Libertarian History/Philosophy

Libertarian Party Advised: Forget About Being the Party of Principle

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Both the post and the detailed comment thread well worth reading for those who enjoy worrying over the future of the Libertarian Party: Former Libertarian Reform Caucus man Carl Milsted calls on the LP to:

change the slogan. It is time to put an end to "The Party of Principle."

For the past few years I have been lambasted by purists and called "unprincipled." Very well. I accept the label, nay, wield it as a badge of honor. I am unprincipled. I do not shoehorn all my ethical and legal thinking into a single axiom. I reject the need to follow the Zero Aggression Principle to its ultimately ridiculous conclusions. I boldly proclaim that:

> Replacing an elected republic with warring "protection services" is woefully imprudent;
> Standing aside for genocide is contrary to the ideals of liberty;
> Defaulting on the national debt is a recipe of economic disaster;
> Defaulting on Social Security obligations is robbing the older generations;
> Selling the remaining wilderness to be raped by corporations is robbing future generations;
> Cutting government in random order without regard to other considerations is the height of incompetence.

I have had it with this monochrome principle. The Good is a nonlinear multidimensional function. Deal with it!

My article on the LP platform changes in 2006 that Milsted liked, but thought didn't go far enough.

For those who want to think about the long history of the libertarian movement that led to this declaration of frustration on Milsted's part, I can only suggest you read my new book, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement and my site dedicated to it.

NEXT: Certifiably Just Hamburgers

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  1. Why stop there? How about a couple more:

    1. The Drug War may or may not be a good idea; we can’t decide;
    2. We the people need to understand the intense pressure on IRS bureaucrats, and try to empathise with them;
    3. “Privatization” is a risky scheme, or it could be real good, depending on whatever;
    4. Fuck principles.

  2. I am so sick of all us libertarians callin’ for us to default on the national debt.

    …rather, I would be if I’d seen one of us do that.

    The whole list is bunk.

  3. The Good is a nonlinear multidimensional function.

    You know, or maybe not. Stop thinking so linearly , man.

    Surf’s up, dude!

  4. That last part makes sense. You have to cut government in ways that make sense, rather than desperately grab at any government cutting chance you get. It would make more sense for libertarians to focus on systematically wiping out one area, such as public education (or is that especially?!) than just take whatever crumbs randomly fall our way. The latter is the approach that a movement on defense resorts to.

  5. At the founding convention of The Libertarian Party, in Denver, 1972, I moved adoption of a resolution to support The Liberty Amendment, which passed.

    The Liberty Amendment calls for ending federal programs which are not authorized by the Constitution, and sellling off assets that are part of these unconstitutional programs. Proceeds from the sale of assets would to to paying down the national debt.

    That has been the stand of The Libertarian Party, not “repudiation of the national debt.”

  6. > The whole list is bunk.

    No it’s not. I’ve heard this one before:

    Replacing an elected republic with warring “protection services” is woefully imprudent;

    Since police are paid with taxes, which are force, to conform to ZAP you must have no publicly-funded police. To be ZAP-compliant, you must have only privately-funded and/or volunteer police.

  7. Actually, I pretty much agree with his list. Bully for him.

  8. Whether you agree with his list or not is, I think, irrelevant.

    If these proclamations are based on SOME OTHER principle or principles, I’d like to hear what those are. Maybe he’s got a better thing going on. (But in that case, why proclaim oneself as unprincipled?)

    Otherwise, they’re based on his gut reactions to different situations. And in that case, I might as well vote for a f—ing squirrel. At least damage would be limited to (1) excessive nut consumption, and (2) panicked scurrying up peoples’ legs.

  9. Defaulting on the debt is the most libertarian thing to do with it. When you lend money to the government, an intrinsically aggressive institution, with the understanding that it will steal money in the future to pay you back with interest, why do you have a right to that stolen money?

  10. Screw it. Let the moonbats break their wings patting themselves on the back for being the “party of principle.” Meanwhile, the grown ups have work to do.

    I’m constantly struck by the similarity between some members of the LP and a college Marxist club. Both are echo chambers utterly divorced from reality and populated by people utterly blinded by they beauty of one idea they use to define the world.

  11. The point of protection services is that they would not be warring–that’s economically inefficient. He may not like the anarcho-capitalist position, but rhetoric is rhetoric, even from a “libertarian”.

  12. It is unrealistic to think that we’re gonna turn this boat around on a dime… we need to keep the big picture, the lofty goals, the high minded priciples afloat, rather than tossing them aside. We need to set our immediate sites on incrementally reversing/ redirecting issues that are within our meager grasp, pin those things to the mat then tag the next one…

  13. > Cutting government in random order without regard to other considerations is the height of incompetence.\

    Who wants to cut government in random order? I believe in a very aggressive non-random order. And yes, I understand that if my vision were to come true, thousands of professional tax-preparers might find themselves unemployed if they don’t adjust. Deal with it.

