Hey, it could happen

27. May 2008

Hey, it could happen

The good news from the Libertarian Party National Convention in Denver this past weekend was, Big Head Press sold a big pile of books. Also, my friend L. Neil Smith got to meet up with a dozen or so friends he hasn’t seen in years, and I got to hang with some great people who had been “Internet friends” till now, and meet many interesting new friends.

The bad news is, well, already pretty widely known. Bob Barr has the LP Presidential Nomination, and his buddy Richard Viguerie at long last can add the LP national mailing list to his collection. Actual Libertarian Steve Kubby went down in flames, although the other Actual Libertarian, Dr. Mary Ruwart, ran a strong second in the voting. If 50 delegates had voted the other way on that 6th ballot, the outcome would have been very different.

The question now is, should we care?

Back in the 1970s, when I joined the libertarian movement, the operating definition of “libertarian” pretty much boiled down to as follows:

A libertarian is someone who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate* force or fraud against another person, nor may one delegate to or incite others to do the same.

* — to “initiate force” means to be the first to introduce coercion into a situation, either by violence or threat of violence. Defensive
force is justified, and retaliatory force may be justified depending on the circumstances.

This is the “non-aggression principle,” which coupled with the Lockean definition of property rights, is the core of libertarianism, and the basis for an ethical system that the Libertarian Party was founded in order to propagate and _eventually_ establish in public policy.

There are, to be sure, some difficult questions — such as abortion, or pacifism, or engagement in electoral politics — about which reasonable
libertarians may disagree. But advocating taxation, or legal discrimination against people with unpopular lifestyles, or prohibiting
any peaceful activity, are clearly against libertarian principles.

One result of this move to form a political party was that, as the most visible movement vehicle, whatever the Party does has come to define what “libertarian” means to most people. What Rothbard wrote, or what core libertarian activists wrote into the original party platforms, matters little compared to what that guy in the tie on the idiot box exclaims.

So with the nomination of Barr, the word “libertarian” will cease to describe a unique ethical and political philosophy, but simply indicate a kind of low-tax conservatism. And the Libertarian Party will now become a dumping ground for other failed Republicans. And it still won’t be able to win elections except in some local offices in low-population towns and counties, and when these “neo-libertarians” gain office, they will act just like Republicans, because the requirements of political power will easily overwhelm whatever weakened principles they may have and drive them tax, borrow, and spend just as politicians always have.

As a complement to the pragmatist triumph of Barr was the completion of the gut-the-Platform project begun in the off-year convention held in Portland in 2006. Replacing the formerly clear and deep explication of libertarianism of previous platforms is a series of TV-friendly sound-bites that are, for the most part, so vague as to render the Platform useless as the educational tool it was once intended to be.

Now, I fully expected something like this to happen, sooner or later. As I explained when I quit the Party eight years ago, the formation of a political party seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out to be a major strategic error. The founders did not expect to win elections in the short term, but thought the Party could be an educational vehicle, by attracting free media attention during election seasons when people are most inclined to think about politics.

However, electoral politics, with a few exceptions, has proved a very poor means of educating people. While it has found some success in bringing together and mobilizing people who are already inclined to cherish liberty, most of what educating has been done has happened outside the Party. (Mostly by authors such as Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, R.A. Wilson and L. Neil Smith writing compelling stories with strong libertarian themes, and by academicians making the case for liberty in economics, history, game theory, and so forth.) The public cannot be educated with bumper-sticker slogans and the short sound-bites that get through the media filters during election campaigns. Most Party energy is taken up with satisfying ballot access requirements and the various nuts-and-bolts requirements of campaigning — canvassing, making signs, mailing out flyers, organizing campaign events.

What little “internal” education has been attempted has run up against people who feel they already know the score and resent being told they need educating. They are mostly people with opinions only slightly removed from the mainstream, who are just looking for a vehicle to achieve power and enact their agendas. They don’t understand what libertarianism really means and they don’t want to understand, they just want to get elected.

