The Party on the road to Kindergentlerstatistville
Why I am not a Libertarian
By RONALD N. NEFF
I have recently been invited to work on a project that undertakes the reform of the Libertarian Party. It might actually achieve its goal; I saw no intrinsic flaw in the plan that would prevent its ultimate success.
I turned the offer down as flatly as I would have if I had been asked to help someone drive my dearest friend to suicide.
I explained that I do not work on government projects, on anything that promotes abortion, on anything that is opposed to Liberty, or on anything that advances the fortunes of any political party. In connection with the last, I pointed out that even though I am the managing editor of Joe Sobran's newsletter and the Webmaster of his Website, I did no work for him in connection with his brief candidacy for vice president on the Constitution Party ticket.
Those who had approached me were a little surprised at the vehemence with which I rejected their offer. They could well understand my refusal to work in the first three areas. They themselves, I am sure, would not do such work: they are honest and principled men, genuine opponents to statism all, at least insofar as they are able to recognize it. They could even be indulgent toward my refusal already known to them to vote. So what, they asked me, was the basis for my opposition to political action? Was I a follower of Robert LeFevre, the well-known libertarian teacher and writer of the 1960s who was also a pacifist?
I answered them thus:
No, I am not a LeFevrian.
As you know, I am a free-market anarchist. It makes no more sense to me for an anarchist of any kind to participate in the political process than it does for a constitutionalist libertarian to sit on a zoning board or to work for the IRS.
But if you sense that I have a particular animus toward the Libertarian Party, you're right. There are two reasons I refuse to do any work that advances the fortunes of that organization:
(1) As I anticipated in 1972, even as I typeset the article that created it yes, I confess it the party would not remain true to libertarian principle and would, in the end, simply alienate people who heard about libertarianism from its hacks and candidates. The party itself wouldn't just be an object of derision; it would make libertarianism an object of derision.
But you think that if your guys (i.e., principled and honest men unafraid to present undiluted libertarianism and determined to do it) were running the party and running as candidates, all that would change. And that brings me to reason #2, which is much more important. The first reason is empirical; the second pertains to the essence of the matter.
(2) The goal of the LP is to attempt to establish liberty in the United States by winning government positions, legislative, judicial, and executive. The object is to man a government directed by objective law, a government that is a defender, not an enemy, of Liberty.
In other words, the goal of the LP is to create a contradiction in terms. I believe firmly that neither you nor anyone else can create a government with the right and authority to do those things you would have it do. No such government exists anywhere in the world, and I suspect there never has been nor could be such a government. Which means that even if libertarians occupied every government position at every level and functioned as they promise to function, I would be an enemy of that government, too. So why would I want to do anything to help it come into existence?
The LP is a particularly pestilent enemy of Liberty: it is the focal point of discussions of real liberty, and it keeps giving a false answer. And it is not just that it gives a false answer to some extent, nearly all existing libertarian organizations are doing that; its essence is to be a wrong answer. That means that when true hearts come looking for liberty, the LP is both the false guidepost that sends them to Kindergentlerstatistville and the road that purports to take them there. Moreover, it sucks up millions of dollars and unmeasurable talent and time toward what is at best useless activity. All the energy, brains, and wealth that could be put toward a real struggle for Liberty is soaked up by the LP and run down a drain clogged with corruption and fraud.
Use a drain cleaner to get rid of the corruption and fraud, and then everything just runs down the drain and is lost forever. It no longer smells up the kitchen with backed-up water and crud, but it is nonetheless wasted.
So three propositions would have to be established before I would be willing to do any work that would advance the fortunes of the LP:
(a) that its goal is reachable;
(b) that its goal is desirable; and
(c) that political action is the proper means of reaching its goal.
Each proposition bears an onus of proof that has never been met, and each must be demonstrated separately. None of them implies any other; no two of them imply the third. Most especially, please note that (c) does not follow from (a) and (b). Even supposing that a government that did not violate Liberty could be achieved, it does not follow that political action would be the way to achieve it.
The LP is and can only be a blight on the intellectual landscape. It is the enemy of Liberty, as surely as are the Democrat and Republican parties. My influence is little, and I can probably do little to bring about its utter demise. But I can treat it the same as I do the state: have as little to do with it as possible and oppose it whenever I can.
I recommend the same course to you.
November 28, 2000
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Related articles by Ronn Neff:
Jacob G. Hornberger and Mr. Neff's exchange on five questions about libertarian electoral activism posed by Mr. Hornberger. (February 2002)
"Fifty Ron Pauls and the government with Only One Law." (December 2001)
Related article by Nicholas Strakon.
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