  14. If these proclamations are based on SOME OTHER principle or principles, I’d like to hear what those are.

    Basically, dude is saying that the LP is full of Ayn Rand fans who are at 110/110 on the Nolan chart, and want to immediately plunge the U.S. into fullscale anarcho-capitalism, without first setting up any private institutions to take the place of existing public ones. Rats infesting the kitchen of a popular local restaurant? The market will sort it out once a few people have died.

    He advocates instead a libertarian party which appeals to anyone in the libertarian quadrant of the Nolan Chart – one in which folks at 60/70, 75/60, etc. would feel at home.

  15. I do not agree with Carl on everything, and yes he is guilty of a wee bit of hyperbole here, but to a great extent he is correct.

    The anarchist wing wants nothing to do with anyone who does not score 100/100 on the Nolan chart, and by being so completely “principled” will never make one iota of a contribution to returning liberty to America. To be trite, the perfect IS often the enemy of the good.

  16. Wow! Are there REALLY that many AC’ers in the LP? Most of the ones I know think that the LP is a waste of time, if they even think of the party.

  17. Wow! Are there REALLY that many AC’ers in the LP?

    It’s hard to say how many there are. What the purist libertarians have on their side is that Libertarian Party’s pledge, which requires any person who wants to join the party as a member (i.e. vote in internal politics or become an officer) to effectively swear that they are an anarchist.

  18. Carl Milsted:

    Replacing an elected republic with warring “protection services” is woefully imprudent.

    This sounds to me like it might be intentional obfuscation. The question is; if the republic, including states and localities, should opt out of police, fire protection, and court services and replace them with market alternatives. This has already started for each of these services.

  19. 1. How can one rob something from future generations, when they don’t even own it?
    2. Won’t future generations also inherit ownership of the ‘evil corporations’, too?

    Pah! Pseudolibertarians have no concept of property.

  20. Defaulting on Social Security obligations is robbing the older generations

    It’s robbing the younger generation to force young folks to continue to fund the current system in which they will never see a positive return. (Unless SS taxes are jacked up so high for those who will be paying for the young people’s benefits when they get old that the productivity of the economy will be so damaged so that won’t matter anyway.)

    The current SS mess must be phased out over time and replaced with no government program but instead, market choices.

  21. Selling the remaining wilderness to be raped by corporations is robbing future generations;

    Oh sure, that’s what unsubsidized corporations are going to do to engender patronage from the public, rape the wilderness. They’ll probably rape the consumers and the workers too. That’s always good for business. This one was just childish.

  22. Cutting government in random order without regard to other considerations is the height of incompetence.

    This is a straw man argument. Who’s advocating cutting at random? Although, government is so harmful due to its size that cutting at random would almost certainly produce more freedom and prosperity, just not as much as equivalent targeted cuts.

    What’s really the height of incompetence is to continue to grow the government at the rate that is has been growing.

  23. Let the Libertarian Party remain the “Party of Principle.” Cato, Reason, et al are out there pulling the mainstream to our side. That’s not what the Party is for. The Party gives us some small victories and injects the elections with some righteousness.

  24. We should also ban contraceptives, since that robs future generations of their existence. 😉

  25. “The anarchist wing wants nothing to do with anyone who does not score 100/100 on the Nolan chart, and by being so completely “principled” will never make one iota of a contribution to returning liberty to America. To be trite, the perfect IS often the enemy of the good.”

    Nah:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/gregory/gregory136.html

  26. He advocates instead a libertarian party which appeals to anyone in the libertarian quadrant of the Nolan Chart – one in which folks at 60/70, 75/60, etc. would feel at home.

    Yeah, he’s not even suggesting anything particularly revolutionary. The Republican party is currently home to both Ron Paul and Jesse Helms.

    The Democratic party is currently home to Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. He’s just saying he wants the LP to be a Bigger Tent(tm). Fair enough.

  27. The LP franchise rakes in just under a half million votes per POTUS cycle (kick in a million or two dinars for travel and lunches). Without a figure like Perot, what other third party keeps those numbers (albeit small) ? No other party runs as many in so many races. Pressing the reform buttons under the guise of platforms and pledges is just a fanciful factional ploy. Any temporary electoral ‘success’ will come under a hitherto unlabeled pitch (Unity08?)to an angry middle and centrist candidate(s). Why ruin a decent small batch root beer in a world controlled by Coke and Pepsi ? A bigger vote total that ultimately means less or nothing without the special taste . . . Perhaps the neo_Fabians will push the pluralism forever. Pity, a revolution is so much more exciting.

