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Libertarian Tech Bleg
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, February 06, 2006

At the Adam Smith Institute Blog, Dr. Butler writes...
According to the Cato Institute's David Boaz in the Wall Street Journal recently, Gallup polls show that around 20% of the US population are neither liberal nor conservative but libertarian – opposing the use of government either to "promote traditional values" or to "do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses."

So where, he asks, are the libertarians in politics and the media? With big-government conservatives spending money like Imelda Marcos in a shoe store, there seems to be nobody to represent the country's libertarians. The Democrats vote against tax cuts and Social Security privatization. The Republicans want to ban abortion and gay partnerships. Media debate divides simply into either pro-Bush or (mostly) anti-Bush. What's a libertarian to do?
The problem, I've long argued, is two-fold:
  1. Libertarians are notoriously bad at participating in coalitions. They tend to bicker and balkanize, rendering themselves impotent.
  2. "Liberty" is a vague and bipartisan interest — shared by almost everybody Left or Right — but not necessarily on the same topics.
It's difficult to create a coalition out of such disparate and contentious political groups. How, after all, does one reconcile the ancillary views of civil libertarians with those of economic libertarians? One can be pro-liberty on some issues, but not on others.

Unfortunately, libertarians — or, more broadly, "people in favor of liberty" — have not yet found a way to create a cohesive special interest group for "liberty". It's been done in other areas — the Christian Coalition, the NRA, Moveon.org, etc. — and I believe the same can be done for liberty.

To that end, I want to ask for assistance from our readers. What I'd need to make a go at this kind of organization — one that could circumvent the previous barriers to the effective political advocacy of liberty — would be the following:
  • A community website that allows participants to subscribe, create personal memberships complete with fairly extensive contact and bio information for the purpose of lobbying and activism, and then to participate in polls.
  • This program would have to allow me to organize members by liberty tendency (i.e., civil libertarian, fusionists, enterprisers, anarcho-capitalists, etc) and to present them with information and polls tailored to their specific liberty tendency.
  • The program would then have to allow the administrator to create breakdowns by characteristics — i.e., location, tendency, position on Topic X, etc — to create a database to use for lobbying purposes, and to contact members via email to notify them of news, polls or items of interest based on their membership data.
This kind of organization could allow people with an interest in liberty to become, essentially, year-round voters; to become a visible, vocal and even influential special interest.

It's well-known that the tech world is a pretty libertarian place, so perhaps the answer is close at hand. Unfortunately, I have the back-end organizational idea, but not the technical savvy. (or, indeed, any tech savvy at all) I've been told of Microsoft's Community Starter Kit, but I don't know the suitability — or, indeed, how to implement it. I'd certainly appreciate help. This is the proverbial Next Big Step...if we can take the first step.

UPDATE [Dale]: Getting this stuff done would usually be my deal, and I'll help out where I can, but I simply don't have the time to get deeply involved in something this complex.
 
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Stephen VanDyke and Stephen Gordon have something similiar (I think) in the works:

http://hammeroftruth.com/liberty-venture/
 
Written By: Mike N.
URL: http://hammeroftruth.com/liberty-venture/
Here’s the real problem with libertarians (and most third party advocates).

They try to shortcut their way into politics.

Examples:

(1) If I build it, they will come. Websites, journals, etc. Sure folks might read it, but hey, I read all sorts of things all day long.

(2) If I just had enough money... Money doesn’t vote.

(3) If we could just re-educate people. Nope. People don’t read, people don’t care.

(4) If I just get my name out there, people will understand! 95% of incumbents get re-elected, and that’s with the support of a major party behind them.

So what works?

You guessed it. Traditional grassroots organizing based around one or two simple principles of governance.

Solutions?

(1) Libertarians need to be unafraid to announce themselves as libertarians.

(2) Libertarians need to be able to reject libertinism articulately, and need to be able to define themselves by what they are not as opposed to what they are. Disraeli was right — it is the oppositions’ duty to oppose!

(3) Libertarians need to point to "programs of liberty" that devolve government and work effectively. The world will still turn without the heavy hand of government interfering in their lives.

(4) Libertarians need to either stand up within a party (be it the Republican or the Democratic) and be counted, or they need to break off and start their own. Either way, it needs to occur within a structure - a party within a party.

