Austin Peterson, Editor-in-Chief of The Libertarian Republic, has announced his plan to run for President as a Libertarian candidate. He recently appeared on John Stossel’s show to discuss a new project called Love Gov, a series that compares big government to a controlling and manipulative boyfriend.
Mr. Petersen was motivated to run for President in the hopes of showing libertarians it is possible to run a clean and professional campaign with small amounts of resources and yield tremendous results. He felt the liberty movement was shrinking, and perceived a loss of interest in the presidential campaign and loss of hope in the movement in general. He believes he can effectively articulate the values of freedom to the American people and set out to serve as an example for the rest of the liberty movement.
We recently reached out to Mr. Petersen about his thoughts on police accountability.
Mr. Petersen acknowledged the deep-rooted problems with police abuse in American society, and referenced Frederic Bastiat, observing that the law is perverted, and police powers have become perverted along with it. “Libertarians have a unique understanding of how police powers have gotten out of control,” Mr. Petersen explained. “We must attack the root of the problem, which is the law. Police officers who follow the law will follow suit.”
Mr. Petersen sees civil asset forfeiture as a major problem with modern policing, as it is what he finds to be one of the most unreasonable aspects of police and the law. Civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize (steal) any property suspected to be involved in a crime. Owners of the property may not have been arrested or even convicted of a crime. Nevertheless, police are permitted to take personal property such as cash or cars, or even real estate. The property is then kept or sold by police, creating obviously perverse incentives. (More here). “Everyday people are victimized by this practice,” Mr. Petersen explained. Thus, he believes focusing on this form of corruption will attract a broad base of support from Americans. “In my presidential campaign, were I to become a credible threat, certainly the issue of civil asset forfeiture would be a big issue for me.”
Mr. Petersen also criticized what he characterized as an “out-of-control, militarized, police state.” He cited to videos depicting brutality of American citizens exacted by well-armed police forces. “The transfer of military weapons to local police is absolutely inappropriate, and we do not need to be sparking confrontations in such a way,” Mr. Petersen cautioned. He also added, “When police are more militarized, citizens tend to act more militant toward police… If you’re going to be a peaceful, humble republic, police forces should be public servants and behave as such.”
Mr. Petersen acknowledged that criticism of the policing system is “not popular presidential rhetoric,” but reiterated the importance of reforms. “To me, there are certain key reforms that can be made from the executive office that would ratchet down the violence and aggression in our communities.” He pointed to problematic leadership, and the fact police are frequently given wrong incentives in the course of their job – with quotas being such an example.
“To me, big government is the problem, and big government abroad eventually comes home, because war is the health of the state.” For this reason, he believes there must be strict limitations on leaders and their ability to use force on the population.
Mr. Petersen went on to impugn the prison system and its notoriously high recidivism rates and general inefficacy. He asserted prisons have an obligation to justice and the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. He touched on the idea of privatization of prisons, but explained how this concept is often misunderstood.
Under the current practice, “private” prisons in fact receive substantial support from the government, and indeed, are not truly independent. “The laws are not free market right now. Currently, private companies have legislation passed so that they are guaranteed a 90 percent fill-rate of their prisons. They are guaranteed a certain amount of income, which creates an incentive to create more prisoners.” This unholy government and business partnership is more akin to fascism, and is a far cry from a truly free market system. Arguably, if prisons were not supported by tax dollars and government sanction, few people would voluntarily pay exorbitantly high costs to keep numerous petty criminals and non-violent offenders in prison for extended periods of time.
Mr. Petersen believes the problem lies not only within the prison system itself, but extends to courts and judges as well. He expressed abhorrence at prosecutors who knowingly use falsified evidence, and the fact they are largely immune from civil liability for such actions taken in the course of their prosecutorial duties.
For guidance on issues of liberty, Mr. Petersen looks to what he calls some of the “finest minds” on these issues at the Institute for Justice. “They are the tip of the spear on this issue,” he said.
Mr. Petersen has also followed Cop Block for several years. “I teach people about their civil rights and how to use the constitution,” said Mr. Petersen. “I learned a lot of things from Cop Block. We have every right to film the police as they carry out their duty in public, and I highly recommend it. If we’re in a surveillance state and are under observation, then so are they.”
Mr. Petersen concluded our discussion with a quote from Judge Napolitano: “The camera is the new gun.”
Austin Petersen has volunteered for Ron Paul’s campaign, worked for the Libertarian Party for several years, worked on a social medial campaign with Judge Andrew Napolitano, and has been involved with Freedomworks, among other liberty-minded projects and activities.