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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Is libertarianism a bonfire or a candle?

Starchild wrote:

SC) getting our party back on track with a renewed focus on ideology and libertarian ideas (SC

Right -- and there are more than one principled variety of libertarian ideology:

  • Major Schools Of Libertarianism
  • Free Variables in Libertarian Theory
  • SC) and less hype about winning elections.  (SC

    I agree that merely winning elections is too narrow and naive a strategy.  The LP's job should be to unite all the voters who seek both more personal liberty and more economic liberty behind the electoral choices that will most move public policy in a libertarian direction.  Do you disagree?

    SC) It's difficult to understand how Libertarians, of all people, could be so naive and shortsighted as to risk putting the pursuit of power ahead of the pursuit of liberty as a practical goal of their organization (SC

    What's naive is to think that devotion to ZAPsolutism is some guarantee against losing one's way.  When I try to think of examples of arguable sell-outs from the libertarian movement, the first ones to spring to mind are some of our most prominent anarchists:  Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, and Burt Blumert backing GOP candidates like Pat Buchanan in the 1990s; Bill Evers going to work for George Bush in Iraq and in the Education Department; and Dana Rohrabacher choosing a career in Congress over fidelity to the movement.  (Alan Greenspan and Gale Norton might also make the list, but I don't know much about their pre-mainstream days.)

    Meanwhile, what happened to Crane team that the original Radical Caucus viciously shunned out of the LP for heresies like using the slogan "low-tax liberal" and advocating that the nanny state be repealed in a particular order?  They went into the very bowels of the Beltway and braved its corrupting influences to make the Cato Institute a far more effective advocate for liberty over the last quarter century than the LP has ever been -- and they did it without a Pledge or a 7/8-protected Statement of Principles or even (as far as I know) a secret handshake.

    SC) We must continually teach and reinforce the libertarian ideas of Non-Aggression, individual rights, and freedom, or risk our movement fatally losing its way in the political swamp through which we are all struggling to wade. (SC

    Given the long list of radical LP leaders -- Rothbard, Evers, Garris, Raimondo, Franzi, Costello, Hunter, Weber, Rockwell, Blumert -- who went on to abandon either the LP or their radicalism or both, I would suggest that simplistic exclusivist ZAPsolutism casts an ultimately brittle spell, and that the LP should be more ecumenical to the various schools of principled libertarianism.  An LP that defines itself with a narrow version of libertarianism has an ultimately more brittle ideological immune system, while simultaneously losing opportunities for Libertarians to gravitate toward the more robust schools of libertarianism through competition in the marketplace of ideas.  In particular, I wish LP radicals had the courage of their convictions to believe that their brand of libertarianism would only grow and flourish in a big-tent LP that didn't make people genuflect to the radical school at the door.

    My libertarianism is a roaring bonfire; why do you act like yours is a flickering candle?