Posted by: jamesvw | March 18, 2010

Q+A with Ed Rutledge, Libertarian Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois

Q+A with Ed Rutledge, Libertarian Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois

Editor’s Intro

To read all about the race for Governor and Lieutenant Governor in Illinois, click here

Today, our site has the opportunity to interview Ed Rutledge, the running mate of Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Lex Green. Rutledge has worked in a variety of corporate business positions in Illinois and around the world. He has been heavily involved in the Libertarian Party of Chicago. He lives on the north side of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

The race for Governor and Lieutenant Governor in Illinois, where both candidates run as a ticket, should be a close one and will be watched carefully. Democrats nominated Pat Quinn, who is the incumbent having inherited the job from disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich. Quinn does not yet have a Democratic Lieutenant Governor running mate. Republicans nominated Bill Brady, a downstate State Senator. He is joined on the ticket by Jason Plummer. The Green Party is backing Rich Whitney, an attorney along with LG candidate Don Crawford, the Constitution Party is supporting Randy Stufflebeam, the state party chairman and Michael White is running as an independent. All candidates have been invited to participate in this Q+A.

Without further ado, here is the Q+A with Ed Rutledge. You can visit his website here.

1) Why do you want to be Lieutenant Governor of Illinois?

It is not so much a matter of wanting to be Lieutenant Governor, as it is a matter of pushing back against the reckless policies of career politicians from the status quo parties. I have a good job which I enjoy, but our ship of state is sinking and I felt that I could contribute to the solution. So, rather than sitting back and complaining about the bad government consistently forced upon us by our career politicians, I took what I feel to be the responsible course of action by running for and subsequently accepting the Libertarian nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. Voters deserve a real choice, and we all have a responsibility to fight for what we believe to be right.

2) Do you believe your ticket, alongside Gubernatorial candidate Lex Green, can win in November? If so, how will you work with the two major parties in the legislature to ensure the success of your legislative agenda? If not, why are you running?

Four years ago, I would have conclusively said that Libertarians would have no chance of winning. This year, however, given the incredibly positive response both Lex and I have received as we have travelled throughout Illinois, and the enormous amount of dissatisfaction directed at the status quo, we have a real shot at winning this race outright.

That said, I am realistic enough to understand what an uphill battle we face as political outsiders. The Machine / GOP combine, which has run Illinois for the past several decades, has made it extremely difficult to offer voters a legitimate choice on the ballot, let alone for such an outside candidate to win. With this in mind, it is important to step back and define what would constitute a Libertarian victory.

An outright win would obviously qualify, but if Lex and I are able to just get solidly into the double digits, which I believe we will achieve, it will still be enough to force the mainstream parties to incorporate Libertarian concepts, such as real fiscal discipline and social tolerance, into their policies.

If nothing else, I intend to win at least 5% of the vote total. This would eliminate going forward the iniquitous ballot access hurdles that Libertarian candidates currently face in Illinois. These ballot access hurdles are among the most onerous in the country, and have been erected by the status quo simply to reduce voter choice by keeping alternative party candidates off of the ballot.

In the event that Lex and I do win the election, such an upset would truly signify a mandate for change in a Libertarian direction and would demand that legislators from the other parties work with us, rather than the other way around.

3) As rural areas have suffered over recent decades with the drop-off of small farms and businesses, these areas have become dependent on increased government subsidies and state aid. By shrinking government as your platform calls for, how would you ensure the economic survival of the hundreds of small communities in Illinois?

It is important to understand how state funding works. Our politicians have created a system in which taxpayers send their money to Springfield, and then our politicians force communities to beg to get some of that money back. Frankly, Chicago can deliver more votes than any downstate bloc, so a substantial portion of rural taxpayer money ends up diverted into projects and programs in Chicago. In other words, rural taxpayer money goes to perpetuate the very system that leaves rural communities struggling to fund their vital services, the system that forces rural taxpayers to fund, through taxes, special interest groups which can deliver votes and campaign cash, the system which forces rural communities to depend on meager government subsidies and unreliable state aid for their survival.

We need to break this cycle. When I say that I will fight to shrink government, it means that I will fight to let rural communities keep more of what is theirs so they don’t have to beg for crumbs from the pie that they helped bake. I will starve political programs that are not mandated by the state Constitution and which serve only special interest groups, and will return those resources to their rightful owners. And as I reduce the size, scope and cost of government, I will also open the books so that taxpayers can see how their money gets spent. It is the taxpayers’ money, and they deserve to know what our politicians are doing with it.

Our politicians need to be reminded that it is not their money, and that they should be begging communities for funds rather than the other way around.

4) Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States overruled previous precedent regarding campaign finance and has allowed corporations to donate money to campaigns. What are your thoughts on this ruling and how will it affect minor parties?

I think that by focusing on this decision we are missing the bigger picture. Rather than arguing about whether or not corporations should be able to donate to campaigns, or how much they should be allowed to contribute, we should be asking why they want to donate to campaigns in the first place.

Corporations donate money to political campaigns in order to buy influence. They are able to buy that influence only because our politicians cultivate influence to peddle. By reducing the size, scope and cost of government, the amount of influence politicians would have to offer a corporation would be very limited. Corporations would not dedicate significant resources to buy something of very limited value, which would make the Supreme Court decision something of a non-issue.

5) Illinois has a proud tradition of successful sports teams, both professional and collegiate. What team do you cheer for the loudest and why?

I am a born and bred fan of the Blackhawks, Bears, and White Sox (but I married a Cubs fan). I have never been much of a collegiate sports fan, but I pull for the University of Illinois when I catch any of their games.

