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The L.P. Pledge and School Vouchers
Before anyone can become a member of the Libertarian Party, he must sign a written pledge. The pledge is one of the things that distinguish the L.P. from the other two major political parties. The pledge reflects the core principle of the libertarian philosophy, which is known as the non-aggression principle. The pledge states: “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”
However, whenever one goes to a L.P. convention or other event in which a speaker is addressing the issue of education, inevitably the speaker advocates a system of school vouchers or school “choice,” which is traditionally a Republican position rather than the Libertarian position. The Libertarian position is the complete separation of school and state, the same as our ancestors separated church and state.
The advocacy of school vouchers within the L.P. presents a big problem. What’s the problem? Since they are founded on the initiation of force, school vouchers violate the libertarian non-aggression principle. In the process, they also violate the written pledge that everyone is required to sign before he becomes a member of the Libertarian Party.
School vouchers are based on taxation, which is founded on force. If someone doesn’t pay his taxes, the state seizes his property and even sends him to jail. There is nothing voluntary about the payment of taxes.
School vouchers use the tax system to forcibly take money from people in order to give it to private schools. Vouchers are actually based on the same socialist principle as public (i.e., government) schooling: forcibly taking money from one group of people and giving it to another group of people who are deemed to need it more.
Voucher proponents justify their system by saying that it helps students to escape the ravages of public schooling. That might well be, but there is still a problem — that pesky L.P. pledge, which forbids the advocacy of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.
Some voucher proponents justify their support of vouchers by claiming that they are a way to gradually achieve the libertarian position of separating school and state — that is, getting the government entirely out of the education business. But there is no validity to that claim, as we have seen in Milwaukee, which has had a voucher system for some 30 years. After three decades, the voucher system is not even close to getting rid of the public-school system. That’s because vouchers more deeply embed the state in the education process by putting private schools on the voucher dole, on which they inevitably become dependent. In fact, years ago many voucher proponents threw in the towel and acknowledged that vouchers are a way to reform and improve the public-school system through “choice” and “competition.”
But even if vouchers really did gradually lead to the separation of school and state, there would still be a problem — that pesky L.P. pledge. There would still be the initiation of force during the period of the gradualism. That initiation of force, no matter how short the “gradual’ period is, cannot be reconciled with the libertarian non-aggression principle and the L.P. pledge. Keep in mind that the pledge does not state “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals except when government programs that are based on the initiation of force are gradually being phased out.”
For years, the L.P. has countenanced the advocacy of school vouchers among L.P. candidates and speakers at L.P. conventions and other events. Most everyone has simply ignored the problem — that school vouchers violate the L.P. pledge that people are required to sign before becoming members of the party.
Should the L.P., its candidates, and its speakers continue to act like there isn’t a problem here? Should the party continue taking a position that is logically inconsistent or contradictory? Should it continue to embrace a program that has long been part of the Republican Party and the conservative philosophy?
The advocacy of school vouchers within the Libertarian Party, needless to say, converts the L.P. pledge into a sham or a joke. If the party isn’t going to honor the pledge, then why have it?
That’s not to say, of course, that I advocate abolishing the pledge. On the contrary, I like the pledge. I think it’s better to stop advocating school vouchers and every other reform-oriented, Republicanesque program or policy that violates the L.P. pledge.
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