Eric Dondero on free trade, gun control, and the libertarian movement

Do libertarians agree on much of anything? Activist and writer Eric Dondero shares his views in the key issues facing the libertarian movement. Photo: Eric Dondero

FLORIDA, January 8, 2013 — If you gather a room full of libertarians, there is a good chance that they won’t agree on any policy issue.

If the issues are illegal immigration and multiculturalism, the odds of consensus are close to zero. Free trade and gun control are more likely to result in consensus positions, or at least as close to consensus as is possible in American politics. 

In this second part of our discussion, writer and activist Eric Dondero shares his views about the key issues facing the libertarian movement.        


Joseph F. Cotto: Illegal immigration poses an astounding threat to America’s future. From your experience, is there a consensus on this issue among libertarian Republicans?

Eric Dondero: No. Honestly, we’re all over the map on this question. The Cato, Reason crowd lean liberal on this. They are totally open borders. Those of us on the right side of the libertarian movement are much more concerned about voting rights given to illegal aliens, and the affect of immigrants from Third World nations like Somalia, and Pakistan, who have no understanding, let alone respect for the philosophy of liberty and the true Americanist beliefs of our Founding Fathers, “that government is best, which governs least.” Too many of these new immigrants come to this country with the intent of simply putting their hands out for the latest and greatest hand-out from the Federal Government.  

If we abolish the welfare state, than we right-libertarians would be right along with the Cato, Reason crowd on this. Until then, pro-America libertarians take a more closed borders approach.   

Cotto: One of the reasons the American economy consistently fails to emerge from the Great Recession is that it produces a decreasing number of material goods. Do libertarian Republicans tend to support unfettered free trade, which is in no small part responsible for this?

Dondero: Yes. All libertarians support completely open and free trade. It’s a moral question with us. What right do you have to tell me that I cannot acquire goods from said country, and exchange them for cold hard cash, gold, silver, whatever? And in the age of internet commerce? C’mon! You’re going to try to regulate international trade? Seriously?

Cotto: Multiculturalism is spreading across the Western world at rapid speed. This has led not only to language barriers, but tremendous religious and ethnic conflicts. What might be the libertarian Republican’s approach to this volatile subject?

Dondero: Once again, this brings up the divide in our libertarian movement between left and right wings. The leftside of libertarians, Cato, Reason, some of the state affiliates in the Libertarian Party, like to play the “we’re like Democrats on social issues, and Republicans on economics” game. This is one area where that comes out. They’ll jump through hoops to prove how pro-diversity they are, and multicultural. It’s almost laughable at times. 

We right-libertarians are less enamored with this approach. We love Allen West. We adore Mia Love. We’re Marco Rubio/Ted Cruz-aholics. Hell, Herman Cain’s campaign was almost entirely run by right-libertarians. (Remember the in-your-face cigarette-smoking campaign manager dude in the video?)  

Our attitude is simply, if you’re an Americanist, you believe in limited government, we don’t give a hoot what the color of your skin is, or the shape of your nose or eyes. (I am Jewish by the way, married to a Chinese wife.)  

Cotto: After the Sandy Hook shooting, gun control has returned to our national discussion. Generally speaking, do most libertarian Republicans favor any type of gun control?

Dondero: All libertarians oppose gun control. It’s not even an issue that’s up for discussion or debate with us. The Founding Fathers said it, we believe it, and that settles it. Period. End of story. 

Cotto: What moved you to join the Republican Party’s libertarian wing? Tell us a bit about your career.

Dondero: I started out as a petitioner to get Ron Paul on the ballot when he was running for President on the Libertarian Party ticket way back in 1987/88. I was dropped off in far Western Nebraska in the middle of nowhere’s with $500 in my pocket and told to get 1,000 signatures. Well, I must have done a good job, cause I was soon tapped to be Ron Paul’s personal aide in the presidential campaign. Ron and I (and part of the time his son “Randy” as we called him at the time), would fly on up to Fairbanks, Alaska, North Dakota, or New Hampshire to campaign.  

After Ron only got 432,000 votes, I became disenchanted. I knew there was a better way. I had kept an eye on Pete duPont’s presidential campaign in ‘88, which had a lot of Cato guys involved. DuPont was very libertarian, calling for privatization of Social Security. I thought, maybe the Republican Party was a better way to go. (I guess, looking back, you could say Pete DuPont of Delaware inspired the founding of the libertarian wing of the GOP.) 

I took the plunge, and took a handful of disenchanted Libertarian Party guys with me, and together we formed the Republican Liberty Caucus.   

It was tough at first. The Republicans didn’t want to let those “drug legalizers” inside the GOP Tent. This was 1990/91, height of the War on Drugs. But we persevered, ironically with the help of the moderate wing of the GOP, people like George Pataki, Mark Foley, and William Weld.   

Ron tapped me again to run his congressional race in 1996. We won. I served as his senior aide til 2003, when the War in Iraq started. I supported the War wholeheartedly. He was viciously opposed. Needless to say it was a very unhappy divorce.   

I went back to petitioning, ironically. And I started, as a home for pro-defense libertarians. It’s been great ever since. We got over 200,000 hits to LR in November, after I started the “De-vorce, De-friend and De-employ all Democrats in your life” campaign. That’s been a great success too.  

And that’s where we’re at. I’d like to say I’m hopeful for the future. I’m not. I’m very hopeful for the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. We’ve arrived. We’re accepted. We’re at the seat of power. Problem is the Republican Party is shrinking.  

I’m very “un-hopeful” for the country as a whole. Democrats run everything. We’re heading to a one-party Soviet-style America. Us free market types are grossly outnumbered by the takers.  And I frankly don’t see any way to change that. Bad times ahead for all of us who support liberty.  

Thanks for the interview.  

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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