Mataconis, Somin call for end of Libertarian Party

At The Liberty Papers, Doug Mataconis has a lengthy piece arguing for the end of the Libertarian Party. He writes in part, “Were there flaws in the Barr Campaign? Most certainly, but there weren’t any worse than the flaws that have existed in practically ever Libertarian Party Presidential campaign for the past 20 years. And yet, despite that, Barr received more votes than any LP candidate in 28 years. Yes, there were promises and predictions of 1 million to 3 million LP votes this year — but these are the same promises that LP candidates make every four years, and they never come true. Regardless of what standard of success you use — election result, education campaigns, or influence in the public policy arena — it’s fairly clear that after 36 years the Libertarian Party has been an abject failure.”

Mataconis references a Volokh Conspiracy piece by Ilya Somin making the same basic point: “Libertarians have had some genuine successes over the last 35 years,” but “the Libertarian Party didn’t play a significant role in any of them. … For 35 years, the Party has consumed valuable resources, both financial and human. The money spent on the LP and the time donated by its committed activists could do a lot more to promote libertarianism if used in other ways. … The time has come to admit that the LP is a failure and spend our precious time and money elsewhere.”

53 thoughts on “Mataconis, Somin call for end of Libertarian Party

  1. NewFederalist

    I thought it was up to the free market to decide the fate of the LP. If people agree with the above sentiment the party will die of its’ own accord due to lack of interest and funding. Since the Prohibition Party has existed for over 130 years I seriously doubt the LP will go away any time soon.

  2. RedPhillips

    The system needs third parties. If nothing else they serve as a safety valve. Libertarians are by definition ideological and eschew pure political pragmatism. (Even the pragmatist within the LP aren’t pragmatic by GOP or Dem standards. If they were they wouldn’t be in a third party.)

    All the complaining that Barr wasn’t Libertarian enough. How are those people going to work within one of the two parties? Even if you work within the major parties in the primary, you have to have a third party in the general as an outlet.

    The same thing is true for the Constitution Party.

  3. libertyuk2000

    According to the USLP National Chairman Redpath “the candidates of the Libertarian Party received more than 13 million votes! This is a record for the Party.”

    http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/a-post-election-message-from-the-national-chairman

    It appears to us that your USLP is growing and advancing the cause of Liberty and Libertarianism just fine. All Libertarians would like this growth to excel at a faster rate than it is now, but as long as the cause advances, then someone must be doing something right.

    We here at the LPUK look to the founding party as a benchmark. Most of all the other Libertarians we have talked to here in Europe and also Asia tend to agree that Libertarianism is a world movement that is gaining strength and recognition. So keep up the good work showing us the path to Freedom!

    Good day,

  4. paulie cannoli

    I’ll have to check back to earlier press releases from past years about whether this is a record. I vaguely recall otherwise, but I’ll go back and check later. If anyone wants to do so in the meantime, that would be good as well.

  5. Jimmy Clifton

    As a former member of the LP and as one who has own elective office as a Libertarian, I will admit that the Party has been a gross failure.

  6. Michael H. Wilson

    Wow I get this password stuff figured out and maybe get to comment. Keep it Simple S….. for us computers doofs. Please.

    Regardless of what others may think of the LP’s future, the LP itself needs to rething it’s tactics and strategy. We ask people to think about government and how we are governed. We claim to be bringing new ideas about government to the public discussion, but we are doing it in virtually the same manners as other political parties do, or have in recent years. We need to think about doing political things differently. Frankly I believe that we need to combine the methods of a political party with those of advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club and figure out how to work with both methods.

    MHW

  7. paulie cannoli

    Hi MHW,

    Good to see you here…

    Wow I get this password stuff figured out and maybe get to comment. Keep it Simple S….. for us computers doofs. Please.

    I’m in favor of ending comment registration, and a number of other IPR writers have said the same thing on our list in the past. I don’t know if we’ll make any progress on this with the new management; GE was against it when he ran the site.

  8. Trent Hill

    ““the candidates of the Libertarian Party received more than 13 million votes! This is a record for the Party.””

    Duh. More voters + larger population = higher raw vote total. The same is probably true every one or two elections….