(5) Plain old grassroots fieldwork. The stuff everyone hates to do, but the stuff that must get done in order to make a party effective. Make phone calls, raise cash, write letters to the editor, knock on doors, drop literature... etc. There’s plenty of astroturf in politics. Only grassroots matter.

First things first though — what does it mean to be a libertarian (lowercase L)?
 
Written By: Shaun Kenney
URL: http://www.shaunkenney.com
"Libertarians are notoriously bad at participating in coalitions. They tend to bicker and balkanize, rendering themselves impotent."

I would never belong to any club that would have you for a member.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
I don’t foresee you having that problem, Groucho.

In any event, this venture would be explicitly about influencing electoral politics. Since that’s something you’ve already told us you have no interest in, it’s hard to see why you feel the need to drop by here and reaffirm that every now and then. Except, of course, that — like so many libertarians — you just enjoy insulting the heretics.

(shrug) That’s fine. Your purported distaste for this blog and its aims would be a lot more convinving if you didn’t keep showing up to read, bitch and insult, but whatever. No skin off my nose.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Sign me up!!! I’ll help where I can.

I’m not satisfied with the current state of the major Parties.

Communication is the key to any successfull insurgency, which is what #4 above is basically calling for. The party with-in a Party tactic is something I do believe in.

Advocacy, I do it, and I’m on several lists, and I’m a member of several advocacy groups. Early 90’s I figured if you wanted a voice in Congress, you had to join a group that gets your voice heard. I contribute to politicians and parties that serve my interests. For instance, I gave to several of the Presidential candidates last time around. Nader because I thought the Democrats trying to shut him out was a bad thing. The Libertarian candidate for equal time. Swiftboat Veterans because I thought they should be heard.

But, I do wish there were something more. More cost effective for one. But also to give my dollars, and voice, bang for the buck.

I think bloggers are showing that we can get our voices heard by using other avenues. Competition for the ears of candidates and our elected Representatives is a good thing.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Essentially what you want to do is build up a grass roots base of libz, but don’t have the time to make a big effort. So do something loose and embryonic.

You have the Neo-lib network blog which could be used for this purpose. It is under utilised.

Link to and blogroll anything and everybody that you think is libertarian AND MAKE IT AS BIG AS YOU CAN. Organise these by state and interests to point libz in the right directions. For content all u need to do is take (trackback) from your blogrolled groups a good article or two a day (should take a whole lot less time than the original content & MSM analysis you produce on QandO).

In this way you appeal to everyone who blogs or has a site - stoking their ego by giving them exposure and readership - and provide them with a common sense of being libertarians. And to everyone else it shows off libz in America as a BIG political group.

If it takes off it will need modification later, but as of right now it is something you could do cheap & easy.
 
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
First things first though — what does it mean to be a libertarian (lowercase L)?

Not to parse Shaun, but what does it mean to be Republican or Democrat? Jeff Goldstein over at proteinwisdom.com has been exposing identity politics for a while - particularly that of the left, yet there is as much truth to identity politics of the right, abet not as exclusitory platform-wise. Libertarians believe in the primacy of individual liberty. But as this site so well points out, individual liberty means different things to different folk.

And in order to compete politically on the national scene, and as do both main parties, somehow we have to, as they’ve done, pull the wool - over our own collective eyes. And develop a nationally compelling message that brushes aside the inherent nasty realities of idealogy. Greater good kind of thing...

Bite ones tongue and abandon the fringe? Nay, recognize that individual liberty is, by definition, individual, subjective, and understandably fickle. Stake the middle of the liberty cause, and demand that the fringe complies.

Or, we could petition to change to a parlimentarian government. And just like the Greens of Europe, sit back in smug superiority, and bask in our 5% representation.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
So you’re sort of looking to make a libertarian version of DailyKos/RedState? They both run on Scoop which is pretty good, but I don’t think it quite has all the features you want.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
The fever swamp has boiled over. The Democrats behind the “impeach Bush” movement [which includes Jon Henke of qando, although he is still under cover] are about to prove to the voting public that they are not fit to govern the country. It is possible that this insanity will finally split off the reasoning Democrats from the MoveOn crowd. That would create an opportunity for an Independent [or whatever] to make a real difference. I keep looking for the Democratic McCain. Maybe he is the Republican McCain? BDS may just be the “tnt” that shakes up American politics. libertarians need to be ready.
Or, the Kos and Greenwald zealots may realize their dream and uncover something really nasty that Bush is doing with the NSA program. I know where my money is. I am all for their [so far perfectly legal] efforts. Something has to wake up the sensible part of the Democratic party. And, if they find some wrongdoing, that is all to the good as well. Kos would be right about something.
 
