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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Monday, July 17, 2006

Good "Big Tents" and Bad

If you check the current Blogads in my sidebar, you'll see one for the Boston Tea Party. Thomas L. Knapp announced its creation in response to what Carl Milsted's Libertarian Reform Caucus has been doing to the Libertarian Party recently in Portland. The comment thread to Knapp's blog post on the subject includes some remarks by Milsted, and by Susan Hogarth of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus. Roderick Long has a post endorsing the Boston Tea Party, as well as the Grassroots Libertarian Caucus.

It's a shame that things went in this direction, because I've been sympathetic to Milsted's thinking for a long time. I've been especially appreciative of his geolibertarian views on land and natural resources.

And I don't have a problem with incrementalism or "reformism." It's unlikely anybody involved in the Boston Tea Party does, since the very fact of organizing to elect candidates and push for dismantling government through government policy implies incrementalism and reformism. Regardless of what end-state you desire, we're never going to have the option of pushing Leonard Read's magic button and making government instantly disappear. So what matters is the direction we're going, not the size of the steps we take to get there.

I even agree in principle with some of what Milsted said in his comment on Knapp's blog thread:

Historically, the LP has waffled between two different business plans:

1. A political party designed to move public policy in a libertarian direction by electing libertarians to public office.

2. A protest organization that keeps shouting what is right regardless of popularity. (This was especially true with the drug war issue.)

The libertarian movement needs BOTH. However, these tasks need to be done by DIFFERENT organizations. Taking stands on unpopular issues results in losing elections. A political party should not be a protest organization. The purpose of a political party is to cash in on the public opinion successes of the protest organizations and think tanks.

Don't waste your time with ballot access and all that overhead. Be an all-out radical protest organization to "speak truth to power" as the progressives say. And as your ideas become mainstream, the new and improved LP can implement them with its large collection of elected, freedom-loving politicians.

PETA, Greenpeace, and Act Up are all effective political organizations. But none of them would be effective as political parties. They are more effective as some of the many factions that make up the Democratic Party.

I can see the argument for the functions being separated, but not necessarily the organizations. Arguably, the two functions Milsted talks about could be distributed between the Libertarian Party platform, respectively, and the individual candidates. The platform states ultimate goals and statements of principle on specific issues; candidates are free to choose, on prudential grounds, what issues to emphasize and how far to push toward the ultimate goal in a particular election cycle (interestingly, these issues were discussed in a Mutualist Blog post last year: "Selling the Store?" in which Brad Spangler and Thomas Knapp discussed their reactions to the LRC's strategy; Knapp's view of the LRC has changed considerably since then, obviously).

Knapp described a similar distinction in his provisional platform:

The platform is, however, amenable to incrementalism insofar as it does not specify what particular reductions in the size, scope or power of government the Party will propose and agitate for at any given time. Those decisions are to be made biennially and entirely anew each time in the form of a short (maximum of five points) program. They may be incremental or "giant step" in character -- the only condition is that they not contradict the platform....

Finally, the platform is "big tent" in that it does not demand that Party members dedicate themselves, as a condition of Party membership, to a particular end state or to a particular reason or set of reasons for supporting the party's goals. When the "train" of party progress reaches the "station" at which a particular member can no longer support the direction in which the platform points, he or she may simply step off, having never been required to advocate, as a condition of party membership, going any further than he or she wishes to go.

Interestingly, one of the pro-Reform Caucus commenters (Bernard Carman) thought that sounded an awful lot like what the LRC is trying to do.

All that being said, I think Milsted and his group have taken the LP in a fundamentally wrongheaded direction. Milsted's approach toward broadening the party's appeal is about 180 degrees backward. As Knapp asked in a comment at the Libertarian National Committee website,

Can a "political party" which does not address the policy issues most prominently before the American public truthfully be called a "political party" at all?

If the retention results remain as is (assuming they match the list posted on the LP's blog), and if the convention does not enact replacement planks, then the LP will officially have no position on, among other things:

* foreign policy
* military policy
* internal security

... which, with immigration, probably constitute the core issues around which the current election cycle revolves.

The party also appears to be dropping nearly every issue of enduring moderate- to high-level interest -- Social Security, pollution, etc.

And, finally, the party seems to be dropping what amounts to its heretofore perceived "signature issue" -- the one issue on which it has over time garnered increasing credibility and been partially credited with modest public policy successes on: the war on drugs.

