Steve G.

Campaign For Liberty, or Campaign For Iconoclasm?

In Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics on September 11, 2008 at 11:33 am

It seems the Barr campaign only belatedly realized that while the Ron Paul R3volution has lots of libertarians in it, it is not quite a libertarian movement.  Ron Paul’s team seems to have more ties to the Constitution Party than to the Libertarian Party.  Despite all the complaints LP radicals have about Barr, do any of them seriously suggest there was ever any chance that Paul would have endorsed Mary Ruwart and thus snubbed all his CP and leftish donors?

I fear there is a bit of truth to the insinuations from the Barr campaign that Paul considers himself and his Campaign For Liberty to be too big/important to stoop to endorsing anyone else for President this year, no matter how ideologically aligned that candidate (or his party) may be.  Ron Paul appears more interested in being a power broker for generic protest votes than in maximizing the vote counts for liberty — or even for constitutionalism.  That’s extremely disappointing.  The Greens and Naderites of 2008 are like the Socialist Party of 1928, who went on to have almost the entirety of their nanny-state economic platform enacted in the subsequent decades.  For Paul to suggest any kind of moral equivalence among these third-party choices is simply disgraceful.  As David Weigel sarcastically wrote on “I’m sure Ron Paul’s campaign got $35 million in donations because people wanted him to advocate for Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader getting into presidential debates. Not because people wanted a libertarian-minded candidate to succeed or because they wanted to reform the GOP.”

Still, the Barr campaign appears to have badly fumbled the question of attending Paul’s press conference.  I too loathe socialist Greens and Naderites, but Paul’s “presser” was prima facie about coming together on Paul’s 4-point manifesto and calling for broader participation in the two-party presidential dialogue.  The Barr campaign was tone-deaf to think that Barr is too big a “player” to share a stage with McKinney, or to think it could erase this mistake by making a VP offer that Paul would never accept.  However, in Barr’s defense it made Ron Paul look somewhat ridiculous to turn a microphone over to Ralph Nader and have him prattle on for multiple minutes about how devoted Nader is to the Constitution.  Somebody needs to point out Article I Section 8 to Ralph. I haven’t seen McKinney’s remarks, but I doubt they were any better.  If Nader could use his mic time to hypocritically embrace the Constitution, then Barr could have used his mic time to make the case that voting Libertarian is the right choice for true liberty lovers.

It’s unlikely that any of this will have much impact on the Barr’s vote totals, which I still predict will be a little over a million.  The mainstream media covered this story as “Paul rejects McCain, urges 3rd-party vote”, and only a few thousand voters will ever hear otherwise about this dust-up.  It was already clear that Paul was not going to put his Campaign For Liberty behind the only pro-liberty party on the ballot, no matter who our nominee was — and that’s a very sad commentary on both the C4L and the LP.   This underscores why the freedom movement needs to unite all the voters who seek both more personal liberty and more economic liberty behind the single choice will most move public policy in a libertarian direction — the Libertarian choice.

  1. Ron Paul appears more interested in being a power broker for generic protest votes than in maximizing the vote counts for liberty — or even for constitutionalism.

    My reading of Paul’s statement is that his statement was more concerned with pointing out the problems in the process than with maximizing votes for any particular ideological brand. I suppose that’s simply a rosier restatement of your “power broker for generic protest votes” conclusion.

    It would be fascinating if there was a large combined ideological- or third-party vote total of, say, 10%.

    Combining the critique of process with the 4-point coalition agreement confuses the point some, but such specific-issue coaltioning should always be welcomed.

  2. I agree that coalitioning on issues is always welcome, but I’m instinctively skeptical that coalitioning on process reforms is always a good idea. As a radical libertarian I just don’t trust political processes to yield liberty, and I think the best way to achieve liberty is to advocate for it directly. The Naderite message of green socialism is so seductive that I used to fear process reforms that might help them promote it. Now I’m more fatalistic, and more willing to play to win instead of playing not to lose. If America becomes Green, we can always head for New Zealand or Switzerland or an island somewhere. 🙂

  3. while the Ron Paul R3volution has lots of libertarians in it, it is not quite a libertarian movement

    I beg to differ. It is very libertarian. How is this not libertarian:

    No income tax, no fed, no drug war, no gun control, no monetary fraud, no welfare state, no police state, no torture, no spying, no conscription, no censorship, no fascism and no socialism

    For Paul to suggest any kind of moral equivalence among these third-party choices is simply disgraceful.

    When did he do that?!

    He got a large spectrum of small parties to agree on a set of goals, which if achieved, would be a huge step forward for liberty.

    only a few thousand voters will ever hear otherwise about this dust-up

    Bad news travels fast. Ron-Paulians are pissed off in large numbers. They have demonstrated their ability to communicate, organize, motivate and ACT in large numbers.

    Just because the mainstream media didn’t cover it extensively doesn’t mean no one will find out about it. How do you think people found out about Ron Paul in the first place?

    This underscores why the freedom movement needs to unite all the voters who seek both more personal liberty and more economic liberty behind the single choice will most move public policy in a libertarian direction — the Libertarian choice.

    That would be nice. Step 1: regain our credibility.

    Now how do we do that?

  4. as is often the case, holtz’s take’s very close to mine.

    look, barr has the right not to attend an event he doesn’t believe is in his campaign’s interest. he has proposed an interesting solution. paul has been playing this thing in ways he too has a right to do, too, although i’d like to see him back in the LP and to really shake things up as our VP.

    personally, i think a viable LP advances liberty the most. paul’s had other C4s before that didn’t amount to too much, and while C4s have their place, unless and until Ls are actually elected, we’re not likely to move policy in an L direction.

  5. barr has the right not to attend an event he doesn’t believe is in his campaign’s interest

    Then we have the right to withdraw our support for his colossal failure in judgment.

    a viable LP advances liberty the most

    We were a lot closer to that on Sep 9.

  6. Ron Paul would have gladly invited Ruwart to the event, they have been friends for years. Whether or not he would exclusively endorse her misses the point entirely. But I guess it makes someone else’s rather conveniently.

    How long can this ‘success’ model go on in it’s current abomination ? Suggesting that the LP is a major player or ever could be in the current system is a strong and potent kool-aid. There’s likely to be a lot of limp (or stiff) bodies under that big tent of yours soon.

    I work with Greens, CP and Nader folks all the time. I’d gladly take any of them in office than the current red and blue juntos. Marginalizing diligent third party components (from a marginalized position to begin with) in a struggle that defies corporatism, cronyism and outright fraud is not the path to ‘success’. Hammering them as socialists makes for great fodder at National Review, but it does little else.

    War, civil liberties, the national debt and the Federal Reserve are not ‘process’ reforms. The brokering power insinuation is one of the most absurd claims I’ve ever seen you make Brian. RP didn’t have to lift a finger in these candidates direction in order to continue and maintain the movement he has sparked.

    Large segments of the LP and the RP movement are stupified by the recent turn of events. If a million votes can really be attained, it is not through some general acumen of the players involved, so much as a general despair or disgust at the major parties. At least RP ‘gets’ it. Don’t spend too much time thinking your base has grown. If anything it is splintered and hollow now. Results will speak for themselves, but I’m with Knapp on this one, 700-800K.

    Please don’t blame stalwart, traditional Libertarians when this corny vision of ‘success’ fails.

    RC – Yes Barr has a right not to attend. Blowing someone off that expects you based on a promise to do so, just sucks. Making the further insult of offering a ticket option when not having any right to do so, is wrong and obtuse. Elected Libertarians will be marginalized in the bodies they might occupy and summarily crushed by a litigious system that will only respond in adverse and cruel legalisms.

  7. Look guys…unless Bob Barr completely has his head up his ass, he knew as well as the rest of us that the Ron paul coalition was made up from a diverse group of people. Once RP dropped out, it was the job of Libertarians to convince whatever segment of the RP group that we could that Barr would be the one that would most represent their views. On Tuesday night at our local meeting we had over 30 people attending, of that thirty at least 10 were Ron Paulers that we had worked with during the primaries and have created relationships with. It may not sound like a whole lot to some, but to us the RP campaign has been a boon for our local group. What Mr. Barr has done is completely unprincipled and wrong on so many fronts. Now Robert and Brian can come on here and try to spin this big ol piece of shit anyway they want but it still will not change the fact that Bob has hurt the Libertarian movement in a bad way. The excuses that I am hearing from the Barr campaign and you two are completely lame. The only way I would begin to consider excepting any of Mr. Barr’s excuses would be if he told us the following:

    1. I thought that Ron Paul and I were the only ones working on the 4 point draft, I had no idea that the others were included.

    2. I was under the impression that the conference was only going to include me and Ron, I had no idea that the others were even invited until the last minute.


    3. I invited Ron Paul several days ago in private to be my VP and I never heard a no from him until the very last moment leaving me no other choice than to pull out in order to save face.

    If Mr. Verney wants to clear all of this up then let’s have him release the information that he supposedly received at 3:00 in the morning giving him cause to pull out. I believe that it was all totally calculated to hurt the Lp and the third party movement in general and unless there is some bomb shell out there that we have not seen yet, then these sorry ass excuses that I have heard so far will not cut it.

    BTW….Robert says…as is often the case, holtz’s take’s very close to mine…..

    LOL! Nobody will hear an argument from me on that.

  8. George, I’m not saying Ron Paul isn’t libertarian. I’m just saying that his R3volution seems to have as many religious-right conservatives and Naderish leftists in it as it has libertarians in it. Of the 13 Pauline positions you list, only two are explicitly mentioned in the Campaign For Liberty’s statement of principles. The libertarian content of the TV and radio ads Ron Paul produced for his campaign is incredibly thin. Radical-ness and libertarian-ness is not measured by how much you hate fractional-reserve banking or George Bush or his wars. Rather, it’s measured by how free you want society to be, and how clearly you call for that freedom.

    Neither Ron Paul nor Bob Barr fully measure up on that score, and I have the same fundamental complaint about both: they don’t distinguish the libertarian (i.e. liberty-loving) position as being just as far from the Right as it is from the Left. “States’ rights” don’t exist. Federalism is a strategy more than it is a principle. The greatness of America comes from its freedom, rather than the other way around. Wayne Root is much more effective at making this point than either Paul or Barr, and that’s why I supported him over Barr in Denver.

    The kind of moral equivalence I’m saying Paul suggested is when he meekly said that people should just vote for whichever of Green, CP, LP, and Nader is closest to their views. That’s not a Campaign For Liberty. That’s a Campaign For Protest Voting. I expected more from Ron Paul. It would be bad enough for Paul to say that people should vote for whichever of CP or LP is closest to their views. But to throw GP and Nader into the mix as unranked alternatives is embarrassing. GP/Nader wipe their ass with Article I Sec 8 of the Constitution, and Ron Paul just helped them pull up their pants after doing so. I’m not saying Paul should never hold events with GP/Nader like for these four points or for debate inclusion, but at some point he should step up and say that LP/CP is better than GP/Nader. But I bet he won’t. My point remains: we now know that Paul was never going to risk offending his right-wing and left-wing fans by endorsing an LP nominee over CP or even Greens, no matter whom we nominated. (This is consistent with the Newslettergate theory that Paul and Rockwell are all about maximizing their donor base, but I’m not quite cynical enough to buy into that. However, I’d love to see Brian Miller update his last investigation into where all Ron Paul’s donations have ended up.)

    Bob, one rare area where we disagree is that I don’t think liberty is going to be won on the strength LP majorities in legislatures, or even on the swing votes of LP legislators. I think it will be won by our ideas (and candidates) moving the electoral needle, and by non-libertarian politicians then co-opting those ideas.

    Eric, I’ve never “suggested that the LP is a major player or ever could be in the current system”, except insofar as to agree with you when you’ve said the sort of thing I just said above to Bob. (Do you disagree with it?) I’m also in violent agreement that, barring victory by an LP candidate, we should fantasize about victory by whichever candidate (i.e. Green or CP) is least likely to build legislation-writing coalitions with other nanny-state legislators. However, I’m convinced that the way to grow the freedom movement is to point out that we are just as different from the Dems/Greens as from the GOP/CP. We’re not Left, we’re not Right, and we’re not merely Anti-Incumbent. We stand FOR liberty, not merely AGAINST the State and its incumbents. Since you’re an anarchist, this may be one area where we have real (and not just imaginary) disagreement.

