We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

What it [the UK Libertarian Party] will do, like the Libertarian Party has done in the United States, is to tarnish the libertarian brand, allowing the crazier aspects of libertarian thinking to come to the fore, and achieving nothing of any merit.

- Alex Singleton, ‘How Libertarians undermine liberty

67 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mr cat meet Mr pigeons. :-)

  • I would have to disagree with Alex completely

  • Snide

    And that would be because all you friends of liberty who worked within the Established Parties have done such a great job of defending liberty, right?

  • Ian B

    Well anyway, having had a rant at Alex on the blog, it’s pushed me over the threshold into joining. I’ve never joined a political party before. I feel quite thrilled :)

  • Nick Timms

    I would also have to disagree with Alex Singleton.

    It is, seemingly, a paradox that some libertarians, who believe in minimal government, and generally despise politicians as self-interested lying parasites, should set up a political party.

    However I do not believe that we can afford to sit on the sidelines making disparaging remarks about the foetid state of politics. We have to do something.

    Libertarians have been and are still losing the battle of ideas. The statists have such a strong grip on the mainsteam media, state education, of the meta-context of general perception.

    We who read, write, or comment, on blogs of a broadly libertarian viewpoint are a small minority. Most people of my acquaintance who have even heard of libertarianism, have a poor understanding of the core ideas and principles.

    I am a member of the UK Libertarian Party because I believe in the concepts cited in its manifesto and the more people who stand up for these beliefs the more likely it is that these ideas will grow and once again become widespread.

    As to the assertion that the UKLP will tarnish the libertarian brand…what brand? As far as I can tell there are a number of individuals whose views may be broadly described as libertarian, although many of them do not like that label, and who do not agree about many of the details, hence the ‘crazier aspects of libertarian thinking’ remark.

    I do not require that the UKLP manifesto be right in every respect. It is close enough to what I believe for me to give my support to it. It is a force for good and only strengthens not undermines the libertarian cause.

  • bob duckman

    Could anyone conceive a more hypocritical political ideology of that of trying to democratically elect libertarian government?

    Apart from maybe the BNP.. but even with them I suspect they are at least capable of seeing their own irony.

  • John in Michigan, USA

    I have believed in libertarian principles since the moment I understood them, but I am against the US Libertarian party for three reasons.

    First, when it comes to political organization, the USLP tends to conduct themselves a bit like a cult – anyone who isn’t a “true believer” or insufficiently “pure” is considered an enemy, even if they agree with a majority of the policies. Perhaps this is the legacy of Randian Objectivism (which I admire but also reject — I am a philosophical Pragmatist). Consider the gold standard. It embodies a valid insight (it really is a recipe for abuse when an elite federal board controls the currency), but its supporters seem not to understand that the gold standard only stabilizes currency when the rate of real economic growth just happens to equal the rate of discovery of new gold deposits. Mainly, the gold standard represents a romantic but useless nostalgia for the past, and has become elevated to the status of sacred cow or panacea. This is what I mean by cultish behavior.

    Second, they tend to take stands on every issue, and this is a mistake. In spite of his conservative tendencies, Ronald Reagan was the most successful libertarian president we’ve had in modern times. Paraphrasing Reagan, any successful leader or political movement must limit itself to a few big ideas, clearly expressed. Perhaps as few as three big ideas. Whereas, Libertarians tend to engage on all fronts (on principle, they feel they must!), which in a system dominated by checks and balances is nearly impossible, even for a majority party.

    Third, all the best practitioners of libertarian principles tend to go into business as entrepreneurs. Here we see the Reagan principle distilled even further: successful entrepreneurs focus on one or at most two big ideas and try to make products out of them. Anyway, the talent drain perhaps explains why the Libertarian party often fails to execute their goals. To be clear, there are a number of very talented people in the USLP, but there is not nearly enough depth on the bench to form a true national party.

    I hope the UK Libertarian Party will have better luck than the USLP at finding a way to avoid these pitfalls.

  • Ian B

    Could anyone conceive a more hypocritical political ideology of that of trying to democratically elect libertarian government?

    I’d imagine they could, yes. What pray tell is wrong precisely in attempting to win an election to thus put into practise the political ideas of libertarianism? What would you prefer? A revolution? Storming the Bastille in a display of glorious, bloody futility? Or would you really just prefer to live under an authoritarian state, complaining about it and doing nothing to change it? Yes, you can stay at home election after election, doing your bit by doing nothing, and frothing at the fools who go to the polls. That’ll work.

  • The problem with the LP in the US is

    1) the candidates- no one is voting for them. Since their inception in 1971 only once have they exceeded 1% of the popular vote in any presidential election (1980-Ed Clark and David Koch got 921,299 popular votes or 1.1%). The green party with Nader got 2.7% in 2000 for comparison.

    2) Isolationist foreign policy- it is irresponsible in this day and age to pretend that the US can just close the shutters and ignore the world wide assault on personal liberty.

    This is a big reason the vote tally is so weak. Americans rally behind candidates who promise to stand up for the important things both at home and abroad, no matter how much the candidate really means it.

    I agree with pretty much every platform proposed by the LP in the US except for their views on foreign policy.

  • 2) Isolationist foreign policy- it is irresponsible in this day and age to pretend that the US can just close the shutters and ignore the world wide assault on personal liberty.

