Abolish the CIA. Phase out Social Secutity. give every illegal alien immediate citizenship. Cut defense spending and foreign aid to the bone. Let the government tell Detroit what kind of car to make.
These ideas and dozens of others equally rare on the American political scene were set forth here tonight in the first presidential candidates' debate of the general election season.
In the process, Ed Clark, the Libertarian Party's candidate for president, and Barry Commoner, the Citizens Party candidate, offered a long list of specific ideas for changing public policies, and also presented philosophical analyses of the impact of corporate and government power on individual freedom.
In most ways, the debate in a University of Michigan auditorium had all the trappings of the debates among Republican Party candidates during the primary season.
There were a League of Women Voters moderator, a panel of journalists to ask questions, a boisterous crowd of cheering, hissing partisans, and thoughtful, substantial, and sometimes stinging repartee between the candidates.
What was largely missing was media coverage. None of the television networks, which will spend millions of dollars covering the two major party candidates this year, showed up. The Detroit TV stations, according to Commoner's press secretary, Marvin Wanetick, said the event was "too far to come on a Sunday." Ann Arbor is 45 miles from Detroit.
That was a blow to the candidates because a major goal was to draw attention to their parties before Michigan's Tuesday primary election. That election will choose candidates for Congress and state offices, but it will also determine which "minor" parties get on the November ballot here. Clark, Commoner, and independent candidate John B. Anderson are on the Tuesday ballot, but Anderson turned down an invitation to join tonight's debate.
Clark, a California lawyer whose steady monotone somewhat muffles his harsh rehtorical attacks on government, blasted high taxes and government regulation and said the Libertarian Party believes that no government can do good for long.
Clark said the other candidates for president, in supporting government programs, "belong to the Mary Poppins school of government. That's ridiculous. It's the Nixons, the Hitlers, the Stalins, and the Kissingers who get control of government."
Commoner, an ecology professor and author, responded -- often aggressively and sarcastically in the lingering accents of his native Brooklyn -- by defending government, except when it is "dominated by corporate power."
"The government, when it works for the people, then it is the people," Commoner said. "I have complete faith that the people of this country, even if they work for the government, can do a good job."
Although the two differed sharply on many points, their answers to questions suggested a common theme.
Both campaigners are motivated by a pervasive sense that large, irresponsible and unaccountable powers are running the country to the detriment of most individuals.
But for Clark, the Libertarian, the hostile power is government. For Commoner and the Citizens Party, it is corporations.
The distinction was clearly drawn when the two men were asked what caused America's energy crisis.
"The principle problem with energy has been massive government intervention in the energy industry," Clark replied. He said the government's encouragement of nuclear power and its control of prices for petroleum products discouraged oil and gas production and pushed industry toward nuclear power.
Commoner's answer was just the opposite. "The cause of the energy crisis in the United States is the free enterprise system," he said. Oil price controls, he said, were begun in the 1930s because oil companies, with control over state legislatures, wanted the controls to increase their profits.
On some points, the debaters agreed, at least on the surface. When Commoner suggested that illegal aliens should be granted immediate citizenship, Clark agreed that "we should welcome the poor from all the world."
Clark described the "success story" of the 19th century when immigrants were absorbed into shops and factories and put to work. This prompted Commoner to recall the immigrant "sweatshop" and the poverty of the new Americans' lives.
"I wonder if the Libertarian principles of opposition to . . . federal regulation of the work place," Commoner said, "would result in these immigrants coming, becoming citizens, and dying soon."
Both candidates' attitude toward defense and foreign policy reflected what would generally be called the "liberal" position.
Clark said the Libertarians want the United States to "pay other countries the respect we want them to pay us -- don't intervene in their affairs." Accordingly, he urged abolishing the CIA and cutting defense and foreign aid spending almost to nothing.
Commoner, who said the government had been induced to spend billions on foreign endeavors "strictly because of the profit motive," agreed that some cuts should be made in these areas.
But on domestic issues, there was very little agreement.
Clark expressed doubt about minimum wage laws and proposed a program to phase out the Social Security system over the next half century. Commoner vigorously defended the minimum wage and various forms of government aid to the poor and elderly.
The two candidates zapped one another repeatedly. At one point, Clark's tongue slipped as he began to answer a question about the government and he said, "This company -- uh, country. . . ." Commoner leaned into his microphone and said, "Thank you, Dr. Freud."
The candidates also agreed on something else: "I do not expect to be elected in November," Commoner said. "I'm trying very hard to win, but I realize the odds are against it this time," Clark said.