The Corner

Libertarian Candidate: Give Crooks the Death Penalty, or Just Board Games

Eric Cantor’s district may get even tougher on crime if one candidate looking to replace the outgoing congressman has his way.

Libertarian Party candidate James Carr gave a shock to advocates of minimal government recently by arguing that government should have a lot more power to kill people:

To begin I will say very clearly that I believe the death penalty should be used much more widely than it currently is applied. Examples of crimes that should carry a capital punishment possibility include but are not limited to attempted murder, violent sex offenses, and any sex offense against a child. I do understand that most people reading this will have serious misgivings about application of the death penalty for offenses in which someone else did not die it is not my intent to enforce an eye-for-an-eye approach. I am much more interested in the best outcome for society as a whole and the individuals that perpetrate these offenses are best removed from society permanently.

Unlike Don Corleone at around the 2:50 mark here, Carr can’t be bothered with the details of punitive ethics. A libertarian always, um, puts the best interests of society ahead of individual justice.

I speak from long and doleful experience when I say libertarians are the reason we can’t have a libertarian society. But coming after the breakthrough gubernatorial run of L.P. candidate Mark Sarvis — whose platform included a vehicle-mileage tax that would have made George Harrison’s nightmare vision in “Taxman” a literal reality — Carr’s death penalty plank indicates that, at least in Old Dominion, libertarian candidates are not even digesting the Randrothian soup of ideas that is supposed to be the basis of the libertarian diet.

The “fiscal policy” page on Carr’s website reads only “Details forthcoming.” So does the page for foreign policy. The Healthcare page reads only “Information forthcoming,” though Carr claims that he has “been in the healthcare field for over seven years–specializing in finance, business systems and advanced analytics.”  The abortion page at least shows some consistency of double-death principle; but don’t look for an argument building on, say, Murray Rothbard’s clever free-rider pro-abortion conclusion. Carr, last of the truly free men, hews to his own logic no matter what dense jungles of excogitation it leads him into. (“Of course, the range between nuclear weapons in every home and abortion is a wide one.”)

Many commenters, most recently the Virginia conservative blog BearingDrift, questioned the libertarian foundations of Carr’s platform, and the candidate offered a compromise, because politics is the art of the possible: Life without parole and separation from non-violent offenders.

This new population of life sentence inmates should be given no special amenities. No additional costs should be assumed by the taxpayers to provide television, Internet, weight-lifting equipment, etc. Their very existence should be basic and as cost-effective as possible with books and board games as the only entertainment.

Carr will face off against Republican David Brat and Democrat Jack Trammell in November, in a district Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates as “Safe Republican.” Brat unseated Cantor in a surprise win in this month’s Republican primary.

Update: Carr responded to National Review Online after posting time and explained that he has not yet had time to fill in the “details forthcoming” pages on his site. He acknowledged that fiscal, foreign and health care policy are defining issues for a libertarian congressional candidate  — possibly more so than either the death penalty or abortion, over which the U.S. House has little authority — but he said his positions there would be within the libertarian mainstream. He also said some pieces of his platform (several of which, such as the campaign financing page, this reader found incomprehensible) might get a polishing up. An earlier version of this post indicated Carr updated his death penalty plank recently in response to the BearingDrift blog post. In fact, he updated it in May, in response to other interlocutors.

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