Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Elites Will Run You Over, and Not Lose Any Sleep Over It

A couple of years ago, Karen Kwiatkowski  was out campaigning at the Rockingham County Fair.  I had been acquainted with her and considered her to be a friend, so of course when my family and I spotted her, we all stopped to talk a bit.

As I was speaking to her, a bureaucratocade (motorcade) drove into the exhibition area we were in.  The kids were fascinated.

I watched them come in, inwardly chuckling at the arrogance of the elites.

But then the two lead motorcycles with two very over-sized cops turned straight towards my children.  I was expecting them to hard right behind the pavilion, but then they cut diagonally across the grass without really slowing down.  I grabbed my child and pulled him behind me, as we were out of room behind us; we could not back up any further.  The elitists of the state missed me and my 5-year-old old by inches.  I was backed all the way up and holding him behind and beside me.

Couldn't have the governor walking more than a few feet to the big top, now, could we?

It was Bob McDonnell, the state's top Republican.

Besides the kingly driving, I was flabbergasted by the waste of it all.  There were at least twenty cops around the pavilion, and the motorcade disgorged a half-dozen more on motorcycles with disco lights flashing and a few more the big ol' full-size SUV the Guv was riding in.  There were maybe fifty people milling about to meet elected officials, including McDonnell.

You'd think Republicans supposedly interested in smaller government would order the police escort to go fight crime instead of showboating the self-importance of the political class -- and drive himself to the Fair himself in a second-hand, gas-sipping, 41 mpg city Ford Fusion hybrid.

Or maybe even an old, paid-for 1990 Ford Escort or Chevy Cavalier.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Regional or Local?

Should We Organize a Regional LP Affiliate That Covers Several Counties/Cities, or a Single-Jurisdiction Group?

By Marc Montoni

Over many years of organizing Libertarian Party affiliates in Virginia, it has become crystal clear to me that certain styles of organization are conducive to growing the Libertarian Party and recruiting candidates who actually get elected -- and other styles are not.

There are many deleterious problems with organizing a regional group that covers more than one jurisdiction.  Here are some brief descriptions of a few of these issues:

1)  I have heard many Libertarians claim that their intent is to split up into single jurisdiction groups later on, after there has been some growth.  However, in my experience, once a regional affiliate has been set up the members *never* bother to start up individual affiliates, regardless of how large the group becomes.

2)  Regional groups are the Kiss of Death as far as real local activity is concerned.  The members generally come to viewing the group's purpose as continuing to meet -- rather than participating in local electoral politics.  In other words, the group's purpose becomes perpetuating the group itself.

3)  The entire purpose of having a Libertarian Party is to organize for elections.  If Libertarians are never going to act like they mean to challenge offices at the local level, there's utterly no point in having any local committees at all.

4)  There is the issue of personalities.  If a large, multijurisdictional group claims to have exclusive control over Libertarian events over the entire area, and some fraction of their constituency doesn't get along with them, those people have no option other than to a) wrest control of the group away from those they disagree with, b) stay inactive, or c) travel to some other area far beyond their local city or county to be active with others.  To me, this invites only two real outcomes: a) infighting; or b) inactivity by the group on the "outside".

Frankly, we do not have the time to waste.

A larger group that controls a large area limits the ability of people who may not like the larger group to become active in an alternative the next city over.  For example, consider Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake.  These three cities are the first, second, and third-largest cities in Virginia; each > a quarter of a million people.  Each city is plenty large enough to where it could support a local affiliate that draws 25 to 50 people to each meeting.

So why we do not have a local affiliate in Chesapeake, for example?

Because we have one regional affiliate that claims to control all three of those cities, plus Portsmouth.  Because of this, people in Chesapeake think they have to have something to say in the TLP, or they will have no other outlet for their energy and enthusiasm.  Ergo, they focus their efforts at TLP instead.