It wouldn't have been so bad if this convention had produced clear victory for one faction or another, but what it seems to be producing is a complete muddle -- the "reformers" winning just enough to piss off the "purists" and vice versa, and neither faction winning clearly and thoroughgoingly enough to put its own agendas fully into effect.

Before the convention opened, I privately told several friends that I would be surprised if the party could pull itself together enough to right itself financially and still be a functional national organization by Labor Day. Now I'm beginning to wonder if it's even worth the effort to try.

Despite Carman's observations to the contrary, the resemblance between Milsted's and Knapp's attempts at broad coalition building is only superficial.

The kind of broad coalition libertarians should be seeking is one of libertarian and decentralist elements of both left and right; it most certainly should not be based on soccer mom politics and corporate centrism. A good example of a group attempting the former kind of coalition is the Vermont secessionist movement, which has drawn together libertarian-leaning Greens like Kirkpatrick Sale, geolibertarians, and the kind of Main Street paleoconservatives lovingly portrayed by Bill Kauffman. In a related display of cross-pollination, Kauffman and Sale have been appearing in paleo venues like Chronicles and The American Conservative. I proposed something similar in a couple of earlier posts, "Libertarian-Green Tax Reform Alliance" and "A Strategic Green-Libertarian Alliance."

Major parts of the American electorate resent the power exercised over their lives by both big government and giant corporations. My guess is that a large portion of the two big parties' bases share this feeling; the problem is that the respective party establishments divert the sentiment in opposite directions. The GOP establishment channels populist resentment almost entirely against government bureaucrats and liberal intellectual "elites," while falsely portraying the mega-corporation as the product of sucess in the "free market." The latter spin no doubt sits uneasily on Thomas Frank's Kansans, many of whom are as economically populist as their Wobbly and Socialist ancestors of a century ago, but feel like a captive constituency. The Democratic establishment appeals to anti-corporate populism, but presents an agenda which props up corporatism and hands society over to a welfare and educational establishment dominated by the same managerial elites who control the big corporations.

An emphasis on decentralized government, direct democracy, and a cooperative economy would appeal mightily to those in the bases of both parties who are inadequately served by the respective programs. We have a ready-made audience of people who already have the right values, but have been misled on the practical means of achieving them. The way to approach small government conservatives is to demonize the GOP establishment in terms of its own alleged "free market" values: to portray its state capitalist agenda as one of corporate welfare and crony capitalism, and to point out that the James Taggarts in the corporate headquarters are every bit the contemptible elites as they make out the Volvo-drivers and brie-eaters to be. The way to approach the anti-corporate left is to reveal the role of finance capital in framing the basic structure of their "progressive" state, and show that government is the cause of plutocracy and corporate rule, not the solution.

We need to show these people how liberty promotes their values. As Roderick Long wrote in a comment at the Boston Tea Party Blog,

"A platform based on the realization that there are other important values in addition to the non-initiation of force. Freedom is extremely valuable, but it is not the only value."

I actually agree with this and think it's important, but I suspect I mean something different by it from what the LRC does. What I mean is that there are values besides liberty that libertarians need to stress because the implementation of liberty depends in large part on the understanding and/or promotion of those other values. For what I mean, see Charles Johnson's discussion of the different kinds of "thick libertarianism," here:

But it sounds to me as though the LRC is suggesting trading liberty off AGAINST these other values, which is another matter altogether.

In short, we need a big tent of the radicals whose values are not served by the corporate center that controls both parties. Along with such radicals we might attract those who are predisposed to radicalism, if only they could be reached: those with a vague sense that they're treading water and getting ripped off because the parasites are in charge and nobody is addressing the issue. Such radicals and radical-sympathizers currently ill at ease within the major parties might, if the truth be known, amount to a majority of the electorate. We need gun rights people, homeschoolers, and free jury activists; and we need appropriate/human-scale technology people, organic farmers, and radical industrial unionists. Above all, we need to make them see that they're really on the same side, and that their common enemy is the respective party establishments that currently claim to represent them.

The platform adopted under the influence of Milsted's group, on the other hand, abandons many of the issues that would pull these dissatisfied people from the two big parties. For example, issues of civil liberty, the PATRIOT act and Homeland Security have the potential of uniting the Barr wing of the GOP and the Wellstone-Feingold wing of the Democrats with the LP. Nader made a valiant effort in 2004 at getting Greens to appeal to the kinds of genuine small-government conservatives who were alienated by the Bush junta.

