Libertarians and Greens: Room for Alliance?


The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik and Green candidate David Cobb are finding much in common:

During the first break in their live radio forum broadcast Friday afternoon from a Metairie studio, the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate turned to his Green Party counterpart and invited him -- politely and sincerely -- to an antiwar rally that night.

Later, during another break, Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian, told David Cobb, the Green, "I keep liking you more and more."
In New Orleans for different reasons -- Badnarik for the Libertarian state convention today and Cobb on a campaign swing through the South -- the two men know they have more in common with each other than they do with Democrats or Republicans.

They are against the Bush administration's Patriot Act. They are against the war on drugs. They want to bring the troops home from Iraq and they both want to change the political system that, for the most part, excludes minor parties like their own.

This comes on the heels of longtime libertarian activist Donald Meinshausen's call for the P.R. and movement-building value of a series of LP/Green (and Constitution Party and Nader, if they are on enough ballots to win) debates on college campuses. An excerpt:

The Greens recently have forgone Nader, a candidate with power, media recognition and money. They have instead chosen a return to grassroots identity in David Cobb. Libertarians can identify with this. In the Greens we can find a group that eschews Marxism and establishment liberalism with a basic value of decentralization of power. In the Greens we can therefore find an honorable opposition that will fit in with the need to find a positive dialectic at the top of the political spectrum. Since the Greens are being savagely attacked as spoilers by the liberals I believe that the Greens will find a growing respect for us as we offer a principled, efficient and friendly contrast to their views that will give them increased exposure. These good experiences may well mean interesting initiatives with us in the future. After gaining experience with the Greens in organizing these events, I expect to see joint projects to pass laws and referenda supporting instant run-off voting, medical marijuana, anti-war and anti-draft positions and anti-corporate welfare projects such as stadium socialism. And if the Buchanan and Nader forces wish to support such actions, so much the better.

So far I have received much grassroots support for this idea from both Greens and Libertarians. Remember, this is not an amalgamation but a principled alliance for a series of single issues.

It's hard to say beforehand--or even, for that matter, after the fact--how such opportunities to spread ideas before audiences potentially both hostile and receptive will pan out. But it seems to me it promises to reach out to a wider variety of people and create more opportunites to energize single-issue public campaigns on libertarian themes than more traditional LP speechifying. At the very least, as the Times-Picayune story's very existence indicates, it provides a media hook that lots of publications might find harder to resist than either pure Green or pure Libertarian events.

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  1. Honestly, I'm not surprised that Badnarik and Cobb get along. Four years ago I campaigned door-to-door for a libertarian-leaning candidate running for US Senate. I ran into a guy campaigning for Democratic candidates. Even though we disagreed on a lot of things, we had a nice conversation. We got along because we had similar experiences campaigning in the neighborhood, and we both had the perspective of people who cared enough about the race to get out and campaign.

    One place where Green and LP interests are almost identical is elections for Secretary of State in states where the office is elected. In most states the Sec of State is responsible for elections, and Greens and the LP both have common interests in Instant Runoff Voting, ballot access, etc. Jointly-endorsed candidates for that office (where state laws allow) would make a lot of sense and require only minimal deviations from purity by both sides.

  2. Yes, get all the crazies in one place, that way they'll be easier to avoid.

  3. Is it true that the LP is the only party (besides Dems and Reps) that's on all 50 state ballots for president?

  4. Anything that gets the more popular and
    mainstream positions of both groups in the public eye has to be good.

  5. You've got to be kidding me. Have any of these libertarians read the Green Party platform? Their ideas are many, many times worse than the absolute worst of the 2 major parties.

    In fact, if you're concerned about liberty, I'd say it's more important to convince people NOT to vote Green than it is to convince them to vote Libertarian. Republicans and Democrats both fall within the bounds of classical liberalism; Greens do not.

  6. I had this hippy girlfriend when I was young. Talk to her for more than a minute about politics and she sounded like a natural born central planner. Sure, she had communist sympathies, but she had a smile like a mother goddess, and she also had a really nice so, anyway, in spite of it all, I ended up...uh...well, she ended up being my girlfriend.

    It's hard to imagine the Libertarian Party embracing The Green Party in the same way that I embraced that girl. Just like that hippy girlfriend, the Green Party has great intentions, but their solutions to the world's problems would turn my property and freedom into a joke, and, unlike my ex-girlfriend, the Green Party doesn't make up for it in other ways.

  7. This is what I get for not attending party activities. If they turn green I turn away.


    Every libertarian should read Harry Reid's responses to the Greens, which tend to drive their leadership insane but at the same time appeal to the rank-and-file. Libertarians and Greens, as Harry understood years-ago, have a lot in common.