Another problem we run into with Regionals is their membership begins to believe the group can annex neighboring communities at will.  And indeed, this happened with the TLP many years ago.  The TLP was originally chartered as the Virginia Beach LP back in 2001.  However, without seeking approval from the LPVA, the TLP now claims jurisdiction over an enormous geopolitical area -- all without following any of the procedures listed in the LPVA Bylaws for such affiliation; without any poll of the LP members within the areas they were annexing as to whether they wanted the TLP to cover them, and without circulating a new petition to that effect.

It has become clear to me that having recognized regional affiliates is not just inefficient.  It's also injurious.

Now, there *is* a place for regional libertarian groups.  They just should act as social groups that don't need to be officially affiliated with the Libertarian Party.  Essentially, that's how the TLP behaves.  The Rocktown Libertarians, the Richmond Metro Libertarians, and other regional groups all operate this way.  None of these groups really need any officers, bylaws, or official recongnition.

In addition, we already have eleven regional affiliates established by the LPVA Constitution: the congressional district committees.  Do we really need any more?

Single-jurisdiction local parties do many things better than regionals:

1)  They tend to recruit more candidates for local office -- the level at which LP candidates can actually win.

2)  They tend to commit political acts, such as attending local Board of Supervisors or City Council meetings as a group.

3)  They allow members to have a choice of local events to participate in.

4)  Personalities are less of an issue, if you can ride ten minutes down the road and see other libertarians who get along with you better.

5)  Even though locals are kept as separate entities, there is ample opportunity for cross-pollination.  When I started the Chesterfield County Libertarian Committee in 2007, I didn't live there.  I still supported them with my time and money.  I just didn't ask them to make me a voting member; their choices belonged to those who lived in the county.

So there are things to think carefully about when it comes to the regional vs single-jurisdiction local question.  I have started both kinds of affiliates over the past twenty years -- about 15 of them.  And my experience tells me that once you try to cover more than one city or county, the group will rapidly lose focus on committing real political acts.

After twenty years of seeing that in action, I hope I can persuade you to take the other road.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why I Hate Flying

Why do I hate flying?

One of course is the gate rape one gets from the TSA.

The TSA is a massive government jobs program designed to combat the *last* terrorist attack.  Actually, that's not accurate.  It isn't designed to combat *any* terrorist attack,  All the TSA is is garden-variety, boring security theatre.  A pointless and expensive show, it is.

As far as people getting on board a plane to commit a terrorist act, well, that simply won't happen again, regardless of the $100 billion security state apparatus we pay for every year.

When the passengers on that flight that crashed into the field in Pennsylvania heard what had happened in New York, they took matters into their own hands.  Those passengers changed the paradigm, hopefully forever.  People will no longer assume if they don't resist, they will likely remain unharmed and released after a while.

After 9/11, passengers will all assume death is imminent.  People will now assume they will be flown into a building unless they take action themselves.

Listless government employees did nothing to stop the attacks on 9/11.  Individuals did.  The ability of terrorists to take over a plane -- at least without substantial and determined resistance -- largely ended on 9/11/2001.

Yet in response to its complete, total, and abject failure to prevent the attacks on 9/11, the government was given huge new powers and a huge new budget and a huge new agency -- all of which promptly failed to prevent the shoe bomber from getting on board yet another plane.  Once again, passengers stopped the attack, without any help from their government.

So I absolutely reject the authority of my government to force me to assume the "surrender" posture at the gate, before they allow me to exercise my right to travel as I choose and where I choose.  Security theatre is nothing more than an idiotic joke to me.

The other reason I hate to fly is... well, flying.

I remember watching the news back in the 80's or 90's when an airliner lost its wing and fell to the ground.  Yes, I completely understand that flying, as modes of travel go, is one of the safest.  Nevertheless, if I die in a crash, if it's in a car at least they might have enough of me left to bury.

While taking off and landing during some vacation flying in 2013, I found myself holding onto my little 7 year old's arm, thinking silently that if we did begin to have a crash, I wanted him to know I'm right there with him.

