Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne pitches freedom and prosperity. [ The Great Libertarian Offer credits: Dir: Alec Doyle, Prod: Kristen Overn/ 30 min/ Documentary/ Libertarianism 101]
Harry Browne used The Great Libertarian Offer in his 2000 presidential campaign to explain the basics of libertarian ideas and it is still serviceable in that regard. It gives a general summary of what the Libertarian Party is about, and focuses attention on three particular “hot button” issues: social security, the War on Drugs, and the income tax. The libertarian position on each of these issues is argued clearly, persuasively, and even with a little humor. The format for all this is a sort of fireside one-on-one between Harry Browne and moderator David Ruprecht.
In the opening between these two we learn: 1) excess government has brought a lot of problems to America; 2) Democrats and Republicans are pretty much alike and are just going to give us more of the same; and 3) Harry Browne is here to offer an alternative — a rebirth of minimum government and maximum liberty. After that, the two discuss Browne’s “Great Libertarian Offer,” essentially a pitch to give Americans their money and liberty back in exchange for whatever it is they thing they’re getting from the government. It’s a wholesale, all or nothing approach to dismantling the government, as opposed to a gradualist, piecemeal process.
With regard to social security, Browne proposes giving private pensions (funded by government asset sales) to those already dependent on social security. The social security tax would then be repealed and the rest of us would be free to save for our own retirement. With regard to the War on Drugs, he would end it, and would pardon all nonviolent drug offenders. The prisons would be emptied to make room for violent criminals. With regard to the income tax, he would repeal it. Excise taxes and tariffs would provide adequate income for the remaining (legitimate) government.
Needless to say, to the uninitiated, libertarian political positions can appear radical. But Browne has an easy-going charm that makes them seem less so. Their controversial character is further undercut by the interspersing of “man or woman on the street” interviews. In these, people are asked simple questions like “What’s your favorite government program?” or “Do you think you’ll receive ever social security benefits?” They have the desired effect and they also add a little humor. When so many people can’t think of a government program they like, it says something.
The Great Libertarian Offer is not a high-budget documentary. It’s a political infomercial and infomercials are, by their nature, not great cinematic achievements. Nonetheless, as an infomercial, this is a good one. Personally, I’ve never watched an infomercial for more than thirty seconds, but I’d watch this one all the way to the end even if I weren’t already a libertarian. It offers rational solutions to major problems that people care about, and does so in a palatable way.
How to See It
More Films About: Libertarianism 101
Wikipedia: Harry Browne
Book: The Great Libertarian Offer
Book: How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
Book: Why Government Doesn’t Work…
Book: Liberty A to Z: 872 Libertarian Soundbites You Can Use Right Now!
Book: Great Libertarian Speeches by Harry Browne
Book: Freedom the American Way
Book: Libertarian FAQ