Austin Dispatches
No. 93
Oct. 15, 2006
e93fig3 Five years in, the U.S. government finds itself stalemated in Afghanistan and Iraq.[1]  On the home front, however, the USG resoundingly triumphed over the Libertarian Party in Portland, Ore., in early July.

While I’m delighted several friends won intraparty races at the party’s biennial national convention, I suspect their victories will soon seem to them a cruel joke.[2] 

For in the same long weekend, pushed by a “reform” caucus, a majority of assembled delegates

Some reform.

All this was accomplished in a haphazard, ill-conceived manner.[8]  No amount of upbeat glossing changes the basic results.[9]

At the July TCLP business meeting, Pat Dixon, Lago Vista councilman, Texas LP chairman, and newly elected national LP committeeman, told me he believes the “reformers” were “well-intentioned.” Fair enough. The well-intentioned also can wreck things.

For starters, the deletion of the foreign policy plank from the LP platform. The absence of a libertarian stance on foreign policy matters, especially a forthright opposition to the undeclared war in Iraq, means the LP forfeits a major issue to exploit in the congressional races at the expense of its entrenched rivals.[10]

During fall 2001 and winter 2002 the smart political decision was to avoid a direct opposition to U.S. military ventures, supported – albeit wrongly – by an inflamed public.[11]  Now, the smart political decision is a forthright opposition, one that meshes with the popular mood.[12] 

As Robert Higgs has pointed out, the issue of war and peace is fundamental to libertarianism; to permit government a free hand in the key areas of foreign and defense policies is to support Leviathan, and to grant it a free hand in all other areas, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.[13]

The rest of the current “platform” is to libertarianism as a white stretch limo is to taste and subtlety.

The party platform is the means by which party members transform ideas into political issues and hence into reality.[14] After Portland, however, the new “platform” no longer clearly “enumerates various policy stands derived from those principles” – despite what the preamble claims.

The party definitely doesn’t distinguish itself from its rivals on economic issues any more. Not when the delegates abolished the planks opposing taxation, inflation, fiat money and the continued existence of government lending and economic regulatory agencies. And this at a time when a revived stagflation looms ahead for the economy.[15]

The delegates also eliminated:  And much more.[16]  Some reform.

The results reflect further “Givotization,”  after the activist who at past conventions spearheaded the abolition of planks advocating the abolition of the FBI and the CIA,[17] two police-state agencies as ineffectual at their purported tasks as they are tyrannical toward U.S. citizens and others too weak to fight back effectively.[18]  To the extent that a security agency must exist, it would be better to create a new one from scratch, without old institutional biases and mindsets.[19]

The planks supporting abortion and open immigration remain, though. These planks really do cost the LP support. The positions expressed therein, moreover, aren’t the definitive intrinsically libertarian positions.[20]  Besides, immigrants bring with them massive externalities in a way that inanimate goods don't;[21]  current abortion policy was imposed by judicial fiat.[22] 

Some reform.

By omitting so many planks, the delegates untethered the LP from long-established libertarian principles. This means that ambitious but unprincipled candidates can call themselves Libertarians without penalty. Should they win, we could witness Libertarians officeholders who maintain the status quo, or even expand the size and scope of government.[23] 

For example, at the July business meeting, the local state Senate nominee, Rock Howard, dismissed the positions listed above as “planks written 20 years ago, and many didn’t apply anymore.” Voters would do well to remember this on Election Day.

An Internet search turned up various party members claiming the Portland abortion wasn’t so bad because the Statement of Principles remains unchanged.[24]  That’s only because the LRC didn’t have enough votes to abolish that, too.[25] 

What does the new chairman think of this? He’d rather push proportional representation in elections for public office; even though as former Ballot Access Committee chairman, he knows full well it’s the ballot access laws erected by the establishment parties that are the external structural obstacle that hampers the LP.[26]  Bill Redpath ought to concentrate on repealing a century’s worth of such laws in the several states, rather than some gimmicky scheme.

This is the same Bill Redpath who, during his 2001 gubernatorial campaign in Virginia, waffled over gun purchase background checks, declined to abolish firearms fees and gun-owner registration; and declined to unequivocally oppose all gun bans.[27]

Of course, none of these calamities could’ve happened without enough support from the delegates. I don’t mean to imply Redpath and his ilk lack principles. Far from it. But they’re technicians, typically uncomfortable with theory and better suited to detail work on master plans – the increments. Technique is their principle.

