Signal Intelligence About The LP

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Kubby Distances Himself From Ruwart's Anarchism

I applaud Steve Kubby for continuing to engage in the important debate over the Libertarian Party's principles.  I appreciate Tom Knapp's erudite lesson on the strict etymological sense of "radical", but I agree with David Nolan that the five top-tier candidates can be ranked according to the conventional size-of-government sense of "radicalism", viz: Ruwart Kubby Phillies Root Barr.  (Gravel's positions on FairTax and voucherized universal federal funding for healthcare and education make it hard to say he's as radical as even Root is.)
I also agree that Kubby contrasting Ruwart's anarchism against his own Constitution-respecting minarchism is the smartest move available to Steve at this point.  His radical base is unlikely to question him too closely on e.g. how the state can maintain a monopoly on justice without initiating force, or how he can claim to be "plumbline" while supporting the Sixth Amendment right of the accused to subpoena witnesses.  If Kubby were to clearly underscore the latter example of intellectual independence from ZAPsolutist "plumbline" orthodoxy -- an independence that this essay does not actually proclaim -- then he would have nearly as solid a claim as Phillies to being a unity candidate.
Kubby's move is smart not only with respect to the current field of candidates, but also in how it avoids a break from a little-known historical pattern. All the evidence I have suggests that, ever since the Platform was radicalized in 1974, Ruwart would be the first LP presidential candidate to have a written record that is more radical than the Platform she ran on.  (Anyone who thinks the Children's Rights plank is coming back in Denver is nuts.) 

In fact, it's doubtful that any post-Dallas candidate besides Bergland has had a written record equally as radical as the Platform he ran on.  Of the the nine LP presidential tickets, at least seven were headed by men who conceded (then or later) that coercive taxation will be necessary indefinitely -- rejecting the pre-Portland Platform's call for abolition of all taxation and immediate non-enforcement of tax laws.  Andre Marrou may merely have opposed "excessive taxation", which would make it 8 out of 9.  And while David Bergland was a Rothbardian radical when nominated in 1984, by 2000 he was managing the campaign of Harry Browne, who wrote at the time that "until we find a way to finance government without taxes or a way to assure our safety without any government, some form of taxation will be necessary".  So it might actually be 9 out of 9.

It would have been easy for Ruwart to immunize herself from concerns about her being more radical than the Platform she'll be given to run with.  She could have said she was running to be ONLY the chief spokesperson and salesman for consensus libertarianism, and explicitly disavowed any claim to represent the best and most authentic form of libertarianism.  But she could not resist  making something very like this claim, probably because of the presence in the race of some candidates who even a big-tenter like me would call ersatz libertarians or libertarians-in-training.  So she said in some interviews:

MR) The person who should lead our party should be someone who of course knows the philosophy. Now, I've listened to some of the other candidates and it's clear to me that they haven't quite gotten the whole picture yet.  That's OK, they will one day. But they don't want to be running as President when they really can't see the full picture [...]  I would like to talk a little bit about the danger to our party, because you know there's going to be a temptation here, I'm afraid, and the temptation is that if someone comes with a lot of past history, if they're a well-known name, the tendency is going to be perhaps consider that it would be better to embrace someone like that who really may not be yet fully attuned to the Libertarian philosophy  [...]  if we have someone who really doesn't have the full picture yet, who is in a leadership position in the Party, I think that could take us down the wrong road.  And that's something that I think all the delegates need to consider when they look at the candidates.  Because we're not just talking about who is the best spokesperson for liberty (MR

Then she went on offense yesterday and basically said that Libertarians don't "believe in liberty" if they don't agree with her that the state should have the same role in policing aggression against minors as it does in policing the adult possession of firearms and psychotropic substances -- i.e. none.  That's a pretty audacious signal to send to the delegates she's asking to nominate her.
She is thus apparently making her nomination campaign a referendum on the purity of her zero-government libertarianism, and that makes it easy -- and very big-tent -- to prefer Kubby's positioning over her divisive more-libertarian-than-thou candidacy.

P.S. I can't quite discern what in Root's essay made Steve think Root was "publicly attacking another candidate as an 'anarchist'".  While I disagree with anarchism even more strongly that Steve does, I can't agree at all that to merely call a self-described anarchist an "anarchist" constitutes an "attack".  (And if merely disagreeing with anarchism is such an "attack", then Kubby just committed the same infraction.)  The only unfair criticism of anarchism I see in Root's piece is the assertion that anarchists aren't libertarians.  Saying that a revered Libertarian like Ruwart isn't a libertarian is akin to Ruwart pronouncing that she is the one candidate who best "sees the full picture".  However, while it's one thing to say that a particular competing candidate is a philosophical outlier, it's quite another to tacitly proclaim one's own libertarianism as the plumbline against which all other candidates (and delegates?) should be measured.

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