    Isolationism includes resistance to trade, to immigration, to diplomacy, and to wars — both offensive and defensive.

    Libertarians are non-interventionists. We believe that if somebody wants to ‘assult liberty’ by setting up a Christian Theocracy in some other part of the world, that’s fine. We’ll resist to the death any attempt to impose Theocracy on us, but I would not have a problem with somebody setting one up elsewhere … especially because some American religious whack-jobs might well move there, and get out of the way.

    We oppose all initiation of force. It doesn’t matter whether it is initiated by our group or some other group. It’s the principal, not the actor, that matters.

    Our feelings on immigration tend to be mixed.

    Words have meaning. Try to learn the meaning of the word “isolationism”. Or if you know what it means, try to use it honestly.

  • “We believe that if somebody wants to ‘assult liberty’ by setting up a Christian Theocracy in some other part of the world, that’s fine.”

    This is the unrealistic idealism of the libertarian party that I simply can’t stomach. I guess that’s why I’m not a libertarian. I believe the US should stand up to ‘crazy theocracies’ that murder thousands of innocent people for no reason other than they went to work. If that means knocking them over, so be it.


    “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
    Ronald Reagan

  • permanentexpat

    Mainstrean Party politicos & their myrmidons cannot abide small parties which are awake to the real problems. They are a threat to the established gravy-train. That they even exist is an affront to the ‘we-know-what’s-good-for-yous’
    In Europe they are so stupid that they don’t even know they’re redundant…neither do the idiots who elected them.
    Unelected EUrocrats now rule Britain and, much as I far prefer a Libertarian Party to the Lib/lab/Con expense-account troughers…sorry, guys, until someone takes the country back you’re wasting your time…utterly.

  • This is a big reason the vote tally is so weak. Americans rally behind candidates who promise to stand up for the important things both at home and abroad, no matter how much the candidate really means it.

    Regardless of the merits of isolationism/non-interventionism I find it hard to believe that this is a significant factor in the lack of LP electoral success.

    Alex has a fair point that libertarian political parties probably tarnish the “libertarian brand.” (Though I suspect we might disagree about what precisely is the most damaging)

    This is irrelevant however unless you’re particularly attached to labels. This is because libertarian ideas have already been tarnished and continue to be tarnished by politicians who espouse free market rhetoric but whose policies are anything but.

  • bob duckman

    What pray tell is wrong precisely in attempting to win an election to thus put into practise the political ideas of libertarianism?

    er.. I hate to break it to you but Libertarianism is anti democratic ideology – it seeks to impose a constitution were the powers of government (democratically elected or otherwise are limited)

    This is not a criticism, its an endorsement.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_democracy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_dictatorship

  • I think Alex Singleton has a point. There are, moreover, two things to consider here. 1.Since in a FPTP system parties need to be large (even if the objective is to put pressure on the direction the main parties are going rather than winning elections) some minimum size is required for impact. So wouldn’t it be better to look the other way on immigration and work within UKIP?
    2. This may be one case where lessons can be learned from ones enemies: look around the UK and the rest of Europe and ask yourself which group of socialists had more influence –those who moved into Trotskyite sects or those who started getting involved with mainstream parties? Neither really got what they wanted, but those in the Labour Party and various social democratic outfits on the continent managed to do some damage.

  • Ian B

    er.. I hate to break it to you but Libertarianism is anti democratic ideology – it seeks to impose a constitution were the powers of government (democratically elected or otherwise are limited)

    And that means not participating in government at all, does it?

  • RRS

    A sampling (per CATO) of the U S electorate with specific questions has shown that a very overwhelming majority share Libertarian principles with respect to specific issues upon giving those issues thought.

    The biggest problem then is thought.

    The overwhelming majority of the electorate do not seem to want to think about governments and how they are formed or function. They would rather direct their thinking to matters of personal concern, rather than say garbage collections, policing provisions. In many cases they do not want to think much about anything that involves principles. Most don’t really want to have to think through ideas of politics.

    Libertarian “principles” require thought to be grasped and to be given effect. The electorates are just not going to put that much effort into it.

    Parties (factions) are formed to (1) attain some degree of effect in the formation political coalitions that may govern and (2) ultimately to gain management of power. That is something of a juxtaposition to Libertarian principles with respect to limitations on power.

    There has been some effect, but no dominance, of Libertarian principles at the grassroots levels: local councils; school boards; public authorities, etc.

    Most who “go into politics” do not seem given too much to thinking about principles (though they are much given to speaking about them), particularly in application to specific circumstance.

    In the lives of most, the forms of governance to which they are subject is simply an adjunct of life, something they deal with only to the extent they have too, and try not to think about too much or too deeply; because it seems there is so little one can do.

    There is no prospective likelihood that “Power to the PEOPLE” will soon become “Power to the PERSON.” Maybe it never can be.

    None of this means that those who would advance Libertarian principles, especially for the protection they can offer from the exercise of power via governments, should not continue to seek ways for those advances, but parties, aimed at a less than thinking electorate are not likely to have more effect than a passing rock band concert.

  • the movie version of Atlas Shrugged now underway with Angelina is probably going to have a far larger effect on perceptions of the “brand” than anything being done by pasty-skinned policy wonks in London or DC.