And so while ballot access drives and lawsuits have chewed up activist money and resources, so have the continuing factional struggles between the “pragmatists” and the “purists” consumed much of our energy. And over the last two decades, many of the “purists,” myself included, have walked away from this useless fight, and now have left the Party in the hands of the Republicanoids.

As I said I knew this was going to happen, and it is a painful but necessary step towards fixing the problem that was created when the Party was founded in 1971.

The danger we face now is that the ideals of libertarianism will be polluted and twisted just as was the formerly honorable term and tradition of “liberalism,” at the hands of the progressive/socialists of a century ago. But this can be avoided.

The solution to this problem is to get the Party to give up the name “Libertarian.” I think this can be done via a two-pronged approach: 1) Those of us outside the Party but retaining soap-box power must make abundantly clear what libertarianism really is, and constantly harangue the Party for its failure to live up to that; 2) Those radical stalwarts remaining in the Party must make themselves such an enormous pain-in-the-ass that the leadership will gladly change the Party name if it will get rid of them.

Once the erstwhile Libertarian Party becomes the Fair-Tax Party or Conservatoid Party or whatever they end up calling themselves, we will have saved our “brand” and can apply it to something better — a membership-based advocacy group modeled on the Sierra Club, or something like it, which can be as successful in spreading the ideals of liberty as the SC has been spreading the ideals of environmentalism.

And we can focus on the important task at hand, and spend a great deal less time and money jumping through the government hoops designed to enervate and defeat us.

Kategorie anarchy, Posts | 27 Kommentare »

27 Kommentare zu diesem Beitrag

  Larry Nieves schrieb @ May 27th, 2008 at 6:01 pm

So, do you think the transition from libertarian to “whatever” party was inevitable or could anything have been done differently.

I ask because in my country of origin the “libertarian” party is so small tha this problem hasn’t come up yet. But if we have any success, surely it will.

  Scott Bieser schrieb @ May 27th, 2008 at 8:12 pm

I’m not sure anything could have been done differently, given the circumstances here in the U.S. Political parties here have been engineered over the centuries to become little more than vehicles by which interest groups contend for political power. Ideology plays a secondary role at best, usually as a distraction.

The dynamics may be different in your old country so not everything here will map to there. But if it is clear that educating the public is your top priority then I would look for other forms besides politcal parties to serve that goal.

  Larry Nieves schrieb @ May 28th, 2008 at 2:50 am

Things are not all that different in Venezuela. There’s only one dominant ideology (socialismo) and myriad parties fighting for a piece of the pie.

I know long term, only education can guarantee that changes in the right direction are enacted. But short of a ancap revolution, we are stuck with politicians and political action, so maybe there’s a way to preserve the core principles of a party, while striving for electoral success.

I don’t know. I’d like to think there’s a way. But so far I’ve seen the same everywhere. Something similar happened a couple of years ago with the Costa Rican Libertarian Party.

Cheers,

Larry

  Mike Renzulli schrieb @ May 28th, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Hello Scott,

It was great to see you and Neil again! In terms of the LP, I came out of the LP convention much more positive going in. Mostly because the lines have been drawn between radicals and pragmatists and the direction of the party is clear.

It is gonna be alot of fun bringing the party and new LP activists around to embrace the true radical nature of the philosophy.

I think Barr-Root is worth giving a shot since the prags can take the reins of control for awhile and find out of their strategy will work or not.

I hope you and Neil will consider re-joining the LP in some manner. If not, it is gratifying to know that rads can count on you 2 for “air cover”. :)

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  Brad Spangler schrieb @ May 29th, 2008 at 6:32 am

Scott,

Great post. See also my followup on it here:

http://www.bradspangler.com/blog/archives/980

  JCR schrieb @ May 29th, 2008 at 11:08 am

The Libertarian Party is lost and the brand is already damaged? What would be a good name for another Libertarian Party?

