Dan Delaney is the co-founder of the startup Players’ Lounge, longtime local resident and Libertarian candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District. He recently sat down with WikiTribune at a coffee shop in Jersey City to discuss his positions on what he sees as major campaign issues.
The transcript below has been edited for brevity and clarity. Italicized notes were added afterward by the interviewer to provide supporting or contrasting information.
A portion of the interview discusses net neutrality. The interviewer works for a company that has lobbied in favor of net neutrality, but all views expressed are his alone and were not discussed with or informed by his employer.
WikiTribune: What are the two or three biggest issues facing the country right now?
Delaney: National debt is a huge one. We’re just constantly overspending and I think it’s often dismissed how much of an effect that’s going to have. … I want to rein in federal spending and taxes.
Also, our never-ending wars are a concern. … The common conception is that we’re protecting our freedoms, but in reality we’re kind of harming ourselves more by being over in the Middle East and meddling with other countries.
And also I’d say political corruption. There’s just a lot of money in politics that gets people to do backroom deals and push certain laws through, and it’s not great, it’s not good for the people.
Federal spending and taxes
You said reining in government spending, but you also mentioned taxation. What’s your view on taxation in general?
Delaney: People are way over-taxed, I think, and I would love to see some sort of different system where you can kind of pick and choose where your money goes. I don’t want to completely abolish taxation. … I’d love to see it reduced. But, I think it’d be much better if you could kind of vote with your money that way, and have some kind of system where you can pick and choose certain programs to get funded.
What would you say are the elements of the federal budget that are necessary or important?
Delaney: I think we do need a solid national defense. Like I said, I don’t think we should be meddling in other countries’ affairs, but I think we should have a strong military to protect us, if needed. Aside from that, certain core services like police, firemen, I’d love to see some money put toward medical care, but I think there’s a lot that they’re doing could be done by the private sector.
Delaney: Those are not looking too great. I think it’s only a matter of time until they go bankrupt, so, I think there needs to be some sort of good transition out of that, and I think young people should be able to opt out of it, because they’re paying into something they’re probably never going to see any benefits from. …
I’m not sure exactly what that would look like, but I think there is good reason to have some kind of public health for medical expenses for people who can’t afford it. But I do think the free market can provide the best medical experience, and it’s unfortunate that the government has gotten so involved in healthcare that a routine doctor visit is ten, twenty times more than it used to be.
How would you square that with other countries that have government more involved in their healthcare systems, but spend less money and in many cases have better outcomes?
Delaney: There’s definitely better cases than what we have going on. But we used to have a healthcare system that was the envy of those countries because it was more free and cheaper and we had better doctors, and I just feel like things have been crumbling lately and we haven’t been looking too good.
Someone could make the argument that’s a case for more government intervention.
Delaney: You could. That’s definitely a topic that I’m not as well-versed in. I’ve been meaning to do more research into other countries and what we can do here. But, some books that I’ve read about – like, Ron Paul, he was a doctor and he talked about how the government just made his practice kind of hell, regulations he had to comply with and things he had to do that just raised the price [and] made his experience with his patients a lot worse.
I guess now would be a good time to ask you about Social Security.
Delaney: I have very similar feelings with Medicare, where, I think it’s just a matter of time until it runs out. Basically, I think people should be able to opt out of that as well.
Social Security, national defense, Medicare, Medicaid and interest payments on the debt—if you add that all up, you’re looking at most of the federal budget. [About 70 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.] So, you’re looking at a really hard time cutting your way out of debt. But it sounds like you don’t want to increase revenue.
Delaney: Yeah, not exactly. [Laughs] I think we’re already overtaxed as it is, and the government’s doing too many things that it doesn’t need to be doing. Aside from those, like you said, biggest budget items, there’s still a lot of bloat that we can cut out, and agencies that the government has that are managing things that the free market could manage. Like the Department of Education, I think, could be abolished, we could have more local control over schools. Just kind of overall reduction of services.
Middle East conflicts
Alright. Let’s talk about wars a bit, then.
Delaney: Yeah, I mean, I just think we’re doing too much. There’s a lot of blowback that we get when we interfere with other countries. The narrative that terrorists hate us for our freedoms is very false, they hate us because we’re drone-bombing terrorists over there and accidentally killing a bunch of civilians.
And, you know, if your son died from a missile that came from the sky, you’re going to be pissed off and probably want to fight America. So it’s reasonable when you think about it that way, and not good when you look at the civilian death toll that we’re causing over there.
I happen to be a big believer that if we just stop messing around over there, stop trying to push our agenda, that we’d have a lot less people trying to attack us.
Currently we’re involved in some ways in Syria and Yemen. What do you think about each of those?
Delaney: I think we should get out of both. Syria … it’s such a mess. … There’s no winning side there for us and the whole chemical weapons thing that happened a few months ago looked like it was kind of like a false flag. I heard a lot of people saying that there was no real evidence that Assad even gassed his own people. And it just kind of seemed like a fake reason for us to get involved and just something to get the people behind it. [Author’s note: BBC News has a detailed summary of the information around the suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma.]
How do you know what information to trust?
Delaney: That’s a good question. Never been asked that before. I definitely would try to make some very trusted contacts. You know, there’s a few congressmen and senators that I’m fond of, that I would want to kind of link up with in Washington, and just, you know, bend their ear and figure out who I can trust. I guess I would just feel it out, try to read people.
Regulations and net neutrality
Political corruption was your third point. Would you support a ban on campaign contributions?
Delaney: Not exactly. Because I think people should be able to raise money from their grass root supporters, but, limiting how much effect people can have on influencing law.
Because some of the worst kind of regulations that hurt small businesses are put into place or lobbied for by big companies that already have themselves covered, and don’t have to do anything else.
What are some examples of regulations [where] you think that is clearly the case?
Delaney: A big one is net neutrality. I know there’s a lot of uprising about that, people saying, if we kill net neutrality, it’s the end of the internet as we know it. It’s been gone for a while now, and nothing’s changed. [Author’s note: Per the New York Times, the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality took effect on June 11, 2018.]
People made a big fuss about it, but, in reality, what that was is basically lifting the rules so now smaller internet service providers can compete.
Net neutrality [mandates] that as an internet service provider, you have to treat all the traffic on your network the same. How does it hurt small internet service providers?
Delaney: The example that I heard was that smaller internet providers that want to focus on certain things that they can deliver better, and kind of make a more niche market, would not be allowed to have that ability to discriminate. It really hampers their ability to succeed in the market.
What’s going to stop, you know, Comcast from having a huge effect on the internet by discriminating against certain types of traffic?
Delaney: I think the first big ISP to go down that route would get a lot of backlash compared to the other ones. I seriously doubt that they would all get together and all start up-charging like crazy and that people would just go along with it. I think that the free market can take care of that.
I think it’d be [bad] if somebody only had access to Comcast and they decided to up-charge, but, at the same time, I would love to see more progress happen. And I view [repealing] net neutrality as a positive step and I’d like to see more freedom on the market to allow other companies to compete fairly with these big companies in any region.
How much competition is enough?
Delaney: In a free market, as much as until the consumer’s happy.
If there’s a monopoly happening, there’s gonna be a worse product for the consumer, and somebody has an opportunity to provide a better service. It’ll happen because there’s a way to make money there, and having that drive for the individual to seize that opportunity is what creates innovation.
I think a lot of monopolies only happen in our current day because of government intervention in a lot of markets.
Do you think it’s valid for there to be government intervention to break up monopolies?
Delaney: That’s a tough one. The argument could be made that [it’s] gonna get broken up anyway, and it’s not going to be sustainable, but, if there was a monopoly that was hurting the consumer, that’s obviously not good.
How would you define “harm to the consumer”?
Delaney: If they had the sole ability to make one thing, and were over-charging for it. For example, the Pharma Bro guy that was over-charging for that medicine, he was able to do that because it takes so long for alternatives to get into the market in healthcare.