  • John

    The guy has it completely right. As a very active member of the LP and delegate to the national convention, I can tell you first hand that because the Party is off the beaten path it has a strong tendency to attract every nut and kook that stumbles across it.

    They yammer on about 9-11 conspiracies and the nazification of the money supply blah blah blah. It’s dispiriting to see something you love sullied by retards.

  • As one of the founders of the LPUK, naturally I disagree with Alex Singleton (but we’ve had this discussion in person too).

    What I find disappointing is that Samizdata – a site that I thought was firmly libertarian and rightly utterly contemptuous of the Big Three – should make it a quote of the day (although Perry’s comment restored some faith).

    And to the commenter who thought that libertarians should not participate in a democractic system: seriously, how else would you rol back the state? Shall we attack Parliament with flaming firebrands? Or shall we just take off to an Ayn Rand style retreat?

    DK

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: It’s the ‘Funniest’ Think….

    ….but I’ve found that some of the greatest, or rather most outspoken, advocates of ‘freedom’ also seem to be amongst those who will ‘kill’ you at the slightest disagreement with them over some silliness, e.g., God.

    I’ve seen it played out in all kinds of blogs; advocating all kinds of political philosophies. Doesn’t seem to matter whether or not they are so-called “Liberals” or “Progressives” or “Libertarians” or “Conservatives”. When it comes to God, if they’re atheists, you’re just so much dead meat when you cross them.

    I guess it has something to do with the godlike power a blog operator has. Maybe it goes to their head or something.

    I’m not surprised that the Libertarians suffer from similar malfunctions. One would think that Libertarians would appreciate and respect ‘freedom of speech’. But based on this report, I get the distinct impression they are no different than most other people.

    And, just to make certain I’m not being totally biased, I’ve even seen so-called christians behave in the same manner. Albeit they were a bit more ‘permanent’ in their mode of ‘killing’; firey stakes, drawn-quartered-hanged-beheaded, etc. But, given the chance, I imagine that some blog operators would do the same…..

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)

  • chicopanther

    I was once a card-carrying Libertarian in the United States. But after the LP’s limp-wristed response to the terrorist attacks in the US on 9/11/01, I knew I couldn’t be in a party that wouldn’t even respond when they were attacked. It’s not just that the “Libertarians” don’t believe in the initiation of the use of force, they also don’t respond when someone initiates force against them.

    Um, Rich (and others)–the Islamists ARE trying to institute a theocracy on the citizens of the US (not to mention the rest of the world)! That’s what the current US government is fighting against! YOU may submit to Sharia law someday, but I will not.

    – chicopanther

  • Brian Macker

    John in Michigan,

    Exactly, and it doesn’t help when your candidate lived out of his car and refused to get a license for bizzare reasons to say the least. It’s obvious that even if roads were owned privately the owners are going to require licenses and insurance, lest they be sued themselves.

    Libertarians tend to gravitate to ludicrious positions even accepting most of it. Can anyone say “seasteading”.

    I’ve been asked not to call myself libertarian by the more devotely religious believers and I’ve obliged them.

  • The problem with the Libertarian party in the U.S. isn’t that it’s ‘undermining liberty’ — it’s that because us Libertarians tend to be an independent group of Freethinkers in the first place, we don’t have a unified political ideology.

    This leads some rather ‘fruity’ folks to run for President under our banner, and for some equally-strange types to run at the local level.

    Take the party’s latest group of offerings — one wants to move the U.N. to Somalia; another wants to legalize all drugs; another wants to abolish the IRS – and the one we (they) finally nominated wants to do away with the Departments of Energy and Education (ostensibly because we don’t need them, with American gasoline prices at an all time high and SAT scores in the toilet).

    See what I mean?

    We need a third party — because the two major ones are not giving us a real choice – and haven’t, for decades. They’re insular groups of people, influenced by equally-insular groups in the most Insular City Of Them All — Washington, D.C.

    No, the real problem is not that the Libertarians are undermining liberty — the real problem is that they’ve not gotten their act together sufficiently to offer a real alternative which will resonate with those of us who want to Take Our Country Back.

    When that finally happens, the Republicans and the Democrats will be as relevant as buggy-whips.

  • Ian B

    Will, are you saying that the Department Of Energy can lower gasoline prices, and the Department Of Education can improve test scores?

    If so, why is gas so expensive, and scores so low? It’s not as if these departments haven’t been around for a while, is it?

  • Tennwriter

    Two points:

    1. Libertarianism is not complicated. Its probably the simplest political philosophy there is (well, except for “I have a gun, and I’m in charge”). Don’t fool yourself that Tarianism is –so complicated that people don’t understand it. They might not understand it, but thats more because of weirdness than complexity.

    2. I might have voted for Ron Paul if he had a different policy in regards to interventionism. So there’s one vote, Andy.

  • nate zuckerman

    Finally, most libertarians do not vote for a libertarian candiate in the presidential election but vote GOP. Many “libertarians” simpl;y use the name so as to pretend they are not associated with the Republican party. Especially in the past 7 years. But, chips down, most will slip into the voting booth and pull a lever for John McCain.

  • Pa Annoyed

    I think it would be well worth people’s while to go have a look at the new party’s manifesto.