  Scott Bieser schrieb @ May 29th, 2008 at 11:17 am

JCR: I think the brand is damaged but it can be salvaged, and I would very much like to do so. But I also think it would be a mistake to form another Party.

We don’t need a Party at this juncture, we need something to serve as a vehicle for advocating libertarianism. Party labels in our country function as tribal affiliations, not ideological markers.

Libertarianism properly understood is a philosophy, not a tribal affiliation. Republicans can be libertarians. Democrats can be libertarians. Greens can be libertarians.

  Victor schrieb @ May 29th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Jesus, Scott. That bumper sticker’d be hilarious if it weren’t so damn scary.

I can’t truly say it would surprise me to see that come to pass. I’m sure our cousins at (un)reason would hail a Li’ Mussolini/Fidel’s Right Nut ticket as the LP’s most “serious candidate[s] in a long time.”

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  w 4 form 2008 schrieb @ May 29th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

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  TheHaggard schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 2:32 am

I sit here in the warmth of Taiwan, remembering rooming with you in LA at the 2000 convention. Didn’t we lose the party on THAT day? Seems to me we did. Haven’t looked back.

-Miss talking to you, bud
Michael Haggard
past VC of the AZLP (not inc)

  miche schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 6:47 am

My feelings are the same. I stood with Ruwart/Kubby and am terrified about Barr/Root bastardizing the message. (wrote about it at my place)

Hope I met you while there and if I didn’t, it’s good to meet you now.

michelle shinghal
TX delegation

  Rich Paul schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I’ve been a Libertarian for about 10 years, and think that my life might yet be improved by the Party. Lets face it, the Democrats stand for fast growth of government and slow growth of the military, the Republicans stand for slow growth of government and fast growth of the military.

If Libertarians get elected, they may actually be able to achieve some shrinkage of government. It may be slow, and we may, eventually, have to form an Uber-Libertarian party, in order to shrink government further. Things take time, and if we wait for 50% of Americans to become AnarchoCapitalists, before we take any action, we’re sunk.

But I could be wrong. How many laws have you gotten repealed since you left the Libertarian Party? Perhaps what you’re doing is more effective than I assume it to be. You are doing something, aren’t you?

  serenity schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Hi Scott,

I agree with you completely. I watched the convention on c-pan and couldn’t believe how few votes Steve Kubby got! I thought he did well in the debate.

You mentioned the possibility of forming a membership-based advocacy group. May I recommended that you check out Freedom Force International. http://www.freedom-force.org/

A bunch of us Ron Paul supporters just started a chapter in Philadelphia. Just a thought. Love your banner, by the way.

  J.Eric Andreasen schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Separating from the party-arch mindset was very painful for Liz & I, but it had poisoned the great relations we had with our “Friends in Liberty”.

I might have that bumper sticker made up for my truck, in hopes that it won’t take that long for the death rattle of the LP. To the Barricades!

  Scott Bieser schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Mike: Neil actually never left the Party, the Party left Neil. He agrees with you that it can still be useful — this is a point of disagreement between us.

Michelle: Don’t recall meeting you but thanks for the comment.

Rich: I think your optimism borders on delusion. How many laws has the Libertarian Party repealed in its 37.5 years? There is just not enough support in our society for an even half-way libertarian agenda. If we’d spent the last four decades focusing on education/advocacy, using the proper tools (not the Party), we could almost have been at the point by now where a Libertarian Party could actually have some success, or else not even be necessary.

As for what I’ve been doing, go to http://www.bigheadpress.com. This is what I’ve been doing for the last 5 years.

Serenity: Thanks for the tip. I’ll look into Freedom Force.

Eric: Great to hear from you! Some people who remember the Year of the Blue Faces asked after you guys but I had no idea where you’d gone off to. Hope you and Liz and the kids are doing well.

  Roberto schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 6:21 pm

It may well be a waste of time, but If we were ever to rebuild the LP or form another party, We must do so in such way as the local grass roots in some State issues itself a charter, then same charter is issued to other states, and the National is issued a limited charter to operate under.