Milsted's "big tent" is not a big tent of these, the best of the American electorate, but of the absolute worst: SUV-driving soccer moms and upper-middle class "professionals" who are willing to tolerate a little ASI-style phony "market reform," a little "market" discipline for the underclass, so long as the government keeps property values rising and the oil flowing in. What Milsted's version of a "big tent" coaltion is likely to accomplish is tinkering around the edges of the state capitalist system just enough, while leaving its central structure intact, to make it more efficient in serving the ends of ruling elites. In other words, again, the kind of "free market reform" regularly promoted by the ASI. Well, the people who want that already have political homes, and are unlikely to leave them.

The biggest potential "market" for a third party is those within the major parties who are dissatisfied with them. And you can be sure libertarians can't outbid the Democrats and Republicans in competing for voters who are dissatisfied because they're too "radical"--i.e., not managerialist, not corporate centrist, enough. Such people are likely to be the last 20% of hangers-on to the state and its corporate clients, right up until the system collapses. Even if we could attract such people, to hell with them. There's no way to attract them without selling our souls.


Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

"In short, we need a big tent of the radicals whose values are not served by the corporate center that controls both parties. Along with such radicals we might attract those who are predisposed to radicalism, if only they could be reached: those with a vague sense that they're treading water and getting ripped off because the parasites are in charge and nobody is addressing the issue. Such radicals and radical-sympathizers currently ill at ease within the major parties might, if the truth be known, amount to a majority of the electorate. We need gun rights people, homeschoolers, and free jury activists; and we need appropriate/human-scale technology people, organic farmers, and radical industrial unionists. Above all, we need to make them see that they're really on the same side, and that their common enemy is the respective party establishments that currently claim to represent them."

Well said! Where do I sign up?

July 17, 2006 5:13 PM  
Blogger Thomas L. Knapp said...


Thanks for the plug!

I don't think my views have so much "changed" as that they've been refined and contextualized, mainly due to my interactions with Dr. Milsted and his organization. I was an LRC member for awhile, and obviously did not and do not disagree with all of their ideas or proposals.

I'm beginning to realize that I'm going to have to more completely elaborate the approach I'm taking. It makes perfect sense to me, but I haven't ever explained it to others in one place/piece. For now, here's a placeholder, from an email I sent to Dr. Milsted today (yes, we converse civilly):

Right now, you and I are piling up our chips behind competing bets.

You're betting that a libertarian political party can abandon radicalism for realpolitik, and in so doing achieve success while remaining libertarian.

I'm betting that a libertarian political party can adopt incrementalist means -- and you and I have discussed the difference between incrementalism and compromise -- and in so doing achieve success without sacrificing libertarianism _or_ radicalism.

Tom Knapp

July 17, 2006 5:21 PM  
Blogger John Markley said...

Great post. My biggest problem with the LRC is that, by widening the definition of "libertarian" in the way they wish to, we risk having the term and the movement increasingly associated with non-libertarian policies. It does enough damage when conservative statists cloak themselves in antistatist rhetoric; imagine what would happen if every conservative and every business interest who supported a few government cuts here or there started calling themselves "libertarians" even as they used the state to further their own ends. Our name would quickly be mud

July 17, 2006 8:25 PM  
Blogger GD said...

Keep an eye on the senate race in MD this next election cycle: the LP and Green Party have nominated a joint candidate, Kevin Zeese. Mostly on the strength of his antiwar and anti-drug-war advocacy. He's for a wealth tax - so not really libertarian purist, but not really an incrementalist either.

The other thing the LP could do is talk about the big can of whoop-ass that's being cracked open before our eyes, but that both major parties are too hugged up with the mortage industry to talk about: the housing bubble. This Fed/Freddie Mac-hatched beast is starting to bust, and it's going to hand a lot of people their asses.

July 17, 2006 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Libertarian electoral politics is dead. The Boston Tea Party will elect no one and convince fewer.

Really, I think the only way to go forward is to, in Kev's words, "build the new society in the shell of the old". When individuals and communities can tell politicians to stuff their promises and goodies, the state will fall apart on its own. Or, when the market leads the economy, the leaders will follow.