    I was initially going to post something about how I thought that there was a danger of our ‘less popular’ opinions putting people off and that the party should be careful to negotiate uncontroversial, lowest-common-denominator policies amongst themselves, and then stick to that party line in public, whatever their private ambitions and beliefs might be. Some common libertarian thinking is an acquired taste, and while I suspect people could be brought round to agree with it in debate, it’s not going to work when given in soundbites. The LP platform should be based on libertarianism, rather than embodying it. Voluntary association for a common purpose, prioritising the clearest and most urgent reforms, and all that.

    But when I looked at the manifesto, it seemed to me that someone had already done so. Well done!
    I shall watch with interest.

  • lpdbw

    Andy, I was a founder of 2 county LP organizations in 2 different states in the US.

    I came at it from the Randian perspective, though I am not a complete kool-aid drinker there. For instance, I couldn’t swallow Ayn Rand’s view that we had to work within the existing parties…

    After the official LP response to 9/11 and the world-wide Islamic threat to liberty, I not only am no longer associated with the LP, I won’t vote for them, and I won’t support them, and I won’t recommend them.

    You need to reconsider the effect of the head-in-the-sand foreign policy of the LP on its electoral results, at least in the US.

    So far as I’m concerned, the LP is dead.

  • M

    You need to reconsider the effect of the head-in-the-sand foreign policy of the LP on its electoral results, at least in the US.

    Of course, blowing hundreds of billions of dollars trying to make Iraq a ‘democracy’ is so libertarian!

  • John in Michigan –

    Excellent points, certainly all true. But I think there’s one more to be made, and that’s that ANY fringe party will have its share of kooks. As the LP attracts supporters, the troofers will be pushed to the sidelines.

    And I do think things are looking up. Bob Barr, for all his flaws, is the closest thing to a mainstream candidate the LP has ever had. Better still, he’s running at a time when an awful lot of disgruntled Republicans are looking for an outlet. Best of all, he’s running at a time when there simply is no credible voice for small-government politics to be found anywhere in the GOP. To the extent that there is an alternative to McCain, it’s Mike Huckabee, whose only claim to being a conservative is that he believes in Jesus loudly to anyone who will listen. The Republican Party is coming apart, and someone needs to be there to pick up the pieces. If we all throw up our hands in despair as Mr. Singleton apparently advocates, the fight is lost before it even started. If Mr. Singleton would like to do something constructive for the advancement of liberty, he can join the UKLP and contribute his voice to the sane ones. God knows voting Conservative isn’t going to get him anywhere.

  • Take the party’s latest group of offerings — one wants to move the U.N. to Somalia; another wants to legalize all drugs; another wants to abolish the IRS – and the one we (they) finally nominated wants to do away with the Departments of Energy and Education (ostensibly because we don’t need them, with American gasoline prices at an all time high and SAT scores in the toilet).

    These all seem like good ideas to me. List anything good ever that the UN has done for world security and then explain to me, if you can, why the US should continue to seek this organization’s approval for much of anything. Second, please try to cite any justification whatever for jailing people for a victimless “crime” like drug use. While you’re at it, perhaps you can explain why blowing hundreds of millions of dollars a year on War on Drugs that militarizes the police and expands their powers and is yet completely ineffective at lowing the useage rates is a wise use of taxpayer work hours? Then, explain the morality of a tax system that lifts almost 40% of GDP out of the economy every year and still runs $9trillion in debts on nation-building projects that are nowhere in its constitutional mandate, a pension program that is failing before our eyes, farm subsidies that reward exactly 2% of the workforce for doing economically counterproductive things, etc. etc. Finally, perhaps you can explain to me how the Department of Education is expected to solve the SAT problem, considering that the decline in American educational standards started at roughly the same time it was created. And, for bonus points, I think we’d all be interested if you can think of anything useful the Department of Energy has done for anyone ever. If you can manage to do all that without grossly embarrassing yourself, I’m sure we’ll all be very impressed.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Joshua,

    They may very well be good ideas, but they don’t sound like good ideas when you sit down with them on the TV chat show and have less than two minutes to explain your position. They sound even less good when your political opponents caricature them as reasons why nobody should take you seriously.

    Many people are already convinced that rolling back nanny state regulation is a good idea and you can use that to get yourselves started and taken seriously. They might even vote for it, in a protest-vote sort of way. Legalising guns and drugs and immediately privatising the NHS are policies that you’re going to have to work your way up to, over many years. Otherwise, as Alex says, people will only ever see you as a party of unelectable kooks.

    I’m not saying you are, of course. But even as someone inclined towards libertarianism already and knowing many of the arguments in favour, I shudder to think what the media machine would make of some of the proposals put forward here.

  • Pa Annoyed –

    Actually, thanks for that, I feel a bit better. I agree that abolishing most of these things “overnight” (especially legalizing drugs overnight) is probably not a good idea – but the goal should still be to get rid of them eventually. To the extent that Will’s point was that we should take a slower, more practical approach to achieving these goals, then I agree with him. But to imply that they’re not even goals…

    In any case, I’m not sure that it’s the positions themselves that make Libertarians seem “crazy” to ordinary talkshow viewers Indeed, if our positions aren’t noticeably different than those of the other two parties, no one has a good reason to vote for us. Get to be too moderate, and we’re just advertising “Roughly the same as our competitors, but less likely to win!” Obviously no one is going to vote for that.

