Austin Petersen is a Libertarian presidential candidate from Missouri. He is the founder of The Libertarian Republic and Stonegate LLC, a photo and video services company that specializes in consulting for brands and campaigns. In the past, Petersen was the director of production at FreedomWorks and associate producer for Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show “Freedom Watch” on the Fox Business Network. He also has experience as a model and actor. The Collegian spoke with Petersen Thursday, April 7 in a phone interview.
What can Libertarians accomplish this election?
Libertarians have the opportunity to play on the dissatisfaction of voters of the two major parties’ candidates. Whoever is going to win the nomination of the Libertarian Party is going to have the chance to build coalitions among conservatives that are upset over the non-conservative Donald Trump and Democrats who are upset about the non-principled Hillary Clinton. If the Libertarian Party were to get just 5 percent of the national vote, that in and of itself would be an incredible victory because it would open up ballot access and matching funds, making the Libertarian Party a true, strong national party.
I’m hopeful, but I never like to make false promises. I do think it would take a real, sincere revolution on the part of the people to come together behind a third party candidate. The only way we have a good chance of doing that is if I’m nominated.
At 35, what makes you experienced enough to hold the position of president?
Most people complain because they say they’re tired of career politicians, and then when someone who isn’t a career politician runs for office, they say, “You don’t have any experience.” Most of our presidents have different backgrounds…All of them have one thing in common: the ambition to run for the office and some sort of business or governmental experience. I have business experience, nonprofit experience, been a CEO and done payroll, and have done public service. I believe my background as a business owner and in public policy makes me suited for the job.
On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old. James Madison was 25 years old. Alexander Hamilton was 21. Marquis de Lafayette was 18 years old. People always complain the younger generation isn’t stepping up, and they’re not taking responsibility. Our Founding Fathers stepped up and won a revolution against the most powerful army in the world. It’s young people that founded this country, and it’s young people that will restore it.
How would you deal with the Islamic State?
I think it’s possible to protect our liberty and our security at the same time. The first thing that I want to do is not use fear mongering and use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties. I believe it’s possible to protect our Constitution and not take away any of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. The first thing I would do is remind the American people that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And yes, they are a sincere threat, but they are not an existential threat.
If we’re going to fight terrorism, I would follow the Constitution. I would only go to war if there was a congressional declaration of war, but if we’re going to fight terrorists like ISIS, we might consider the advice of our Founding Fathers, who put in the Constitution letters of marque and reprisal…We could put a price on the head of the enemies of the United States, and that way, we could avoid collateral damage, which tends to cause more terrorism than it’s worth…We could issue a letter of marque, which is how Thomas Jefferson fought terrorism in his days, and I think that would be a cost efficient way to fight terrorism.
You said you would cut one penny from every dollar the federal government spends, which equals 1 percent in cuts across the board. What does that mean for the Department of Defense and national security?
I think we have a lot of waste, fraud, and abuse in the DOD, and I think most people would admit that. If you’re cutting waste, fraud, and abuse, I don’t think that would mean we’d be less secure. I think that’d mean we’d be more secure because then we’d have our resources being directed toward good usage. I don’t think we’d have any worry about our security with a 1 percent budget cut, especially if we audit the Pentagon. If we audit the Pentagon, we will know where the waste, fraud, and abuse is occurring, and we can fight it.
What would your pro-life stance look like in a Petersen administration?
Ending the federal war on drugs would allow women to cut back on abortions. Ending the federal war on drugs would allow people to have the right to purchase birth control, and that is a very libertarian way to solve abortion because it is a very non-coercive way to solve the problem.
I want us to focus on those types of solutions for us to have fewer abortions, but we should absolutely take a stand that it is a human being. We should protect life at any opportunity we can using the simplest and most cost-effective and least coercive means in our toolbox.
As an agnostic, would you take the oath of office on a Bible?
Sure I would because it’s tradition, and it means a lot to people. Thomas Jefferson said, “When it comes to religion, I don’t have a problem with it if it neither picks my pocket or break my leg.” I would have no problem taking my oath on the Bible. There’s a lot of good philosophy in the Bible, and a lot of Judeo philosophy and law had an influence on the creation of American law.
How do you plan on getting government out of marriage when so many laws mention it?
You have to have Congress write the laws, of course, but I can still speak my mind and say what I think the best way to do it is. It won’t happen over night simply because I won’t be a dictator, but I will ask Congress to send me legislation that will reduce the role of government in marriage and how I plan to do that is work with Sens. Mike Lee, R-Ut.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as well as congressmen like Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., to send me good legislation that I can sign.
During the Libertarian Presidential Forum on Fox Business Network, you called those who refused to bake wedding cakes for gay couples “bigots.” Why do you think that and how do you plan to gain support from Christians?
The foundation of Christianity is accepting and spreading Christ’s message of love to all, even those who reject traditional roles in society. Indeed, Jesus spent his days amongst prostitutes, the downtrodden, and other sorts of deviants spreading the word that it is not an individual’s place to judge God’s children but our place to spread his love through kindness of spirit. The fact of the matter is that people who discriminate against other people are bigots, and because of their judgement and self-righteousness, they are rejecting Christ’s message of love. Real devotion means rejecting bigotry and loving one’s fellow man, even if one believes that fellow man to be on a wayward path, and I hope that good Christians understand that.