    The more important metric is the percentage of overall votes.

  9. paulie cannoli

    I haven’t been able to find an equivalent number for past elections. I did a bit of searching, and found cumulative US House totals and the like, but not cumulative overall totals for all candidates at every level. Does anyone have that info?

    I know the LP ran a lot more candidates in some past elections, so the record vote claim is counterintuitive – but I’d lake a better reference point than what I’ve been able to find so far.

  10. Steve LaBianca

    The fact that the LP “has consumed valuable resources, both financial and human” is irrelevant. Every individual decides for himself whether or not to support or not, and if so , to what amount, the LP “enterprise”.

    What we have here is one man’s (or is it two men) opinion. He is free to not support the LP, and to voice his opinion.

    Secondly, Harry Browne, and others did NOT predict, promise or even guess how many votes they would get. My recollection over the years has been that there was pondering as to what might be possible, but not predicted. On this point, the criticism of the Barr/W.A.R. campaign is legitimate, but is NOT for most of the prior campaigns.

  11. Spence

    In a rational, free market society, goods and services will flow freely in a matter that expresses market equilibrium accurately.

    But political parties are anything but rational, much less third party fringe clubs that do not care about success. The LP for example, by and large: they look at works by Rothbard, Hayek, Friedman, etc. all as fiction more seriously than truth, all part of an elaborate role-playing universe where pure free enterprise is no more real than magick.

    If you want further proof, and are in the LP, just look at yourself…

    These people simply do not care enough about liberty to actually try and spread it. To them, it’s a great bedtime story, a child’s utopia. In fact, everything they’ve done has probably been detrimental to the freedom movement by and large, and they are in no way, able to think holistically or realistically even, of achieving success in any way except the deus-ex-machinae from so many of their fantasy books.

  12. paulie cannoli

    What do you find to be the best activities you have engaged in for the cause of freedom? In what ways have they been effective, as opposed to the LP which you consider ineffective in toto?

  13. Mike Theodore

    Gosh, I can’t imagine the world without the LP. We’d all have to act like we support the two major parties, and try to find Libertarian-like things with them. Or we’d all flow into the BTP, and start from scratch. So getting rid of it would be redundant.

  14. Peter Orvetti Post author

    I am fully comfortable with the fact that the LP is the Island of Misfit Ideologues. I didn’t rejoin to win; I rejoined because the other guys make me sick.

  15. Trent Hill

    “I am fully comfortable with the fact that the LP is the Island of Misfit Ideologues.”

    Quote of the day. Congrats Peter! This is your first time winning it i think!

  16. Spence

    See? This is exactly the culture of idiocy that perpetuates all LP members. The idea that we “have to stick together” renders NewFed’s idea that the LP can simply “fail” on free market principles false.

    It’s generally a sound idea. But the problem is LP officials, and the members by themselves, have developed this premise that the LP is “too big to fail”. If an organization is too big to fail, it shouldn’t exist at all.

    You guys, by claiming that the LP is the end-all, be-all of the freedom movement, merely validate this lie. Do you really not think you can do better educating, achieving electoral success, or what have you than you do now? How ironic.

    It’s simple. If you want a “party” for social gatherings, go to the nearest Cocoa’s every Tuesday. Do not mistake political tools as your own personal playthings.

  17. Karole Noymann

    I’m an anarchist so I don’t care about political parties other than as a source of entertainment and amusement. However, as a matter of personal preference, I strongly favor the socialist welfare state to the capitalist warfare state. I also enjoy this site because it does provide an entertaining and informative sideshow to the main events that one doesn’t get from MSM.

    As to the Libertarian Party all it does is provide a modest source of revenue to a small group of bureaucratic apparatchiks, and a utilitarian ego boost to frustrated Reagan wannabees who like to see their names in print and feel important.

    Ironically, I believe the LP actually legitimizes the very tyranny they claim to despise, and if government is innately so evil why are they so desperate to become a part of it? It is like becoming more royalist than the King. Naturally I’m implying deep-rooted psychological motives for Libertarian candidates and office-seekers. They need to reassure themselves every two or four years that they are really making themselves important and noticeable.

