Signal Intelligence About The LP

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Toward A St. Louis Accord

Too much time and effort is wasted in the Libertarian Party rehashing debates about
  • the definition of libertarian
  • the mission of the Party
  • minarchism vs. anarchism
  • the meaning of the Pledge
  • what the Platform should say about the proper role of government
It should be clear by now that neither "side" can (or should) use the Party's foundational texts -- SoP, Platform, and Bylaws -- to impose their side's answer on the other. It's time to declare these texts a demilitarized zone for LP factionalism. It's becoming increasingly clear that the Party -- i.e. a 2/3 majority of NatCon delegates -- does not agree with:

Reformers who say:
Radicals who say:
The mission of the LP is to elect Libertarians. The mission of the LP is to advocate abolition of the monopoly authority of the State.
Anarchists are not libertarians. Minarchists are not libertarians.
Minarchists are better libertarians than anarchists. Anarchists are better libertarians than minarchists.
The LP should defend the the necessity or monopoly authority of the State to protect individual rights. The LP should deny any authority or necessity of the State to protect individual rights.
Libertarian candidates should never advocate anarchy. Libertarian candidates should never say a flat tax or "fair tax" is better than the status quo.
LP members should not have to pledge support for the goal of banishing force initiation and fraud from human relationships. The Pledge requires LP members to oppose any tax on any activity at any rate for any reason.
The LP should take no position on abortion, foreign intervention, and immigration. Principled libertarians should not disagree about what constitutes aggression.

(In the above, "minarchist" means one who advocates a state with only the authority to protect each individual's right to his life, liberty, and property.)

So instead of endlessly rehashing the debates between the opposing statements above, we should try to say something about these topics that could be endorsed by a 2/3 NatCon majority -- and even by big-tent reformers and big-tent radicals. Something like this:

The Party's purpose is to implement and give voice to the Statement of Principles by uniting voters who want more personal and economic liberty behind the electoral choices that will most move public policy in a libertarian direction. The Party's ultimate goal is to banish force initiation and fraud from human relationships. The Party does not claim to know how close our society can come to this ideal, but we are united in our conviction that governments must never add to the amount of aggression in the world. Principled libertarians can disagree about how best to reduce aggression or even about precisely what constitutes aggression, but we are united in defending the full rights of each person to his body, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges. Principled libertarians can disagree about whether every function of government can be performed by the free market, but we are united in opposing government's growth beyond the protection of the rights of every individual to her life, liberty and property. Principled libertarians can disagree about how best we may each serve the cause of freedom, but we are determined to build a Party that welcomes and unites all those who want more personal and economic liberty. We defenders of freedom are too few, and the enemies of freedom are too many, for us to indulge in seeking heretics in our midst, rather than awakening allies across this freedom-loving land.


Mik Robertson said...

This is much better than trying to address whether government should exist or agreeing to simply not broach the subject with neutral language.

The anarchist/minarchist debate is unnecessary for the LP as an organization in my opinion, given that we are so far from either.

I'm not sure how this will be any different from the Dallas accord in practice, however. Those who believe government is the aggressive use of force will still object to acknowledging any role for government in LP documents and those who seek steps toward smaller government will still object to documented projections of Anarcho-Libertopia.

I suppose if this replaces the Dallas accord it would take away of bit of the stick that has been used to beat ideological "opponents" over the head.

Will this be proposed as a resolution at the St. Louis convention or as an amendment to the Statement of Principles?

Anonymous said...

MR, it depends. There is no problem with NAPsolutists holding the positions they do. That's not dysfunctional.

What IS dysfunctional is the intra-party claims that this school or that school are true L-ism, and that deviations are to be suppressed.

My suggestion is the St. Louis Accord should be a Resolution.


Brian Holtz said...

Mik, I've expanded the blog posting to clarify what I think this language says. I see this as different from the Dallas Accord in at least the following ways:

* It summarizes/clarifies the LP's purpose and goal.
* It declares the the LP should unite voters who want more liberty.
* It implicitly rejects the two competing Pledge interpretations of "we're not revolutionaries!" and "smash the state!".
* It suggests an ideological baseline for the LP: never adding to aggression, seeking to banish it, and always advocating full rights to yourbody, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges.
* It explicitly says that principled Libertarians can disagree about the details of what constitutes aggression.
* It explicitly commits the LP to not contradicting anarchism (whereas the DA was implicit/unofficial).
* It implicitly commits the LP to not contradicting minarchism through Rothbard's tactic (admitted in a 1983 letter) of systematically opposing every possible function of government.

I see this as a convention resolution. It could almost fit into the Platform Preamble, but it's probably too inward-facing for that. It definitely cannot be targeted for the SoP as long as the 7/8 rule is in effect.

Mik Robertson said...

The expansion adds valuable perspective, and I can see better the potential to minimize the factional friction.

If I may suggest a couple very minor changes to make it more gender-neutral and minimize the potential to include corporations when defined as persons (delete italic, add bold):

"...the full rights of each person individuals to his body their bodies, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges."


"...the rights of every individual to his life, liberty and property.

libertariangirl said...

i like it

Brian Holtz said...

I've never been a fan of using the plural "their" to finesse the problem of gender specificity in singular pronouns. In situations where "one" as a pronoun doesn't read well, I usually try to use the feminine in half the cases. So I've switched the second "his" to a "her" above.

Unknown said...

I've always preferred to avoid the pronouns and just redundantly write "a person" or "the person" like as "...the rights of a person and the person's body..." or some such