Libertarian Party 1996
National Campaign Platform

A First Step Toward Freedom

Harry Browne For President


Government doesn't work. It can't deliver the mail on time, it doesn't keep our cities safe, it doesn't educate our children.

Government programs have failed. Government reforms have failed. Democratic and Republican politicians have failed. Government doesn't work.

Still, whatever the issue, Republican and Democratic politicians propose more government as the answer -- even when, as is usually the case, it is government that has caused the problem.

Libertarians stand for individual liberty, self-responsibility, and freedom from government -- on all issues at all times. If there's a problem, our first question is not, "How can government solve this problem," but "What government program must be eliminated to improve this situation?"

We are the only party dedicated to dramatically reducing government -- and doing it now, not in some pie-in-the-sky future year.

We are the only party that recognizes that the federal government has expanded far beyond the small, limited government envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

We are the only party that believes the Bill of Rights is an absolute document, to be taken literally. Government has no right to violate the Bill of Rights in any circumstance.

This means: Because politicians have long disregarded the limitations of the Constitution, the federal government has exploded in size. It is intrusive, oppressive, and obscenely expensive. And we the people suffer from all its failed programs.

Government doesn't work. Its War on Poverty has expanded poverty. Its War on Drugs has created a huge, illicit drug industry, escalated drug use, and generated a crime wave in every American city.

Still, politicians of both old political parties insist that the next government program will work, will pay for itself, will improve America, will solve some social problem.

But government doesn't work.


The overriding question in this Presidential election is: How can we make the federal government much smaller?

Democratic and Republican politicians try to pose as supporters of smaller government. But on issue after issue, they still call on government to solve problems.

The differences among them are trivial. But the differences between their positions and those of Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate, are as night and day.

1. Reducing Government

Democratic and Republican politicians are both responsible for the overbloated $1.6 trillion federal government. Republican Presidents and Republican Congresses, Democratic Presidents and Democratic Congresses have all served to make government bigger and bigger and bigger.

With the exception of the retrenchment period after World War II, every President -- Republican or Democrat -- since Calvin Coolidge has left a government that's bigger than the one he inherited. We have to stop this trend.

Today, with the American public overwhelmingly anti-politician and anti-government, politicians of both parties try to convince us that they, too, are for "smaller government," "lower taxes," "less regulation." But the specific proposals they make will all lead to bigger government.

2. The Income Tax

The enormous tax increases of 1982, 1983, 1990, and 1993 show that neither of the old parties stands for lower taxes. Republican and Democratic politicians alike are quite willing to raise your taxes anytime, on any pretext.

Today they try to convince us that they have changed, that "We are all low-taxers now." But their proposals would only rearrange the existing tax burden. Because they have no concrete plans to reduce government significantly, there is no way they can lower your taxes significantly.

The income tax is the biggest government intrusion into the lives of the American people. It forces every worker to be a bookkeeper, to open his records to the government, to explain his expenses, to fear conviction for a harmless accounting error. Compliance wastes hundreds of billions of dollars. The income tax penalizes savings and creates an enormous drag on the U.S. economy. It is incompatible with a free society.

We must get rid of hundreds of federal programs, but we can't remove them one at a time, because each program has beneficiaries and supporters who will fight us. We can overcome their resistance only by combining all the spending cuts into a single package that includes the largest tax cut in American history -- the total repeal of the federal income tax. That way most people can see that they'll save far more in taxes than they lose in subsidies.

By combining the reduction of government with the repeal of the income tax, every voter will know that the price of keeping today's federal programs is to continue paying the income tax. Every voter will know exactly how much he can gain by eliminating the complete package of unconstitutional programs.

But this isn't what politicians of the two old parties want. They like the power that comes from controlling your income.

3. Social Security

Social Security is a fraudulent insurance scheme in which the government collects money from you for your retirement and immediately spends the money on something else. All polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans have little hope of getting back a single dollar for the 15% of their wages they're pouring into it.

4. Government Spending

In their Alice-in-Wonderland world, when politicians talk about smaller government, they don't mean a government that is actually smaller. They mean a government that is smaller than some hypothetical government that is much larger than today's government. In other words, to a politician, "smaller government" means government that doesn't grow as fast he wants.

5. Balanced Budget

An unbalanced budget isn't just a bookkeeping curiosity. Every debt incurred on your behalf by the politicians means you have to pay a larger interest cost every year. Today we are paying $275 billion a year in interest expense, which means we are continuing to pay for long-since-abandoned, long-forgotten schemes by the politicians of yesteryear -- schemes that were going to make health care more affordable, that were going to improve education, that were going to clean up the environment. The schemes failed, the politicians retired with generous pensions, and we are left paying the interest expense year after year after year.

