Open Letter to The Kansas City Star

The editorial board of the newspaper The Kansas City Star recently shoehorned the Libertarian Party in with their story about how Joe the Plumber lost a lot of respect for John McCain after he came out in favor of the Wall Street Bailout. Here’s what was said:

… the nation’s largest third party also opposed appropriating $14 billion of taxpayer money to bail out the American automotive industry.
“It’s insanity,” said Libertarian Party spokesman Andrew Davis. Instead, the Libertarians favored letting the auto companies file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, taking down the U.S. economy with them.
Now, that’s sane.
The Libertarian Party — founded in 1971 as an alternative to the two main political parties — proudly stands for smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom.
The Buzz says the party also stands to lose just about every election its candidates run in.

As a self-respecting Libertarian, I can’t let these kinds of snide comments slide. Hence, I have written the following letter to the editorial board of the Kansas City Star.

To whom it may concern:

I read your “Buzz” commentary with concern regarding how you treated the idea of an auto industry bailout. Specifically, you dismissed it out of hand as somehow less than sane without explaining your reasoning. You then instead engage in an ad hominem attack of the Libertarian Party as being a party that is only capable of losing “just about every election its candidates run in.”

You have done a great disservice to your readership. First and foremost, you have not provided any information for your readers to consider regarding the auto industry bailout except that it will, somehow, ensure that the auto industry will “take down the US economy with them.”  Not so. An economy depends on industries that are able to profitably render goods and services that are needed by its people. If an industry cannot do this, as the US auto industry has been unable to for years, then losing the industry will not “take down the US economy.” Instead, it will free up the labor and resources used in an unprofitable industry and make them available to be put to work in a more profitable one. A process which economic Joseph Schumpeter labeled “creative destruction.”

The alternative is to hinder our economy by taking resources from other areas of the economy and use them to subsidize a failing industry. This has never worked. In order for the free market to allow for societies to most efficiently allocate its resources towards what consumers most want, businesses have to be allowed to fail. It is a painful but necessary process. Japan avoided this process to their detriment in the 1990s; the resulting “zombie companies” functioned as a drag, not a boon, on the overall Japanese economy and greatly contributed to what’s now known as their “lost decade.”

Now that I have provided a logical argument as to why the Libertarian Party was actually correct in its assessment, I would like to continue on and discuss how you treated it. As the Libertarian candidate for State Representative in 2008, I feel I know something both about the party as well as the function of the American political process.

The US Constitution set up a ‘winner takes all’ political process: the candidate with the most votes wins. This engenders a compromise-based, collation-building strategy towards gaining the necessary votes to win. Consequentially, many people see little difference between the two leading parties, Republicans and Democrats. Indeed, the last two Presidential Republican National Conventions showcased speakers Zell Miller (in 2004) and Joe Lieberman (in 2008) who were formerly prominent Democrats. The general flavor of the two parties is that the Republicans believe in free markets whereas the Democrats trust in the guiding hand of government, but this financial crisis has shown that, when the chips are down, there seems to be precious little difference between their approach to economic crisis. For most voters in the last two Presidential elections, Iraq seemed to be the only issue that divided them, and even that seemed a rather ephemeral difference.

Given that both parties provide very little real difference between them, third parties remain the only choice for people such as myself who refuse to compromise their principles in the name of victory. As such, you are correct in saying that we Libertarians are not in danger of overtaking American politics by storm anytime soon. However, this is not to say that our ideas are not worthwhile or shared by many Americans. In fact, political quizzes have shown that many Americans hold Libertarian views despite the fact that they vote for other political parties in an effort to chose the lesser of two evils.

That the numerous discussions I have had with ordinary Americans showcases their desire to vote for their traditional party, not because they actually believed in it, but out of fear of the other party winning the election, represents a failing of our political system. That both parties favored a Wall Street bail out that everyday Americans overwhelmingly opposed, has shown how unresponsive our political system (where 98% of all incumbents are reelected) can be to the true wishes of the people.

Such is the world that we all live in, and one would think that a newspaper would use the influence of its editorial board to rail against such injustices. I see that sadly, this is not so. What I have provided in this letter is a logical argument for my ideas that your infotainment-minded editorial board appears to lack. I feel this is yet another failure of the system our forefathers set in motion. Jefferson believed that a free press was the “fourth estate” that would keep the branches of government responsive to the needs of the people.

Were he alive today and in possession of your newspaper, I believe he would see that this was a naive belief.


