Mike Gravel: Libertarian ? — The Round-Up

Reason’s David Weigel catalogs some of the reaction to yesterday’s announcement that Mike Gravel had joined the Libertarian Party and is running for the LP Presidential Nomination.

This statement from Presidential candidate Wayne Allen Root fairly sums up how I feel about the idea:

Gravel is in no way, shape or form a Libertarian. He’s just a big government, big-spending, redistribute the wealth, liberal- big difference. He’s clearly stumbled into the wrong party. Worse, he’s a Green Party supporter and potential candidate as well. The Green Party is not in any way compatible with the Libertarian Party. They are polar opposites of the political spectrum.

Anthony Gregory says pretty much the same thing:

[I]n his announcement to supporters of his intentions to run as an LP presidential candidate, he writes, “The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism — all of which I find anathema to my views.”

This is just hysterical. Of course, FDR created the military-industrial complex. To the extent the Democrats are no longer the party of FDR, that is a good thing — and indeed, one could argue the GOP became the party of FDR with Nixon, Reagan and the two Georges Bush.

Of particular interest are the comments of several non-libertarians, such as this from The New Skeptic:

Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped. Besides that, the Randians (oh no a word I just made up!) are in that “big tent” and stink the whole thing up. People who are serious but realistic about small government and civil liberties want nothing to do with the kooks. It’s one thing to say, for instance, that the Commerce Clause is a strict limit on congressional power; it’s another to formulate a reasonable interpretation of that provision while dealing with and changing the system currently in place. Getting rid of the FDA overnight = kooky; not just kooky, but intellectually immature. Criticism is not the final step in political theory, and if libertarians cannot construct a viable ideological system from the rubble of rejected ideas, then they offer nothing worth overhauling our government for.

Oh, I know, Mike Gravel is hardly the best representative of the party. But still, libertarianism often marginalizes itself, and that’s bad, because some of its ideas need to be implemented if we want any hope of surviving China, the collapse of Social Security, and an Islamic Europe.

And at least one Democrat is glad to see Gravel go:

As the resident Democrat around these here parts, I want to thank the Libertarian Party for taking this certifiable nut-case off of the Democrats’ hands.


Seriously though, I don’t mean to knock the Libertarian Party because I believe that we need more than just two political parties engaged in the debate over the direction or our nation. However, with Mike Gravel now in the Libertarian Party’s ranks, it makes it a bit more difficult for the Libertarians to be considered as a viable third option for disenchanted Republicans and Democrats. You need more Bob Barrs and Neal Boortzs and less Mike Gravels.

The thing is that the Gravel move isn’t all that surprising. The LP clearly enjoys the publicity of having a former Senator among their ranks now. The fact that he shares absolutely none of the core principles that the party stands for doesn’t seem to matter to them.

And that, above all else, seems to be evidence of just how useless that Libertarian Party has become.

  • http://www.libertypac.net Pablo Escobar

    Have to agree with you there. It’s not just that the LP is useless, American politics is biased against 3rd parties, because it’s first-past-the-post voting rather than a proportional system.

    For this reason, I think the time has come for libertarians to leave the LP (after 30 years of struggle) and expend their time and resources on pulling the Republican party back to its roots. Ron Paul has started a movement that could culminate in a libertarian Republican being elected Governor or President, but only if libertarians are smart about their political choices given the reality of the American two-party system.

  • Joseph Marzullo

    Not all Libertarians are rightwingers that are anti-immigration and anti-abortion. Maybe they should leave.

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


    Explain to me how a politician who talks about increasing the size of government is an any sense of the word a libertarian.

    That’s who Mike Gravel is.

  • RegularRon

    The people who are excited about Gravel joining the LP are the ones who believe the “Libertine” lifestyle, is way more important than the Libertarian Philosophy. Pretty much the other Ron Paul supporters who wanted Denny K. as his running mate. Morons.

    Do you think Murray Rothbard would have welcomed someone like Gravel? From my studing of him, he would have told him to piss off pretty quick.

    If you look at most of the comments on the Reason post, you will see what I’m talking about. “But he’s against the war, and for civil Libertys”. That kind of thinking will get the LP nowhere.

