SACRAMENT – The Libertarian Party has always been a place where staunchest advocates of freedom discuss the most pressing issues facing Americans: Should individuals be free to buy nuclear warheads? Should we tolerate age limits for buying after legalizing heroin? Is there anything really wrong with child labor? Do we eliminate 99% or 100% of the federal government?
The LP boasts of being the third largest party in the country, but its most successful presidential candidate (Gary Johnson in 2016) received only 3.3% of the vote. The highest-ranking party official in the country is Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt. Then there are the few choices, which explains why activists cannot decide whether to act as a real party trying to choose candidates or as a dysfunctional family arguing over nonsense.
The latter usually wins for obvious reasons. As the saying goes about academia, “Politics is so vicious because the game is so small.” This year’s convention was unusually bitter, with Mises Caucus insurgents snatching control of the party and installing their chair, Angela McArdle. This may seem like one of those military battles on a pointless hill, but it points to the future of the libertarian movement.
There is little doubt that the dominant libertarians have done little with the party apparatus over the years. As an ideological movement, libertarianism faltered as Democrats took a progressive turn. Republicans have improved on “owning libraries,” but have abandoned their philosophy of less is more along the way. There is an opportunity here as both sides become extreme.
The winning faction of the LP claims that the old guard was not combative enough during the blockades by COVID. It promises a tougher advantage. For a sense of tone, here’s a post-convention caucus tweet: “Sovereign immune government agents who use taxpayer funds to resist posting camera footage of a massacre in a juvenile indoctrination prison shouldn’t exist, and much except to be the only ones armed in society. ”Doesn’t that sound good?
Anyway, the newcomers promise to make the Libertarian Party a libertarian again. The old guard argues that the people of Mises are not really libertarians, but populists, anti-LGBQT, paleoliberals who are part of a branch of the right inspired by the Mises Institute, Ron Paul and the late economist Murray Rothbard. “Enemies accuse him of right-wing deviationism and racism,” according to Reason.
The Mises Caucus denies these allegations, but one of its first actions was to withdraw the statement from the party’s long-standing platform: “We condemn fanaticism as irrational and disgusting.” They added a softened version as a compromise. Its stated goal is to stop trying to appease the liberal enemies of libertarianism, but many traditional libertarians remain concerned.
“Is it the position of the Mises Caucus that you can be a fan and be a member of the Libertarian Party?” Nick Gillespie of Reason asked McArdle. His response: “Yes, I think that’s absolutely the position because we don’t agree on what it means to be a fanatic.” Since taking over, the party has had no trouble agreeing on the meaning of some less definable concepts, as it unloads on “awakening.”
They’re not fanatics, but there’s a real debate about combativeness and philosophy. Newcomers seem to be following the paleolibertary playbook written by Rothbard and Ron Paul to get closer to the popular social conservatives. Paleoliberals tend to be conservative on border issues and abortion. Here, the new group has neutralized the platform on these issues as well. We’ll see how it plays out, but I didn’t think the nation needed two right-wing populist parties.
I am always comforted by the nonsense of party debates and the free-spirited nature of many of its activists. After giving a talk at a state convention, I had an in-depth discussion of redevelopment policy with a smart bearded man wearing a purple suit, blonde wig, and fairy wings. The party was laissez faire both in its attitudes and in the economy.
The 2016 presidential candidacy process was a fool’s errand. Voters eventually selected the most popular ballot: former Republican Gov. Johnson and William Weld, but candidates included John McAfee, the world-leading technology pioneer who fled police in Belize and was eventually found dead in a Spanish prison.
A stripped-down candidate on the national convention stage. Then there’s Senate candidate Vermin Supreme: “Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. At least it provided lightness, something that could soon be out of bounds.
Libertarian writer Jeffrey Tucker argued in 2014 that there are two types of libertarians: “humanitarian and brutalist.” The former embrace freedom because it promotes peace, harmony, and creativity. The other group because “it allows people … to form homogeneous tribes … to exclude and isolate and to be generally dissatisfied with modernity … and to reject civil norms of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms.”
Judge for yourself if these are the current battle lines.
Steven Greenhut is the Western Region Director of the R Street Institute and a member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just when they’re needed, libertarians take detour – Press Telegram Source link Just when they’re needed, libertarians take detour – Press Telegram