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March 3, 2020 — Primary Election
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United States

U.S. House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 17

Photo of Joe Dehn

Joe Dehn

Square Dance Caller
3,523 votes (2.2%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • It's time to take Washington back from the special interests of the Left and the Right that are burdening us with ever-growing regulation of our personal lives and businesses, and that are hobbling our economy with taxes and debt.
  • It's time to stop getting involved in other countries' civil wars, stop supporting monarchs and dictators, stop trying to be the world's policeman, and bring our troops home.
  • It's time to end the wars at home, too – the wasteful and counter-productive war on drugs, the unconstitutional war on guns, and the ugly war on immigrants.



Joe Dehn is a resident of Sunnyvale. He was born in New York, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has worked in the computer industry, and lived in Connecticut, Oregon, and Colorado before moving to California in 1993.

He has been a member of the Libertarian Party for 35 years and has run for public office several times previously. He served as a member of the Libertarian National Committee for many years, including two terms as National Secretary. He created the Libertarian Party's web site, the first of any political party, in 1994. He is currently the County Chair for Santa Clara County as well as a member of various committees at the state and national level.

He is running for Congress this year to offer a radically different alternative to the failed policies of the Republicans and Democrats. Under both of those parties the government has grown to monstrous proportions, come to dominate every aspect of American life, and continues to meddle in the affairs of other nations — none of which are good for us as citizens or taxpayers. He proposes the exact opposite platform: drastic cuts in the size of the federal government and taxes; ending U.S. military involvement in disputes between and within other countries, and an end to all the domestic "wars" as well, including the war on drugs, the war on guns, and the war on immigrants.

Outside of politics, his main activities relate to square dancing1. He is a caller/instructor for several local clubs, has been named a "Top Ten Caller" several times by the Santa Clara Valley Square Dancers Association, and is active in several committees of CALLERLAB, the International Association of Square Dance Callers. He enjoys dancing all programs of modern square dancing from Basic through C-4, and also volunteers as an officer of several square dance organizations and serves as webmaster for the California Square Dance Council.

1If you have no idea what this paragraph is about, because you have never heard of square dancing, or because you only did it once in fifth grade or only saw it in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, see for an explanation.

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of California (3)

What financing method(s) would you support to repair or improve roads, rails, ports, airports, the electrical grid, and other infrastructure in the U.S.?
Answer from Joe Dehn:

Transportation and energy infrastructure are essential components of our economy, and must be developed in the most cost-efficient way and with the future of related technologies in mind. Unfortunately, the way this has been done in the past has often fallen short of this ideal. Financing and managing major infrastructure through the federal government has led to misallocation of resources, because the political process simply is not a good way to manage economic activity.

Even the past projects that are widely seen as having been "successful", in that they created something we use today, may not have been the best use of the resources involved – we see what was created, but we don't see what was NOT created because resources were diverted from them.

Financing projects through federal taxes also creates perverse incentives for state and local governments, who must fight each other for this "free" money. Of course that money isn't free at all – the federal government doesn't create wealth, it just takes it from us and redistributes it. But state and local governments are put in a position where they must play this game.

We can see the disastrous results right here in California with the failed "high speed rail to nowhere" project that has squandered billions of dollars in tax money, lined the pockets of politically-connected consultants and contractors, with no prospect of ever producing a service that will be of practical use to the average traveler or commuter. All that money could have been, and should have been, spent on something more useful.

Meanwhile, advancing technology has opened up new ways to address real transportation needs. We are on the verge of a revolution in transportation, with electric vehicles soon to become predominant, self-driving cars close to a reality, and air taxis on their way. This is not the time to be wasting tax money on massive new projects that may well become outmoded before they are even completed.

This is a golden opportunity to move the financing of transportation back to the private sector: to CUT gas taxes and let investors build roadways and bridges that will pay for themselves, to let Elon Musk build his hyperloops, to enable those who believe in rail to make investments without fear of tax-subsidized competition, and to let these and possibilities not yet even imagined compete to provide the best solutions for our transportation needs.

What programs or legislation, if any, would you support to help Americans of all ages to secure affordable health care?
Answer from Joe Dehn:

Everyone can see we have a problem with health care. In some ways, America's health care industry is the envy of the world, leading in technology and with some of the best facilities anywhere. At the same time, costs are soaring, making even basic services unaffordable to some and a significant burden on others -- and on our country as a whole.

The advances are coming from the work of our biotechnology and other high-tech companies, the researchers at our universities, and of course the many dedicated and skilled health care practitioners. But the benefit of these advances is being held back by the way health care services are managed, delivered, and paid for.

Some say this is a failure of the free market, and call for more government involvement. But we do NOT currently have a free market in health care. This is one of the most heavily regulated industries in our entire economy! Almost everybody in the United States has their health care paid either directly through a government program or through insurance programs that have their current form because of regulation, subsidies, and tax policies. Yes, it's a complicated mess that needs to swept away. But "single payer" isn't the answer.

