Can Libertarians Win in Georgia? (The Country, Not the State)
While much of the attention is now focused on Argentina and Javier Milei's electoral triumph, we can also discover some success stories in other parts of the world, most notably in the republic of Georgia, where a libertarian party called "Girchi" has been fighting for freedom since 2015.
Georgia has harsh drug laws, and in many situations, the penalties are harsher than those for crimes like theft, rape, and robbery. Girchi, as a party pushing for individual autonomy and personal freedom, has been lobbying for more liberal drug laws. This campaign culminated in a civil disobedience act on New Year's Eve in 2016, when Girchi leaders and supporters openly planted the cannabis seed at the Girchi office premises.
Their efforts in 2017 ended in the Georgian Constitutional Court ruling in Girchi's favor, stating that the criminal punishment for cannabis use is unconstitutional, essentially decriminalizing cannabis use in Georgia. Later, on the same grounds and in favor of Girchi, the Constitutional Court abolished all administrative fines for personal consumption of marijuana, making Georgia the first country in Europe and the ex-Soviet area to achieve such an expansion of personal freedoms.
Girchi is opposed to most private-sector regulations and has spoken out against them on numerous occasions. In 2019 Girchi established Shmaxi, a ride-sharing firm, as an act of civil disobedience in response to enacted regulations for taxicabs to be exclusively painted white. Up to 500 people joined the campaign and registered to drive their cars through Shmaxi. Despite the fact that the company was registered as an academic institution on wheels, teaching passengers libertarian ideology, numerous drivers still got fined for breaking the taxi regulations.
Georgia still maintains mandatory military service, which limits thousands of people's autonomy and forces them to serve the government against their will. However, Georgian legislation exempts clergy from mandatory military duty. To utilize this loophole, Girchi's church, the Christian Evangelical Protestant Church - 'Biblical Freedom', was officially registered in 2017. The loophole was employed by 'Biblical Freedom' to assist young men who did not want to serve in the army.
Those who do not intend to join the army are given certificates indicating that they are “priests” of the Church. It effectively exempts individuals from compelled military service, allowing them to spend their lives according to their own free will. Ordination takes only a few minutes and costs $17; after that, individuals are exempt from the draft until the following year, when they can be ordinated again. The government also offers the 1-year postponement, but it is for $675 and now to be increased to $1685. Since its inception, the church has managed to rescue around 50,000 people from this sort of modern slavery.
Girchi won four seats in the parliament in the 2020 parliamentary elections, and while four deputies may not seem like much, they have managed to expose hundreds of wicked regulations to the public while the media's attention was drawn to other nonsense and absurd mainstream narratives. Three unjustly imprisoned inmates were also liberated because of Girchi's involvement and activity in parliament.
Libertarian MPs have also been embroiled in heated parliamentary debates over an immoral conscription law that aimed to eliminate Biblical Freedom. After many hours of filibuster attempts and even brawls with government MPs, the legislation was only passed after 9 months (ordinarily, the government passes laws in a matter of weeks).
And even then, it proved ineffective because Biblical Freedom continued to exempt individuals from the army, as priests are allowed to demand alternative non-military service. Since there were no vacant positions for hundreds of people who now demanded alternative service, the government was left helpless, and they are now once again planning to amend the law to close this loophole.
Girchi, like Milei, calls for the abolition of the central bank and the adoption of a multi-currency system that allows people to use the currency that they deem to be the best. Girchi also believes in free banking and the gold standard. Girchi's politicians openly declare that taxation is robbery and inflation is theft, so they intend to implement a single tax system and reduce plundering to the biblical 10 percent.
Georgia, as a post-Soviet country, has yet to transform into a Western capitalist-style country in terms of property. As much as 80 percent of all land and resources remain in public property and thus are kept outside of all economic activities. Girchi is in favor of privatizing and restituting all state assets, including public companies, public lands, forests, and natural resources.
Girchi's Internet platform is unique in that it promotes self-nominated political candidates interested in becoming politicians and spreading libertarian values. Candidates compete on the site, and users vote and rank them to create the final party list for the elections, which will be arranged with Girchi's digital currency, the Georgian Dollar (GED). Members can also use the platform to finance the party, its candidates, and its projects for which they receive GED.
Girchi's current funding comes from its projects and voluntary contributions from members via the platform, making it unique among Georgian political parties. Girchi prefers a meritocracy system over democracy, so the party's structure and ruling are based on the merit each user has brought to the party, which is indicated by the number of GED they own.
Girchi is a fiscally conservative party that consistently supports spending cuts and tax cuts. It advocates for the abolition of all income and corporate taxes, as well as import duties. Girchi is a vocal critic of budget deficits and national debt. The party also advocates for complete deregulation of private education and parental freedom to homeschool their children. Girchi also supports the legalization of gun ownership, describing it as "the acknowledgment that all people are free and have the complete right to protect themselves and their property."
The party is also a vocal opponent of the present woke agenda and gender identity politics. Girchi even sought a Constitutional Court ruling against gender-based election quotas and introduced a bill to replace all references to "gender" in all legislation with "male and female".
Girchi also argues that government bureaucracy is not only financially costly, but it also imposes economically harmful policies. As a result, Girchi has promised to make the transition of 250,000 individuals employed in the public sector to the market economy as fast as possible by firing government officials on the condition that they preserve their pay for three years.
Georgia will hold pivotal parliamentary elections next year, and Girchi's approval rating is rising month by month. Following Milei's success, we hope to achieve similar results and expand libertarian representation in parliament and the government.