23 Responses to Taking Back the LP (For Those Who Want It)

  1. MBH January 22, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    I’m just going to throw this out there: I think the best bet is to infiltrate the Democratic Party with Left-Libertarian ideas to replace “progressive” ideas. A non-authoritarian strand in one of the two major parties, I think, would be huge. No chance the Republican Party will listen — they’re corporatists to the core.

    And while I open myself to the charge of intrumentalism, I don’t think that’s fair. Left-Libertarian dialogue on the floor of the Senate is constitutive of the end.

    • Roderick January 22, 2010 at 10:53 am #

      A non-authoritarian strand in one of the two major parties, I think, would be huge

      Well, libertarians spent decades as a non-authoritarian strand within the GOP. As far as I can see, they just ended up enabling the statists by giving them ideological cover (e.g. helping to get the likes of Reagan elected). At any rate, they didn’t accomplish much.

      • MBH January 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

        Their base was, and is, authoritarian. Those ideas could never have caught fire with the GOP. With the Dems there would be a chance. Especially with all the anti-government sentiment in the air.

        I’m just afraid that the anti-government sentiment is filtered in to cartelization schemes by the GOP. What if the Dems offered a productive outlet?

        • Anon73 January 23, 2010 at 12:32 am #

          I’m not looking forward to a leftist version of Reagan getting elected in the name of solidarity and mutual-aid. Thanks but no thanks MBH.

        • MBH January 23, 2010 at 1:23 am #

          Reagan? Do I sound like a Right-Libertarian?

        • Roderick January 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

          Reagan? Do I sound like a Right-Libertarian?

          What Anon73 means, I reckon, is someone who bears the same relation to left-libertarianism that Reagan bore to right-libertarianism — someone who wraps themselves in the symbols and rhetoric, gets elected, and then pursues statist business as usual, thus causing such business to become further associated in people’s minds with those symbols and rhetoric.

        • MBH January 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

          That makes more sense than I would like it to.

        • Anon73 January 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

          There was an Objectivist who told me once you can have a political party, or a principled party, but not both.

        • Aster January 26, 2010 at 6:49 am #

          Well, I’m just here for the blueberry-chocolate cookie-cake; nobody listens to me.

          But, speaking seriously, I’m cautiously supportive of the idea of attempting to encourage individualist ideas via participation of ‘blue statish’ sociopolitical institutions. I think that libertarians are quite rational to be skeptical of the establishment, but healthy skepticism needn’t entail puritanism.

          Politics is, perhaps regrettably, and inevitable part of our rational animal condition, and there’s little historical evidence to show that liberals who eschewed politics achieved more than those who did not. The American Bill of Rights was an almost accidental product of Madison’s political maneuvering vis a vis the antifederalist base and leadership. As Starchild once pointed out to me, politicians below the imperial level aren’t so much demons as people with an excessive desire to be liked by others. I think a lot depends on the particular political culture; in America Republican Party and its Democratic Leadership Caucus mirror image are almost certainly hopeless. But I’ve met San Francisco supervisors and Kiwi MPs who are human enough. In New Zealand political arguments seem to be run by social science statististics. That’s a positivist and managerialist measure with built-in biases, but it’s also a measure crucially open to factual persuasion. Reasonable people can get somewhere with that, while reasonable people can’t get anywhere with this. In the long run preserving a society which accepts reason and science and the pursuit of happiness is more important than libertarianism, even purely for the sake of libertarianism.

          I’ve poked around a little at the idea getting involved in mainstream Kiwi politics, mainly because I know politics and I’d like to expand my social network (and because in New Zealand secularists, sex workers, and sexual minorites are allowed in the door in the first place). My neo-Dad runs a one-person private drug and alchohol counseling business which prepares expert witness reports for the defense in criminal court cases. He’s vocally frustrated and angered by the troglodytic nature of New Zealand’s judicial culture and the system’s perverse preference for punishment over readily available, more just, and vastly less expensive treatment options. He wants to do a documentary exposing the system but needs funding, artistic types for the production, and one victim of the system willing to come forward and speak out.

          I’ve been trying to help connect him, as it’s possible I could be of some use here, and if I could help get the project off the ground helping with the social infrastructure would be a great way to get some secretarial experience. And it would certainly do more good than participating in any libertarian project I’m aware of. (I looked into joining NORML on Robyn Few’s example, but their organisation is totally disfunctional, and their business is conducted with insanely low regard for their own safety.)

          Most centre-leftists I know do have principles, and fairly good principles- certainly, the “Party of Principle” is no more principled than the Democrats, despite the fact that the stakes are so low. All too often, those who demand political innocence are usually naturalising their political investments while damning those of the other. The same libertarians who engage progressives with fire-and-brimstone rhetoric for their support of the welfare state, public schools, or antidiscrimination laws shamelessly play race, class, and patriarchal cards while proclaiming that those aren’t statist so they don’t count. The radical left does the same thing in reverse- so many progressives who pose as revolutionaries on the barricades insist on hushing up any serious criticism of academia, the civil service, and their associated professions which constitute their senior partners’ constituency and power base. In the real world everyone who lives within our unjust structure participates within it and choosing your battles is to some degree inevitable. As Austrians should be aware, time is inherently scare, and ultimately the most precious commodity we have.