    Harry has, unfortunately, passed on from this world, but his attitude and writings live in his many friends and on the web to this day. RIP Harry.

  9. "I keep liking you more and more."

    Does this mean I can recycle my "Batman & Robin" jokes?

    In all seriousness, I would not just fully support, I would probably volunteer to help or at least photoblog those debates.

    If you want to read my analysis of Bush/Kerry from a kinda paleo, kinda populist perspective, click here: Which candidate is less "American"?

  10. We might form coalitions on certain topics, but in a lot of ways, 'steve' is right. I'm probably more interested in continued biotech research than I am in instant-runoff elections. Greens aren't on our side there.

  11. Basically, the two questions on the table are "Should Libertarians debate Greens about the issues that divide them?" and "Should Libertarians cooperate with Greens on the issues where they agree?"

    It seems obvious to me that the answers to both are of course. Does anyone really disagree?

  12. Ken Shultz --

    Are you suggesting that the Green Party would do to us what your hippie girlfriend did to you?

  13. For those who can't be bother to Google, the platform is here.

    "3. We advocate maintaining and enhancing federal guarantees in the areas of civil rights protections, environmental safeguards, and social ?safety net? entitlements."

    "5. A universal, federally funded CHILDCARE program for pre-school and young schoolchildren should be developed."

    "8. It is our realization that ?a living family wage? is vital to the social health of communities."

    "9. The actuarial protection of SOCIAL SECURITY is essential to the well-being of our seniors, and the maintenance of the system?s integrity is an essential part of a healthy community."

    Um, how exactly are these guys Libertarian?

    "We believe that a binding ?None of the Above? option on the ballot should be considered."

    Well, I guess that's something ...

  14. I agree with Jesse. Debate is healthy, collaboration on areas of common interest is healthy, and spirited opposition on areas of disagreement is also healthy.

    "Ew, I won't work with them on anything!" is unproductive.

    The Secretary of State collaboration that I suggested is basically a single-issue office. I would never suggest, say, a jointly-endorsed candidate for Governor.

  15. Basically, the two questions on the table are "Should Libertarians debate Greens about the issues that divide them?" and "Should Libertarians cooperate with Greens on the issues where they agree?"

    It seems obvious to me that the answers to both are of course. Does anyone really disagree?

    Cui Bono? Who got the advantage when libertarians before supported the anti-war left?

  16. Great analogy, Ken Schultz!

    "Are you suggesting that the Green Party would do to us what your hippie girlfriend did to you?"

    Ha, Ha, no I don't think Mr. Libertarian will get farther than first base(s) with Miss Green unless he never opens his mouth (probably Ken's strategy). Hmmm, ya gotta open your.. ah, disregard.

    Jesse, I agree with your comment here. I think that the Greens get way more press for the size of their supporters than the Libs. (No, Joe, I don't think the media is fair.) Anyway, why not hang with them to get some more exposure. People may hear of a few wacko, statist Green party ideas and at least ask a Lib: You really believe in that crap about universal child care. I'd be all "Heck no, that's those wacky pinko greenies; sit down for a spell and let me give you a what for on Libertarianism...."

  17. libertarian notions will be rendered meaningless if certain facets of US potential are stunted as most democrats and greens would wish

    there is room for the concept of treachery even in a libertarian appreciation of what it means to be american or even a proponent of western civilization

    rounding up collectivists is poetic justice but collaborating with them is tragicomedy

  18. "Ha, Ha, no I don't think Mr. Libertarian will get farther than first base(s) with Miss Green unless he never opens his mouth (probably Ken's strategy). Hmmm, ya gotta open your.. ah, disregard."

    There's nothing wrong with opening your mouth so long as you're willing to lie. All you have to do is blather a bit about racism and class war and Green chicks are all over you. Works every time.

  19. if you're still young enough to lie to chicks without it draining your soul too dangerously low, i envy you

  20. I'm told that a friend of mine managed to be chairman of the Allegheny County Libertarian and Green parties at the same time. He's a Georgist.

    Georgist advocate a single tax on the value of land, and the abolition of other taxes. (Land includes such as natural resources as broadcast spectrum, effluent charges, fishing quotas, etc.)

    (Some) Libertarians like this because it means leaving people free to keep whatever tehy produce by their labor and capital (among other reasons).
    (Some) Greens like this because it means making polluters pay the costs they impose on the rest of us, and encouraging infill development of valuable urban land held for speculation, so there won't be so much demand to build new roads, and expand sprawl ever further (among other reasons).

