In a televised community forum just conducted this Saturday afternoon, Robert Sarvis was finally given a chance to appear alongside the other candidates for governor of Virginia. The Libertarian Party’s candidate, excluded from earlier debates, again demonstrated that he is the most qualified and sensible candidate for the job. The forum was hosted by radio station KissRichmond.com and local Richmond news Channel 8 (WRIC-TV).
As he has done in the past, Sarvis distinguished himself as the only candidate willing to make any criticism of the ongoing War on Drugs. Indeed, he listed it during the forum as one of a short list of top priorities, and chose it as one of the first four issues to discuss on his website. During the forum, he initially brought up the issue in response to a question on gun control.
Sarvis explained that the vast majority of gun control laws simply have no effect on rates of gun violence, regardless of the emotional rhetoric employed by some to distract from this. What is needed instead, he pointed out, is an end to the War on Drugs. With prohibition of drugs, we have essentially subsidized the violent criminal enterprises who now control much of the market for these substances. This is essentially the same problem generated in the early 20th century by the prohibition of alcohol, during which the murder rate was significantly higher than previously or subsequently.
Sarvis’ second mention of the drug war was in reference to the restoration of rights to former convicted felons. Current Virginia law disenfranchises those convicted of any felony, and their rights can only be restored through intervention by the governor’s office. Governor Bob McDonnell, along with all three of the candidates on stage this afternoon, has shown support for automatically restoring voting rights for those convicted of nonviolent felonies once they complete their sentences. Sarvis, though, was the only one to suggest dealing with the root of the problem. He mentioned his experience visiting a university where many young men told him they had lost their voting rights due to convictions for marijuana possession. About half of all drug arrests, he continued, are made in connection with marijuana, and over 80% of those are for possession alone. At a time when a clear majority of the US population supports legalizing marijuana, treating its possession as a felony is an absurd anachronism.
Republican Party candidate Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic Party candidate Terry McAuliffe did not give impressive performances by comparison.
The moderator gave the candidates explicit instructions at the beginning of the discussion to focus on their own views on the issues and refrain from attacking their opponents in any way. Cuccinelli, however, seemed particularly unable to manage this. He repeatedly complained about negative and allegedly deceptive campaigning against him, while claiming that he had not aired a single negative ad, but only done “comparisons.” Cuccinelli also saw fit to characterize his opponents’ campaigns, including their performance at that forum, as merely “platitudes” in contrast to his own “plans.” He even added that a vote for “anyone else” (presumably Sarvis) was a vote for McAuliffe and for big-government cronyism.
Both candidates seemed to agree with at least some of Sarvis’s platform. Cucinelli showed himself to be in general agreement with the Libertarian candidate on the subjects of gun rights, education vouchers, and some legal regulations which impose major costs on businesses. McAuliffe did not seem sympathetic on those issues, but reaffirmed his own support for gay marriage. Both, however, were outclassed by Sarvis when it came to the substance of the issues.
Sarvis’s extensive postgraduate education includes a master’s degree in economics from George Mason University and a law degree from New York University, and he demonstrated his knowledge of the subjects well during the forum. On the subject of healthcare, he explained how government-imposed regulations have made it very difficult to increase the number of health care professionals in the state. Despite very high demand for, indeed a shortage of, health care services, there has been no increase in the number of new MDs in the state for the past 30 years. One example he cited was the certificate of need. This is an additional license for which would-be healthcare providers are actually required to formally prove that there is a need for their services before they can begin their practice. This can be a very lengthy and expensive process, and is completely unnecessary; if there were truly no need for their services, surely they would simply not be able to attract customers. No bureaucratic process would be required to determine this, or to persuade them to give up if they found they could not make a living.
Instead, as Sarvis repeated over the course of the discussion, the issue is that the legal code is full of regulations which the interest groups concerned lobbied for simply in order to restrict their competition. The more extensive the entrance requirements for the medical profession, the fewer practitioners there will be, and the higher the demand (and thus the salaries) will be for those already practicing. This problem is known as regulatory capture.
Robert Sarvis continues to distinguish himself in the Virginia governor’s race. All Virginians concerned with the issues he brings up should lend him their support, both financially and at the ballot box on November 5th.
Image credit to voicesofvietnameseamericans.com.