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Debate: Reforming the Platform?

With the recent victories in changing the Libertarian Party’s very structure into that of a real political party, my thought is that the platform is the next problem that needs to be addressed.

So, I would like to open it up and hear what you all think are the real “problem areas” of the platform and are there any simple ways to make things better without virtually rewriting the whole darn thing?

23 Responses to “Debate: Reforming the Platform?”

  1. Tim West Says:

    There are many problem areas. The biggest ones are open borders, attitude towards government defaulting on debt instead of rasing taxes ( what happened to CUT SPENDING?????) and there are others, like specifically calling for the abolition of public schools ( hard to elect a School Board member that way :D ) instead of bringing choice to parents and undercutting the governments hand in schooling. There’s many ways to skin a cat. We are going to have to be smarter and more politically astute from now on.

    Now that Zero Dues is passed, we have to show the decision was the correct one. If we can do that, we can go into Convention 2006 with a full head of steam. If we fail with Zero Dues, it’s going to be very hard to do anything inside the LP after that.

    It’s absolutely CRITICAL to LP reform efforts that we swallow whatever disagreements we do have remaining and show the Zero Dues was the right thing to do. If we fail here, we wont get a second chance.

  2. Tim West Says:

    And at some point ( not now ) we are going to push HARD for the Pledge to be removed for members. The compromise position will be a pledge for Officers and Candidates only. Having a pledge for members just makes making a success out of Zero Dues that much harder.

  3. Joey Dauben Says:

    Abortion must be a focal point in the platform. Libertarians should oppose abortion - at least in the platform - because it is denying the rights and liberty of human beings.

    Immigration should be addressed in a more coherent manner; close up our borders right now!

  4. Austin Cassidy Says:

    Taking a stand on abortion needlessly divides the party… so I think it’s best left where it is, a neutral statement.

    Immigration reform is another thing entirely… and the LP won’t get anywhere with an “open borders” policy. The government is responsible for providing security and protecting the borders of the United States, and that extends to a reasonable border patrol effort as well.

  5. Chris Bennett Says:

    I happen to be a pro-life Libertarian and I think the LP should NOT take a stand on the abortion issue…It divides the party. I’m not in favor of open borders until the welfare state ends…and even then we need to have some restrictions like not allowing criminals from other countries to reside here and such.

  6. Tim West Says:

    There is NO WAY IN HELL that the LP platform will take a position on abortion. No matter what you do, you will alienate 50% of the voters.

    Abortion is strictly a CANDIDATE issue. Each person representing the LP can hav their own mind on the issue, and join others of like mind. But NOT IN THE PLATFORM That is political suicide, and we’ve already done too much WAY too much of that in the past 25 years.

    If you force a abortion plank into the platform you can kiss the LP goodbye.

  7. Mike N. Says:

    Why not elliminate all the specifics in the platform (huge detractor anyway) and make it REALLY simple? Something like:

    “The mission of the LP is to return our country to a Constitutional Republic by reducing the size, scope and intrusiveness of government.”

    I am sure there are much better ways to state it, but something along those lines…

  8. Carl Milsted Says:

    The abortion plank currently DOES take a stand. The LP is currently pro-death. I think we need to either eliminate the abortion plank or have one that admits our division on abortion’s legality.

    I think our absolute worse plank is our tax plank. Zero taxes is a non-starter. We need to call for lower spending and simpler taxes.

    Immigration should also be removed from the platform. Too much division there.

    The children’s rights plank is also deadly. It sounds like we are in favor of selling sex toys to kids and worse. At the very least, the word “children” should be replaced with”teenager” in a few places.

    In general, we talk too much about eliminating agencies vs. fixing their mandates. We should have an EPA. Pollution is an interstate commerce issue in many cases. I prefer the idea of damages being assessed by scientist appointed by elected officials vs. 12 jurors and some lawyers making such decisions in a trial. The problem with such agencies is the quota logic of our laws.

    The idea of completely privatizing the Department of Energy is terrifying. Private nukes??? Get real!

  9. George Phillies Says:

    “Carl Milsted Says:
    August 10th, 2005 at 10:19 am

    The abortion plank currently DOES take a stand. The LP is currently pro-death. ”

    THank you for agreeing that your reform group is a stalking horse for the antiabortion people.

