Libertarian America: A Conversation with Scott Horton (Part 1)

A series of interviews with prominent libertarians that seeks to gain insight into their lives and minds. Photo: Scott Horton

MADISON, Wisc. – Every once in awhile, you come across an individual with a seemingly endless stockpile of knowledge. Radio host Scott Horton is such an individual.

From Austin, Texas, Horton shares his foreign policy expertise with the world. His interviews and commentary are played on numerous stations, including Los Angeles’s Pacifica Radio 90.7 FM, which broadcasts the Antiwar Radio show. All of Horton’s content is archived at his site

SEE RELATED: Libertarian America: A Conversation with Austin Petersen

Horton’s content is untainted by hearsay and nonsense. It’s just the bare facts delivered in a passionate way. Together with guests like Ron Paul, Gareth Porter, and Philip Giraldi, Horton has created a non-partisan haven for honest, intellectual discourse on foreign policy. 

Joseph S. Diedrich: How did you get into the radio game?

Scott Horton: Talk radio has been extremely important to me since I was sixteen. When I first started driving, I started listening. This was in the years just before the dawn of the Internet. It was still the New York Times, Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw. It was all top-down distribution of information about current events. There was no ability for people to push back. But with talk radio, I realized how important it is that the average person can contradict the conventional wisdom, recommend books, and say it their way. 

I got into it myself in 1998, when I started a show called “Say It Ain’t So” on Free Radio Austin. From there, I did KAOS radio in Austin, also a pirate station. I’ve been on the Liberty Radio network and on stations in California. I’m also on No Agenda Radio. The most important show is the KPFK show in Los Angeles. 

SEE RELATED: Libertarian America: A conversation with Sheldon Richman

JSD: How do you go about planning your show? 

SH: In keeping track of the news the best I can, I try to interview the reporters that write the most important stories and the pundits that write the best columns. And of course, there are the university professors and lawyers depending on the subject matter. But it’s mostly the reporters and the columnists that I want people to read. That’s what the show [really] is: “recommended reading with Scott Horton.”

JSD: What do you think is the most damaging aspect of the Democrat–Republican paradigm?

SH: The most damaging aspect of the Democrat–Republican (or, liberal–conservative) paradigm is that approximately one-half the population becomes mollified and their opposition to government abuse falls silent when the occupant of the white house changes from one party to another. So what were horrible abuses by the Warfare-Welfare-Regulatory-Police state during the 1990s became just a matter of replacing that rascal Bill Clinton who, by the year 2000, had simply “demeaned the great office” in the minds of those on the right who had up until then been objecting to real encroachments and violations of their rights. Once Bush came into power conservatives forgot all about the constitution and Bill of Rights, and in fact cheered their destruction as long as it was at the hands of their political heroes, “adults” like Dick Cheney and David Addington.

SEE RELATED: Libertarian America: A conversation with Jeffrey Tucker

And those on the left who objected to the Bush revolution? They’d have loved the Iraq war if Clinton had done it, and with a few notable exceptions, they obviously don’t care one whit about war (in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Mali), executive assassination squads (JSOC, CIA), torture (Somalis, Bradley Manning), prison without trial (Guantanamo, Bagram), warrantless wiretapping and data mining (Verison, Prism), extreme secrecy and prosecutions of whistleblowers (more than double all previous presidents combined), escalated immigration raids and deportations (far more than Bush), prison populations (millions), huge deficits (trillions) etc. etc. as long as these horrors are perpetrated by their heroes in the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

It has been suggested that the only reason for the political elite to maintain a two-identical parties system at all is precisely this: so that the powerful can make the people believe they are “‘throw[ing] the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.” Simply switch the parties in power back and forth to keep any part of society from getting too angry for too long, but never giving them more than false hope for change. Of course, each bare-plurality winning president always claims that our having chosen him as the last resort against the greater evil in any given election provides an overwhelming mandate to continue down the same destructive course.

Just as Eisenhower’s Republican supporters helped him to ratify Democrat FDR’s New Deal and Nixon’s supporters helped him to permanently cement LBJ’s “Great Society” programs into American life, so have Bush’s supporters abetted Clinton’s crimes against the constitution, and Obama’s supporters, Bush’s. 

On the bright side, there is growing recognition of what a scam this political duopoly represents, and a new realignment is slowly taking shape around opposition to the bipartisan centrist-extremist former consensus against peace and freedom. 

JSD: What do the recent NSA revelations demonstrate about the nature of government? 

SH: Domestic policy is completely wrapped up in foreign policy. What was illegal and out of the question in the 1990s has become at least arguable. If you look at the poll numbers, great pluralities of Americans are okay with this because they’re afraid of getting suicide bombed. As long as there’s an enemy out there, our liberty and privacy becomes threatened by those sworn to protect us. The limitations on government powers become lifted. War is the unbeatable excuse for the growth of state power: the foreign enemy will kill us if we don’t. 

Yet we should be pleased and pleasantly surprised at how upset people are about this. It’s not 2002 anymore. But is there the slightest chance that it will be stopped? Probably not. As long as America is still fighting the terror wars, they can get away with outright breaking the law, prison without trial, tapping your phone and digital life without a warrant, and spending unlimited amounts of money. We have to abolish the empire and it’s militarism from American life if we’re ever to get our freedom back. 

JSD: How do you think the NSA scandal will affect the American political climate? 

SH: At times like this, true colors are revealed. Political realignment becomes plausible. On both the left and the light, approximately half the people are on the side of liberty and half are on the side of the state. You have John Boehner and Dianne Feinstein agreeing that Barack Obama ought to have the power to spy on whoever he wants and that any whistleblower who exposes it is a traitor. Then you have people across the country who identify with and agree with those political leaders and those ideas. 

That gives those of us who care about liberty a real opportunity, I think, to reach out to the people who get it right. He [Snowden] violated his secrecy oath, but only to further his actual oath—which was to the Constitution, the rule of law, the freedom of the American people. In other words, if you’re “anti-whistleblower” and “pro-NSA,” on this one you’re hopeless. You might as well be John McCain or Barack Obama. But for everyone else on the Left and the Right who appreciate a whistleblower telling them the truth about how their rights are being violated, there is a good opportunity for libertarians to show them that we’re always good on this stuff, no matter who is in power.

It’s times like this when the best of the Left and the Right start to take notice of libertarianism and start coming our way. The difference between the good and the bad on this issue, as with so many others, is not the difference between the Left and the Right, and more and more people are seeing this through the media fog.

Be sure to read Part Two of my interview with Scott Horton next Sunday.

Joseph S. Diedrich also writes for the MacIver InstituteThe College Fix, Young Americans for Liberty,, Musings of a Superfluous Young Man, and Young American Revolution magazine. Find him on FacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn and Twitter @JSDiedrich.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Joseph S. Diedrich

Joseph S. Diedrich has been a columnist at The Washington Times Communities since early 2013. He covers non-electoral politics from a libertarian perspective. His work has also been featured at the MacIver InstituteThe College Fix, and elsewhere.

Joseph is also a classically-trained composer and somewhat of a gastronomy enthusiast. Find him on Facebook, LinkedInGoogle+, and Twitter @JSDiedrich.


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