  28. Cool. We now have The Small-Batch Root Beer Argument for not changing the LP.

  29. No need to “phase out” Social Security. A radical, yet seemingly-innocuous solution is to simply make it entirely voluntary. Anyone who wants to stay in the system can do so — and pay the full cost of their share, instead of making their employer pony up half the cost. Anyone who wants out can do so (and give up their “right” to future benefits “accrued”). Maybe that would cause Social Security to go into a death spiral, maybe it would stabilize due to all the statists sticking with the plan, but who cares either way, if you can personally walk away from that mess if you so choose?

  30. For those who want to form a splinter, “moderate” version of the LP, no need for a clunky name like “Libertarian Reform Caucus” — go with “Statist Lite Party”.

  31. you forgot some more: taxes should only be lowered if hillary and mccain can agree on the tax cuts….it’s just more pragmatic

    if we do see a genocide occuring we msut first declare 10 years of trade sanctions and raise taxes 5 % ….afterwards we must immedietely drop a nuclear bomb on the offending country…anything else would be the equivalanet of “just letting genocide happen”

  32. I have an idea. . . let’s have our cake and eat it too. Why not try presenting our ideas in order of public palatability? Focus on one or two issues in an election. Just hammer whatever issue we think will win for us until we actually pick up a few wins.

    Talk about education vouchers and de-criminalizing of marijuana to black urban communities. . .

    Roll over education vouchers as a talking point to christian families prone to homeschooling (there are over a million such families) but avoid talk the drug war.

    Etc, etc, etc. . .

    Why can’t we be principled and nuanced at the same time? Why must we be so clumsy in our presentation of ideas?

    I like libertarian ideas and values but why must it be all or nothing? Why can’t we argue in favor of moving in a libertarian direction? Why not back away from the endgame of libertarian ideas and instead try for a step in the right direction?

    Why not concede our belief in radically limited government, but argue in favor of more moderate and progressive (progressive toward libertarian goals that is) programs and ideas?

  33. I started writing about the need for a real LP political party on Aug 13th 2004 on my blog The New Libertarian. Others before me, like the Prince William County, VA. Libertarians, who disavowed the national platform, and Lois Kanasewski from PA (former LNC member, former PA state chair) came before me.

    “Every good blog needs a starting point, something to anchor the blog and tell everyone why they took it upon themselves to become a self publisher. For me, that was the current state of affairs of the Libertarian Party, which I have been a card carrying member of since about 1989. ( With a 2 year exception when I got so pissed off I quit. This was due to the Harry Browne/Perry Willis scandal) I rejoined as a full dues payer in 2003.

    I think the Libertarian Party is so fixated upon it’s principles that it continues to undermine itself in elections; that some ( but not all) of it’s candidates are certified whack jobs; and that the LP desperately needs politically savvy leadership that knows how to run campaigns on issues non-party members care about and who understand the nature of political involvement in the US. Frankly, most LP candidates dont even meet one of the listed criteria – and most party regulars like it that way. A recent quote from a man off of a posting on the who I shall not name really was the impetus behind this blog. He said:

    “I prefer the Libertarian Party to remain politically powerless becuase it keeps our message pure.”

    This is precisely the RECIPE FOR LIBERTARIAN FAILURE. The Libertarian Party cannot continue to be a debate society, a personal confirmation or belief shrine, or a private club for the “True Believers”. After years of near endless bickering, the LP has not, on the national level, managed in 30 years of involvement in American politics to slow or reverse the growth of government in this country. That is a record of abject failure. Our success on the State level is almost as bad, with some candidates who can compete for votes, but not many.

    Almost all current Libertarian office holders hold local and small town offices where it is difficult to get anyone to participate in the process, no matter what party they are in. Compare that failure, and it can be described in no other way BUT a failure, with the most successful third party The Socialist Party USA headed by Eugene V. Debs. From 1904 to 1940 The SPUSA did not win any Presidential Elections, and ran mostly unsuccessful campaigns otherwise; yet by 1938 their campaign platforms were the LAW OF THE LAND, having been adopted by the major parties in a bipartisan manner.

    In the same amount of time, libertarians have failed to gain a single platform plank into law and had very small successes ( such as the turnback of a state income tax in Tennesee ) on the state level. True, much has changed in those years but the difference is still striking. Since 1980, the LP has never gotten above a half of a percent vote in any national election for POTUS. While about 25% of the electorate identifies themselves as Libertarian on some issues, only 2~3% actually vote for LP candidates generally, and the LP has about 140,000 people that are registered as Libertarians who refuse for some reason who join the party as a dues paying member.