I don't like this idea. I very much want to believe that the masses are ready for a libertarian conversion just as I was. But they're not, and they probably never will be. More depressingly, the evidence is mounting that political philosophy is genetic - I was born to be an extremist, an iconoclast, an anarchist. Most people aren't.

This BTP is a fart in a typhoon.

- Josh

July 18, 2006 1:07 AM  
Blogger quasibill said...

I agree with John - the biggest danger here is that the term "libertarian" will diluted and befouled like the term "liberal". This is important to me, as I resisted libertarian philosophy for a long time as most self-described "libertarians" I ever read or interacted with were really conservatarians or Randroids. It wasn't until I was exposed to Rothbard that I understood that there was truly a consistent philosophical basis to libertarianism.

Having the "Libertarian" party endorse all sorts of nonsense will only make the fog worse. I guess it really is time to abandon the term and find a new one.

Further, a certain amount of purity is important, IMHO, as I agree with WP to the extent that I don't see Western culture (as embodied by current NA and Europe) voluntarily ending its addiction to the state. We're going to have to "bottom out" first. And when we do, in keeping with the analogy, its going to be strong, internally coherent philosophies that will appeal to the addicts as ways to fix their problems. We're going to lose a lot of people to fundamentalism, etc., if libertarianism is perceived as less internally coherent than these competing philosophies are.

July 18, 2006 5:52 AM  
Blogger Thomas L. Knapp said...

Quoth Wild Pegasus:

"Libertarian electoral politics is dead. The Boston Tea Party will elect no one and convince fewer. ... This BTP is a fart in a typhoon."

You may be correct on any or all of those counts. Then again you may not. Either way, you should be aware that the BTP hasn't even decided if it is interested in "electing anyone" or not, or indeed whether it will attempt to survive as an independent organization of some type, or simply go back into the LP at some point as a factional caucus, or do something completely different. It is operating under interim bylaws which may be modified significantly at its organizational convention next month.

Its primary real function at the moment is that it is a rally point for LP members who believe that events in Portland represent a significant and unwelcome departure from what they consider essentials. It may be that the LP didn't have the essentials to begin with (indeed, I know that a number of mutualists, Georgists, left-libertarians, etc. have felt that way for a long time), and that's a question that the BTP may be able to address as well.

Or maybe not.

Is it a project worth undertaking? Depends on whom you ask. You've obviously decided that it isn't. The people undertaking it have decided that it is. Which, of course, is exactly the way things should work.

July 18, 2006 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A platform based on the realization that there are other important values in addition to the non-initiation of force. Freedom is extremely valuable, but it is not the only value."

Prosperity, equality of economic opportunity, a clean environment, national security, etc. are important values. We can increase liberty while increasing these other values. I have devoted a web site to such opportunities: www.holisticpolitics.org.

I agree that an LP that becomes too much like the libertarian wing of the RP is doomed to failure. I am trying to push it to the left as well as downward on the chart at the aforementioned site. The result is something very similar to mutualism. I am shooting for the exact same coalition you are pushing for, and am in contact with a leader of the Vermont seccessionists for that matter.

The LRC only scored a partial victory at this past convention. We got NONE of our replacement planks added to the platform. We lost on the pledge issue. We did score big on getting rid of many overly radical planks which will trigger much rewriting next time around. The job is not done!

And no, two wings of the same organization will not do! The radical protest wings should function as independent organizations. Why is it that libertarians insist on organizing themselves along Stalinist lines? Modern radical leftists and environmentalists are more market oriented in their organizational strategy!

July 18, 2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I think the kind of loose left-libertarian network we have in the BLL is a pretty good venue for promoting such a coalition. Just on an individual basis, doing outreach work in conventional liberal and conservative venues is probably very effective (showing conservatives how hypocritical the GOP establishment is in terms of its own "free market" values, and showing liberals how dependent big business is on existing state intervention). Even if the most vocal participants in such discussions reject such arguments out of hand, from the viewpoint of their respective establishments' orthodoxies, there is probably a huge sleeper effect among the silent observers. Memetic warfare is the way to go.


I guess a better way for me to put it would be that you still seem to agree with Milsted's statement of principle as you originally interpreted it, but have rejected his implementation of it. I certainly agree with the idea of selling goods, rather than the store--i.e., appealing to people's perceived needs with libertarian answers. The problem with Milsted's approach is that he's writing off the very needs libertarians are best at appealing to, as "too controversial."


