Browse By

Why Isn’t The Libertarian Party Libertarian?

I just read that, over the weekend, the Nevada Libertarian Party held elections for its leadership positions. At first, I reacted to this news with a shrug. It’s another story about inside politics, in a subsidiary of an organization that, even on a national level, lacks vigor.

But then, just as I was about to close the story, a little question occurred to me. It’s been nagging at me most of the morning, so I’ve decided to share it, to see if anyone can come up with an adequate answer.

The small version of my question is this: Why does the Nevada Libertarian Party hold elections to put leaders into positions of power?

Some background to my question follows.

The preamble of the platform of the Libertarian Party reads, “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others… The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.”

Then, in the platform’s statement of principles, the Libertarian Party declares that people “should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.”

In practice, the Libertarian Party has imposed 16 pages of rules restricting the activities of Libertarian Party members, dictating in fine detail the many ways in which Libertarian Party members will not be allowed to organized themselves. Furthermore, the Libertarian Party has created a bureaucracy of 19 committees in order to enact those rules. Even the U.S. federal government has only 15 departments.

The Libertarian Party won’t allow its state and local affiliates to endorse any candidate of any other party, even when there isn’t a Libertarian Party candidate running in the race. Libertarian Party officers aren’t allowed to become candidates for public office with other political parties either.

Article 6 of the bylaws makes it explicit that the national Libertarian Party shall have the power to abridge “the autonomy of the affiliate and sub-affiliate parties”. This includes the power of the national Libertarian Party to excommunicate entire groups, ejecting them from the organization by centralized decree.

The Libertarian Party bylaws refuse to allow anyone who has not agreed to obey the Party bylaws to become an “officer” – an executor of the Libertarian Party’s centralized authority.

The Libertarian Party refuses to allow its members to choose organizational efficiency by combining the positions of “officer” when they deem appropriate.

Libertarian Party members are not allowed to pass resolutions that are deemed incompatible with the party platform’s “statement of principles” – and a special centralized committee of Libertarian Party bureaucrats is given sole power to declare what is and what is not compatible with the statement of principles.

You get the idea. Libertarians say they want to create a small government so that individuals can enjoy the benefits of individual liberty from rules. However, when it comes to their own organization, Libertarians have created a huge government, relative to the number of the Libertarian Party’s members, and have imposed centrally-controlled rules to restrict the free political activities of Libertarian Party members.

So, my larger question is: If Libertarians think that small government and individual freedom in a free market are the most effective and most ethical ways for people to get things done, why don’t they organize their own Libertarian Party according to these principles, instead of doing so with a bureaucracy that imposes a big list of rules?

11 thoughts on “Why Isn’t The Libertarian Party Libertarian?”

  1. John Lewis Mealer says:

    That and the thought process that school bus drivers or police might be able to pick up meth or black tar heroin at Walmart and use it on the job make me stray from the Libertarian Party. Can you imagine how rough it would be if the people who are usually drunk half the day or who swig a drink on the job were to take PCP instead? I wonder if those issues have anything to do with the twist in rules by the Libertarians.

  2. Charles Manning says:

    It would be interesting to hear what members of the party think of your comments.

    My take is that freedom can’t exist unless government imposes rules. Consider the freedom to travel. Unless we had traffic rules, highways built and maintained by government, motor vehicle safety laws, etc., getting around would be very difficult. The libertarian ideal would seem to be how things were before all of these governmental restraints; that is, how they were even before the horse and buggy days. No thanks.

  3. Dave says:

    Happy Thanksgiving. I suppose if one wants to have an organisation, one must organise, but the bylaws sound a bit like the Democrats these days – ideas so good they have to be mandatory. As much as I agree with the stated goals of the Libertarians, the drug thing irks me too.

  4. June Genis says:

    The Libertarian Party is a voluntary community of like minded individuals who are governed by RULES established by the members through a democratic process. If you don’t like the rules don’t join and if your violate them expect to be expelled.

    This is an entirely different situation than being governed by LAWS imposed externally by a third party and which you may not opt out of. There is nothing wrong with democracy and especially not with democratic process as long as the rights of the minority are protected. The RULES of the LP define what options are available to a minority of party members who disagree with the actions of the majority and include such things as judicial review.

    If the party did not elect their leadership how would you expect them to form an organizational structure? Even an anarchy has to have operational rules.

    I have been a member of the Libertarian Party for almost 40 years now.

    1. John Lewis Mealer says:

      I must agree with June on this one. (But I still have issues with school bus drivers on black tar heroin or cops on PCP).

      It’s kind of like riding in my car at 100 mph when someone lights up a smoke of some sort. They either extinguish it immediately when I tell them to, or they roll for 150 yards… smokes and all.

