Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pay For It, and Still Not Get It

Lew Rockwell has an interesting piece today on the Libertarian Party's junking of its platform. I wasn't aware until now that Murray Rothbard had played such an important role in the genesis of the LP. It doesn't sound as if there would be any place for him in today's party.
But once it was created, Rothbard threw himself into the goal of minimizing the damage. He worked to make the party platform a statement of principle and a means of education, a public document that would shock and alarm people into rethinking their core political assumptions. He believed in the power of ideas, but not the power of power itself. This is why he sought make the LP into a cultural force for telling the truth. Since it could never win elections, and the attempt to do so could only result in watering down and selling out, he sought to make the LP into the best it could be.

So it has been for many years. But over time, the LP became a source of frustration for serious people. With the platform now gutted, the inevitable has happened. The organizationally empty shell that was the LP has come to be occupied by people who have no clue.

This is all the result of a brain drain from the LP that has been going on for decades. The smart set is a tiny and demoralized minority. The archetypical LP activist today has a very thin knowledge base from which to draw. He is a child and the LP is his sandbox. Details of issues like monetary reform, safety regulations, secession, the theory and policy of monopoly, and international trade are completely beyond him.

Not that the platform editors cared. Nor should we be surprised. If you put a garage band in charge of editing a Wagner opera, you are going to end up with something very different indeed. This is essentially what happened to the LP platform.

So the overarching feature of the new platform is that it has been seriously dumbed down. Thus, for example, the old platform said: "We favor the repeal of the Logan Act, which prohibits private American citizens from engaging in diplomatic negotiations with foreign governments." The new crew struck it down.

In fact, all smart-set planks are gone, with something like 80% of the platform tossed out. This old passage on international travel and foreign investment was fabulous, for example: "We recognize that foreign governments might violate the rights of Americans traveling, living or owning property abroad, just as those governments violate the rights of their own citizens. Any effort, however, to extend the protection of the United States government to U.S. citizens when they or their property fall within the jurisdiction of a foreign government involves potential military intervention. In particular, the protection of the foreign investments of U.S. citizens or businesses is an unjust tax-supported subsidy."

Now, this is a hugely important plank that zeros in on one of the major excuses for foreign wars: the bad guys abroad are stealing from and hurting Americans. But the new group in charge of editing just cut it out.

It takes a smart set to see through the haze of the political-cultural moment, and divine the true motives of the state. Just one example: the use of the phrase national security. The old platform saw it as a ruse. "We call for repeal of legislation that violates individual rights under the color of national security," it said. "We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade, especially those done in the name of national security."

The new one, however, is uncomprehending about the uses of that phrase: "Ensure immigration requirements include only appropriate documentation, screening for criminal background and threats to public health and national security."

Oh, I see: the LP endorses the current system!
Watching the LP from the outside, I have noticed this "brain drain" phenomenon, as ordinary correct spelling and capitalization seem baffling to some Party officials. Indeed, the organizational shell has become home to a lot of people who have no clue -- specifically, to Republicans who are discontented as the party of Nixon has become the party of Bush (how precipitous a decline is that, anyway?).

Mr. Rockwell goes out on a limb and ends his piece with a concrete prediction:
Here is a prediction, and, yes, I'll be happy to admit that I'm wrong if it turns out not to be the case. The new LP platform will not increase the percentage of votes the LP will receive in the national election. By demoralizing the serious activists and talking down to intellectuals, it will result in a diminished percentage of the overall votes.

Thus will they have given up principle for power and not even gained that. The LP won't cease to exist. It will just take its place among the many other third parties that you have never heard of, such as the Prohibition Party.
"If voting could really change anything, it would already be illegal."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's tragic how far away we are from what this country was founded as. The current characteristics of American democracy are extremely scary.