Bogotá’s First Ever Libertarian for Mayor Takes On the Kleptocrats

El Movimiento Libertario de Colombia desea encabezar la alcaldía de Bogotá. (Las 2 Orillas)
With Daniel Raisbeck, Colombia’s Libertarian Movement hopes to take the mayoralty of Bogotá. (Las 2 Orillas)

EspañolDaniel Raisbeck is a young libertarian with a clear conception of the meaning of independence, change, and freedom. After three years directing the Historical Archive of Our Lady of the Rosary University, he’s now set his sights on becoming mayor of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, with a population set to reach 7.9 million inhabitants in 2015.

When running for Colombia’s House of Representatives as a conservative candidate in 2014, Raisbeck found that it was impossible to reform the traditional parties. This time, he’s campaigning on a libertarian ticket.

In an interview with the PanAm Post, the would-be mayor of Colombia’s capital talked about his proposals to shake up the leaden and wasteful municipal system. Once Raisbeck secures the mandatory 50,000 signatures in support, he says he’ll bring all Bogotanos a unique and different vision in the hands of the Libertarian Party.

What does Daniel Raisbeck offer Bogotanos, in comparison with the other candidates?

The first thing to say is that in Colombia, the political class is composed of traditional politicians, who despite their good intentions only understand politics from the state’s point of view. So whatever the party, they always think that more taxes are necessarily a good thing, that public spending is good, or that the state can solve every problem. The majority of people know that the state is very inefficient, it doesn’t work in the majority of cases.

We have a movement which doesn’t come from politics nor from the state. It comes from the general public, from academia and from the private sector, and we think that working people manage money better.

We believe that money is better in its owners’ pockets than in the hands of centralized bureaucrats that only misspend it.

We believe there ought to be fewer taxes in Colombia and less bureaucracy. This is the general philosophy of the libertarian movement.

How are you proposing to change this dependency on the state and the government?

The first step is to present the arguments. I believe that the majority of people distrust the state, politics, Congress, and the traditional political parties. People know the system doesn’t work.

Beyond changing the mentality, we’re simply presenting arguments. I believe that there are lots of libertarians and liberals in Colombia, they just don’t know it. I think there are many skeptics towards politics and the state among the general population.

What are your concrete proposals for the city of Bogotá?

We have very different proposals. For example, on the issue of education, I’m the only candidate that openly says that public education has failed, it doesn’t work, people don’t like it. We’re investing a huge amount of money only to ultimately see it go down the drain.

I support an education system where you don’t subsidize the producer: in this case, the teachers’ union, which goes on strike all the time and jeopardizes students’ learning.

We have a proposal based on free schools, like in Switzerland and England, and beyond, to subsidize the student directly. Give him a voucher for the value that his education will cost in the public system, so his family can choose the private college of their choice.

This proposal has never been made in Bogotá, and it’s because all of the candidates want to secure the votes of the teaching lobby, which is a fierce political machine. We’re the only ones that are arguing against this, because this union is the principal obstacle to good public education.

In the case of public services, there’s the issue of transport, of the subway and buses: in Bogotá, it’s called TransMilenio. What we say is that these shouldn’t be public companies, nor should we give a monopoly to a few private firms that use their political influence to protect their economic interests and benefit from public money. We think they should be citizen companies, in which any person in Bogotá can invest.

Public services shouldn’t be in the hands of the state; the state is generally a terrible administrator. By contrast, when you’re a shareholder, you have the right to make demands of the service. It would be a more transparent approach than the current state system.

What is your principal criticism of the current municipal government? 

The current municipal government has been a terrible administrator: taxes have gone up, in some cases by 100 percent. The middle classes of Bogotá have genuinely come to the limit of their ability to pay, and people don’t see any kind of improved performance as a result of these taxes they’re collecting.

Last year ended with around COL$2 billion in the treasury, meaning that they’re charging a huge quantity of taxes when they’re not even carrying out public project. It’s pure bureaucracy, and the situation has to change.

How would you describe Libertarianism in simple terms, and why would it be a good policy for Colombia as a whole?

We’re convinced that people manage their own resources better than politicians. People take better decisions with their money, while politicians waste it, misspend it, and favor select economic interests.

Decisions should be taken at a level closer to communities; there shouldn’t be a supposedly all-powerful mayor who says how land is going to be used in all the neighborhoods of Bogotá. The people of these neighborhoods are the ones who genuinely know the problems and the local dynamics. It should be the communities that decide.

How would you implement these changes, and how long would it take?

Obviously this change won’t be overnight, but in a mayoral term of four years you can do a lot. In Bogotá, we have the example of Antanas Mockus, who I admire in many things, even if I don’t agree with all of his policies. The important thing is that when an independent candidate comes along they have the power to name the best people for important posts.

By contrast, when a traditional politician comes to power, with alliances in the political machine, they arrive with their hands tied and are obliged to staff their administration with career politicians.

What message do you want to give to Bogotanos

Our principal message is that we’re independent, we don’t come from politics, we come from academia and the private sector, which is what Bogotá needs.

There’s a world that functions: that of the digital technology that we’re all already using. The world that doesn’t work is the world of the state, of bureaucracy, and traditional politicians. We want to bring the world that works to the administration of the District of Bogotá.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

Subscribe free to our daily newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special reports delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time