    And for thoughts who don’t understand what I’m talking about when I say “Libertine” lifestyle, it’s pretty much summed up this way….”I wanna smoke pot, while my dog sucks me off, while I’m watching porn infront of my kids”.

    That is, right there, why the Libertarian Party will never be taken seriously. Because most people look at it that way.

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


    Another thought.

    The people who are welcoming Gravel are the same type of people who think that Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have anything in common beyond opposition to the Iraq War.

  • RegularRon

    It’s laughable Doug, isn’t it?

  • RegularRon

    And to Joseph, I would say a good portion of Libertarians, come from a Conservative back ground. I did, and from what I have read Doug has too. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Private property, Gun rights, anti-Tax of any kind, against world Government, at one point in time, the “Old Right (which is were the Libertarian party was formed from it’s ashes) was againsts wars. Oh, and I, and most Libertarians (not the Libertines) are against Abortion.

    I’m going to take a stab at this and say, you think Noam Chomsky is a libertarian. Right?

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    Noam Chomsky is a commidiction.

  • http://tiger.towson.edu/~apeak1 Alex

    I have been critical of Gravel, and although I welcome him into the party, I maintain that he is not a libertarian, and will not become a libertarian until he begins rejecting government healthcare and social security.

    With that said, Root’s comments are quite disgraceful to the party, and seem to indicate that he doesn’t understand libertarianism. The Libertarian Party is not “polar opposites of the political spectrum” from the Green Party. For that to be true, the two parties would have to disagree on gay marriage, on corporate welfare, on free speech, and on a number of other issues on which we actually agree. I would say that the Green Party is no further away from us than is the Republican Party. We have major disagreements with each, but we also have some overlap with each.

    Anthony Gregory did not say “pretty much the same thing” as Root. Mr. Gregory’s comments were logical. I agree completely with Mr. Gregory’s comments.

    “Randians” is not a word that the above author “just make up.” It’s been around for quite some time. The kookiness of Randians is not a result of them wanting the abolition of the FDA–a reasonable and necessary proposal. (I can think of no department of government that I wish to abolish more. The FDA has murdered far too many through its regulatory practices.) The kookiness of the Randian’s is in their belief that one must agree with Objectivist epistemology before proceeding to political views, and that anyone who does not adhere to Objectivist epistemology is irrational.

    It is not intellectually immature to acknowledge that the FDA is a destructive agency leading to the death of millions. It is not intellectually immature to acknowledge that private, competing organisations, fuctioning in the same manner as Underwriters Laboratories, could easily and effectively take the place of the FDA. It is intellectually immature to pretend that we should keep this horrible agency around a second longer.

    Libertarians have constructed a viable ideological system. In fact, I challenge the liberals and conservatives to do the same.

    Gravel is wrong about a number of things, but he is not a nut-case. He is passionately opposed to the war, unlike the two leading Democrats. Despite my many disagreements with Gravel, had he gotten the Democratic nomination, I would have held my nose and voted for him. I cannot possibly do the same of Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama.

    Do we “need more Bob Barrs and Neal Boortzs and less Mike Gravels”?

    We need more Harry Brownes, and more Mary Ruwarts, and more Jim Larks, and more Sharon Harrises.

    I’ll say that Mr. Barr has impressed me with his born-again libertarianism. I’m happy he’s now opposed to the war and to the war on drugs. I’m happy he no longer supports government intervention in marriage. He’s made great progress.

    Boortz is still supporting his insane “FairTax” which, if ever passed, would probably kill the libertarian movement for the next hundred years.

    Mr. Escobar writes, “For this reason, I think the time has come for libertarians to leave the LP (after 30 years of struggle) and expend their time and resources on pulling the Republican party back to its roots.”

    The Republican roots? Like supporting centralised banking? Like starting the first draft in American history? Like passing “progressive” regulations in the name of fighting monopoly but with the effect of helping big business to cartelise? Like telling employers who they may and may not hire? All of these things were supported by the Republicans. Even the first Republican president was a tyrant, suspending Habeas Corpus, jailing people for dissenting and speaking out against his war, arresting state legislators. In fact, the only good thing I can think about the Republican roots is that most Republicans didn’t like slavery.