Yeah, I know it's irrational, but so be it.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Short Answers to the “Can You Win” Question

Edited by Marc Montoni
Libertarians for Practical Politics, Dammit!

[Gleaned from various sources]

Most of the thousands of Libertarians who have run for office since 1972 have faced the inevitable question from reporters (and voters as well, but especially reporters), “do you think you can win?”

The question itself reveals the intellectually lazy view of politics as a horse race. There's no room in that religion for ideology, belief, passion, or anything else of any substance. There's nothing in a horse race that really means anything.

Essentially, reporters asking it have reduced politics to a simple race of nothing vs. nothing.

How to get around it? How do you lead someone with such a short attention span back to real issues?

Libertarians have come up with many ways to steer the reporter back to their reason for running. We share them with you below so you will have them ready in your verbal arsenal.

Here is how a candidate who was professionally coached answered the question: Ed Clark, when asked if he would win, and how many votes he would get, had probably the best answer I've heard:

"I'm trying as hard as I can to win. We have a serious message, we want to address serious problems"....

Clark's answer avoided both self-marginalization on the one hand, and overblown expectations that any moron, much less a reporter, could see right through on the other.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following essay appeared in the old Usenet discussion group, "libernet" in the early nineties, but I did not record who wrote it.]

In 1982, Ed Clark put together an audio tape of fifty questions and answers, and on this particular matter, the conversation went like this:

Question: "Do you really expect to win?"

Answer: "I'm trying just as hard as I can to win. Libertarians have the right solutions for today's problems, they have the ethics of individual liberty--the only correct ethics for politics--and we have been gaining strength and we are going to get a lot of votes this time".

Question: "How many votes are you going to get?"

Answer: "We are going to get a lot of votes in 1982. More than we have had before and enough to show the public that Libertarians are a very strong alternative in American politics".

Mr. Clark then went on to say:

"If you note the way I have answered the last two questions, these are perhaps the only two in the whole set of questions where you do not give a direct answer, because if you ever answer a question "Do you really expect to win" with a "yes", in many cases people will discard you as somebody who is obviously not realistic in your answer. If you answer that question with a "no" you eliminate one of the principal reasons that people are going to follow your candidacy and there is the possibility that you might win. So these questions call for strong affirmative answers, but not to answer the question precisely".

You are, of course, never under any obligation to give a direct answer to any question, and indeed few politicians do, often preferring to give an answer that they think will put them in the best possible light, whether it relates to the subject at hand or not.

There are sound reasons for reconsidering your answers. You do not know for sure that you are not going to win, even if you think you might not.

Let me take a little more of your time by relating an event which occurred here in British Columbia within the last three months. The term of our governing Social Credit (conservative) Party was drawing to a close following a five year term which had been plagued by scandal and corruption, including the resignation of the Premier under allegations of conflict of interest.

They and the New Democratic (socialist) Party both ran a full slate of candidates. The provincial Liberal (wishy-washy) Party had been pretty well defunct for the last twenty years until recent times when a very energetic fellow started making really strenuous efforts to revive it ready for this last election. The net result of his efforts was that he persuaded enough people to run as candidates so as to give them a full slate. This then gave him sufficient leverage to persuade the powers that be to include him in a Party Leader's debate on local television. This proved to be the turning point from which they never looked back.

The final result was New Democrats 51 seats, Liberals 17 seats, and the once ruling Social Credit 6 seats.

Knowledgeable commentators forecast that at best the Liberals might take a handful of seats. Instead, they are now the official opposition.

-- end of Libernet essay --

Here are some additional sound bite-ish answers, which I've used occasionally:

"If I wanted chaos, I could sit on my couch and vote for Democrats and Republicans. But I want liberty. I want freedom. I want government to protect my rights, and get out of my wallet and my bedroom. I can't get any of those things voting for Democrats or Republicans, so here I am."