"imagine what would happen if every conservative and every business interest who supported a few government cuts here or there started calling themselves 'libertarians' even as they used the state to further their own ends."

That sounds an awful lot like the ASI's branding efforts.


The most important aim of electoral politics is not necessarily to get candidates elected. A third party can be more effective by forcing the two big ones to adopt its ideas. One way to do this is not to worry about getting candidates elected, but to appeal to enough of its constitency to act as a spoiler, thus rewarding or punishing the major parties to the extent that they promote third party ideas.

But I would argue that the most important form of electoral politics is outside the framework of any particular party. Probably the most effective thing we can do is form ad-hoc coalitions on specific issues, and build cross-party constituencies for specific policies in our strategic agenda. Such an approach can work synergistically with the counter-institution building you refer to, giving the latter more room to grow and providing political cover.


Glad you stopped by here. I actually agree with the quote at the head of your comment--just not with your practical implementation of it. The broad coalition libertarians should be aiming for is the large, potentially radical constituencies in the old establishments whose needs are not being addressed; not a coalition of centrists.

We need to be appealing to the common ground shared by Barr republicans and Wellstone democrats, not to followers of Hillary and Lieberman and the neocon Republicans.

July 18, 2006 4:38 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Couple of issues:
You all seem to have some very simplistic views of Rs and Ds. Or probably a better terminology would be Conservatives and Liberals. There is a tremendous range within those two groups.

Republican ------------------------ Democrat
Constrained ----------------------- Unconstrained
Results --------------------------- Intentions
Equal begin State ----------------- Equal end State
Is -------------------------------- Should
Structure ------------------------- Flexibility
Conservative ---------------------- Liberal

If you translate this into the current debate:

LRC ------------------------------- Purists

We have both types in the LP. I like Carl's Cartesian plane metaphor--although I would quibble about the definitions of the two axes he chose--because it does allow for mixing. The great thing about the LP, is that it has an ideology that espouses freedom. It can mix the two with a new result set. Ideally, the best of both worlds.

Only problem I see is that the ideologues of the party have never allowed that same freedom to ALL the people who want to participate. This party was started by idealists. By classic liberals who wanted the perfect end state. They have never allowed the conservatives the freedom to also be included.

Those conservatives want minimum government, but they are too realistic to 'take it on faith' that the complete elimination of government is the best thing. What happens if the purists are wrong, and total elimination is not a good thing and our whole economic system is destroyed? Are they supposed to trust the rambling of some really good theorists that it will not mean a worse life for my children? Would they be a responsible parent if they were that blindly trusting? I don't think so.

If I could wave my magic wand, and it was as the purists envision it, what would happen to our entire social and economic structure? Anyone who thinks the outcome would be good is a frigging idiot. At least not in the short run, and allot of people would have died during that 'short run.'

So to me, the only viable alternative is to do this through the existing social and political structures. That is, if you really want a change at all. And that means we need to convince people--read that as sell--that our solutions are better solutions. And in something so critical to every person as the social and economic processes we have, it had better involve only a little change. Incremental change.

Think of it this way: You depend on your car to get you to work, so you can earn living, pay your bills, afford your home, send your kids to school..allot. Now suppose I tell you, "hey, I read in this really great book that there is a new way to make a car, and if you give me your car for a month or so, I will redesign it, and it will transport you to work instantaneously. It will also allow you to be in two places a once, with no addition energy expended." Would you give up your car? More than likely, the answer is no. But if I ask you to let me do some work on the engine tonight for about an hour, you can help me, and you will get 5 mpg more, would you let me? Probably. I could have read it in the same book. It could be the first step to the 'redesign' But the cost--the gamble--is much less, and we are doing it together from the beginning. If it works. As you are participating, you would feel more in control, and more able to stop it if it goes too far.

Radical ideas in critical areas do not sell. Incremental ones do. In critical areas most all people are conservative (in the non-political sense.) If the incremental changes show good results, it snowballs. If they don't; not allot is lost, and the gamble dies a quiet death.

All I see the LRC trying to do is achieve the following goals:

Minimum Government
Maximum Individual Liberty
Maximum Individual Responsibility
Maximum Free Market Economy

using the existing political processes, VOLUNTARILY. I think just about every libertarian can support these goals.

Not achieved through magic wands, not through activism, not through trickery or propaganda.

If the American people don't vote for it, then it ain't for the American people.