    It occurs to me that when the majority of people who identify themselves as a member of your party actually refuse to join, you may have a problem. While it is very true that the major parties have stacked the deck in political involvement, I dont believe that this is the reason for the Libertarian Failure. When the majority of your registered members refuse to join the political party, it points to deeper problems. I believe the main problem is the inherent contradictions in the LP belief: That pure Liberterianism is the cure for every problem America faces. I do not believe this to be the case. History can and does show us that no one single philosophy has a inherent right to leadership; and that when voters are faced with uncompromising positions that do not take their concerns into account, they will reject them.

    Americans, except in time of great crisis, have always voted against any philosophy of governance that cannot be compromised in some manner to obtain passage into law and effect. I refer specifically to such things as the Pledge one is forced to sign saying that one will not use force as a way of obtaining power; the fact that all politics is force to some degree or another seems to not matter.

    SO. What we are going to do here is move along in time together and try to understand why Libertarians keep losing, what can be done about our current state of affairs, and explore how to make the Libertarian Party from A third party into THE third party.

    Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. THOMAS PAINE Common Sense January 1776] —–

    I quit the party and took my money with me recently for a number of reasons not needed to be listed here. The LP simply is’nt a political party, nor can it be reformed into one. It was built so that it’s members who believe as they do have a refuge from actual political involvement.

    It’s a Bohemian Grove for anarchists.

  34. sorry for the blown tag. Missed it.

  35. The problem with Carl’s idea is the idea that the LP, if run by reformists, will be more inclusive.

    Unfortunately, Nevada belies that belief.

    The Nevada LP WAS taken over by reformists, who immediately formed a caucus and started purging anyone who did not agree with them. Since LP conventions are small, they convinced members to go along.

    Professional people who wished to run for office on a more radical platform were purged from the caucus and then quit.

    They even tried to sue to keep a candidate off the ballot. (Failed)

    The LP Nevada Statement of Purpose is now : The Purpose of the LP Nevada is to elect libertarians to office.

    However, they did no better in the last election than they ever did, only they generated a lot of bad will among activists here in Northern Nevada.

    Reformists can be as exclusive as anyone else.

  36. There will be no political transformation until the people are transformed.
    The people will not be transformed via political means.
    If principles are sacrificed to “winning office” the result is a race to the bottom, as is the case now.
    The old parties will co-opt any success by Milstead’s strategy and turn it into crap.

  37. To:

    Selling the remaining wilderness to be raped by corporations is robbing future generations;

    I responded:

    “Oh sure, that’s what unsubsidized corporations are going to do to engender patronage from the public, rape the wilderness. They’ll probably rape the consumers and the workers too. That’s always good for business. This one was just childish.”

    I’d like to add:

    Opening up government owned wilderness to private ownership would also allow part of it to be purchased by, and on behalf of, those of us who want to see certain portions of it preserved as wilderness. This would allow a market mechanism to express a market price for pristine wilderness.

  38. Tim:

    That pure Liberterianism is the cure for every problem America faces. I do not believe this to be the case.

    And just which problems will not be remedied or, at least, mitigated by restricting government to protecting against force and fraud?

    History can and does show us that no one single philosophy has a inherent right to leadership.

    What?? Governing philosophies don’t have rights. Individuals do.

    History can and does show us that no one single philosophy has a inherent right to leadership; and that when voters are faced with uncompromising positions that do not take their concerns into account, they will reject them.

    That’s no point against principle at all. History also shows that when voters are faced with *compromised* positions that do not take their concerns into account, they will reject them. Also, fairness, which is what libertarianism is about, has appeal to voters as one of their concerns.

  39. You Reasonoids and CATOites, even LPers, keep trying to effect some change from the inside. Good luck. Fabians.

    We’ll topple over the whole thing from the outside. The revolution is nigh.

  40. Gene Berkman:

    At the founding convention of The Libertarian Party, in Denver, 1972, I moved adoption of a resolution to support The Liberty Amendment, which passed.

    The Liberty Amendment calls for ending federal programs which are not authorized by the Constitution, and sellling off assets that are part of these unconstitutional programs. Proceeds from the sale of assets would to to paying down the national debt.

    That has been the stand of The Libertarian Party, not “repudiation of the national debt.”

    Kudos to you Gene! Nice move! I was here in the Denver, (mighta been Boulder depending on the time of year) area then. 72′ was the first year that I was old enough to vote. But I was a political barbarian back then-voted for Mcgovern. Where was the convention held? Wasn’t also in Dave Nolan’s living room, was it?

  41. Look like the LP of Nevada invited that Doherty guy to speak at one of their dinners.

  42. It’s robbing the younger generation to force young folks to continue to fund the current system in which they will never see a positive return. (Unless SS taxes are jacked up so high for those who will be paying for the young people’s benefits when they get old that the productivity of the economy will be so damaged so that won’t matter anyway.)