    I'm not going to pretend that Libertarians and Greens have no real differences, but this is one issue on which they could fruitfully collaborate.

  21. Not to be a naysayer, but it seems to me that the LP has enough trouble communicating its message to the public without getting mixed up too much with the Greens. I can see an occasional alliance on procedural issues common to third parties (e.g., ballot access), but that's about it. The LP and the Greens may have some common goals, but the means that each wants to use to achieve those goals are radically different. Now if the parties actually were in power together somewhere, somehow, then I suppose they could cooperate on some issues, like the GOP and Dems. do today. By the way, what issues could we seriously agree on? Drug legalization? That's the only one I can think of, though I'm no expert on Green dreams.

    On the other hand, debates might not be a bad idea. It'll be a while before the LP gets to debate the major parties, and third-party debates are better than nothing.

    Ken, where can I find this hippy ex-girlfriend of yours? πŸ™‚

  22. I try to make it a policy not to accept the hand of someone who more than willing to stab you in the back with the knife he's holding in the other hand.

  23. Um, don't you guys realize how close LP and Green doctrine are *in the psychology of the relevant young people*? If you want to recruit radical thinkers, or even just to get your viewpoint repected, this is who you need to approach. Not a middle-aged, self-and-family-interested Republicrat whose views you find relatively tolerable, but rather malleable minds of the right personality types. IMHO, such are to be found at debates with Greens, who are doing much better at getting them than the LP is. We need to get them at the age when radical momentum is more significant than its direction, when heady enthralment is the name of the game, and then we need to work on holding them as their emotion-thoughts crystallize and they simultaneously become more pragmatic. It is no accident how many nuanced adult libertarian minds started with the adolescent sophistries of Ayn Rand.

  24. The important thing is not simply winning a political victory, but winning it because the right principles underly the decision.

    Sounds like a "People's Front of Judea vs. Judean People's Front" statement to me.

    It's been a few years since I did door-to-door campaigning for candidates, but when I did (both candidates were moderate Republicans) nobody asked me to take a purity test. Nobody asked me to explain my philosophy. The attitude was "Hey, you really support our candidate? And you're willing to work? Awesome!"

    I seriously doubt that the Libertarians who organize petition drives to get candidates and initiatives on the ballot will be too upset if some people from the Green Party volunteer to collect signatures for a ballot measure of mutual interest. They'll probably have more respect for the Greens gathering signatures than the pure and perfect Libertarians who post messages lambasting them.

    Yes, I realize that Green ideology is inherently treacherous, dangerous, and even more of a menace to society than a gay couple burning a flag while celebrating Ramadan. Fortunately, most people who support the Green Party aren't thoroughly steeped in that ideology. And right now, on a Green Party message board where people are discussing the amicable relations between Badnarik and Cobb, a purist is flaming a naive Green supporter who thinks that Libertarians have a few good ideas, and that it might be nice to share resources on areas of common interest.

    Debating with a Green about economic issues is a waste of time because these people genuinely believe that the government is the correct vehicle for wealth distribution and that the purpose of industry is to provide jobs.

    You'll never persuade the hard-core Green that you're debating. But you might win over some of the people in the audience. Not every person who sympathizes with the Greens does so out of fanatical and pure devotion to every aspect of Green ideology. Some of them simply distrust the status quo and want to support a third party. A lot of leftists that I know are sympathetic when I pitch economic issues to them with examples from cases taken by the Institute for Justice. IJ tends to take a lot of cases on behalf of small minority-owned businesses fighting regulations. I have no illusion that many of them will ever be converted to pure libertarianism, but so what? One need not be a purist to support a party. Just look at me.

  25. Of course we burn a flag when we celebrate Ramadan! But the flag is coated with scented wax. The warm lighting effect and wonderful fragrance really add a fabulous touch to our Ramadan party, which also coincides with the anniversary of our wedding in Vermont.

    Menace to society? Ooh, naughty us! Somebody might have to tie us up and spank us!

  26. Many schools - especially those in the grasp of the evil gubmint - will host political debates. Sometimes these are for the benefit of the 18 year old high school students who will be casting their first votes in November (or not.) College campuses have already been mentioned. I've even gone and talked in front of grade 8 social studies classes. One rarely gets a chance to make one's pitch alone. Teachers usually invite representatives of more than one party, so that complaints about "equal time" are not heard. At one school I visited annually, the D's & R's were presented on one day, and I and a representative of our local Farmer-Labor* outfit went on another day. If there had been no opposing voice to counter my propaganda, the school district wouldn't have let me appear. D's & R's will frequently refuse to show up to debate at a forum that allows the non-duopoly parties in, if they can help it. Accepting a slot at a second event for the "minor" candidates may be all that is available. One can always mock and taunt the big cowards before getting down to issues. Ideally I would want to confront an incumbent and contrast the LP's consistent positions with the patchworks the donkeys and elephants use, but sometimes debating the watermelons and the Constitution party are all you can do.