Written By: Notherbob2
URL: http://
Things have been a bit slow at work lately (I do ASP.Net intranet stuff). I’ll take a look at the stuff today and let you know if I can help.

Shaun:
I do think that part of this has to be a definition of what the "Maximum minimum government" that a broad sector of self-labelled libertarians are willing to work towards. The QandO guys have done yeoman’s work on trying to set up a working definition with the Neo-Libertarian branding, but if the elected wing of the Libertarian Party is going to be more than a bunch of PO’ed ex-Republicans in Texas - some of whom seem to be LINOs - then all the factions need to sign on to some kind of platform. Pick 10 issues we can all agree that the government needs to get out of. Everyone who thinks these are a good idea buys in, and works together until they’re done. Then we can balkanize. I think if the D’s and R’s keep shooting themselves in the foot, there are voters to be had from both camps. More from the Republicans who are fleeing ’The Unholy Alliance’ with the Christian Coalition, but plenty from both. It won’t happen in ’06, and probably not ’08 due to the Presidential focus, but in 4 years a bunch can change.

Anyhow, I’d like to help. Jon, feel free to email if you want me to run down something specific.
 
Written By: Brett L
URL: http://law-b.blogspot.com
Jeez, Billy (or Biilly). You’re a smart guy. Why do you have to be suck a d*ck?
 
Written By: W
URL: http://
Ooooooops! s/suck/such/
 
Written By: W
URL: http://
They try to shortcut their way into politics.
I absolutely agree. Personal conviction is no substitute for being persuasive or effective.
Communication is the key to any successfull insurgency, which is what #4 above is basically calling for. The party with-in a Party tactic is something I do believe in.
Very well put. There already exists a lot of pro-liberty people. They’re just not being organized and utilized. I want to change that, but it’s a difficult thing to do without the infrastructure.
Essentially what you want to do is build up a grass roots base of libz, but don’t have the time to make a big effort. So do something loose and embryonic.
Well, if I had the infrastructure — and a reasonable chance of making even a tiny salary to keep it going — I could have plenty of time. I just need to know that first step would be on terra firma.
You have the Neo-lib network blog which could be used for this purpose. It is under utilised.
It certainly is, and I’d like to find a way to utilize it — and TNL, as well — to highlight the work being done by libertarians and members of the Neolibertarian Network in the blogosphere. I’d like to publish more articles; I’d like to have a central publishing place for libertarians. Other people’s interest has been mild at best, unfortunately.
So you’re sort of looking to make a libertarian version of DailyKos/RedState? They both run on Scoop which is pretty good, but I don’t think it quite has all the features you want.
It doesn’t have all the features I’d need, though I have thought of it, and I do think it could be a useful component of what I want to develop. In fairness, though, what I want to develop isn’t really very much like RedState or Kos.
Things have been a bit slow at work lately (I do ASP.Net intranet stuff). I’ll take a look at the stuff today and let you know if I can help.
Thank you.

 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
bains - I think the point is that not everyone has to be 100% on board 100% of the time to be effective at "influencing electoral politics." Creating yet another 3rd Party isn’t the goal. The goal is to get legislation passed.

In order to do that you need to influence both the public debate, and the votes in Congress. It used to be that only the front pages of the mainstream media, and the 3 networks nightly news programs had influence on both of those.

Now, a blogger can generate such a firestorm of interest on a subject that it gets covered by talk radio, which then gets it covered by the mainstream media.

I don’t know how much of an effect the blogger coverage, and interviews of the House Majority Leader race had on the outcome. But it certainly informed me, and I have to believe informed several of the Representatives who did the voting.

So, I think of what Jon is proposing as providing a conduit that Liberty minded people can turn to. What is needed is a pragmatic leadership by consensus. And the ability to disagree on some issues, and still work together on others.