      And I have been traveling in control of my own vehicle for about 31 years, or 40 years if you count the Honda 50 Mini Trail.

      1. June Genis says:

        Just as the Libertarian Party has rules, whoever is employing that school bus driver would have rules too and I’m sure they would include not indulging in intoxicating substances while on the job. Similarly whoever owns the roads (unfortunately today mostly the government) has the right to make rules about who can use them under what restrictions.

        1. John Lewis Mealer says:

          I am aware of that June. We both know that school bus drivers and cops take an occasional swig from a beer can or whiskey bottle now and then because they can buy it at Walmart or Seven Eleven… The effects of both of those often impair their judgement on the job, but not to the degree of a night spent on heavy drugs that would also be available at Wallyworld and Seven Eleven if all drugs were legalized for sale to the public at large.

          Marijuana can be legalized (and it should be) so we can tax the heck out of it and at the same time, destroy the drug cartels main money source. As far as I am concerned cocaine can be legalized too, because of the short term affect it has on the body and the fact that, at worst, a user will blow out an artery or suffer heart failure after rambling on in detail –for hours– about what they want to do for the next fifty years, but I would never pursue the cause of legalizing it.

          We both know that the true Law of the Land allows for unhindered use of the roadways, but once under contract with a state owned vehicle and we only owning a “certificate” of title… Their game must be adhered to or the police power of the state takes over. Tazers before coffee kinda ruin one’s day.

  5. Robert Rich says:

    As an old-timer I’ll try and set you straight. This article does sound like recycled garbage we get from conservatives.

    The US Libertarian Party was created as a libertarian-direction party to promote human rights along the lines of the original platform of Michael Gilson (MG), who curates the which also has an article on David Nolan’s and MG’s ‘Troika’ long term plan. Nolan and his ultimate aim were/is to legalize pure Libertarian eco-communities within Liberal federal democraciesbased on UN Rights. Libertarian models are very specific and enable a lot of forms, but the rule is to promote that model.

    The USLP is not a pure Libertarian group and last I knew was contractually forbidden to present itself that way. Look at the bottom of the site and it says it clear as day: they’re libertarian-direction. I believe they’re actually classified by LIO as one step below or libertarian-oriented. MG in 2004 declined to renew an agreement that gave him control of the platform after setting up a model libertarian-oriented one as a resource so it’s devolved into the current semi-demi-libertarian group it is.

    The Greens were founded basically simultaneously to promote local libertarian eco-socialism.

    MG has encouraged the groups to operate on open Libertarian management but always around the mission of either promoting legalizing Libertarian-based societies or local towns on the 10 Green Values.

    Libertarians do not “think that small government and individual freedom in a free market are the most effective and most ethical ways for people to get things done…” that’s just one form. Ultimately they seek to repace all that with Gilson’s Libertarian system, at least in the sense that it will be fully legalized.

    The rest of what you say is way off. Libertarians seek to get people educated in being (baby) libertarians, so that’s why it’s structured that way. State LP’s can and do endorse libertarians in other parties IF allowed by state law, and the Libertarians advocate electoral fusionism. You’re also confusing parliamentary procedure with a coercive bureaucracy. One of their aims is to create and maintain a body of people conversant with elementary libertarianism and Robert’s Rules. They have.

    No, what you’re advocating is just code for another attempted takeover by other parties or fringe candidates. This has been tried many times. Invariably when they get in they restrict everybody away from Libertarianism. You guys have a manual?

    1. June Genis says:

      Your response makes it sound like both the Libertarian and Green parties are a conspiracy headed by one Michael Gilson. I have never heard of Mr Gilson in the entire 40 years that I have been a member of the LP. Was Mr Gilson even present at the founding of the party? The Libertarian Party is exactly what it says it is: an organization working to promote libertarian values by participation in all aspects of politics. That means it also has to operate under the laws which govern political parties, a constraint we don’t always like but have to abide by.

      And by the way who are you, Mr Rich? I found two people on Google named Robert Rich that could fit the bill. One is a successful entrepreneur. The other one works at the Federal Reserve. I hope you are the former or someone else entirely.

  6. Richard says:

    June, what can I say? Recently it seems you posted you’ve been a member about 35 years. Now it’s 40. Get yourself clear on that first.

    1. June Genis says:

      I believe I said “more than 35 years” before. It will be 40 years early next year. Don’t recall the exact date but it was shortly after Murry Rothbard spoke in the SF bay area in January 1974. I guess I fugures that was now close enough to 40 years. Seems a silly thing to quibble over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Psst... what kind of person doesn't support pacifism?

Fight the Republican beast!