The crusade for "personal freedom" came to Harvard last night, as Rebecca Shipman. Libertarian candidate for governor of Massachusetts, addressed the campus libertarian association's introductory meeting.
"The basic role of government should be to refrain from interference with individuals, except to protect them from force and fraud." Shipman told the nine students who gathered at Burr Hall.
Even with the low attendance, the Harvard Libertarian Association's activity indicates the slow but steady spread of the fledgling political party.
Formed 10 years ago, the party has continued to grow. In the last presidential election, the Libertarian candidate made the ballot in all 50 states, and got 3 percent of the vote nationwide.
The party's greatest success so far has been in Alaska, where a Libertarian has been elected to the state legislature. While there, Dick Randolph has successfully secured the repeal of the state income tax, and he is now running for governor.
In Massachusetts, for the first time ever, Libertarian candidates are running for all of the top constitutional positions--senator, governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and auditor. A Libertarian is challenging Democratic Congressman James Shannon in the 5th district. The state party has candidates running in three of the 40 state Senate races.
While the estimated 1000 active members are working on all of these contests, party officials have said they are putting most of their effort into Shipman's campaign.
Massachusetts election rules state that for a party to gain "official" recognition--which cases the requirements for getting candidates on the ballot--it must get 3 percent of the vote in a gubernatorial election.
Party campaign manager Sandra Cohen expressed optimism about the prospects of gaining official recognition, noting more than 2 percent of the state's voters cast their support to Ed Clark, Libertarian candidate for President in 1980.
In her campaign, which has criss-crossed the state during the past 10 months, the Massasuit Community College teacher has sounded the traditional libertarian themes of "economic freedom and personal freedom."
The cornerstone of her economic program is a $988 million tax cut in the Commonwealth. The best way to bolster the economy, she said in an interview last week, "is to put millions back into the pockets of the taxpayers."
She has also proposed to eliminate legal penalties for "victimless crimes," such as drug and alcohol user gambling and prostitution.
"If you want to drink Kool-Aid or alcohol, that's up to you. If you want to smoke Camels or marijuana, that's up to you," she said. She explained, "an individual should have a right to do what they like in any peaceable way."
The party's candidate for Senate, Howard S. Katz' '59, has chosen a different tack, emphasizing his belief that the United States must return to the gold standard in order to avert economic disaster. Katz was a financial analyst in New York in 1971 when then-President Richard M. Nixon nevered all conceptions between the value of currency and precious metal.
"Going off the gold standard was in emotional concern to me," Katz said. He added that he saw the seeds of social unrest in the subsequent inflation and shortages of consumer goods. Discouraged, he quit his job, began a financial writing career and joined the Libertarian party.
Katz's campaign is geared more towards interviews than towards speeches, because as both he and Shipman insisted it is more important to seek acceptance of Libertarian programs than candidates.
"We want our ideas to make it into the mainstream of power," Shipman said.
One example Shipman gave was Free Enterprise Zone legislation--a package of tax incentives encouraging businesses to set up in economically devastated areas. This concept, which has grown increasingly popular in Congress and in several state legislatures, was first proposed by the Libertarian Party, she said.
The state party has collected about $60,000 this year, most of which has gone for petition drives and transportation for the candidates.