Make your own decisions. Own your decisions made.

LASHAR & LOGANSMITH

Opportunity

Accountability

Civility

For, from, & toward all!

Opportunity for all

We must re-establish America & Maryland as a land of opportunity & upward mobility for all.

Let’s expand…

Opportunity

School choice for students, parents & teachers

My #1 Passion & Priority.  In order to obtain schools that deliver education that reliably prepares youths from all backgrounds and communities for realizing their potential in adulthood, we must bring about choice of schools for students and their families via competition amongst schools for enrollments and funding.

In other words, for the sake of students… and teachers as well… we must in Maryland foster an ecosystem of public, private, and home-based schools that compete with each other for students and funding from pre-K through 12th grade.

 This objective being my foremost passion and priority in terms of policy… due both to education being so consequential to our shared future as fellow citizens as well as to our intellectual and educational elites being so warped and wayward in their ideas and plans for our youth… I have taken the time in the following paragraphs to explain my principles; to critique the cynical and contemptible Kirwan Commission for education here in Maryland; and to promise my sustained commitment to the cause of competition and choice within education.

The Higher-Education Model. All young students along with their parents deserve the opportunity to choose for themselves from a variety of competing options the schools that will most challenge and best serve them for becoming informed citizens and valued contributors in the community… precisely the same way that students pursuing higher education have long been able to choose from a variety of private and public colleges that are competing for enrollments and tuition.

In other words, we can most surely and most affordably improve education by enabling students and their families to take their picks amongst a variety of schools that are competing for attendance and funding.

This model already works in higher education. It will work in elementary and secondary education as well.

Better for Teachers as well as Students. To appreciate the benefits and power of the choice-based model, it is important to recognize that it is not only students and their families that deserve choice for themselves. Teachers do, too.

Specifically, teachers deserve to choose the schools that will best empower them and best pay them to share their knowledge, apply their skills, and otherwise pursue their passions for education.

Crucially, teachers should receive the opportunity to work in environments that are conducive to teaching… not just well-maintained facilities, but also well-disciplined classrooms with teacher-empowering administrators.

In other words, teachers like other professionals deserve to have employers competing for their employment by offering personal compensation and professional environments that the teachers find attractive.

And let’s be clear. For those students and teachers who are content to continue in publicly funded, publicly operated schools that have become highly bureaucratized and highly politicized, they deserve the opportunity to stick with their decisions, as bad as you or I might find those decisions to be.

But for the many other students, families, and teachers seeking alternatives that they expect to be superior in delivering self-improvement and self-fulfillment:  They should have options available to them, including the entrepreneurial option by which motivated teachers can launch and run their own classes and schools.

(For which, an incubator model leveraging public funds and facilities can be implemented as has long been done in the business world for industries that are engines of innovation and vigor for the economy.)

Kirwan Commission:  Cynical Reforms. Meaningful choice for students and teachers via competition amongst schools in pre-K thru 12 was not embraced, perhaps not even contemplated, by the so-called Kirwan Commission on educational reform here in Maryland in recent years.  Which is not a surprise, given that except for one member, the commission was composed entirely of elected politicians, devoted social engineers, and vested interests in the status quo.

What is the status quo? Monopoly provision of educational services by public school systems that are governed by academic elites and allied with the teachers’ unions.

For the last 50 or more years, this monopoly model for education has stifled competition and suffocated choice most disgracefully in precisely those places that competition and choice are most desperately needed: Our historically disadvantaged communities in both urban and rural settings.

But instead of recommending genuine innovation and/or meaningful alternatives for the inevitably under-performing monopoly model for education that prevails in Maryland and the U.S., the Kirwan Commission said that in order to obtain “the best schools in the world” (which must be called out for the unhelpful feel-good slogan that it is), all that Maryland needs to do is pour vast new sums of money into the high-cost system that we already have, boosting teacher pay while simultaneously reducing teacher time in the classroom.

Why reduce teacher time in the classroom, so that they might have more opportunity to engage with students?  So that, according to the Kirwan Commission, the teachers can pursue and earn more certifications favored by our academic and political elites.

While the Kirwan Commission does mention the need for governance and accountability, with which need I myself could not more emphatically agree, it proposes… lo and behold!… that the academic elites and the educational administrators themselves be the parties to provide the governance and deliver the accountability.

Which in effect is like asking the police to police themselves.

Instead, we need governance and accountability to come from those who actually bear the consequences, good or bad, of school performance:  Students and their families, along with classroom teachers.

Which is the simple beauty and reliable power of the competition-and-choice model, which allows good schools to attract more students and teachers over time while poor schools lose them.

Under the choice-based model, educational performance and outcomes are not pronounced by the educational establishment itself. They are revealed by the decisions of those actually consuming the educational services, i.e., the students and their families attending school, along with front-line teachers deciding where to work.

The Kirwan Commission plan is a cynical and contemptible betrayal of both our youth and our society… and to repeat, it is especially a betrayal of our disadvantaged communities in urban and rural settings, who do not possess the means to escape the overly bureaucratic, highly politicized  monopolies being foisted upon them.

