ABITA SPRINGS, La. – The colonel towered over me and thundered, “I’m not only the tea-party chairman but the Republican Party chairman in this parish. I’ll defend to the death your right to pay compliments to a third-party candidate in this election: But we don’t want anyone taking votes from Mitt Romney and letting Obama win.”

I had been giving a barnstorming address (in a barn) to the tea-party movement here in the elegant Louisiana township of Abita Springs. Notwithstanding a heavy tropical rainstorm, 250 intrepid souls had struggled through the cypress swamps to attend. These freedom-lovers had disconcerted the colonel by whooping when I had spelled out the key policies of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for the presidency.

Do not underestimate Gov. Johnson. Despite the near-total media blackout that attends third-party candidates, especially if they commit the mortal sin of not being on the Marxist left, this conqueror of Everest, multi-millionaire We-Fix-Anything tycoon and two-time Republican governor of stubbornly Democratic New Mexico is already polling at 5 percent of the national vote.

His policies are the policies of most of the devoted readers of this column. My kind hosts here told me I simply had to hear him speak, so I went to Baton Rouge to watch him address a full house in the student union theater on the university campus.

They leapt to their feet as he entered; they rose as one, and I with them, as he ended his half-hour speech; and they gave him a third standing ovation as he left. Why this riotous enthusiasm among young voters for a candidate of whom – thanks to the embarrassing bias of the media – most voters have not yet heard?

The reason is his policies. He explained each of them with that artfully simple clarity that appears natural but is born of a lifetime’s thought. The loudest cheer of the evening echoed to the rafters when he said, “I am going to balance the budget … [pause] … NOW!”

The audience loved it. Your young people realize what your politicians do not: that your nation is on the steps of the bankruptcy court and the Chinese judge is sharpening his gavel.

And what to do about the once-mighty dollar that, thanks to the incompetence of the Fed (which must be abolished), is worth a fraction of what it was when the absolute bankers created the Monster from Jekyll Island in 1913?

Gary Johnson’s modest proposal is that of the distinguished Austrian free-market economist Friedrich August von Hayek: burn all fiat currencies and replace them with competing private currencies managed by boards of professional fund managers obliged to back them fully with regularly audited assets of real value. Fully funded currencies would put an end to inflation.

And what of the absurdly complex U.S. tax code, which now occupies a stack of volumes high enough to reach the roof of the theater? Gary Johnson has been listening to John Linder, with whom I had the honor to share the Meese-Noble Prize for Freedom a couple of years ago.

It is always right to listen to John Linder. He is the inventor of the Fair Tax, a coyly named but dazzlingly simple idea I first suggested to Margaret Thatcher at my farewell meeting with her at 10 Downing Street in 1986.

Tear up the current federal tax code and start again. Abolish most taxes, specifically income tax. Instead, introduce a single purchase tax on all goods and services. Current calculations suggest that a purchase tax rate of just 23 cents on the dollar would be enough to meet the federal government’s obligations.

Why does this work? First and foremost, it removes one of the greatest barriers to employment: income tax. At present, few tai-pans from overseas will invest in manufacturing within the U.S. because income tax and other payroll taxes make your nation uncompetitive. Scrapping all payroll taxes instantly improves your competitiveness and makes “Made In The USA” no longer a mere folk-memory.

At one or two points, the Fair Tax needs tweaking. It should not be a value-added tax, which needlessly embroils millions of tiny traders, is egregiously complicated and is, therefore, very easy to evade. Make it a simple purchase tax and levy it on wholesalers, not retailers.

Do not give rebates to the poor. That introduces another needless complication. Instead, increase the cash subsidies to the poor to compensate them for the extra tax they will pay. That way, you give them the chance to spend less and hence to pay less tax. They can invest their savings without paying tax on them, for the savings tax will have been swept away.

It is this kind of radical but reasonable thinking that America needs. So, Colonel, it is not for me to tell you and your fellow citizens how to vote, but I shall ask you all this question: If for tactical reasons you will not vote for the candidate whose policies and track record seem best to you, are you not being every bit as dishonest as most politicians?

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