Libertarian: The REAL Parks Swanson

“Stay vertical!” That’s the rallying cry for public service volunteers interested in aware voluntary alternatives voiced by  homeless activist R. Swanson of Parks and Recreation–the real one, not the TV character.

A US  TV show –Parks and Recreation–  has an amusing character named R.Swanson who is characterized as a libertarian and oversees a government agency for  local parks and recreation.  The character is based on a friend of one of the show’s creators who by reports claims he’s a libertarian and wants to abolish parks in Burbank. California.

Swanson who? The USLP national office says they’re unsure of such a person  while the new 300+ user (2011) Libertarian Program group, which has begun a training and certification effort, has no one there–the show’s creators seem to confuse Bush appointees with Libertarianism–though both groups caution many people who like Libertarianism  and may belong to LP Libertarian-interest groups are  in many public offices but don’t announce themselves as such. Show info is at:  ( )


Now Libs say people should look at Ralph Swanson, a militant ‘libertarian octagenarian contrarian’  and WWII veteran who is not only a founder of the modern movement , but was an early lib in public office as a volunteer on the citizen advisory board for his town’s Parks, Recreation, and Historical Committee–and says the shows position of ‘libertarians just lusting to run off abolishing parks’ is ‘ignoramus Hollywood’ nonsense.

“Just wanting to abolish something or being unhappy with the government hardly makes you a Libertarian,” says the real R. Swanson. “We champion rights. We help citizens challenge silly cults. While by all means if a government agency is corrupt or not needed it should be disbanded and you’ll often see Libertarians leading the charge, the correct view is it could or should be made voluntary without forced fiunding, and private parks should of course be legal.  That may or may not involve disbanding the agency. If it’s managed by a government–meaning elected or safety officials– in those circumstances and is voluntary, officials should oversee, not micro-manage as often happens.”

” The park should be independent with plenty of user input, a true autonomous public trust with accountable trustees, endowment, and input from the beneficiaries. At the same time we should encourage all manner of private ventures. One model to get people thinking is the Boy Scouts, which are a government corporation last I knew but totally independent  and voluntarily funded and run by volunteers and funded by private contributions. PBS and the Post Office are other directional examples, though there are problems in the government staying out of their hair and preferential laws. As we like to say ‘…so long as it’s voluntary…’ and to my mind preferably with non-profit volunteers in there somewhere trying to solve the original problem. The free market isn’t just corporations, you know, For Libertarians it’s anything voluntary, compassionate and fair that does not intrude on and preferably empowers people’s rights in a far-sighted way that plans ahead many years. We also are big fans of open so-called leaderless organizations where people can pilot all kinds of promising things. That’s my two cents,” says the real Swanson.

While in his position there the real R. Swanson says he galvanized volunteers–not high priced bureaucrats or a pricey ‘privatized’ consulting firm’–to organize information on the town’s founding and development, mediated issues on local private and public facilities, and instead of a proposed tax rise raised money that helped fund various new children’s park projects. He also derailed a proposal to seize several local lands for an expanded park. After moving he now is in retirement but remains a  booster for a local project to turn a linear park (walking trail) from tax to endowment funding by voluntary contributions, with its own volunteer patrol force. He also encourages voluntary action on homeless issues, and is shown here after addressing a post homeless summit working group. The working group helped  remove legal blocks to people hosting a homeless person in their homes, and converted a jail into homeless temporary housing….and he recently hosted a coffee to discuss non-tax funding for that.

“It started with cops beating the homeless and throwing them in jail. Now we’ve turned the about-to-be-demolished jail into a homeless refuge and people are lining up contributions. My part has been small, mostly encouraging coalitions and plenty of attaboys,  but that’s what’s up in a nutshell, turning it all upside down,” says the real Swanson. “In a few years we’ll also have this combined park and road that is private but also public serving everyone for free because of the endowment, and this at a time where governments are raising park fees that then go for anything but the parks. It will blow a few minds, I reckon,” says the crusty ‘libertarian octagenarian’ Swanson, “As we just quietly do what all the experts say can’t be done. In time this will happen with all government programs. Even dedicated Libertarians don’t fully grasp all that. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s unavoidable: Instead of government viewing volunteers and what are called market servioces as auxiliaries, volunteers will be the leaders in the market, with government programs as voluntary and auxiliaries.”

” As Libertarians what we do is try and offer clear voluntary programs and examples so the public can at least make an informed decision and real choices. Just as there is not one big public library monopoly yopu have to be licensed to use or run that can censor anything and tax everybody we’ve now moved to  many bookstores and free information ventures along with a trend to voluntarily funded community libraries and free speech, so with everything else.”

“The fact is we’re seeing more people than ever as pledged Libertarians or pro-libertarians in non-partisan public offices or  public service/social entrepreneurs around the world. I mean, what the hell is wrong with people pledging to advocate rights and work with the public to find voluntary solutions that, as we say, better rights and results? In my experience community and public service Volunteers love Libertarians because Libs have some good tools and very careful to know  know what’s going on–unlike some Hollywood shows– and are focused on the longer term. Not everyone has to be a doctor to better health, one doctor with good advice can help hundreds of people…in the same way you just need a friendly Libertarian or two who knows what he’s doing on your team to  be a great resource for public spirited citizens on rights, voluntary solutions, and so on. We’re not about what we will do but what we can help you do staring with mutual respect for rights and more voluntary choices. Maybe they’ll even research the TV shows better in a generation or two,”  says R. Swanson–the real one, who recently  joined another citizen volunteer council to  “keep folks encouraged. I’m retired from active politics and with my health do less and less…but my main focus is encouraging the world youth to look into non-partisan community service and public office with a Libertarian perspective. I get several e-mails a week now from young people in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and so on who say they’ve gotten inspired and are applying Libertarian tools across the board. One young fellow even calls me “Uncle Ralph.” I personally would like to see as much of the world and oceans become park-like as possible-Garden Earth, we call it. ”

He also has advice for libertarians in the entertainment industry: “Spread the good word–and: Stay vertical!”