Hugh Downs Criticizes Republicans and Democrats but Praises Libertarians

Bill Winter of the Advocates for Self Government recently conducted an interview of Hugh Downs. Downs was already famous in libertarian circles for once saying “All the really good ideas belong to the libertarians.”

Although not incredibly knowledgeable about various philosophies within the libertarian movement, Downs was at times thought provoking during the interview:

After the Soviet Union really began to seriously come apart, there was a big flood of people who came to New York and became cab drivers, for some reason or other. I was in a cab with this guy whose English was pretty fair, and he was complaining about America. Because he said, “You know, you have to go get yourself a job; the government doesn’t tell you where you’re going to work.” And then he said, “And then there’s these newspapers; they’ve got differing views, and you’re not told which view is correct.”

The last line almost seems to describe the current situation in the United States, with one minor exception: Here there are two newspapers, with the Republicans insisting one is correct while the Democrats promote the other. Der Sturmer on the right and Pravda on the left, so it seems.

Downs stated that he had pulled the Democratic lever more often than the Republican one, but was strongly critical of both of the major parties:

I think about what was said by Will Rogers, “I’m not a member of any organized political party; I’m a Democrat.”

I’ve never aligned myself with any party affiliation. I’ve voted for the person who ran for office. I was born into a kind of Republican family. But by the time I was 18 I didn’t go along with that too much. And as a result, I tend to vote a little more in the Democratic way.

But I think, kind of, a pox on both of their houses lately. And I think that’s one of the things that led me to examine libertarianism a little more closely.

If he thinks the Democrats are disorganized, he should check out the LP. Like most Americans, he is opposed to the use of marijuana, but he also opposes the prohibition of the substance. On Iraq, he says the same thing many of us do:

I can’t imagine how anybody could be in favor of it. It was so patently wrong. People who later said, “We were duped…” You know, they said, “We were duped, we were taken in, and now we know.” And I said, “Who is the we? I wasn’t taken in by that!” That was nonsense from the beginning.

When asked how Libertarians might communicate their ideas to the world better, he responded:

I’ve wondered if there would be a way for libertarians to establish a libertarian radio station, to start with. And have the whole thing where people would tune in and then say, “Hey, yeah, that’s right.” And then more people would tune in. I think it could even be supported by the commercial system that supports progressive talk radio now.

It might be a way to get a third stream going that would offset what’s wrong now in mass media, with the big corporate ownership, and so forth.

Perhaps Mr. Downs would like to help out by being a guest host on one of our newer and cooler libertarian radio programs. I’m sure Ian and Manwich wouldn’t mind.

Downs had his lighter moment, too. Here is his response when asked about working with John Stossel:

I never thought he’s going too far. I admired what he did. I loved his style! He was interviewing this prisoner one time who had gone to the law library in the prison, and he sued the prison system because they had supplied him with chunky peanut butter — and he wanted the smooth.

And I remember John said, “So what? You’re a criminal!”

[Laughs.] It was a beautiful moment.

It was a good interview and worth checking out.

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