  10. Douglas E. Says:

    “Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question. We condemn state-funded and state-mandated abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.”

    Sounds neutral to me.

  11. Joey Dauben Says:

    Well I think it shows a bit of hypocrisy on the part of so-called Libertarians to preach life, liberty and property, and then on the same token, say it shouldn’t be up to the government to take a stand on the issue, or it should just be up to the candidates.

    I’m not talking about Constitution Partying our platform, but Carl Milstead, I agree 100% with all of what you said. And this whole bit about us losing 50% of voters - I think that’s ridiculous.

    If anything, we’d be more Republican and sway more Republicans over to our side, where we actually COULD win some races. If the anti-liberty-for-children faction doesn’t like it, they can go start their own party or something.

    If it came down to voting for a pro-choice Republican, pro-choice Dem, and a pro-choice Libertarian, I would sit that race out. Sorry, but if we don’t get government to respect the “little things,” then how do you expect to abolish bloated agencies?

    At least strike a compromise and ban partial-birth abortion. That, in the platform, would give the LP a little credibility, but hey, only if the majority of LPers approve of it. So, I’ll run for the LNC and seek to get abortion outlawed as a plank. Anybody with me?

  12. Lenny Zimmermann Says:

    I don’t think it’s hypocrisy to say the LP shouldn’t take an official stand on abortion. How is that hypocrisy? I mean the LP can only attemtp to represent the views of its members, but individual libertarians have differeng stand on abortion taht have nothing to do with “rights” and everything to do with personal, moral beliefs about exactly when that little cluster of cells should be afforded any of those rights. That’s what it all boils down to. I think all libertarians agree babies should have their rights, but only when they are viewed to be something other than a cluster of cells.

    Since individual libertarians cannot agree on at what point that cell cluster should be afforded libertarian rights, is it not more appropriate to say that the party just can’t come up with a consensus on the issue and leave it up to the individual? That seems pretty libertarian to me. The ony thing going for the plank at the moment is that probably the majority of libertarians are pro-choice. (I, politically, fall to that side of the issue, if anyone cares to know.)

    My biggest beef with the platform, beyond ALL the stuff mentioned by other folks here, is right at the front. That little phrase saying the LP opposes “the cult of the omnipotent state”. The phrase makes it sounds like we are a cult in return for even phrasing it that way. Of course that language can’t get changed witout a 90%, I believe, vote to change it. Yikes.

  13. Carl Milsted Says:

    “Keeping government out of the question” is not a neutral stance—unless you mean government stays out of the question if pro-lifers attempt to defend the unborn.

    But legal abortion is taking a stance, since governments defend abortion clinics.

    Truly getting government out of the issue would require setting up morality-enforcement-free zones. There, murder of any kind would be legal. Hobbes would rule. Let the bombers and the abortionists duke it out.

    Seriously, I am not proposing that the LP adopt my position on abortion; I am proposing that the LP as a body take no stand. George can be pro choice/pro death and I can be pro life/pro prison on the subject and we can still both be Libertarians, because we have agreement on so many other issues where the non-initiation of force dictum is less ambiguous.

  14. George Phillies Says:

    If I am pro-death/ pro-choice, then the opposition should be recognized as the Libertarian girlkiller faction.

  15. joe average Says:

    seems like the libertarians are taking over this blog.

    luckily they can’t get their act together, so we shouldn’t feel threatened.

  16. Douglas E. Says:

    Joe, I am not a Libertarian. What party are you a member of?

  17. Alex Peak Says:

    QUOTE: “The biggest ones are open borders, attitude towards government defaulting on debt instead of rasing taxes ( what happened to CUT SPENDING?????)...”

    I agree with you that the defaulting on debt has to go. And I’m glad the zero-dues were passed.

    However, I really like the LP stance on borders, and would hate to see that go. I prerequisit to any sense of Liberty, in my opinion, is open borders, something the USSR opposed. All peaceful immigrants should be allowed in, in my opinion.

    QUOTE: “And at some point ( not now ) we are going to push HARD for the Pledge to be removed for members.”

    I don’t really see any problem with the pledge, either. :

    QUOTE: “Abortion must be a focal point in the platform. Libertarians should oppose abortion - at least in the platform - because it is denying the rights and liberty of human beings.

    “Immigration should be addressed in a more coherent manner; close up our borders right now!”