"I am running because I want liberty. Voting for Democrats and Republicans is a lost cause; because both of them work to expand government and restrict liberty."

"Doing the same thing over and over - in this case, voting for Democrats and Republicans - and each time, expecting the results to be different, is insanity. These guys refuse to protect individual rights, they are taxing the middle class into bankruptcy; they've saddled us with hundreds of thousands of laws no single person can be expected to know; they take our homes and give them over to developers; they've lied us into '100 years of war', and have made our money just about worthless. Why give them a pat on the back and return them to office yet again? I'm running because I refuse to give them that pat on the back."

You can also make it a point to say that you're also running because Virginia doesn't have registration by party, and this is the only way we have to discover new Libertarians so we have a larger support base for the next election. Along these lines, you might say:

"Given the difficulties third-party candidates face in winning office, I'll personally count my race as a 'win' if I can find new libertarians and get them ready to support our candidates next year. We Libertarians believe we're in a marathon, not a one-year sprint."

It is important for every Libertarian to remember the following: You’re not going to get fiscal conservatives to vote for you; at least not en masse. Neither will liberals, en masse.

For that matter, winning is out of the question without a campaign war chest equal to the sum of both of your opponents. Your campaign should pursue the swing voters who aren't married to either camp; and it should specifically target those who are already libertarian.

Below I provide you with several more snippets from some other people on how to address “The Question”. Enjoy! And above all, good luck and have fun with your race!

Donny Ferguson:

I would respond with:

1) There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of elected Libertarian officials.

2) There have always been independent and third party members of Congress, and they all beat Republicans and Democrats to get there. Right now we have two independent U.S. Senators.

3) Any candidate can win as long as you vote for him.

James R. Stevenson:

Start off by saying that right now you have a 33% chance of winning. If you can get your message out and people realize they are in agreement, then you can certainly win.

I would avoid using the word 'conservative' in any incarnation. Say you are trying to appeal to those people who believe in personal liberty and fiscal responsibility. This way you can appeal to any disaffected constituent, Democrat, Republican, or independent. If you use the word 'conservative' you automatically lose all Democratic tribalists. Similarly, if you use the word 'liberal', you automatically lose the Republican tribalists.

It is unfortunate that Bob Barr is already campaigning as a 'true conservative'. He has already marginalized his campaign, just as Ron Paul did. Quite stoopid if not downright idiotic.

Probably the most important thing you can say is "If the media responsibly reports on your positions, then you have a great chance to win. If the media censors your candidacy, you will have little chance of winning".

Steve Damerell:

One of the best answers is to say "I'm running to win, because people don't run in elections to lose." Then immediately delve into WHY you're running.

That lead-in sentence is neither defeatist nor delusional, and from there, you can bring the question back around to the issues, your strong point.

Rick Sincere:

The classic response in this genre was, of course, William F. Buckley, Jr., running as a Conservative Party candidate for Mayor of New York in 1965. Asked, "what's the first thing you'll do if you're elected?," Buckley replied: "Demand a recount."

I'm not saying you should copy Buckley, but you should be prepared with something similarly pithy and funny -- something quotable that will get you noticed.


Remember, have fun!  And good luck!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

... And What Is The Consistent Libertarian Position on Abortion?

Libertarians are as divided on the issue of abortion as are every other group.

The main reason we are divided is that we have accepted the government's terms for the debate, in other words the debate has been framed to be between those who are "pro-life" vs those who are "pro-choice".

A consistent Libertarian, however, doesn't have to choose between one or the other position, however.  Doing so does not make one more or less of a libertarian.  It is true the LP has been pro-choice since it was formed.  As long as I am involved it will remain that way; however, some alterations to our platform are in order.  For one thing, the rights of men have never been addressed within any of the LP's platform positions on abortion.

Everyone wants there to be fewer abortions.  Everyone.  Everyone recognizes that abortion is at best a tradeoff of negatives.

But only freedom will get us all what we want, which is fewer abortions.

