During the Nixon years it became obvious neither of the major political parties would ever protect the principle of individual liberty against the Cult of the Omnipotent State. In the 1971 July/Aug issue of The Individualist, David Nolan and supporters openly called for the creation of the Libertarian Party to advance freedom. The idea: to use the structure of a political party as a nexus for activism, spreading the message of liberty and fighting the encroachments of politics primarily at the grassroots level.
Thirty-five years later, Nolan spoke to the Ohio Libertarian Convention about his concerns then and now (May 6, 2006). Of the seven original objectives for the proposed LPUS, winning office was last on the list … “almost an afterthought.” From those beginnings, in which winning elections was considered a welcome (and highly unlikely) bonus due to effective activism, the Libertarian Party has come to emphasize winning office almost above all else. Why?
From the beginning, freedom was the goal. Much thought and debate went into how best to achieve that. The evolution of the Libertarian Party documents has been remarkably stable and consistent in its clear support of liberty and prosperity. Alteration of the LPUS’s Statement of Principles (an enduring statement of our purpose) requires a 7/8 vote in convention to amend. This high standard was of course intentional.
History shows why we need to gain popular support, not merely elected positions, if we are to have any chance of achieving a free society. Politicians don’t lead the mob, they represent them. A populace educated by licensed media and government mandated schools had little interest in a philosophy that promised nothing but the promise to be left alone. Libertarians also knew that government actions over time would provide graphic evidence to motivate support for freedom solutions.
Libertarians in general knew government had every motivation to grow in size and intrusiveness and lacked any real deterrent against doing so. The Libertarian Party represented a growing understanding that force or the threat of force, in whatever form, was required to maintain control of a population increasingly aware of the illegitimacy of so much government in their lives. Most people simply wish to be left alone, but government cannot leave them alone. Men in uniforms with shiny badges and seal-embossed parchments demanding service to “The King” have always been accompanied by the threat of violence for non-compliance.
The Revolution between the ears won’t take place all at once, but it will take place overnight. One morning everything will be different. Government actions against the people in the form of laws like the USA PATRIOT Act, surveillance of the innocent, controls on communications and the supposed dominion over one’s body are creating an explosive environment, and the central planners know it. These police state tactics are not for our protection from outside threats, but for the protection of government from the American people. Government limits on our ability to seek redress and physically defend against tyranny are increasing — an outcome predicted for decades by libertarians.
There are reasons to avoid being in public office these days. I firmly believe there will be at least a metaphorical guillotining of public officials responsible for destroying the American Dream for tens of millions of Americans. And I do not wish to be affiliated with those standing in line for their turn to have the lever pulled on their fate. I have absolutely no political goal other than to be left alone. My whole family and large circle of friends have invested a great deal of time, effort and money to that end. But I don’t see wielding the power of elective office as a path to that goal.
While content to focus my efforts at home in Arizona I have become increasingly aware of those with a great desire to be a “respected member” of the very system we oppose. The claim that one needs positions of power in order to free individuals is very troubling. We should be the Hobbits who do not seek power over others, and are willing to make great investments to ensure being left alone. Changing the hands on the levers of power won’t eliminate the levers. The abandonment of the principled foundation of libertarianism now would be disastrous and leave us with nothing of value to distinguish us from our ideological competition.
And while most libertarians would welcome a return to the size of government allowed by the US Constitution as championed in the Federalist Papers, many recognize that this document created the opportunity for the powerful central government we oppose today. The liberty-minded people of the American Revolution were profoundly ambivalent about the US Constitution, and detailed their concerns in the Anti-Federalist papers. What good are checks and balances when all three branches of government are aligned against the rights of the individual? The Bill of Rights was the libertarian compromise. These ten “Thou Shalt Nots” of government was the deal made to avoid conflict. But the document has proven to be binding only on the people, in our forced support of our present government, while every single one of the Bill of Rights is constantly violated without hesitation by government. I am certain that I am not the only one wondering when this “social contract” will finally be declared null and void.
So what should the LP be doing? First and foremost, telling the truth. Credibility isn’t measured by vote totals, accurate or not — not to those whose opinions will matter most when the time comes. The willingness to become popular, accepted, or sanctioned by supporting lesser forms of slavery isn’t practical. I know there are some who are very vocal about the need to appeal to a larger audience’s perspective. But that only reinforces this perspective, now with the sanction of the Libertarian Party. Libertarians have accomplished amazing things. With the unlimited resources available to our opposition, it is amazing that we have been able to provide such a large injection of the libertarian infection into the bone marrow of American politics as we have.
I have always been optimistic about the adoption of libertarian philosophy as America matures. Americans may be forced into a libertarian society without a choice should economic conditions continue to worsen (which they will). And now is not the time to be less libertarian, it is time to be proud libertarians who express a confidence in our philosophy, as a way out of the coming economic, social and political troubles brought upon us by out-of-control government.
I am afraid we may become victims of our own success. The more influential the Libertarian Party became, the more the party attracted those who would make use of that influence for their own purposes. Also, Libertarian parties around the country have been lured by the cash benefits provided to political parties, and lately to local campaigns. Individuals acting in the name of libertarianism and the expansion of freedom hope to change the National Platform of the Libertarian Party of the United States in order to allow the acceptance of party and campaign welfare in the fight against social and economic welfare.
The Libertarian Party has departed from its primary directive as a liberty nexus for the entire freedom movement, at just the time this resource is most needed and when technology has given billions of people the ability to access what we have to offer. Make available the experience and talents of libertarian activists online, and freedom fighters from around the globe will join us with their support and their energy to add their ideas, graphics, photos, writings, lawsuit research, letterhead formats, sign production ideas, computer skills, mass media abilities, manpower, money and appreciation that will change the planet. All the Libertarian Party has to do is maintain a clear definition of libertarianism, and get out of the way of people who want to help each other live free. It really is no more complicated than that.
“Freedom’s the Answer. What’s the Question?”
(An Alternate view of a supporter of the Libertarian Reform Caucus supports another perspective here)
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