Saturday, April 28, 2012

Libertarian Party Identity

Thomas Knapp makes an interesting argument, pointing out that the Libertarian Party is having identity problems. He points out how the "pragmatic" libertarians nominated conservative former Republican Bob Barr, selling out what the Libertarian Party for a vote bonus that never arrived.

And he is right. The watered down platform of the 2006 convention, the nomination of Bob Barr (who subsequently endorsed Newt Gingrich) and Wayne Root (who subsequently endorsed Mitt Romney), and the 2010 election of Wayne Root to the Libertarian National Committee and appointment to chair the Libertarian National Congressional Committee have all contributed to a very severe confusion of the libertarian message.

Now, in 2012, the same people who supported those previous actions are the strongest proponents of Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party nomination for president. Although far better than Bob Barr or Wayne Root, he has people nervous because of his foreign policy positions and his position on the fair tax.

But there is no need for the Libertarian Party to have such an identity problem. There is a ready-made identity for the Libertarian Party - it can embrace and endorse libertarian positions. Why is this hard?

It is hard because libertarianism is, for some people, too consistent. If one wishes to be libertarian only in economics, that person is an unusually enlightened conservative. If one wishes to be libertarian only in civil matters, that person is an unusually enlightened liberal. And if one wishes to be libertarian only in foreign policy, that person would actually not be libertarian in foreign policy but would be an actual isolationist.

That last of the three is the greatest problem because many of those who are causing an identity problem for the Libertarian Party have great reservations with being libertarian on foreign policy. Peaceful trade with all, entangling alliances with none, and the military (if one exists at all) is only to be used defensively - and defense does NOT include "pre-emptive counter-attacks." Nor does it include wars of liberation, which always manage to accomplish the exact opposite of the stated goal.

If the Libertarian Party is to return to having a core established identity that sets it apart from other political parties, it is in foreign policy where people must start. The Libertarian Party must make it explicit that the Zero Aggression Principle also applies to foreign policy and that the Membership Oath about not advocating violence to achieve political aims also applies to foreign policy.

Perhaps that is why the Reformers want to do away with the oath as well.

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