My Commitment. If elected your governor, I will as my first priority commit to serving as a resonant voice and a persistent force for delivering choice in education not only to our students and their families but also to our teachers in the classroom.

I will do so by both sincerely collaborating and civilly contending with the Assembly for changes to budgets and law; by taking executive measures where lawfully empowered to do so; by leveraging public funds and facilities to promote compeition amongst schools, whether long established or newly founded; most important, by serving as a partner and ally to all those in Maryland seeking an alternative to a public monopoly for education in pre-K through 12th grade.

As my inspiration and model, and as anticipatory rebuttal to those like the Kirwan Commission who would hew to the public monopoly model proven through history across all manner of services to fail those in whose name it is imposed, I would point to our competition-and-choice model in higher education, which for all its considerable mistakes and flaws in recent decades, notably price inflation due to excessive federal subsidy, shows us demonstrably and irrefutably what the joint public-and-private model can do for us all — especially students in disadvantaged communities and teachers and teachers in bureaucratized school systems.

An end to the war on drugs

Human Nature.  We cannot change human nature.  We can only accept or deny it.  And to persist in the so-called war on drugs is to persist in denial.

Which is to say, prohibition never has and never will work in practice due to human nature in two respects:

  1. We are flawed and sinful, yielding to temptation and engaging in vice, which means that there will ever be within human society a demand for cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, not to mention sex and power; and
  2. We are ambitious and innovative, seeking to improve circumstances for ourselves and our loved ones, which means that there will ever be within human society a supply of alcohol, drugs, etc, at least in any society that allows individuals to make decisions for themselves.

Thus, the only questions are:  Who shall the suppliers be?  And what social costs shall they impose on the rest of us?

Consequences of Denial.  Under the War on Drugs, launched and sustained over the decades by the Democratic and Republican Parties working in politically convenient alliance, the suppliers have of course been traffickers and gangsters to an extent that has long been excessive and at this point is unconscionable. 

The social damage has accrued throughout society.  But it has been most concentrated in our urban and rural communities.  And, too often not considered, it has extended to our Central and South American neighbors.

The impact of the War on Drugs has been, in sum, to:

  1. Disincentivize at the individual level the relatively slow but reliably sure path of family, education, and work for bettering the circumstances for oneself and one’s loved ones;
  2. Delegitimize at the institutional level the public agencies and officials engaged in law enforcement and criminal justice;
  3. Destabilize at the social level the living conditions and the rule of law in communities throughout the western hemisphere.

The worst of it has been an evaporation of hope and an accumulation resentment amongst those who represent the collateral damage from the War on Drugs:  The decent, regular folks stuck in communities that are owned and governed by the traffickers and gangsters.

This worst of it, in my own estimation, is well conveyed in the HBO series, The Wire, which was filmed in our very own Baltimore.  If you’ve seen it, reflect on it.  If you haven’t, binge on it. 

From the various characters across the many episodes, you will not be able to escape the waste of human potential; the sense of defeat and despair; the corruption of social institutions.  It is a tragedy in which the ruin befalls not so much a string of flawed heroes but rather a marginalized community for which social policy has incentivized asocial behavior.

We must bring these backfiring policies to their end of days.  We must end the war on drugs.

From Defeat, Hope.  Which, no, does not mean narcotics for sale in the aisle at RoFo or WaWa.  Rather, it means drugs available from lawful sources along the following lines:

  1. Recreational as well as medical:  If we are to strike at the revenue stream for traffickers and gangsters, which is my own policy objective and moral imperative, we must make drugs available for recreational as well as medical purposes, whether those like cannabis and psylocibins under an approach similar to that being put in place in Seattle (using licensed dispensaries while also legalizing personal cultivation and consumption), or those like alkaloids and opioids, which present significant risk of addiction and harm, provided that availability of these more potent drugs is in conjunction with the next principle…
  2. Services as well as compounds:  In order for the policy to remain humane, we must make behavioral-health services available at the point of purchase for highly addictive drugs, focusing on those who for whatever reason are seeking, say, the opioids that their bodies and minds crave.  These are the persons who are suffering demons and need our help.  Which help, with a liberalized and humane policy, offering but not mandating services in an understanding environment, we as fellow citizens can offer.

And for clarity, we need to recognize a fact of the human condition.  Which is that for those suffering addiction (i.e., substance use disorders or SUDs in medical terms), escape requires individual triumph over personal demons.  For different persons, triumph will come from different wellsprings.  Sometimes loved ones.  Sometimes religious faith.  Sometimes, surely, something else.  And probably quite often, a mix thereof.

(Not unlike that which can be seen in The Wire.)

The point here being:  At present, under the policies launched and sustained by the Democratic and Republican Parties across at least the last five decades, which policies have consistently been opposed by the Libertarian Party over the same period, we as a society have consigned our most vulnerable individuals and communities to the predations of traffickers and gangsters in narcotics.  We have also made ourselves culpable for the collapse of law and order… of decency and opportunity… in much of Central and South America.

