THE LAST DITCH -- Nicholas Strakon on NEW FRONTIERS IN LIBERTARIAN FREE EXPRESSION -- reader response

www.thornwalker.com/ditch/lp_strakon_lte.htm


To Strakon's article.

 
To the editor ...

Nick —

I'm pretty sure that you're not particularly eager to get even marginally involved, but some of your readers might be interested to know that there has been a quite a tempest blowing between Jacob Hornberger, the president of the Future of Freedom Foundation (one of the preeminent libertarian nonprofits), and big shots in the LP. Hornberger's site is http://www.jacobghornberger.com/, and he's pretty conscientious about linking to or reprinting his critics' accusations and replies, so it's a fairly complete (indeed, almost exhaustingly complete) record.

The simple fact of the matter is that the LP, like all parties, has a goal that is not entirely parallel with the Truth or with Public Debate. That being the case, there will be, predictably, instances where an operative has to choose between the two. (Hornberger, of course, is often assailed as damaging the party, er, make that "Party.")

What is astonishing — why do I continue to let myself be astonished? — is that LP operatives expect others to make the same choice. Here is a party that purports to be the champion of a political ideology that derives from individualism, from the glory of independent thought and action, and all this guy Selzer can think to do is ask you to adhere to the practices of the party collective.

Ronn Neff
Senior editor, TLD
December 3, 2001


Too bad Mr. Strakon's article sat there for so long with so few of us seeing it. I for one would have responded sooner.

Mr. Selzer does not represent libertarianism when he asks people to stifle themselves. I don't know whom he thinks he's representing in such folly, but It ain't me, Mark.

Party-building in and of itself is not a good or bad thing. It's the object and the means that give or detract value from the exercise. Obviously, political expediency in substitution for articulate persuasion is worse than second best, and in fact embarrassing to the rest of us, at best. Note that in the past two years the Southern portion of the California LP lost membership and registrations, so it's probably safe to say that whatever else has been happening there, party-building isn't.

It's always easier for the near-bright to sloganize and run superficial PR campaigns than it is to master the nuances and the simple obvious talking points of real-time application. Thus you see so many libertarians defining the party in their own terms and trying to correct or drive away anyone who sees things differently — all the while being oh, so careful to avoid getting anyone elected to anything important, because if there's anything these people know (and they know it by looking inward), it's that power corrupts. Patent idiocy, in my nowhere-near-humble opinion.

In sum, I ask that you not continue to generalize the party and its supporters into the weird impression so easily drawn from the noise some neoLibs make. There are many good people who have come and gone because only the lesser half have been willing to be assertive.

All that is about to change.

Allen Hacker
Libertarian Party Santa Clara County Chair,
2004 CA ExComm At Large
March 1, 2005

Strakon replies

I thank Mr. Hacker for his comments, and for their civil tone. I regret that I'm going to have to focus on our profound disagreement.

I've been around a while, and I've been hearing Mr. Hacker's closing claim, "All that is about to change," for many years — and not just in an LP context, of course: in many other contexts having to do with political activism, too. Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Do I read Mr. Hacker correctly, in his fourth paragraph? Is he saying that Acton's teaching about the corrupting nature of state power is "patent idiocy"? Whether he is saying that or not, he does imply that certain Partyarchs are not only idiots but also corrupt to begin with ("looking inward"); and one supposes that Mr. Hacker is proposing here that those Bad People be replaced with Good People. I've heard that, too, before (only about a million times) from those who, on the one hand, are dissatisfied with the poltroons, corruptionists, clowns, and sociopaths populating the duopoly parties; but who, on the other hand, are unwilling to look closely at political activism, political power, and what must happen when one holds political power. "We need to elect Good People," they drone. But if they were Good People going in, they wouldn't be coming out. If they ever did come out.

Political parties are an arm of our enemy, the state; they are its transmission belt; they offer candidates for election as rulers; they participate in state rituals and functions; in their very nature and being, they endorse the great black and bloody system of organized crime and help it masquerade as "government of the people." I disagree emphatically with Mr. Hacker's claim in his third paragraph. Party-building in itself is a very bad thing. I pray he may repent of it.

Now to Mr. Hacker's opening regret. Why do my articles, and those of my confederates at The Last Ditch, sit around mostly unread year after year? It could be that we are just bad writers with nothing important to say; or that what we do say is wicked and wrong. Certainly those of the consensus world hold one or the other of those views, assuming they've heard of us at all. But I propose an alternate, or at least supplementary, explanation. One reason that sites such as TLD labor in impenetrable obscurity may be that most would-be freedom fighters spend their time and intellectual energy on Party meetings and petition drives. One reason that TLD, in particular, is always on the edge of going under may be that would-be freedom fighters donate money to Party activities — pointless wheel-spinning at best — rather than to us.

In "This government is illegitimate ... and you don't have to be an anarchist to see it" (1997), Ronn Neff observes:

Free-market anarchism itself, which triumphed in virtually every [movement] setting when it first appeared, is now completely marginalized in the movement. It is supported by no major publication (even within the relatively small arena of libertarian publications); it has no spokesman....

But what other result was possible? The only strength free-market anarchism ever had against the limited-statists and constitutionalists was its arguments. They enjoyed the numbers, the money, and the key positions in the organizations and publications. Once anarchism stopped wielding its only weapon (its decisive weapon), it could expect no other outcome than the marginalization it now enjoys. As Rand warned: "When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side."

The Libertarian Party and all its members have shared in those workings. If I may say this without sounding too offensive, thanks for nothing.

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