Libertarians Against Liberty: Brophy's Tribe
by Ari Armstrong, April 12, 2005
Mark Brophy ran for the state senate in 2004 as a Libertarian. He ran for mayor of Fort Collins just this month. Indirectly, he was a major reason why I left the state LP, though the more pressing reason was a "defense" of Brophy written by the chair of the state Libertarian Party (LP).
First, Brophy supported several national gun-restriction laws, in violation of the Second Amendment and the platform of the LP. (See the collection of links about Brophy.) Then he wanted to outlaw spanking and smoking in cars with children. While both of those activities are harmful, neither should be criminalized, especially given that actual abuse of children is already against the law. Those interested in the debate over those issues may review the earlier articles. Here I want to discuss other matters, especially recent history, in the context of the general failings of the LP.
A voter guide from last year reveals that Brophy has made some troubling comments about other political matters. His political views can best be described as chaotic: his occasional free-market rhetoric and positions conflict with his support of welfare and nanny legislation. For example, Brophy states, "I would... continue education funding for K-12 children as the highest state government priority." So not only does Brophy want the state to significantly control and fund education, he wants education funding to be the "highest state government priority." What about the protection of individual rights from crime and fraud? For Brophy, those are lower priorities than welfare spending.
On April 5, Brophy suffered three losses. As a newspaper article linked by the Greeley Tribune notes, Brophy lost the mayor's race, coming in third, and two of the local initiatives that Brophy supported were voted down. One would have removed fluoride from the water of Fort Collins; the other would have phased out the sales tax on groceries.
Removing the local sales tax on groceries is a good idea. In 2003, a group of activists led a drive to repeal that tax in Littleton. In general, those sorts of limited political campaigns allow for broad coalitions. (Brophy also opposed general smoking bans, which is good.)
Unfortunately, Brophy seems to have hurt the tax-repeal effort by getting involved in the marginally important matter of fluoride. According to the press, "Dr. Pat Weakland, a Windsor dentist, was pleased by the results on the fluoride issue... He said he was concerned a small turnout in the election might swing the vote in favor of ending fluoridation. 'There were just a whole lot of people raising their concerns about what fluoride can do negatively, versus a huge support group in favor of fluoride,' Weakland said." Two-thirds of voters joined the medical establishment, though even more rejected the repeal of the grocery tax. (Just as a matter of strategy, it's dumb to bring out a bunch of lefty health nuts when you're trying to repeal a tax. But perhaps Brophy was trying to get votes from both right and left for mayor: he ended up with 8% of the total.)
In one letter, Brophy wrote, " Bertschy and Hutchinson [two other candidates for mayor] favor spiking the water supply with fluoride as a prophylactic dental measure, a form of socialized medicine. But each individual should decide whether to ingest diluted rat poison, not city government." Somehow such hyperbole didn't match up well against advice from the area's dentists. But what is truly odd is that Brophy gets worked up about a minuscule fluoridation program he calls "socialized medicine," not long after he stated he wants to keep "funding for K-12 children as the highest state government priority." It's very easy to filter out the fluoride from water or buy bottled water, but it's nearly impossible to avoid paying one's "share" of the billions of dollars spent every year on socialized education. So what, precisely, is Brophy thinking?
But is Brophy just a crack-pot? Evidently not to the leaders of the state LP, or the national LP for that matter. National ran a puff piece about Brophy, of course without mentioning his controversial (and blatantly anti-freedom) statements. And the most recent state LP newsletter features a photo of Brophy on the front page. The publication states, "Mark Brophy for Mayor! Libertarian Mark Brophy... is running for mayor of Fort Collins. Brophy has received a wave of support for his mayoral candidacy because of his leadership in the initiative to eliminate the city's grocery tax. Travis Nicks... joined Brophy to show his support and donate to his campaign."
Nicks is shown holding up a T-shirt that reads, "I support Mark Brophy Ask me about Repealing the Grocery Tax." Page four of the newsletter consists of a full-page ad announcing Nicks's bid to become the new chair of the state LP. Here are Nicks's goals, as specified by the ad: "Small Victories BIG CHANGE!!! * More Locally Elected Libertarians * More Local Government Appointments * More Freedom Referendums." I suspect that Nicks is favored to win the leadership position next month. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that anyone who supports Mark Brophy has a clear idea of what freedom means or on what it depends.
By the way, we learn in the same state LP newsletter that Michael Badnarik will be a "Keynote Speaker" next month at the event where Nicks will seek to lead the state LP. Badnarik was the LP's candidate for president in 2004 who once called since-convicted felon Rick Stanley "a modern American hero." And the Libertarian leadership wonders why anti-philosophical activism doesn't work.
For additional material about Mark Brophy, see Mark Brophy Updates.