    I never suggested that Paul’s 4-point program consists of “process reforms”, and I clearly distinguished them when I talked of “Paul’s 4-point manifesto and calling for broader participation in the two-party presidential dialogue”. Your ability to misread me seems to know no limits — such as you ignoring my scare quotes around the word “player”. If Paul wasn’t trying to stay in front of the anti-incumbent-party bandwagon, then how do you explain him not bothering to say that voting for CP/LP is better than voting for Green/Nader? I guess we should be glad he’s not making endorsements, since I bet he’d endorse the CP over the LP if he had to pick one.

    JRE, it’s simply laughable for you to say I’m defending Barr’s non-attendance when I called it a “bad fumble” — and said it was “tone-deaf” for the Barr campaign to call itself a “player” and offer the VP spot to Paul. I’m disappointed in both Paul AND Barr, and now I’m waiting for all the Paul-haters (Phillies, Knapp, Hogarth, I’m looking at you) to commend Barr for declining to taint the LP by having our candidate stand for Dissent next to the likes of McKinney and Paul and Nader, as opposed to boldly standing alone for Liberty.

    P.S. We all know damn well that the LNC would give either spot on our ticket to Ron Paul in a heartbeat if he would take it, and the Bylaws clearly say that Root (or Root and Barr) could by resigning create the requisite vacancy for Paul. Anybody who says that Barr and Root ignored our Bylaws to make this offer is just reality-impaired. What Barr and Root ignored was common sense. You don’t publicly offer somebody something to which the best response you can hope for is “hell no”. (Then again, it creates a halfway useful talking point to use on the modal uninformed Paulite, but I’d rather have people vote LP because they like Liberty, rather than because they like Ron Paul.)

  9. The Campaign For Liberty is a 501(c)(4) prohibited from endorsing candidates by IRS rule.

  10. All patriots of every color need to stand together and overcome statism — without criticizism but with prayer and support for one another.

  11. brian, you may be right…moving the needle may be the best we can hope for…

  12. Brian says….It’s unlikely that any of this will have much impact on the Barr’s vote totals, which I still predict will be a little over a million….. that’s the spin I’m referring to. In hindsight I will recognize that you are not giving Bob a free pass here, but you are attempting to let him down easy. Nothing personal in calling you on it Brian because I realize that the challenge of playing the contrarian here was too tempting for you to to pass up. Where’s Aaron and his spin at? We’re waiting.

  13. Dan, Ron Paul is not prohibited from endorsing any candidate he pleases, and he’s already endorsed several congressional candidates.

    JRE, if we predict different vote totals for the Barr campaign, why is my prediction the one that counts as “spin”? I’m pretty much just repeating the recent prediction of David Nolan, who is no fan of Bob Barr. I don’t know who you are, but I’m sorry if I don’t fit into whatever preconceived box you want to put me in. (However, I’m always tickled by the blogosphere theories that the Reform Caucus is controlling the LP from behind the scenes. Any such stories are always welcome, as long as they don’t reveal how few people actually showed up at our Reform Caucus meetings in Denver.)

    Similarly, just because I’m not as critical of Barr as his most rabid detractors, that doesn’t imply I’m “attempting to let him down easy”. Unlike some Libertarians, I don’t first decide whether a fellow Libertarian is an enemy, and then only say the worst possible things I can say about him. Instead, I just call ’em like I see ’em.

  14. Barr blew it. I don’t see much over 500,000 in votes. I just hope I am wrong. And no spin on this.


  15. A libertarian radical who claims he hates green socialism? What a liar.

    Take a look at his advocacy of just those things plus the pseudo-philosophical fascist drivel at his websites and the LRC site, folks. Don’t give him any legitimacy. He’s a criminnal stealing your party from under you.

    Not content to corrupt the LP, now he’s taking potshots at Paul, and published here like any other respectable intellectual rapist. Yuk.

    Some may wonder what version of Libertarianism he’ll pontificate about when they come for the Jews or other minorities again. It’s compromisers like him who paved and are paving the way, thinking their double-dealing ‘moderation’ and ‘reform’ and back-stabbing of those who would protect them would keep them in power and safe.

    You go on and diss Paul and anybody more decent and experienced in working for freedom than you, buddy. Good luck.

