Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hanging Around In Political Bars

The final item in issue 7 of The Voluntaryist is a letter written to Carl by a fellow named Timothy Dove. Mr. Dove is another person who experienced first-hand what the government is all about (he got into trouble with the IRS) but in this letter he spends much of his time discussing his experience with the Libertarian Party in Alaska.

Mr. Dove, at least at the time of writing this letter, tells Carl that he’s not quite as anti-party as Carl. He believes that he owes a lot to the LP because it did introduce him to libertarianism.

I’ve noticed that people who say this often refer to various discussions they had with other individuals they met through the party. It appears that the benefit of finding the LP, from those who end up leaving it, is not about participating in the political process itself; it’s about finding people who helped them further develop their understanding of the philosophy.

Maybe the Libertarian Party is kind of like a bar where people can go to meet libertarians. But it’s dangerous because in a bar, you have to be careful about who you meet. You might meet someone who only wants to use you.

Just like a bar might not be the best place to find people if you are interested in long-term fulfilling relationships more than the excitement of short-term sex, the LP might not be the place to find people if you are interested in long-term societal change, rather than the excitement of short-term political gains.

Mr. Dove says he enjoyed participating when the goal was education and when the purpose was to “utilize the political forum to spread libertarian ideas.” but was disappointed as the party moved towards thinking the purpose is “to elect people to office.”

I wish I could have a dollar (no wait, make that a piece of gold) for every time someone said or wrote that to me whenever I questioned an action in the LP. This has become the standard line to any criticism and I guess it’s true. But it also shuts down any real discussion of libertarian thought and how, or if, it can apply in the political realm.

In his letter, Dove admits that based on that new purpose, the Alaska LP did have success by electing a fellow named Dick Randolph to the State House. But then he goes on to explain a few things Randolph did that, according to Dove, were in no way libertarian.

Here’s what Mr. Dove says in his letter after detailing some history of what Randolph did:

“Gone are the long philosophical discussions of a society without the state. Gone from the Party are all the radicals who created it. All that's left is a bunch of chamber of commerce types, empty rhetoric, and expensively purchased advertising hoopla.”

I looked up Randolph and discovered something that bothered me because I see a pattern whenever a state proclaims a big libertarian electoral success: he had already held office as a Republican. To me, this is not someone who is elected as a Libertarian. It’s just someone who uses the libertarian party to continue in politics.

It appears the state is still battling this sort of thing. I saw lots of news hits around a Republican Senator who lost in the primary and might possibly be running on the Libertarian ticket. A state Libertarian committee voted this idea down, but once again it shows how people want to use the LP doesn’t it?

Bob Barr is another example. Politicians gain their notoriety by using the Republican Party and then move to Libertarian Party when it suits their purposes. When they get mad, the LP provides them a place to go.

It’s even happened in Indiana with a city councilman. He was a Republican who just changed parties because the Republicans aren’t doing what he thinks Republicans should be doing.

This has nothing to do with consistent libertarian thought and I don’t consider these people to be elected libertarians. Just political hacks doing whatever they can to have some power.

I’ve decided I don’t want to be used anymore and am no longer hanging around the political bars. I now understand that I’ll have more success finding people who match my goals if I start looking in places where people are not constantly drunk and addicted to political power.


Anonymous said...

When I was in the Libertarian Party, some 35 years ago, I noticed a pattern. The rank and file was largely filled with thoughtful honest people. The further you moved up the party hierarchy, the more likely you were to encounter a manipulative politician. The candidates for public office were the end result of this winnowing process.

Brian Cantin

Lloyd Licher said...

Your last two paragraphs ended with power, which made me think of a book I read earlier this year titled "The Parable of the Tribes, the Problem of Power in Social Evolution," by Andrew Bard Schmookler, c 1984. He presents a theory that mankind evolved from a natural, tribal-type of society to one termed civilization, and because of the presures of population and societal interactions, this evolution has selected humans for power. The result is that power dominates most aspects of civilization and has generated endless wars and strife, as well as having altered human nature in ways that are detrimental to it. I keep thinking of this theory whenever I hear the news, so much of which can be explained by it. Political parties and elections seem to bring out that emphasis on power. -- By Lloyd Licher

Paul said...

Another great essay, Debbie.

Ned Netterville said...

Debbie, A very insightful analysis, I would say. I am almost afraid to say this, because so many libertarians and even some anarchist greatly admire him, but Ron Paul certainly fills the bill as someone who used the Libertarian Party to continue in politics, after he lost a primary race for the Senate in Texas. He then ran for president as an LP, and won the LP nomination. Of course he lost the latter race, and it might be argued that knowing he would lose, as anyone running for president as a LP knows, that Ron wasn't using the LP to stay in power and that he helped the LP by running. Well, maybe yes, may no. The LP nomination kept him and the LP in the media spotlight to some extent, but he subsequently ran again for a House seat as a Republican and won. Ron has certainly drawn a lot of people to his brand of libertarianism, which again may be good, or bad. I personally do not believe a true libertarian can sit in any seat of power and maintain his personal integrity whole.

Jacob Lapp said...

Hurray for Debbie Harbeson’s successful journey from a peaceful non-rebellious woman to a mad woman, to an expert wielder of the occult razor.
Some of you younger ones may not know what I mean by the term occult razor. My dictionary says the occult is something that is shut off from view or exposure. The occult razor has been used to describe the very simplest and best tools to cut through and expose an obscurity.
Minarchists claim the purpose of the state is to defend individual rights. Anarchists say the true purpose is territorial sovereignty.
Now here comes Debbie with her occult razor and says, “For me this is just simple logic. If I can’t freely opt out of the states rule then my rights are certainly not being defended”.
Could someone please hand the minarchists an occult razor. They don’t seem to have one.
Minarchists adore the preamble to the constitution, We the people in order to form a more perfect union. Wait a minute! Is a tighter union beneficial to human happiness? What happens to the sovereignty of each individual’s natural right to his own life, liberty, and property when the peoples union is tightly drawn?
Then ninety years later it cost 600,000 lives to draw that union still tighter.
And what about that touted separation of powers, The executive, the legislative, the judiciary. Don’t they all get paid from the same purse? One would think at least the judiciary should be in the people’s hands.
Come on minis. Who are the real minis, the government or the people? And even if it were the people, which people, the collective or the individuals in it?
The word power is mentioned thirteen times in the main constitution. It always refers to the power of the government. Not once to the power of the individual. Who are we kidding, when we adore such a document?
The above and many more obscurities hinder the course of liberty. So lets get busy with that occult razor. There’s work to be done with both knowledge and courage.