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Monday, October 18, 2010

Nancy Pelosi's Libertarian Opponent, John Dennis, Imagines Privatized Sidewalks

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 4:15 PM

John Galt, er, Dennis, for Congress.
  • John Galt, er, Dennis, for Congress.
John Galt, er, Dennis, for Congress.
Nancy Pelosi's Republican opponent to represent her San Francisco congressional seat is the subject of a Chronicle profile today claiming he "runs to the left of" the House Speaker.

But John Dennis, who says he's raised $2 million to unseat Pelosi, is a "Liberty" Republican. And for committed Libertarians, the notions left and right don't have quite the same meaning as they might with traditional liberals such as Pelosi. Sure, Dennis supports Proposition 19, the marijuana initiative. But he also backs San Francisco left-wing anathema Proposition L, which would prohibit sitting or lying on public ways between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

"In a strictly Libertarian world, the roads and sidewalks would be private property," Dennis explained. "If you're obstructing private property, you should be able to get people out of the way."

During an hour spent parsing ballot propositions on the November San Francisco ballot at a North Beach coffee shop, Dennis instructed us on the ins and outs of local policy as understood from within the Ron Paul wing of the Republican party.

John Dennis' star turn, dousing a very Nancy Pelosi-like Wicked Witch of the West. What a world!
  • John Dennis' star turn, dousing a very Nancy Pelosi-like Wicked Witch of the West. What a world!
John Dennis' star turn, dousing a very Nancy Pelosi-like Wicked Witch of the West. What a world!

Doctrinaire leftism as understood in liberal-tilted San Francisco entails opposing Proposition G., which would toss out the guarantee in the city charter ensuring drivers for the San Francisco bus system be the nation's second-highest paid. San Francisco leftism is pro-labor leftism, and many here see this as an anti-worker cheap shot. The conservative viewpoint, such as it is in this liberal town, sees the guarantee as a ridiculous handicap to Muni managers when they sit down for contract negotiations with union representatives.

Dennis, however, says fie to all of them.

Splitting hairs over how to run a public bus system that should be supplanted by a private one amounts to pointless twiddling.

"Why can't we have competitive service to Muni?" he said, before launching into a short critique of command economies such as the old Soviet Union's.

Muni' failures can be traced to similar planned-economy malaise, where "routes aren't determined by market forces," Dennis explains.

Dennis' Libertarian instincts move him in seemingly liberal-minded ways. He supports Proposition 19, the 'marijuana-legalization' initiative.

"I'm terribly uncomfortable regulating what people can put in their body," he says.

And they also  inspire him to take what would seem ideologically right-wing positions. He supports Proposition 23, the oil-company sponsored measure that would scrap California's efforts to fight global warming, because anti-pollution measures might hurt private businesses.

"Say a business had to spend $100,000 complying with emissions rules? That might be two people the company can't hire," he says.

So it's incorrect to say, as the Chronicle's headline today does, that Dennis is to the left of Pelosi simply because his position on America's foreign wars is similar to that of his hero, Texas Congressman Ron Paul. (For the record: Dennis is anti-war.) Rather, Dennis' positions, like those of other Libertarians, don't fit very well on the traditional American political spectrum.

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