Libertarian candidate sets himself apart


Photo: Megan Wolff/Iowa State Daily

Local candidates for the Iowa House debate issues pertaining to future job options and student debt at a forum meeting Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Collegiate United Methodist Church in Ames.

Dan Mackenzie

With the election season in its final month, The local candidates for Iowa House Districts 45 and 46 met in a debate on best way to help students get out of debt and to promote future job options during a local forum Sunday morning at the Collegiate United Methodist Church.

While the mainstream candidates, from the Republican and Democratic parties, gave the tried and true messages, the lone Libertarian candidate stood up in the crowd as a voice that does not get heard very often.

The candidate — Eric Cooper, is associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Iowa State — said he knows he isn’t going to win the election.

“That’s not the role of third parties in American politics,” Cooper explained. “How third parties have been effective is by getting 10 percent of the vote on a regular basis — 10 percent is enough to decide the election between Republicans and Democrats almost always. If a third party can get that … it forces the major parties to start adopting their issues. I’m just trying to get them to steal my issues.”

Cooper knows what it’s like to fight a tough battle, he ran for Iowa Governor in 2010 and has run for the state house in 2008, 2004 and 2002. This year he is running for Iowa’s 46th District, which encompasses the campus area and greek land.

As a libertarian Cooper believes in an extremely limited government, an idea which he says traces back to Thomas Jefferson.

“What Jefferson pointed out is that the purpose of the government, the reason we have one, is that it’s the institution in society that’s allowed to use force — physical violence,” Cooper said. “There are some activities that society needs to have done that require force. The reason we have a government is to perform those activities.”

“Activities” are things like protecting citizens from violent crime or property crime, Cooper said, enforcing contracts and building some public goods that the market doesn’t provide.

“Having the government do anything beyond those set of specific activities that require force is not a good idea, because the government is a monopoly,” Cooper said. “And like all monopolies the government has very little incentive to please its customers, very little incentive to be cost effective. … What I want to note is the difference between what the American government was intended to do, and what it’s become.”

Cooper’s most striking difference in policy is to abolish the minimum wage. He said this would fix some issues in the economy that are causing stagnation in job growth. 

When replying to a question from the crowd regarding low-quality jobs, he said: “We need to let the market set the price of wages. There’s only one rational way to set the price of anything, and that’s where the market’s supply curve crosses the market’s demand curve.

“The biggest group though that is hurt by this is people whose work is not worth $7.25 an hour but who would be able to work at $5 an hour. I know a lot of people in that situation. In the time of a recession you shouldn’t have a minimum wage, that would solve a lot of these problems with unemployment.”

The government should not be the institution in society that provides for those less fortunate, Cooper said. The elderly, disabled and poor would be much better served by charitable organizations, he said, rather than an inefficient system like the government.

The next forum for the local House candidates will be on Oct. 4 at the Ames city council chambers from 7 to 9 p.m. The event will be hosted by the Ames League of Women Voters.