Preston Poulter (

6 thoughts on “Open Letter to The Kansas City Star”

  1. I truly hope that your letter gets the respect it deserves. Unfortunately, I expect that people who are that openly snide also never allow themselves the possibility of being wrong.

    I lobbied my congressmen as heavily as I could to reject any and all bailouts. It didn’t seem right to me — and we’re on “opposite” sides of the political spectrum.

    Everyone keeps talking about the bailout as being “socialism for rich people”, which makes me rather upset. Socialism isn’t the direct transfer of public wealth to capitalist companies. A more socialist solution would have bought the banks as they failed, formed a strong working class union to advocate for the workers and their needs, and handed the failing banks and assets over to the workers to manage on behalf of the taxpayers. Instead, the banks got taxpayer money, the guys at the top got bonuses (most of them didn’t get fired or even asked to repay their huge salaries), while the workers got laid off by the thousands. I don’t call that socialism! I call that plutocracy.

    I realize I’m probably incoherent at this point. I stayed up a little too late. All I really wanted to say was that when it came to opposing bailouts and foolish wars, we were on the same side (even if it was for different ideological reasons). Perhaps Libertarians and Socialists could become political allies in the fight to make third parties viable in the USA?

  2. Hey Cat,

    Funny you should say that. The Libertarian Party and the Green Party typically have debates between their Presidential Candidates at the same time that the two major parties have their debates. Since the minor parties are largely shut out of the political process, they have to make do with each other. Still, I’m sure that the Libertarian-Green debates showed far more passion and ideological differences than the talking point driven, speech trading “debates” between the major parties.

    Good to hear from you,

  3. Hi Preston,

    I agree. When I tell people I think there’s not much difference between Republicans and Democrats (Obama’s swinging nicely to the relative “center” of the US political spectrum as we speak), they tend to treat me poorly. I guess it’s like saying there’s not much difference between the Red Sox and the Yankees. When you’re passionately rooting for your team, you’re not distanced enough to see that they’re more similar than different. One should never attempt to debate politics with people who treat it like a sporting event.

    It sounds like the major benefit of third party candidates is they get to talk about what they want and they don’t need $150,000 wardrobes and makeovers and speechwriters and image consultants to do it. Looking Presidential these days is more a marketing campaign than politics. Sigh.

    Thanks for the reply!

  4. Sadly, the marketing has outweighed the actual prevalence of political issues for a long time, and not just in the Presidential election. There are some definite crossovers between Libertarian values and Socialist ideals, though they are most relative to what they oppose: anything smacking of fascism or an authoritarian structure. Pretty fascinating, the research going into isolating one’s actual politics these days, regardless of where they might be on the grand spectrum.

    Not surprisingly, the strongest defining point between the two is capitalism. Libertarians tend to be more what’s being called ‘capitalist purist’ while Socialists lean more toward ‘social capitalism’. Indeed, the ‘far extreme’ of social capitalism is said to be Socialism.

    So, just like anything, capitalising (tin inpunded) on that one common point between the two groups could lead to similar off-shoots whose ideology represents both parent parties. That would be interesting; and anything that gives greater exposure to third parties, I’m definitely for. I’ve been against the partisan nature of this nation for awhile.

  5. Hi Auby,

    Thank you so kindly for your response! I enjoy hearing viewpoints of people who don’t turn red and yell at me when I ask them to consider that Libertarianism and Socialism have much in common and a bit to learn from one another.

    I suppose you could say I side more with social capitalism because I feel the fundamental structure of society should exist to serve the needs of society as a whole rather than the needs of capital or individual humans. However, I agree that capital sometimes just has to be allowed to do its thing because trying to regulate every aspect of it would bog the system down (like in the late USSR) or remove all vestiges of individual spirit and initiative. A group of Libertarians and Socialists and Greens all having debates over policy would probably come up with more vigorous and robust answers to what ails us. We need more people of all types coming together to brainstorm. Crowds are only wise if they all use their brains individually and then pull together their ideas into a collective decision. If the entire herd is following a single leader or a party line, the crowd becomes very stupid.

    “Surowiecki studies situations (such as rational bubbles) in which the crowd produces very bad judgment, and argues that in these types of situations their cognition or cooperation failed because (in one way or another) the members of the crowd were too conscious of the opinions of others and began to emulate each other and conform rather than think differently.” (From:

    If only we had a more parliamentary-type system, we could try to get more third parties into Congress and have them form coalitions with the intent of taking whacks at the hegemony of Republicrat ideas. Winner-takes-all elections seem inevitably to lead to two dominant parties. Sigh.

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