    I should also point out that I differentiate between organized Libertarians and libertarian groups that advocate on verious issues. For example groups supporting medical marijuana initiatives do accomplish a useful purpose, and to the extent that Libertarian Party campaigns and candidates draw money and resources from the former groups they do cause alot of damage to the causes they profess to support. It is my belief that if the Libertarian Party were to disband and focus all their energy and resources to decriminalizing and ending the war against people who use drugs we might actually accomplish that purpose, or at least come close to it. It is certainly a realistic goal.

    In conclusion, as an anarchist I believe there is no such fantasy as “limited government”, only limited tyranny. The Libertarian Party by its actions does more to legitimize that tyranny more than anything else. Their idea of “limited government” is making sure that government is limited to protecting their own interests.

  18. Spence

    Pretty good, Karole, except by your own words, you are less of an anarchist, and more of an anti-statist, which also legitimizes government tyranny even more. Even anarchists are willing to make coalitions. Pretty hypocritical of you.

  19. Karole Noymann

    “If you want a “party” for social gatherings, go to the nearest Cocoa’s every Tuesday. Do not mistake political tools as your own personal playthings.”

    Actually I couldn’t have said it any better. From my own limited interaction with LP members and leaders it seems the Party organization does fulfill a social need for people to be around other people who support their belief system. Not anly preaching to the choir but socializing with them as well.

    As to “personal playthings” you’ve also struck a chord. I’ve noticed, again from experience, some Libertarian activists, especially the ones who have been around for more than a few years, do seem to get a psychological “kick” and an exaggerated sense of self-importance from seeing their name in print (however obscure) or getting up to give a speech to half a dozen party members seated at the same table in a local pub.

  20. Michael H. Wilson

    Hi paulie, Good to be aboard. You guys and your passwords. Hell I haven’t even figured how to work a dial phone yet and now we got compooters.

    Whatever! Peter I like that Island of Misfit whatchamacallits I gutta get a new t-shirt.

    On the issue though. About six or so years ago the Lp was making some headway and then a new batch boys took over and it fell apart. We were developing some good literature and at least trying to make some bold statements.

    Then the boys got cold feet over the Iraq war. Of course most of them had never seen a war, or worn a uniform. I specifically say most of them had never worn a uniform, because some had. Then things went from bad to worse. A few of them who somehow found themselves in a Washigton D.C. office had little idea what a libertarian was. They seemed to confuse libertarians for conservative. It might have helped if they had read Hayek’s work on why he wasn’t a conservative. It still might help to read it once a year.

    MHW

  21. BrianHoltz

    Steve LaBianca, can you quote the Barr campaign in Denver making a vote-total prediction that was higher than the 1% predicted by David Nolan the day before the election?

  22. paulie cannoli

    I’m an anarchist so I don’t care about political parties other than as a source of entertainment and amusement.

    Doesn’t necessarily follow. I’m an anarchist as well.

  23. paulie cannoli

    if government is innately so evil why are they so desperate to become a part of it?

    Because from within might be a good place to dismantle it, and from the appearance of climbing the ladder to get inside is sometimes a good place to find people interested in dismantling it from whatever angle.

  24. paulie cannoli

    It is my belief that if the Libertarian Party were to disband and focus all their energy and resources to decriminalizing and ending the war against people who use drugs we might actually accomplish that purpose, or at least come close to it. It is certainly a realistic goal.

    So, we might perhaps cut one head off the hydra.

  25. JimDavidson

    @24 Holtz, the Barr Root campaign frequently promised millions of votes, from Denver to October, at least. These have been posted in many threads on this site. Stop trying to pretend they never promised millions of votes, Holtz. They did, and they failed.

    Stop the wars.

  26. paulie cannoli

    Pretty good, Karole, except by your own words, you are less of an anarchist, and more of an anti-statist, which also legitimizes government tyranny even more.

    Wow. Where do you get your definitions?

  27. Trent Hill

    “Stop trying to pretend they never promised millions of votes, Holtz. They did, and they failed.”

    He didnt. He asked about them claiming to have scored more than 1%. 1% would’ve been in excess of 1.25 million.
    His point is that David Nolan was predicting 1%, so Barr’s predictions of 1-3 million were THAT outrageous.

