April 27, 1996 in City

Libertarian Candidate Would Shrink Government

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne makes budget-cutting Republicans sound like pikers.

The 62-year-old investment adviser doesn’t believe in such halfway measures as trimming the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency or restructuring Medicare.

He’d eliminate them - and most other federal agencies.

“Abolish the income tax, and replace it with nothing,” Browne said Friday in an interview at the Ridpath Hotel.

The state Libertarian Party is holding its convention this weekend at the hotel. Browne, and the party he hopes to represent as its presidential nominee, believe passionately in less government in all aspects of American life.

So while he believes the federal government has no right to regulate firearms, he also believes it has no right to regulate drugs.

“Legalize drugs, completely,” he said. Heroin was sold in drug stores before World War I, he reasoned, but there were no street addicts.

Browne would remove the federal government from any function not mentioned in the Constitution.

“Get it completely out of welfare, out of housing, education, crime control and agriculture,” he said.

He’d have a federal budget of about $100 billion. It would include a Defense Department, but only enough for an anti-missile system and troops to protect the borders from invasion. He’d cut what he terms offensive weapons: long-range bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and Trident submarines.

No interstate highways - the states could build the roads. No Social Security - people under 50 should take what they now pay in taxes and invest it as they see fit.

Those over 50, and retirees who now receive benefits should be given annuities to replace the federal pension program, he said. To pay for the annuities, and to pay off the federal debt, Browne would have the government “sell off the assets it shouldn’t own.”

That includes federal land holdings throughout the West, as well as the national parks, federal power agencies like the Bonneville Power Administration and dams. Even the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, although he said Friday he’d never really thought of that before.

But all would be better under private ownership, he said.

“Disney World would take better care of Yosemite than the Park Service,” he maintains. “Bureaucrats do not care about public lands, because they don’t own them.”

When Browne gets wound up, he sometimes offers statistics he can’t back up. At one point, he said some 90 percent of all pollution is on government land - then said he had no basis for such a figure, he was only trying to illustrate his claim that business takes better care of its land than the government.

Browne has been campaigning since 1994. He doesn’t show up yet on any public opinion polls, but believes dissatisfaction with Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican Bob Dole will work in his favor this fall.

If he can raise his profile and get to 5 percent in the opinion polls by September, he believes he can make the case for being included in the presidential debates.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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