That may mean supporting a liberal Democrat on one issue, a religious right Republican on another, and opposing everyone on others.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
"Your purported distaste for this blog and its aims would be a lot more convinving if you didn’t keep showing up..."

"Keep your friends close..." etc.

Don’t delude yourself anymore than you already do.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"Jeez, Billy (or Biilly). You’re a smart guy. Why do you have to be suck a d*ck?"

That’s a good question. I’ll tell you why.

It’s because I’m a completely integrated human being. I don’t have any mysteries about my emotional responses to my thinking: I know where everything comes from, and I’m not interested in fraud. I have excellent reasons for my outrage, and chief among them is StoopidPeeple. Especially when it comes to politics.

I am not making any of this up. And I might be a "dick", but I am just. The times call for it.

"This ain’t no disco."

(The goof in my name is a result of a double-keystroke that my keyboard threw when I wasn’t looking, and Firefox has remembered it. I keep forgetting that.)
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
I think that is one attitude that needs changed in this country.

There should be no such thing as a political enemy in this country. Political opposition, certainly, but enemy?

We ought above all to be tolerant of others ideas. That doesn’t mean we have to be supportive of those ideas, or remain silent in the public square...
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Well I think the majority (or large plurality) is already here just waiting for a proper narrative around which to coalesce intothe majority party. Also, could you correct the spelling of the link to my site in your NeoLibertarian blogroll? Muchos Gracias!

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
Is the goal to coalesce into the majority party, or to also hold the current parties feet to the fire and get them to change. I think doing the latter is something that can be accomplished on a budget. And if successfull, a major party would essential co-opt our agenda. I know that sounds idealistic, but we need a blend of idealism, and realism.

I’m wondering if there is a way to tailor RSS feeds to accomplish part of this goal?
This program would have to allow me to organize members by liberty tendency (i.e., civil libertarian, fusionists, enterprisers, anarcho-capitalists, etc) and to present them with information and polls tailored to their specific liberty tendency.
Wow 88 Blogs in the Neolibertarian Network. What a great resource to start with.

How might this work??

Promote planks to the network, where they could be debated, voted on, and then some consensus made.

Push a RSS feed of items related to the plank to the NeoLibNetwork. Legislation coming up, events, people to contact, talking points.

Measure peoples follow through. Letters written, email sent, phone calls made.

Encourage volunteer efforts to get out the message, and get out the vote.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
I am often asked why so few libertarians get involved in politics and I usually reply that the question is rather like asking why so few honest people pursue a career in mugging and armed robbery.
 
Written By: Perry de Havilland
URL: http://samizdata.net/blog
Being "libertarian" is just another creed that tries to corral "freedom" into something more manageable for the politicos and their adherents.

Mention "anarchist" and watch the fur fly.

All it means is I don’t need you to tell me how to live or be "free"—despite the non-definitions most use.

Why is this so hard for folks to grasp?

Voting is passing gas for the turds surely to follow.

LOL

 
Written By: jb
URL: http://
For Libertarians there are many organizations to be involved with.

Liberals have MoveOn.org. Libertarians have DownsizeDC.org.

Liberals have trial lawyers. Liberarians have the Institute for Justice.

In fact, hundreds of organizations in your state can be found here:

http://www.isil.org/network

Corey
 
Written By: Corey
URL: http://www.libertytalk.com
Well, the Libertarian Reform Caucus is attempting to convert the existing Libertarian Party into such an effort. Get rid of the membership pledge and tone down the platform into something that isn’t terrifying, you have have something to build on. Lot’s of ballot access, a good database, branding already done, quite a few proven activists...

It’s a bit of a long shot, as the radicals tend to control the conventions, and should the LRC succeed, some of the radicals will bolt, so the party will shrink a bit at first. On the other hand, there is a database of former members, some of whom would likely rejoin should the party become more reasonable.

For this to work this year, we need a bunch of Neolibertarians to get to the California LP convention at the end of this month and sign up as delegates for Portland in July.

And if the Libertarian Reform Caucus fails to fix the existing LP, we will still have a nice database of people interested in increasing liberty in other ways...
 
Written By: Carl Milsted
URL: http://www.ReformTheLP.org
i love this site
 
Written By: barr. mugu maga
URL: http://

 
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