  28. JimDavidson

    Activists have choices. One of the obvious choices for many LP activists has been to work in local and regional activism, including at the state level. A related choice for many is to simply ignore what the national party is, says, and does.

    More recently, libertarian activists have choices in state and national parties. The Boston Tea Party has made a sincere effort this year to present itself in many different states, with our national candidate on three state ballots. We have twelve state affiliate groups, and a dozen more in various stages of formation.

    No one is obliged to destroy the LP. If it can compete effectively for the support of activists, and for the funds of contributors, great. If not, too bad. There are other possibilities.

    As Karole points out in 20 and in 22, one of the possibilities is “none of these political parties.”

    If you consider all votes cast in this election, in a few more weeks when we get some semblance of a final count in hand, you’ll find that most of the votes cast for third party presidential candidates were not cast for the LP candidate nominated in Denver, nor for the one nominated in New Hampshire.

    If you consider the votes cast by all independent voters together with all third party registered voters, most of those were not cast for Barr or Phillies. (It goes without saying, but I should point it out so I can show some even handedness, that essentially all votes cast were not for Charles Jay, either.) A great many of otherwise (independent or third party) registered voters voted for Obama or McCain.

    Whatever we are doing is not getting the attention of most of the voters who would like to see an alternative to the two major parties. In the “free market” for alternative politics, none of us has come up with a sufficiently appealing choice that we’ve gotten even remotely close to either major party.

    When was the last time a third party candidate got even a tenth the vote of the losing candidate from the two major parties? This year that was McCain with about 58 million of the popular votes that have thus far been counted. (Richard Winger says maybe a few million votes were left to count last week, and I’ve no idea how many this week.)

    Okay. So, who got 5.8 million votes? Not Barr. Not Jay. Not Phillies. Not Baldwin. Not Ron Paul.

    If that’s the market, the voters have spoken. We don’t need to end the LP. It can continue to be as marginal and as vibrant as the activists make it. But the voters have weighed it in the balance and found it wanting.

    Do I have the answers? No. I’m not sure that electoral politics has any answers.

    I will say that a party which embraces principles of openness (rather than secrecy), budget-less-ness at the national level (rather than corruption), and membership rule (rather than the rule of an insider clique) should, over time, attract far more committed libertarian activists than any other kind of party.

    My interest, personally, is in building relationships with committed and principled activists. Not because I think we’ll win elections, but because there is a war on freedom, we are the enemies of the state, and “if we do not hang together, we shall each be hanged separately.”

    I can, and I have, worked with many distasteful people. I can, and I have, worked with many good and decent people in the LP. I expect that in the near future, our ideas of liberty are going to be directly tested by the most egregious behaviors of government officials.

    And in the face of our common enemy, tyranny, I don’t really care what your political affiliation is. All I care about is whether you can be trusted to keep your word and do the right thing.

  29. JimDavidson

    @31 Millions are greater than 1.25 million. Millions of votes were promised. Repeatedly. By Root and others.

  30. Trent Hill

    Jim,

    I agree. Im not defending Barr/Root’s outreageous predictions…simply trying to clear up what Holtz meant.

  31. Michael Gilson-De Lemos

    RE: Michael H. Wilson // Nov 22, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    …Regardless of what others may think of the LP’s future, the LP itself needs to rething it’s tactics and strategy. We ask people to think about government and how we are governed.
    >MG: The 3rd and continuing strategic plan was developed while including international activists so as to serve as a universal toolkit:
    http://www.dehnbase.org/lpus/library/spt/report-20011220-xs.html
    also
    http://www.dehnbase.org/lpus/library/spt/

    …the toolkit is fairly comprehensive and includes about any bright idea the critics or anyone else might have.

    The first was Nolan’s 7-point founding plan
    http://elfsoft.home.mindspring.com/politics/nolan.htm
    which still obtains as a fine guideline for new groups and is effectively incorporated in the Mission (below); the 2nd, more of a para-strategic plan that involves other entities, is sealed except for some philosophical comments by Rothbard and the LIO ALTER approach.