    I think if there’s an issue with Libertarian electability it’s more to do with the self-congratulatory nature of the way a lot of us (me included) tend to talk amongs our own. We get kind of addicted to being in our comfortable little circle, and then when it comes time to explain the position to someone who’s honestly never considered it we end up talking to them like they’re stupid, and it blows everything. But to take the example of the War on Drugs – I think that can be explained to talkshow viewers without shocking them – even eliciting their sympathy – if we just learn how to talk to people. It isn’t the “extremity” of the view that’s really offputting.

  • seerak

    Perry de Havilland writes:

    I would have to disagree with Alex completely

    All comment, no substance.

    What Singleton is pointing out is that insisting on putting your constituency into its own party instead of having it be a force *within* the mainstream parties, can in fact severely limit your influence. This is a pattern that has shown itself more than once in political history.

    The best example I know of is that of the abolitionist movement in America. American abolitionist Lydia Marie Child, who wrote in her 1842 book “Talk about Political Party”, wrote as quoted here by Gus Van Horn:

    A.But you advise people not to vote for pro-slavery candidates, and not to join the liberty party; if this isn’t non-resistance in politics, I don’t know what is.

    B. The difficulty in your mind arises, I think, from want of faith in the efficiency of moral influence. You cannot see that you act on politics at all, unless you join the caucus, and assist in electioneering for certain individuals; whereas you may, in point of fact, refuse co-operation, and thereby exert a ***tenfold influence on the destiny of parties.***

    (Emphasis mine.)

    The second example is the history of the Left in America. It is often pointed out that socialism never got votes in the United States. This is only true if we note that a “Socialist” party has never taken hold here. But when you examine socialist principles on a case-by-case basis, from the stated programs of these unelected parties through history, most of them have by now been implemented, piecemeal, by both Republicans and Democrats — the latter most consistently so, thanks to their now largely socialistic base.

    In each case, it is philosophy — specifically, moral philosophy — which is the driving force. The Abolitionists had the lingering influence of the Enlightenment and its moral justifications for individual rights, to draw upon; the Left had the dominant morality of altruism on their side as they advanced their goals under color of “helping the poor”. Political action is the end of that process, not its efficient cause. It is this key issue which is cited by Objectivists on why they are not Libertarians — and why Libertarianism must fail.

  • a.sommer

    These all seem like good ideas to me. List anything good ever that the UN has done for world security and then explain to me, if you can, why the US should continue to seek this organization’s approval for much of anything.

    I could care less about if the UN approves of anything my government does, but I do think it is useful to keep the UN in a location where they can be conveniently observed.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Joshua,

    I’d agree with that. I think the problem is not the extremity but the unfamiliarity. It violates all the unstated assumptions that other politicians take for granted. If you’ve got half an hour and all the statistics at your fingertips, you can do it. (Or, even if you don’t persuade, at least not look like you’re totally mad to think it.) But that means all the other parties have a half-hour head start on you.

    Actually, there’s already a fair amount that’s going to be hard for the average voter to swallow in the manifesto. I think it could be done, but personally I would have put a lot more of the basic philosophy and guiding principles up front on the website and put the specifics and details of policy more in the background. Not because I think it should be hidden, but because it needs explanation and preparation before people will be able to see the reasons for it.

    But it’s not a bad job, and maybe it’s because I’m thinking of getting wider popular support rather than the initial task of recruiting existing libertarians to join the party. If anyone here was involved in setting it up, I’d be interested in knowing more about the reasoning behind it.

  • Perry,

    The American Libertarian Party actually had a serious contender who argued that we should legalize child pornography involving children.

    Children, not teens.

    The very reason that many of us say “small l libertarians” is because most American libertarians are on some level ashamed of the LP.

  • bob duckman

    And that means not participating in government at all, does it?

    For whose benefit is the question mark?

  • Ian B

    Is that a question?

  • The American Libertarian Party actually had a serious contender who argued that we should legalize child pornography involving children.

    One might point out that she lost the nomination. One might further point out that she didn’t even get VP. One might move on from there to note that George Wallace and David Duke have both been contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in the past.

    You’re right that the LP has more than its share of nutjobs, but that is the case for any fringe party. As the LP gathers support, the nutjobs will fade into insignificance. I repeat – it would be helpful if those of you who are concerned about the LP’s image would take more of an active role in the party rather than sitting on the sidelines and fretting at how embarrassed you are by the people who grab the stage in your absence. Like it or not, being outside the mainstream means that you have to shoulder a greater persuasive burden than your mainstream counterparts, and it means that you’re going to have to share the podium with some attention-whore conspiracy theorists and ideologues at the outset as part of your uphill battle. These people are attracted to the party because it gives them an easy pulpit to bang. If you want them gone, there need to be more people attending the meetings and doing the grassroots volunteering so that they have more competition for the mike.

  • Britt

    I have to say that I went from describing myself as a conservative, to a libertarian, to a liberty minded conservative due to the parts of the two parties I don’t like. The Huckabee types in the GOP irk me and then I went to an LP gathering and found that they loved to talk about rather…esoteric things. Like drugs and the gold standard.

