At 72 years of age, Ken Larsen is no stranger to politics, having helped start two political parties along with a colorful career in medical research and three decades of Santa Claus experience.
Larsen believes an emphasis on Libertarian ideals of removing government from business as well as people’s personal lives is crucial, considering his apocalyptic vision of a world that could soon be turned upside down by war—a subject he tackles in a fictional book he authored where a mall Santa Claus develops god-like powers in order to create peace on Earth. He’s also concerned that traditional politics will not prepare the world for the doomsday scenario he’s most concerned about -- a reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles.
“Libertarianism is what Lady Liberty is preaching about, it’s what the Founding Fathers preached about in the Decalaration of Independence, it’s what America is supposed to be about,” Larsen says.
Larsen now is running for Governor in the 2012 race on the Libertarian Party ticket. He’s running a word-of-mouth campaign and, like most Libertarians, is more excited about getting the word out about liberty than buttering up campaign donors, pounding the pavement or doing any polling. Needless to say, it’s a pretty lean campaign, but for Larsen it’s the ideas that are powerful—especially the idea that the dominant political parties are pulling a fast one on American voters.
“You got the right over here and half their platform is control of behavior and freedom of property. You got the left over here and half of their platform is control of property and the other half is freedom of behavior,” Larsen says. “The strategy is that when they’re in office they enact the control half of their platforms and when they’re [campaigning for] office they preach the freedom half.”
Larsen is realistic about the fact that he’s not going to beat incumbent GOP Gov. Gary Herbert in the fall election. But that’s because 2012 will not be his first election or election-time defeat. Larsen has been active in politics since becoming a Barry Goldwater Republican in the ‘60s. In 1970, he helped formed the America Party only to become dissatisfied with the group’s direction before joining the Libertarian cause in the 1980s. Local Libertarians rubbed him wrong and he took some other upset Libertarian refugees he calls the “tie dyes” and formed the Personal Choice Party in 1997. Since the early 2000s, however, he’s rejoined the Libertarian fold.
Larsen spent his professional career as an associate professor of medicine at the University of Utah. In the ‘90s, he helped co-author a study about the benefits of an experimental medication that combined elements of THC (found in marijuana) with pain-relieving chemicals in aspirin. Larsen found that the experimental drug had all the pain relieving ability of regular aspirin with a fraction of the harmful side effects to the human stomach that aspirin alone causes.
“That gives me the authority to say that marijuana is medicinal and that medicinal marijuana should be legalized,” Larsen says. Like a good Libertarian candidate, Larsen opposes draconian drug laws, over-regulation of business and government welfare. If elected, he says, however, that he wouldn’t just wipe out government welfare programs all at once but would phase them out over time, getting recipients off the “addiction” of government by putting them through “government rehab.”
Larsen’s political vision is more big picture than policy nuts and bolts. He’s especially concerned that the country’s political instability means Republicans and Democrats are more or less "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” and that politics of the future will be less about ideology and more about survival against the apocalypse.
While war, moral decay and a nuclear winter are concerns of Larsen’s, his major worry is that a reversal in Earth’s magnetic poles could wipe out the planet’s electrical grid and dump civilization into chaos. Such a dire future, he believes, is something humanity can overcome but it means leaving politics as usual behind.
“Like the survivors of the Titanic there’s a lot of stuff we have to leave behind and we have to come together,” Larsen says. His recommendation would be to move to a gold-standard, bartering economy. Larsen’s meditations on the end days aren’t just reserved for pole-shifting pandemonium. He’s also concerned about world peace, and has even drafted something akin to a plan for resolving tensions in the Middle East.
The closest thing Larsen has to campaign literature is a novel he recently updated in 2011, Peace on Earth: A Mystical Path to Personal Choice. The novel’s hero, named Ken, is a Santa Claus at “Vanity Fair Mall” who has a near-death experience, and in a coma-like state meets Jesus, who bestows upon him the powers of King Solomon from the bible and the task of fulfilling one boy’s wish for peace on Earth. Ken is a polygamist adventurer who travels to the Middle East, channels various deities before uniting Muslims, Jews, atheists and other believers and nonbelievers in the Holy Land. Larsen, a veteran Santa Claus himself of nearly 30 years, says the novel has some serious foreign-policy ideas in it. “There are some very serious proscriptions on how the Jews can rebuild Solomon’s temple without upsetting the Muslims,” Larsen says.
Being a big-idea candidate suits Larsen well, especially considering his lack of a campaign and lack of even a website. For Larsen, sticking to his Libertarian guns means his campaign is more about winning converts to the cause than votes.
“I don’t have to get elected to win,” Larsen says with a smile. “Every person that sees [my point of view] and realizes they should be working toward freedom and liberty in America gets it, and then I’ve won.”