The only way to address abortion is to make it look less like a necessary option, and to reduce the incentives that push people towards it.  Reducing barriers to adoption, making sure minors have access to sex education materials or counseling, voluntarily supporting efforts to provide free or low-cost contraception, and more economic opportunity will all tend to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Economic growth tends to suppress the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies.  In a truly free-market economy, there would be so much wealth available to earn, more young people would put off childbearing in order to get in on the economic action.

Libertarians also understand that human behavior responds to incentives.  Get rid of the incentives for abortion or against it, and human behavior will tend to migrate towards the widely-accepted moral end we all want.

For instance, reducing the legal and financial penalties for getting someone pregnant will change behavior towards reducing the number of abortions. A man should have the right to invoke the paper equivalent of an abortion: During the pregnancy or within a defined time frame of being informed he has fathered a child, he should be able to -- essentially "give up the child for adoption by the mother" (or someone else), and be released from all parental responsibility and entitlements (getting to participate in birthdays, custody, etc).

Men shouldn't be forced into situations any more than women are.  They bear the financial and psychological costs of unwanted pregnancies as much as women.  And they deserve the same right to opt out of parenthood as women.

If women understood their partner could opt-out without any financial penalties, that would tend to discourage unwanted pregnancies to begin with.

If men knew that, they would be far less likely to pressure their partner to abort.

But more importantly: Knowing they could opt-out without financial penalty would lessen the likelihood of intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancySome researchers pretend they do not understand why some men end up killing their genetic offspring in the womb.  They wonder how there could have been any genetic advantage to doing so.  That just shows that a college degree doesn't impart any common sense.

There are no evolutionary incentives to kill an intimate partner (except it's easy to imagine that in ancient times, a time of famine would have driven parents or partners to kill in order to survive).  But normally, there would be no evolutionary incentive.

In contrast, modern society has -- perhaps inadvertently -- constructed numerous financial and legal incentives.  Watch this episode of Forensic Files and listen to what the police said was this young man's motive for murder.  This true story is not an isolated incident, either.  IPV murders account for almost a thousand murders every decade.

As is the rule with poorly thought-out laws everywhere, the current paradigm that shoves everyone into a one-size-fits-all straightjacket introduces unintended consequences.

The solution is freedom.

As with everything else, only freedom brings about the result everyone wants: fewer abortions (and fewer deaths in general).

Harry Browne rejected the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice".  We Libertarians should follow his example.  He said:  "Whatever we believe abortion is, we know one thing: government doesn't work, and it is as incapable of eliminating abortions as it is of eliminating poverty or drugs."

This should be obvious to anyone today:  The cat's out of the bag.  There is already a market for smuggled drugs that induce abortion.  Everyone knows about RU-486, and the "morning-after" pill.  No one in favor of banning abortion  can possibly be ignorant of these things.  If government bans abortion, as Browne says above, it will be every bit as incompetent at the job as it is with any of its other prohibitions.

Dr. Walter Block, professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, provides an alternative to the standard choice between "pro-life" and "pro-choice" which he terms "evictionism". According to this moral theory, the act of abortion must be conceptually separated into the acts of (a) eviction of the fetus from the womb; and (b) killing the fetus. Building on the libertarian stand against trespass and murder, Block supports a right to the first act, but, except in certain circumstances, not the second act. He believes the woman may legally abort if (a) the fetus is not viable outside the womb; or (b) the woman has announced to the world her abandonment of the right to custody of the fetus, and (c) no one else has "homesteaded" that right by offering to care for the fetus.

But perhaps more to the point: Why shouldn't government ban abortion?  Well, be careful what you wish for.

Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party's 2004 presidential candidate, said: "I oppose government control over the abortion issue. I believe that giving the government control of this issue could lead to more abortions rather than less, because the left-right pendulum of power swings back and forth. This shift could place the power to set policy in the hands of those who demand strict population control. The government that can ban abortion can just as easily mandate abortion, as is currently the case in China."

Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson: "The government powerful enough to give you what you want is powerful enough to take everything you have."

Let's all keep that in mind before we advocate banning abortion.

Only freedom will get us what we all want.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just What *IS* The Consistent Libertarian Position on Marriage, Gay or Otherwise?

Last week (August 12 - August 17, 2013) I spent the week manning the Libertarian Party table at the Rockingham County Fair.  Our candidate for governor, Rob Sarvis, was on hand on Friday (8/16) and spoke to many voters about his campaign.

One man who spoke to Rob at some length asked him what his position was on gay marriage.  Rob gave what is now a rather common libertarian answer -- that we were in favor of gay marriage.  The man promptly said "well, you lost me right there."

More recently, a local activist in Harrisonburg resigned from the newly-established city committee, apparently due to his perception that the new group was in favor of recognition of gay marriage.

These two incidents underscore what I think is a tactical error on the part of LP activists in recent years: the practice of saying we are in favor of gay marriage.

Several LP media releases have said essentially the same thing, including one earlier this year from the Virginia LP.

Here is the text of the Libertarian Party's platform position on same-sex marriage:

"1.3 Personal Relationships - Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships."

So let's put it this way:  In a libertarian society marriage and incorporation would be two distinctly different institutions.

Marriage would be a religious institution where two people come together to bind their immortal souls in the presence of their creator.  Government would have zero involvement in such an institution.

Incorporation, on the other hand, would be a legal union or contract between consenting adults in the eyes of the State. Adults, whether there are 2, 3, or 10 of them could share their lives, homes, bank accounts, etc. and live in communes (forming a type of voluntary communism) if they so choose.

A much different world that would be.

So is the Libertarian Party in favor of gay marriage?

Libertarians actually take NO position on marriage, except for the idea that everyone has the absolute right to arrange their affairs and relationships as they wish -- without interference by any government authority.

In other words, Libertarians don't "favor" any kind of marriage, gay or otherwise -- we just want the government out of it.

When the above media release from LPVA went out, as an anarcho-cap, I would have greatly preferred that it spoke of the actual libertarian solution to the gay marriage issue:

- repealing all government laws meddling in marriage -- this would include repealing all subsidies, special rights, grants of privilege, restrictions, government-required blood tests; and,

- abolishing marriage licensure.

Democrats and Republicans have had ample opportunity -- for years -- to wipe the entire debate off the table by doing exactly the above.

But as usual, they have accomplished nothing.

"Conservatives" have a majority in the Virginia state house and a Republican is governor. Yet not a single Republican has even bothered to *introduce* a measure to eliminate marriage licenses (much less get it to a vote on the floor of the legislature). Not a single Republican has bothered to introduce a measure to reform "marriage law" by simply repealing them all and pushing marriage back into the voluntary sector; and henceforth treating marriage arrangements as we would any other contract.

Democrats and Republicans colluded to put marriage into the realm of the state in the first place.   First it was reactionary Democrats setting up marriage licenses to prevent blacks from marrying whites; now it's reactionary Republicans attempting to use the same licensing law to keep others from arranging their marriage affairs as they see fit.

Conservatives and liberals alike can't have it both ways. If you are happy with government definition of marriage, then don't blame others for trying to capture that definition for themselves.

Remember: The government powerful enough to give you what you want is powerful enough to take everything you have.

Think about it.  If Christians set up the machinery to set in law their version of morality, one day atheists, gays, Democrats, Bhuddists, polyamorists, Islamists, or others will grab the steering wheel and use that same machinery to run over you.

Take power away from the state, and you can safely ignore everyone who does it differently than you would prefer.


In some ways this is kind of a non-issue for me because I think everyone -- gay, straight, bi, lesbian -- should boycott state marriages and return marriage to the private sector (common-law contract, churches, synagogues, etc).  Common-law marriage (which Virginia abolished many years ago) is nevertheless still recognized in Virginia if the marriage was entered into in a common-law state (full faith and credit, etc).

