There are two main sides within the Libertarian Party these days. One side believes the party exists to win elections, and the other side insists that the party exists to spread the principles of liberty. We can definitively settle the matter right now by taking a look over at the Libertarian Party’s official website and checking out its official platform, wherein it states:
It’s pretty explicit and hard to misinterpret. So if you happen to fall in the “the party exists to win elections” camp, then I’m going to have to ask you to free your mind for a moment, because you’re wrong. The party exists to set the world free in our lifetime; winning elections is one of many ways of achieving that goal. The goal is “to create liberty,” basically, to keep things short. The method–that is, how we get from here to “a world set free”–is not explicitly defined, except in the platform that follows, but that’s more or less just a list of ways that we aren’t free. There is nowhere in the platform any suggestion that we must or, heaven forbid, should go through the state in order to achieve liberty.
That is by design.
It is entirely possible that we may one day set the world free by doing nothing more than spreading the word and making people aware of the reality of the state, and that one day we might have the numbers to simply shake off the fleas and be done with them, without ever electing someone to a political office. That so many people assume that we must go through the state simply shows how trapped in the statist mindset they are. Not only have there been countless sweeping changes throughout human history that did not go through the state, but the best changes have always not gone through the state, and have always been spontaneous creations of individuals acting in liberty, not because of a mandate.
Anarchists Versus Minarchists/Classical Liberals/Statists/Big Ls
This is closest to being honest I’ve had one of the Big L Libertarians get. I’m sure many people reading will instinctively agree with what Tristan said. However, read what Tristan said. “This is our party, and we’re going to do what we want. If you don’t like it, leave.”
It’s been my contention for some time now that when Big L Libertarians talk about “compromise” they don’t mean “with anarchists,” and they actually mean “with Republicans and Democrats.” They love talking about compromise, but when it actually comes down to it, they’re typically intransigent and seem to think that “compromise” means that they get whatever they want, and dissenters get to go along with it or stfu. Compromise is a two-way street, and it means that one side gives up something to secure something that would be tolerable, while the other side gives up something to secure something that would be tolerable. If the nominations of Gary Johnson and William Weld, of all people, didn’t prove beyond any doubt that Big L Libertarians have absolutely no desire to make any concessions–when so many superior Vice Presidential candidates were available, like Will Coley–then I’m not sure what will.
I think that’s the part that Big L Libertarians don’t get: compromise means that they have to make concessions, too. The anarchist-preferred candidate of 2016 was undoubtedly Daryl Perry. Compromising on John McAfee would have been excellent middleground between Big L Libertarians and Daryl Perry. However, they had no reason to compromise, did they? No, because they outnumbered us and have always outnumbered us. We were willing to compromise with having Daryl Perry as a libertarian (not anarchist) candidate. And “we” (I say “we” meaning “me,” but surely most anarchists would have happily agreed) were more than willing to compromise with having John McAfee as something more like a minarchist (whether McAfee is a minarchist or anarchist, I don’t know, but he is certainly easier to sell in the mainstream, simply by weight of his name). And, of course, we had already compromised by playing at all in the system that we want to destroy.
We are, and remain, willing to compromise… with minarchists.
I gladly admit that I have no desire to compromise with Republicans and Democrats. I do not compromise with people who are so blatantly wrong and whose modus operandi is force, violence, and coercion. I will not compromise my freedom to people who see nothing wrong with outlawing abortion, or to people who want to steal from me to pay for other people’s stuff. Not only am I unwilling to compromise with the people who devastated the Middle East and the people who are gleefully beating the Drums of War with Russia, but if you are willing to compromise with such people, then that throws your judgment immediately into doubt, as far as I’m concerned.
If Big L Libertarians want to compromise with Republicans and Democrats, there’s not much we anarchists can do about it, because we are outnumbered–we seem to comprise about 15-20% of the party. Obviously, they are perfectly free to compromise with whoever they want… Or are they? Does compromising with a tyrant or a sycophant not stain one’s hands? Isn’t this a bit like compromising with Charles Manson–“Okay, Charles, we’re going to compromise. You can’t kill anyone, but, I tell you what, we’ll let you torture one person every six months, as long as you don’t kill them. Deal?” How clean would one’s hands really be in such a compromise? And aren’t we all aware that the state is infinitely more horrific than Charles Manson?
Regardless, the issue is that Big L Libertarians act and speak as though what they want is to compromise with the anarchists who actually belong in the Libertarian Party. This is part of the leadership crisis that we face, but we’ve also got a major problem with collectivist thinking having infected the party. They regularly talk about how they wish that the in-fighting in the party would end, and I have to agree, but I dispute their understanding of the in-fighting. The rift is between anarchists and minarchists, or radicals and moderates, however one would like to put it, and exists because the minarchists/moderates have convinced themselves that the Libertarian Party belongs to them and that, at best, anarchists are the red-headed stepchild.