These policies cannot be overturned quickly enough.  And as overturned, they must be replaced by policies offering humane assistance to those who are captive to their personal addictions and demons. 

Only in this way can we restore hope and opportunity for the individuals and communities long suffering as the collateral damage in the War on Drugs.

Promotion of affordable housing

General Strategy.  We must expand and improve the stock of affordable housing available in Maryland, doing so by encouraging private investment and individual ownership instead of splurging on public housing and issuing government mandates. 

The goal is to convert both tenants in public housing and renters in apartments into proud owners of their own homes, accumulating wealth for themselves and their families instead of persisting in government dependency.

For which objective, like any ambitious social objective, there is no simple or certain policy.  The fact of which ought not be cause for disappointment or despair but rather is basis for opportunity and cause for excitement.

Strengthen Opportunity Zones.  One place to start is by prioritizing and reinforcing the Opportunity Zone program established under federal law in 2017.  The program brings together investors, developers, businesses, and community representatives for redevelopment in distressed communities, with the “carrot” for investment being tax incentives. 

With genuinely devoted gubernatorial sponsorship, these kinds of multi-stakeholder programs can make a meaningful difference.  Under a Lashar administration, the Opportunity Zone program would receive such devotion and sponsorship.  And the over-arching Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development would be a genuinely empowered seat and voice within the Cabinet.

Relax Zoning Restrictions.  As a fresh initiative, we must bring more attention to the impact of zoning restrictions on the availability of affordable housing.  And we must encourage the relaxation of these restrictions, collaborating with local communities so as to promote:

  • Multi-family housing in more places than it is allowed today;
  • Smaller homes on smaller lots as part of housing diversification; and
  • Apartments in basements of established homes.

These kinds of ideas, of which the foregoing are but a few examples, are finding support even from politicians who remain bullish on the kinds of “government first” housing programs that have consistently failed to achieve their objectives over the last several decades, from urban renewal (which created high-rise ghettos) through community block grants (which feed cronyism). 

These politicians include Barrack Obama with his Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) with his HOME Act; and Joe Biden with his “starter homes” idea.  Even the state of California, which has blundered its way to an outright affordable-housing crisis via its government-first housing initiatives over the last few decades, is taking some preliminary steps toward relaxing its restrictive zoning restrictions.

Guiding Principles.  For expanding affordable housing, there is no simple solution.  We must adopt a multi-prong approach, embracing innovative ideas for getting people into their very own homes while also heeding the lessons of the failed government-first policies of the last several decades.

The key principles must be not only to promote home ownership, but also to leverage private investment; support responsible landlords; and offer incentives instead of mandates.

Affordable housing for all is, along with school choice and free speech, a foremost passion and priority of mine.  I will work with all parties of goodwill to identify and implement promising ideas, then to sustain and expand those ideas that prove that they are working in practice.

Revitalization of urban centers & rural towns

General Approach.  For long-term economic vitality, opportunity, and hope, we must first and foremost give our schools back to students and parents while also taking our urban streets back from traffickers and gangsters, as already stated are my fiercest passions and topmost priorities.

But we must also take action to encourage the engines of economic vitality in the economy:  Those with capital to invest and those with ventures to grow, regardless of whether the amounts and scope be either large or small.

How do we do so?  By getting government rather more to help than to hinder.  Also by ceasing-and-desisting with portrayal of those launching and sustaining commercial endeavors as being subhuman agents of greed and exploitation.

Pre-Pandemic Realities.  For creating jobs and vivifying streets in both urban centers and rural towns, we need to make it easier for shops to open their doors, hire their employees, and serve their customers.

For which, the tried-and-true approach for communities across the country and around the globe is to lighten the tax load and loosen the regulatory reins.

Which approach, unfortunately, finds naught but contempt in the modern Democratic Party, which may possess only the slimmest of majorities in the U.S. Congress but is utterly dominant in the Maryland General Assembly.

Recognizing this reality, my approach will be to hold the line against tax hikes along every front and to seize opportunity for tax cuts whensoever and wheresoever possible, acting as a bulwark against a return to the ever-escalating, ever-squandered taxes of the recent O’Malley administration, when the Democrats last controlled the Assembly while also occupying the Governor’s seat.

While serving as bulwark, I will also work collaboratively with both the General Assembly and local governments in order to provide homeowners, contractors, small businesses, and even large corporations relief from confusing and stifling regulations whensoever and wheresoever possible.  Precisely because such regulations tend not to be overly political, they can offer opportunity for meaningful success in the cause of energizing the Maryland economy, even if it is one small victory at a time.

In short, Maryland is best served when economic and financial decisions are made by Marylanders themselves from the Allegheny mountains to our Atlantic shores.  As opposed to being made by politicians in Annapolis and elites in academia.

Trust and discretion to regular folks who are opening and running businesses is what we need in combination with skepticism and containment toward politicians and elites with their taxes and mandates.

A Post-Pandemic Reality.  For those who care in particular about the people of Baltimore City, the need for recognizing and embracing the proven sources of vitality for any city or town is greater now than it ever has been, the reason being the irreversible impact that the pandemic lockdowns have had on work culture and living patterns.