The only reason to have a national party is to forward inquiries to local groups. This makes sure all politics and the message of liberty stays under local control.

If we find ourselves in a cash crunch and a sugar daddy (or an oil daddy) shows up to Buy us, A.K.A. save us. We retain control via the local parties. No one at the top could ever attempt to do anything like issue a paper on a federal law needed to fight child porn or other abominations.

Why, because we bond those working for us and they stand to loose everything they own if they presume to step outside the rules that circumscribe our charter.

We didn’t have big bank problems back when bankers had to pledge everything they own to work in banking.

How many have that sinking feeling in the gut when it is revealed that the incorportion of the Party was handled by a nice lawyer who didn’t realize what a monster he had created in a Party that was created from the top down?

National via The Watergate offices are a tool of who ever steps up to help with financing. Building from the bottom up makes a different kind of animal.An animal that can’t be bought.

This is important to those who realize that in order to bind our Principles to our actions through our agents, we must spell out what we want with more clarity.

We can bind our nominees in a similar fashion by Contractual agreement.

It’s either that or watch more pirate ships like the RNC Barrbarian raid the Liberty movement.

  Mike Blessing schrieb @ May 30th, 2008 at 9:29 pm

Hey, Scott! Long time no hear! Sorry I wasn’t able to make the Denver bloodbath — missed you and Neil since the last Bubonicon. If I had been there, I most likely would have been a Kubby delegate.

As for the Barr / Root ticket, there’s supporting it and supporting it — see here — http://weblog.xanga.com/kcufmedia/658814015/the-barr–root-2008-provo-campaign.html.

I see this election season as the “shit or get off the pot” time for the Milsted Minions. After all, Barr and Root are their Appointed Ones.

  Treg schrieb @ May 31st, 2008 at 10:54 am

Hi Scott,

Let them keep the libertarian name Scott. Its so 1950′s – 2008.

Think about it, its time for a better name that is tied back into Science anyway.

First we had the term Liberals from 1750-1890. Herbert Spencer noted the loss of that term in the early 1900′s and we split with the liberals “over social welfare and economics. The Y in the road was our fellow liberals thought through this new Marxian economics social good could be attained, we didn’t. Liberals today still try to achieve social good through force, we don’t.

Though we old liberals or Classical Liberals did not fit in with contemporary liberals, since FDR we have been associating ourselves with the Conservatives, which are nothing like us at all. They do not come from the same caring place as all Liberals do. Modern liberals do care, they are just mixed up believing they can do good by using force. Yes I let them off the hook easily.

Then we had enough of liberals and conservatives and by about 1950 we coined the term libertarian. Still, we hung out with conservatives because at least they were not for radical changes to our liberal inspired Constitution. We hung out with Conservatives through the 50′s and most of the 60′s until we split with them over the Vietnam war. The Objectivists still hung out with the conservatives, never fully getting that war = big government. Objectivists today still hang out and cheer for the War against Terrorism and have been thoroughly Israelized. But most of us in the Libertarian movement have been down the line 100% libertarian and the LP platform spelled it all out for those to gage themselves by.

You are right, the Libertarian Party will become the new Conservative Party. The Republicans will become the War Party, and the Democrats the Welfarist Party.

Good riddance. Goodbye. See you later. Have fun with whatever Principle and Planks you love and can hold on too.

Now, here is what I wish to say. Its time for a new name. Why? Because the old Libertarianism was devoid of science, though it did include the monetarist school of economics for a while, only to fall back upon the older Austrian economics which was birthed back during the early 1900′s from our original Liberal Roots.

Lets take a fast look to 1750′s forward. The Liberalism that we are from from that time was the TOP SCIENCE of Mankind and Political Economy at the time. Then around 1900′s the Socialists claimed science and many early adopting Liberals went with it, it felt good to change society for the better – or so they thought-and if it meant giving up the older Liberal principle of do no harm, nonaggression axiom, then so be it, and we lost our liberal brethren. As I said, we took to hanging out with Conservatives to try to stem the tide. That is too bad, because liberals where left the sciences generally speaking. They owned Anthropology, psychology, biology, political science, and even archeology. Their liberal world view penetrated every crack and colored every result.

