An Interview with Stephen Bailey


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TIA Daily • October 12, 2010


Atlas Runs

An Interview with Stephen Bailey

by Robert Tracinski

Editor's Note: There are a number of people who are running for Congress, and a few who are already in Congress, who are fans of Atlas Shrugged and are influenced by Ayn Rand's ideas. I've already described them as a potential Atlas Shrugged Caucus. But the first and so far the only fully fledged Objectivist to run for Congress is Stephen Bailey, who is running as a Republican in Colorado's second district. See his campaign website,, which bears the wonderful tagline: "Liberty Is Prosperity." Now there's a campaign slogan!

I recently asked Mr. Bailey some questions about his candidacy, about what he intends to do in Congress, and about the challenges of running for office as an Objectivist. I also asked about his chances, and he gave me the numbers I was hoping to see: the incumbent is below 50% in the latest internal polls, and voters are split evenly on the generic ballot question. That means Bailey has a real chance to take a "safe" seat that has been held by a Democrat for the past 40 years—particularly if this turns out to be as bad a year for the Democrats as I am expecting.

This race is going into its final weeks, and every little bit counts, so please make sure to scroll to the bottom of this article and see what you can do to help Bailey win.—RWT

TIA Daily: What motivated you to run for Congress?

Stephen Bailey: I've always been interested in politics as an armchair observer and commentator. However, the decision to run began in late 2008 when the TARP bailout legislation was first brought to a vote. I was on a business trip in Europe and celebrated when the bill was defeated. When Congress and President Bush signed the TARP bailout two weeks later, against the wishes of the American public, it initiated the chain of events that led to the creation of the Tea Party movement and my resolve to not allow my country, my freedom, and my family's freedom to be destroyed. That resolve accelerated over the next year as President Obama and the Democrats rammed one tyrannical bill after another down our throats, engorging themselves and their political cronies in an orgy of spending that is bankrupting America.

TIA Daily: As an Objectivist, you are radically pro-capitalist in your views—more radical than most of the voters who would be your constituents. How do you deal with that problem? How do you find common ground to campaign on, without compromising your principles?

Bailey: While campaigning, I primarily stick to general principles. I realize that the rest of the country may not be ready or willing to move as quickly as I would like towards the objective of fully restoring our freedoms and constitutionally limited government. However, I also know that the majority of people are ready to move in that direction.

One of the worst acts that this Congress and the prior Congress committed is forcing through legislation that the country did not want. It started with the TARP bailouts in the previous Congress and continued through with just about everything the current Congress has done. In a conflict between individual rights and the majority opinion, given where we are today, I will work to move us ever closer to the full protection of our rights but at a pace that the country can reasonably adapt. However, I will not support any attempts to further restrict or infringe our rights. If the country is not ready to take a step, then it is a sign that further education is required. The failure will be mine, and those who are like-minded, not the country's, if we fail to convince a majority of the veracity of our individual-rights and free-market ideology.

TIA Daily: If a new Republican-led Congress convenes in January, what do you think should be its top priorities?

Bailey: It is obvious that the economy and jobs are the top issues. Those are to be addressed by relieving the economy of the extreme regulatory, tax, and litigation burdens our government has placed on it. Providing that relief will mean cutting government, which will bring spending in alignment with tax revenues.

For me, corruption is a co-equal number one priority. We did not arrive at this sorry state by accident. The procedures of Congress have been structured to enable corruption. Junk legislation is added directly or as amendments to "must pass" legislation. To check corruption, legislation must be limited to a single subject, constitutional authority [must be] cited, and [it must be] limited in size and scope. Earmarks may be a tiny percentage of overall spending, but they enable corruption. Earmarks must be banned. The reconciliation process (conference committees) must be discarded. One chamber of Congress initiates legislation (by the Constitution, the House must originate all revenue raising bills) and rejects it or approves, sending it to the other chamber. The receiving chamber rejects it and it dies, approves it unmodified and sends it to the president, or approves with amendments. In the latter case, it is remanded back to the originating chamber to consider the amendments. It is forwarded to the president only if all amendments are approved.

Vote buying must be made illegal and the best way to do that is to ensure all legislation applies equally to every American. Technically, this would be an aspect of the process of validating the constitutionality of the bill, as the Constitution guarantees equal protection of all of our rights.

If these reforms are not enacted, Republicans will not earn the trust of Americans and any gains made over the next few years will be temporary.