    *In Wisconsin, this party was an attempt at a home for "progressives." Most third party activists of that bent moved into the Greens, unless they went back to the Dems.

  27. It's interesting that when the closest thing Finland had to a libertarian party, the Young Finns, broke up, about a half of their supporters went to Finland's Conservative Party and a half to Finland's Green Party. Of course, European Green parties tend to be more moderate on economic matters on European scale than America's Green Party is on American scale.

  28. This is probably irrelevant to national-level politics since two times zero (senators/congressman/electoral votes/governers/whatever) is still zero...but there may be a few issues / elections / jurisdictions where the combination is effective. And the LP needs any straws of effectiveness it can grasp.

  29. Sigh. I'll make one last effort to spell out the obvious:

    Returning the favor, look at where the "allies" are and where is libertaria.

    Working with other groups to some common end is fine but not if they end with more political clout and you end with your willy in your nilly.

  30. Folks,

    The evidence is alredy in!

    By being a nice guy to the Green, Cobb, Badnarik generated a helluva a newspaper article which did a great job of communicating the LP's position on some hot-button issues, and, yet, drew a clear distinction with the Greens on taxes. All for the good, I'd say.

    Now, Badnarik could have called Cobb a Communist and refused to shake hands with him, ala many of the "insights" above.

    I'll bet that woudla made for a "good" story, eh?

    libertarian larry

  31. The only reason why the Greens and Libs can be nicey-nice is that both our voting blocks are piss in the wind. Once anyone gets any power then all bets are off. Pure and simple, the Greens are communists who want us all to live in a technological dark age. Don't make deals with the devil.

  32. Lay down with dogs, ....

  33. Is there anyone out there in libertarian land who still thinks the LP is ever going to end up being a major party with real candidates? If not, I think any alliance that helps advance parts of its agenda is good. As far as stabbing the LP in the back? Not if the LP does it first. Right now the greens have more support than the LP, that makes them much more vulnerable than us. Simply put, what do we have to lose? Purity? bah, looks where its gotten us so far.

    I bet most of those college students who support the green party end up feeling different when they actually earn some money, and it gets taken away from them and wasted. I think a lot of them would naturally mature to a more libertarian point of view. We are much more likely to pick their pocket, then they ours.

  34. Collaboration is an interesting idea... there's something strangely manichean about the american political mind, so trying to jam the Libertarians into the existing two party race has always been awkward. But teaming up with the greens to put on debates, etc., which give people a wholly different coke/pepsi choice might just work.

    And this particular marriage isn't completely off -- you have to understand that most Greens are just there for the pot.

  35. Make sure to hand out copies of ?The Moon is a Harsh Mistress?. It worked with me!

  36. The Greens? The Greens? Yeah, that's the ticket, team up with the communists, people will flock to us.

  37. Mona claims that I think "we" should "align" ourselves with the Greens. Others here use phrases like "team up," "lie down," even "turn green."

    Sigh. I'll make one last effort to spell out the obvious:

    Debating a group is not the same as merging with it. Exposing its members to your arguments is not the same thing as embracing their arguments. The fact that a Green platform includes a lot of things libertarians would oppose does not mean that no one who's joined a Green organization -- let alone the many curious outsiders who might be attracted to the novelty of a Libertarian-Green debate -- could be receptive to other ideas.

    And working with people you disagree with on issues where there's some common ground -- drug legalization, corporate welfare, civil liberties -- is not the same as "turning Green," any more than working with Republicans on tax and regulatory issues means you're "turning Republican."

    I'm not a member of the Libertarian Party myself. But I'm a small-l libertarian who has written for non-libertarian publications of both the left and the right, who has Green friends and Christian conservative friends, and who can find some common ground with pretty much anyone who dislikes the way bureaucrats talk. I have a hard time understanding the mentality of people who prefer to spend their days in a bubble.

  38. Jesse: "... has Green friends and Christian conservative friends, and who can find some common ground with pretty much anyone ..."

    if you are not careful, you will morph into a politician πŸ™‚

  39. if you are not careful, you will morph into a politician πŸ™‚

    I'd vote for Jesse Walker regardless of which party's ticket he ran on!

  40. Isn't the solution to Green speech more speech?

  41. True about the Greens increasing attendance....And maybe if the kids agree with some of the individual rights issues they will accept our free-market ideals after graduation. Real jobs and that sad day when your parents no longer pay your car insurance really make you appreciate your own money, labor and time.

