It would probably be a shorter article if we mentioned what does Penn Jillette does not cover in this video, but let’s give it the old college try and do it right.
Welcome to 18 glorious minutes of Penn Jillette (magician, comedian, author and passionate Libertarian) laying his view of modern politics on us – with the disclaimer that he doesn’t know what’s best for others, and he doesn’t pretend to.
Jillette was raised in a home where the philosophy was ‘live and let live’. Neither he nor his parents have had a drop of alcohol or an ounce of illicit drugs, but they respect other people’s choice to do so. Men want to marry men? Who cares. If a genius wants to throw their life away, who cares. If a woman wants to have a baby or not, who cares. You have to respect people enough to make their own decisions.
In explaining his view of libertarianism, Jillette boils it down to a question that can be applied to any government decision: Would I use a gun to do that? Let’s rewind. First he states that the US government is the only organization that is supposed to be able to use force. He continues: “The government is supposed to be a government of us which means – in my thinking, my morality – the government should only use force for things I’m willing to use force for. So the question becomes what would I use a gun to do?” The tricky part would be reaching a consensus of what we would and wouldn’t use violence for. Stopping a murder – yes. Stopping a rape – yes. Defending our country – yes, we have to. What about building a library? Huh?
Jillette frames taxation as a form of government violence. “Now people try to say taxation is voluntary. It’s not. If you don’t pay your taxes eventually somewhere down the line, someone with a gun will show up. They just will.” Taxes take money from poor and middle class people and channels it into public schools, roads and social welfare – which is great – but a large chunk of it is used to buoy big corporations. Corporate welfare is the biggest issue in Libertarianism.
Jillette suggests avoiding this kind of corruption and the deeply troubling rich-poor divide by reducing the size of the government. Make it so small that corruption doesn’t pay. Let the free market actually be free.
Of course you can’t talk politics without discussing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, so he tackles both of those and for good measure throws in an imagined debate between Bernie Sanders and Gary Johnson as a model to show that while we may not be ready for total Libertarianism, or total socialism, total anarcho-capitalism, or total anything right now, the debate and compromises that would come from two candidates with a broader social conscience and less of a thirst for power would steer the country away from the rocks.
Changing taxation and shrinking the government may sound nuts, but hear Jillette out: “… For right now can we just do what every mother*cking American believes which is stop giving so much money to the corporations, let the people have more control, let them smoke dope, let them put what they want into their bodies, let them have sex with whoever they want as long as there’s consent. And let them do that in every state. Let them love who they want and enjoy life the way they want. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is that a nut position?”
Penn Jillette's most recent book is Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales.