Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Even Libertarian History Repeats Itself

Issue 2 of The Voluntaryist is now completed. If they are all this chock-full of interesting items to relate to the present day, I don’t know if I’ll ever get finished with this project. But don’t worry, I am taking time to continue riding my bike.

Issue 2 contains the very first interview published. The interviewee is a person named Dyanne Petersen, who I had never heard of before. Of course in this day and age, it’s easy to find information about someone, particularly if they were out and about even peripherally in the world of politics. I learned she passed away in 2003 and here’s one link on Wendy McElroy’s blog from this year that mentions her, but other than that, you can do your own search to learn more. Or, if anyone reading this blog knew her, please share any stories or thoughts in the comments section.

This interview is titled FROM POLITICS TO VOLUNTARYISM and it sort of recounts her move from the Libertarian Party to anarchist/voluntaryist. In this interview, she referred a couple of times to the 1980 campaign which is when Ed Clark was on the ticket for President. In this year the LP was on the ballot in every state and this campaign still holds the record for having the highest vote total for an LP presidential campaign.

Ms. Petersen publicly resigned in August of that year from a position she held in the California LP which apparently caused a bit of a stir. What I found personally interesting is that she felt the need to just not quietly go away. I did something similar in that I wrote a letter to the party leadership and also put it on the discussion board I mentioned in My Journey. Dyanne and I both thought of the party as an educational vehicle so I guess it makes sense that we would try to go out in a manner that might educate others.

I find it interesting, and kind of sad, that many things she said in her interview are the exact things I said and experienced. This was 20 years later. History repeats.

She talks about how the LP was moving towards vote totals being the measurement of success and how that can automatically dilute the message. She gives two examples of how she thinks Ed Clark evaded questions instead of giving an all-out libertarian answer because he didn’t want to alienate voters. Votes were what mattered, as opposed to sharing the ideas.

Relating this to my experience, I remember being on an email list that was really for Arizona Libertarians and Ernie Hancock wrote something very similar to what she was saying about vote totals. I don’t remember exactly how he said it, but it was right after I had experienced my run for office and it really hit me hard.

This was one of several instances that were rapidly piling up where I suddenly saw the inconsistencies and futility involved in politics. Oddly, I think Ernie has stayed very involved in the LP and I’m not sure why but maybe it’s because of people like me, who might hear some things he says because we are involved and then we can move away easier. Perhaps Ernie will see this and give us his thoughts.

This brings up another issue: do we need the LP in order to bring more people to voluntaryism? Or does it chase more people away from investigating the ideas of freedom? I know from the interview that Ms. Petersen regrets her time in the party, she feels like she wasted a lot of energy on political issues that were not spent in directly communicating libertarian ideas with people, like working for ballot access. Of course the hope was that after that work was done, then lots of educational campaigning would occur, but instead it just moved everyone to using vote totals as the measure, which leads to diluting the message in order to get the votes.

One more item I wanted to point out from this interview is the discussion about other activities and groups outside of the LP. She points out that ex-Party members often want something to be involved in. Obviously when someone gets involved in the party, they are the kind of person who is interested in “doing” something. So I wonder if this is not part of the problem in so far as there is so much to do within politics and campaigning that it keeps people busy and feeling like they are accomplishing something for freedom. And then when you reject the whole institution of government, you’re kind of left with a feeling of “what now?”

I think there is a lot more going on now though. I know there is a lot of action going on in New Hampshire as a result of the Free State Project (but interestingly enough, I think there are still plenty of battles between the anarchists vs. the political libertarians there).

There are also loads of internet sites, podcasts, blogs, etc. that are promoting libertarian/anarchist/voluntarist ideas and, one item in particular that I’ve been seeing but not sure yet how it all relates, is something called agorism.

I guess I better stop this post now because if I keep going I may start repeating myself.


Anonymous said...

Need something to be involved in that is not a waste of time? Try this: Universal Order of Freesapients

Joe said...

Agorism is a variant of market anarchism proposed by Samuel E. Konkin III. It emphasizes counter-economics as a strategy (another thing for you to look up :-). If you like SF, you should read J. Neil Schulman's Alongside Night, an agorist novel.

Aside from vote counts, Harry Browne's first presidential run (1996) resulted in an attempt to use mass marketing to recruit LP members. They did mass mailings to rented lists, e.g., subscribers to National Review. The membership numbers did go up, but if you read the LP News Letters to the Editor, you could tell that these people had not been educated in libertarian principles. Then in 2000, with dissatisfaction from Browne's second run, they dropped out rather precipitously.

Debbie H. said...

Hey Joe, (hmm, suddenly I have Jimi Hendrix in my head) thanks for the book recommendation.

And anonymous, I'm confused by your comment. Are you saying we are wasting our time here????

Debbie H. said...

Hey anonymous, I just realized you were probably referring to the point I made about wasting time with politics. Duh, like I've said, I can be slow. ;)