Michael Badnarik ("bud-NAR-ick") is a 51-year-old independent computer consultant and American constitutional scholar. He's also a recreational daredevil, enjoying guns, scuba, motorcycling, and skydiving. In 2000 and 2002 he ran for the Texas House of Representatives. In 2004 he was the Libertarian Party candidate for president, where he finished forth, just behind Ralph Nader. Badnarik received about 397,000 votes or .32% of the vote -- slightly less than Harry Browne's .36% in 2000. The following brief interview took place in April of 2005 in New York City.THE LIBERAL INSTITUTE: The Ayn Rand Institute says that libertarianism is "the perversion of liberty." Is this true?
MICHAEL BADNARIK: Of course not. I wouldn't be affiliated with the Libertarian Party if it was a perversion of liberty. All of my efforts have been to promote liberty.
LI: So what is the mistake in their thinking?
BADNARIK: Ayn Rand was a wonderful philosopher. She has outlined and developed a really wonderful philosophy known as Objectivism. The Objectivist philosophy eschews religious fanaticism. Unfortunately, there has been a number of people who have taken Ayn Rand's philosophy and turned it into a religious fanaticism. And I disagree with that. Those of us who have read Ayn Rand recognize that there are capital 'O' Objectivists and small 'O' objectivists. A capital 'O' Objectivist believes that if Ayn Rand wrote it then it's true. A small 'O' objectivist recognizes that philosophy is a method of thinking, and that as long as you follow that method of thinking, then you will very, very likely deduce your own correct answer.
LI: But the Ayn Rand Institute actually makes the argument that all libertarians, or at least almost all libertarians, are aware of Objectivism, but that they reject this philosophy out of moral cowardice or intellectual dishonesty. Is this true?
BADNARIK: I think that that is a broad stroke. I don't know what political party a hardcore Objectivist would have if not the Libertarian Party. Of the three that I can think of -- Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians -- the Libertarian Party is far closer to Objectivist thought. If those people want to join the party and make it better they are welcome to do so.
LI: I think that the fundamental argument of these guys is that because you lack a philosophical base, the Libertarian Party is either useless or even counter-productive to freedom. Do you accept that argument?
BADNARIK: No, I don't accept that argument. Ayn Rand died lonely and miserable because she violated her own ethics. And there are those people who are willing to cast stones, and they're welcome to do so -- I support their freedom of speech -- but I don't agree with their conclusions.
LI: You seem very familiar with Ayn Rand and Objectivism in general. Would you say that early on, especially in the 1960s, that Rand was a charismatic and seductive cult leader?
BADNARIK: I would say that she was an excellent philosopher. But she was a mediocre novelist. The Atlas Shrugged novel is not a bad novel, but Ayn Rand didn't know when to stop. The novel is far too long. They can't make it into a movie because it would be a 14-hour mini-series. She could have gotten the same message across with several hundred fewer pages.
LI: I actually agree with that. I think that it would have been better if she had written four novels, instead of those two ultra-long ones. At least that's my impression. But I really do have a high opinion of her as a novelist.
BADNARIK: I would not say that she was charismatic. Her opinions definitely were black and white. If you disagreed with her opinions she would ostracize you in short order. Someone who is that intolerant does not qualify as charismatic in my view.
LI: Recently a third Objectivist organization formed itself called SOLO -- Sense of Life Objectivists. Do you have any opinion of them?
BADNARIK: This is the first I've heard about them -- I can't have an opinion about that which I'm unfamiliar.
LI: Well, this is true... I think that socialism and marxism were very false and evil ideologies, and yet they had a great deal of success for about 150 years. I always tend to think this is because they had a very strict adherence to principle, and a kind of brutal honesty. Can the Libertarian Party learn anything from these communists and marxists?
BADNARIK: No, I don't believe that they can. Socialism and marxism were successful not because they had a brutal honesty. They were definitely brutal. But they were dishonest. People who subscribe to socialism and marxism want a uniformity across the culture, but they don't want to work for it. They want to survive on someone else's effort. And socialism and communism are evil in theory because they do not recognize private property. The purpose of the Constitution is to protect your life, your liberty, and your private property -- and so the Constitution is antithetical to socialism and communism. You cannot have both at the same time.
LI: I agree with all that, but wasn't the key to their success the fact that they were so uncompromising and principled?
BADNARIK: No. Absolutely not. The reason for their success is that people are generally lazy. And the Socialist Party is telling everyone that you can have free housing, you can have free education, you can have free health care, and you don't have to pay for it. I don't know whether it's true or not, but Winston Churchhill presumably said "If you are twenty years old and you are not a socialist, you have no heart. If you are forty years old and are still a socialist, you have no brain."
LI: You really don't see communists as being generally principled and highly idealistic and uncompromising?
BADNARIK: No. Absolutely not. I consider them evil. They are treacherous; and they are lying, thieving scoundrels. They talk a good game -- and then they do something else. The Politburo in Russia was saying: Okay, everybody is going to live at the same standard -- except for the Politburo. Communism and socialism are basically oligarchies where a small group of people make the rules and everybody else is obligated to live by those rules. Are you surprised that they make the rules to favor the small group?
LI: I always find that communists, for all their pure evil, are rather bracing and inspiring in that they go directly at an issue in a way which Republicans and Democrats are very wishy-washy. My own view, which you seem to disagree with completely, is that they were intensely principled and not afraid to scare the hell out of people and -- from a tactical perspective -- were known for their idealism. Libertarians, in contrast, are too ready to compromise and not present their views in a fundamentally radical way.
BADNARIK: Who?! Who's too willing to compromise?
LI: Libertarians, Democrats, and Republicans.
BADNARIK: I reject that. I will not compromise. That is why I am a Libertarian. And that is one of the reasons that Libertarians are unable to get elected most of the time. It's because we won't compromise on principle, we will not give people the answers they want to hear -- and we tell the truth. The reason the communists and socialists win is because they tell people lies that the people want to hear. They are far from ethical -- and they are far from honest.
After the tape recorder was turned off the conversation continued in a similar vein but with great animation. Badnarik refused to concede an inch on the seeming power and purity of communist extremism in world history. Later, in small group discussion, Badnarik said he was running for US Congress in 2006 in an election district next to his friend Ron Paul. Paul is a long-time Republican Congressman from central Texas, and is a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate himself. Badnarik said he would run as a Libertarian, and receive considerable help from Representative Paul. Badnarik repeatedly predicted he would win.