Tag Archives: Florida

Slow News Days and Third Party Politics: Attack of the Goat-Sacrificing Roman Sun God!

RGBStock.com Vote Pencil

American media seldom pay much attention to “third” political parties like the Libertarians and the Greens. They get footnotes in normal election coverage, with one exception: Sometimes someone weird shows up on a slow news day. Then it’s suddenly time to cover third parties.

Enter Augustus Sol Invictus, a declared candidate for US Senate from Florida, who plans to run on the Libertarian Party’s ballot line. You may have seen his name in your social media or news feed. He’s “trending.”

Invictus named himself after an ancient Roman sun god. He allegedly sacrificed a goat in the western desert somewhere. As an attorney, he’s defended white supremacist clients and some people believe that’s no coincidence. He’s supposedly called for civil war, mandatory eugenics programs and all kinds of other crazy, and definitely not Libertarian, stuff.  [Disclosure: I am a Libertarian candidate for Congress from Florida too; I have never sacrificed a goat, don’t associate with white supremacists, and support neither civil war nor eugenics]

The Libertarian Party of Florida’s executive committee censured Invictus  and disassociated their party from him on Sunday. His views, they say, are not theirs — which should be obvious, but some things do have to be explicitly said, not just assumed.

And yet, there’s actually a possibility that he’ll show up on Florida primary ballots as a candidate for the Libertarian US Senate nomination. If so, and if he wins, the Florida LP is stuck with him as their standard-bearer.

It shouldn’t be that way. And at one time it wasn’t.

Until the late 19th century, American government didn’t print ballots, nor did it control the internal affairs of political parties.  Voters cast ballots printed and provided by their parties of choice, or hand-wrote (or, if they couldn’t write, verbally swore to an election official) their ballots.

Starting in the 1880s, the states adopted the “Australian ballot.” Because government printed these ballots, government got to choose which candidates appeared on them. From that, a system of rules evolved which incorporated two express purposes: Keeping “third parties” off ballots with restrictive access laws, and robbing them of the ability to choose their own candidates, if they did manage to wangle ballot access, by forcing them into primary elections instead of nominations by convention.

All of this came about in the name of “reform,” to “take political decisions out of the smoke-filled rooms.” But that’s where the decisions are still made by the Democrats and Republicans. These restrictive laws don’t affect them nearly as much. Their party establishments are large, entrenched and powerful; they’re usually able to direct the voters instead of vice versa. It’s the third parties who get stuck with the weirdos. And with the media coverage that the weirdos bring.

A major step in real political reform would be to ditch the “Australian ballot” and its associated restrictions, returning to freedom of association for voters, candidates and political parties.

Florida’s Libertarians should be free to bury Caesar, rather than potentially forced to seemingly praise him.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


“Tax Incentives”: Cut! That’s a Wrap!

Map of USA highlighting states with no income tax
Map of USA highlighting states with no income tax (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Movie and television producers say they just can’t afford to film in Florida without “tax incentives,” a mix of special tax treatment and outright corporate welfare. And with those welfare checks drying up (Rene Rodriquez, “Florida’s entertainment industry fights for flailing tax-incentive program,” Miami Herald, June 28), they’re reduced to grabbing some quick exterior shots for location flavor, then moving production to states where the legislatures are more willing to be more cavalier with taxpayer funds.

Re-combobulating state policy to spur “economic development” is a losing game. Every time a rent-seeking industry comes along demanding that taxpayers build them a sports stadium, kick back a portion of highly hypothetical “money we’re causing to come here” or cut them special slack on taxes, the eventual outcome turns out to be an economic wash at best.  Native residents and long-established, home-grown businesses pick up the tab for legislators’ mistakes. The only real gains come in the form of fancy lunches and campaign contributions for those legislators.

Fortunately, things are starting to change nationwide. As Rodriguez notes, in recent years “many states downsized or eliminated their incentive programs altogether.” That leaves Florida in great position to compete with Hollywood as a film center and win.

California demands a top state income tax rate of 13.3% from its citizens and residents. Florida takes no income tax at all. Florida also compares favorably with California (and the rest of the US) when it comes to sales and property taxes. The “tax incentives” are already there, no special programs needed!

When it comes to shooting locations, Florida competes well too. Aside from Arctic and mountainous terrain, there’s almost no outdoor environment or terrain type that can’t be either found or cheaply simulated in Florida. We’ve got jungle. We’ve got swamp. We’ve got evergreen and deciduous forest. We’ve got beach. We’ve got ocean. We’ve got island. We’ve got iconic cityscapes and bucolic farmland.

We’ve also got the infrastructure and the population to support as many studios and crews as care to come here, where they can make — and keep! — more money from their work.

We don’t need a bunch of tax jiggery-pokery and lobbyist-fueled legislative favoritism  to bring more television and movie production to Florida. We can get there by hopping off the corporate welfare/special interest merry-go-round and promoting our state as what it is: Hands down, the best place in America to do business.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Time to Give Taxpayers a (Prison) Break

RGBStock.com Prison Photo

Daniel Webster was from New England, but one of his most famous quotes merits recognizing him as an honorary Floridian: “Every man’s life, liberty, and property are in danger when the Legislature is in session.”

In special session last week, Florida’s House and Senate negotiators agreed on a $2.3 billion budget for the state’s Department of Corrections (“State law makers pump up prisons budget,” News Service of Florida, June 11). That’s about $115 — or about 14 hours at minimum wage — from every man, woman and child in Florida. That’s more than I pay Netflix for unlimited access to re-runs of “Orange is the New Black.” And all for the ignoble purpose of keeping people in cages.

Except no, not really.

$1.3 million of the new spending is earmarked for “computer software upgrades.” Apparently 9,000 corrections officers don’t have email accounts. Do I hear the world’s smallest violin playing in the distance? To me, the real scandal is that there are more than 9,000 corrections officers in Florida.

Millions — probably tens, maybe even hundreds of millions — more go to politically connected corporations operating “privatized” prisons for profit at taxpayer expense. If you thought you saw their lobbyists skulking around Tallahassee last week, you probably did.

Florida doesn’t need more money for its prisons. It needs fewer prisons, and fewer prisoners. The same is true for every other state. And there are easy ways to get there.

One of the easiest ways would be for those legislators to get together and repeal all the state laws against victimless “crimes” — drugs, gambling, sex work, etc. If they can’t bring themselves to stop trying to run everyone else’s lives, the rest of us should pitch in. Cops should start ignoring those “crimes” in favor of real ones. Prosecutors should stop wasting taxpayer money on prosecuting them. Juries should refuse to convict.

Even where real crimes — like theft, for example — are involved, non-violent offenders shouldn’t receive food, housing and medical care at taxpayer expense.  Nor should surplus corrections personnel. Furlough the latter and let them get real jobs in the productive sector. Put the former on probation or electronically enforced “house arrest” so that they can pay their own bills, as well as restitution to their victims.

It’s time for “corrections” reform, with a view toward ultimately abolishing prisons entirely. And that means less, not more, taxpayer money.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.