We must get rid of that interest expense by retiring the entire federal debt. But first, we must put a stop to the growing debt by balancing the budget immediately.

6. Welfare

Prior to the 1960s, the word "welfare" was rarely used in conversation. Instead, people spoke of "charity" -- administered by churches, service clubs, foundations, the United Way, and other agencies. "Welfare" was a small department in the back of City Hall somewhere. The notion that someone could be permanently on the dole was virtually unheard of.

Today millions of Americans have been consigned to a lifetime of poverty, dependency, disrespect, and hopelessness as permanent wards of the state. The welfare laws, tax laws, minimum wage laws, and other regulations discourage them from leaving welfare to become self-supporting citizens. This is what the American people have received for the trillions of their dollars the politicians have wasted on a bizarre plan to have government do away with poverty.

7. Education

There is no Constitutional authority for the federal government to be involved in education in any way whatsoever. The growing amounts of money and control coming from Washington have been matched by lower SAT scores, declining standards, more dangerous schools, and generations of Americans who have no basic education in history, geography, the Constitution, mathematics, science, or literature.

This doesn't bother the politicians, however, because they don't see federal aid to education as a means of raising literacy and knowledge.

8. Crime & the War on Drugs

Before there were drug laws in America, there were no drug problems. And prior to the federal government's declaration of War on Drugs in the 1960s, there were no muggers on the street trying to support a $100-a-day habit, no pushers on high school campuses trying to hook children on drugs, no gangs fighting over monopoly drug territories, no drive-by shootings, no crack babies, no overdose problems. Outside of the 14 years during alcohol Prohibition, nothing like this had ever been seen in America. It took the War on Drugs to make it happen.

9. Health Care

Today 51% of all health care dollars in America are spent by government. This has run up the prices of doctor visits, hospital stays, and health insurance -- far outpacing the rate of general inflation. Government has failed utterly to make health care more accessible or affordable. But the politicians see this failure as an excuse to impose even more government upon us.

10. The Federal Judiciary

The American judiciary was supposed to protect the American people from politicians and bureaucrats who wanted to overstep the bounds of the Constitution. Instead, the judiciary has been a main part of the trashing of the Constitution. Judges talk about "penumbras" in the Constitution. They say the Constitution is a living, changing document (which really means that it's a dead, meaningless document). They throw out the Bill of Rights on the grounds that the government has a "compelling interest" in overruling it.

Either the Constitution limits the government or it doesn't.

11. Personal Values

The Constitution gives the federal government no authority to tell us how to live our lives. However, the politicians will not be restrained. They want to govern every aspect of our existence.

12. Immigration

At one time, America attracted only those from around the world who were seeking freedom -- freedom from oppressive governments, freedom to build a future for their families through hard work. Today, America attracts too many people who come here only to take advantage of government welfare benefits.

13. National Defense & Foreign Policy

Our government has spent trillions of dollars on the military since World War II, and yet we are completely vulnerable to the whims of any two-bit dictator who can get his hands on a nuclear missile. And by involving ourselves in a multitude of treaties around the world, we are liable to be drawn into World War III by a petty dispute between third-rate powers.


The overriding issue this election year is smaller government.

And on that issue, there is no real difference between the two old parties -- no difference that could effect a real improvement in your life now.

Only the Libertarians offer specific, workable, credible proposals to dramatically reduce the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government.

For years, you may have wasted your vote -- giving it to candidates who have served to make government bigger and bigger. Don't waste your vote again by giving it to candidates like Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, whose entire careers have been devoted to making Big Government bigger.

It's time to make your vote count for a change -- time to vote for someone who is determined to make government much smaller now.

If you cast your vote wisely, you can make a difference. But if you don't vote for what you want, you are throwing your vote away.

Stop voting against what you're afraid of, and start voting for what you want.

Vote for the only candidate who has the will and determination to immediately reduce government to a fraction of its size today.

Vote to take back your freedom, to take back your life. Vote to end the income tax and abolish the IRS. Vote to keep your earnings in your hands -- to spend, to save, to give away as you see fit.

Vote to affirm your support for the small and limited Constitutional Government given to us by the Founding Fathers.

This year, vote for:

This year, don't waste your vote.

Vote Libertarian.


1 A proposed six-year federal budget, showing revenues and expenditures, is laid out in chapter 24 of Why Government Doesn't Work by Harry Browne (245 pages, St. Martin's Press, available at any bookstore, $19.95).

2 The Kennedy-Kassenbaum bill was passed 100-0 in the Senate in May 1996; a similar bill was passed in the House. It compels private insurance companies to issue unprofitable policies -- guaranteeing that insurance premiums will rise, leading the politicians to impose price controls, and driving the insurance companies out of business.

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