    Of course, there’s an easy solution to the social security “crisis.” Just gradually jack up the age at which one would receive benefits until it reaches a level where the program is viable. I’d guess that would happen at around 72-75.

    I realize there are many more philosophical objections to be made about social security’s existence. But its financial viability is only a problem because of politicians’ total lack of will to do even the simplest thing to fix it.

  43. I’ve lapsed into lame wisecracking, but in all seriousness, I’ve now seen comments on Milsted’s article where both “purists” and “reformers” have tales of abuse from the other side. I’ve seen other comments saying, “I’ve never seen the abuse you speak of.” I’m inclined to believe rude behavior has run both ways. I’ve seen a bit of both, and I’ve been guilty of some minor verbal jabbing.

  44. Rick Barton, you’re an old guy! I had no idea, I thought you were one of those guys the sweet young things were swooning over.

    So you could dig One Way Out by the Allman Bros which is playing on my…whatever the hell it is these days. Computer I guess.

  45. BTW, Gene Berkman has a really cool bookstore…..

  46. And just which problems will not be remedied or, at least, mitigated by restricting government to protecting against force and fraud?

    I’d say the two big areas where I’ve heard non-Libertarians criticize proposed Libertarian solutions as weak are providing a social safety net, and protecting the environment. Some of the criticisms have merit, in my opinion.

    For example, (I hesitate to write this, as it may completely derail the thread), it may be necessary to enact a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. All proposed solutions about just leaving it to the market seem to ignore that the problem involves a commons that people can dump pollution into without incurring any cost. I think some regulation is necessary.

    I live in a liberal area and I lean a bit liberal. Libertarians that live in other parts of the country may get an earful from non-Libertarians about illegal immigration, secular humanism in the public schools, stopping abortion, etc.

  47. What?? Governing philosophies don’t have rights. Individuals do.

    Libertarians demand the right of the “free market” to be the entire worlds economic standard. Double speak.

    Also, fairness, which is what libertarianism is about, has appeal to voters as one of their concerns.

    I feel like the Geico caveman when asked for his reaction by the interviwer, “yeah, I have a reaction…….WHAT?”

  48. Politics have ruined the Libertarian Party.

    It started with in-fighting over party governance and has now become an argument over principles that heretofore had been its rock solid foundation.

    So, now the LP is an institution that has lost its way, much in the same way of the Republican Party and the United States as a whole.

    None of this is shocking or hard to understand. It’s the nature of things and very well mapped out in Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. ( http://www.mises.org/TRTS.htm )

    The lack of adhering to governing principles, a.k.a. a Constitution, that creates this political morass. And, the LP has compromised itself out of its principles in order to join the ranks of professional politics.

  49. I’m an ancapper, and I recognize the need to behave pragmatically when you’re actually in the field and slashing the endless wheat stalks that are government programs, but that is no reason to abandon principle. Without the principle, you just become a milquetoast version of the democratic party.

  50. Different libertarians (as defined by the Nolan Chart) have different principles. I have personally outgrown the principle of trying to fit all legal considerations into a single axiom based upon an incomplete theory of natural rights.

    I have no problem with ancaps running as Libertarians as long as they don’t raise a giant stink when moderates also run under the same banner.

    I do have serious problems with a pledge requirement — especially one that can read “I am an ancap.” I also have problems with a platform that it excessively radical. It is easy to run as more radical than the national party; hard to run as less radical. The platform should represent the center of the libertarian area on the Nolan Chart.

    As for the cut government in random order accusation, this comes from the writings of Murray Rothbard. See Point 6 of the Ten Points of the Libertarian Party Rothbard Caucus. (http://lprc.org/tenpoints.html) To quote:

    “No Particular Order-The removal of a harmful government policy should never be held up as a condition for removing another, for this throws self-imposed barriers in the path of liberty and removes potential pressures for change. For example, saying that borders may be opened only after welfare is eliminated is unacceptable; the proper position is to push for both changes. Should we succeed in achieving open borders only to find that welfare burdens are increased, this should be used as an additional argument to abolish welfare.”

  51. saying that borders may be opened only after welfare is eliminated is unacceptable; the proper position is to push for both changes. Should we succeed in achieving open borders only to find that welfare burdens are increased, this should be used as an additional argument to abolish welfare

    Can’t argue with that one, although, as a thought experiment, how many jokers in the Rockwellian camp would argue the other way? That is, would the immigrant hysteria really go away among some of our more biased brethren if the welfare state disappeared? I doubt it very much.

  52. The trouble with No Particular Order (as well as with Wrong Order) is that then you lose the support of those who’d support one change but not the other.