It is not and has never been a minarchist party–nor is it an anarchist party. It is, however, every bit as much an anarchist party as it is a minarchist party, and as it is a classical liberal party. Larry Sharpe came under fire recently (does the drama never end???) for making a video that people interpreted as his saying that he didn’t want anarchists in the party. Even though that isn’t what he said or meant, the whole thing still dances around the issue without actually stepping foot on it: it’s not Larry Sharpe’s party. It’s not minarchists’ party. It’s not their party to say they do or don’t want us in it.
This is my house that I’m writing this from. It belongs to me. If I don’t want you in it, that matters. But if I’m in Bob’s house and I don’t want you in it, that doesn’t matter, because it’s not my house. The very idea that Larry Sharpe or anyone else is in any position to want or not want anarchists in the party is patently absurd–this house belongs every bit as much to the anarchists as it does anyone else. It’s not Larry Sharpe’s house for him to proclaim who he doesn’t want inside, and neither is it any other minarchist’s or anarchist’s.
And the entire root of this rift is that the Big L Libertarians (of whatever variety) do think that it’s their house, and that we’re simply guests whom they allow to sleep on the couch. That… is… wrong. It is factually and historically wrong. Minarchists simply told themselves and convinced themselves that it was their party, and then they began marginalizing the anarchists. However, proclaiming something to be true does not make it true.
The Libertarian Party of the United States was founded in 1971–some of its founders are still around, and you can find them on Facebook and discuss it yourself with them (assuming they are willing). Merely three years later, the Dallas Accord was struck between the anarchists and the larger minarchist faction, wherein the two sides agreed that the question of whether a state was desirable would be intentionally avoided until such time as a libertarian society had been achieved; it was the agreement that the Libertarian Party was neither a minarchist nor an anarchist party, and this was only three years after the party was formed.
In 2006, the minarchists took control and became hostile to the anarchists, deleting most of the party platform and replacing it with things like “Government exists to protect rights…” This doesn’t make it right, and it’s an outright betrayal of the anarchist faction. It caused a mass exodus of anarchists from the party that had betrayed them so brazenly, and was dubbed the Portland Massacre. Now we have a party platform that says that a state-owned military is necessary! It was an obvious stab in the back to the anarchists, and in the years since the minarchists have not only betrayed anarchists further but have betrayed themselves and leaped right into classical liberalism and something very much like Constitutionalism.
I dread to think what the Libertarian Party would become if there weren’t still anarchists out here trying to stick it out and keep the party tethered to its principles, because it has betrayed so very many people, factions, and ideas. Now we have language that says the state should use immigration laws to “protect” us, which not only is patently un-libertarian, but it’s not even classically liberal–it’s full-blown statist, as even the Constitution didn’t grant the Federal Government the power to control immigration. In its desperation for mass approval and Quixotic quest for electability, is there any principle that the Big L Libertarians won’t betray?
As stated clearly, the party exists to cause liberty to happen. It is certainly conceivable–although I find the idea incredulous for reasons I’ll detail in a moment–that winning elections could be a valid method of achieving that goal. However, it is foolish, absurd, and narrow-minded to act like it’s the only possible way of achieving that goal, or even acting like it’s the best method of doing so. Given the results so far (widespread betrayal of anarchists and libertarian principles, schisms in the party, some Big L Libertarians even calling people like me enemies…), I’d argue that it’s not even an acceptable way of achieving that goal, even if it is possible in theory.
There seems to be this idea that we can pull a Bait & Switch on the electorate, and that we can run a “moderate Libertarian” who gets into office and enacts actual libertarian policies. This is called “deceit,” and it is generally frowned upon. It is false advertising, and it is considered to be deceptive–because it is deceptive. It’s like marrying a woman not because you love her (as she thinks you do), but because she’s a millionaire with no kids and no one to leave all her money to when she dies. It’s a clear case of false pretenses–everything about it is immoral, and that’s before we get into whether or not it would actually work.
Hint: it wouldn’t.
It is strangely denialistic to think that if you can convince Bob to legalize marijuana, then you’ll have an easier time convincing him to legalize all drugs. If there was any truth whatsoever to that, then the repeal of Prohibition in the 1920s would have prevented any further substances from being outlawed in the first place, because, in American history, Bob was convinced that outlawing alcohol was more trouble than it was worth, didn’t actually eliminate alcohol, created a black market, created gangs, and was a gross violation of people’s liberties. That didn’t stop Bob from turning around and making marijuana illegal barely a decade later, or from adding methamphetamine, heroin, and countless other substances to the list of banned narcotics.
Libertarian: “Bob, Prohibition isn’t working. We need to repeal it and just let people be free. This has done nothing but caused death and misery.”
Bob: “You know what? You’re right. Repeal Prohibition!”
Libertarian: “Alright! Let’s not make this mistake again, either.”
*Ten years later*
Bob: “We’re outlawing marijuana.”
*Seventy years later*
Libertarian: “Bob, marijuana prohibition isn’t working. We need to legalize it and just let people be free. This has done nothing but caused death and misery.”
Bob: “You know what? You’re right. Repeal marijuana prohibition!”
Here we enter Fantasy Land.
Libertarian: “Great! Let’s repeal prohibition of heroin, too! And cocaine! And crystal meth!”
Bob: “Hey, you’re right!”
… That’s so obviously not what would happen. Bob would reply, “Are you out of your mind? Marijuana is one thing, but heroin? No way! That’s something else entirely!”
That’s the flaw with the incrementalist/moderate approach. Just because you can get me to drive five miles doesn’t mean you can get me to drive five hundred miles. It’s absurdly unrealistic, and I find it hard to believe that anyone actually thinks such an approach will have any success. Legalizing marijuana won’t end the drug war; it won’t shift Bob’s position on the Drug War even the tiniest bit. I can already point to at least a hundred people I know who want to see marijuana legalized but who would recoil in shock and incredulity if I suggested to them that we should also legalize heroin.
Phase 1: Legalize weed!
Phase 2: ????
Phase 3: The drug war is over!
Phase 2 is “something magical happens.”
The “legalize marijuana” versus “end the drug war” thing is such a wonderful parallel to the radical/moderate divide, because this is true in nearly every sense. I’ve convinced plenty of people that a business owner has the unalienable right to choose the people with whom they associate, and that they therefore don’t have to serve LGBTQ people if they don’t want to. It’s not too difficult to convince people of this. But the next thing out of their mouth is always, “But what if they’re racist and don’t want to serve black people? We can’t allow them to do that!”
It’s insane. It’s either a huge misunderstanding of reality or a purposeful self-delusion about human nature. Though I’ve convinced at least twenty people that discrimination of LGBTQ people by business owners is an unalienable right, I have never convinced anyone that discrimination of black people by business owners is an unalienable right. According to the incrementalist approach, once I convince them that discrimination against LGBTQ people is a right, they should be receptive to the “more extreme” form, yes?
Except they’re not, and they never are.
A World Set Free
It should come as no surprise that the Big L Libertarian faction (which doesn’t include every libertarian, minarchist, or classical liberal) seems incapable of grasping the idea that there might be some other ways to set the world free than by going through the established political system. For anarchists, the established political system is optional–however, we do not deny that it is an option. In contrast, the Big L Libertarian faction denies that there are any other options: they know only the state, and so they only know to go through the state. But that’s where libertarianism starts to contradict itself in the first place, because anyone who follows the ideas to their logical conclusions will end up as an anarchist, since aggression is the only way that the state can do anything while still being a state.
It’s just another example of how anarchist ideology isn’t even being considered by the larger faction, and, if they’re not even considering it, they can’t possibly be able to compromise with it. It’s like that Jody guy who blocked me when he claimed to be an anarchist immediately after saying that the state should exist to protect liberty. If you’re unwilling to even learn what anarchists think, then how can you compromise with them? If you’re trying to sell something to a person, don’t you kinda have to know what they’re offering to pay? But, of course, they’re not willing to compromise–as we’ve established–and they aren’t willing to even consider anarchists enough to learn what we have to say. If they were, then they would already know that going through the existing state is most certainly not the “only” way to set the world free (and, if one follows the ideas to their conclusions, it’s actually impossible to use the state to set the world free because the state is literally what you’re trying to set the world free of).
To compromise with someone, you must first know what they want and what they believe. Judging from my person experiences, the Big L Libertarians (which, again, isn’t inclusive of every minarchist, libertarian, and classical liberal) have no idea what anarchists want or believe. Jody’s silliness was the most flagrant, but it was hardly unique.
These Big L Libertarians seem to operate solely on their belief and their idea of what they want the Libertarian Party to be, making whatever assumptions they like, and from there they seem wholly resistant to facts. This Travis person has the idea in their head of what the Libertarian Party is (and, it’s worth mentioning, that their understanding of the Libertarian Party just coincidentally is exactly what they want it to be), and nothing will shake that delusion.
To say that the Libertarian Party exists to win elections is to say that anarchists aren’t welcome in the party, because we imagine different ways of achieving the Libertarian Party’s goal (which, one will read, is to set the world free, not “to win elections, duh!”). Having our methods spit upon and waved away even as we’re willing to go along with their methods, as long as they agree to the standards that we laid down in 1974 to solve exactly this problem… We’re using our preferred method, but we’re also willing to help you and use your preferred method to get libertarians elected to office. Our method and your method are only at odds because you set them to be by saying our method is meaningless, that yours is the only method that matters–by usurping the entire party and proclaiming it to be nothing more than a vehicle for your chosen method!–and that we’re not even welcome in the party if we don’t cease our method, shut up, and meekly go along with you.
This is our party, too.
And that’s why the goal of the party is to set the world free, not to win elections. Like the liberals I’ve talked about before who associate their emotion with their preferred method, it has trapped you and left you unable to even fathom that there might be some other way of achieving that goal. After all, the liberal takes “There shouldn’t be anyone starving in America!” and links that directly to “We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour!” It’s the basest and most confused of human behaviors to link a given goal inextricably to one’s preferred method of achieving that goal, and then dogmatically sticking to that method regardless of whether it works (like how liberals continue to demand increases to the Minimum Wage, despite the unemployment that it has caused).
Our method is 100% as valid as yours, and the Libertarian Party is 100% as valid as a vehicle of our method as it is a vehicle of your method.
We are anarchists, and this is our party, too.