Wesley Casteen grew up in nearby Duplin County and now lives in New Hanover.
He ran for office in 2010 as an unaffiliated candidate for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. He’s written two books – Volumes One and Two of Musings of a Southern Lawyer. But today, Wesley Casteen is in the race to replace Congressman Mike McIntyre as the next U.S. Representative of North Carolina’s 7th District.
WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn talked with Casteen about why this fiscally conservative CPA and lawyer thinks that even though a Libertarian has never won federal office – voters might just be fed up enough to make history this year.
RLH: In your travels around southeastern North Carolina, what are some of the issues that you’ve found that constituents are dissatisfied with?
WC: Well, constituents across the board are dissatisfied with what was called during the Carter Administration the malaise of the economy and the country as a whole. There’s a growing discomfort that America’s not in the place that it needs to be.
We still have marked unemployment. We have underemployment. We have people that have quit looking for jobs. We have one of the lowest labor participation rates in this country than we’ve had for decades.
And I want to provide people an opportunity to have hope and to look forward to a brighter future here in North Carolina and in the United States.
RLH: How would you do that a member of Congress? How do you get a sluggish economy going?
WC: Well, I don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel. I think there’s already some good ideas.
You have the Simpson–Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission which was a bipartisan commission that has spoken to long-term deficit reduction. They made a report. That report was shelved by members of both the Republican and Democratic Party and never got a serious airing by either side.
RLH: What are some of the elements of the Simpson-Bowles Report that you think we could really go back to and use as a stimulator for the economy?
WC: Well, the main element for the report is just a harsh realization that the current direction of government is unsustainable. That was the whole purpose of Simpson-Bowles was to rein in entitlement spending, to rein in discretionary spending, to rein in what it is that government does but to balance that with a realization that, yes, there’s more revenue needed. But with the expectation that that revenue will be used to rein in the budget deficits, to pay down the debt, to avoid spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year on interest that doesn’t benefit the people of the United States.
RLH: As there are with Republicans and Democrats, are there degrees of Libertarianism?
WC: Well, within any party there are extremes. Libertarianism is actually what’s referred to as Classical Liberalism. It is a feeling that the individual and the liberties of the individual are paramount and that the government should not interfere with those liberties unless there is a higher calling or higher right that is being protected and supported. I’ve told people before that given 30 minutes, I can convince everyone or demonstrate to just about everyone that they are a Libertarian – at least on some level.
RLH: You write extensively about gay marriage. Can you talk a little about where you stand on that and why you’re so passionate about it?
WC: In the long run, I believe that North Carolina and other states will welcome or adapt to same-sex marriage [and] that within the next several years an issue that is almost a non-issue among the younger generation will become more common and accepted among all peoples.
For the first time since polls have been taken, a majority of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage. So there’s a tide that I believe is inevitable. And I believe that in trying to hold back that tide, that many politicians are doing a disservice. Whether there’s a moral question or not, I do not believe government should be the moral arbiter of the people.
RLH: Wesley Casteen, thanks so much for joining us today.
WC: Thank you, Rachel. I do appreciate it.
Wesley Casteen is the only Libertarian competing for Mike McIntyre’s seat in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. The 45-year-old Duplin County native calls himself a fiscal conservative. He says same-sex marriage should be legal and believes that eventually it will be. And Casteen is hoping that the historic 83% disapproval rating of Congress will help this Wilmington-based lawyer and CPA to make history as the first Libertarian elected to federal office.
Beaches don’t disappear, says Wesley Casteen. They move because that’s the nature of sand. And for that reason, it should not be the responsibility of taxpayers to protect beachfront homes. But in spite of Casteen’s distaste for what he calls a “perceived entitlement”, he does not advocate slamming on the brakes for federal funding of beach renourishment.
“The County residents and the coastal residents here in North Carolina have become dependent on the monies that come from the federal government. They’ve become dependent on the monies that come from the state to renourish the beaches. What I would propose is an acknowledgement that the responsibility for doing that rests primarily with the state and rests primarily with those who live in the beach communities.”
Shifting the financial responsibility should be a gradual move, says Casteen.
“I do believe that a long-term plan whereby the coastal residents and the State of North Carolina accepts responsibility for those types of things and develops a funding mechanism which will take some time – it will take years to develop a funding mechanism that will allow the state and coastal communities to take over that responsibility. But I think, ideally, that’s what should happen.”