6) Your professional life has led you to work for a time overseas. What did you learn from your experiences in other countries that have helped shape your political convictions?

I lived for about 3 years in the Netherlands, a country of about 16 million people, a bit larger than the population of Illinois but much more densely concentrated, and a few noteworthy experiences come to mind.

Healthcare was nationalized, but underfunded. While every person was covered, and every employee was required to pay directly or indirectly into the nationalized system, high income earners were required to buy supplemental private insurance. High income at that time amounted to roughly $30,000 per year. Understand that paying for private health insurance did not grant additional benefits or coverage; it only kept a person in the system. While universal health care sounds wonderful, I saw firsthand how it reduced access to doctors and treatments, and how those with political pull were able to jump ahead of “mere” citizens.

Social programs were supported by very high tax rates, but I saw several unintended consequences of these high tax rates.

  • There was a thriving black market for services, which meant that legitimate taxpayers were subsidizing those who chose to operate outside of the system in order to dodge the high tax rates.
  • Wealthy individuals frequently became citizens of countries with lower tax rates, such as Switzerland, which further reduced the base from which taxes could be drawn. Investments were often sheltered in offshore accounts for similar reasons and with similar results. Money was flowing to areas of greater economic freedom.
  • Personal charitable giving was rare, as people were effectively forced to outsource their compassion to government bureaucracies through taxation. People had neither the money nor the inclination to voluntarily contribute any more.

Finally, while the sale of marijuana for private use was legal, I saw very little use of the drug among Dutch citizens. In fact, marijuana use was considered boorish, something for the tourists. Also interesting was that gang-style violence was negligible. On the other hand, the controlled sale of marijuana generated significant tax revenues for the state. Holland’s drug policies reduced drug use, reduced violence, reduced costs associated with prosecuting such drug use, and increased public funds available for prevention and rehabilitation programs. Drug policy was an area in which the Dutch got it right.

In short, I found that policies which promoted personal liberty were beneficial to the society, while policies which restricted personal liberty were counterproductive.

7) While budgetary concerns are of paramount importance this election cycle in Illinois, the state has also faced a great deal of scrutiny in recent years about its prison system and capital punishment. As a member of the executive branch in Springfield, what do you believe should be changed (if anything) about the Illinois penal system?

My goal will be to reduce Illinois’s need for an enormously large, currently overcrowded and underfunded, prison system by decriminalizing non-violent drug possession, the prosecution of which has led to the incarceration of a sizable portion of the overall prison population while achieving none of its intended goals. That said, we have an obligation to provide the funds needed to secure those criminals who have violated the rights of others.

The question of capital punishment is, I believe, more complex. I feel that people can surrender their right to life by committing particularly heinous acts against others. That said, we have also had several instances of false imprisonments, not to mention unjust executions.

The taking of a life must be the gravest decision a person could ever be asked to make, but Illinois law currently puts this burden, effectively, on the shoulders of a committee. I would suggest that the final authorization to execute capital punishment should come from the Governor, not in the form of a withheld pardon but in the form of an active authorization. A decision of this magnitude deserves to rest on the conscience of one person, and the Governor is the appropriate person to carry that burden.

8 ) Recent events on Wall Street has showed what can happen when banks and investment firms shirk corporate responsibility and have little government regulation and oversight. In Illinois, what would you do to ensure companies looking to increase their bottom line would act in a responsible manner?

There are two forces at work here; industry’s desire to drive profits, and government’s desire to interfere. Unfortunately, industry and government have found a way to mutually achieve their goals at the expense of small businesses and average citizens.

Government enacts regulations on industry, presumably to protect citizens. Large corporations then lobby for loopholes to counteract the financial impact of such regulations, which our politicians frequently grant. Citizens are effectively left unprotected, small businesses bear the brunt of the regulations, and large corporations are free to operate in compliance with the law but perhaps not in what would be reasonably considered a responsible manner.

Our politicians should be working to protect our individual rights. That is their job. Instead, they allow armies of lobbyists to direct legislation to the benefit of large corporations (as well as other special interest groups) and to the detriment of individuals and those groups which cannot afford lobbyists. By shrinking the size, scope and cost of government, and by refocusing on government’s mandate to protect the rights of individuals, large businesses will no longer be able to buy their way out of corporate responsibility, they will be forced to compete on a level playing field, and they will be less likely to become “too big to fail.”

9) You share a name with the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence – a delegate from South Carolina who went on to be governor of that state. Which parts of the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, do you find to be most important to your personal political framework?

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence provides a wonderfully concise description of the just purpose of government. The Constitution established a system of government which provides for checks and balances both horizontally (Executive, Judicial, and Legislative) and vertically (Federal, State, and Local), all intended to keep government in balance and in line with its appropriate role which was so well described by Jefferson. The Bill of Rights is a series of reminders that the Constitution puts limits on Federal governmental power without limiting the rights of citizens or the powers that are appropriately held by states, communities, and individuals.

Those three documents are like puzzle pieces which fit together to create a complete picture showing why government exists, how it should work, and what it must protect.

10) There are still new businesses growing in Illinois. Name one business or niche industry in Illinois that you believe Americans should know about and invest in.

As a Libertarian, I feel that politicians should refrain from identifying or promoting certain businesses or industries over others. If anything, Illinois politicians should simply promote the State of Illinois and every business or industry that calls Illinois home. Specific businesses and industries, however, should stand on their own, on a level playing field, without undue governmental hindrance but also without governmental assistance or promotion. It is not government’s job to pick winners and losers, and investors should perform their own due diligence and make their own investment decisions.

While this response may seem evasive, it is consistent with my comments above. I am looking to reduce the amount of influence that politicians can peddle, starting right now.

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