  53. its rock solid foundation

    The idea that the Libertarian Party has a set of clear-cut core stances on every political issue all derived from a single principle is a myth. As long as I can remember, there have been disagreements between even the most principled Libertarians about issues like abortion, open borders vs. controlled immigration, and school vouchers.

  54. Milstead’s perspective is that of a repeatedly frustrated failed political candidate. He has concluded that the baggage of a party principle is what has prevented him from winning office over and over again, and that it has probably prevented any number of other Libertarian candidates from winning.

    What I fail to understand is why Carl doesn’t find an area with a weak Republican Party and run as a liberal Republican. That is essentially what he is describing politically. Maybe he’s already tried that and given up on it when he was in Asheville.

    Anyway, I know Carl and respect him a great deal. You would have difficulty finding someone who has worked harder at the grass roots level for liberty.

    I disagree with him very strongly on this, though. In my opinion, the principle is that only thing that justifies the LP’s existence. Without it, we should all just be supporting liberty caucuses in the DP and RP.

  55. Sorry, I spoke for Carl assuming that he wouldn’t be here. Ignore my prattle and read his post a page or two up.

  56. I just think labels don’t really help the process. We are, after all, individuals and that should be the only label we need. I no longer pay dues to the LP but that doesn’t mean I hate the LP. Hell, I had pretty much written off organized politics in this country, until Ron Paul rekindled some hope for me.

    If we can get the level of political coercion reduced in our nation to tolerable levels, the “tent’ will be a lot more comfortable for all of us regardless of our differences.

  57. Actually Rimfax: I have never run for office. I have worked at burnout levels for others who have.

    I have come to the conclusion that a political party that cannot recruit at least one activist per precinct cannot realistically support real campaigns. And activists either read platforms or hear what is in platforms indirectly.

    The intolerance within the LP repels many good activists. Consider the firestorm in Atlanta when Neal Boortz spoke. I was disgusted — even though my own political positions are considerably different from Mr. Boortz’.

    Imagine if the DP required that you be as liberal as Nancy Pelosi, or if the RP demanded that you be as clueless as W.

    Both of the major parties are coalitions. The Republicans include neocons, true conservatives, right-leaning libertarians and many members of the Religious Right. The Democrats include union members, minority activists, welfare advocates/recipients, environmentalists, and social liberals.

    There is great conflict between many components of these coalitions. Many union members are hurt by the environmentalists, and are just as socially conservative as Jerry Falwell. Many of the conservatives and libertarians in the Republican big tent loathe Bush’s spending habits.

    These parties are built upon some very broad themes. The Democrats are built upon the themes that equality is important, and that government can be a positive force for good. The Republicans are supporters of business and tradition.

    A party built on a coalition of those who want more liberty could be competitive. But it has to be a coalition. And notice the word “more.”

    The Libertarian Reform Caucus was created to turn the LP into that coalition. Such is the position of the Caucus.

    My position is somewhat different. I helped form the LRC to ask the LP if it wanted to be that coalition. I can take “no” for an answer. There is always Option 4.

    In Portland the answer sounded about half and half. Radicalism prevails due to rules set up in the past to prevent adaption.

    At this point I am slowly turning over operations of the Caucus to others who have become active since Portland. I am starting work on Option 4.

    But for a while yet I will continue to ask the question: do ye really want a pure LP? I ask this because I have many times witnessed purists recruiting moderates. There is a disconnect between stated theory and revealed preference.

    Soon, I will write a follow-up article on why I call myself “unprincipled,” and why “principles” as typically defined by libertarians, are a mistake. Better to focus on the underlying values, and treat “principles” as rules of thumb.

  58. Tim:

    Libertarians demand the right of the “free market” to be the entire worlds economic standard. Double speak.

    No. Libertarians demand their economic liberty, the manifestation of which is the free market.

    I feel like the Geico caveman when asked for his reaction by the interviwer, “yeah, I have a reaction…….WHAT?”

    The caveman has an excuse. You don’t.

  59. Yeah, I’m one of those old guys the sweet young things are swooning over 😉

    Perhaps you thought I was a lot younger cuz I’m hep to the youth lingo. I figured you to be not too far from my age. Please don’t get insulted if it was quite a number of elections past the 72 election until you were old enough to vote. I never got into the Almond Brothers but I dug, and still do, the Brit invasion. Now it’s late 70s and 80s New Wave, and old school (Ramones, Sex Pistols, Clash) punk for me. When not calling my son his name, I call him “tech support”. Gene’s bookstore looks quite swell!

  60. …My last was for The Wine Commonsewer.

