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Libertarian Revolutionaries
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Reader—and new blogger—David Aitken directs me to this troubling passage in the Libertarian Party platform...
Until a global triumph for liberty has been achieved, we support both political and revolutionary actions by individuals and groups against governments that violate rights.
The LP supports "revolutionary actions" against governments that violate rights. But which governments violate rights? Just paragraphs prior, the LP claims...
Today, no government is innocent of violating human rights and liberty...
The Libertarian Party supports revolutionary actions by individuals and groups...against the United States?

I've sent a request for clarification to the Libertarian Party media representative [Media@hq.lp.org]. It's copied below:
 
Dear Sir,

I wonder if you'd answer a question about the LP Platform: my attention was drawn to a section on human rights, in which the LP claims to support "revolutionary actions by individuals and groups against governments that violate rights"...

But the LP considers "no government" to be "innocent of violating human rights and liberty".

So, unless the Platform is in gross error, the LP supports "revolutionary actions" against the US government. Is that the case? I've asked the question publicly on my blog, and I'd be happy to present any answer or clarification in the same forum.

Regards,

—Jon Henke—
http://www.qando.net
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Sounds like the same, stoned puffery that turned me off of the LP. It’s also utopian to think 100% liberty is possible.

For [insert diety of choice here]’s sake, government by it’s nature is the antithesis of liberty. To govern means to set up and enforce rules. Rules limit liberty. So yeah, 100% of governments violate liberty in some degree.

It’s hairbrained statements like these that prevent the LP from ever being taken more seriously than the Green party. Jeez.
 
Written By: Sharp as a Marble
URL: http://sharpmarbles.stufftoread.com
Good luck getting a response from the LP. I don’t think they’re particularly interested in logical consistency in the party platform.

Have you seen LP director Joe Seehusen’s reply to Bill O’Reilly’s joke that he can’t tell the difference between a Wookiee and a libertarian? This guy has no sense of humor.
 
Written By: Brian Martinez
URL: http://cluebyfour.livejournal.com
Well, National has already responded...by asking me to ask a State representative. So, I’m waiting for that response.

I actually saw that Wookie thing this morning. Amusing. Bill O’Reilly, naturally, remains ridiculous.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Well, National has already responded...by asking me to ask a State representative. So, I’m waiting for that response.
Then they’ll ask you to speak to a local representative. He’ll, in turn, ask you to find a libertarian in your neighborhood and ask them. That one will offer you some cookies and a hit and mention you should take it up with national.
 
Written By: Sharp as a Marble
URL: http://sharpmarbles.stufftoread.com
This is exactly the kind of crap that caused my state to repudate the platform of the national party a few years back. There is whispers of some movement of authority up top, but I’m skeptical... the LP Washington State has just undergone some major shifts in authority, and I have great faith in Ruth Bennett, but who knows if that is going to happen at National.

I always found it amusing that Cato was founded to preserve the intellectual purity of libertarianism by a group of disillusioned Libertarians, and now Cato advocates private savings account while the national party abjectly refuses to consider anything BUT full privatization.

Someone needs to give National a poli sci 101 class...
 
Written By: Travis Thomas
URL: http://www.uwlibertarians.org/
A charitable reading would suggest that this is the core of the LP Foreign policy.
The ’Issue’ refers to intervention by the US government. It would be best if they continued this assumption through the piece to make it clearer. It is a formula that is carried out on the entire platform, though.
The ’no government’ line seems to me to be a ’let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ kind of argument. It is denying the US goverment the moral authority to do something even if it seemed the best thing to do.

Whether or not any of this is realistic is left to the reader.
 
Written By: anomdebus
URL: http://
What is wrong with "revolutionary actions" to restore lost rights?

Does this sound familiar:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
 
Written By: James Babb
URL: http://www.JamesBabb.com
What is wrong with "revolutionary actions" to restore lost rights?
What’s wrong with it? Well, I suppose that depends on your own value system, but on a practical level it means permanent revolution, since no society in history has ever had unanimous agreement on the proper nature of government. In the absence of that—and adopting as legitimate a doctrine of "revolutionary actions to restore lost rights"—you would never see the end of revolutionary action.

Even the Founding Father’s neither objected to an imperfect government, nor created a perfect one. The LP demands a perfect government, which is just a ridiculous demand in a pluralistic system.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Interesting discussion, and not unlike the discussions about incrimentalism we’ve had recently.

A few points, however, off the cuff, and in no particular order;
Until a global triumph for liberty has been achieved, we support both political and revolutionary actions by individuals and groups against governments that violate rights.
Hmmm. Cuba, for example?

That slight snark aside, Jon’s quite correct that such actions against the United states are implicitly supported by the LP, in this document. And I suppose that kind of absolutism isn’t unique... we’ve seen evidence of such here, and had a few knock-down-dragouts over it.

I suppose, reluctantly, that this wording was to prevent arguments about incrimentalism within the party.

