Adrian Wyllie was in good spirit when we got him on the phone yesterday, riding high on a burst of publicity prompted by the news he'd polled 9 percent in the Florida governor's race, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. He wasn't quite so happy 15 minutes later, when he hung up on New Times rather than pursue an uncomfortable line of discussion.
Just to clear the decks, we kicked off by asking how libertarianism differs from anarchism, just how little government Wyllie wants to see. "I believe government has a purpose," he said. "To protect life, liberty, and property... I'm a 'constitutionalist,' if you want to put a label on it."
We pointed out that the Constitution is just a text, a set of principles applied in circumstances unknown to the text's authors, and that different courts have differed about how the principles apply.
"That's something I take exception with," Wyllie said. "I think the Constitution is very clear and different people try to bend it to their will. I don't support a lot of the decisions."
We asked for more on how the Constitution is applied, Wyllie asked for a specific context, and we pointed to his proposed "Florida Intrastate Commerce Act," by which "any product that is grown, manufactured, fabricated, distributed, sold, and consumed within the State of Florida" would be exempt from federal regulation.
"It could be any service too," Wyllie said. "It would affect a significant amount of Florida business. Protect them from federal regulations that keep them from growing their business." (Wyllie cited the example of such an act in Kansas, "though that only applies to firearms in Kansas.") We could still have government regulation, though, according to Wyllie, "if the people of Florida decide it's necessary."
So OSHA couldn't come in to inspect workplaces for health and safety? "Correct," Wyllie said. "But the State of Florida could enact regulations for that."
Would Wyllie support an eight-hour day in Florida? "I think the market can decide what's appropriate. I certainly know that I'm not going to go work for someone who's not going to pay me the right, what I think I'm worth, or have work conditions unsafe. The market has great ability to self-regulate in that regard."
Wyllie went on to say that we'd outgrown the need for government regulation. Today, he said, "with people in instant communication with each other, if there is an injustice somewhere, it's known all over the world very quickly."
Does Wyllie really believe the typical Florida worker can just tell the boss "Take this job and shove it?" "When we enact my economic plan," he said, "there will be so many jobs, workers will be able to pick and choose."
OK. Step one of Wyllie's economic plan is to cut the state budget. What's he gonna cut? Education? "The inefficiencies and waste and flat-out corruption, yes," he said. "Ending federal mandates like Common Core, where the state has told school boards to pick one of two curriculum providers and one is owned by Neil Bush, Jeb's brother. That's flat-out corruption... I've spoken to legislators who say they only voted for Common Core out of fear of Jeb Bush."
So anyone related to anyone politically active shouldn't be allowed to seek government contracts? "I'm not proposing a law like that," Wyllie said. "But when we find there is actual flat-out corruption and kickbacks, we'll prosecute."
Kickbacks? "I'm not accusing Neil Bush of bribery," Wyllie said. "But there's a blatant conflict of interest... I've spent a lot of time in Tallahassee, and wherever you go, there's a deal going on." He estimated such "back-scratching" often "doubles or triples" the cost of state contracts.
(Also part of Wyllie's economic plan is a proposal that state government "begin transacting state business in gold and silver as required by Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution and introduce competing currencies legislation, as Utah has already done and other states are considering.")
As for health care, Wyllie "doesn't believe government should be involved." While others debate whether and how much to expand Medicaid, Wyllie said he plans to "cut Medicaid dramatically."
Wyllie claims he can do that -- and still provide health care for the needy -- by eliminating the use of hospital emergency rooms for minor complaints. "Would it be heartless to tell them to use a walk-in clinic if you don't have an actual emergency? Or go to a family doctor? Is that cold?... That will save Florida billions of dollars." (Statistics on the cost to Medicaid of unnecessary ER visits are slippery. We're stlll looking.)
Here's where the conversation broke down.
We observed that Wyllie's health care program involved a certain amount of government regulation, and Wyllie responded that we "really seem to have libertarians confused with anarchists." We responded that the libertarian label is confusing and is read many ways by many people, even serving as a magnet to white supremacists, historically. Which was a bridge too far for the candidate.
"Oh, come on now," Wyllie said. "I'm gonna end this interview if you're going that direction."
"Not saying that applies to you," we said, "but true of libertarianism as a movement."
"I reject that," Wyllie said. "I think that's all the time I'm going to give you today." Finis.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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