Press Watch, September/October 2000
by Ari Armstrong
[The following material originally appeared in the September/October 2000 edition of Colorado Liberty.]
Sheriff Bill Masters Turns Heads
The Denver Post published a major article about Libertarian Sheriff Bill Masters of Telluride on August 28. The piece, entitled, "Monday Profile: Telluride Sheriff Just Says No to the Drug War," was featured prominently on the first page of the local section as well as on the internet. Nancy Lofholm of the Post's Western Slope Bureau wrote the story, which earned rave reviews from Libertarians across the nation for its accuracy, insight, and colorful style.
Lofholm noted that Masters is Colorado's highest-ranking Libertarian office holder as well as the only Libertarian sheriff in the nation. In 1998, Masters dropped his Republican affiliation, ran on a Libertarian platform, and earned 80% of the vote, his largest margin of victory ever.
In her story, Lofholm brings out two points of Masters' philosophy: his stand for personal responsibility in crime prevention, and his belief that drug prohibition is a waste of police resources.
Lofholm writes, "In a 'message from the sheriff' printed on the back of a victims' rights pamphlet, Masters tells citizens of his county: 'It is your responsibility to protect yourself and your family from criminals. If you rely on the government for protection, you are going to be at least disappointed and at worst injured or killed.'"
She quotes Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, who said Masters "has an awful lot of courage" for his stand against drug prohibition. When he first became sheriff in the 70s, Lofholm relates, Masters made a reputation by cracking down on drug offenders. Masters even earned an award from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then, Masters has rethought his position. "'Just look at how much good those arrests did,' Masters said with a wry laugh. 'We spend $50 billion a year on drug enforcement in this country, and we let pedophiles and murderers out of prison because there is not enough room. The prisons are full of drug users.'"
A longer version of the speech Masters delivered at the Libertarian Convention is scheduled to appear in the national Liberty Magazine. In that speech, Masters talks about his experiences at the FBI training facility in Quantico, Virginia—where FBI resources were diverted to the DEA instead of being used to find child killers.
As the Post story makes clear, Sheriff Masters is a rising star not only in the Libertarian Party and in Colorado politics, but in the national discussion of sensible drug policies.
Rosen Hosts LP State Chair
Mike Rosen invited Libertarian State Chair BetteRose Smith as a guest on his talk show July 25 from 10:00 till 11:40 AM. Rosen's show airs on 850 KOA, the largest AM listening audience in Colorado.
Rosen was sympathetic with libertarian ideas, though he continued to argue that the Party has no practical chance to win a national victory. Smith said one purpose of the Libertarian Party is to educate the public until people are willing to adopt the Party's proposals.
Rosen claimed that Libertarians lack popularity because there will always be lazy, unproductive people who desire to live off the fruits of others' labor. Information Director David Bryant called in and made the point that even such people could thrive in a libertarian society, and indeed such a person would "learn to stand on his own two feet" and find pride in his accomplishments.
Publications Director Ari Armstrong called in and said, "I submit that the only wasted vote is the one cast for the lesser of two evils, because what you get is still evil." Armstrong argued that Bush advocates poor policies in four specific areas: civil arms, foreign policy, drug prohibition, and Social Security. Repeating a line from the Harry Browne campaign, Armstrong said, "Would George Bush have been a better man had he served a 10 year mandatory sentence for his youthful indiscretions that he now favors for other people?"
Smith responded to calls from all points of the political spectrum. One self-professed socialist suggested that, without minimum wage laws, business owners would pay $1 an hour to workers. Smith countered that it is actually minimum wage laws that trap some people in poverty, by eliminating low-end jobs through which people gain training. Drawing the analogy to the real estate market, Smith also argued that the market determines wages, which is why even many fast-food establishments currently pay wages above the legal minimum.
The same caller wondered if Libertarians support democracy. Smith replied, "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. We live in a Republic." She argued that the success of capitalists helps everyone in society.
But what about the poor? "We believe that private charities will fill in the gap," Smith said. "Americans are very, very generous people." Smith also argued that one reason people have become less charitable over the years is that they have given up their responsibilities to politicians.
One Libertarian caller asked if Smith thought the issue of drug prohibition can serve as a political "wedge" issue for the Party. Rosen commented that, while he believes drug prohibition is a bad thing, he doesn't believe the American public is willing to accept such change.
Smith disagreed, pointing out the increasing popularity of the Libertarian position. Citing the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, Rose commented, "Drug prohibition has chipped away at our rights."
Yes, some members of the public continue to support prohibition. "They forget that drugs used to be legal," Smith said.
Smith was initially scheduled to spend 20 minutes on Rosen's show, but her visit stretched to five times as long, with the board constantly full of callers.