(Chuckle) Even without this, can you imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would happen had the United States been removed from the list of rights violators? We’d hear no end of speicifc anicdotal instances, owever well documented, proving that the US was a violator of rights... enough to make the left stand up and cheer, I’ve no doubt.

Jon:
but on a practical level it means permanent revolution, since no society in history has ever had unanimous agreement on the proper nature of government

Which, in turn, brings to mind Jefferson’s quip about a revolution every ten years or so.

Marble; Your comments, while (alarmingly) accurate, strike a discord. The situation you’re describing is endemic to any large org, and to governments in particular.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
"government by it’s nature is the antithesis of liberty"

You have a strange definition of liberty. While I agree that govt can hinder liberty, anarchy results in far less liberty than responsible government. For example, the ability to walk around outside without risk of being waylaid by bandits, invaded by foreign countries and the like. Government, and yes rules, are neccesary to ensure liberty.

"The LP demands a perfect government, which is just a ridiculous demand in a pluralistic system."
Is it any less ridiculous in a non-pluralistic system?
 
Written By: Tito
URL: http://
"The LP demands a perfect government, which is just a ridiculous demand in a pluralistic system."
Is it any less ridiculous in a non-pluralistic system?
Not particularly, Tito.
In a non-pluralistic society, it would, I suppose, be far easier to get people to agree on a definition of "perfect government".
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
Mr. Henke,

If you look at the platform, you will see that the statement in question is listed in the section four, titled "Foreign Affairs".

Given that it is listed under foriegn affirs, I submit to you that the context of the statement is in regard to foreign governments.

Especially, when you consider the obvious fact that the LP has never engaged in "revolutionary action" in the 30+ year history of the party, and also the fact that the LP has each of its members sign a pledge stating "I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals."






 
Written By: smallgovisbest
URL: http://
It is indeed so. I signed a card with that pledge on it. So the statement about revolutionary action is quite confusing; a clarification is indeed in order.
 
Written By: IO ERROR
URL: http://www.ioerror.us/
Is it any less ridiculous in a non-pluralistic system?
Well, in a non-pluralistic system there is at least a chance that one view can predominate and the government will be perfect for him, anyway. A non-pluralistic system means "no compromise necessary". Naturally, there will be millions purged unhappy. It’s not a system I advocate, which is why I find the LPs utter rejection of a pluralistic system very problematic.
Given that it is listed under foriegn affirs, I submit to you that the context of the statement is in regard to foreign governments.
Indeed, I thought of that, but the statements were rather clear about the principles. The LP supports "revolutionary actions" against "governments that violate rights"....and the United States violates rights. It’s consistent with their moral premises, but the inevitable result of such a premise is advocacy of revolution in the United States, and—indeed—permanent worldwide revolution.
Especially, when you consider the obvious fact that the LP has never engaged in "revolutionary action" in the 30+ year history of the party, and also the fact that the LP has each of its members sign a pledge stating "I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals."
Presumably, if it came down to it, they’d either have to 1) renounce the clear language of the statement I cited, or 2) claim that force was initiated against US citizens by the government. I suspect that they’d do the former, but they very clearly believe the latter.

Ultimately, I think the premises of the LP are incorrect, and I think this is an example of that. I ask, because I want a clarification—I’d like to find out who is wrong.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
You have a strange definition of liberty.
No, I am talking about pure liberty. The freedom to do as you please. As if you were the only person on the planet.

And I totally agree with you that some government is necessary. But the fact remains that to govern through any means, be it force or consent, means removing some form of freedom. And, unlike the LP, I am ok with trading some for the other because it’s reality. Just like you said, anarchy provides me less security.
 
Written By: Sharp as a Marble
URL: http://sharpmarbles.stufftoread.com
Perhaps one assumption many of you are making is that foreign policy needs to mirror domestic policy. For the LP, this is obviously not the case.
Seriously, you guys are giving no quarter on the possibility that at worst it is just bad wording.
Have at them, but at least give them an out by suggesting they can clarify it if that is not what they meant.
I also happen to think "governments that violate rights" was an attempt to avoid having to spell out each category of abuse deserves revolution.

I agree with the neo-libertarians more than the LP, but this is the sort of in fighting that makes the LP unbearable. If you want to be a realist and make compromises with groups that agree with you on certain principles, you are probably going to be able to use the LP to this end. Therefore, it is probably counterproductive to be unneccessarily antagonistic towards them.

I could go on or clarify, but I have limited time today.
 
Written By: anomdebus
URL: http://
Have at them, but at least give them an out by suggesting they can clarify it if that is not what they meant.
You’re right, and that’s precisely why I wrote to them asking for a clarification. (I’m still waiting)

My problem with the LP centers on their dedication to what I think are untenable principles and premises. This is an example of that, but I’d be happy to hear that it’s unintentional and that it will be clarified.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Perhaps one assumption many of you are making is that foreign policy needs to mirror domestic policy. For the LP, this is obviously not the case.
Seriously, you guys are giving no quarter on the possibility that at worst it is just bad wording.
Have at them, but at least give them an out by suggesting they can clarify it if that is not what they meant.
I also happen to think "governments that violate rights" was an attempt to avoid having to spell out each category of abuse deserves revolution.