    Now, while I do have the opinion that the War on Drugs has been an unmitigated waste of money, that doesn’t mean the first thing you talk about is the War on Drugs. Too many times I’ll be sitting with a “Libertarian” (as in card carrying) and when a curious person asks them about the platform the first thing they reach for is drugs or the gold standard or abolishing 80% of the federal government or privatizing the roads. Now, that’s not to say I’m opposed to all those things (50% isn’t bad) but when you’re trying to attract converts you need to stress the more mainstream stuff.

    The popular perception (media chants it like a mantra) is that libertarians are “conservative on economic issues, liberal on social issues” (aka they want to smoke their pot with gay neighbors while the poor starve to death or are hunted for sport by CEOs) This is of course a gross oversimplification, but it is the common perception of the LP. Toss in the 9/11 Truthers (loathsome people) and the goldbugs (charming eccentrics) and the antics of Ron Paul, and people who agree with most of the platform will be driven away by the fringe.

    When someone asks me about the LP, I like to talk about a third of the federal budget is spent on healthcare and the Democrats don’t think that’s enough. Or I talk about how the Republicans have tossed fiscal responsibility out the window. Lately I’ve had a lot of sucess discussing over regulation and how it is responsible for the rising gas prices. People don’t care about the gold standard. It’s too complex. I don’t even really get it. They don’t care if the dollar is based on something real or not, they just know they have to work for eight hours to fill up their tank once. They really don’t want heroin hanging in the aisle of the drugstore next to the Advil (even though it did one hundred years ago….and the world didn’t end). LP members are often searching for a unique political identity. That’s what drives them. So talking about drugs or the gold standard or privatization of everything is a way to show off how edgy they are. That just throws people off.

    What I would urge people to do is talk about the size of government. The chief problem with small government is that everyone wants it….except for their pet projects. One of the big objections is the fact that everyone (not really, but a solid majority) kind of agrees that people should not starve in the streets. They’ve seen Oliver Twist, they were taught about the Gilded Age in Social (ist) Studies, and they know that if the benevolent arm of the State is not there to protect the weak, then the poor will suffer. Orphans will serve as footstools for the wealthy, and tycoons will drink the tears of the indigent while cackling evilly. Too many people have just sort of accepted that the government needs a third of their income or else we will descend back into the Dark Ages. Standing up against eighty years of statist indoctrination is difficult. You have to realize, everyone who lived under a laissez faire system is dead now. No one remembers the age of truly limited government. The bedrock of unquestioned assumptions is what you’re trying to reach and break. The…um…”hip issues” are a distraction, not the real work that needs to be done.

    Oh crap I just paraphrased Obama.

  • Britt, you win the thread. But, of course, you are only half way there. You have identified the problem:

    Standing up against eighty years of statist indoctrination is difficult. You have to realize, everyone who lived under a laissez faire system is dead now. No one remembers the age of truly limited government.

    What do you do about that?

  • Pa Annoyed

    Alisa,

    In what sense? In what libertarians should talk about outside their own circle, or in how to persuade them all to do so?

    Brett already suggested how to do the first (talk about the grand principles first, leave off on the controversial stuff until later), but organising libertarians can be like herding cats.

    They have to be persuaded of the merits of the argument and to do it themselves voluntarily. What other way could there be?

  • In what sense? In what libertarians should talk about outside their own circle

    Good question. I guess now that we know what to talk about, the next question would be: how do we make ourselves heard? More specifically, to whom and how do we talk? That is, how do we reach an audience wider than our immediate circle of friends and family, and how do we present ourselves and our world view, other than a ‘libertarian’, with all the negative connotations the word has for a regular person?

  • guy herbert

    RRS,

    The overwhelming majority of the electorate do not seem to want to think about governments and how they are formed or function.

    Nor should they. You are doomed as a party if you expect them to do so at all. Libertarians, who generally want less government, probably should be happy with this situation. Lack of interest in political theory is not the same as lack of interest in political policies. However most people are going to be unwilling to think about those either.

    It is quite difficult to get people to think through alternative policy proposals where there is a received wisdom, or simply a way of doing things that they are used to. Anyone who has ever tried to sell things knows that the way to overcome objections is to elicit them one at a time and deal with them from the customer’s point of view, not to suggest that the customer is wrong about everything they ever thought about their wants, and quite possibly stupid with it. That will guarantee the customer never comes in your shop or takes your phonecall ever again.

    This is where the Libertarian Alliance’s historic strategy of shock tactics goes wrong, and if the Libertarian Party adopts it, it is indeed doomed. Alex is to that extent quite right – if you position yourself on the wild fringe, that is where you will stay. (Unless people get to like the vague idea in their minds and the commonplace of public discourse of what you ought to stand for, rather than what you do in fact stand for, which is what accounts for the success of Green parties accross the globe.)

    Alex is entirely wrong to suggest that merely by forming a small party you fall into this trap. He could argue consistently that participating in the present political system at all validates it, and libertarians should avoid doing so, but he seems to agree with me (pace some other Samizdatistas) that this position is wrong.

    ‘Join other parties and influence them’ is not wrong either. Anyone who pays close attention to the current Tory Party will notice that the influence of those who learned libertarian ideas in the 80s is now quite considerable. But there is no reason a priori to suppose a British Libertarian Party will fall into the same traps as some other minor parties, even if it necessarily risks them. It just needs to be smart enough not to indulge in too much theory and doctrine.