  16. I attended a bunch of Ron Meet Ups and most of the people at the ones I was at were Libertarians.

  17. Ken, thank you for trying to drive traffic to my site on EcoLibertarianism. Anybody who wants to see whether I advocate “green socialism” should indeed read What you call “green socialism” is in fact just geolibertarianism. Geolibertarianism results from the straightforward application of Locke’s proviso that property can only be justly taken from the commons if you leave “as much and as good” for others — taking/holding anything more is aggression, and those aggressed against must be compensated (just as when you pollute the commons). The central policy position of geolibertarianism is the Land Value Tax, which is defended by such “socialists” as Milton Friedman, David Friedman, Robert LeFevre, Frank Chodorov, Albert J. Nock, David Nolan, John Hospers, Karl Hess, and Steve Dasbach.

    I love your “potshots at Paul” remark, since elsewhere I’ve been bitterly criticized by fellow Libertarians as a diehard defender of Paul and his libertarian credentials. See for example my lengthy defense of Ron Paul at The truth of course is that Paul is neither unlibertarian nor optimally libertarian, and I’m happy to be criticized by victims of both delusions.

    Your fantasy that I would ever excuse any kind of pogrom against “Jews or other minorities” is fascinating. Thank you for discrediting your criticisms of me far more persuasively than I could ever do in the same amount of space.

  18. Brian lists me as among those who support a land value tax. That isn’t really true. Certainly there are economic arguments for taxing things in inelastic supply, such as land. And I agree that the initial appropriation of land presents a philosophical problem for libertarians. But I do not consider a land tax used to support a government as the ideal system–I prefer no government and no land tax.

  19. Prof. Friedman, I actually didn’t say “support”, I said “defend”. Your father defended LVT as the least bad kind of tax, and you in effect just did nearly the same thing in your comment. Since I know you are an anarchist who supports markets in everything — including competing voluntary legal systems — I would never say you consider a Land Value Tax to be “ideal”.

    Note that defenders of LVT point not only to the inelasticity of the land supply, but also to how it recaptures some of the community/government investments in local infrastructure that get capitalized into land values. This is why geoanarchist Prof. Fred Foldvary proposed the following language for the Libertarian Party platform. I wonder if you would find much in it to disagree with.

    Given that an imposed government exists and obtains revenue, these are the sources proposed by the Libertarian Party, as being the least worst for liberty and economic well being:

    1. Voluntary user fees, for services provided by government, when feasible. Proposing such fees does not imply that the LP favors government provision, but only that given such provision, user fees are the least worst way to finance services with specific beneficiaries.

    2. Pollution levies based on the damage caused by the emissions. Pollution is tresspass and an invasion of the property of others, and the levy is compensation for damages.

    3. Assessments based on the value of land, as government works and services increase land value, and so long as these are provided and funded by government, a levy based on the site value returns to government that land value and rent added by the services. Proposing this revenue source does not imply that the LP favors government provision, only that given such provision, a charge on the generated land value and rent is less unjust and less economically damaging than general taxes on income and sales.

    4. Tolls on highways and streets just high enough to prevent congestion. Such tolls would be charge by private providers, and make the use of streets and highways more efficient.

    All taxes other than the above should be abolished, in particular all taxes on wages, interest, dividends, and profits; all taxes on the sale of goods and services; and taxes on buildings and other real estate improvements.

  20. Brian you can spin anything!


  21. No “spin”, I’m just trying to discern whether Friedman defends Land Value Taxes the same way that he defends, say, tuition vouchers. As an anarchist he of course does not consider government vouchers “ideal”, but has has argued forcefully that tuition vouchers would be a big step toward freedom in education markets. I would hope he would say something similar about replacing all income/sales taxes with local site value taxes.

    I relied mostly on secondary sources (geolibertarian web sites) when I compiled my list of LVT advocates, but I can’t find the information that led me to include DF. I don’t think it was his 2002 posting on sci.econ that said:

    DF) There are real economic arguments for taxing the site value of land, as well as practical problems with measuring site value and administering such a tax. The argument was about whether governments should be required to compensate those people who are injured by government regulations. If you think site value tax minimizes excess burden, you can use site value taxation to raise the money for compensation. (DF

    However, I’ve found a paper by Friedman (at that concludes “the failure of the government to apply the simplest possible version of site value taxation does not leave me optimistic about the prospects for more elaborate versions”. So I’ve removed him from my list at, as I’m now losing hope that he would want to be listed next to his father as even an LVT sympathizer.

  22. They must be strong legs that can support prosperous days. – German Proverb

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