Steve G.

Archive for September 13th, 2008|Daily archive page

Why Multiple Freedom Parties Is Dumb

In Libertarian Party-US on September 13, 2008 at 7:41 pm
Tom Knapp and George Phillies and Carl Milsted are very smart guys, but offering multiple  parties/candidates to the voters in our quadrant of Nolan space is dumb for multiple reasons:
  • Having multiple liberty-oriented choices tells voters that libertarianism is too incoherent to be worth understanding.
  • Having multiple liberty-oriented choices tells voters that the freedom movement is too poorly organized to be worth supporting.
  • Having multiple liberty-oriented choices vastly increases the cognitive/investigative burden imposed on a voter asked to cast her single vote for liberty.
  • Having multiple liberty-oriented choices tells politicians that pro-freedom voters are far from being a coherent caucus whose votes can be earned (e.g. by the party not running an opposing candidate).
  • Getting liberty-oriented candidates on the ballot requires a threshold amount of signatures/fees.
  • Getting a liberty-oriented party ballot-qualified requires a threshold amount of voter registration and/or votes in statewide races.
  • American elections generally do not allow fusion voting.
  • American elections do not allow approval voting, but instead uses plurality voting.
  • Duverger’s Law suggests the natural tactical response of voters to plurality voting is to gather into two parties straddling the political center along its major axis, or into one party for each natural cluster of voters in the political space.

A party should focus on the exercises of franchise whose effectiveness is magnified when the franchisees act in concert rather than through competing organizations. There’s no interesting limit to how many liberty-oriented parties we could indulge in creating. With over 20 free variables in libertarian theory, that’s over a million potential parties even if you assume only two possible values to each variable.  If two liberty-oriented parties are better than one, why aren’t 20 better than 2?  Why shouldn’t every intra-party caucus be its own party?

There are at least two possible exceptions to this analysis.  The first would be when the dominant freedom party has become immune to repair through caucus efforts and needs to be destroyed and replaced.   I for one am nowhere near ready to make war on the LP, and I’ll gladly defend the LP from those who make war on it.  Whatever the faults of the LP and its current nominee — faults I’ve never been shy about naming — they aren’t serious enough to stop telling the average voter she should always take the single choice called “Libertarian” whenever it’s available.  Democracy is an incredibly blunt instrument, and we can’t delude ourselves that the ballot box is a place for making subtle philosophical distinctions.  Remember, if every voter had as much political passion as we Libertarian activists, the streets would run red with blood — and plenty of it would be ours.

The second exception would be a zero-government abolitionist anarchist party.  I don’t mind working with anarchists wise enough to realize it’s harder to overthrow a big State than a small State — as long as they don’t insist the party endorse their abolitionist rhetoric (and thus help the State resist the party’s efforts to shrink it!).  However, having a separate anarchist party would be useful in clarifying that the LP has no official plans to abolish the state, and would siphon off radicals who fret too much about the LP’s lessarchist tent getting bloated with people lacking sufficient hatred of the state.

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The Barr is closed, the W.A.R. is over

In Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Politics on September 13, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Unless some major uproar takes place between now and 51 days from now — and in Libertarian politics it seems there has been a major uproar every 20 minutes or so for the past week and a half — I do not plan to comment publicly any further on the LP’s Bob Barr/Wayne Allyn Root ticket until at least Election Day. I have made up my mind about the ticket, and to engage in further carping would be counterproductive. This is not to say the efforts of those in the LP who are working to replace Barr are “carping”; just that since I have no official role, my own input will not help anyone much.

For those who wish to see Barr off the ballot and a more palatable candidate inserted, I wish you luck. For those who have decided to continue to back Barr despite all the hullaballoo, I wish you luck as well. In the end, this presidential campaign is about expanding the libertarian cause, and I hope any sincere effort at doing so will be fruitful.

Despite my fears last weekend that I might not be long for the LP, I have actually become more committed to it over the past few days. I see a lot of good folks trying their best to deal with difficult realities, and to work through genuine differences on approach and philosophy. So I will be sticking around, and after the election is over, I hope to help re-establish the LP of the District of Columbia. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I am not a leader — I’ve discovered throughout my career that I’m bad at running the show, though I am a fine lieutenant. I again offer my help to any credible libertarian effort that could use it.

While I am sticking with the LP, I also have worked through my concerns about the Boston Tea Party and gotten involved with it as well. (I expect to vote for the BTP’s Charles Jay/Thomas Knapp ticket in November, though I always reserve the right to change my mind right up until I cast my wasted vote.) I do not see the LP and BTP as competitors but as complements. I do not feel the need to restrict myself to one favorite food, favorite film, or even favorite religion, so why should I feel bound to support only one political party? The goal is the expansion of freedom, not the triumph of a faction. I am favorably disposed to Dr. George Phillies‘s new Liberty For America organization as well.

I admit to early skepticism about the BTP. When I thought about it, the only reasons were that it was tiny and new, and the LP was long established. But those who first heard about the “Livingroom Party” in December 1971 must have found it tiny and new as well, and I expect more than a few felt sheepish about casting their votes for John Hospers, on the ballot in two states. Is that much different from Charles Jay in 2008, on the ballot in at least four?

It was perhaps fate that led me to start reading “Radicals For Capitalism” by Brian Doherty (a.k.a. Mr. Angela Keaton) this week. As a reasonably bright fellow who has a hard time getting his head around theory and philosophy, I am finding it very helpful in understanding the philosophical roots of what we, and I, believe. So until the election, I will stick to my studies (and to my IPR reporting and LFV commenting), and leave the LP political battles to the warriors.