TIA Daily: A Republican Congress is likely to face opposition from a president who has proved not to be willing to tack to the right, as Bill Clinton did, in response to the prevailing political winds. What do you think you can accomplish in the face of presidential opposition?

Bailey: We can balance the budget. The president cannot authorize any expenditure without enabling legislation from Congress. Congress can approve appropriations that bring the budget into balance and fund only government operations and services that Congress chooses to fund.

Sure, President Obama can veto appropriations legislation for not funding things he wants funded. But, Congress can hold strong and refuse to give. When your objective is to balance the budget, the longer the government goes without spending money, the easier it is to achieve your objective.

Also, the Constitution gives each chamber of Congress full control over their operations. The anti-corruption reforms to Congress's procedures can and should be enacted without any input or approval from the president.

Finally, Congress has oversight responsibilities. Congress can hold hearings to investigate everything that the executive branch is doing and has done, to hold the president accountable between January 1, 2011 and January 20, 2013.

TIA Daily: We can't have smaller government without tackling the long-term, inexorable growth of the big middle-class entitlements: Social Security and Medicare. What do you propose to do with these programs over the long term, and do you think the American people would be willing to embrace this solution?

Bailey: I believe the American people will be willing to embrace reforms to the "sacred" entitlement programs under one condition. First, we must cut spending in all other areas except for the entitlements and the constitutional functions of the federal government—national defense, the judiciary, etc. Even in these constitutionally authorized areas, budget cuts must be considered as appropriate while fulfilling the responsibility of protecting individual rights.

After everything that can be cut is cut, and we sell off surplus assets to pay down the debt and reduce the annual debt service costs, then the American people will acknowledge and accept that reform of these entitlements cannot be avoided.

Poverty-related programs, if they are to survive, must be transitioned to the states. The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to run these programs. Transitioning them to the states will eliminate the federal level of bureaucracy overhead while placing the programs within local control and accountability. Since state and local governments cannot print money or borrow unlimited amounts, fiscal discipline will be exercised as voters directly recognize the costs of these programs.

The retirement programs—Social Security and Medicare—must be transitioned to personal responsibility. If a safety net remains for impoverished seniors, it will be the same poverty programs available at the state and local levels. These programs must be transitioned over a long period of time as current and near retirees do not have the ability to become independent and save sufficient funds for their retirement. Measures such as increasing the retirement age and means-testing can be considered to increase near-term solvency. However, as we move to younger adults with increasingly greater periods of time in which they can save for their retirement, we can transition that responsibility from the government to the individual. This transition will benefit the individuals, as they will have a property right in their retirement. Today, their retirement security is subject to the political whim and plundering of the Treasury by politicians.

The free market insurance industry will step in to offer products such as level, term health insurance to provide predictability for retirees' long-term health insurance costs, disability insurance in case of debilitating injury or illness, and even birth defect or child-age discovered medical condition insurance.

TIA Daily: What is the most important thing you think you could do, as a congressman, to have a positive impact on US foreign policy, particularly with regard to the war in Afghanistan and the threat from Iran?

Bailey: Require Congress to have a vote declaring war on Islamic terrorism. This would force the President to justify the war, clearly identify the enemy and victory as well as the means by which victory is to be achieved. If Congress declares war, then we will have finally provided our service members with the complete and unambiguous moral sanction that they have been deprived. And we will finally have a clear objective, clear enemy, and a clear means for achieving the objective.

In addition, Congress can hold hearings to assist in the battlefield of ideas as well as influencing the president's plans.

TIA Daily: As an Objectivist, how do you deal with the issue of religion, which puts you at odds with parts of the Republican "base"?

Bailey: I don't bring up religion because I am running for Congress, not to be their minister or deacon. A few have asked. I address the question as a more general question on morality. I respond by stating that I seek to live my life by the highest moral standards. I value honesty and integrity. When people hear me speak, they can see my sincerity. They also know that I'm a protector of their First Amendment right to freedom of religion. That makes me an ally, and not at odds with them. As their representative, it is my responsibility to protect their rights, not to tell them how to live.

TIA Daily: My sense is that there are a large number of more radical, principled pro-free-marketers running for office this year under the banner of the Republican Party. There were a lot of them in the primaries, and a good number of those made it through to win the Republican nomination. What do you think are the chances of reforming the Republican Party, and how do you think it should be done?