The right answer is to get the government out of the way so that the basic economic principles that have led to lower costs in almost every other industry are allowed to function.

* De-couple health insurance from employment by eliminating the special tax treatment of health insurance, while at the same time increasing the standard deduction by a similar amount. This will enable consumer choice, make the market for insurance more competitive, and eliminate the need to switch providers when switching jobs. Employers will be happier too, not having to worry about any of this!

* Increase supply of services by cutting back limits imposed or enabled by government policy. More doctors, more nurses, allowing medical services to be offered by new classes of providers enabled by new technology, eliminating "certificates of need" that limit competition among hospitals -- these and other steps will create a competitive environment that will drive down costs.

* Introduce real competition in the pharmaceutical industry too, by repealing laws that limit the ability of patients to purchase drugs across state lines and from other countries.

* Clearly separate the "welfare" aspect of government health policy from the rest. There will always be people who need help paying for health care, just as there are people who need help paying for food. But decreasing costs for everybody through competition will help these people too, and make it more practical for those who want to provide such help through private charity to do so. But whatever remains of government programs to pay for health services for specific segments of the population -- the poor, the elderly, veterans, etc. -- those should not be confused with, and should not be allowed to distort, the market for the entirely separate service of "insurance".

Describe an immigration policy that you would support if presented to the House of Representatives.
Answer from Joe Dehn:

The Declaration of Independence famously proclaims that "all men are created equal". It doesn't say "people born in the United States have more rights than other people".

Most politicans today are uncomfortable with immigration. They don't all use the same language, but they all agree that it needs to be controlled. They have forgotten that bold claim "created equal" that was such a central feature of the document on which this country was founded.

They have also forgotten the basic idea of democracy – that it should be the people living in a geographic area who get to decide who governns them, and how. Allowing the government to decide who can live where is turning that idea on its head! And the government has not, in fact, managed to prevent immigration – what it has done, instead, is brand a large number of human beings as "illegal" or "undocumented", without the rights of the rest of the population, against whom discrimination is not only legal but required. No democracy can survive with such a large and growing population of disenfranchised subjects.

As a Libertarian, I respect the rights of all people, no matter where they were born. The right to move about and seek a better life for oneself and one's family is a fundamental right. I look forward to a day when all the present restrictions are gone. I don't expect that to happen immediately, but it should be our goal.

In the meantime, I support the following common-sense reforms:

  • Eliminate all caps on "H-1B" and similar visas. People with the education and skills to be attractive to employers are exactly the sort of people we should be happy to have come here and stay here – it's crazy to keep them out.
  • Allow anyone who has been living in the U.S. for at least five years, and who hasn't committed a serious crime against some actual victim, to become a citizen. The current system that forces millions of people who are just trying to live peaceful lives to stay in hiding for decades and without the prospect of becoming full members of our political and economic community is an outrage to the very idea of a democratic society.
  • Privatize "refugee" and "asylum" immigration. Americans are generous people, and many want to help people suffering from war and other troubles in other countries. But there are hundreds of millions of people all around the world who might be deserving of such help, and it's not the business of the U.S. government to decide which of them should be saved and which not. It's also not right to force taxpayers to pay for this. Instead, let's allow private charities, other organizations, and individual Americans to make those choices and to support those choices voluntarily with their own funds.
  • Dismantle the apparatus that has been built up over the years to hunt down and persecute immigrants whose only "crime" is not having the government's permission to live and work here.

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Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

"That government is best which governs least."

Thomas Jefferson may or may not have actually said those words, but many of the founders of this country held basically this view. And as a result, the U.S. Constitution was set up with a very limited sort of federal government in mind, with enumerated powers, and with a Bill of Rights that explicitly prohibited the government from interfering in various aspects of people's lives.

Unfortunately, that libertarian heritage of our nation's founders has been mostly forgotten by most politicians of today. Over the generations, government has grown and grown to control a larger and larger part of our economy, and to infringe the rights of citizens to a degree that would have been unimaginable by the founders.

My view is that it is the responsibility of the members of the U.S. Congress to follow both the letter of the Constitution and, even more important, the spirit behind it. There are many functions that the federal government has taken on that are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution -- these should be dismantled and turned over to the private sector. The government today is also infringing in many ways the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights -- those laws must be repealed.

But just because something is mentioned as within the power of Congress to provide, that's not necessarily a good reason to do things that way. Advances in technology have made new ways of doing things possible (e.g., with respect to communication and banking). Advances in the science of economics, as well as the sad experience of other nations, have shown why socialism and central planning are ineffective ways to manage a society. Just because the founders thought something logically should be provided by government (e.g., a postal service) doesn't mean we need to limit our thinking in the same way.

In summary, every aspect of what government does needs to be limited. Departments that never should have existed in the first place should be abolished. Federal employment should be reduced. Laws and agencies that violate individual rights should be repealed and eliminated. And along with all that, various taxes that now burden the people of this country can and should be limited, cut, and repealed.

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