Federal Funding: Libertarian Party Will Take the Money and Run
Not Our President Either!
A few thoughts on the 2016 election before putting it in the rearview mirror and driving on.
1. Blind devotion to authoritarianism is clearly alive and well in America. Whining petulant government-worshipers protested in the streets for several days because the statist corporatist politician they wanted for their master lost an election to a statist corporatist politician they didn’t want for their master. They will likely protest again during the swearing-in ceremony of the master they didn’t want for the same blind reason.
2. The Libertarian Party had only slight impact in humanity’s never-ending war against authoritarianism. It’s time for them and all libertarians to step up, put out and double down. As a reader succinctly observed, “we are so far along the scale towards authoritarianism that just about any pushback against it is valid now, short of random violence!”
Five Percenter Libertarians
Take the Money and Run
One of the several benchmark hopes for Gary Johnson’s 2016 Presidential campaign was getting into the debates (he didn’t), winning New Mexico’s electoral votes and throwing a deadlocked election into the House (didn’t happen), beating last year’s popular vote count of 1.2 million (3.8 million this time) and hitting the five percent vote mark needed to qualify the Libertarian Party for federal funding in the next election (he only got 3.2 percent).
Five percent of the vote would have officially classified the LP as a "minor party", qualifying it for federal funds in 2020. There has been a decades old debate – wishful thinking actually – over whether the anti-government Party of Principle would or should accept taxpayer money to fund their candidates’ campaigns. The answer, when it finally comes to it, will be a resounding “Damn right!”
(Yes it’s public funding using tax money distributed to political candidates when taxpayers check YES on their IRS Form 1040. Their designated tax money is still tax money.)
If libertarians haven’t gotten it into their heads by now they will when that five percent vote count, and all that money, finally hits: The LP isn’t the libertarian philosophy. The LP is not voluntaryist, not agorist, not anarcho-capitalist, not post-statist. The LP is explicitly minarchist. They have never advocated abolishing the government. They advocate a “night watchman state” whose only legitimate raison d'etre is to defend its citizens. Period.
That means keeping the judicial, policing and military defense parts of government and jettisoning all the rest of it. They are the “Party of Principle” and their principle is “More Freedom, Less Government,” not “Total Freedom, Zero Government.” So of course they will take the money and run again in the future with the biggest war chest in its history without a twinge of conscience to hold them back. Get used to it.
Politics as War, War as Politics
To understand this, consider how fundamentally simple the difference is between non-party libertarians and Libertarian Party activists: It’s called politics, and politics is war, and war is politics, with each being a metaphor for the other. Each is the other side of the same coin.
Take that term “war chest” for example. It was once a literal chest filled with money carried by an army on the march to fund a military campaign. It’s now a metaphor for the money needed to finance a candidate’s election campaign.
Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously stated "War is the continuation of politics by other means." But that implies that the opposite is also true, that politics is war by other means. That’s why the conduct of politics is full of war metaphors.
Candidates gird themselves for political combat; they hold strategy sessions in their war rooms; they fire salvos at their enemies and fight skirmishes in targeted battleground states; they’re besieged by belligerents while their party’s foot soldiers carpet bomb policy proposals and ambush opponents with character assassinations to inflict maximum damage. Bale Dalton in a 2014 article decries these “politics is war” comparisons since in many countries around the world politics and war are frequently not metaphorical but tragically literal.
Anti-political libertarians like voluntaryists and agorists reject participation in politics on the grounds that politics as practiced by governments is an act of criminality since their whole modus operandi is based on the violence of coercion, initiation and fraud. How, they ask, can one be against initiated violence when one participates in it?
The answer for some might be the idea of a war of self-defense, a revolution, against the never-ending assaults by government and its co-conspirators upon the people they pretend to care about. And that returns full circle to the war metaphor.
Suppose soldiers defending their families, their homeland, their very existence capture an enemy’s weapon. Don’t they have a right to use that weapon against the enemy? Is that not essentially what the Libertarian Party is doing, using the weapons of their political foes – campaigning, speechmaking, canvassing, getting out the vote – against those very foes in the name of defending the rights and freedoms of everyone?
And if it really is a “battle” of political freedom versus political tyranny shouldn’t the libertarian defensive forces use every weapon at its disposal?
Should they limit themselves to a single tactic? Attack the Fortress of Authoritarianism only from one direction on land? Or should they use every weapon at their disposal; attack from the sea, from the air, from every direction on land? If so, then why not attack from within as well?
During the Spanish Civil War a general bragged in 1936 that he had four columns of troops marching on Madrid with a “fifth column” of supporters inside the city working to undermine the enemy.
That’s what the LP is doing, fighting the system from within the system. They’re the fifth columnists, the freedom fighters, the saboteurs, the agents provocateurs and agentes-provocatrices, the Guerrillas, the undercover operatives, the rebels, the irregulars, the resistance, the monkey-wrenchers.
Others are attempting to do the same thing from within the system’s establishment Republican Party by creating a “Libertarian Wing.” This works only to the extent that some people are no longer fooled into believing that this party actually supports smaller government and free markets rather than paying lip service while pursuing their own authoritarian agenda.
Still others have tried to create a similar Libertarian-Democratic wing in the Democratic Party on the basis of their shared civil rights beliefs to little avail. This establishment party is too invested in “group rights” and government-mandated social issues to care about individual rights and freedom of choice in all things.
This is just asymmetric warfare by still other means.
Libertarian Politics vs libertarians
Here’s the problem for non-party libertarians. The 2016 Libertarian Party Platform clearly articulates the libertarian non-aggression principle: “No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government.” This brings up an apparent conundrum: If the LP believes in a minimal government but also believes in the non-aggression principle how do they propose to fund their minimal government without mandatory taxation, a clear violation of the non-aggression principle?
The only logical answer is that their government must be funded voluntarily. This is not addressed in the platform. If it was then every non-political libertarian would at least be able to see the Libertarian Party as a mechanism towards ultimately establishing the truly free market/free society as its party platform repeatedly mentions.
It will also go a long way in explaining how a “libertarian” party can say “Taxation is theft” while simultaneously accepting and using taxpayer-funded campaign money.
Of course many libertarians (using the lower case letter “L” to designate philosophical, non-political libertarians) will reject much if not all of this as rationalizations, justifications, excuses, and evasions for everything they find wrong with the Libertarian Party.
Which is just another reason to point out adamantly that libertarianism and the Libertarian Party are not the same thing strategically even though they ultimately pursue the same end game philosophically.
No one has to agree or disagree and may certainly call it anything they wish. The important thing for all libertarians of all makes and models is to embrace the non-aggression principle, pick their battles and never give up working toward the peaceful post-statist free society in which everyone can thrive.
The Libertarian Party will use their $10 million to push libertarianism deeper into the hearts and minds of the American people, and if those people don’t quite get it because they think the LP is just a rightwing political party it’s up to the rest of the Libertarian Movement to step up and explain it to them.
Libertarianism needs idealists and realists, Party and non-Party activists, thinkers and doers. As that aforementioned reader observed, “we are so far along the scale towards authoritarianism that just about any pushback against it is valid now, short of random violence!”