Signal Intelligence About The LP

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Answering Antman

Other relevant posts:
Less Antman writes:
LA) [The LP] had and has an intellectual respectability within the field of academia and the blogosphere, and some within the field of journalism. (LA
I'd love to know what evidence of intellectual respectability the LP has had in any of these spheres since the 1983 schism. As far as I can tell, the LP is treated with embarrassed disdain by the most important libertarian academics, public intellectuals, and bloggers. In 2006 I did a census ( of the top 30 liberty-oriented blogs and found that nearly every one of them showed no respect for the LP -- if they even talked about it at all. (In no case was this a recent change of heart brought on by Portland.)

Most Ron Paul r3volutionaries were not ours to take, and on election day we learned that they weren't even Ron Paul's to give. The bailout of the Fed-fed mortgage crisis was perfectly scripted to mobilize the Fed-obsessed Paulist vote, but his 1.1 million primary voters essentially vanished into thin air(*), and are effectively undetectable even in the vote totals of Chuck Baldwin. As I said at the time, Ron Paul knew well before Denver that he would not let an LP nomination interfere with his chance to make a splash in Minneapolis. He could have handed the nomination to Mary Ruwart on a silver platter with merely a nod, but he showed zero interest in doing so. Again, he probably didn't want to share the attention of his r3volutionaries while he was still building toward Minneapolis. A week after the GOP convention, he scattered his revolution to the winds, in an ill-advised attempt to be all things to all anti-establishmentarians. His Campaign For Liberty became an unfocused Campaign Against The Establishment.

(*) In the presidential vote, at least. In California's federal and state legislative races, LP candidates across the state received record high percentages, a full 1 to 2 percentage points above normal: Congress 4.53%, State Senate 5.94%, and State Assembly 6.74%. Our ExCom had a formal initiative to reach out to Ron Paul meet-ups, but I'm aware of it getting major levels of effort in only a few races, e.g. Michael Benoit, who only got 4.4% in a 3-way race in a district won handily by the GOP. I can no more ascribe our high vote totals to Ron Paul than I can to the wonderful new LP Platform and LPCA voter guide statement.

Paul's campaign was radically anti-establishment -- anti-Fed, anti-war, gold-buggish, conspiracy-friendly -- but it didn't advocate anything remotely close to radical libertarianism. Every time I thought I'd finally documented just how much Paul disagreed with radical libertarians, he would backslide even further:
In the absence of hard data (that I hope some social scientist is gathering), it seems that the R3volution depended largely on 1) nativist patriotic Christian paleo-conservatism, 2) vague but angry anti-establishmentarianism, and 3) Paul's personality and track record of integrity. None of these attributes make the R3volution transferable to the LP even if Paul wanted it to be. Indeed, the rhetoric of Paul's campaign was much better suited to the CP, but even that transfer didn't work. LP radicals romanticize the R3volution because they wish that its vociferous opposition to the Fed and the war are somehow equivalent to opposition to the existence of the state. This couldn't be any further from the truth -- Ron Paul and his R3volution cloaked themselves in the state's Constitution, and evinced zero sympathy for anarchism. In his speech in Minneapolis, with his big chance to steer the R3volution, Lew Rockwell was just as much a stealth anarchist as all the LP radical candidates that Antman chastises. I was pointing out the stealthiness of radical LP candidates -- and not just Mary Ruwart -- even before Denver. My own campaign web site had more radical policy specifics than those of any radical I checked, including Hogarth, Knapp, Straus, Grow, and Gatties.

I agree that Phillies was the best hope both to unify the LP and to appeal to brainy opinion leaders. However, that would have been a risk-averse reprise of our 2004 campaign, and in the first ballot it was confirmed that the delegates didn't want to go in that direction. As Chuck Moulton says, the Barr and Root voters (and probably a lot of Ruwart voters as well) were in fact less interested in ideology than in media access and how effectively the candidate would be able to use it. Many Barr and Root voters were concerned with their conservative background, but in the year of the R3volution and with Ron Paul not endorsing Ruwart and with a pre-Palin McCain angering conservatives, there was no better year to risk a conservative-leaning nominee. I leaned toward Root for his speaking skills and lack of Barr's legislative record, but neither difference ended up being my main complaint with Barr's campaign. Instead, it was his hesitance to sharply distinguish the LP's brand from conservatism -- something which Root does surprisingly well.