  61. The more interesting discussion is how blogs particularly “Hit ‘n Run” have changed the priorities of the Libertarian Party since 2004. Since jounalists are forced to produce daily content no matter how insipid, they are reduced to mentions of Carl Milsted and Eric Dondero, one a very minor player, the other a mere gadfly that never would have moved beyond obscurity without Wikipedia and www self promotion for the masses. Milsted is no more a theorist than Cory Kennedy is a fashion designer but in the Hit and Run world of political reporting any warm body no matter how unthoughtful can be the next Hayek.

    Libertarian political discourse has been reduced by the Web. If the current partyarchs were more steeped in critical theory or even etiology they might have seen Portland in the making. The next Libertarian Party convention will be framed by whatever news of the weird Doherty or Weigel post. Not a responsible use of the power of the press nor much in the way of a promise of freedom.

  62. Translation: Andre Breton thinks Carl Milsted is a poopyhead.

  63. Andre: Actually, I served on the Libertarian National Committee back in 2000 (as an regional alternate, but ended attending more than the primary), and on the Strategic Planning Team. I started my “web campaigning” after the SPT produced its report in order to get some of the ideas there put into practice.

    Cannot claim to be a great theorist — just good enough to see the holes in Rothbard’s theories and to know that Ayn Rand never crossed the is/ought barrier — worth a B in a 200 level philosophy class, methinks.

    More to the point, my physics background gives me enough background to know what a bell curve is and why it matters in politics. Expect a higher density of voters as you move towards the center. I think there is something like a “median voter theorem” floating around in political science circles, but I am not a good enough scholar to hunt down the footnotes.

    Where I kick political ass is in doing actual measurements. Unlike so many libertarians, I have had the humility to take off the “voters are stupid” blinders and actually listen to the voters. Done quite a bit of focus group studies, in the field campaign studies, and a not so random but very large dataset study at Quiz2D.com.

    I also had the common sense to crack open some history books to see how well Rothbardian theory measures against historical data. ‘Taint pretty.

  64. Marc up above wants to hear Carl’s principles. Why? Although most “pop libertarians” would differ with a knee-jerk appeal to philosophical dead horses like pre-institutional property rights and zero-aggression axioms (simple, elegant, and wrong, as Mencken would probably say…), to fully ground something like Milsted’s virtual Minarchist’s Manifesto in *principles* would require something at least as thick as _Skepticism and Freedom_ or _Anarchy, State, and Utopia_. Fun reads, certainly, but nothing that may be written spur-of-the-moment.

    You should be able to infer some values, however, which is about all we can hope for from politicians running for office. A politician running for any legislative position on a glib single principle or list of principles is nuttier than a squirrel den. Russel Kirk may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he was spot on about ideologues. Beware the person who believes his ideas and “principles” are universally applicable and that all situations may be worked out a priori. They tend to cause starvations or send people to gulags and gas chambers.

  65. I too try collecting actual data. I did some telephone polling years ago which convinced me that in or before the 1990s LP passed the point where lack of public knowledge could be seriously said to be holding it back. It’s been tried and failed. Libertarians in the USA do no good having their own political party. Our influence is magnified when we get away from each other and move into other political parties.

    Thos who say, look, the other political parties aren’t much libertarian, are asking far too much. Of course things aren’t what you (or anyone else in the world) wants, and they aren’t the worst you could get either. Have a realistic idea of your influence and then of where your influence is greatest. Hint: it ain’t going to be among people who already mostly agree with you, you can’t move them much. It also ain’t going to be among people who almost completely disagree with you. It’ll be with people who agree with you about half way. Center of gravity.

  66. Beware the person who believes his ideas and “principles” are universally applicable and that all situations may be worked out a priori. They tend to cause starvations or send people to gulags and gas chambers.

    Or, as Robert A. Wilson wrote, “Convictions make convicts.”

  67. It’s too bad that libertarian party types can’t bring themselves to believe in practical solutions. Moderate libertarians are forced into one of the two parties because the namesake party is so attached to principal that its platform ends up being ludicrous.

    For example, the LP’s platform calls for the end of government monopolies and regulation for energy companies and utilities. This is a pure dose of crazy. I mean CRAZY. Cato doesn’t go this far. Cato is generally responsible in assessing government regulation in the electric utility world, but they’re not insane enough to suggest retracting the monopoly/regulatory regime. Anybody who values brains over principles knows that our electric grids are not (and cannot be) set up for a truly competitive marketplace. Cato knows this, but the LP is sticking to its “principles.”

  68. Russel Kirk may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he was spot on about ideologues.

    Hmm, I hadn’t heard of Russell Kirk before. Another very relevant text is Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, thick with observations about the psychology of people who have an addictive need for an ideology to fill a hole in their lives.