Which impact is:  Flight from urban centers due to the workplace having gone virtual. 

In order to offset this flight, schools in Baltimore will need to be transformed and de-politicized via choice.  Violence needs to be reduced by ending the war on drugs.  And business needs to be welcomed and incentivized by reducing the city’s high taxes and addressing bureaucratic unresponsiveness and inefficiency.

These latter measures require mainly local resolve.  But as Governor, I would engage and assist as a devoted partner. 

 A Performance Reality.  In the modern world, governmental initiatives require not only money but also data.  And though the problem receives scant attention, the level of competence for the procurement and management of information technology (IT) within our state-level government is truly abysmal.

As I’ve written previously, the problem is due not so much to the IT professionals themselves who serve the State, but rather to the structures and policies that Gov. Hogan himself put in place, which ensured lack of empowerment and accountability for IT across the entire spectrum of State offices and activities that the IT budgets and teams support. 

In other words, IT is a millstone for every office and activity across the State enterprise.

As an executive and thought leader in the IT industry who served in 2016 – 2017 as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Maryland Dept. of Health, I myself am uniquely positioned to address the issue and bring about a transformation that “would lift all boats” to borrow a JFK phrase.

The model for IT in the State enterprise should be as described in the cited article.  My approach would be to work closely with the General Assembly to bring about the requisite change.

National leadership in clean energy

Clean Energy.  Maryland already fares well in rankings of the U.S. states in terms of success in reducing carbon dioxide and promoting clean energy.

But we can and must do better, taking a market-driven approach that provides options for the people and organizations that consume energy while encouraging investment and innovation by those who supply it.  (As is consistent with current consumer options for selecting suppliers of retail gas and electricity.)

The types of energy to be promoted include wind, solar, hydro, and modern nuclear, so that Marylanders can draw upon a portfolio of different options for meeting their energy needs.

The approach is to de-carbonize by de-centralizing control of supply and distribution while democratizing the uptake of compelling by individuals and organizations.

Blueprint for the Bay.  As stated during my congressional campaign in 2018, I support the funding and pursuit Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, which has brought about significant reductions in pollution (nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment) into the Bay.

For meeting the 2025 goals under the Blueprint, the main challenge at present is failure of Pennsylvania to reduce runoff and pollution from agriculture.  As Governor of Maryland, I would of course not be able to set policy in Pennsylvania.  But I would make a priority of advocating and influencing and otherwise working to bring about change so that we Marylanders and our Bay are not indefinitely the ones to bear the brunt of upstream pollution mainly from Susquehanna.

Adoption of blockchain technologies

At this point, most everyone has heard of so-called cryptocurrencies that are enabled by blockchain technologies.  But cryptocurrencies are not the limit to, and might not even be the most valuable application of, that which blockchain can make possible.

Own Your Own Money.  But first things first.  Cryptocurrencies, which are very much in the news at present, are simply transactions in a digital ledger that is maintained across a broad network of computer systems… to date, outside the control of government authorities.

When a person buys a cryptocurrency, they are hoping that it retains the monetary value that they paid; and they are typically betting that the monetary value will increase.  In other words, they are using the cryptocurrency as a store of value. 

They can use their cryptocurrency as a form of payment (i.e., money) to those who accept it.  And they can hold their cryptocurrency as a speculative investment.

From a policy perspective, that which is important to do is to ensure that willing Marylanders can initially gain and will subsequently retain access to cryptocurrencies as one of the ways that they can hold their money and build their wealth. 

Especially at a time of massive federal debt and increasing inflationary pressure, which is raising risk of a financial crisis in the medium to long term, an alternative to the US dollar is an alternative or hedge in which many Marylanders will find comfort.

At the State level, a modest and low-risk way to help is to begin to accept cryptocurrency for payment of selected fees and eventually even taxes, as I as Governor would launch on a controlled or trial basis. 

Own Your Own Identity.  In the Libertarian Party, we believe that you own your own body.  And that you own your own decisions in life.  And that you ought to own your own identity… i.e., the data about your residence, date of birth, health status, commercial purchases, and more.

With blockchain, you can.  Identity management solutions that allow you to take control over your own identity are available and practicable, enabling so-called self-sovereign identity.

We do not hear much about these possibilities because we do not yet have many politicians or authorities who are motivated to enable you to be you without government oversight and intrusion.

As Maryland’s Governor, I myself will enable you to be your own sovereign you. 

We can begin to apply blockchain-based identity management for applications such as birth certificates and, as a larger step, drivers licenses.  We can, perhaps, arrive with these blockchain technologies at a way for sharing health information without risk to privacy and other liberties.

Own Your Own Entitlements & Agreements.  As a last note on blockchain technologies, it is worth noting that so-called smart contracts are another innovation that they enable.  Still not widely in adoption, these contracts are conditions or arrangements on a blockchain that are guaranteed to execute or run when predefined conditions are met.  Thus, all parties to the agreement can be certain of outcomes when the predefined conditions come to be.