    I tend to vot Republican here in Maryland just because the state is completely and utterly dominated by Democrats. But if I were living in a red state, I’d probably prefer to vote for Democrats, and for essentially the same reason. Neither party represents me.

    You write, “Ron Paul has started a movement that could culminate in a libertarian Republican being elected Governor or President, but only if libertarians are smart about their political choices given the reality of the American two-party system.”

    Dr. Phillies describes the Republican Party as a sinking ship, and believes that we should throw it nothing but anvils. I, for one, do not mind throwing it life jackets every once in a while, but ONLY when it does the right thing, for example, Ron Paul. When it comes to standard Republicans, like Bush, I will continue to throw anvils. Thereby, I will reinforce good behaviour while not reinforcing bad behaviour.

    It’s good to have the LP around, because I can throw to it all the life-jackets I’m not throwing to the Democrats and Republicans and say, “See? Do a good job and you can get a couple of these.”

    Without the LP around, I would have to cast blank ballots to achieve this–which I would.

    Mr. RegularRon writes, “Do you think Murray Rothbard would have welcomed someone like Gravel? From my studing of him, he would have told him to piss off pretty quick.”

    I suspect he would have looked at this as an opportunity to teach Gravel about economics. He taught Ron Paul, for example, a great deal about economics, and helped Paul to grow intellectually. He could do the same for Gravel, were he still alive.

    I believe Rothbard would agree with me that Gravel should not be our presidential candidate. I believe he would also have been weary about the LP getting too watered-down ideologically. But, if he could sway Gravel toward plum-line libertarianism, think what a victory that would be!

    In the same way that Barr has become much more libertarian since joining the Libertarian Party, I hope the same happens to Gravel.

    Mr. Mataconis writes, “The people who are welcoming Gravel are the same type of people who think that Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have anything in common beyond opposition to the Iraq War.”

    Why jump to conclusions?

    Well, Paul and Kuchinich both opposed Clinton’s wars, so right there they have something more in common with one another than opposition to the Iraq war.

    With that said, I would only vote for Kuchinich if the only other candidate in the race were Hitler (or Stalin, or Mao, &c.).

    I have respect for Kuchinich insofar as I believe he is an honest man, who is honest about his convictions. But that does not suffice for receiving my votes.

    According to your analysis, then, I’m not the type who would welcome Gravel into the party. Ah, but I am. Again, I do not believe he is a libertarian, despite his being the second most libertarian candidate in the whole race (outside the LP, of course). Nevertheless, I welcome him; but I do not want to see him become, and do not believe he will become, the libertarian candidate.

    Mr. RegularRon writes, “Oh, and I, and most Libertarians (not the Libertines) are against Abortion.”

    Since you used the big-L, I can only assume you mean members of the party, in which case you are wrong. A majority of the members of the Libertarian Party are pro-choice. The party itself, wisely, does not take a position on abortion, other than to say that all libertarians agree that there should be no government-funded abortions.

    With that said, I’m personally sympathetic to both sides. I do not want to see abortions happening, but fear that a War on Abortion would cause more problems than it solves. I’d like to see tax cuts and deregulation on adoption, both of which I believe would lead to far fewer abortions. I’d also like to see more educational efforts by private organisations explaining to young women what happens when abortions occur

    The Old Right was nothing more than radical classical liberals, who before the 1920s were seen as radical leftists, joining the conservatives in opposition to the New Deal and to the policies of Roosevelt. The Old Right self-destructed by the 1960s, when conservatives returned to their natural love for big government, military intervention, &c. Conservatives, since then, have come to accept and applaud the New Deal which, properly understood, was a right-wing, anti-capitalist approach to governmental central control. In fact, the New Deal found its roots in the policies of Mussolini.

    During the early ’90s, various libertarians like Rothbard and Rockwell thought they were seeing a return to the Old Right. What they were actually seeing was Republicans presenting to care about the increasing size, scope, and cost of government so as to gather votes. Rothbard died, and Rockwell came to acknowledge that the Republican Revolution of ’94 didn’t change anything for the better. I’d also say that the Democratic Revolution of ’06 was libertarian in nature, and that the Democrats have screwed us over, in the same way the Republicans screwed us over 12 years earlier.

    Noam Chomsky is very confused. His arguments against anarcho-capitalism demonstrate that he does not understand it.