Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

July 6, 2006

A Vision For A Libertarian Future

by Doug Mataconis

Over at Hit and Run, David Weigel writes about the outcome of the recent Libertarian Party convention. Not surprisingly, it seems that, once again, the efforts of those seeking to turn the LP in to something other than a fringe party have come to naught:

Specifically, David laments the failure of a group calling itself the Libertarian Reform Caucus to effect real change in the Libertarian Party.

The LRC adovates ideas that I think make entirely good sense:

Fringe politics does not work in the United States. A political party must appeal to a plurality of voters (effectively, at least 40%) in some districts in order to win elections. Since districts vary, such a party could get away with appealing to less nationwide, but it must at least appeal to 20-30%.

In other words, for the Libertarian Party to be effective, it must appeal to the top 20-30% of freedom-lovers. Appealing to the tiny minority of freedom-lovers who want no government at all, or something very close to that, is a recipe for failure.

The platform and message of the Libertarian Party is extreme, sacrificing practicality and political appeal in favor of philosophical consistency with a single axiom. As such, the party currently appeals only to a tiny fraction of the voting public.

The Libertarian Reform Caucus is working to reform the Libertarian Party, to turn it into an effective tool for increasing liberty.

The fact that candidates that support the LRC agenda were rejected by Libertarian Party members only serves to demonstrate how out-of-touch the Libertarian Party is with reality.

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  • http://www.reformthelp.org Carl

    Come to naught? We repealed most of the old platform; one of our members is now vice chair.

    We did lose on the pledge issue, but the vote was much closer than the last time this came up.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Carl,

    My apologies, then. The Reason piece made it seem otherwise. Any additional details would be appreciated.

  • http://www.reformthelp.org Carl

    See the report on thirdpartywatch.com for the most details.

  • Perry Munger

    I am a member of the Libertarian Party (of Texas) and disagree with the LRC. The Libertarian Party is the ‘party of principle’. I am not one for blindedly following principle, but nobody these days seems to remember Buckley and his insistance that libertarianism needed to become more mainstream. Well, his philosophy led through a series of compromises to gain ever more power to what we have now as president. No thanks; I’ll stick to my guns and stick to my principles.

  • http://www.belowthebeltwa.com Doug

    Perry,

    The LP as it has existed up until now is a political nonentity. I haven’t voted Libertarian in years, and don’t intend to waste my vote again.

    I respect your choice to stick to your principles, but I don’t think it will ever lead to anything meaningful.

  • http://www.indiancowboy.net/blog/ Nick

    One of the reasons I call myself a classical liberal…

    principles are fine and good, but sometimes they don’t actually make sense in the real world.

    The LP and the anarcho-capitalists share in common a much more internally consistent political philosophy, but one that doesn’t work

  • Mark D. Fulwiler

    “We repealed most of the old platform; one of our members is now vice chair.”

    A disgrace.

    ” We did lose on the pledge issue, but the vote was much closer than the last time this came up.”

    Soon we will have Libertarians who officially favor the initiation of force!

    “Fringe politics does not work in the United States. A political party must appeal to a plurality of voters (effectively, at least 40%) in some districts in order to win elections.”

    Not working is defined here as not winning elections. But the idea of the founders of the Libertarian party was to use it as more as an educational tool. We still need far more people to become real libertarians before there is any hope of any meaningful change.

    And if you are against fringe politics, the Republicans are always taking new members.

    “The fact that candidates that support the LRC agenda were rejected by Libertarian Party members only serves to demonstrate how out-of-touch the Libertarian Party is with reality.”

    No, the fact that many Libertarians still think solid principles are more important than (maybe) winning a few extra votes speaks well of them. Those people who think “libertarianism” lite is going to get a political majority in the near future are the unrealistic ones. People can get half assed “pseudo-libertarianism” from the major parties.

    “The Libertarian Reform Caucus is working to reform the Libertarian Party, to turn it into an effective tool for increasing liberty.”

    No, it’s watering down principles, welcoming umnprincipled people who support aggression and trying to be a variation on Republicanism.

    “Appealing to the tiny minority of freedom-lovers who want no government at all, or something very close to that, is a recipe for failure.”

    Yes, we should appeal to the “freedom lovers” who support drug prohibition, foreign intervention, the draft, illegal abortion, the war in Iraq, taxes, and maybe tiny reductions in the size of the state . Maybe we can appeal to rapists, pickpockets and child abusers as well.

    “principles are fine and good, but sometimes they don’t actually make sense in the real world.”

    Yes, not using agression against people makes no sense in the real world. Rape, theft and murder make sense.

    “I haven’t voted Libertarian in years, and don’t intend to waste my vote again.”

    Oh, so you believe your one vote will decide some election?

  • VRB

    If I had not known anything about Libertarians, I would have not have known about their principles or have been educated by the candidates that have run in my locale. I see no point in running for any office if you do not have an intention to win over voters. A bullhorn in front of City Hall if necessary, don’t preach to the choir.

  • John Newman

    Nick said:
    principles are fine and good, but sometimes they don’t actually make sense in the real world.

    I’d sure like to hear a couple of examples where this is the case.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Mark,

    Me: “I haven’t voted Libertarian in years, and don’t intend to waste my vote again.”

    You: Oh, so you believe your one vote will decide some election?

    No, I just don’t choose to provide support to pointless endeavours like the LP

  • http://http:/www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Mark,

    You: Not working is defined here as not winning elections. But the idea of the founders of the Libertarian party was to use it as more as an educational tool. We still need far more people to become real libertarians before there is any hope of any meaningful change.

    And just how successful has the LP been as a “educational tool” in the past 30 years or so ? Not very much, I would argue. If I am going to give my support to an organization designed to educate the public on the libertarian point of view on political issues, I would go to the Cato Institute long before I’d ever consider the LP.

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