Harry Browne on Government Reform

2000 Libertarian Nominee for President


We have never solved problems through government

BROWNE [to Hagelin]: We never solve problems through government. We haven’t solved the education problem, the drug problem, the poverty problem. We haven’t solved any of these problems through government.

HAGELIN: I agree that government has been a bit of a hell in the past. It has been terribly ineffective, terribly invasive, but I’d rather fix it than throw it out. There are commonsense solutions that are being resisted by government because they’re bought and paid for by special interest groups.

Source: Third Party Debate on Meet the Press , Oct 22, 2000

Won’t take FEC money; don’t force taxpayers to support him

Q: Why won’t you take federal election money?

A: I don’t believe you should be forced to support my campaign. And you certainly can’t believe that anyone who feeds at the federal trough is serious about reducing government.

Source: James Ridgeway, “Atlas Rising,” Village Voice (NYC) , Sep 27, 2000

Government always means use of coercion and use of force

Every government program, every government activity depends on the ability to tax, fine, or imprison. People don’t obey laws and regulations voluntarily, or else such things would be suggestions, not laws and regulations. Government’s tools are employed by coercion, force, compulsion, violence, and the threat of it. You may find this description a bit harsh. But that’s probably because you haven’t seen what happens if you refuse to obey a government edict. Only then would you see the iron fist.

Coercion isn’t the last resort for government; it is the beginning and end of government activity. Force is the only reason anyone asks government to do something-to achieve what didn’t seem possible using persuasion. An individual is free to give to the poor, donate money to foreign governments, etc. It isn’t his choice he cares about when he asks government to do those things. It’s the desire to force someone else to share the cost or alter his behavior.

Source: The Great Libertarian Offer, p. 22-23 , Sep 9, 2000

Remove both campaign spending limits and donation limits

Source: 2000 National Political Awareness Test , Jan 13, 2000

Reducing government promotes personal responsibility

Browne agrees that there has been a decline in moral and ethical standards in America over the last four decades. To address this, he would “reduce the size of government so that people have more responsibility over their lives. Responsibility promotes virtue - responsibility is a virtue. An honest man would zealously preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. I consider it a grave responsibility to uphold my oath of office.”
Source: 2000 National Political Awareness Test , Jan 13, 2000

Waco resulted from FBI’s predictable abuse of power

[Regarding FBI use of incendary devices in Waco:] The problem was the constant drumbeat that nobody did anything wrong. If they make a mistake and come clean, we could have forgiven them. I don’t know why the FBI would start a fire intentionally [and don’t think they did]. But when you give power to people, the power will be abused eventually. In most cases, it will be abused to carry out either a personal or ideological agenda. Or it will be misused by accident. The problem is too much power.
Source: The Alan Colmes Show, WEBD NY 1050 AM , Aug 26, 1999

Govt abuses of privacy results from power WE granted them

Power will always be abused eventually. When people are upset about the government prying into their e-mail, about wiretaps and asset forfeiture laws, all these invasions of your privacy, they should recognize that the government has that power because we gave it to them 20 years ago to fight the drug war.
Source: The Alan Colmes Show, WEBD NY 1050 AM , Aug 26, 1999

So-called “Reforms” get incumbents re-elected

Campaign finance “reform” will make it even easier for incumbents to get reelected. The supposed reforms of the 1970s created enormous handicaps for Congressional challengers. It became much harder for them to raise money and get their messages to voters, while incumbents continued to get free publicity because of their offices. Thus began the era of automatic reelection of incumbents.
Source: http://www.harrybrowne2000.org/ “Things change” 5/16/99 , May 16, 1999

Eliminate almost all Departments and agencies

Browne would eliminate the following executive branch departments: Education; Energy; Commerce; HUD; and “almost all others.” Browne says he would “cut the federal budget by 50% the first year of my term. Then continue reducing the federal government until it is limited to just the functions specified in the Constitution. This will make it possible to repeal the income tax entirely and immediately, with no replacement tax.”
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

Supports term limits on House (6 yrs) & Senate (12 yrs)

Browne supports amending the US Constitution to limit the number of terms US Senators and Representatives can serve in Congress. Browne suggests a 6-year limit for the House, and a 12-year limit for the Senate. Browne says term limit legislation should be retroactive (thus affecting current office holders).
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

Constitution gives people freedom FROM government

The essence of America was an abundance of something rarely found in other countries: freedom from government. America’s Founding Fathers established the first government strictly limited by a written constitution to a short list of activities. The Constitution didn’t limit what citizens could do. Its only purpose was to spell out what was permissible for the federal government to do. And anything not authorized was forbidden to the federal government.

Some state governments had hesitated to ratify the Constitution--fearing that it didn’t make entirely clear how limited the federal government’s role was to be. So the Bill of Rights was added to forestall any misunderstanding. Thus began a momentous experiment to tame the monster of government. And it was very clear to the fathers of the Constitution that government is a monster. As George Washington said: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p. 36-8 , Jul 2, 1995

Abolishing agencies only way to stop them from growing back

    Each reduction in government has to be complete. Reducing an agency to a small fraction of its current size leaves intact the mechanism by which it can grow back again. Like a weed it has to be pulled out by the roots--not cut back. In each case, there are only two realistic choices:
  1. Get rid of the program and get rid of it quickly.
  2. Or resign ourselves to living with it forever.
There is no middle ground.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p. 74-5 , Jul 2, 1995

Government Doesn’t Work

    More and more Americans say they want government to be smaller. For example, recent polls have found that:
  1. 73% believe “the federal government is much too large and has too much power.”
  2. 67% believe “big government is the biggest threat to the country in the future.”
  3. 63% think “government regulation of business usually does more harm than good.”
  4. 60% “favor a smaller government with fewer services.”
  5. Only 22% “trust the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time.”
People everywhere recognize the simple truth that government doesn’t work. It is failing at everything it tries to do-even as politicians propose new worlds for it to conquer. The direction that most of us want is toward less government- a lot less government.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p.194 , Jul 2, 1995

Require shorter bills so legislators actually read them

One sign of a government run amok is that many Congressional bills are hundreds of pages long-and they often include dozens of provisions that are irrelevant to the bills’ topics. Congressmen rarely read the bills they vote for, and Presidents almost never read them before signing them. Everyone relies on aides and “experts” to assess the bills-and even the latter can’t read a bill that is rushed through to a vote or altered at the last minute. But the regulators read all these bills thoroughly and enforce every provision.
I will not sign any bill I haven’t read. I will consult with advisors, but I will always make the final decision myself, based on what a bill actually says. If a bill is too long for me to read during the ten days the Constitution give the President to make a decision, I will veto it automatically. If a bill is ambiguous or too complicated to understand, I will veto it-even if I think it might be aimed in the right direction.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by H. Browne, p.206-7 , Jul 2, 1995

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