It’s always about increments. The idea is to make them as large as possible. To the extent these people belong in the LP, they’d best serve it by focusing on the details necessary to implement libertarian theory. The rest they should leave alone. Unless they’re kept in check, they tend to tinker for its own sake – e.g., proportional representation – and end up doing the wrong things, even if they’re technically proficient.[28] 

If the stereotypical well-meaning but naïve “liberal” thinks Hell is a good system run by bad men, the technocratic libertarian – currently exemplified by the Libertarian “Reform” Caucus -- thinks its temperatures can be lowered efficiently by a centralized air conditioning system that uses a new algorithm.  The means become the ends.[29]

At worst, by the standards employed to calibrate ideology,[30]  they’re “crackpot realists.”[31]  When they’re not traducing authentic libertarian principles, they regard the ideology as a mere flavor of “public policy soda,” with differences to be worked out among elites.[32]  Instead, they’ll need a Rothbardian intransigence just to make a dent in the status quo.[33] 

Even the Travis County LP hasn’t been immune to this weakness. Most notoriously, some of the top activists actually considered compromising on the smoking ban, an infringement of private property.[34]  More recently, the TCLP failed to take a firm opposition to about half the municipal ballot measures that proposed to expand the size and scope of government.[35]

The results of Portland are consistent with how Isabel Paterson defined “reform”: new restrictions, not the removal of existing ones, for the aggrandizement of the State.[36]

Specifically, the overall results from Portland represent a capitulation to the corporatist, managerial-therapeutic, warfare-welfare state.[37]  The LP has long had its share of trimmers and appeasers, but they’ve been kept in check until recently.[38]  An earlier attempt to revise the platform was soundly defeated at the 1993 convention, for example.[39]  Ironically, the LP is now more vulnerable to a takeover by outside groups, who don’t have to disguise their ideological colors quite so hard.[40] 

In diluting the LP’s ideological coloration, the LRC failed to simultaneously acquire new constituencies, either “who need protection vis-à-vis the State, or, on the contrary, wish to have access to benefits and positions that only the State can dispense.”[41]  Instead, the party risks defections, factional fights, and antagonizing single-issue voters, who can provide up to a 5 percent margin of victory in tight races.[42]

The ruptures created from Portland have already begun to slow the LP’s momentum this election season. Momentum’s a crucial element in electoral success.[43]

If the LP survives the 2006 elections – if – it will survive as little more than a plaything of the managerial class.[44] 

The LP has been lurching in the wrong direction, usually in a defensive posture, since 9/11. Its leadership, largely sub par during this period, isn’t playing to win. Instead, it’s playing not to lose.

That’s bad principle and bad politics.

Prudence dictates long-established affiliations shouldn’t be changed for light and transient reasons. But when a long train of compromises and failures becomes apparent, it’s time to reconsider.[45] 

Cumulatively, I’m forced to conclude that the Libertarian “leadership,” with notable exceptions, isn’t really serious about winning as libertarians, or even winning, period. That makes my continued participation a waste of time.

Therefore, after 16 years, I must conclude my involvement with the "Libertarian " Party.

Although I want it understood: I didn’t leave it; it left me.
E-mail: austindispatches@swbell.net