Bailey: I believe that if either of the parties is open to being reformed, it is the Republican Party. The Democrat Party is clearly under the full control of committed statists—socialists and communists. It will become increasingly difficult for moderate Democrats at the grass-roots level to stay with the party as the politicians under the Democrat umbrella exercise increasing levels of deceit and worse. The Republican Party is composed of very principled people that respect honesty and integrity. The grassroots level has been very committed to these principles as well as being fiscally conservative.

Internally, the Republican Party has had a long-standing split between the social libertarians and the social conservatives. Therefore, I believe it is possible to reform the Republican Party to be the party of a single over-riding principle: the non-initiation of the use of force and the guardians of individual rights.

TIA Daily: There are probably a lot of other Objectivists—hopefully some readers of TIA Daily among them—who are watching your campaign and thinking: if Stephen Bailey can do it, maybe I can, too. Do you think it's time for Objectivists to start running for office, and what advice would you give to anyone who is interested?

Bailey: My objective was not to be the first Objectivist to run for office. My objective is to fight for our freedoms and constitutionally limited government dedicated to the protection of our rights. I've been asked if it is still too early. I don't know if it is too early. What I know is that it will soon be too late, at least in my lifetime, for an Objectivist to run if we don't change the direction of our country.

Objectivists need to continue with their educational and cultural efforts. However, we also need to become directly involved. It is difficult to compromise but not impossible. The status quo is what it is. Any movement towards the ideal society we seek is an improvement. It took nearly 250 years to go from the Declaration of Independence to the status quo. It took about 100 years to go from John Locke's treatise on government to the US Constitution. We need to be in this for the long run. That means education and participation in the day-to-day governing of our country and communities.

It is also worthwhile to remember Plato: one of the penalties of not participating in politics is that you will be governed by your inferiors.

Some advice for any Objectivist that is considering running for political office:

Politics is different from education and advocacy. You must understand the difference. As a politician, anything you say can and will be interpreted as a political or legislative initiative you are promoting.

Politics is not ethics. In politics we are concerned about the protection of rights. Any venture into how people should be living their lives will be interpreted as you advocating for the government to enforce people to live their lives in that manner. It is impossible to stay completely away from ethics. But when you venture there, the burden is on you to ensure that the audience understands that this is your personal perspective and recommendation and not that you believe the government should be enforcing it.

TIA Daily: You are running against a wealthy Democratic incumbent, and I can't help noticing that Colorado's second district includes Boulder. It's been a long time since I've visited Boulder, but my impression is that it's not exactly a right-wing hotbed. So how is the campaign going? What is your strategy, and how do you view your chances?

Bailey: The campaign is going well. Our strategy was born of necessity and circumstance. The seat is considered a safe seat for Democrats because Boulder County accounts for about 36% of the typical turnout. We knew that fundraising would be a tremendous challenge. That left us with running a grassroots campaign. There are a tremendous number of motivated people this year and they have been helping with the campaign—walking, calling, and spending time at town and county fairs. On the other hand, many Democrats, especially in Boulder County, appear dismayed at the consequences of achieving their objective in electing progressive Democrats. It is unclear how they will vote. Most working class Democrats are not happy with the direction of the country. They know more about economics than Obama or anyone on his economic team!

Given the circumstances, we are doing very well. Our latest poll (a few weeks old) shows the generic ballot test as a tie—within the margin of error. (A generic ballot test asks if you would vote for the Democrat or Republican if that is all you knew about the candidates.) Nearly 60% of the district believes the country is on the wrong track. In the head-to-head matchup, the incumbent is polling under 50%. These numbers are really unprecedented for this district. Our challenge has been to increase name identification, hold the incumbent accountable for voting for this mess, and to get our message out.

We have done everything we can with the resources we have available. Mail ballots will be hitting mailboxes tomorrow. Victory on November 2 will depend on turnout and the overall anger and disgust level in the district. This will be a big year for Republicans. It could be big enough to carry this district along with my message. The Club for Growth is tracking the district in their 150 Democrat seats at risk.

TIA Daily: If TIA Daily's readers want to help your campaign, in these crucial closing weeks, what can they do?

Bailey: If you know anyone in the district, call them and promote my candidacy to them, and ask them to spread the word to everyone they know.

Contact Cloud Downey at to make calls on behalf of the campaign.

If you know people in the media, tell them about the campaign and ask them to interview me and promote the campaign. We have plenty of information on the incumbent as well.

Contribute! Although the time is short, we can still influence late-deciding voters.

TIA Daily: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Good luck—and I hope to see you in Washington in January.

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