    I disagree on both accounts.

    QUOTE: “Taking a stand on abortion needlessly divides the party… so I think it’s best left where it is, a neutral statement.”

    I concur.

    QUOTE: “The abortion plank currently DOES take a stand. The LP is currently pro-death.”

    No, China is pro-death. Every pro-Choice person I know is pro-Life.

    QUOTE: “We should have an EPA. Pollution is an interstate commerce issue in many cases.”

    I don’t mind the EPA existing, but it definitely needs to be reformed if we keep it.

    QUOTE: ““Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question. We condemn state-funded and state-mandated abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.”

    “Sounds neutral to me.”

    Likewise.

    QUOTE: “And this whole bit about us losing 50% of voters - I think that’s ridiculous.”

    There are plenty of people that will refuse to support a pro-Choice party, and there are plenty of people that will refuse to support an anti-Choice party. I know that personally I’m not fond of anti-Choice candidates, so I’m glad the LP doesn’t take a stance on abortion (other than to say it shouldn’t be funded by the government, which is something all Libertarians can agree with, regardless of their stance on abortion itself).

    QUOTE: “If anything, we’d be more Republican and sway more Republicans over to our side, where we actually COULD win some races. If the anti-liberty-for-children faction doesn’t like it, they can go start their own party or something.”

    71% of Republicans are pro-Choice, so taking an anti-Choice stance not only would fractionalise the party and make pro-Choicers leave, but it would decrease the likelihood of Republicans voting for the LP.

    (This statistic comes from the Republicans For Choice group.)

    QUOTE: “At least strike a compromise and ban partial-birth abortion.”

    The term “partial birth abortions” makes it sound like the baby is half-way out of the body. Of course I oppose abortions where the baby is half-way out of the body. I oppose abortions after the water has broken.

    But when the politicians say “partial birth abortions”, they’re referring to abortions in the third trimester. It’s a misnomer.

    Again, I think it best that the platform not take a position on the legality of abortion. It will just drive people away.

    QUOTE: “I mean the LP can only attemtp to represent the views of its members, but individual libertarians have differeng stand on abortion taht have nothing to do with “rights” and everything to do with personal, moral beliefs about exactly when that little cluster of cells should be afforded any of those rights.”

    Here’s an Objectivist approach.

    QUOTE: “That little phrase saying the LP opposes “the cult of the omnipotent state”. The phrase makes it sounds like we are a cult in return for even phrasing it that way.”

    True. It does sound a little wacky.

    QUOTE: ““Keeping government out of the question” is not a neutral stance—unless you mean government stays out of the question if pro-lifers attempt to defend the unborn.”

    The Federal government has no right to get involved (despite what the Court may say). Constitutionally, it rests in the hands of the States, as per the tenth amendment.

    QUOTE: “Truly getting government out of the issue would require setting up morality-enforcement-free zones. There, murder of any kind would be legal. Hobbes would rule. Let the bombers and the abortionists duke it out.”

    State of Nature. I wouldn’t mind having some States of Nature in various places around the world, in which there rests absolutely no government. People could go live there if they choose, or they might not. Although I don’t think it would be as bleak as Hobbes described it. If life is so nasty, brutish, and short, then why did we live long enough to create civil government?

    QUOTE: “George can be pro choice/pro death…”

    By pro-death, do you mean, in support of the Death Penalty? For I do support the Death Penalty. And I am (or rather, consider myself to be) pro-Choice.

    QUOTE: “seems like the libertarians are taking over this blog.”

    I’m not officially a member of any recognised party, but I endorse the LP.

  18. Otto Kerner Says:

    I predict that the reform faction will have a much harder time getting platform reforms through the convention than they did getting zero dues passed. On internal reforms, they can work together with the “purists” just fine—there’s no real reason that purists should oppose things like zero dues. That just seems like good common sense. But, with regard to the platform, it seems that most of what’s being discussed here is simply to take certain planks in the LP’s platform and make them less libertarian. At the end of the day, is this really a good idea? No doubt there are some things we believe in that are highly controversial, but is the answer really to change what we believe … or, at least, change what we say we believe?