    America is not a reasonable comparison, because the US political system and context is so wholly different. Even the major parties there tend to be driven by congregations of the faithful, while politicians generally have power-bases independent of their party machines. But in Britain it is harder to take uncompromising libertarian positions without sounding like a loony to most people because even if they don’t believe in it in practice, almost all Americans explicitly endorse individualism.

    It is a tricky task.

  • guy herbert

    Oops sorry. Only the first paragraph should be inset and in italics above.

  • Sunfish

    Leaving aside the Troofers, the conspiracy crackheads, the people whose answer is Ron Paul no matter what the question was, and the folks who won’t shut up about Iraq and sound like Cindy Sheehan while they’re not shutting up about it, what’s screwed with the LP in the US was drugs mixed with absolutism.

    I’m about 80% there. It makes perfect sense to me that if some guy wants to plant marijuana and then sit in his basement and smoke it, he should probably be left alone. Hell, if some loser wants to pack China White up his nose and die, most of my complaint has to do with cleaning up the mess afterwards.

    But I had an actual LP member claim that I’m no better than any other drug warrior, because I’m not ready to legalize DUID or meth labs in residential neighborhoods, and that an incremental improvement was actually a loss because ‘it’s still playing their game.’ He was accompanied by two other members who seemed equally emphatic, but rather less coherent. The one guy talking fast, sweating, and showing blown pupils, well…I was off the clock and outside of my own state, so I just hope he wasn’t driving.

    Then there was the guy I knew in college, who was convinced that all law is contract law and that meant that he had a divinely-ordained contractual right to beat his wife. Yeah, and he had some sort of leadership role (I didn’t catch the actual title) in the LP chapter at a large midwestern university that I’m not going to name for fear of outing myself.

    Real prize winners, the US LP attracts. Sorry, Joshua, but you aren’t going to draw anyone from the mainstream until you get rid of the people that the mainstream folks actively try to avoid.

    Alisa,
    I don’t know about reaching beyond my own family. If I could just get through to any of my own relatives, I’d be doing well: they’re all Obama supporters. Maybe, at the next family dinner, while they’re discussing the Chiefs’ chances this year I should interrupt everyone by mentioning that Ron Paul brought Gatorade to the stadium one year or something.

  • Sunfish, I see your point about family, but this is all the more reason to try and reach outside it:-) I didn’t get the Gatorade- RP reference, though…

  • RRS

    Guy,

    You have very well pointed out what has been missing from most considerations in this thread – that the functions of “parties” in our respective forms of representative governments has been altered beyond comparisons over the past 70 or so years (during which I have been politically cognizant); though moreso in the U S than in the U K.

  • RRS

    sorry that should have been “..have been altered..”

  • Sunfish

    Sunfish, I see your point about family, but this is all the more reason to try and reach outside it:-) I didn’t get the Gatorade- RP reference, though…

    Did you notice how Paul’s fan club would stick their beaks into all sorts of online discussions to talk about Ron Paul, even when the discussion had nothing to do with Paul or even US politics?

    I was in an online discussion on the comparative merits of Bob Schaffer vs. Mark Udall (Colorado’s two candidates for our open Senate seat this year). An unknown chimed in to talk about how Ron Paul would do some damn thing or another. As Paul is not a CO resident and not a declared candidate for our (or any) Senate seat, I’m not sure why they needed to mention him.

    Some people are fixated on Ron Paul as an answer, regardless of the question. The last time I had that sort of one-track mind, I was 19 and everything was about sex.

  • Ian B

    That is, how do we reach an audience wider than our immediate circle of friends and family, and how do we present ourselves and our world view, other than a ‘libertarian’, with all the negative connotations the word has for a regular person?

    Well, one way is to talk about them on websites that aren’t specifically libertarian. Dive in among the conservatives, “liberals” and socialists. The trick is not to get labelled a troll :)

    We can all do our bit in little ways. That’s why the left have been so successful; theirs is an evangelical doctrine and they speak about it proudly whenever they can. We can have lots of useful discussions inside our little libertarian clubs and safe houses, but to convert people we have to venture outside.

  • Ian B

    On that subject, it’s always worth remembering that when you’re debating in public, you’re not trying to change the mind of the person you’re debating with. You’re trying to sway the audience.

  • Ian, that last one is the most valuable tip of them all.

  • Real prize winners, the US LP attracts. Sorry, Joshua, but you aren’t going to draw anyone from the mainstream until you get rid of the people that the mainstream folks actively try to avoid.

    Ah, but that’s the conundrum. We also can’t get rid of the fringers until people from the mainstream start coming in and crowding them out. Certainly I can’t do it alone, which is why I would rather appreciate it if some of you started showing up at LP meetings rather than complaining about them. Now more than ever, in fact, as things genuinely seem to be improving. Bob Barr ain’t perfect, but he’s a hell of a lot better than Michael Badnarik (not the least on the War on Drugs positions you specifically cite by way of complaint). Here’s a hint: voting Republican isn’t going to help a damned thing, especially not this year.