So stop quibbling over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Go write a platform that supports the four basic goals, and allows everyone else who supports it and wants to get elected, can! That way there is an outside chance that we might actually see movement in a favorable direction in our lifetimes. If LRC and the purists can't agree on an issue: LEAVE IT OUT. Let the candidates have that flexibility.

If you think I am wrong, then just tell me why CATO broke off from the LP? They have done more to influence the thinking of the populace than all the purist LP has ever even dreamed of doing.

End of rant.

July 18, 2006 9:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I can't see from what's been written here that you could view anyone in this thread as having a monolithic or simplistic view of Dems and Repubs. I specifically mentioned the types of dissatisfied constituencies in both parties that libertarians could appeal to. My difference with the LRC is *which* constituencies we should be trying to draw out of the parties. The very issues that the LRC soft-pedalled in Portland--non-intervention, USA PATRIOT, and so forth--are the very issues most likely to cause dissatisfied people to break from the old parties. Centrist, technocratic, ASI-style "free market reform" certainly won't. Shit, why would they go anywhere when they've already got Joe Lieberman?

And I think everone here is open to incrementalism. That's a strawman. What we object to is incrementalism in the wrong direction.

July 18, 2006 10:07 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

P.S. "then just tell me why CATO broke off from the LP?"

To protect Fred Koch from an antitrust suit?

July 18, 2006 10:09 PM  
Blogger quasibill said...


Well, I can tell you from the get go that interventionism is, in fact, a make or break for me. It's the libertarian principled opposition to war that opened the door for me in the first place. Any candidate that is in favor of an interventionist foreign policy is to me, a greater evil than a candidate who proposes expanding welfare. It's that simple.

So unless you're willing to back a candidate that proposes to expand welfare, you are drawing lines in your platform somewhere. But since you've now sacrificed principle to expediency, your lines will be arbitrary, at best.

So feel free to nominate pro-war "libertarian" candidates with your party. Just don't expect this voter to stick with your party, or even to advocate for your party, anymore.

Finally, the LRC needs to read a bit of public choice economics. The reason your strategy has continuously failed (yes, it has been tried many times before) is readily explained there.

July 19, 2006 6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Categorical noninterventionism is not necessarily libertarian. There are times when foreign intervention advances the cause of liberty. Our invasion of Afghanistan qualifies. Our invasion of Iraq, on the other hand, has been a terrible failure. I would vote for a plank calling for pulling out of Iraq. I will not vote for a plank calling for never intervening. Governments are not individuals. (In that attitude, I am more anarchistic than most anarchists.)

I don't know where the hell you get the idea that the LRC appeals to Hillary Clinton Democrats. Yes, we have had a few members who are much more moderate than most. Peter Orvetti -- a former member -- wrote the "Big Government Libertarians" piece. Mr. Orvetti had worked at LPHQ in the past(!)

I want to put together a coalition of straight libertarians, Georgists, hippies, neo-Luddites, Birch type conservatives, and millions of people who are currently apolitical because they find neither major party to be appealing.

Guess what: there is no broad radical coalition to be had! To win requires recruiting from the mainstream as well as from radical groups. However, the mainstream includes plenty of people who are not active in either of the major parties. Most people are not active politically.

July 19, 2006 11:59 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Kevin, Quasibill,

Maybe I am missing something, but to me incrementalism is basically heading for the same end goal, but in smaller chunks; the targets are no different.

If, however, you mean 'where do we stop on the continuum?' Then I understand, and I don't really think that is for us to decide, for two major reasons:

1) The American people as a whole will decide where we stop, and that depends directly on how effective our solutions are in reality: Not in intention, but in the 'on the street' reality. That in turn, depends on the immunization of the voters to the propaganda produced by the media.
2) No one knows where the right balance point really is. IMHO, it is not just defined by the voters, but also by the environment in which the voters are operating at the time, i.e., it is different now then back in the 18th or 19th century.

Right this instant, we have an opportunity to grab a good portion of the small-government portion of the republican party. They are seriously disillusioned right now. If we are true to our small government principles, even when the next administration is elected--probably a democrat or another republicrat like Bush--we can maintain them. Then we go after the civil liberties portion or welfare state portion of the democrat party. Whichever is correct for the circumstances. Or we go for the noninterventionist portion of the republican party; again whichever is correct for the circumstances.

