15 Minutes: Michael Oakes, 21

How did you decide to stand for election?

When I went to my first Wake County Libertarian Party meeting, I met Travis Groo, who is currently the president. I looked it up and found it on Ballotpedia, and it was like someone flipped a switch. I was like, “Wait, that’s not the guy in Washington, that’s not the guy in Capitol Hill, that’s a guy that’s here in this bar with me, we’re eating nachos.” He’s a guy whose beliefs I agree with and who is kind of an ordinary guy. It inspired me. I had no idea politics was so accessible and could be used for such profit without being deeply embedded in this political system.

What does it mean to you to be a libertarian?

A very common phrase that is quoted is “Don’t hurt people, don’t take their stuff”. As a libertarian, you look at the consequences of a decision. We must ensure that people’s rights are not violated. “Don’t hurt people” means there is no aggression, you don’t attack people, you don’t take things from them by force. “Don’t take their business” is why you often hear about libertarians worried about things like the state or country’s budget, or taxation.

What issues are important to you as a member of Gen Z?

Housing affordability is a huge issue [for people my age]. We have all these young families moving to the Triangle to find work, and they can’t afford to live here. Home prices in Raleigh are up 35% in the last 12 months, which is staggering. Home ownership is one of the biggest barriers to success for students and young families. If you have to rent forever, that’s a huge responsibility. You cannot save; it could put a strain on trying to put your kids through college or trade school. In North Carolina, especially with COVID, we’ve seen many businesses move to have their employees work from home. The problem for cities is that office space for rent is empty. We have these empty office buildings in urban areas near grocery stores, near businesses. If we were to rationalize or encourage non-residential to residential rezoning there, they could be converted into affordable housing very easily, which would work with the low supply we see in places like Raleigh.

You support the legalization of marijuana. Why?

More than half of non-violent drug crimes are related to marijuana. That’s billions of dollars spent on this failed war on drugs. There’s just this huge waste of taxpayers’ money spent on punishing non-violent crimes. If you decide to use marijuana at home, you are not hurting anyone. From an ethical point of view, I don’t think it should be illegal. Even beyond the punitive side, there is this huge public appetite [for legalization]. Seventy-three percent of North Carolina residents want medical marijuana legalized and 54 percent want medical and recreational marijuana legalized.

More importantly, only 22% of North Carolina residents said marijuana use was bad.


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