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| The Freedomnista Movement

Is the Libertarian Party worth the fight?

by Kevin D. Rollins

Over at Third Party Watch, Steve Gordon anticipates the upcoming battle at the 2008 Libertarian Party convention. He argues it will happen in multiple dimensions with a mishmash of factions:

But the showdown Iím talking about is the ongoing battle between the Reformers and the Radicals, the purists and the pragmatists, extremists and moderates, activists and hierarchists, those more interested in retail politics and those more interested in wholesale politics.

**Full disclosure: I remain a member of the Libertarian Reform Caucus (I was one of the first to join) and I suppose I'm still technically a member of the LP, but I have given up party meetings because they were just too costly time-wise/stress-wise and didn't seem to to provide anywhere near the personal satisfaction that projects such as The Free Liberal delivered.**

This contest is expected to express itself in the presidential nomination, the platform and bylaws debate, as well as the election of party officers. To the party's most hardcore, the control of the party's message and organization is a vital piece of real estate in the War for Liberty. Click your way through the big-L Libertarian blogosphere to witness the intensity which the debate attains. See this selection, "Teaching Pigs to Sing," from L. Neil Smith, who lambasts Libertarian Reform Caucus founder (and Free Liberal senior editor) Carl Milsted as a sell-out Keynesian:

Milsted and his accomplices in destruction may not care about the future. "In the long run, we are all dead," as one of his intellectual ancestors put it. In my experience, short-range thinking of this nature is a consistent characteristic of those who label themselves "pragmatic".

Later in the piece, he suggests that Milsted run into traffic (basically wishing death upon him -- which I think is sick.) Smith issues a threat, which I take as credible, that the attempts at reform would be met with sabotage at every step by those who feel the party should be radical.

Start your own Whimpertarian Party instead of hijacking the one your betters built. See how far it gets you, competing with something real. Try holding onto the LP you've stolen and we'll embarrass you out, using nothing more than genuine libertarian ideas, positions and policies. Try explaining to the round-heeled media our insistence that a nine-year-old girl should be free to buy a machinegun, ammunition, and heroin at the general store without signing anything or presenting identification.

Who wants to be the target of this kind of malice from other libertarians? Further, going to the Denver LP convention also means conducting the nastiness through a poorly designed set of bylaws -- debates devolve into discussions of minor points, while time runs out for the bigger questions. It is frustrating and unlikely to bridge the differences between the factions.

Moreover, there's an ethical question for libertarians: What are you willing to do to people who are basically on the same side, in order to win? When I first joined the caucus, I began penning a piece which laid out an elaborate plan to take down the other side. I envisioned a real brass tacks ground operation: walkie-talkies, infiltration of the opposing side, procedural skullduggery, etc. As I wrote, I became more and more disillusioned with what amounted to fratricide via parliamentary procedure. It just isn't decent. It doesn't advance liberty. Our political values should arise from our personal values. When in conflict, the latter should win.

What is the prize, anyways? The party's base has been dwindling for years and is now totally eclipsed by the success of the Ron Paul campaign. It occurs to me that the history of failure and burned out activists make the LP unlikely to undo its bad branding in the future. However, the combatants may not kill the party, whichever faction wins (or if none of them win). These sorts of climactic fights have happened before. In Justin Raimondo's biography of Murray Rothbard, the tale of the great walk-out at the 1983 convention is told. The cycle reminds me of the second Matrix movie where The Architect tells Neo that it is Neo's role to destroy Zion and take a small band of survivors to rebuild it elsewhere. But, as much as libertarians seem to overlap with sci-fi fans, this endless destruction and rebuilding seems unappealing as a strategy for liberty.

/KDR



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