The state has NO business endorsing, or not endorsing, marriage.

Here's an important reason: Regarding marriage, there are two widely divergent groups of people who cannot and will not agree to a compromise -- yet both groups are forced to pay taxes.  For conservatives, it is galling that their tax money would be used to pay for endorsing/enforcing a marriage type that they are opposed to.  For the gay & lesbian community, their tax money pays for endorsing/enforcing a marriage type that they are left out of.  That is an inherent, permanent conflict.

No one should be forced to pay for things they don't agree with.

In some ways, the GLBT community of the 1990's made a gigantic strategic error calling for government licensure (and thus approval) of same-sex marriages.  Doing so energized the religio-statists and got them out to vote.  Twenty years later, and the two groups are still locked in mortal combat.

A better path would have been to calmly push to eliminate marriage licensure altogether (why should the state be in your bedroom, anyway?), and to train judges, arbitrators, and mediators to fairly adjudicate marriage or partnership contract disputes.

Had this been the chosen path, the alternative lifestyle lobby might have found its interests aligned with the hardline religious sector, which would probably endorse getting government out of permitting what to the religious is a sacred union that should be a matter for the couple involved, and their god.

Here is a summary review of the Libertarian position on marriage:

Libertarians favor ending all government interference in the marriage market.  For the same reason we favor repealing all restrictions on the individual ownership of firearms, we also favor the abolition of blood tests, marriage licenses, government definitions of marriage, and the repeal of all laws restricting the right of individuals to agree to agree between themselves to marry -- no matter what sex, race, religion, creed, or number are involved.

At the same time, Libertarians want to eliminate the individual income tax, replace social security and medicare with private insurance, and get government out of the business of dictating who one chooses to associate or not associate with.  There are tax benefits to being married -- because there are income and estate taxes. Eliminating the special treatment eliminates the desire for special interest legislation.

UPDATE 2/29/2014: Andrew Akers wrote a fairly succinct summary of the difficulty Libertarians have in persuading both sides of the marriage debate to give up a little:
I submit that the real issue (for people who take issue with this) has nothing to do with whether marriage is a legal contract unique from other contracts.

Based on my observations, the important thing for most people is how the term "marriage" is applied. Those opposed to "gay marriage" are often accepting of "civil unions" for same-sex couples, whereas same-sex couples insist that the term "marriage" be applied indiscriminately.

As with many other issues, the Libertarian position here is relatively foreign to those on both sides of the debate.

Hence what we say about "marriage" will be interpreted in the context of the actual debate, which is primarily about the application of a term. Libertarian "opposition to gay marriage" takes on a different meaning in this sense.

It gives the impression that we side with religious conservatives in "preserving the sanctity" of two-person heterosexual unions as superior to other kinds.

 I tend to agree.  However, we have to start somewhere.  If Libertarians are too scared to speak in favor of the actual fair and free solution to the debate, who else will?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

SECESSION: Millions Like It -- Let's Go Find Them!

In the thirty years I've been involved in the LP, I have heard literally hundreds of "Libertarians" swear that there was "no constituency" for our "more radical" positions, and that we should never broach any of those subjects lest we alienate voters.

The only problem is, by the time these nervous nellies got finished listing all the things we shouldn't talk about, there would be nothing left for us to say at all.

At one time or another, I've heard people who describe themselves as Libertarians say we should never, ever discuss:
  • Abolishing public schools (or even school choice as an interim measure!)
  • Abolishing the Income Tax
  • Privatizing all public roads & other transportation infrastructure
  • Repealing drug prohibition
  • Repealing the prohibition on prostitution
  • Abolishing marriage licensure
... and on an on.

Some Libertarians seem to be utterly terrified of anyone finding out about real libertarian solutions.

But why are we so afraid of our own shadow?  What about being in politics makes us so hysterically worried that the general public will discover what we really want?