    …We claim to be bringing new ideas about government to the public discussion, but we are doing it in virtually the same manners as other political parties do, or have in recent years.
    >MG: Such presentation is outlined in the Dallas Accord, where candidates should present a range of solutions and familiarize the public and people in office should engage in a facilitative role. This is easier than ever with groups such as CATO to refer to, though such referral alone is limited as to LP successes.

    …We need to think about doing political things differently. Frankly I believe that we need to combine the methods of a political party with those of advocacy groups
    >MG: The Permanent Mission of the LP, adopted by Convention in 1985, is basically to promote Libertarian societies (which can bve anything from households to countries) by legal, educative, activist and political means. This does not mean that is the daily task of officers, but the organization as a whole gets the ball rolling at minimum and helps celebrate member action to those ends. To this was added specifically developing elective organizational skills I believe in 1989, which has certainly ben done. The Mission of the LNC is to promote election to national offices, which is understood to include adlection. To these ends the LP has founded or revitalized entities such as CLS, Cato, etc. , created groups such as the Republican Liberty Caucus, and co-operates with groups such as LIO. It may help to realize that the LP is a liberal-libertarian alliance, not a pure Libertarian party, that helps create a libertarian consituency and a liberal-libertarian centrist politics; and was also created as a convenience to ISIL members seeking political outlet, which group is where one should begin in my view for most people. Also, the LP (or members0 ) has launched many autonomous entities, coalitions and initiatives. It has greatly assisted the LIO task of creating pledged Libertarians.

    …such as the Sierra Club and figure out how to work with both methods
    >MG: This has been done. Then again, recently they praised the methods of our elected officials on S & W boards!

    As for the article overall, the writer hasn’t the foggiest idea what the LP set out to do, etc. I would point out that the number in public office is strictly dependent on developed members who form the talent pool; and also that there are great opportunities at the state level in the use of referenda and initiatives to get things done, particularly in the matter of PR and MMP type changes, and directions such as tax reduction or abolition.

    Hope this helps.

  32. JimDavidson

    @34 I don’t think you should attempt to speak for Holtz. He is adequately literate. His writings are not appallingly difficult to read. Let him explain his own self.

  33. Trent Hill

    Ohk then,let me rephrase myself to a less friendly position.

    I was deconstructing the ridiculous inferrence that you made from Holtz’s statement,which were clearly meant to compare expectations between the Radicals (represented by David Nolan) and the Reformers (represented by Barr/Root).

  34. pdsa

    Professor Ilya Somin is not really a libertarian, he’s a free-market Conservative without being buried in the hubris of Social conservatism. Don’t get me wrong here, I like him, and feel he is one of the top contributors to the Volokh conspracy, but this does no change the facts: he’s a conservative, and member in good standing of the Federalist Society.

    Professor Somin Publicly stated his preference for McCain just before this past election, and tirelessly Pimps the Conservative-Libertarian Coalition myth.

  35. Michael H. Wilson

    MG writes: “As for the article overall, the writer hasn’t the foggiest idea what the LP set out to do, etc. ”

    I’m not too sure who you were refering to when you wrote the above. I certainly hope it wasn’t me because I doubt that comment would represent my opinions, or ideas.

    BTW a number of people in the top ranks of the party need to be made aware of the party’s history, much of which they have no knowledge.

    MHW

  36. Michael H. Wilson

    That came across a bit rude. Maybe I should put my thinking cap on before I write such stuff. My apologies.

    M.W.

  37. hogarth

    “You guys, by claiming that the LP is the end-all, be-all of the freedom movement,…”

    Who has made such a claim? Where?

  38. Michael H. Wilson

    JimDavidson Writes: “@41 Rudeness, or brusqueness, is as common among libertarians as flowers in the country.”

    Yea and I’m on a one man crusade to change that.

    MHW

  39. Karole Noymann

    “if government is innately so evil why are they so desperate to become a part of it?”

    “Because from within might be a good place to dismantle it, and from the appearance of climbing the ladder to get inside is sometimes a good place to find people interested in dismantling it from whatever angle.”

    That’s the same bunker mentality I’ve been listening to for years now. It’s like a football coach with a 0-100 win/loss record promise to do better in the next game.

    Even if the unlikely were to happen human nature, power and greed would more likely corrupt the reformer rather than reform the corrupted.