That’s another healthcare thing I’m actually pretty passionate about. There’s a big waiting period to get approved in America and there’s a lot more regulation around medicines that are put out, and I think those regulations were put into effect and lobbied for by big pharmaceutical companies because it protects their professional inventions, and, that kind of cycle of monopoly stuff, where they have the resources and scientists to come up with new drugs. [Author’s note: This is debatable. For example, as NPR reported, pharmaceutical lobbying strongly supported the 21st Century Cures Act, which made it easier to get new medical products on the market.]
Do you view healthcare as a human right?
Delaney: I don’t think you can. … Healthcare is a product of someone’s labor, [it] would be basically forced slavery, at a very low level.
Being entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor, I don’t think can be called a right. That being said, I think everybody should have access to it, and it’s good for us as a society to pull together and help people that don’t have it.
A lot of other countries have government-financed health systems, so doctors still get paid. It’s not like they’re all in labor camps performing surgeries at gunpoint.
Delaney: Of course.
Would that be something you’d be in favor of, then?
Delaney: I think it’s a good approach to pool money together through taxation or donations or whatever to take care of other people in society. I guess it depends on how you define “a human right.” You know, thinking of human rights as, [for example], life, liberty and property, where, if somebody infringes upon that, it should be handled with force and violence. …
As far as my access to healthcare, I think it’s on a little bit of a different level. And I think we’re in agreement, in general [that] people should be taken care of. And, we should care about each other, and pool resources toward that. Of course doctors being paid appropriately.
Is there a healthcare system, internationally, you would point at as a good example of the ideal world?
Delaney: Not exactly. I haven’t done much research on healthcare in other countries, to be honest.
Would you say the free market basically is the solution to every problem? Do you think there are specific things that it doesn’t work as well for?
Delaney: I haven’t really found a situation that I think wouldn’t be able to be handled. Basically, any time there is an issue, that creates an opportunity for someone just to come in and do it better.
Let me ask about pollution. I’m not an economist by any means, but an economist would call pollution an externality or external cost, where, you’re producing some good or service, there’s some cost associated with producing it, but you’re not paying it, society at large is.
Delaney: Yeah, I’m definitely in favor of keeping the environment clean, taking care of ourselves like that, but, I do think the EPA has kind of overstepped their boundaries in a lot of ways. …
I’ve heard some horror stories about the EPA going after people locally for little things that aren’t really hurting the environment, but just personal vendettas against them because they have swampland on their property and some obscure law … so I’d love to see dumb stuff like that pulled back, but I think for example that air pollution is important.
If you look at China, my buddy went over there for about a year, and he came back and he has lung problems now just because the pollution is so bad.
I’m not an anarchist, I don’t think we just don’t need anybody protecting the air, or anything. But, just a little bit of reduction of what the EPA is doing now would be nice.
Delaney: I haven’t heard about those. Been kind of out of the loop of some current events lately. Been working a lot full-time.
Are you concerned about climate change?
Delaney: Yeah, I think we need to make sure we’re not messing things up.
You know, I’ve heard a lot of conflicting reports, I don’t know how bad it is, some people say scientists all agree we’re harming the environment, some other scientists [say] no we’re not, so, I think we do need to be careful, because, we’re doing things that have never been done in the long-term of history, so, that’s another thing I would need to figure out who I can trust and really meet the right people, and formulate a better opinion.
If you were writing legislation to reduce carbon emissions, what would that look like, in your mind?
Delaney: I don’t know, to be honest. I’m not too well-versed in carbon emissions and environment stuff. I’d have to do more research.
Okay, fair enough. Is there anything else you want to dive into? I feel like we’ve gone over a lot of issues, but, anything else you think is really important to stress to the readers?
Delaney: I guess maybe just to sum up that Libertarians basically want to take over the government to leave everybody alone. Just give people more freedom.
It really boils down to voluntarism, at a core level, voluntary actions all around, not using force to push other people’s agenda and protecting, at our core, life, liberty and property.
There’s a lot of micro-discussions, things we talked about, how to handle certain things, but, at the end of the day, I think everybody really wants the same core benefit of everybody getting along together and being happy and healthy. It’s just a matter of how we get there. Libertarians basically think that freeing things up is the best way to do it.