Anonymous [Scheuer, Michael F.]. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, rev. ed. Dulles, Va.: Potomac Books, 2005: Ch. 2; Friedman, George. America’s Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between American and Its Enemies, rev. ed. New York City: Broadway Books, 2005; Glantz, Aaron. How America Lost Iraq. New York City: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005; Napoleoni, Loretta. Terror Incorporated: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Seven Stories Press, 2005: Ch. 18; Packer, George. The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq. New York City: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005; Risen, James State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. New York City: Free Press, 2006: Ch. 6-7.
[2] “Local Libertarians Figure on National Stage.” AL 9 July 2006: 1-2.
[3] Bergland, David. Libertarianism in One Lesson, 6th ed. Costa Mesa, Calif.: Orpheus Publications, 1993; Quealy, Patrick. “A Party in Search of Itself.” Liberty Sep. 2006: 39+.
[4] North, Gary. Priorities and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Matthew, 2nd rev. ed. Harrisonburg, Va.: Dominion Education Ministries, 2005: 380; Vigeurie Richard A., and David Franke. America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power. Chicago: Bonus Books, 2004: 122-123.
[5] Black, Bob. “The Libertarian as Conservative.” Speech, Eris Society, Aspen, Colo. Aug. 1984. Rpt. The Abolition of Work and Other Essays. Port Townsend, Wash.: Loompanics Unlimited, 1986: 141-148.
[6] Fukuyama, Francis. “The Fall of the Libertarians.” WSJ 2 May 2002: A14.
[7] Raimondo, Justin. An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000: 243-248, 257-259; Rothbard, Murray N. “Total Victory: How Sweet It Is!” LF Sep./Oct. 1983: 1-14.
[8] Doherty, Brian. “The Portland Plank Massacre of 2006.” Reasononline 7 July 2006 <http://www.reason.com/links/links070706.shtml>; Quealy, Patrick. “A Party in Search of Itself.” Liberty Sep. 2006: 39-45; Roland, Jon. “Fw: 2006 Platform Committee – Guy McLendon’s Preliminary Report to…” E-mail to Liberty List, 4 July 2006 < http://groups.yahoo.com/group/liberty-list/message/4774>; Roland. “Re: Re: The Portland Purge.” E-mail to Libertarian discussion forum, 15 July 2006 < http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Libertarian/message/49960>; Squyres, George. “Portland and the LP Platform: The Perfect Storm.” Liberty for All 26 July 2006 <http://www.libertyforall.net/?p=6>.
    LP national committeeman Wes Benedict, in his remarks at the TCLP monthly business meeting at Mekong River Restaurant on July 11, estimated the majority at 120 delegates, or about 55 percent of the total.
[9] Badnarik, Michael. Fundraising letter, 17 July 2006.
[10] Ferguson, Andrew. “Pat-Down to the People.” Liberty Oct. 2006: 7; Page, Susan, and Jill Lawrence. “GOP Lags in Key Races for Senate.” USA Today 1 Sep. 2006: 1A+.
[11] Eisler, Dan. “Re: New poll for TCLPActive.” E-mail to TCLPActive 8 Apr. 2002.
[12] Beito, David. “Impractical Pragmatists.” Liberty Sep. 2006: 43.
[13] Higgs, Robert. “Are Questions of War and Peace Merely One Issue Among Many for Libertarians?” LewRockwell.com 24 July 2006 < http://www.lewrockwell.com/higgs/higgs47.html>.
[14] Rothbard. “Strengthening the LP.” LF Mar./Apr. 1978: 1+.
[15] Aversa, Jeannine. AP. “Economic Growth Slows Drastically.” Austin American-Statesman 29 July 2006: F1+; Aversa. “U.S. Job Growth Loses Steam in July.” Idem., 5 Aug. 2006: F1+.
[16] “The Platform of the Libertarian Party Before and After the 2006 Convention” Liberty Sep. 2006: 41.
[17] Moore, Carol. “Convention Diary.” Liberty Sep. 2002: 46, 49.
[18] Baer, Robert. See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, rev. ed. New York City: Three Rivers Press, 2002; Donner, Frank J. The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America’s Political Intelligence System, rev. ed. New York City: Vintage Books, 1981; “Is America a Police State?” Ron Paul’s Freedom Report Aug./Sep. 2002: 1-20; Kessler, Ronald. The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, rev. ed. New York City: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2003; Stockwell, John. In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story. New York City: W.W. Norton & Co., 1978; Trento, Joseph J. The Secret History of the CIA. New York City: Forum, 2001.
[19] Brzezinski, Matthew. Fortress America: On the Frontlines of Homeland Security – an Inside Look at the Coming Surveillance State. New York City: Bantam Books, 2004: 227.
[20] Cox, Stephen. “The Fallacy of Open Immigration.” Liberty Oct. 2006: 26; Hospers, John. “A Libertarian Argument Against Open Borders.” Journal of Libertarian Studies Summer 1998: 153-165; Rothbard. "Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State." Journal of Libertarian Studies Fall 1994: 1-10. Rpt. Secession, State and Liberty. Ed. David Gordon. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1998: 79-88.
[21] Cox, op. cit.; Chua, Amy. World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. New York City: Doubleday, 2003; Vaca, Nicolás C. The Presumed Alliance: The Unspoken Conflict Between Latinos and Blacks and What It Means for America. New York City: Rayo, 2004; Sowell, Thomas. Migrations and Cultures: A World View. New York City: Basic Books, 1996.
[22] Rothbard, Murray N. Making Economic Sense. Auburn, Ala.: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1995: 367.