    Rather than become a part of and try to play the system from the inside, there’s a better chance to achieve an anarchistic society by waiting for Martians to attack and destroy everything so the human race could start over (see the final scene from the 1996 movie “Mars Attacks”).

  40. paulie cannoli

    That’s the same bunker mentality I’ve been listening to for years now. It’s like a football coach with a 0-100 win/loss record promise to do better in the next game.

    Entirely possible, if by that he means to improve his team’s stats. If a high school team got 100 chances to practice against the NFL, shouldn’t they take the opportunity?

    Also, there’s every possibility that a long-standing losing streak will eventually break…it’s happened before. And, there are numerous reasons why smaller parties run for office besides winning the office itself.

    Even if the unlikely were to happen human nature, power and greed would more likely corrupt the reformer rather than reform the corrupted.

    Maybe a little of both.. also, you ignored this part:

    the appearance of climbing the ladder to get inside is sometimes a good place to find people interested in dismantling it from whatever angle.

    There are numerous people in all aspects of the libertarian movement who were brought to the movement by the LP, even though most of them are no longer in the LP.

    Rather than become a part of and try to play the system from the inside, there’s a better chance to achieve an anarchistic society by waiting for Martians to attack and destroy everything so the human race could start over (see the final scene from the 1996 movie “Mars Attacks”).

    Good luck with that.

  41. Sean Scallon

    Non major parties can be effective if they understand what their role is in U.S. politics.

    1). Winning a statewide or national race or even a race for a Congressional District is most likely out of the question. However such parties can affect the outcome and which can influence the major parties’ direction and choice of candidates.

    2). Non-major parties can provide the lone alternative to the majors in districts that essentially been abandoned by one of the major parties. Somebody has to be the opposititon.

    3). Using the party apparatus to run candidates for local or district offices where the chances of success are much greater (especially in non-partisan races) to promote your parties’ policies from the ground up.

    4). Using non-major party activists to help the campaign of a friendly major party candidate (the Ron Paul approach)

    5). Non-major parties could influence national politics if they were willing to work together to create a new national party they were willing to contribute to, thereby separating national from local politics. They could keep their independence locally why running in the same party nationally.

    6). Realistically realizing that statewide and national campaigns are about recruiting new members and ballot access for said party and not about winning.

  42. Karole Noymann

    “And, there are numerous reasons why smaller parties run for office besides winning the office itself. ”

    That’s been my point all along. There are psychological and/or material rewards for parties and candidates to keep running for office. It could simply be the need to draw attention to oneself. Bob Barr is the perfect example. He used Monica Lewinsky to get his fifteen minutes of fame on any TV show that would have him. When his constituents got tired of his act they booted him from office so he found another way to make a name for himself by hijacking the Libertarian Party. My guess is we haven’t heard the last of Bob Barr and like many other Republitarians he’ll resurface in a GOP primary somewhere in Georgia, or perhaps run for office there as a Libertarian but either way whatever gives him the most advantage.

    Also the material motives have to be considered. While most candidates are not in it for the money (they’re probably losing money but the psychological rewards make up for that), their handlers, consultants, and party officials do receive significant material compensation. Case in point, in New Jersey ten years ago the LP ran a candidate (Murray Sabrin) who raised enough money to qualify for public funding and debates. He polled as high as ten percent but got less than five in the election. He raised about one million dollars but most was spent on the usual suspects; consultants, managers, office expense, etc. Aside from a few silly ads on radio and cable TV that nobody watches anyway his campaign was practically invisible. But a few well-connected insiders made lots of money, and that is my point.

    BTW Murray did pretty well by promoting himself as a financial expert, and I’m sure he’s gotten material compensation in that regard. Since then he has run twice for statewide office as a Republitarian (most recently last Spring in the GOP primary for US Senate where he was endorsed by Ron Paul), raised lots of money for consultants and managers, spent little on ads and always ends up in last or near last place.

    Again, if all the money pissed away on Libertarian campaigns in New Jersey had been spent lobbying and advertising for decriminalizing medicinal marijuana, which Governor Corzine said he would sign if passed by the Legislature, thousands of cancer patients would have directly benefited by now.

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