Dear Free Liberal,
The "Free Liberal" (Volume II, Issue 1) contains an article written by Associate Editor James Turbett entitled "Let's Lose! - Why rejecting practical solutions has kept the Libertarian Party in the basement". Mr. Turbett writes that the Libertarian Party (LP) faces certain problems which impede success, that there are are solutions to these problems, and that a prominent and vocal minority of Libertarians reject these solutions because they are not perfect.
Mr. Turbett concludes that these Libertarians are "content to make no progress in wait of utopia". He writes that this group holds delusional beliefs, enjoys the feeling of martyrdom, and are "almost haughty in their view of themselves as superior to compromisers". Mr. Turbett helps us to identify these people by pointing out that "never far from these people's lips are utterances" such as "party of principle" and "the lesser of two evils is still evil".
Turbett's piece gives seven examples of what he views as problems. A solution is given for each problem along with Mr. Turbett's opinion of Libertarians who reject his proposed solutions. The first problem listed deals with the wasted vote syndrome and the failure to overcome it by Libertarians. The proposed solution is Instant Runoff Voting(IRV).
Mr. Turbett complains that Libertarians that haven't embraced IRV provide an example of the "perfect being the enemy of the good" and he notes that some Libertarians prefer the Condorcet system. However, he fails to note that the same two political parties that work so hard to keep third parties off ballots and out of debates would have to sign off on IRV. Perhaps IRV is a non-starter for Libertarians because of this major obstacle to implementation.
The second problem addressed is that Republicans and Democrats are disinclined to either ease ballot access rules or reduce restrictions on individual freedom. Mr. Turbett's proposed solution to this legislative inertia is the use of initiatives, referendums and recalls. As with the IRV issue, this is easier said than done. In Virginia, there are many restrictions on referendums and I know of no process for a national referendum. For his solution to work, legislation would be required to reduce the restrictions on referendums.
The third problem, incumbent power, is solved by term limits according to Turbett. This requires Republicans and Democrats to legislate term limits. Even politicians that hold themselves to term limits when they first run often decide to ignore their self-imposed term limits later. Again, Mr. Turbett's solution requires the Republicans and Democrats to legislate against their own interests.
The fourth problem indentified is government schools brainwashing the future electorate. The proposed solution is the use of school vouchers. Turbett acknowledges that Libertarian objections to vouchers based on the fear that government will attach regulations to the funds is not without merit.
Most Libertarians, and many conservatives, believe the government should not be in the business of educating children at all. Many parents who feel strongly about government school brainwashing are home-schooling or sending their children to private schools. Another solution is for more paerents to become involved with the School Board, PTA, and their child's school. Mr. Turbett's solution once again requires Republicans and Democrats to legislate against the wishes of powerful education lobbies.
The fifth problem Mr. Turbett identifies is the lack of funds for Libertarian candidates. His proposed solution is to accept federal matching funds. I agree. Most Libertarians disagree with the laws that allow this, but they also disagree with a number of laws that they comply with. I see no conflict with taking the money as long as the party continues to support the elimination of federal matching funds.
The sixth problem listed is the public's complacency about taxes. Turbett's proposed solution is the Fair Tax bill. He points out that the Fair Tax faces strong opposition from prominent party members. Turbett attributes this to the belief that the Fair Tax amounts to supporting taxation itself.
I would suggest that the opposition to the Fair Tax is based on a broad variety of problematic issues regarding this bill. The bill calls for the replacement of income and payroll taxes with a 23% national sales tax on goods and services added onto existing state and local sales tax. It also replaces the IRS with a new agency that would send a monthly "rebate" check to every household in America, once the proper paperwork was submitted by the recipient. It does not eliminate numerous other taxes.
The Fair Tax replaces one tax with another, but does not address spending. It replaces one huge government bureaucracy with another. Privacy issues regarding reporting personal information to the government still exist. High taxes still exist. The fact that many Libertarians would not find the Fair Tax appealing should come as no surprise - especially when the Republican bill has been held in committee for years and seems to be going nowhere.
A far better way to address the public's complacency about taxes, to the extent this exists, may be to educate the public about how much government spends and the fact that local, state and federal government consumes about 50% of the national income. Such an undertaking may be far more effective than lobbying for the Fair Tax bill.
The final problem presented is the lack of notice and publicity that the LP receives. Mr. Turbett's proposed solution to this is "talk radio". He claims the Libertarian reaction to this solution is to blow off Neal Boortz. I would suggest that Boortz, best described as a conservative who holds some libertarian beliefs, blew off the Libertarians with his support of George Bush, before the Libertarian Convention, and his neoconservative worldview.
Turbett writes that "because (Boortz) differs with a majority of the LP on the Iraq war, dissident members have done all they can to drive him into the ranks of the Republican Party". It is strange that those who hold the majority view are labeled dissidents and even stranger to me that any Libertarian would consider Boortz to be a Libertarian. Readers should google for Boortz's article "Blowin' Smoke" if they want an example of what Boortz thinks about Libertarians.
Someone who calls themselves a Libertarian but supports President Bush does the LP no good. Why should anyone who is not a Libertarian consider voting Libertarian when a prominent "Libertarian" talk show host won't vote Libertarian?
In my opinion, radio talk show hosts such as Bob Barr, Alex Jones and Lionel do a much better job of exposing Libertarian ideas to listeners without the snide remarks often made by Boortz.
Obviously, I disagree with much of what Mr. Turbett has written. I am also somewhat offended by his derision of prominent and vocal Libertarians. The reason these Libertarians are prominent and vocal is because they are the ones who volunteer to do the heavy lifting for the LP. I am aware that Mr. Turbett has paid his dues in the LP and he has every right to express his opinions.
The internal debate within the LP over policy and tactics has existed for a long time and is a healthy and productive thing. Some of the problems cited by Mr. Turbett are real and should be addressed. While I feel there are better forums for this internal debate than the "Free Liberal", I welcome a debate over possible solutions to the obstacles faced by Libertarians.
The problem of the lack of notice and publicity received by Libertarians embraces the previous problems noted by Mr. Turbett to some extent. In my mind, this is the major problem for Libertarians to overcome. Unfortunately, the solutions are much more difficult than embracing Neal Boortz. Talk radio may expose Libertarian ideas to some disgruntled conservative listeners, but broader exposer is needed.
Libertarians should not expect Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation that will help the LP. Nor should they expect entrenched partisans to become Libertarians if the party adopts issues that the Republicans and Democrats have already adopted.
The fact is there are no simple solutions. The LP needs more money, more candidates, more activists, and more exposure. The party needs to recruit more members and become more involved in local and state politics. The party needs to draft proposed legislation that offers concrete solutions to problems. There needs to be more outreach to young people, minorities and single-issue groups.
I believe that the lesser of two evils is still evil and I hope the LP continues to be the party of principle. I also believe that you will never get what you want unless you vote for it. The time to compromise with Republicans and Democrats is when Libertarians are holding office and trying to pass legislation.
Adopting the existing platforms or legislation of the Republicans or Democrats makes no sense. The idea that more people will support an alternative party because they advocate the same thing offered by a major party is not a viable strategy. People become Libertarians because they don't agree with Republicans and Democrats.
Libertarians need to pull together, put more money in the till, attend meetings, and volunteer their time to promote the LP. In Virginia, thousands of people vote Libertarian but there are less than 700 party members statewide and most of the work is done by less than 100 members. All things considered, it is amazing what actually is accomplished.
3rd Congressional District Chairman, Libertarian Party of Virginia