Signal Intelligence About The LP

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Libertarian Policy Well Is Not Dry

Factional tensions unfortunately make the LP institutionally incapable of writing detailed official party statements about specific policy issues. Even the old bloated platform didn't have enough detail on any given issue to constitute a position paper. In my effort to create an LP campaign-site-in-a-box, I went looking through LP press releases and web pages to cobble together position papers, and came up with the 11 in the Evaluate menu at What I found still has too much harangue and not enough policy specifics for my taste.

The good news is: the LP doesn't need to write its own detailed policy proposals. The freedom movement is bountifully blessed with a dozen think tanks that specialize in writing policy proposals for a variety of audiences. Below I link to thousands of pages of position statements that our candidates can choose from. (In fact, on my site I used a CEE article on Environment because the LP's output on that issue has been so worthless.) Our problem isn't that our well of literature is dry. Our problem is that if LPHQ tries to draw specific policy recommendations from the well, then various parts of our membership get out their knives and the blood flies. Just look what happened with the Portland Massacre, or the "Iraq Exit Strategy". Does anyone think LPHQ is interested in pinning more bullseyes on its chest like that?

Writing specific policy proposals that keep LP members' knives sheathed is hard. I know. I've tried it. I invite anyone to pick any important policy area (like education), write a detailed position paper with specific and comprehensive policy proposals, and see if it could win the requisite 2/3 NatCon (or 3/4 LNC!) approval. I'm confident you can't. I can't either. That's not a reflection on you or me, that's a reflection on our Party.  One faction stands ready to veto any policy specifics that are grounded in reality, while the other stands ready to veto policy specifics that are grounded in fantasy.  

That of course is my pragmatist spin, which you don't have to endorse. What you do have to endorse is the existence of the two veto impulses. You can argue that one camp is wrong, but that ain't going to make them fold up their sleeping bags. As long as we have a big tent, with no school of libertarianism being privileged above the rest, then the Party won't be dealing in detailed and comprehensive policy recommendations. Sorry.

Rather than trying to craft policy texts that our membership won't scream about, I think the Party should celebrate the richness of libertarian policy analysis and recommend it en bloc -- while carefully saying that the LP and its members don't necessarily agree with every detail. Look how deep our well is:
On the specific topic of education, I'll again note that of all the libertarian policy shops above that take a position on tuition vouchers, all but one -- something like 8 out of 9 -- endorse them.  However, the LP cannot ally with the school-choice movement or in any way echo its research and policy analysis, because a minority faction within the LP vetoes that idea.  Does anybody dare dispute that this state of affairs is deeply dysfunctional?

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