reach it. Like working within the system and working outside of it, pursuing sudden change in one area while working incrementally in another, or both rejecting and embracing alliances based on single issue causes depending on the situation. As long as the core principals are never breached, consistently maximizing freedom while minimizing coercion gets us to the libertarian society.
Q: What core belief led you to the Libertarian Party?
A: I'm a stereotype for libertarians of my age group. I grew up reading science fiction, then discovered Ayn Rand and spent several years devouring everything she ever wrote, joined a group that listened to and discussed the Nathaniel Branden lecture series, then formed a social group with friends until we discovered there was something called the Libertarian Party. This was all when I lived in Minnesota. Joining the LP of Minnesota seemed like the next logical step because it was the only way I knew of translating thoughts into action.
Q: Why do you think the LP gets such short shrift from mass media?
A: Because libertarianism doesn't fit into the simplistic well-established storyline. Left vs. right politics is easy to visualize, easy to report on, easy to take sides with. And since the intelligentsia in America is primarily collectivist, and the media counts itself among the intelligentsia, the newsline becomes a simple good left versus bad right. Libertarianism is a comet that seemingly comes out of nowhere and disrupts the established orbit. It looks like the evil right because it embraces capitalism but it looks like the enlightened left because it champions civil liberties. Best to ignore it and get on with the game. Many will say that it's the LP's own fault they've been marginalized and I certainly won't disagree with that. We know now that it's not actual libertarianism per se that gets short shrift because Ron Paul was consistently labeled "libertarian" by the media and completely overshadowed the political party by that name. But he still fit the media's game plan of mainstream left vs. right plus a short-lived brightly burning comet from the fringes of space.
Q: Do you believe the political climate offers a historical opportunity to the LP?
A: Let me clarify that I have little interest in the LP. I think generally that it's better to have an LP than not have an LP because I think it's critically important to pursue that ideal of "maximize freedom, minimize coercion" along every pathway, and politics is one of those paths. Personally I hate politics. Even as a member of the Minnesota LP I never ran for office, campaigned, gathered petitions, made speeches, solicited donors or any of the other things related to politics. I took over their small newsletter and for a couple of years turned it into a multi-paged tabloid-sized outreach newspaper partially supported by the advertising that I hunted down myself. I was publisher, designer, editor, reporter, photographer, and loved every minute of it. I write about politics but I would never want to DO politics. Having said that, I doubt that the LP can capitalize on the current political climate even if it is a historical opportunity. Instead of Ron Paul , it's the Tea Party and 9/12 groups that are overshadowing and marginalizing the LP at this time. Still, the LP is one way of attracting people to the wider libertarian movement and that's why I think we need an LP.
Q: Who is your favorite Libertarian celeb?
A: That would have to be Ayn Rand because reading her was literally life changing. But while I still harbor much of the Objectivist philosophy I finally veered off of that course once I discovered the wider world of libertarianism. For one thing, I refused to give up my sense of humor (I grew up on Mad magazine and Monte Python and Douglas Adams' ‘Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’ – wow, SF and humor) and humor seemed to be verboten in Objectivism. Also after years of study I had to admit to myself that I just don't have the brainpower to be a professorial philosopher. Since then I've probably read something, a book, a chapter, an article, a review, of everyone you could possibly call a libertarian celeb. I subscribe to Reason and Liberty and read them almost cover-to-cover. I constantly read other libertarians online while I'm researching my articles so I use their insights to sharpen and refocus my own. So next to Rand I have many, many favorite libertarian celebs.
Q: I noticed your column on Whole Foods' CEO and the fallout he encountered after writing an op ed in the Wall St. Journal. I'm a fiscal conserv who loves Whole Foods. Do you think it's a myth only left-wingers shop there? By the way, I admired your header, “Boycott or Buycott?”
A: I think it's always a problem when we stereotype people and I'm guilty of it too. I've always envisioned the organic food crowd as being airhead lefty-collectivist-communitarian hippies, albeit a modern well-to-do urban version of that. And I suspect I'm wrong. So in a recent article about Montana passing a bill exempting guns from the interstate commerce clause if they're manufactured and used within the state borders, I've challenged the foodies to make common cause because many of them are prevented by similar laws from buying free-range eggs and raw milk and unprocessed goat cheese. Will they understand that food freedom and gun freedom is the same freedom? Don't know, but then I suspect a wide range of politically conscious people support Whole Foods so why not? I haven't paid much attention to the whole natural, organic food movement because I'm just too old school. My father died when he was 97 and he ate nothing but processed food and bacon and greasy sausage gravy and everything that would make modern foodies shudder. I think a chili cheese dog is a staple and pizza is healthy because if you add pineapple and anchovies you get all the food groups on a super deluxe everything combo.