THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 494, November 23, 2008
"Any government will grow until it
claims power over absolutely everything."
Why Two Libertarian Parties Are Better
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Earlier this year, I was asked by my good friend Thomas Knapp to help him with a problem. He wanted to keep the Boston Tea Party going, but most of its national committee had gotten bored or left for other reasons. After some reflection, I concluded that it was a good thing to do.
It turns out that Tom and I were right to keep the group around, because after the Libertarian Party nominated Bob Barr, we had a surge in membership. Activists from all over the country have joined our party, which now boasts nearly 700 members. We've formed state affiliates in a dozen states this year, and we've helped dozens of candidates with our endorsement, volunteers, and campaign contributions from our members. We even elected two public officials this year, both members of the Boston Tea Party and both in non-partisan races.
So, after all, there's really no need for the LP to come to grips with its traditions of secrecy, abuse of power, corruption, and mistreatment of members. After all, libertarians now have choices when they look for a political party.
During the last six months, The Boston Tea Party had occasion to test our openness policy. A controversy arose over the vice presidential candidate in Florida, John Wayne Smith. Rather than have these discussions secretly, or trying to hide the facts until after the election, we boldly deliberated on our open-to-the-public national committee discussion list. We were even challenged by the presidential nominee, and added to the openness by publishing more documents to review the facts involved. I aver we made a strong case for openness.
In June, we tested our membership rule policy. The members of our party have the authority to review any action of our national committee. At present, it only takes 5 members of the party to agree that the members as a whole should be polled to review such an action. Doing so in June managed to avert an attempt to pervert our presidential nomination process by the former vice chair of the party.
I believe the Boston Tea Party has the only effective approach to corruption of its national party. The national party is not authorised to raise or spend any money. Ever. So there is no national staff. All the financing is done on the state or county level, or by the campaigns. We've seen far too much corruption and abuse of power by the national committees and national party staff of other parties to want that for ourselves.
In some ways, I would like to see the LP continue to prey upon its members for a little bit of money. It would also be great to see the LP continue to be a party without principles, a party of corruption, and a party where ne0-conservative candidates like Barr can embarrass the members by snubbing the Campaign for Liberty.
Of course, that's only because I'd like to see the Boston Tea Party win the hearts and minds of libertarians and be the party of principle for the future. It gives me great satisfaction that I stopped paying national dues to those people in the late 1990s. As long as they bicker and feud over who was allowed to say what, justify their secret sessions, and make a mockery of the members, I'll continue to refuse to be a member of that party.
One of the things that reading Tim Weiner's book Legacy of Ashes has reminded me is how thoroughly we went through this whole issue of secret politics and secret assassinations and secret wars during the 1970s. The crimes of Nixon, Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al., were not adequately punished at the time. Although we discovered and thoroughly reviewed the repeated failures of secret politics, secret assassinations, and secret wars, with events like the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate Hearings, and the Church Commission, these problems did not go away. We had Iran Contra, we have the Iraq war, and it turns out the link between the Taliban and al Qaeda was largely manufactured, too. (The USA went to war in Afghanistan, not because the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden, but because they asked to see some evidence that bin Laden had planned and executed the 11-Sep-2001 attacks. Don't ask for evidence, or the USA gov't may bomb your country into oblivion.)
Moreover, we've learned a great deal since the 1970s about poisonous secrets during FDR's reign, about the extent to which Churchill and FDR knew exactly what the Japanese were about to do and how they deliberately failed to warn allies and their own military about these plans. We've learned about more secret wars in Congo, in Indonesia, and elsewhere. We've learned about more massacres of civilians funded by USA taxpayer dollars. We've learned more about Kissinger's role in Mao killing (by slow torture) a group of generals who wanted to overthrow him in 1971, his role in Pinochet's government coming to and holding onto power, and darker secrets about Cambodia and Laos.
We have, in short, learned a great deal about how secrecy is a disease. It is an illness that thwarts the success of a free society. Gorbachev had more to teach about openness in the 1980s than, judging by their comments on George Donnelly's site, any member of the LNC has learned with the noteworthy exception of Angela Keaton.
Those of the LP "leadership" who want to seize the reins of power and be in charge of the next round of secret wars, the rounding up of the usual suspects, and all the governmental power to destroy lives are, of course, going to continue justifying their use of secrecy for this purpose or that. In a free society, people who want to be employed by a national political party should expect full disclosure of the terms of their agreements. In an open society, wrongdoing by a member of the staff of a national political party should be known to the members of that party, and to the public generally. In the unlikely event the LP is going to accomplish anything with a lawsuit, they'll need to spend the money of the members of their party, and they ought to inform the members what they plan to do with their money.
But they don't think so. They think the LP ought to have secrets. They want to get away with things, keep secrets, and attack anyone who tells those secrets. They are fools, incapable of making a free society, or an open one.
Which, after all, is why the Boston Tea Party exists. They were fools to dismantle the LP's carefully crafted platform in 2006. They were fools to nominate a nasty former-CIA agent, former drug war prosecutor, former neo-conservative Congress critter who voted for war, who continues to seek military intervention in Colombia, and who has been a complete jerk toward people in the gay and pagan communities.
What they ought to understand is that people are watching what the leaders of the LP do. And every time they do something incredibly stupid, The Boston Tea Party pick up more members. Every time they do something foolish, we get more activists working for us.
I don't mind telling them, because it would be really nice if there were two very high quality libertarian political parties in the country. It would be great if those guys ever got their act together. After all, this year a majority of the candidates the Boston Tea Party endorsed and worked to support were candidates from the Libertarian partya vast majority. We're not averse to working to elect libertarians when they are sincere and principled ones.
But even if they got their act together for a time, I don't think it's going to last. Which is why I'm committed to the growth and success of BTP. We're here to stay because the LP's commitment to principles has been fickle. We're watching them, too. And we have no legal, ethical, nor moral obligation to keep quiet about their choices. Quite the reverse.
You don't have to join the LP or the BTP. But if you do join either one, you might think about joining both. The membership obligation for the Boston Tea Party is to read our one-sentence platform and signal your agreement with itthere is never any membership fee or dues. Membership is free and open to everyone who visits www.bostontea.us to join or just to check us out.
Here's that platform. See what you think about it.
As a libertarian, as an individualist, as a free and sovereign individual, you ought to have fun with the political process. I think having two libertarian parties is better. I believe in free markets and open competition.
My own role in the party changed in late October. I did not want to run for office. I don't ever want to be elected to any office. I don't consent to be governed, and I don't agree to govern anyone else. (As Dennis Wilson can attest, I signed the Covenant of Unanimous Consent.)
The new national chair is Jason Gatties. I continue to be the chair of the Kansas state affiliate of the Boston Tea Party until that group holds elections, some time in early 2010.
My further thoughts on the party and its recent national convention may be seen here: bostontea.us/node/405 including both text and video.