If They Want it So Badly...

This article originally appeared on Strike The Root.

As Crow T. Robot once put it, there's no tradition like a new tradition. And one of the new traditions of the post-election season is the spate of articles blaming [two dead links removed] the Libertarian Party and its candidates for the loss of votes, and consequently Congressional seats, that are apparently the rightful property of the Republicans.

Here in "the other Washington," we were treated to a crop of these articles back in 2000, when LP Senate candidate Jeff Jared won something like twenty-nine times the number of votes [dead link to 2000 election results removed] separating incumbent Republican Slade Gorton and Democrat Maria Cantwell. Gorton was forced to find a new job (he ended up shilling for the largest tax increase in state history — it failed too). And as John J. Miller, the national political reporter for National Review, charged in The New York Times last week, the LP's refusal to let the GOP have its due resulted in the Senate going to the Democrats once Jim Jeffords became "independent."

(I must note, by the way, that John J. Miller is a friend of my wife's and mine. I value his friendship, and also his opinion — even though I don't always agree with the latter.)

It's not that the GOP dislikes the LP. Republicans' complaints are often more patronizing than angry, like a parent telling a child not to pull kitty's tail. The problem, apparently, is that the LP keeps forgetting the rules of the game. I imagine an exaggeratedly patient Mama Republican telling the unruly little Libertarians:

"Look. We know you agree with us most of the time (Jonah Goldberg said so). And we don't mind if you run and play in races where there's no danger your two percent of the vote will actually make a difference. But if you try to be an actual political party and start costing us the power we've spent so much money to win ... well then it's not funny any more.

"On the other hand, if you play along, look at all you get: We'll let your friend Ron Paul cast his one vote against our big plans. You like Ron Paul, don't you? Good thing he's not actually in danger of accomplishing anything substantive, or we'd have shush him up too. (Symbolism without results is what we like from our Libertarians). We'll give you little nods by calling Newt Gingrich or Dick Armey 'libertarians' — heck, we'll even say John Ashcroft (John Ashcroft!) is 'libertarian-leaning'. We'll tell you how 'influential' Cato's Social Security working papers and the Reason Foundation's ideas for 'improving' electricity market regulation really are and invite you to all the big Washington shindigs. But you gotta behave.


Gosh. I don't see how any self-respecting libertarian could turn down a deal like that. I mean, from a libertarian perspective, it's only reasonable to admit that freedom is safer under President Bush [dead link removed] that it would have been under the Democrats. After all, the Democrats want to cut off our arms! The GOP will be satisfied simply with taking our hands (thanks to J.D. Tuccille [another dead link removed] for this image).

And yet, despite the Republicans' generosity, some big-L Libertarians seem to be souring on the deal too.

Now that the LP has proven it can field candidates in more than half the nation's Congressional seats (Whew! I was worried.), I think maybe it's time for a new approach. Instead of trying to match the R's and D's in squabbling over who's boss of the political sandbox, big-L and small-l libertarians alike ought to step out of the sandbox altogether and go about our own business. "When I became a man I put away childish things..."

It's time for freedom-minded people to secede from party politics. If you're uncomfortable with an absolute Rothbardian withdrawal of consent from the political means of power, call it a mass protest for one Congressional cycle.

I'm sure it would be a wrench for the LP to give up all those nonpartisan Soil and Water Conservation District and township commission seats. The fruits of 30 years of hard-fought grassroots activism are not easily sacrificed. But it would be worth it.

Per Hoppe, begin by cutting off your support — time, money, and talent — for the national LP. If a "unified membership plan" means joining your state or local LP makes you a member of the national party, end that too. Do the same for any organization, campaign, "think tank," or group involved in national politics.

Don't vote.

Now that you have all this free time (and money), what should you do with yourself? That's the fun part!

Fly a flag. Buy a gun. Plant a garden. Attend a play. Send encrypted email. Submit an article to Strike the Root. Open an e-gold account. Start a private subscription library. Serve in your church. Volunteer for organizations that help people (or animals) without interference from the State. The options are nearly endless: the estimable Claire Wolfe alone has written three entire books on non-political ways to promote freedom, and Dick Freely has issued an inspirational (if somewhat "adult," so be warned) call to "Do Something." Each of us should take it to heart.

Engage in "rational evangelism" if you think it will work [link removed]. If you don't, don't. But do at least take the time to let someone know you're sitting out the next election deliberately (start with the inevitable LP telemarketers who'll ask why you're not renewing your membership). This is bigger than "voter apathy." You're putting your time, effort, and wealth into more productive channels.

If nothing else, you'll be forcing all those GOP columnists to find another scapegoat to explain why they keep losing pro-freedom voters. Maybe one a little closer to home. That in itself might be worth the effort.

Reaction to This Piece Thus Far

  • This piece was included in Free-Market.net's daily news and commentary email message, and added to FMN's directory [the link, like FMN itself, is now dead] you'll need to scroll down a bit to find the link). (11/26/02)
  • The first few paragraphs of this piece were excerpted on the web site of a radio talk show host in Bloomington, Illinois. I don't know if he mentioned me on the air or not. In his written comments — which are apparently not archived, so you'll have to take my word for it — he said he particularly liked my MST3K reference in the first paragraph. (12/4/02)
  • Page edited to change the e-mail address below to one I actually check. (2/25/05)
  • Page edited to remove or redirect (4/8/06, 1/22/07) lots of dead links.
  • By this time (3/18/12), I wouldn't assume any of the above links are still good.