Smart contracts are a niche application at present.  But they are mentioned for completeness, worthy of monitoring for potential future use in governmental contexts.

Promotion of competition & choice

Those who are clear on principle will be reliable on policy.  So, let me be clear on principle when it comes to expanding opportunity and reviving hope for all Marylanders, whether in pursuit of better schools, better jobs, better housing, better health, better roads, a better Bay, or a better anything else.

When it comes to providing better goods and better services in order to obtain better outcomes, we must promote a competition amongst the providers of the goods and services in question, so that the consumers can enjoy a choice of options as to what might be best for themselves and their loved ones.

No subjugation to monopolies by either private corporations or public agencies.  No subjugation to over-reaching politicians and self-righteous elites.  No subjugation to self-interested public unions.

Instead, an abiding faith and undaunted trust in the ability of regular people to make decisions for themselves and their loved ones, with the disadvantaged indeed being the ones who need the most help from the rest of us in having made available to them a reasonable set of options and opportunities for sustaining, bettering, and advancing themselves.

Choice is what the privileged have.  The disadvantaged should have the same.

Accountability from all

While promoting accountability for individuals, we must also obtain accountability from public officials.

Let’s restore…

Accountability

Term limits for all branches of government

Peril.  The American experiment in democracy is in peril, though not for the reasons that the two major parties would have you believe.

The reason is the Democratic and Republican Parties themselves, neither of which is representative of who we actually are and who we really want to become.

Both of which are far, far removed from accountability for their respective contributions to the divisiveness and dysfunction of modern American politics.

Escape.  This insulation from accountability can be removed neatly and cleanly while at the same time both vastly reducing the influence of money on politics and vastly diminishing the control of legislative leaders over their junior colleagues.

How so?  By a long-standing yet under-appreciated reform:  Term limits.  Stringent ones.  Applying to all three branches of government.

Executive Branch.  Thankfully, we already have term limits for the Governor in Maryland.  Two terms.  Eight years. 

Which Martin O’Malley and Larry Hogan have demonstrated conclusively by their vain pursuits of the White House while still sitting as Governor is one term and four years too many for the good of the Marylanders whom they were supposed to serve.

And to be fair, it’s not just the two of them.  Time and time again… including even my own favorite president of the last 40 years, Ronald Reagan…. the leaders of the executive branch of government fail to be courageous leaders for the all of us through duration of their first terms due to the pressures of re-election, while proving even less courageous for us all in their second terms, maybe due to exhaustion and ennui. 

So, four years is a proper cap for the Governor.  And is my own pledge for service in the event that I am elected.  Because a single term encourages not just focus and courage… but also attention to effectiveness and successioni, which in my case would be handover to my running mate, Christiana Logansmith, whom I would hope to prove even a better Governor than I.

(Aside:  My second favorite president of the last 40 years is Bill Clinton, despite his suborning of perjury.)

Legislative Branch.  Members of the Maryland House of Delegates should serve two-year instead of four-year terms, just as members of the U.S. House of Representatives do.  And they should serve at maximum three of these two-year terms.

Less conducive toward accountability but still acceptable as a vast improvement upon current arrangements, Delegates should be limited to no more than two four-year terms, eight years total, in the event that four-year terms are destined to remain.

In the upper chamber, Maryland Senators should be limited to three four-year terms.  Twelve years total.  Not 20, 30, or 40, no matter how much a saint a particular Senator might be, as true saints will find alternative offices from which to serve.

Judicial Branch.  For the health of the body politic, judges too need to circulate.  Maybe eight years for District Court, then twelve years for both Circuit Court and Appeals Court (recognizing that Appeals Court already is subject to age limits).

Restraint on emergency powers & orders

Our Modern Monarchs.  We are enduring a period of kingly presumptions of power by our presidents, governors, county executives, and mayors. 

The worst of it has been at the presidential level, with Obama, Trump, and now Biden routinely employing executive orders so as to get their particular ways without persuasion of Congress or accountability to voters.

With the pandemic, the abuse of executive power has spread to the state and local levels as well, with emergency powers being declared in the name of public health-and-safety to an extent that has been unprecedented in our history and must not be allowed to repeat in the future.

Risks for the People.  To be clear, emergency powers may at times be crucial during a crisis.  Like early in the pandemic.  But the powers must be time-limited.  They must be put before legislators and judges.  They must honor our constitutional rights.

Otherwise, under executive powers of unrestrained scope and indefinite duration, we are subject to arbitrary and even dictatorial rule. 

Protections for the People.  We become subject to policies that can be massively intrusive, highly disruptive, and hugely expensive — with the intrusions, disruptions, and expenses being borne not by those declaring emergency but rather by those who are regular folks in the community, especially those who are politically unfavored. 

For retaining but controlling emergency powers so that they serve us instead of bossing and subjecting us, we must pass legislation that implements the following limits:

  1. Emergency powers must be explicitly limited in duration — 60 to 90 days — unless extended by majority vote of the relevant legislature.
  2. Emergency powers that are declared in the interest of health-and-safety must be narrowly contained to serve a compelling public-health purpose, avoiding infringement of individual liberties.
  3. Emergency powers must receive expedited review by the courts in the event of disputes about the lawfulness of any state and local emergency orders that are undertaken.

