An Open Letter To The National Libertarian Party
Let’s start from the position that most people already kno (or have at least been exposed to) the litany of libertarian complaints against the various ways in which different levels and branches of government have over-reached their mandate and violated the freedoms of the people. And we can also assume that most people agree that, to some degree or other, the violation of freedom is a negative which should ideally be avoided. No doubt there are some people ignorant of politics, and some who earnestly desire a system of greater control and less liberty, but they are not the audience that needs to be addressed. It’s only those who know and agree more or less on the principles to whom you should appeal. They may think other factors are more important, or they may simply not care enough, or think that their agreement has no consequence on actual government policies. Stop treating these people as though they don’t already know that because their taxes are high, their ability to decide for themselves how to spend significant portions of their own earnings is taken away from them. Or that politicians lie, and the agencies of government frequently make resolving complex problems even more difficult than they would otherwise be. They already understand that perpetual overseas war is fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant. They already know all that, and they still vote for Republicans or Democrats. Or they stay away and don’t vote at all.
So why don’t these people vote for libertarians? I would say: mostly because they don’t like your chances of winning. For as long as anyone can remember, there have only been two parties that mattered, and if you wanted a chance of your voice and vote having any effect, you were better off trying to change one of the big parties just a little bit then throwing in with the party that best matched your philosophical principles, ideals, and conscience. Who needs a better example than the Tea Party movement, which happened entirely within the greater Republican party system. As a result, many of the most talented and capable libertarian-minded politicians have essentially held their nose and run campaigns on big party tickets and then were subsequently marginalised by losses at the polls, or forced into philosophically awkward policy positions as part of the political reality of policy making in a two-party political environment.
Convincing the libertarian-minded out there that a strong third-party is viable, and let’s start with “viable” before we go aeguing for “necessary”, will obviously require some work. First of all, a competitive Libertarian Party will need an easily communicated general platform which, while philosophically true to the principles of liberty, is no farther from axial-center than the Democrat or Republican platforms, and is sufficiently distinct from them that a unified voice-of-purpose can be used by advocates when communicating to voters (and donors) through public media. Policy advocates must be able to clearly articulate not only the basic theory and principles of libertarianism as a political philosophy, but also be able to accurately convey the precise details of policy laid out in the platform, as well as how they could be enacted without causing unreasonable instability in the institutions which directly impact the lives of millions of Americans.
There is significant turmoil in both of the major parties right now. Populism, religious conservatism, and the established leadership stand at odds over control of the Republican party. Among Democrats, the progressive liberals deal with a rising social justice movement on the far left while they try to sort out after a resounding defeat at the top in the general election. Present the Libertarian party as a reasonable alternative to any voter’s continued support of uncertainty and instability both socially and fiscally. Provide a good solid defense for moderate libertarian policy changes and a stable, reasonable party. Give voters an opportunity to see voting Libertarian as a smart choice, and the Libertarian party could stand a real chance of making a difference in the 2018 midterms.
18 November 2016
“Politics is the art of compromise.” Otto von Bismark, 1st Chancellor of Germany
Back in the 19th century, a lot of the details of the world were different. You might well say that how things are today, all over the world, is pretty much because of how things were at the end of the 1800s. A great strategic competition was being played out on a world stage by the European colonial powers. Spain’s empire fell apart while the British and the French checked and countered each other across Africa and the Far East. In the middle of Asia, it was the Russians and the British whose conflicts became known as the “Great Game”.
Meanwhile, the ancient boogeyman of Europe, the Ottoman Empire, was seen as standing on its last leg, and seemingly remarkable unifications were occurring across Europe. The Austro-Hungarians pulled together and claimed the Baltic states left behind by the receding Ottomans, the Italian peninsula joined together into a single nation on its own for the first time in modern history, and the heartland of the german people became unified into a powerhouse of a nation able to rival the resources of the Continent’s other nations.
Eurocentrism and a fetish for monarchy were the word of the day, and little if any thought was spent on the agency of the individuals of a nation when the interests of that nation were being decided. Tyranny abounded, and the makers of policy were largely insulated from the consequences of their political decisions on the people for whom the decisions were made. Bismark saw compromise as an integral part of policy making not least because the positions being negotiated away were not his own.
Arguably, two World Wars and decades of ethnic and religious conflict in Africa and the Middle East are all consequential of Bismarkesque compromises – episodes in which the affected populations had no representation in negotiations, and so decisions were made with far less than complete knowledge of the physical and social terrain at issue. So, the next time someone declares that compromise is the best solution to a political question, remember the consequences of compromise when one side of a negotiation has control of the board and the other side is denied its voice.