Should the LP drop the Pledge?

I just finished reading this opinion piece by Carl Milsted, Jr. over at Free Market News and it got me thinking some about the Libertarian Party’s official pledge.

I’d be really interested to hear the opinions of some readers of this blog. Should the pledge be eliminated? Why or why not?

8 Responses to “Should the LP drop the Pledge?”

  1. ms Says:

    Yes, the LP should drop the pledge. The LP should be a practical movement that attempts to move the country in a more libertarian direction. Many people who are say 60% libertarian, who support force in certain situations, are excluded from the party. This make them very ineffective.

    If the LP would axe the pledge, and revise its platform, you might see more Independents and centrists join the party.

  2. undercover_ararchist Says:

    I think the pledge shold be kept as a philosophical base, not a dogmatic creed. It should be made clear that the party believes in incremental progress toward liberty whenever most practical.

  3. Citizens For A Better Veterans Home Says:

    Libertarianism, so much to give, but at such a restricted price!

  4. Trevor Southerland Says:

    How does a pledge saying you won’t be the one to start violence stop a person from joining, or put a restricted price on them, etc… ?

  5. George Phillies Says:

    Milsted writes of some pledge signers: “They didn’t think very hard about the implications of the Pledge. They were told that the Pledge was really just a pledge not to advocate violent means to overthrow the government.”

    I was told that. Actually, I was told that by David Nolan himself, he who wrote the pledge. There is no doubt that that is what the pledge means. The pledge is an agreement that the LP is a political party, not an assembly of bomb-throwing hippies. Let us ignore that the 70s bombthrowers and teh 70s hippies were very different, and the major bombplanters in modern America are antiabortion terrorists. Milsted is throwing up these attacks on the pledge, rather than urging that there needs to be more emphasis from the LP on the pledge’s true meaning, for reasons that I cannot specify in great detail, related to his attacks on ‘purists’ and his interest in redoing the platform.

  6. Daniel Ong Says:


    Thomas Knapp discusses the roots of the pledge (you’re quoted) at length at:

    I didn’t have extensive philosophical background when I first joined the Libertarian Party (not sure when it was official, but I identified with them in 1976 when I first found out about them) and 3. rationalized the pledge, figuring it was an ideal to aim for in the very long run.

    I also guessed it meant 2. not being out to violently overthrow the government, but such a pledge is unnecessary because people choosing to work within the political process to reduce the power and scope of government (such as myself) are very deliberately choosing not to use such violence, and people choosing to violently overthrow the government couldn’t care less about such a pledge (some may disagree, but that’s how I see it).

    I rationalized the philosophical interpretation (no coercive taxes immediately) because I figured taxes were necessary to fund government in the meantime as it was incrementally reduced. I would be quite happy if within my lifetime the federal government was gradually reduced to its constitutionally limited role as the founders envisioned it (with possibly some adjustments for a quarter of a millenium’s change in communications, technology, transportation, science, warfare, terrorism, etc.).

    If we aim to make the Libertarian Party tent bigger to actually win many partisan elections (such as enough state legislative seats to influence legislation), we need to drop the pledge, or at least admit its philosophical roots and relegate it to a long-term goal, rather than a litmus test for “membership” with ambiguous meaning.

    In about half the states, people join political parties simply via affiliation on their voter registration. Republicans and Democrats (and Greens and Constitutionalists and Reformists etc.) don’t have a pledge for party membership. We Libertarians don’t need a pledge either as a political party, which is a group of people with similar (not identical) political aims (generally headed in the same direction).

    (George, I could support you for LNC Libertarian national Committee but I have to agree with Knapp on the pledge. If it’s supposed to mean members won’t violently overthrow the governent, it should be changed so it simply says so, but I already stated why even such a simple statement is unnecessary, and the strict philosophical interpretation is too restrictive for an effective political party, so let’s drop the pledge altogether.)

  7. Hardy Says:

    The LP shouldn’t make it harder for itself to grow. The LP should drop the pledge.

    No matter what the original meaning was when Nolan drafted his pledge, meanings change overtime and now it is seen by many as an litmus test of purity for the party.

    The Vermont LP recently voted to drop the pledge as a requirement for state membership. So far we haven’t had any bomb throwers, and we have picked up some very good activists that up until recently wouldn’t join the party due to the pledge.

    We are recruiting non-traditional candidates from a LP point of view—meaning traditional from the voting population point of view—to run this fall. I’m glad that I’m not going to have to explain the pledge to these candidates and I can focus on candidates that agree in social tolerance and fiscal responsibility.

    - Hardy

  8. David F. Nolan Says:

    I happened to stumble on this page within hours of this question (Should the LP drop the Pledge?) being posted. And since I’m able to address it from a unique perspective, I thought I’d chime in.

    I wrote the so-called pledge (more accurately called the “non-initiation of force statement”) all by myself, and stuck it at the bottom of our first membership application form. I did this, as I have explained MANY times, because in those days there was widespread concern that a new and “radical” group might be planning the overthrow of the government by force. The FBI, under Richard Nixon, was infiltrating all kinds of groups, mostly antiwar organizations, and spying on their members. I wanted to make it perfectly clear that the fledgling LP was not in this category.

    As Tom Knapp has surmised, the specfic wording I used was chosen to have resonance with admirers of Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard—but I did not see it as a philosophical purity test, only a public affirmation of our commitment to achieving change through peaceful means.

    I honestly do not remember when affirmation of this statement became a REQUIREMENT for joining the LP. I know it was early-on, but I don’t recall the precise date or occasion. And in the years since its adoption, it has served us well. More than once government agents investigating violent acts have “backed off” from pursuing local LP organizations when shown the pledge.

    Now obviously, if someone is a terrorist, willing to commit violent acts, they won’t balk at signing a pledge. But the Pledge puts us on record as being against such tactics. And in today’s climate of paranoia and PATRIOT Act spying, it would be very stupid of us to “drop” the pledge. Perhaps it could be reworded, but for us to abandon our 35-year stance against using violence to achieve political and social goals would send precisely the wrong message!

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