No one in the LRC wants to change the fundamental concepts that the LP represents: Only to change the ones we focus on at a given point in time. The focus is determined by the 'openings' provided by our primary adversaries; the Rs and Ds. And, I don't think we are going to have large groups of people 'defect' to the LP. It is more than enough that we get people to see the alternative, and to get that in the spotlight of the propaganda machine we call the press. To get the press focus, you need exposure on the local, state, and national levels. To get that, you need candidates that go on FOX, and CNN, and MSNBC, and all the rest, routinely. That takes elected reps. That takes solutions which have made the voters' lives better.

I am retired military. I have been in two wars. I am about a noninterventionist as you can get. But I also realize that sometimes the best defense it a good offense. Sometimes war is necessary to avoid worse possibilities. In WW2 we intervened. Was that wrong? What would have happened if we had not intervened? Would the world be as free as it is? How many people would have died? No one knows. Personally, I think we did the right thing, and if one accepts that, then intervention can be the 'right' thing. So it goes back to the question of just when is intervention justified? Sounds almost incremental, don't it?

July 19, 2006 7:24 PM  
Blogger jomama said...

Hasn't anyone else besides Billy Beck and me come to the conclusion that there is no political solution?

So many distractions, so little time.

July 23, 2006 6:26 AM  
Blogger Charles Johnson (Rad Geek) said...

FreedomsAdvocate: Right this instant, we have an opportunity to grab a good portion of the small-government portion of the republican party.

Pull the other one. The Libertarian Party's primary outreach for more than a decade has been directed at "small government conservative" types, particularly through targeting AM talk-radio audiences, readers of right-wing publications, and supporters of right-wing "free market" think tanks. This strategy was especially promoted by Harry Browne and his coterie from the mid-1990s until 2001 (cf. Operation Drumbeat, Project Archimedes, etc.), and continues to influence the LP's outreach efforts in a lot of ways. Given how gleefully this constituency has alwaysdefected to march in formation with the G.O.P. in every election cycle, I can't say that this strikes me as a strategy well-justified by its success.

FreedomsAdvocate: I am about a noninterventionist as you can get. But I also realize that sometimes the best defense it a good offense. Sometimes war is necessary to avoid worse possibilities. In WW2 we intervened. Was that wrong?

Yes, it was.

I say this not because I think the world would have been more free or less free as a result of U.S. neutrality (how would I know?) but rather because the U.S. government's involvement in the war committed it to doing things that were absolutely immoral, including a gargantuan increase in the size and invasiveness of the State domestically, the summary imprisonment of political dissidents, the confinement of innocent Japanese-Americans to internment camps, the creation of a slave army through massive conscription, a policy of total warfare throughout Continental Europe and the Pacific, and terror-bombing using incendiary weapons and, for the first time in history, nuclear weapons.

Look, if you want to argue that war is sometimes necessary or justified, then you should feel free to make that argument. But you can't sensibly call yourself "about [as] noninterventionist as you can get" while also endorsing the U.S.'s involvement in the biggest and most destructive military intervention in the history of the world. To be "as noninterventionist as you can get" means being an absolute pacifist. I am not an absolute pacifist, but I (and a number of other libertarians) are substantially closer to the position than you are; thus you are substantially more interventionist than we are. You can make whatever arguments you want on behalf of your interventionist position, but it serves no-one to pretend that your position is something other than what it is.

July 26, 2006 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freedom's Advocate,

Sorry it's taken me so long to reply. Stuff moves off the front page so fast I have trouble keeping up with the comments. I agree with Rad Geek that the domestic consequences of entering WWII, and of "our" superpower status ever since, have been intolerable.

Beyond that, I question the self-evident "necessity" for entry. Pearl Harbor didn't come out of the blue. It was the culmination of several years of sabre-rattling and dick-waving between FDR and the Empire of Japan over the markets and resources of the Western Pacific. In a struggle between (say) Japan and the Netherlands over the oil of the Dutch East Indies, I say let the dead bury their dead.

As for Europe, if the U.S. had not entered the war either the Axis and USSR would have fought each other to a standstill, or the winner would have been a hollow shell. Had the Nazis "won," they likely would have temporarily stabilized the border along the Vistula and Carpathians, followed an endless counterinsurgency war, "consolidating" the border a little further westward every year.

--Kevin Carson

July 26, 2006 5:09 PM  

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