    Take, for instance, immigration. There are a lot of downsides to allowing immigration, but, when you come down to it, it’s a freedom issue. Do people have a right to live where they want to live (provided they’re peaceful, rent an apartment from someone who wants them as a tenant, etc.), or do they not? It’s probably true that most people don’t support this freedom, and maybe true that “the LP won’t get anywhere with an ‘open borders’ policy”. What to do? Suppose that it were the 1830s and the Whig Party or somesuch had a plank in their platform calling for an immediate end to slavery. Lots of people would probably point out that, well, the Whigs won’t get anywhere with a “free blacks” policy. They’d probably be right. Critics would also point out that, suddenly freeing all the slaves would cause massive societal disruption. Right again. And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, do we really recommend that they stop calling for abolition? Are we for freedom or are we against it? Or somewhere in between?

    I agree partially with Milstead about taxes. The LP should not take an official position that is incompatible with minarchism, and minarchism will probably always require some level of taxation. The platform should just say that they will repeal the income tax and dramatically reduce taxes to their lowest feasible level. (For the same reason, the pledge has to go, too; it just doesn’t serve any useful purpose.)

    But the idea that repealing the Department of Energy equals private nuclear weapons … talk about a strawman! The DOE didn’t exist until 1977. Even Bob Dole was in favor of repealing it.

    Defaulting on the debt is a fine idea (it’ll go over better if it’s means-tested, though). I don’t see any particular reason to take it out of the platform, although it’s not exactly a core issue, so I suppose it’s not de rigeur. Obviously, you can default on the debt and cut spending at the same time.

    Libertarians must continue to oppose public education (yes, even if this makes it harder for school board candidates—in fact, it’s all the more important that the people running for school-related offices are clear about what the libertarian position on schools is). This is actually a pretty straigthforward issue. A government that runs schools is not a minimal government—it’s a huge interference into civil society and the lives of citizens. Vouchers are nice (also dangerous) but they are not a long-term solution. It’s just another variation on how to organize welfare. Are we for welfare or against it? Is welfare bad only when it goes to destitute, mostly minority, folks? Or is it also bad when middle class white people get used to having it?

    Oddly enough, Mr. Dauben’s argument about abortion, which I don’t agree with, is just about the only exception here. He is at least trying to address the issue from a libertarian perspective, in terms of the rights and liberties of the fetus, although this is not an interpretation of liberty that most libertarians share. Mr. Milsted is indeed correct that the current platform is not neutral; it should be neutral, but it isn’t. The surrounding language sounds like it’s building up to a statement of neutrality, but what it actually says is, “we believe the government should be kept out of the question”, which is not neutral if we assume that there is still going to be a government. They should change it to say that the federal government should keep out of it and that the national party takes no position on what the states should do.

    Instead of reforming the platform to keep it on-reservation, a much better idea is what Mike N. suggests: if the platform is hurting candidates, just get rid of the platform altogether. Let candidates have their own platforms. Way better than having the party itself come out and say it is not in favor of libertarian politics.

  19. Lenny Zimmermann Says:

    I don’t think changing the platform to be more moderate is somehow not “saying what we belive”. That, to me, says that the platform isn’t really a platform at all but more of a philosophical position paper. I think a political platform needs to focus on what is polticially accomplishable within the next 4-8 years. I don’t see how showing folks moderate steps can lead us towards liberty (and that such steps will also allow folks to see the wisdom of further steps in that direction) is somehow against our beliefs. Especially since not all libertarians share exactly the same beliefs on all issues.

    If anything I think the core libertarian philosophy is not the Non-Agression Principle (although it certainly is that for some libertarians) but rather the belief that society is better served by smaller governement and greater personal and economic freedom. In many ways, then, comparing our stand on, say, defaulting on the national debt to abolitionism just doesn’t seem to stand on equal legs, to me.

    BTW, I believe the comments concerning open borders is primarily because the way the language on the platform reads is that the borders should, effectively, be unguarded. I know that is not what it really says or what most libertarians would agree that open borders necessarily means, but rather that most libs mean open borders for peacable immigration. I think the platform needs to be clearer about encouraging LEGAL immigration, while retaining the right to defend our borders against those who would cause us harm.

    Dr. Milsted also had, I believe, a well capsulated argument for “atomic planks”, where each plank should be considered on its ability to stand on its own merit (http://www.libertyforall.net/milsted.html). And the case for open borders is one predicated on removal of the welfare state, for without removal of welfare we just force the country into even deeper debt, something already a huge concern for border states where illegal immigration is already causing a welfare burden.