The overall objective must be to limit the scope and duration of emergency powers to the maximum extent possible, forcing the executive branch to provide compelling reasons for its actions and subjecting extensions to review and approval by the legislature, over which the people possess relatively greater influence and control.

Transparency of judicial performance

Judicial Arrogance.  Judges, like other public officials, need to stand accountable for their decisions and performance.  In Maryland, they do not.

Why not?  Because the judges oppose transparency for themselves to the public, arguing that they should be insulated from criticism.

Background.  As nicely explained in a 2019 op-ed by an Anne Arundel attorney, the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy (MSCCSP) maintains a database with information about criminal sentences.  Members of the public, however, are not allowed to use the database to determine the extent to which judges are adhering to the guidelines promulgated by the MSCCSP. 

The Problem for Democracy.  As the op-ed explains, “The argument that judges must be insulated from criticism is troubling. In the case of the sentencing guidelines, for example, it means that a judge who consistently deviates from the guidelines does not get identified. Whose interests does that serve, other than the interests of the judge who wishes to avoid scrutiny?”

He continues, “And keeping citizens in the dark implies that citizens cannot be trusted to act responsibly with information about how judges do their jobs – a concept entirely unacceptable in a representative democracy. A lack of transparency does nothing more than fuel the worst fears of the public about the administration of justice.”

In other words, just as transparency is a means toward the accountability that we need from, amongst others, legislators and law enforcement, so too is transparency a means toward accountability we need… the brake on rogue exercises of power that we need… for the judiciary.

A Test for Democracy Advocates.  For those of us in the Libertarian Party, this principle is self-evident and non-controversial.  For others, and most especially for those most sanctimoniously presenting themselves as altruistic defenders of democracy on other issues, it has not been. 

So, the question is:  Will the self-declared defenders of democracy in Maryland join the Libertarian Party in bringing about a measure of transparency for the judiciary?

As a starting point, we can refer to Gov. Hogan’s Judicial Transparency Act of 2019, which appears from the records never to have emerged from committees in the Assembly.  And while I generally find little to applaud as relatively more civically-minded than politically-minded in Hogan’s record, I must give his team and him their due on this one, which is a clean and simple idea for increased accountability of authorities to the citizens of Maryland.

Reform of qualified immunity for police brutality

The Good & Bad.  The police might well have the toughest job in society, exposing themselves to danger and violence in order to keep the rest of us safe.

But too often for too long, the police have abused the powers entrusted to them, then escaped accountability by closing ranks (not least through their unions) and enjoying the protection of certain laws fraught with unintended consequences.

2021 Reforms.  A prime example here in Maryland has been the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR), which was adopted in the 1970s with good intent but served in practice over the decades to impede discipline and accountability for bad cops.

LEOBR, objection to which I expressed in my 2018 campaign for U.S. Congress, was repealed by the Maryland Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021.

This act, which encompassed a number of reforms to promote transparency and accountability in law enforcement, was not signed by Gov. Larry Hogan.  But it was the kind of legislation that would… being consistent with the principles and planks of the Libertarian Party… receive my own prioritization, engagement, and signature as Governor.

Qualified Immunity.  The 2021 act did not, however, address the question of qualified immunity, which is a doctrine from the U.S. Supreme Court, shielding public officials (not just police) from personal liability for the irresponsible exercise of power.

The doctrine does have at its core a goal that is legitimate and necessary, specifically in the words of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University the protection of officials against “harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.”

Unfortunately, the doctrine has served too frequently to absolve bad cops from due responsibility for their worst abuses of authority and power.

Principles & Approach for Reform.  Qualified immunity therefore requires reform.  But the reform must adhere to the principle that we not go too far, removing protections reasonably in place to enable good cops to perform the difficult job that we ask of them.

Precisely where the balance should be is difficult to say, though states like Colorado are passing bills to which we can refer.  The important thing is that not only advocates for police reform be engaged in coming to an answer for Maryland, but also the police themselves through active and constructive involvement of organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Governor herself or himself, as I myself unlike Larry Hogan would be.

In other words, we need all parties with a stake in the policy to be engaged not only with good will but also with proper heed to the dangers of doing either too much or too little.

Advocacy of responsibilities as well as rights

For quite some time now, it has not been in vogue anywhere in politics to talk about our responsibilities.  Only our rights. 

In this campaign, we will talk about both.  Rights and responsibilities. 

More to come, but for now, we wanted only to express our devotion to talking about that which needs to be talked about, even when it is not in vogue.

Civility toward all

We must extend decency & respect to all people regardless of their race, gender, sexuality… or politics.

Let’s practice…

Civility

Free speech & due process on campus

No citizen should be deprived their constitutional rights by virtue of having stepped into a classroom or onto a campus.

And no student should be deprived a proper education by being shielded from ideas and words that might be discomforting or objectionable.