          I can only give two cheers for establishmentarianism, not least because accepting ‘the art of the possible’ also means reconciling oneself with the fact that other people are realistically going to treat the freedom and tolerance I need to survive as ultimately expendable third priorities. But wishing this was otherwise won’t make the fact go away (including within libertarianism), and while asking others to do the right thing on principle does touchingly move a great many people, it will never motivate the numbers required for a change in consensus. I think that given the failures the libertarian movement those who desire liberty should seek out socio-cultural groups who do have a close interest in preserving immediately necessary liberties, and proceed to try to expend liberty from there. I know that this isn’t perfect; it requires passing over personally tolerable injustices of friends and preparing oneself to see good people on the other side of the barricades. But the current strategy for liberty just doesn’t work, and under Rockwellians’ guidance the libertarian movement is in fact achieving the opposite of its stated principles by associating libertarianism with anti-intellectual cultural conservatism. And the trouble with voices in the wilderness is that no one hears them; the Quixote ethos is famously bad at sustaining liberal democracy.

          In the long run, I don’t think that electoral politics are the best way to preserve a culture of liberty, and the primary value of libertarian engagement with the centre-left would be building trust and influencing internal cultures. I don’t agree with Charles Johnson’s approach entirely, but he’s entirely right to push the Ursula le Guin/Gandhi point that we have to be the change we want to see in the world. We should create and maintain institutions appropriate to our situational needs which embody our values (and allow us to live them now, powers-that-be be damned) above the long-distance shot of gaining positions from which one can write the macro rules; ‘think globally, act locally’ maximises both our incentives and leverage.

          It’s also crucially necessary as a way to make sure that one’s ideas are right, and can in practice achieve one’s desired results. I think libertarians often overemphasise the role of formal rules in setting the stage for a genuinely open society; I find it just as important to understand a political movement by observation of what the people that comprise it and the nature of the social world which develops within it. When many people- especially women– look at libertarianism, they are thinking not so much about what a society governed by libertarian rules would be like to live in, but what living in a society with these libertarian people would be like to live in. I think ultimately one needs both approaches, but the neglect of expressive sensibilities has encouraged an alienating 4chan libertarian atmosphere. I agree with Arthur Silber that as long as libertarian ideals are wedded to a callous society there exist good reasons for most obsevers to feel more safe with the status quo.

          Perhaps the best place to start might be to form something like a left-libertarian Mont Pelerin Society, and from there the cultivation of libertarian-progressive social, intellectual, cultural, political, and economic networks. The social anarchist movement remains vital because it really has something to offer its bohemian youth constituency in terms of community and meaningful cultural life. Social democrats do the same thing when they help out and educate like-minded people via the system. Libertarianism by contrast is pretty cold to newcomers- wierdly, a movement championing a right to self-interest has developed a culture which doesn’t offer the kind of valuable contact networks which most political cultures on all sides of the spectrum thrive on. Fascists, conservatives, liberals, socialists, anarchists, feminists, etc. all offer this kind of community. Libertarians usually don’t, despite the fact that individualists more than anyone need to find people who share their values and whom they can trust to understand their ways of engaging with the world. As Bishop Wilbur has noted, the social capital is all there and largely unused. Kevin Carson certainly gets this sort of thing, and both prudence and empowerment would highly recommend brewing up real-life mutualist enterprises to implement and test his theories. I’m trying to do the same with my own mutualist pro-sex feminist start-up here in Wellington. Theories, if they’re true, show their truth by being mixed with reality.


          To my eyes, this is the individualist remnant of the old libertarianism today.

  2. Marc January 22, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Keep dreaming.Why dont you start by trying to infiltrate the mafia, then turn it into a force for good. If you suceed at this, then the idea that you are going to infiltrate the government may seem plausible. Political libertarianism has been a failure, and continues to undermine the movement as a whole.

    • Morey January 22, 2010 at 11:13 am #

      I agree with you (and Molyneaux) that positive reform from within the machine is a pipe dream, but that’s not the view expressed at the link.

  3. Soviet Onion January 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm #


    I have a much better plan to reform the LP. I’m gonna need eight anarchists. We’re gonna be doing one thing, and one thing only: killin’ Nazis.

    This is all I’ve got so far.

  4. littlehorn January 25, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    I’d be quite interested as to what the reasoning is, behind getting a person elected to the White House. What then ? It seems to me that only deluded minarchists can participate in this.

  5. Aster January 26, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    Absolutely. The wise need to encourage a centre-left hegemony in order to preserve liberal civilisation. You may entrust us with power. Really. Our motives are entirely humanitarian, and nothing but good can come of it. Our gang can do it better! Well, better than that, anyway.

    Must… conceal… manaical… laughter.

    • Anon73 January 26, 2010 at 2:39 am #

      Any particularly reason for choosing Drury?

    • Aster January 26, 2010 at 4:22 am #

      Shadia Drury is a brilliant liberal critic of Leo Strauss who is more than a little Straussian herself. She’s exactly the kind of mind we desperately need if we are going to preserve liberal democracy. She’s also way hot (listen to her voice on the interviews at her site).

      And, yeah, she also has bourgeois class hypocrisies. Her idea of appeasing conservative society by keeping social liberalism a private (read: privileged) affair is almost a precise echo of Allan Bloom’s praxis, adjusted for the needs of the centre-left side of the establishment. Camille Paglia (and, I am given to understand, Martha Nussbaum) took precisely the same tack. (sighs) Oh, well. What can you do?

      • Soviet Onion January 26, 2010 at 4:44 am #

        But . . . she’s . . . Canadian (shudders).

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