    Making our planks viable will help to make our candidates viable. I don’t think we need a platform to convince libertarians to be libertarian (in fact I would argue our platform has been known to even turn other libertarians off precisely because it does not brook the incremental libertarian steps to get us there), I think we really need a platfomr to convince everyone else of the viability of libertarian ideals, to convince “non-libertarians” to vote for us because we present reasonable solutions in a reasonable manner.

    Let’s face it, many Americans have a strong emotional reaction to some issues. No matter how reasonable you are with the issues, it’s hard to get around the emotional cloud of that issue to show how reasonable the libertarian stance really is. The Drug Issue, for example. When we cite all the statistics showing there is a problem with drugs in this country, and even how we deal with drug offenders, there’s a lot of agreement out there. But when you bring up the solution as legalize ALL drugs RIGHT NOW (and that’s pretty much how the platform reads on a lot of issues, that is seems to imply, even DEMAND, immediate change) you’ll find you just lost practically all of your audience. Now start talking about decriminalizing medical marijuana or even just marijuana in general, and all of a sudden you run into a lot less resistance. Those steps are doable, and non-liberterians are willing to support it. Once you show them that decriminalizing MJ didn’t suddenly turn everyone into potheads with some major increase in pot-related injuries and deaths, you can start working on the next steps, and so on.

    I think that is what people mean when they say the platform is a hindrance to the LP as a viable political party. It’s all fine and dandy as some kind of libertarian philosophy paper for the kind of libertopia we might be intersted in seeing some day (or even “Anarchy Next Wednesday” as one gentleman put it on another blog), but it falls way short of being a persuasive political stance on those issues. Far from Rothbard’s assertion that the extreme stance will force the “other guys” to start to lean your way, we’ve seen the exact opposite and the LP has been marginalized and trivialized in the American political scene. In other words, the current planks are not working to convince non-libertarians that we really do have some good ideas.

  20. Otto Kerner Says:

    Lenny,

    I get where you’re coming from. If all we are trying to do is switch to a focus on what’s achievable in the short-term, that’s not a bad thing—as long as the candidates still know where we’re going after the short term. I tend to think that voters do expect a platform to be a philosophical statement, basically the answer to the question, “what would the country look like if you were running it?” I’ve never had the impression that the Democrats or Republicans limited themselves to what was going to be feasible in the next few years. So, maybe it’s not a good idea to call the LP’s position-document a platform at all. Maybe something like, “Action Points” instead?

    I didn’t and wouldn’t, by the way, “compar[e] our stand on, say, defaulting on the national debt to abolitionism”. I would compare issues like immigration and public education to abolitionism. These are clear-cut applications of “the belief that society is better served by smaller government and greater personal and economic freedom”.

  21. Austin Cassidy Says:

    Look how easily the platform, in it’s current state, can be used against candidates…

    http://www.caucusnj.org/adubato/1997/97-1030.asp

    If Sabrin had run as an Independent, I bet he’d have gotten 10%+ of the vote.

  22. Otto Kerner Says:

    But this doesn’t relate to platform specifically. What we see here is Sabrin getting hammered over actions and positions that he took himself. Changing the platform won’t change that. Moreover, the issues he is being criticized for—local funding of schools, opposing the income tax, deregulating insurance—are all bread-and-butter libertarian issues, not comparable to things like legalizing crack and and Uzis.

    By the way, didn’t Sabrin later run again as a Republican? I think he’s an RLCer now, but he hasn’t had any electoral success yet, as far as I know.

  23. R. Paul Says:

    There is no way to stop muddle-headed media types like Steve Adubato (a former Democrat Assemblyman) from crucifying Libertarians running for office for taking principled positions. Like most of the people commenting on this thread concerning the alleged difficulties with the LP Platform, they are unprincipled collectivists who seek to justify every policy position on the basis that it has some popular appeal and can be justified by some generic utilitarian idea.

    Libertarianism is based upon two related notions: Self-ownership and the non-aggression principle (two-sides of the same coin). That cannot be changed. It is what it is. The only things that can be changed within the ambit of a legitimate “libertarian” political party are the method of delivering that message and the messengers themselves. The animating idea is immutable, irreducable, exacting and unchangeable.

    Stop attempting to square the circle. Go from there.

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