The Model.  We therefore need to promote and enforce policies for free speech.  The model for doing so is, somewhat famously, the policy adopted at the University of Chicago a handful of years ago.  Similar examples include those adopted at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.

The Explanation.  To quote at some length from the President of Chicago University in a 2016 op-ed, “Free speech is at risk at the very institution where it should be assured:  the university…. Yet what is the value of a university education without encountering, reflecting on and debating ideas that differ from the ones that students brought with them to college?”

He continues, “One word summarizes the process by which universities impart these skills: questioning. Productive and informed questioning involves challenging assumptions, arguments and conclusions. It calls for multiple and diverse perspectives and listening to the views of others. It requires understanding the power and limitations of arguments. More fundamentally, the process of questioning demands an ability to rethink one’s own assumptions, often the most difficult task of all.”

“Essential to this process is an environment that promotes free expression and the open exchange of ideas, ensuring that difficult questions are asked and that diverse and challenging perspectives are considered. This underscores the importance of diversity among students, faculty and visitors—diversity of background, belief and experience. Without this, students’ experience becomes a weak imitation of a true education, and the value of that education is seriously diminished.”

He concludes, “Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort but rather as a crucible for confronting ideas and thereby learning to make informed judgments in complex environments. Having one’s assumptions challenged and experiencing the discomfort that sometimes accompanies this process are intrinsic parts of an excellent education. Only then will students develop the skills necessary to build their own futures and contribute to society.”

In my own Words.  In sum, we need to promote free speech over safe speech.  Free thinkers over group thinkers.

Protection, not suppression, of dissent.

Those who believe themselves in the right ought to be able to state their own cases and stand others’ criticism.  After all, the more ignorant that the case of those others might be, the easier the task of rebutting and debunking ought to be.

Access to the digital public square

Modern Times.  The town square to which all citizens must enjoy access in a proper democracy is now digital.  It is owned and operated by a handful of tech giants. 

And it has come to be controlled and wielded to advance certain politically favored narratives while squelching any politically dissenting voices.

Modern Dilemma.  The results have been to just about no one’s satisfaction. 

For the Progressive Left, profits are evil, so the tech giants should be dismantled for simple reason of being big and profitable.  For the dogmatic Right, the tech giants are private companies, so should be at liberty to do whatsoever they please.

Which has left the tech giants themselves to decide that which constitutes, for example, either hate speech or medical truth in the modern town square, their decisions aligning these days with 100 percent fidelity to the politics of the Progressive Left and the policies of the Biden Administration.

Which, frankly, would be fine with me, if only there were in practice opportunity for skeptics and dissenters to continue to bring their voices for hearing within the modern town square.

But of course there is not.  Those who are de-monetized and de-platformed by the tech giants are thereby de-spatched to the political void.

An Approach for Democracy.   Our “leaders” and “experts” from the two parties in Washington knowing quite little indeed about either technology or business, they have unsurprisingly failed to arrive at any promising approaches for affording the tech giants their due rights while at the same time maintaining our citizens their due access to the town square.

But there is an approach available.  Which approach is well-sanctioned in theory and well-established in law.  It is a targeted or narrow anti-trust approach.

The key is to recognize that the tech giants are not monoliths.  They are composite entities that bring together different types of businesses under a single roof or brand. Each of these component businesses can operate either more or less like a natural monopoly (as they call it in economics and law).  Those components that are indeed natural monopolies can be and should be addressed under anti-trust law.

Let’s take Google as an example.  Its three business components are those for: Indexing the worldwide web, delivering search results, and presenting ads.  Only the indexing operations are a natural monopoly, largely immune from meaningful competition due to inherent economics.  The other two parts of the Google business exhibit relatively normal economics, such that investment and competition can reasonably be expected from alternative parties.

Under this approach, Google would be left free to define and enforce its content policies (which it does by controlling search results and ad placements) for the audiences that it seeks to serve.  But alternative businesses could arise to build and serve their own audiences, receiving access under anti-trust to the natural-monopoly Google indexing engine, of course with compensation to Google.

The point here being:  For anyone who truly believes in democracy… for anyone who denies infallibility by would-be arbiters of truth… we need to adopt measures that assure both citizen access to…. and voices of skepticism and dissent within… the de facto town square of the modern day.

Do as little as possible.  But in this vital case to our democracy and our liberties, do not do nothing at all.

Assurance of political competition & choice

Proper Democracy.  Voters deserve not only access to the ballot itself but also a variety of options on the ballot from which they can choose.

Which, as I’ve written elsewhere, requires a vigorous competition amongst parties, preferably parties like the Libertarian Party that stand forthrightly for some discernible principle, so that voters can be at least somewhat confident that whatsoever they vote for, they actually get.

At present, Maryland’s laws for access to the ballot by candidates and parties surely surely could stand liberalization but are actually not as restrictive as the laws that prevail in many other states.

We need, at a very minimum, to keep it that way.

Forums, Debates & Polls.  Likewise, voters deserve to hear from more than just the two established parties in the many civic forums, especially including the televised debates, that precede the elections themselves.

