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?