Ultimately, the responsibility for restoring the Libertarian Party as the “Party of Principle” lies with the party leadership, both at the national and state levels. If the party leadership sends a message that this is a top priority for the party, that message will inevitably reach L.P. candidates. Conversely, if the party leadership shows indifference to making this a primary goal of the L.P., that attitude will inevitably be reflected in L.P. campaigns.
What can the party leadership do to prioritize restoring the L.P. as the “Party of Principle.” Here is one small suggestion to get started and to begin sending the message that the party direction has now changed: Stop inviting speakers to L.P. conventions and events whose speeches deliver Republican-lite, reform-oriented positions to L.P. members. Two good examples are school vouchers and health-savings accounts.
When I was running for the 2020 L.P. presidential nomination, one of the state L.P. conventions I attended featured a one-hour presentation by a Libertarian health-care expert on the subject of healthcare. The speaker began his talk by saying something like this, “We all know what the libertarian position is on healthcare. It is the complete separation of healthcare and the state. However, we also know that people aren’t ready for that. So, we need to settle for making the case for health-savings accounts in our campaigns.” He spent the rest of his hour showing L.P. members how to make the case for reforming, not repealing, America’s socialist healthcare system.
I will address the issue of healthcare in a later post. Suffice it to say, for now, that the concept of health-savings accounts, while an extremely popular position within the Republican Party, is based on a direct violation of the “non-aggression principle,” which is the core principle of the libertarian philosophy. As such, it also involves a violation of the Pledge that Libertarian Party members take in which they vow not to support the initiation of force against others.
Unfortunately, that particular speech was not out of the ordinary. It was a classic example of what has happened to the Libertarian Party during the past 25 years or so. Adopting reform-oriented, Republican-lite positions over the years has inflicted severe damage on the Libertarian brand — a brand that originally consisted of principled, uncompromising positions on liberty. That’s why many people have come to view the L.P. as some sort of right-wing or conservative political entity. That’s why the party has come to be more in the nature of the “Party of Reform” or the “Party of Republican-lite” or the “Party of a Republican-Libertarian Mush” or the “Party of Practicality and Reform” than the “Party of Principle.”
Unfortunately, there is no sign as of yet that anything has changed in this respect with the new party leadership that took over at the Reno convention last spring.
A few weeks ago, I attended a social gathering that was sponsored by the newly elected Libertarian National Committee. The featured speaker at that social event spent his entire speech making the case for school vouchers. I was so bored that I almost fell asleep, and I was standing up.
What in the world was the new LNC thinking by having that speaker at one of its first events? The audience consisted entirely of L.P. members. Wouldn’t they have been better off having a speaker deliver the case for the separation of school and state, which is the libertarian position on education? Wouldn’t that have sent a message, albeit small, that the LNC was now beginning to emphasize the importance of principle within the L.P.?
Sure, school vouchers have long been one of the most popular positions within the Republican Party, but what business do Libertarians have in promoting them? As I pointed out in an earlier post entitled “The L.P. Pledge and School Vouchers,” vouchers are a socialist system. They employ the socialist principle of using the state to take money by force (i.e., taxation) from one group of people and giving it to another group of people. Aren’t Libertarians opposed to socialism? Moreover, as with health-savings accounts, they involve a direct violation of the libertarian non-aggression principle. Given such, what business does the Libertarian Party have promoting them?
Like with health-savings accounts, voucher proponents claim that people just aren’t ready for the libertarian concept of separating school and state. Thus, they say, we have no choice but to settle for a violation of our principles. The irony is that voucher proponents were saying the same thing 30 years ago. Moreover, maybe — just maybe — if Libertarian voucher proponents had been advocating the the libertarian concept of separating of school and state for the past 30 years, rather than the statist concept of school vouchers, people would be more ready for the Libertarian concept today.
Moreover, doesn’t suggesting that people are “not ready” for libertarianism display an attitude of superiority and pretentiousness? After all, if we Libertarians today were ready for libertarianism when it hit us, why can’t other people be just as ready? Are we any smarter than non-libertarians? The fact is that it is impossible to know whether anyone is ready for libertarianism or not. The only way to find the people who are ready is to advance the principled case for liberty. Advancing the case for statist reform simply doesn’t cut it.
Thirty years ago, voucher proponents were also saying that vouchers would “gradually” lead to the separation of school and state. Really? Then, why hasn’t that happened in Milwaukee, which has had vouchers for 30 years? That’s three decades of “gradually” violating the libertarian non-aggression principle and the LP Pledge. Moreover, why is that many voucher proponents now claim that vouchers will improve the public-school system rather than lead to its demise?
Unfortunately, that’s not the only example of where the new party leadership is continuing to keep the L.P. moving in an Republican-lite direction. Jake Porter has just posted an article in his Substack column entitled “Libertarian National Committee Spends 9K To Keep Conservatives on Ballot.” He points out that the national party spent $9,000 in support of two Republicans who wanted to use the revolving door between the Republican Party to come and run as a Libertarian Party candidates. Not only did both candidates fully embrace Republican positions, one of them was actually a dyed-in-the-wool, over-the-top MAGA-Trumpster.
How in the world does that type of thing help restore the Libertarian Party as the “Party of Principle”? And don’t forget: The effort to enable these two Republican candidates to run as L.P. candidates occurred not under the old regime but under the new one — the “Reno Reset” one! Pray tell: What is the difference between those two Republican candidates and Bill Weld, the Republican-lite Libertarian who the old regime was grooming for the 2020 L.P. presidential nomination before he went back through the L.P.-Republican Party revolving door to return home to the Republican Party and run against President Trump in the Republican primaries? (See by article “A 2024 Cheney-Weld Ticket for the Libertarian Party?")
Indeed, it’s worth asking at this point how the new party leadership would react if Donald Trump himself failed to garner the Republican Party nomination and instead came through the revolving door in an attempt to become the 2024 L.P. presidential nominee. Would they say, “Publicity, Jacob! Publicity! Money, Jacob, money! We are a political party, Jacob, not a debating society! We need to embrace MAGA and make Trump our nominee!”?
As I stated in my very first Substack column “Restore the Libertarian Brand,” if the “Reno Reset” ends up leaving the L.P. moving in the same old, destructive direction in which it was moving under the old regime, the change in leadership within the L.P. won’t make one iota of difference. The Libertarian brand will continue to be a Libertarian-Republican mush rather than pure libertarianism, and people will continue to view the Libertarian Party as nothing more than a small right-wing, conservative entity.
The Libertarian Party has the potential of leading America — and indirectly the world — out of the statist morass into which both Republicans and Democrats have plunged our nation. But that’s never going to happen if the new party leadership keeps the L.P. on the same Republican-lite, reform-oriented trajectory it has been on for 25 years. The only way to lead America and the world out of this status morass is by restoring the Libertarian Party as the “Party of Principle.” That necessarily means adhering to principle. What better time to begin than now?
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