I agree with the neo-libertarians more than the LP, but this is the sort of in fighting that makes the LP unbearable. If you want to be a realist and make compromises with groups that agree with you on certain principles, you are probably going to be able to use the LP to this end. Therefore, it is probably counterproductive to be unneccessarily antagonistic towards them.

I could go on or clarify, but I have limited time today.
 
Written By: anomdebus
URL: http://
In other words; go not to the Libertarians for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.
 
Written By: Myopist
URL: http://
That’s right Myopist, and they will use no fewer than 3000 words to say it.

For the sake of the liberty movement, the LP must die.
 
Written By: Undertoad
URL: http://cellar.org/iotd.php
Mr. Henke,
If you don’t support revolution to restore lost rights, by what method should they be restored? What should the founding fathers done differently. I don’t wish to get into a battle of dueling logical fallacies with you.

You seem uncertain of the role that revolution can play in politics, so I want to know what it is that you DO advocate in its place.
 
Written By: Maurice Reeves
URL: http://www.mauricereeves.com
I presume the question is somewhat rhetorical, as your site seems to have no difficulty in ascertaining the meaning of revolution in context as in its ad next to the same post where you ask the question i.e. a promotion for the book "Third Revolution."
Well, "we" don’t ask the question in the ad. We merely accept the ad. Their verbage and definitions are entirely their own business.
These Transition items indicate allowable transitional tools depending on the circumstance. Read in context it is clear we support both regular political action such as voting, and revolutionary action such as strikes and civil disobedience—and in particular the formation of Libertarian parties and groups abroad.
I don’t see any particular differentiation between various kinds of "revolutionary actions". Indeed, since even LP members could not agree on a precise set of laws for a perfect government, there would have to be an endless revolution, as every conscientious libertarian threw off the tyranny of a post office, a standing army, or planes flying through people’s aerial property.

The problem with blanket support of "revolutionary actions" when rights are violated is that, in any system in which people disagree, it necessarily ends up in endless support for revolution. Can you see how that’s problematic?
...the condign solutions must be systemic, and if revolutionary should in general not involve violence, and certainly not the initiation of force or even force incommeasurate to the situation by any individual or revolutionary movement. Such would also find itself opposed by Libertarians.
I’m certainly glad to see that you see it that way, but I’d be happier with a clarification from somebody authorizer to authoritatively comment at National LP. So far, they have simply referred me to a local Chair, whose email address has bounced back my message. I’ve tried again, and I’ll try national again, too. I’d like to see an in-platform clarification that the LP recognizes *degree* of violations of their principles, and condemns "revolutionary action" out of size with the degree of the appearance of tyranny. There’s simply no firm indication that they intend that, and the logical end of rigid libertarian principles unavoidably does reach that conclusion.

I very much appreciate your comment, but I find the plain language of the platform troubling. I’d hope that the LP would move to clarify it. Declaring revolution acceptable for any violation of rights is simply an unsustainable political philosophy.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
If you don’t support revolution to restore lost rights, by what method should they be restored? What should the founding fathers done differently.
That’s a good question, but there’s no definitive answer. I didn’t say that I don’t support revolution. There are clearly instances in which revolution is justifiable. (whether it is morally justifiable depends entirely upon your own value system) I think the FFs were correct in their circumstances, but we often think that of revolutionaries because they actually won.

Ultimately, I think it’s better to drop the language of morality in the matter, and adopt a more utilitarian language. Will revolution best fulfill your ultimate ends? Then, you might be able to justify it. Others, naturally, will disagree. Such is life.

In this case, I find it objectionable that people would seriously consider a revolution in any country in which they perceive rights to have been violated.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
That’s a good question, but there’s no definitive answer.
Wherein lay my entire argument with you in another thread. Nice to see it stated flatly. You object to the revolutionary, but even when pressed, you have no practical method in mind by which the revolution can be supported.

And I’m not even going to try to untangle your earlier comments from this:
Ultimately, I think it’s better to drop the language of morality in the matter
Rather, I’ll simply let it hang there.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
You object to the revolutionary, but even when pressed, you have no practical method in mind by which the revolution can be supported.
The issue in question in that post was terrorism, Bithead, not revolution. Don’t obfuscate. Intentionally killing innocent non-combatants is simply not justifiable.
Rather, I’ll simply let it hang there.
Good. You do that. I’m uninterested in carrying on a conversation with you on the positive merits of terrorism.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Investigate history, Jon... and tell me one revolution, where the revolutionaries could not be called ’terrorists’.
You do that. I’m uninterested in carrying on a conversation with you on the positive merits of terrorism.
I note a similar conditional disinterest in talking about morality.

So be it.
Just don’t be thinking it slipped by, unmarked.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com

 
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