Well what is new in 2008? What is REALLY new as far as understanding the Political Economy of Man? What is really NEW in understanding the true NATURE of MANKIND? A lot! A whole hell of a lot. And the best news is it FITS IN NICELY with our old classical liberal and recent Libertarian ideas and prescriptions.

Perhaps the first man to sense this was the writer Robert Ardrey who wrote THE TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE and AFRICAN GENESIS.

But the “BIG BANG” sort to speak happened in the biological sciences. First came Robert O Wilson’s book SOCIOBIOLOGY. Suddenly this liberal Harvard professor was shocked to find huge protests outside his 2nd story window. He had not realized that his quest to stay true to evolutionary theory had led him to cross over the Liberal Premise in science. He had outlined Mankind’s nature and behold, the liberal premise was nowhere to be found.

Robert Trivers, also at Harvard and also a life long socialist, was also an evolutionary biologist. He studied the “the hard problem of Altruism”. Its an interesting “problem” when you are a socialist wanting to base society on Altruistic principles. Yet a choice had to be made, do good science or fudge a theory you want to see. He did good science. Sociobiology was under (and still is under attack). But like all good sciences it has made predictions, tested them, and found new facts of our Human Condition. Perhaps the crowning acceptance this sciences LIBERTARIAN implications came with MIT professor Steven Pinker’s book, THE BLANK SLATE, which made it abundantly clear we are not born, as AYN RAND said, tabul rasa. We have an inherited nature and this nature of Man is definable.

What does this all mean? If man has a clear and definable nature, as our 1750 liberal brothers surmised at the time and Herbert Spencer tried to deduce from Darwin’s evolutionary theory, then POLITICS of man can be judged as being “in accordance with” or not being “in accordance with” Mankind’s nature.

Libertarianism, if it is anything at all, is a still born political science of Man. What do you think Ludwig Von Mises and Fredrick Hayek where describing? Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged all try to get at the true nature of Man. Rand hit the nail on the head with Altruism, for it is there that the Y in the road has Liberals choosing planned altruism over chaotic self interest. Designing a society, or letting it blossom.

Libertarianism, as you have pointed is a Brand that will soon be lost.

I say, so be it. Let it go.

The Libertarianism that I want for the future is one that GROUNDS itself back into the hard sciences and the soft sciences….

A scientific libertarianism deserves a new name.

A scientific libertarianism will be riding on top of the all the underling sciences below it, biology, psychology, neuropsychology, anthropology, sociology, game theory, genetics, economics, sociobiology, and on and on it goes.

A scientific libertarianism will not look like the libertarianism that you knew and loved in the past. It will not not be simplistic. It will be very complicated, or rather, full of KEY CONCEPTS that make up the whole.

What will scientific libertarianism books look like and what will they say? Well you can read two of them now.

Read this one by Michael Shermer called, THE MIND OF THE MARKET: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, & other tales from Evolutionary Economics.

Or you can read this one by professor Paul Rubin called Darwinian Politics. Here professor Rubin points out that libertarians may need to understand the deeper implication of the policies they advocate and why they encounter near universal disagreement, historically, culturally, and everywhere in between with most members of our species. Take the legalization of All Drugs plank. On the economic side, it makes sense to not have contraband. On the security side it may make sense to not have contraband. Then why do most insist we have it? For the libertarian Scientist, we do not fall back to axiomatic “First Principles”, such as everyone has the right to Life, Liberty & Property and wash our hand of the issue. Too simplistic and not very scientific. As Dr Rubin pointed out there are other dimensions to being human. Take our human sexuality. It appears as though we, like many mammals–not all–operate on whats called “The Handicapping Principle”. Our sexual competition is one of endangerment and restricted self destruction. Hence we dance for hours or days around the campfire going without sleep, without food, as if to say, “LOOK, look how fit I am!” or “Look, I partied all night, drank gallons of intoxicating fluids, and I am ALRIGHT! I am ready to do it again! I am an Animal!” or…”Look, I am so crazy I am going to drive my car 120 mph while sitting backwards looking through a mirror!”…. and on and on it goes. A survey of tribal cultures provides a rich variety of ways we, DURING OUR SEXUALLY PRIME and MATE-LESS years, behave destructively. What is noted by Dr. Rubin is that culturally speaking, all societies make rules, regulations and morals that in effect, STOP the Arms Race that naturally ensues from this sexual competition.

