When I tell people that I'm running for Congress and my motto is "truth in politics, what a concept" they tell me I'm crazy. "Truth in politics," one said, "is an oxymoron, just like 'military intelligence' and 'jumbo shrimp.' You don't win elections by telling the truth. You win by telling people the lies they want to hear."
I beg to disagree. Our nation is drowning in a sewer of lies, and voters in Wisconsin's 3rd District Libertarian congressional primary just signaled they're about ready to come up for air.
I beat popular long-time Libertarian Ben Olson by telling the voters the cold, hard truth: The war in Iraq is a criminal war of aggression that has wrecked our economy. 9/11 was an inside job. And universal, single-payer health care is the best available solution to our current health-care disaster. Oddly, of those three inconvenient truths, it was single-payer health care that Libertarian voters had the most trouble with.
To understand why, you need to grasp the deep, healthy skepticism of government that is at the core of the Libertarian Party's identity. To a party-line Libertarian like Ben Olson, the notion that top government officials could botch a murderous false-flag operation and get us into a disastrous war is unpleasant but not especially outrageous. Libertarians know that governments have two main occupations: killing people and taking away their freedom. Seen in that light, 9/11 and what followed are pretty much par for the course.
The power of government to murder human beings, and murder freedom, ultimately stems from its power to make war. As Randolph Bourne put it, "war is the health of the state." Unfortunately, the Libertarian aversion to big government often focuses on the relatively benign things governments do, such as maintaining infrastructure and taking care of the less fortunate among us.
While I agree that government spending, and government involvement in people's lives, needs to be kept under control in all areas, I believe that there are certain things that governments sometimes do better than the private sector. Antitrust enforcement, acting as referee in the free market game, maintaining roads and dams and bridges, developing and maintaining energy-saving means of transit, providing a social safety net in tough times, keeping agricultural commodity price swings under control, regulating international trade to benefit American workers, and making sure that all Americans have access to education and basic health care are areas where government can sometimes play a constructive role.
To Libertarians, the fact that single-payer health care systems work better for roughly half the price is an inconvenient truth. But a simple comparison of Americans to citizens of all other advanced industrial nations, who pay on average just over half what we do for health care yet live longer, healthier lives, is proof that Libertarian ideology should be applied very cautiously to the health care sector.
As Don McCanne, MD said of me: "At least one Libertarian who distrusts government has looked at the options and has decided that, if his fellow Americans are going to receive the health care that they need, and the government will have to be involved, then we might as well go ahead and choose the option that is the most efficient and most effective: A single payer health care system run by the government.
Now that's a man who cares about the rest of us. Sometimes your true friend--the one who really cares about you--is the one who has the guts to look you in the eye and tell you the truth, however inconvenient it may be.
Kevin Barrett is the peace-and-truth candidate for Congress in Wisconsin's 3rd District: