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Libertarian PAC
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bruce Bartlett voices what many of us who abandon it years ago have known - the Libertarian Party is useless and, at many times, embarrassing. Actually, it's more than useless and embarrassing. It is damaging to the advancement of libertarian ideas in general. His characterization strikes me as pretty much how I've come to view that group and I'd dare say how many other libertarian leaning voters see it as well:
Over the years, I have known a great many people who have flirted with the Libertarian Party, but were ultimately turned off by its political impotence and immaturity. C-SPAN runs Libertarian conventions, and viewers can see for themselves how unserious and childish they are. They show that the Libertarian Party is essentially a high-school-level debating club where only one question is ever debated — who is the purest libertarian, and what is the purest libertarian position?

At times, serious people have tried to get control of the Libertarian Party and make it a viable organization. But in the end, the crazies who like the party just as it is have always run them off. In the process, however, they have also run off millions of voters who have supported libertarian candidates at one time or another. After realizing what a waste of time the Libertarian Party is, many became disengaged from politics and don't vote at all.
You may remember the blogger who likened libertarian philosophy to that which would a appeal to a 13 year old? It is the LP/C-SPAN circus and the positions of many of its national candidates which establishes and perpetuates that image and makes it easy for both the left and right to dismiss as a whole even the serious, pragmatic libertarians and their ideas.

Additionally, as Bartlett points out, the deck is stacked against the success of a 3rd party. Bartlett points to the Electoral College as one of the main reasons, but another equally important reason has to do with the major parties co-opting third party ideas and essentially rendering that party to marginal status at best.

So what is the solution? Well, per Mr. Bartlett, one thing would help is if the Libertarian Party would go away. Unfortunately I don't think that will happen. And while some see the conversion of Bob Barr to a member of the Libertarian Party as a hopeful sign, my guess is Bob Barr will soon discover exactly what Bartlett and others discovered long ago:
The Libertarian Party is worse than a waste of time. I believe it has done far more to hamper the advancement of libertarian ideas and policies than it has done to advance them.

[...]

As long as the party continues to exist, unfortunately, it will be an albatross around the necks of small-L libertarians, destroying any political effectiveness they might have. It must die for libertarian ideas to succeed.
In essence, given the LP and its antics, many libertarians and those who lean libertarian don't have a place to call home.

Perhaps then a different approach is necessary that works within the framework of politics today and that both of the major parties understand. A method which might actually have some practical chance at effecting policy with libertarian ideas which advance liberty:
In place of the party, there should arise a new libertarian interest group organized like the National Rifle Association or the various pro- and anti-abortion groups. This new group, whatever it is called, would hire lobbyists, run advertisements and make political contributions to candidates supporting libertarian ideas. It will work with both major parties. It can magnify its influence by creating temporary coalitions on particular issues and being willing to work with elected officials who may hold libertarian positions on only one or a handful of issues. They need not hold libertarian views on every single issue, as the Libertarian Party now demands of those it supports.

I believe that this new organization would be vastly more influential than the party and give libertarian ideas far more potency than they now have.
I love the idea even if I'm not particularly in love with the method. But, pragmatically speaking, this is how politics works in this day and age. Such an organization would at least give small "l" libertarians (and those with libertarian leanings, even if only on a smattering of issues) something actually aimed at advancing libertarian ideas and supporting those who adopt them. And instead of being tied to the "13 year-olds", libertarians would have a results-oriented and highly visible organization focused on public information and education while influencing the policies of the major parties with libertarian ideas. A chance, at least, at libertarian change, even if slow and incremental.

While I appreciate Bartlett's point about the LP going away, that's not going to happen. And I'm not sure it is necessary that it do so for the sort of idea he advances to be successful. What has to be done is to ensure that if a Libertarian PAC is in fact organized that the LP is kept as far away from it as possible. That may require a different name to remove any suggestion of a link to the LP. My guess is that won't be a problem since, as Bartlett suggests, such an organization wouldn't pass the LP purity test anyway.

Suggestions? Thoughts?
 
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Wouldnt support for a candidate even for just a single issue, support him/her on all other issues? I am not certain how this would help much. One step forward and two back it sounds like to me.
 
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
Well Josh B we expect folks to have a transitively ordered hierarchy of preferences and vote for candidates on that hierarchy, not vote holistically. That is to say, IF you value low taxes more than you value Legalized Drugs, THEN you’d vote for the low tax candidate, EVEN IF they supported the WoD. Unlike some who would have you vote ONLY for the candidate that supported BOTH Low Taxes AND Legalization.

Throw in the appreciation of perecentages, "How LIKELY is a given candidate to succeed" and you have "Rational/Strategic Voting." You don’t vote LIBERTARIAN, because the libertarian is going to lose, you vote for the candidate that most closely approximates YOUR hierarchy of values, that is GOING TO WIN.

It is a two-stage process, at least. 1) "Who thinks most like me?" 2)"IS this person going to win?"

Yes a vote for someone that supports the WoD but supports low taxers IS ALSO A VOTE FOR THE WoD, but at least SOME good comes from your vote, ASSUMING that you value low taxes over Legalization....Welcome to the REAL World of Politics, to be distinguished from the debating societies of campuses, think tanks, and the LP.
One step forward and two back it sounds like to me.
Is better than NO STEPS forward at all...and you assume a linearity that is not necessary, when "progress" can be measured in multiple axises.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Wouldn’t support for a candidate even for just a single issue, support him/her on all other issues?
Just because a candidate does support the libertarian position on one issue doesn’t mean he should necessarily get support, especially if the majority of his record is what a reasonable libertarian would consider to be anti-liberty.

But then there may be issues in which every vote is important and the organization may consider a modicum of support to garner the vote.

The whole point, however, would be to translate the bloc of libertarian and libertarian leaning voters into something which can and will have some influence in DC. And right now, the most effective way to do that is through the type organization Bartlett is suggesting.

Don’t forget, though, that just as important is the influence it builds through its outreach progams. Bartlett used the NRA for a reason as a model for his idea.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I guess you get back to the same question when trying to have a Libertarian party, who controls it?
 
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
This is already being done in the real world:

www.rlc.org/

www.republicanliberty.org
 
Written By: T
URL: http://
I guess you get back to the same question when trying to have a Libertarian party, who controls it?



Apparently, from those who HAVE been members, the Crazy People run it, of course the refugees might not be the best folks to ask about a party, but still....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Personally, I find Barr’s moving to the LP to be a joke. It’s hard to tell, for my part, which is a better indication of the LP’s uselessness... Barr’s applying to become an LP member, or their accepting him.

Josh’s question rings loudly here... the answer to his question is; People like Barr.

And that inconsistancy... (governmental power being sought by those claiming to be libertarian) is ignored, along with all the rest of them that Barr brings to the table... Barr has a long history of taking positions which don’t translate well to his personal life. He’s paid the political price several times for that inconsistency. Indeed, he lost his seat over one such inconsistency. Which is exactly why he’s making noises about the LP, today.

Other inconsistencies include his membership in the ACLU, while belonging to the Libertarian party… Two organizations which, despite the nameing similarity, are historically at philosophical odds with each other as few others have been. He publicly supported the Patriot Act, and yet seems to have all kinds of problems with the NSA warrantless surveillance. He claims to be about individual liberty, now, but let’s remember him introducing Al Gore for a speech cosponsored by the “Liberty Coalition” . I can’t think of many people that are more anti-liberty, than Al Gore. Yet here’s Barr, water bucket in hand. Why would a libertarian be seen on the same stage with such a person? Political power for Barr.

In the end, it is clear, that Mr. Barr is busy trying to sell himself to anybody who will pay the price of admission. Anyone who is that much all over the board philosophically speaking, is not trustworthy for any kind of office. Mr. Barr, clearly holds political power higher than he does his own principles. (Whatever those are)

The only plus out of this is that with Barr as a member of the LP, (And doubtless considered by the Libertarian Party leadership to be a rising star) neither is likely to attain any real power, any time soon.

The drawback, of course, is the damage done to the Libertarian cause, at least in the short term.



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Bartlett used the NRA for a reason as a model for his idea.

The problem with this model is that the NRA is basically a single-issue group. In a generic "libertarian" group I expect you’d see a lot less agreement. Following the NRA model would mean creating separate groups for drug legalization, social spending reduction/elimination, etc. But I guess those probably already exist.
 
Written By: kenB
URL: http://
Talk about an uphill battle...

During the 2004 elections, 7 of the top 10 PACs were Unions. They spent $77,564,498

The other three were, in order, Emily’s List, the American Medical Association, and the NRA.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_action_committee


Now, if I were setting up a PAC, I’d make it one dollar, one vote. You could set your priorities that way, and also give people a choice on what top candidates could be "backed."

I think bigger value could be gained by staying away from backing people in elections and concentrating on changing the vote in Congress.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Furthermore, to the extent that third parties exist, they invariably hurt the party closest to them ideologically.
Uh, that’s not a bug. That’s a feature.

Bartlett has many good points, but here he makes the same logical error made by the Republican party loyalists that insisted "You have to vote GOP because the Democrats are so much worse!"

In both cases, the problem is inadequate feedback. Every dynamic system needs good feedback to function well over time. Right now, the options to give feedback to the major political parties are distressingly limited.

Simply supporting the party that is "closest ideologically" is not an answer if they are moving in the wrong direction. If you vote for a party on the basis that you’ve got nowhere else to go, then that party can then take you completely for granted and ignore any and all political desires you have. They’re not going to lose you, so they can alter their policies to appeal to "moderate" voters, which for the GOP means becoming more liberal.

The PAC idea is not a bad one, because it’s another way of providing feedback. But it’s not clear that it’s anywhere near cost-effective, in the sense that affecting a few votes on some minor issues may not be worth the money, time, and trouble spent on it. So I’m not against it, but it certainly doesn’t light me up as way to make substantial change to our political landscape.

Even if we embrace the idea of political action through a PAC, that still leaves the question of what to do about voting. Right now, when even the closest party is some distance and going the wrong way (as the GOP is now for libertarians), then the options boil down to two - stay home or find an alternative that matches your political desires significantly more closely.

(I discount the strategy of voting for the other party as punishment, since that kind of feedback is probably worse than useless. It sends a signal that you want to move even further away from your preferred position.)

I suppose there might be some who would be willing to say "I’m only voting for those endorsed by the PAC", and that’s a variation of the "stay home if you don’t like them" strategy. It has the appeal of making it clearer why you’re staying home, resulting in better feedback, but unless we’re talking quite large numbers, that signal is likely to get lost in the noise of an election.

Voting for a third alternative is the clearest feedback a voter can give. I agree completely that the Libertarian Party is so amateurish and ineffective that it is not worthy of support. But even when I did support the LP, I didn’t do so because I thought it would win a lot of national elections. I did so in order to give unambiguous feedback to the major parties - "I really, really do want limited government". To the extent that such a choice hurts the nearest ideological party, that’s exactly what I want. It gives that party an incentive to move in the direction I’d like it to go.

Third parties may not have a reasonable chance of winning major elections, but they can certainly influence those elections. Just ask Ross Perot. His autocratic populism was fuzzy and his personality was borderline loony, but he still changed the balance of the 1992 presidential elections. People were that hungry for a way to provide feedback to the major parties to indicate their displeasure with their positions and culture.

As ineffective as the LP has been, it has still affected the outcome of a few Senate elections. And that’s the kind of feedback I think is absolutely necessary before we’ll see any signficant change from the GOP.

I’ve written off the Democrats as a hopeless case because they’re so far left, but it’s instructive to look at how they got that way. I don’t think it’s an accident that the Green Party provided an leftist alternative, and the Democrats then turned further left.

I completely admit that I can’t think of a way to make a libertarian-oriented political party effective. Well, unless the GOP continues their socialist metamorphosis for a few more years.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I think bigger value could be gained by staying away from backing people in elections and concentrating on changing the vote in Congress.
Politicians want help NOW, not later. They need the money for ELECTIONS, ergo you contribute when they ask and feel it politic for them to ask....Offering Ted kennedy or Sam Brownback money in an off-year isn’t as important as offering it an election year.

Another problem comes to mind, a dollars for vote scheme has ANOTHER name, it’s called, BRIBERY! So Keith unless you are willing to support a change in the US criminal code or are willing to serve periods of incarceration one is left with contributing to the Electiona nd Re-election of candidates.

As for Hollis I still point out, Blacks as an example and Jews as an example for getting what you want from a Party. I can not think of a time, until recently, that EITHER group EVER pulled for the GOP, "To Teach the Democrats a Lesson." And whether you agree with the Great SOciety or not, most BLACKS like(d) it and agrre(d) with it... so from their perspective their "Loyalty" HAS been rewarded.

Something to think of, plus to you and McQ voting for Nancy Pelosi because Hastert isn’t Michael Badnarik just doesn’t make a lot of sense. This is a variant of the "let it all collapse and then people WILL see"...quite often they don’t see and the course correction doesn’t happen. OR as the ISG put it, if Iran doesn’t consructively interact in its negotiations with the US and Iraq, THEN everyone will see them as obstructionist....so we’re supposed to do something silly in order to prove something we already know? This whole idea of voting for the worse folks rather than the better folks or PULLING for the worse folks rather than the better folks, so that people will fianlly SEE something seems awfully dicey.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
T:
This is already being done in the real world:
Not with the name "Republican" in front of it it hasn’t.

kenB?
The problem with this model is that the NRA is basically a single-issue group. In a generic "libertarian" group I expect you’d see a lot less agreement. Following the NRA model would mean creating separate groups for drug legalization, social spending reduction/elimination, etc. But I guess those probably already exist.
Obviously the first thing any organization has to do is define itself, and this one would be no different. A clear mission statement, a statement of the underlying principles it supports and a statement of its goals and intent. From there, many different issues could fit under the umbrella. It would also help clarify who they’re interested in helping, how they’d help and why.

Again, this is just in the idea stage, but it has some merit and given the lack of success libertarians have "enjoyed" through the LP and other groups, worth a look.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The Democrats tilted Left, Billy, not to deal with the threat posed by the Greens, so much, but more to win over the supposedly disaffected youth of the 60’s... and never came back afterward. I still recall HHH trying to play the hipster, as the counter to Nixon... It’s worth a chuckle, now and then

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
No argument on that, Bit, but certainly the Greens didn’t hurt the idea that Democrats needed to lean further left.


Joe, it appears that you could have read my comments more carefully. I say that because of this:
Something to think of, plus to you [Billy?] and McQ voting for Nancy Pelosi because Hastert isn’t Michael Badnarik just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Now, I explicitly said:
(I discount the strategy of voting for the other party as punishment, since that kind of feedback is probably worse than useless. It sends a signal that you want to move even further away from your preferred position.)
So, if understood who the "you" is in the comment I quoted above, I think you’re railing about something I never said and don’t believe.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Billy I did MISREAD I apologize....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Since most libertarians identify with the Republican Party, it has seemed to me for a long time, that the best approach would be to work within the party to move it in the libertarian direction. The basic principles of free market capitalism and small less intrusive government are already given lip service by Republican politicians, and most Republican voters vote Republican because they identify with those principles. If someone with the organizational skills and good leadership abilities could get an organization going, I believe it would grow to sufficient size to influence the party and cause it’s politicians to really do what they say they’ll do when campaigning.
 
Written By: Phil Underwood
URL: http://
Another problem comes to mind, a dollars for vote scheme has ANOTHER name, it’s called, BRIBERY!
I believe the above statement was meant as ’if you donate $1 dollar to the PAC, you get one vote for who the PAC will support - donate $10,000 and you get 10,000 votes’. Bribery would have to be more subtle ;-)

I’ve heard this type of thing debated for voting in general. Everyone of legal residence and age gets one vote, then each gets additional votes based on the amount they pay each year in taxes. It is interesting to consider what you could accomplish that way.
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
I’ve heard this type of thing debated for voting in general. Everyone of legal residence and age gets one vote, then each gets additional votes based on the amount they pay each year in taxes. It is interesting to consider what you could accomplish that way.
Oddly enough I’m not sure you’d see that much difference, mayhaps things would get MORE Liberal/Progressive. After all Warren Buffet OPPOSES the repeal of the Death Tax. Oft’ times folks think or act as if the rich are libertarian/consrvative, but that’s not true at all. I think a systme based on how much you pay in taxes is not necessarily going to change the ideologiv makeup of the votes and might skew it LEFTWARDS, just a thought. Or in a more Corporatist direction, after all Pelosi is introducing a bill to limit "grass roots advocacy" whilst exempting Big Labour and no doubt large corporations.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
McQ, not necessarily saying that it’s not a good idea, just trying to talk through the ramifications. I think that in practice, the larger you try to draw the circle, the less agreement you’ll have, with correspondingly less effectiveness. What’s to keep this proposed group from ending up with the same internecine squabbles about what is and isn’t an appropriate libertarian position? And how much do you really gain by putting a bunch of different positions into a "libertarian" box instead of having separate groups for each major issue?
 
Written By: kenb
URL: http://
Although I lean toward the LP’s positions on many issues, I have little respect for the natioanl party itself. As McQ pointed out, the LP is a collection of deeply unserious, spoiled brats. That certainly is reflected by its conventions and more than a few writers at Reason and its spinoff Hit and Run. When Frank Zappa was considered a serious LP Presidential candidate, I cringed and just about wrote off the party afterwards.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
I have to basically agree with Bartlett. When I actually attended a LP party meeting I was frightened by the weirdos. In fact, an organization like the NRA for libertarians would be good, and it could work with the NRA on behalf of the second amendment.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
I think that in practice, the larger you try to draw the circle, the less agreement you’ll have, with correspondingly less effectiveness.
That depends on how much effectiveness you think you’re going to get with the smaller numbers that the smaller circle will produce. No question that it’s a balancing act.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Come on Joe, meagain got my meaning.
Now, if I were setting up a PAC, I’d make it one dollar, one vote.
Of course, I give my money now to several PACs, including the NRA, and Club for Growth. I think this is the most practical thing to do. I put my money towards the issues I care about, and where I think it will do the most good.

Now, you could make a PAC which only supported other PACs, and then use my scheme to decide where to distribute the funds.

Life
Liberty
Property Rights
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
I find the pat dismissal of the Republican Liberty Caucus above disheartening. Doesn’t the RLC at least serve as a useful beginning to an l-pac project? If one is willing to make the compromises necessary to engage in "serious politics," then surely the RLC is a natural ally?
 
Written By: JMD
URL: http://
I find the pat dismissal of the Republican Liberty Caucus above disheartening. Doesn’t the RLC at least serve as a useful beginning to an l-pac project? If one is willing to make the compromises necessary to engage in "serious politics," then surely the RLC is a natural ally?
An ally yes. A surrogate or replacement for a strictly libertarian oriented PAC? No. Especially with their track record (or lack thereof) within their own party.

Additionally tying yourself in with a PAC identified as Republican limits your options to act independently and, if the opportunity presents itself, court the left on particular issues.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Why would that be such an issue, when the republican party itself seems to be courting the left on certain issues?

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Would it be viable to to structure an organization as follows:

Individual groups, each with a single focus, joined by an umbrella group that would provide for common needs.

The umbrella group would allow the individual groups to have increased clout, public presence, reduced administrative costs, etc. It would also provide a vehicle for cooperation between the individual groups.

The individual groups would ’police’ the umbrella group to ensure it does not become an entity unto itself, and also maintain the standards by declining to admit any of the fringe individual groups that may want to become part of the organization.

The individual groups would be a combination of ’issue-oriented’ groups, such as a ’drug legalization group’, and of cross-function groups like a ’government transparency project’.

Individuals could join/volunteer for the group(s) that captured their interest, yet still feel part of a larger movement.

The umbrella group would not set policy for the individual groups, but it would have a simple platform that defined the organization’s goals well enough for people to understand the overall thrust. And whatever the platform, every individual group’s presence in the organization must be, and be seen to be, a natural. No expanding the tent just to increase membership.
 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://

 
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