Antman says David Nolan is "explicitly a limited government libertarian", but I've never been able to get Nolan to indicate where he disagrees with anarchism. My unanswered last questions to him on the matter are at

I completely agree that distinguishing ourselves from both the Left and Right, as neither liberal nor conservative, should be the fundamental theme of every Libertarian campaign. Our message must be that we are the ONLY choice on the ballot that is neither liberal nor conservative -- which is why it's lame to start other parties in our quadrant of Nolan Space.

It's true that none of our past presidential tickets (with the possible exception of 1984, about which I have the least data) have been willing to campaign on the full implications of our old personal-secession platform, but that hardly implies that "our radical past is a myth". It just means that our old platform made us both self-marginalized AND schizophrenic.

It's simply not true that moderate LP candidates are as stealth about their ideal society as radical candidates are. I can think of several candidates besides me who have explicitly told voters what they think is the proper role of government. I've never heard of a single LP candidate who has explicitly told voters that there is no such thing as a proper role of government.

The Reform Caucus has not tried to change the substance of the SoP, but reformers cannot accept a(n interpretation of the) Pledge that rules out minarchism (as opposed to ruling out revolution). This is simply non-negotiable, and radicals better formally change the LP's name to "Anarchist Party" if they want us to give up on this one -- and thus on the LP itself.

Instead of invoking the Law of Unintended Consequences, Less should note the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. There were plenty of chances to moderate the Platform (such as in 1992), but radicals always blocked them and thus made the Portland Crater possible. Ruwart could have campaigned as an ecumenical Libertarian, but instead she explicitly campaigned on being "fully attuned to the Libertarian philosophy", said she "really can explain to the American people what we truly are all about", and warned that "someone who really doesn't have the full picture yet [...] could take us down the wrong road". When she said the nomination is "about who is going to take the Party in the direction we want to go", and not just about who can best present ecumenical Libertarianism to the voters, she forced delegates like me to choose Barr over her on the last ballot. If after 2010 it seems that there is very little chance of the old personal-secession platform coming back, then Ruwart could indeed be a very strong contender in 2012 as a salesperson for ecumenical libertarianism. Radicals have to decide which they care more about: having a quasi-anarchist platform that they then don't campaign on, or having an ecumenical platform that makes radical candidates a non-threatening choice for LP-salesman-in-chief.

The tedious "Republican Lite" smear is beneath someone of Antman's seriousness. I challenge it every time with this: Not a single radical has dared to answer.

The Reform Party collapsed in on its ideological vacuum, but that hardly invalidates the strategy of trying to unite all the voters who seek both more personal liberty and more economic liberty and seeing if they can steer the political process toward more freedom. I don't object -- in fact I insist -- that we also try to educate these voters as we unite them. But some of us candidates want to teach them about minimization of force initiation rather than simply abstention from it, and we don't want to the LP to officially contradict our views -- just as it we're not trying to make it officially contradict Antman's.


Thomas L. Knapp said...


You write:

"I was pointing out the stealthiness of radical LP candidates -- and not just Mary Ruwart -- even before Denver. My own campaign web site had more radical policy specifics than those of any radical I checked, including Hogarth, Knapp, Straus, Grow, and Gatties."

You keep using that word (radical). I do not think it means what you think it means.

paulie said...

Hi Brian,

Thought provoking piece. I'm digesting it.

I'm aware of one explicitly anarchist candidate, Nathan Larson in Virginia. I covered him at least once at IPR, maybe more.

By the way, the article is also at


Your comments would be appreciated.

If you would like, you can also cross post your articles at cannoli wordpress anytime you want. You already have a log in if you ever want to use it.


paulie said...



Brian Holtz said...

I take "radical" in our context to mean what the Radical Caucus tells us it means: "Libertarians must always make clear that the outright removal of the injustice and interference of the State is our ultimate goal."

I confess that I would prefer a different definition of libertarian radicalness: the extent to which one opposes aggression, and one's willingness to do whatever it takes to minimize it -- even beyond mere abstention from it. By that definition, the "Radical" Caucus is not nearly as radical as I am -- but I have hope that they will grow in their libertarian journey.

paulie said...

Antman, in radicals yahoo group...

"I was running in Orange County, California in 1982, and issued a long position paper that was sent to the newspapers entitled, "THE CASE FOR LEGALIZING HEROIN." You can do it and live to tell about it. That same year, Joe Fuhrig ran for U.S. Senate in California, openly advocated private property anarchism, and got lots of radio
interviews, including several repeat interviews by the most popular radio talk show host in the San Francisco Bay Area, who said "Joe, you're nuts!" in the first interview and "I'm going to vote for you"in the final one. Granted, being a rumpled college economics professor made it easier for him to give it respectability, but it was very much an ANARCHY NOW! campaign with the facts behind it to draw the respect of listeners."