In many ways, the public is already light-years ahead of where we think they are.  Carla Howell and Michael Cloud proved that a few years ago with the 2002 ballot initiative to repeal the Massachusetts state income tax.

Despite being out-spent and out-volunteered by a factor of hundreds to one -- the main opposition consisted of government employees terrified the measure meant the cooking of their stolen golden goose -- the initiative won 45% of the vote.

Forty-five percent!

Forty-five percent despite the fact that the campaign was hobbled by the fact that a large fraction of the half-million million government employees (250,000 local government, another 250,000 state government) actively campaigned against it, often while on taxpayer time (teachers, for instance, plastered public schools with posters urging a "no" vote; and sent children home every week with anti-repeal flyers).

Despite the Herculean efforts of the tax-funded opposition, 45% of Massachusetts voters pulled the "Yes" lever.

Had there been an equal amount of money & volunteers available to the repeal effort, there is very little doubt that the measure would have passed.

Another issue some Libertarians have screamed for their colleagues to avoid mentioning is repealing drug prohibition.  I know of people who were sitting officers of the LP, or already-endorsed candidates for public office, who were loudly and rudely dressed-down in front of *LIBERTARIAN* audiences for mentioning the repeal of marijuana prohibition.  JUST marijuana -- they mentioned no other drugs.

Yet here it is 2012, and a bunch of cracks in the wall of prohibition have suddenly appeared in Colorado and Washington.  Certainly Libertarians were involved in the process -- except for the nay-sayers in the back of the room at local LP meetings, screeching about how we should not talk about this issue because will promote the continuation of our image as "the Party of dope".

Yes, I have directly heard a half-dozen Libertarians use exactly that phrase and admonition within the last five years.  I can probably find a few emails in my email archive with that phrase in it.

Now let's talk about one of those unspeakables in our idea set: Secession.

There were so many "Libertarians" who wet their pants over that long-standing libertarian principle being in our platform, that in 2008 it was removed and replaced by a nebulous, "self determination" plank that doesn't mention the right to secede.

But is secession one of those third rails we should never talk about?


In an article on, Kirkpatrick Sale reviews some recent polling data by Public Policy Polling, of Raleigh, NC.

Among the more interesting finds: Secession is viewed positively/sympathetically by major fractions of various demographic groups.  Here are a few examples:

By race: 46% (14 million) of Hispanics; 31% (49 million) of whites.

By ideology: 50% of conservatives (41 million); 19% (14 million) of liberals.

By sex: 35% of women and only 29% of men.

As Kirkpatrick Sale's correspondent, Bill Regnery, said: "We should discard the notion that women cannot be recruited."

By age: 50% of 18-29 year olds.

The point is this: Secession is not an idea that only "extremist outliers" like libertarians have entertained.  As the above survey results show, there is a substantial cohort of Americans out there who not only feel secession is appropriate in some cases, but who are right now in favor of it.

Do we jump out in front of this parade, or tiptoe into the line behind everyone else *after* it becomes popular, as some "Libertarians" would prefer?

Whenever there is a market for an idea we long since staked out as our own, we don't need to hide from it and worry about whether Americans will find the idea palatable.  All we have to do is speak to them like they are adults and like we believe they are capable of discussing "radical" ideas with a level head.

No, not everyone will agree with us right away.  But some will, and they will bring their friends along eventually.

But we can't speak to *anyone* if we're cowering behind others in the parade.

Let's speak loudly and clearly about the kind of free society we seek.  In doing so, we will find these people.  Once we find them, they can be invited to join our coalition!

There is NO limit to how large the Libertarian movement (and Party) can grow.  As shown above, on just one issue, there are 50 to 60 million people who are receptive to the "extremist" idea of secession.  There are millions more (with some amount of overlap) on every other issue in our toolbox.

Don't be afraid to seek them out!

Thank you for reading!

UPDATE: Interesting article about all of the historical secession movements from Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears.