Libertarian Candidate for Virginia Governor
Friday, Oct. 12, 2001
Bill Redpath is the Libertarian candidate for Virginia governor. A two-time candidate for the General Assembly, Redpath has set his sights on higher office for 2001. He advocates streamlining government, especially electoral processes. He maintains: "Virginia has a democracy that is uncompetitive and boring." (Read a Post profile.)
Redpath is a Vice President of Consulting for BIA Financial Network, a financial consulting and valuation firm.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control
over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Thanks for joining us today, Bill Redpath. Why are you running for governor of Virginia?
Bill Redpath: For three reasons:
(1) The Libertarian Party has never before run a candidate for statewide office in Virginia, other than our Presidential tickets in past years. Gary Reams (the LP Lt. Governor candidate) and I wanted to change that and advance the party in Virginia.
(2) I wanted to get libertarian public policy ideas into the gubernatorial debate.
(3) But, most of all, I wanted to address electoral reform issues and why it is that minor parties aren't getting anywhere in the U.S. It's our Single Member Plurality (SMP) voting system. Single member legislative districts--person with the most votes wins. It is essentially a sociological law that that voting system gives us two dominant parties, both running for the center, trying to offend as few people as possible, so that they can win these winner-take-all single district races. There isn't going to be a third major party with this voting system, and it leads to dearth of political competition. 40 House of Delegates members are running completely unopposed this year--it was 49 completely unopposed in 1999. I could cite many other facts about the uncompetitive nature of our democracy.
I propose three reforms:
(1) Direct initiatives & referenda in Virginia;
(2) Instant runoff voting for single winner elections;
(3) Interactive representation, a form of proportional representation, for the Virginia Senate, which would allow political minorities in the nation (and, unfortunately, libertarians are a political minority) to earn some representation in our legislatures.
More details on these proposals are on my Web site, redpath2001.com.
Are you concerned that if the Earley-Warner race is close, you could be the spoiler?
Bill Redpath: I suppose that's possible, but I am not running to be a "spoiler". The answer to minor party candidates being "spoilers" is Instant Runoff Voting, where voters rank their candidates and their vote transfers to their next ranked candidate if their higher ranked candidate cannot be elected.
Why do you think you weren't invited to the debates?
Bill Redpath: With respect to the October 3 debate in Richmond, it was Mark Earley who kept me out, pure and simple. It was OK with Bob Holsworth (VCU professor), who said the two major party candidates had to approve my participation. It was OK with Mark Warner. Mark Earley stopped it. And he wasn't even man enough to say "No" to my face when I asked him if I could participate. He said it was up to "the sponsors" and then dodged the question thereafter, refusing to give affirmative permission for me to participate.
I think it was the sponsors of the other three debates that kept me out. They pleaded (1) lack of time and (2) I'm not electable. But, how are enough people going to know about me and my ideas if they don't see me in the debates? I should have been in because my supporters and I were the only group to gather the signatures necessary to put another governor candidate on the ballot, and because politics is about more than a horse race--it's about ideas.
How would instant runoff voting work? Meaning, if I voted for you first, Warner second, then my vote would be a vote for Warner? What if I voted for Warner first, you second? would the vote ever be transferred to you?
Bill Redpath: After the voting is over, you would list the candidates by first choice votes from top to bottom. You would eliminate the bottom candidate and transfer all those votes to those voters' second choice candidate. (Those votes without a second choice would simply be eliminated (or exhausted).) The new last place candidate (including transferred votes) would have his or her votes transferred to those voters' next choice. This process would continue until one candidate had a majority of the unexhausted votes.
Can you explain your proposal for electing state Senators? It seems like all the winners would likely come from Northern Virginia under such a system... correct me if I'm wrong.
Bill Redpath: I don't think geography has much to do with government these days. Districts probably made sense when communications and transportation were very poor. Today we have instantaneous communication and very good transportation. I live in Northern Virginia, but the person who would best represent my thoughts on the issues might live in Roanoke or Richmond or Virginia Beach. It doesn't make sense to restrict my electoral choices to people who happen to live near me.
I do not think this system necessarily means that any one area of the state would be overrepresented in the Virginia Senate.
I thought libertarians didn't want government? Is that the case, and if so, why are you running to be a part of it?
Bill Redpath: Libertarians are for limited government. We are not anarchists. There is certainly a proper role for government for defense of this nation, operation of law enforcement and a court system, and other matters to keep the peace and restrain people from harming one another. Government should help defend life, liberty & property, but create the conditions for prosperity by being limited in nature.
I'm all for the establishment of a legitimate third party, but it seems the lack of a solid party platform is confusing to voters. What are the major similarities and differences between the Libertarian, Reform, and Green Party?
Bill Redpath: The Libertarian Party is the only political party that consistently believes in and works for limited government. That is not the case with the Green and Reform parties. I haven't read the platforms of the Green and Reform parties. My perception of the Reform Party is that it is a party for "good government", but not really ideological in nature. The Green Party is ideological, and I agree with it on many social issues, but disagree with it on most economic issues, as the Green Party wants much government intervention on many economic issues. The Libertarian Party is pro-freedom on both social and economic issues.
What's your position on the car tax and the suggested increase on the sales tax?
Bill Redpath: I think we should have not only low taxes, but few taxes, as well. The car tax should be eliminated, along with all of the General Fund taxes (and there are a lot of them), except the sales & use tax and the individual income tax. The eliminated taxes would include the public utilities tax (check your utility bills--my VA phone tax alone is over $6 per month), the insurance premiums tax, the corporate income tax (a bad tax because no one knows who really pays it--is it the shareholders or employees or customers?), and a multitude of miscellaneous taxes. My proposed spending reductions would allow this to occur, plus a reduction in the top marginal rate on the individual income tax (which hits 5.75% at $17,000 of taxable income). Any further spending reductions would result in further reduction of the top marginal individual income tax rate.
Neither of the two major party candidates appeal to me because, as rich guys, I know that they will do little if anything to address the concerns of working families. What would the libertarians do to help families struggling to make ends meet while paying for the rising cost of child and health care?
Bill Redpath: I would reduce taxes as described in my previous answer.
Also, I favor adopting a Universal Tuition Tax Credit, whereby parents would receive a dollar for dollar reduction in their Virginia State Income Tax liability for every dollar spent on tuition, up to a limit of 50% of the per pupil expenditure in the public school system, or 80% of the private school tuition, whichever is smaller. Individuals who pay others' tuition or contribute to scholarships would get the same tax credit. Until abolition of the State Corporate Income Tax, corporations would receive a 100% tax credit for money donated to fund scholarships. This would make private schooling of their children more affordable for the vast majority of Virginia parents.
Ultimately, though, the cost of childcare should be the responsibility of parents.
Obviously libertarians believe that the role of government in people's lives should be reduced. But how, if at all, should libertarians adjust their beliefs in times of national crisis? Do you believe that a larger government role is justified during our current crisis?
Bill Redpath: Only with respect to providing necessary security without infringing unreasonably on civil liberties. That will certainly increase government expenditures. They should be funded as much as possible through user fees (e.g., fees on tickets for airport security), but some will likely have to come from taxation.
Certainly, though, I don't support a lot of government expenditures (e.g., farm subsidies) or government programs (e.g., Social Security) any more than I did before September 11.
Thanks for taking my question, Mr. Redpath. I'm a registered Libertarian who is a bit concerned about the fuss around federalizing airport security made by some on the right. Of course as a Libertarian I tend to oppose federalizing anything, except chiefly national defense. But isn't airport security really now matter of national security/defense? As a representative of the LP, I am interested in your feelings on this matter.
Bill Redpath: I don't understand the emphasis on "federalization" of airport security employees. We need competent (and probably better paid) airport security employees. I read in The Economist the differences in the training and compensation of such employees in The Netherlands and the U.S. It was scary. There was much more training and much higher pay in The Netherlands. Turnover among such employees here is terrible. We need to have security issues handled competently and then be concerned with the relative costs of this being handled by the government versus the private sector. I think the private sector would handle this better (perhaps airlines need security divisions), but I just heard about a private company serving 13 airports that had been hiring convicted criminals and was doing a poor job in certain ways. I don't think this issue is ideological or should have a doctrinal answer. We just need to make sure airport security is properly enforced and worry about efficiency and cost savings secondarily.
Where have the two Republican administrations fallen short in your view in regards to fiscal discipline? How will you address these matters in state spending?
Bill Redpath: Spending in the Commonwealth of Virginia is out of control, and it doesn't matter whether Republicans or Democrats are in power. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Virginia General Fund budget has increased 42% in the last four years. According to the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, per capita General Fund expenditures increased 91% in the 1990s.
There is too much corporate welfare. That needs to be eliminated.
But, I think, the largest General Fund expenditure that should be eliminated is the General Fund subsidization of colleges and universities. I am certainly for education, but it is a matter of equity as to who pays for it. It is 15% of the General Fund budget and amounts to a perverse redistribution of wealth from the middle class and poor to students who tend to come from relatively affluent families and are likely be more affluent in the future due to their college education.
But, if the Commonwealth thinks it needs to provide a subsidy for Virginia's high schools graduates who are going on to college, it would be better to give them a voucher and tell them to go to any school anywhere in the world with it. Each institution could then redeem the voucher for US currency with the Commonwealth's government.
Thanks for joining us today, Bill Redpath. In conclusion, what do you think is the largest, most important difference between you and your fellow candidates?
Bill Redpath: I am the only candidate who truly believes in limited government--and will act accordingly. I will work to reduce, not just limit the growth of, state spending. I will work for not just tax reduction, but fundamental tax reform in the Commonwealth. I am the only candidate who is opposed to capital punishment. I am the only candidate who will work to repeal the Commonwealth's ridiculous consensual crime laws. I am the only candidate who will work to implement the needed market-based economic solutions to help alleviate our transportation problems. I am the only candidate who will work to maintain the economic and social freedoms we all cherish and that are so important for a just and prosperous society.
© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company