I am not an activist, and by many definitions, I’m not much of a libertarian, either. I have an essentially libertarian outlook — “freedom’s just another word for get the f— out of my face,” as a Bureaucrash poster puts it — but I’m more interested in expanding personal and economic freedom than in reducing government. I know the two go hand-in-hand, but the point is, no one would call me a purist. (If I ever get around to finishing my book on my political outlook, ya’ll can read it and then disown me.)
I know very few Libertarians in person, having been only briefly active eight or nine years ago, and then having come back just half a year ago. I know a lot of you online, though, and I’m happy to say there are few Libertarians I don’t like, and most seem to like me well enough. I don’t count myself as a member of any faction. I’m in an odd situation in that I find myself often with the “reformers” on ideology but not at all on tactics, and I find myself with the “radicals” on issue focus and internal LP politics. I backed Dr. Ruwart for the presidential nomination this year even though her ideas are very different from mine, because I think she has the right focus and right approach toward selling our heterodox ideology.
But again, I am not an activist. This is in part because of my other commitments and in part because it would conflict with my profession, but really, a lot of it is that I just don’t wanna. That’s selfish of me, I know, but I’m not going to lie about it to folks I like and respect. I’m too much of a misanthrope to go out petitioning or to try to run a local party. I would make a pretty crappy candidate, too. (If I ever do run for office, I’m sure that will come back to haunt me, but just tell Future Me that it’s as true for him and he should stick to the background.) I have never been an LP convention delegate, and I’m only a lowly sustaining member. This is all a long-winded way of saying nobody really needs to care about what I think.
But if you do care, what I think is that the LP is going insane. If not for the fact that I’ve just returned and I’m sensitive to (completely fair) charges of being politically flaky, I’d consider heading back out the door again. I do not support Bob Barr for president, though I am glad he is in the party; I hope he will stay. I think his political evolution is basically sincere, and I give him credit for being honest about where he stands, rather than pretending to be more libertarian than he is. But he’s not the guy for me. I like Wayne Allyn Root more than a lot of folks in the LP seem to — he has a libertarian outlook on life, if not a truly libertarian political perspective. I was quite impressed — and personally touched — that he issued a statement denouncing the imposition of first-ever regulations on homeschooling in the District of Columbia after I contacted him and asked him to say something. (For those who don’t know, the Roots homeschool their children, and if Dakota Root’s remarks at the LP convention are any indicator, they do so quite successfully.) But Root’s recent insinuations about Barack Obama’s college days, and other odd statements, make it hard for me to support him, either.
But this was just one ticket, I thought, and after November we could move on — hopefully richer for the media attention Barr and Root had received. I still think that’s true, but after following the misadventures of the Libertarian National Committee over the weekend, I see the problem runs much deeper than the nomination of an unpalatable national ticket. I only know what Angela Keaton, Chuck Moulton, and a few others have been able to report, so I do not want to make any assumptions, but it seems like the LNC used a large amount of its valuable meeting time to try to censure and censor an elected representative of dues-paying party members. If what I have read is correct, the LNC did not decide to prevent Ms. Keaton from liveblogging the meeting in the first place — which would have arguably been a reasonable action, though I wouldn’t have voted for it if I was on the LNC — but instead tried to silence her after she wrote things they did not like. The two things are very different — the difference between a politician refusing to grant an interview and using his pull to censor criticism after the fact.
So, what do we do? There is the newly revived Boston Tea Party. I participated in the BTP’s online convention in June, but then stopped being active because I was not sure I could fully endorse the party’s agenda. I have worked out this conflict for myself and rejoined this weekend after the LNC hullabaloo. I am staying with the LP as well, and will keep paying dues for now. As I said elsewhere on LFV, I am hedging my bets. (Neither the LP nor the BTP is on my D.C. ballot, so I will either write in the BTP ticket or someone else. I may write in Dr. Phillies.)
But factionalism troubles me. As you may know, I write for Independent Political Report, where I get a front-line view of the many socialist and communist parties in the U.S. today. When it is suggested they work together, they angrily state that each has a irreconcilably different perspective. There’s some truth to that. But more often, these parties ruptured years ago over issues of internal politics and personal conflicts. The LP took quite a hit along these lines in 1983, and I worry another split would be fatal. The Libertarian vote base is small enough as it is. I really do not want to see the Libertarian Party, Libertarian Freedom Party, Freedom Libertarian Party, Free Libertarian Party, Party for Freedom and Libertarianism, etc. etc., each drawing a couple thousand votes in each national election from now until the statists blow up the world.
I think the best thing to do is to elect a true reform slate at the next LP convention — one based not on reforming the party’s policies but its internal workings, one that wants openness and transparency in national operations. Failing that, decentralization and the formation of a network of state and regional parties may be more effective than the current structure.
I have gone on too long here, but if you are still reading: While I am not an activist, there are ways I want to help. I would be interested in assisting any credible Libertarian media enterprise as a writer and editor — what I do for a career — as well as taking part in Libertarian broadcasting and media. If you think I can help, please contact me at peter [at] peterorvetti [dot] com or here.