In my 2018 campaign for U.S. Congress, I learned first-hand that some of the very best-known civic groups that proudly tout their voter-education missions are not actually devoted to educating voters as to the options that are available to them on the ballot.

Which is not mere hypocrisy.  It’s also not democracy.

We therefore need, all of us, to remind and encourage the civic groups, especially the leading ones, to remain true to their missions by being rather more than less inclusive when conducting forums, arranging debates, and otherwise playing their roles in promoting a robust public conversation about where we want to go and how we might best proceed as a people living in a shared community with an intertwined future.

Further, we need to remind and encourage the editors and producers engaged in the public dialog to be rather more than less inclusive in their coverage.

And further yet, we need to remind and encourage the pollsters to be rather more than less inclusive in their questions to voters about their preferences.

To exclude third parties and independent candidates who are on the ballot is, to repeat, not democracy.

For those who would exclude, it is also hypocrisy.

Invigoration of the public defender's office

The disparity in resources between prosecutors and public defenders is excessive, raising a legitimate question of justice.

This disparity requires more attention than it has received to date, so that we can arrive at ideas and budgets that bring about levels of representation for defendants and confidence in fair trials of which we can all be proud.

Collaboration with the legislature

In the nation’s capital, neither Obama nor Trump nor Biden has engaged meaningfully with anyone in Congress other than the leaders from their own parties.

Here in Maryland’s capital, Gov. Hogan has gone even further, not even deigning to engage meaningfully with the legislative leaders of his own party!

If elected Governor, I myself along with Christiana as Lt. Governor will be different.  We will engage, we will debate.  Sometimes agreeing, sometimes differing with those in the Assembly.  Always looking for ways to get good things done.

Which of course sounds like mere political platitude.  But in our case can be taken as something potentially more than mere platitude — precisely because we are hailing from a third party, the Libertarian Party, which by being separate from the two established (and mutually hostile) parties is in position to cooperate and collaborate with both, as principles and circumstance may allow.

We look forward to receiving opportunity to prove our words true.

 

Advocacy of humility & restraint

Humility is the wellspring of decency.  It is a safeguard against folly.  It is the lifeblood of a free and just society.

And it is desperately absent in politics today.

Christiana and I will be different.  We will strive both to demonstrate humility and to extend civility  to all whom we encounter in the campaign and beyond, especially those with whom we might differ.

We hope that you will join us in striving to do the same.

Individual Choice

Pregnancy & Start of Life

I believe that a woman who becomes pregnant must possess the freedom to decide through the point of fetal viability whether to continue with her pregnancy. I therefore support current Maryland laws on abortion.

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In affirming this support, I would add that I find abortion to be a profound but difficult moral question that raises questions of our responsibilities as well as our rights. And distressingly to me, while rates of abortion are falling nationwide, they are rising in Maryland.

I therefore support an approach toward abortion that seeks both to reduce the prevalence of unplanned pregnancies and to offer reasons for seeing such pregnancies through to birth.

Thus, everyone who is sexually active but not ready to bear and raise a child should honor their responsibility to practice birth control, men as well as women.

In addition, we should remove government-imposed barriers to both contraception and adoption.

And finally, whereas we should not force those with profound moral or religious objection to abortion to pay for abortion, I do oppose government funding for the procedure.

In sum, we must trust people to make their own decisions, even on difficult moral questions.

Indeed, the more complicated and controversial the question, the more we need to rely on persuasion instead of resorting to coercion, with those who might be on one polar end of the debate exercising compassion and demonstrating respect to those on the other.

Individual Choice

Illness & End of Life

I believe that individuals who are terminally ill and are confronting an end of life fraught with pain and suffering must be afforded the right to choose a death with dignity.
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More specifically, I believe that mentally competent adults with a terminal illness and less than six months to live must be at liberty to end their lives peacefully via self-administered medication, provided that they and their doctors fulfill a series of cautionary steps to prevent coercion or euthanasia.

These steps include requirement that:

1. Two physicians must determine that the patient has a terminal illness, less than six months to live, full mental capacity, and the ability to self-administer the medication;
2. The patient must request medical aid in dying three times, including once in writing with two witnesses; and
3. The physician must meet with the patient independently to ensure that the decision is truly the patient’s wish and to rule out coercion.

Under the proposed approach neither patients, physicians, nor pharmacists will be required (i.e., coerced) to participate in the determinations or prescriptions. And since the death certificate will be required to indicate the underlying illness as the cause of death, life-insurance companies will not be able to void policies as they can when the cause of death is suicide

These requirements and conditions will provide death-with-dignity laws like those in place in Oregon for over 20 years, where there has not been a single case of abuse or coercion. They will provide an environment in which Marylanders possess access to a full range of end-of-life choices, including treatment forbearance, palliative care, hospice care, and aid in dying.

This approach will, in sum, provide laws that honor the fundamental libertarian principle that individuals own their own bodies and are capable of making their own decisions. Which is an especially relevant principle when the decision might be the most personal decision of all, i.e., the manner and timing of one’s own death when suffering terminal illness.

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