  69. If these proclamations are based on SOME OTHER principle or principles, I’d like to hear what those are.

    Milsted was using hyperbole when he declared himself unprincipled, trying to emphasize that judgement is as important as principles. But, as an examples, here’s some of my current basic political principles:

    1. Avoid coercion.
    2. Don’t over-retaliate when defending against coercion. Try to turn one’s enemies into allies.
    3. Avoid cruelty.
    4. Work towards a peaceful, prosperous society.
    5. Treat everyone fairly.

    You can see how, just as Milsted said, a set of principles like the above can lead to a lot of the same libertarian conclusions that someone would arrive at solely from the non-aggression principle. But, I would argue, looking at political issues from several angles yields more sophisticated conclusions.

    (I acknowledge I have a character flaw where I haven’t been living up to number 2 in discussion of Milsted’s article. It’s too much fun to argue with people on the blogs.)

  70. Bennett Kalafut has written an excellent criticism of the Libertarian Party “vanguardism” in support of Milsted’s article:

    http://sacredstew.blogspot.com/2007/05/understanding-libertarian-party-reform.html

  71. Many in the LP would argue that your #1 is the same as ZAP. In libertarian circles, at least, the term “principle” is a rule to always live by; it is like a clause in a constitution. Many in the LP are in constitution-mode most of the time, which is why there is so much agonizing over watering down (temporarily?) the platform.

    Preview to upcoming article: I reject “principles” in favor of the underlying values. Example values would be:
    1. Freedom is good
    2. Pushing people around is bad
    3. Clean air is good

    One can derive rules of thumb based upon such values, but they don’t rise to the level of “principle”, at least not as so many libertarians understand the term.

    Note how values can conflict on the margin. To have absolutely clean air requires a great deal of restriction on freedom — whether this restriction is based on contract, tort or EPA regulation. A value judgment needs to be made regarding the tradeoffs. Do we allow some air pollution in order to allow farmers to burn brush? To allow people to purchase cheap electricity?

    Allowing some values to trump the value of noninitiation of force on the margin does not constitute a slippery slope to socialism! Liberty does not require ZAP to trump all other values, for a simple reason: freedom works — usually. In fact, freedom usually works better.

    Voter education need only entail:
    1. Reminders that freedom is of value in and of itself.
    2. Reminders that there are many opportunities to increase freedom while increasing other values at the same time.

  72. Being reasonable is so unlibertarian.

  73. Toward a Libertarian Political Party By Ben Kalafut
    http://www.rationalreview.com/content/13872

    This really is worth reading. Here’s just a taste:
    Libertarian policy positions sure seem to be catching on, but I’m not feeling any freer.

    Drug legalization doesn’t raise eyebrows anymore. School choice, likewise, is old hat and even homeschooling is too mainstream to be called cutting edge. Gun control is stalled like a Third Way economy, privatization isn’t nearly the controversy it used to be, and megacorporations, not usually champions of the free market, are calling for carbon trading.

    It’s clear that libertarian think tanks and issue advocacy groups are getting our ideas taken seriously, but the result has mainly been statists adding free minds and free markets to their toolbox.

    Politicians without libertarian values are not going to set aside their agendas to advance ours. Nonlibertairans may borrow our ideas, but they will not set us free. To move policy in the libertarian direction, we must either elect libertarians to office or be enough of a threat at the polls to force nonlibertarians to make concessions to earn our votes.

    In short, we need a libertarian political party.

    End Losertarian Strategy

    After over 30 years, the Libertarian Party can boast slightly over 500 incumbent officeholders, a sad number when compared to the Socialist Party at its peak, let alone to the Democratic or Republican parties, but not surprising considering how many Libertarians run to lose. Expecting defeat may be realism, but adoption of defeat as a strategy is madness.

    Most of the LP’s best-funded and most professional campaigns are waged by candidates who’d like the LP to be a political party but would rather it not be a libertarian one. I don’t mean that the candidates aren’t libertarian, but rather that they assume that libertarian positions, no matter how well-tuned to the race, are nonwinners. Usually their strategy is to gain office as center-right Republican Lite candidates, emphasizing guns and taxes, downplaying civil liberties and civil society, and throwing in a privatization scheme as a libertarian token.

    This wins dinner invites from Republicans and perhaps a morsel of respect from the press for having practical ideas. However, Duverger’s Law virtually guarantees that of two nearly redundant candidates, voters who prefer the weaker of the pair will cast their votes for the stronger. Thus the Republican Lite strategy doesn’t even make for good spoilers.

  74. Geez, that’s me again. Too bad work on my PhD means I can’t be a mover-and-shaker in the push to create a political home for libertarians. Being a gadfly will have to suffice.

    Thanks for the links. I didn’t know people read that stuff!

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