Libertarian candidate for governor Matt Hackenburg knows it would take nothing short of a miracle to come out on top on Election Day, but that hasn’t stopped him from hitting the campaign trail to make the case for reining in the size and scope of state government.
City & State spoke with Hackenburg about what a libertarian vision for Pennsylvania would look like, where the party stands on abortion access and how he would define success in this year’s election. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
If you are elected governor, how would you address Pennsylvania’s major issues?
As a Libertarian candidate, my primary goal is to spread this message that the solution to our problems isn’t the state, but rather that the state is the cause of many of our problems – whether it be in Harrisburg or in Washington, D.C.
The way to address these things is to take a step back and see what’s causing all the problems we’re having today, like high fuel prices, the rising cost of living and so on, and see how the state – the federal government or the state government – have impacted that and how getting them out of our lives can fix these issues. These big policy plans and more top-down planning aren’t the solution – we need to get rid of all these grandiose ideas and plans that really turn into nothing more than big corrupt boondoggles. The overall theme of what my campaign is about is generally what the message of liberty is about.
Does anything stick out to you as a glaring example of where government might need to be reduced in size?
I think one of the biggest things is education. I think the public education system is a disaster. It’s by far the leading driver of high property taxes, and we see that if you pump more and more money into a public education system, it yields ever-decreasing quality results. If you think about it, this is what you would expect from any kind of monopoly system where there’s really no competition: You’re forced as a homeowner – or even as a renter – to pay into this system, which goes to a single school system with no competition. You have poor-quality outcomes and ever-increasing costs. So what do you expect with any kind of monopoly?
I think the best thing to do there is to promote school choice. I think that at the very least, parents need to be able to take their money out of their school system, and take it to wherever they see fit – charter school, private school, home school or some other more innovative, more modern method of education.
Where do you stand on the state’s property tax system?
It’s nothing that’s going to be resolved overnight. I think taxes should be eliminated, but the way you eliminate taxes is by eliminating spending. If schools are a major driver of property taxes, then creating a system where there’s innovation and competition among schools can drive down costs.
In an ideal world, I don’t think the government should be providing much of any services. We’ve built a culture and society so dependent on the government being our mommies and daddies – it’s going to take a little unwinding to get there.
Libertarians aren’t necessarily a monolith when it comes to abortion. Where do you stand on this issue?
Personally, I think abortion is wrong. I think it’s unethical; I think it’s inappropriate. That said, I think this is a societal issue, this is a cultural issue. I don’t think it’s any place for the state to get involved – banning it or otherwise. To be able to enforce any kind of ban on abortion would require giving state police powers that I don’t think any of us want. I don’t think any of us could really appreciate or comprehend how terrible that would be. As much as I personally think abortion is abhorrent, I don’t think that the state should be involved in it. I think that’s really the best solution. As far as Roe v. Wade being overturned, I do support the more federalist model where it should be up to the states to decide – individual states – to pass whatever legislation they see fit. I don’t support giving the state any additional police powers to enforce any kind of ban.
What would success look like to you in November? Are you looking for a flat-out victory or do you think a successful campaign would be continuing to spread these libertarian ideals?
The goal is to spread libertarian ideals, to create any kind of upset we can, to get in people’s minds – in people’s heads – even if it’s in a way to make people mad. That’s fine. Really, the idea is to push this window of allowable opinion and try to change the narrative of it. I don’t think there’s really any practical or reasonable expectation of a Libertarian ever winning a governor position or any other serious position of power.
I don’t necessarily believe that the executive – whether it be a governor or a president – has the sole power. I think the power is really in the bureaucracy and in this corrupt system. Like I said, this campaign is more about promoting ideas and waking people up so that people have this concept that the government isn’t working for you, it isn’t working for us and that this Republican vs. Democrat idea is bogus. People need to wake up and realize that we’re being screwed, we’re being fleeced and we need to do something about it.
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