[23] Rand, Mark. “Time Out of Mind.” Liberty Sep. 2006: 44; Squyres. “The LP Platform and Candidates.” Liberty for All 28 Aug. 2006 < http://www.libertyforall.net/?p=35>.
[24] E.g., Sarwark, Nicholas. “Portland: Looking Back and Looking Forward.” Hammer of Truth 7 July 2006 <http://hammeroftruth.com/2006/07/08/portland-looking-back-and-looking-forward/#comments>.
[25] Kerner, Michael. “Unprecedented Overturn of Most of the LP Platform!” Libertarian Party 4 July 2006 < http://www.lp.org/yourturn/archives/000360.shtml>.
[26] Browne, Harry. “What We’re Up Against.” 2000 Campaign Report. Harry Browne.org < http://www.harrybrowne.org/2000/WhatWe%27reUpAgainst.htm>.
[27] Ashbridge, Abel. “Tested Relationship Become Stronger.” Virginia Liberty Jan./Feb. 2002 < http://www.lpva.com/Archives/VaLiberty/2002/200201/article09.htm>; Eisler. “House of Delegates.” E-mail to Dennis Lucey, 13 Apr. 2003; Virginia Citizens Defense League. 2001 Statewide Candidate Survey. Newington, Va.: Virginia Citizens Defense League, 2001.
[28] Baritz, Loren. Backfire: A History of How American Culture Led Us Into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did, 1st ed. New York City: William Morrow & Co., 1985: 323-328; Cringely, Robert X. [Mark Stephens] Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date, rev. ed. New York City: HarperBusiness, 1996: 22-23.
[29] Morgenthau, Hans J. Dilemmas of Politics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1958: 242.
Halberstam, David. War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals. New York City: Scribner, 2001: 59.
Mills, C. Wright. The Causes of World War Three. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1958: 86-88.
[32] Rockwell, Llewellyn H. Jr. “War and Freedom.” Speech, Freedom Summit, Phoenix, Oct. 12, 2002. Speaking of Liberty. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2003: 138.
[33] Friedman, Milton, and Rose Friedman. Tyranny of the Status Quo. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984; Rothbard. “Do You Hate the State?” LF July 1977: 1+.
[34] Howard, Rock. “Re: [TCLPActive] Just Say NO to Compromise!” E-mail to TCLPActive, 10 Oct. 2003.
    To avoid denials, here’s the full, unexpurgated text of the Howard e-mail:
    “To me an example of a workable compromise would be:
”-- If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained smoking
registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the
entrance(s) of the establishment detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal
signage would be: "Smoking Permitted".)
    ”-- If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained "smoke
free" registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign
near the entrance(s) of the establishment to the effect detailing their
smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: "No Smoking" or "Smoke Free".)
    ”(Knowing the city, they would probanly [sic.] require spanish language too.)
”This "compromise" would hopefully placate those who consider cigeratte [sic.] smoke
as an assault on their personages. (For some people it actually is.) As far
as abridging rights goes, it is simply coupling the right of the property
owner to the equal and legitimate responsibility to make their smoking policy
clear to prospective patrons either through signage or by the public process
of signing up on a registry.
    ”As far as the "permit" idea goes, let's see if we can dig up actual examples
where a permitting process for smoking turned into a ban. If we can do that,
then that would be helpful as it might give the business owners more
intenstinal [sic.] fortitude about defending their rights. At this point many are
seeing this as a life and death issue for their businesses and that makes [sic.]
more susceptible to a slippery slope compromise.”
“Travis County Libertarian Party Adopts Positions on Some May 13 Ballot Propositions.”AL 9 Apr. 2006: 1-2.
Paterson, Isabel, cited in Cox, The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2004: 109.
[37] AD No. 36n7 (Mar. 9, 2002).
[38] Friedman, Jeffrey. “The End of Poltical Activism.” Liberty Mar. 1989: 47-50; Palmer, Tom G. “The Fallacy of Gradualism: A Reply.” Libertarian Forum Mar. 1977: 2-3.
[39] “Arthur, Chester Alan” [R.W. Bradford]. “The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Anarchy in in Salt Lake.” Liberty Oct. 1993: 42-44.
Phillips, Kevin. Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustrations of American Politics, rev. ed. Boston: Back Bay Books, 1995: 118-123.
[41] Cox. “Politics vs. Ideology: How Elections Are Won.” Liberty Feb. 2005: 19; Silone, Ignazio, cited in Thomas Molnar. The Decline of the Intellectual. Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1961: 247.
[42] Vigeurie and Franke. op. cit., 119.
[43] Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t. New York City: HarperBusiness, 2001: 128.
[44] Casey, Douglas. “Class Is in Session – Will They Learn?” Liberty Apr.1993: 23-26+; Francis, Samuel. "Neoconservatism and the Managerial Revolution." Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism. Columbia, Mo.: U of Missouri P, 1993: 95-117. Gottfried, Paul Edward. After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1999; Green, John C., and James L. Guth. “The Sociology of Libertarians.” Liberty  Sep./Oct. 1987: 6; Hylton, Wil S. “Midterms: What’s the Deal?” GQ July 2006: 100.
[45] Declaration of Independence. 1776. Rpt. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1998: 9-10.