All of this Libertarian Science does not mean we must give up on any positions we now have, but it will let us understand that perhaps we cannot get the Legalization of Drugs — particularly the hard drugs, past until the those in society feel confident enough that no Arms Race will ensue. This could be done with rituals, ceremonies, customs, and beliefs. What stops hundreds of tribal boys from going smoking a substance that the tribe knows give you hallucinogenic trips? The social glue that if one did this on Non Ceremony times, then that person is (1) attacking the tribe (2) a hated enemy (3) a looser seeking death… so severe is the social hate that the arms race is then anticipated for those “special days when boys can compete”.

Ok, so what should we call this Scientific Libertarianism? Science itself seems to be asking for this new catagory. Its not Sociobiology, its not Evolutionary theory, its not political science….

I will leave that answer to you my fellow Old School Libertarians. Take stock in the fact that we have learned a lot in the last 50 years. Take stock that the next 50 years will have as much exponetial change in it as the 1900 turn of the century did.

Take stock in the fact at our numbers, always small, and so we must raise our Scientific Weight, our INTELLECTUAL BATTLE WEIGHT. In years past, we were tough bantam weights that people laughed at, yet did not wish to fight. In the years future, I hope we become INTELLECTUAL HEAVY WEIGHTS that will get the Respect we deserve.

Your friend in Liberty, Peace & Kindness,

Treg

  Scott Bieser schrieb @ May 31st, 2008 at 11:20 am

Mike: You have some interesting ideas on your blog post but the URL you gave has a small error in it. Here’s the corrected version:

http://weblog.xanga.com/kcufmedia/658814015/the-barr–root-2008-provo-campaign.html

(two dashes between “barr” and “root”)

Treg: It may well be that we “old school” types will need to find a new label for ourselves. I’m comfortable with “market anarchist” or “voluntaryist” but someone may come up with something better. But I still feel that it’s worth trying to save the “libertarian” label if we can.

By the way, you may wish to take this longish comment of yours and make it a stand-alone article some place it might get more visibility than in the comments section of my blog. Or at least where you can easily link to it in your e-mails and other commentary. It has a lot of interesting ideas that are worth discussing.

  Mike Blessing schrieb @ May 31st, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Scott, thanks for the link correction.

At present, I’m heavily involved in the LP, but my various terms of office all expire on 12 April 2009. At the very least, I’m planning on a vacation from the cause, for at least 30 days. How this campaign is conducted will determine the scope of my future involvement in the LP after that.

  RS schrieb @ June 1st, 2008 at 12:07 pm

RE: “Rich: I think your optimism borders on delusion. How many laws has the Libertarian Party repealed in its 37.5 years? There is just not enough support in our society for an even half-way libertarian agenda. If we’d spent the last four decades focusing on education/advocacy, using the proper tools (not the Party),”

In a 2002 study, the LP estimated that over 50,000 laws had been removed from the books by Libertarian action and participation.

In 1999, the LIO determined that all aspects of the Libertarian platform had been substantially done somewhere through similar action.A new international platform is under test based on relevant examples.

It is regerettable that the US LP does not better publicize this information.

R. Swanson
Libertarian International Organization

  “Julius” schrieb @ June 18th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Prep Your loved ones for Officer Friendly http://www.infowars.com/?p=2723

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