  42. Go watch Penn & Teller on their Showtime "Bullshit" routine. On Greens. P&T are libertarians. This show is shorthand, but for "Christ, get a clue."


  43. I agree with the debates. We did this in San Diego some time back and everyone got more attention. The Greens liked our ideas, too.

  44. eponymous,

    Corporate tax breaks like the R&D tax credit, depreciation, the interest deduction, etc., have exactly the same practical effect as if you started out with a tax rate of zero and then imposed a punitive tax ONLY on the firms not engaged in those things. The effect is to artificially increase the competitive advantage of firms that are engaged in high-tech, capital intensive forms of production, as well as those most heavily engaged in mergers and acquisitions.

    Since the largest firms are the most likely to benefit from such tax breaks, the corporate income tax has the effect of emphasizing the difference between the favored corporations that don't pay much (or any) tax, and the non-privileged that pay a lot.

    And since the corporations in the cartelized sector of the economy are able to pass on to the consumer the taxes they DO pay, the corporate tax further heightens the distinction between the monopoly and competitive sectors.

    The state capitalist economy, as Rothbard said, is based on government subsidies to accumulation and to the operating expenses of big business. So the Greens (and much of the general public) are quite right in seeing corporations as a privileged enemy. They're just wrong in seeing statism as the solution. It's state intervention in the market that gives big corporations all their power.

  45. Libertarians have been against subsidies to business forever. Here's a good resource:

    Does anyone else remember the Green/libertarian alliance against wasteful spending that also abuses the environment known as the Green Scissors campaign?


  46. I think Larry Fullmer said it best!

  47. Jesse,

    since when do libertarians, big or small, have a problem with corporate welfare? what libertarians even think corporations are a good locus to tax at all?

    the notion of 'corporate welfare' was constructed to appeal to the green (as in jealous) nature of the economically illiterate

    i'm not libertarian to the extent that i recognize the practical need to secure certain libertarian values through government action--taxing individuals might act as a safety valve against populism, but IBM doesn't eat lobster and the folks don't need to be encouraged to believe in a divide between themselves and corporations

    it's bad enough that bush could only reduce the wrong half of the double taxation with respect to dividends because of miguided popular sentiment engendered by notions of 'corporate welfare'

  48. I am the debate coordinator of the Badbarik campaign. I helped found the libertarian movement by organizing the draft card burning at the 69 YAF convention which is regarded as our birth. I am looking for movers, troublemakers and visionaries to help build a new paradigm

  49. Another thing. Here's a few quotes I really like. They might make you re-think the way you define freedom. Its not just about freedom from government, its freedom from all forms of authority including corporations and bosses.

    "Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

    This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
    -Frederick Douglass

    In other words, think about freedom and rights this way: A right is ASSERTED it is not just given by lack of *physical* coercin. Fighting for the ability to assert your rights and freedom is a part of that struggle Douglass speaks of. It is the reason why us on the left are always organizing solidarity, unions, and social movements, because it is the only way that rights can be won from the system and ruling class.

    "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the Government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
    -Thomas Jefferson

    "The rich will strive to establish their dominion, and enslave the rest. They always did. They always will. The proper security against them is to form them into a separate interest. The two forces will then control each other. Let the rich mix with the poor, and in a commercial country they will establish an oligarchy. Take away commerce, and the democracy will triumph. Thus it has been all the world over. So it will be among us. Reason tells us we are but men; and we are not to expect any particular interference of Heaven in our favor. By thus combining, and setting apart, the aristocratic interest, the popular interest will be combined against it."
    -Gouverneur Morris, Head of the committee that wrote the final draft of the Constitution.

    "The pretense that corporations are neccessary for the better governance of the trade is without foundation." -Adam Smith

    "A Libertarian is an Anarchist that wants police protection from his slaves" -Unknown

    Just some stuff to think about...
    Also you might be surprised if you took some time to study the history of the corporation:

  50. I am a Geo-Libertarian Green living in NH.

    There are probably about a dozen strong here in the US.

    Someone else had cited Henry George's single tax idea as the bridge between L & G...that is the lens to analyze all other problems.

    In a nutshell - Defend the commons!

    today we allow private interests to enclose the commons and reap the natural benefits that accrue to the monoploy privilege at the same time we allow private individuals to socialize the costs in the form of externalities.

    we want to reverse this.

    Socialize the natural benefits and privatize the costs.

    Lester Brown talks about "tax shifting" in his new book "Plan B" Robert Kennedy's book also talks the same language

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