  • Sunfish

    Ah, but that’s the conundrum. We also can’t get rid of the fringers until people from the mainstream start coming in and crowding them out. Certainly I can’t do it alone, which is why I would rather appreciate it if some of you started showing up at LP meetings rather than complaining about them. Now more than ever, in fact, as things genuinely seem to be improving. Bob Barr ain’t perfect, but he’s a hell of a lot better than Michael Badnarik (not the least on the War on Drugs positions you specifically cite by way of complaint). Here’s a hint: voting Republican isn’t going to help a damned thing, especially not this year.

    I showed up regularly for over five years. Back in the day before there was a 9-11 to feed the 9-11 troofers, the majority were still nutjobs. It’s just the 1990′s nutjobs were the “microchips planted in my butt and controlled by HAARP with Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the switch” kind of nutjobs. And they tended to drown out any attempt at sanity.

    To say nothing of the white-supremacist sorts of parasites who will show up on the fringes of basically any group at all. In the US LP’s case, we got the ones who babbled on about “common-law sovereign citizens” and “14th-Amendment citizens,” and in the name of free speech nobody ever tried to gavel them down or tell them to STFU or even stick to the agenda.

    In a state which historically has had libertarian/small-government sympathies, and which has the highest-level LP elected official anywhere (the county sheriff in San Miguel County), you’d think we’d be able to come up with a decent LP candidate. Alas, the one they put up for governor last time around couldn’t find an issue more important than childhood vaccinations. Gun control, TABOR, water, abuse of eminent domain, all of that took distant second place.

    And that’s the best they can do?

  • LP candidates do have the habit of being anal retentive about their pet peeve at the expense of other things. The guy in the LP that most impresses me is Wayne Allen Root.

  • And that’s the best they can do?

    The record is dismal, I agree. But you’re talking about the 90s when the Republicans had just won their first convincing majority in living memory, taxes were down, the economy was good, the debt was being paid off, and we had every reason to believe the Republicans might actually do something toward trimming the size of the government. People thought there was something worthwhile in voting Republican. These days we see the truth of all that. If you want a sane and active LP, now is the time. We have a real chance at splitting the Republican vote and picking up competent supporters with actual political experience. If the LP is going to improve – this is its chance. If you’re happy with the way Dems and Republicans are running things and don’t see any need for a stronger third party, carry on. At least you won’t be surprised at how things turn out.

  • Gabriel

    Whilst I agree with the quote completely (indeed I don’t see how any fair-minded observer could really dispute it), things might be turning a corner.

    Bob Barr is now the LP candidate a man who was once hounded out of office by the crack-brained losers who have besmirched the Libertarian name and has done what Ron Paul would not do (because Ron Paul is despicable piece of shit).

    Barr is a decent man and a conservative and would make a good President. I suspect he has views I would disagree with on, say, Israel, but he does not obsess about them in the so obviously hate-filled ways other prominent Libertarians do.

    As a side note have you seen the British LP’s limp-wristed gun policy? Lame.

    Obligatory disclaimer: I do not agree with Barr’s former opinions regarding drugs.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Alex is totally correct.

    For a sample lesson, and on what will go over the heads of most LP’ers………

    http://majorityrights.com/index.php/weblog/comments/minor_victory_with_washington_states_republican_party/

    As Andrew has pointed out above “LP candidates do have the habit of being anal retentive about their pet peeve at the expense of other things.”……. which particularly applies to drug policy.

    Many decades ago the LP was successfully tarred-and-feathered as the party of ‘junkies’ and sticks to this day due to the MSM’s enterprising efforts at interviewing LP supporters.

  • As Majority Rights are a bunch of neo-fascist racist wackos, consider me uninteresting in their views.

    But as mentioned earlier… so just how successful have liberty’s friends been working within the mainstream parties?

    They have in fact been supporting parties who have steadily chipped away at liberty, so frankly I am unimpressed with claims liberty is served by supporting ‘conservative’ parties.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Perry,

    The linked article is for people to see how a person, working within the constraints of the Republican Party (GOP), can steer and guide the party platform at the County level. It was not intended to expose your personal biases. If you took the time to bother reading it your eyes may possibly be opened.

    “so just how successful have liberty’s friends been working within the mainstream parties?”……. I would suggest that Dr Ron Paul (R-Texas) has stolen a march here, and he gets to grill the Governor of the US Federal Reserve every time said Governor has to appear before Congress.

    Any LP’ers get to grill the Governor Of The Bank of England in a Commons committee room ????

    Alex 1
    Perry 0

  • ian

    I don’t want to intrude on a family argument, but I suggest Sean Gabb’s book (http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3(Link)) might be a good place to start on the way forward for libertarianism. There is much to disagree with (at least in my view) but his basic analysis of what is wrong is spot on.

    My own thoughts (produced independently of Sean’s) are here: http://ibanda.blogs.com/panchromatica/2008/05/a-strategy-for-moving-towards-minimal-government.html(Link)

  • Sorry Sean I am just not interested in anything your fascist asrsehole friends have to say.

  • naorei

    every politics has their aim and association comes out for particular reason and no one aim for the worst so what ever the book may say and what ever the author may have written, if it done in practically it would be nice one but even the laws are good if countrymen could follwed the principle then everything become bad.

    Naorei
    ==============================

    http://www.smartloc.net