Blogs > Liberty and Power > A Crossroads in Denver

May 21, 2008 4:24 pm


A Crossroads in Denver



[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

While I think the primary focus of libertarian activism should be on rendering society ungovernable (via education and building alternative institutions) rather than on electoral politics, unlike my more austere agorist comrades I still see libertarian political campaigns as serving a legitimate and useful auxiliary role – and so I still care about the fate of the Libertarian Party, whose presidential nominating convention begins this week.

It looks like the convention will decide not just the nominee but the future of the party: will it return to its principles by nominating a radical libertarian like Mary Ruwart (my preference – see my statement on her endorsements page) or Steve Kubby, or will it allow itself to be highjacked by the right, the result for which Bob Barr’s forces appear to be scheming? (See this press release from the party’s founder about the shenanigans of the Barr forces.) This may well be the starkest choice the party has faced.

Barr is positioning himself as the natural continuator of the Ron Paul Revolution; but for all my problems with Ron Paul he is far more solidly libertarian than Barr, who favours an aggressive foreign policy (albeit in Latin America rather than the Middle East) and still supports drug prohibition (albeit at the state rather than the federal level). It will be ironic if the Ron Paul Revolution, by bringing disaffected Republicans into the LP, contributes to the effective destruction of the Libertarian Party.

Agorist Demerit Count: 2




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Bill Woolsey - 5/23/2008

Barr is running for President on the libertarian program of getting out of Iraq, not attacking Iran, avoding any preventative war or nation building, substantially cutting back government spending, and protecting Constituional rights of the accused as well as separation of powers.

I believe the first two items of his agenda are the most popular elements of Ron Paul's agenda. The third is also part of the Paul agenda and one that appears closest to Barr's heart, reflecting his work for the last five years.

Barr is no running on maintaining the drug war. He his not condemning the scourge of drugs. Or anything of the sort. If the drug issue comes up, he is calling for stopping the Federal government's efforts to stop medical marijuana in states where it is legal. If pressed about the differnce between his past positions and what are commonly understood to be libertarian positions, he aruges that the drug issue should be dealt with at the state level. He has not, then, gone on to say that is very important that each state stamp out drugs. If pressed further, he has said that he wouldn't vote to legalize crack or heroin in his state.

While I don't like this position, he isn't running on it. I have read most of the articles in the mainstream media about Barr, and the thrust of the coverage is never, "vote for Barr so your state can stamp out drug abuse."

In my view, drugs are already illegal. Failure to suppport an end to prohibition is not that important.

In the last year, Barr wrote an article opposed cutting off foreign aid to Colombia. He never advocated invading Colombia. He was recently asked about claim made by Ruwart that he supports sending troops to Colombia. He said he didn't. (He did say that FARC holds there American hostages, so I guess he does take a dim view of FARC.)

Regardless, Barr is not running on the need for the U.S. to intervene more in Latin America. In general, he
is running against preventative war and Nations building. And, in particular he is running on getting out of Iraq and not invading Iran.

Barr's views on immigration are not bad, and much better than Paul's. He does call for getting control of teh borders. He does call for cutting of social spending (and that may mean schools and free hospital care) for illegal immigrants. But he is much more willing to say that it is OK for foreigners to work here than Paul was.

In my view, of the issues Barr is actually running on, this is the biggest grey area.

He isn't running on the drug war at all, so his failure to favor more than the smallest reforms (stopping federal harrassment against medical
marijuana users) is less of a concern.

Barr is pro-life and wants to leave the question to the states, exactluy like Paul. But unlike Paul, he isn't running on the issue.

In my view, Barr is promoting the personal liberties "leg" of the stool, by supporting the rights of the criminally accused. Here he is calling for reversing a very troubling change that has occured over the last 6 years.

I beleive that Barr is spreading a
libertarian message. Like any _good_ poltical campaign, his message is limited. He isn't trying to cover every issue. The issues where I disagree with him most, he isn't promoting.

And, of course, it looks like the story, "Will Barr spoil the election for McCain" will be a source of attention. Because Barr's main difference with McCain will be Iraq, that is the issue that will be covered. And, the other side of the story is, "perhaps he will take some support from Obama." Since Barr's key difference with Obama will be Federal spending, that will get some attention too.

I think it is a great opportunity.

I can understand that someone who doesn't really care about political action anyway, and how thinks writing books and the like is the best approach, would be attracted to a "politial" campaign that will be equivalent to academic lectures and books describing libertarian theory.

I would much prefer to need to explain where I differ from Barr a year from now, rather than have the
normal situation of, "you didn't vote
for McCain or Obama? What? Nader?
Who? Never heard of her"

No one where hear Ruwart's message.
People will hear Barr's. And there is
a good chance that the message they hear will be good. And that hardly
anyone will ever hear about the things that concern Long. (Even in
the someone more moderate fashion that is accurate rather than the
exaggerated fashion he described here.)


Otto M. Kerner - 5/23/2008

You know, I really do care about individual libertarians staying true to their principles. I used to care about the Libertarian Party also staying true to its principles. But, as time goes by, I just don't care any more. It doesn't seem important. On the other hand, nominating Barr right now just seems like a good idea. He will be a more preferable (or less dispreferable) candidate than McCain or Obama/Clinton and he will get some attention. More importantly, he will make it harder for John McCain to be elected president, by drawing away disaffected Republicans. This will reduce the chances of war with Iran and save people's lives.


Roderick T. Long - 5/22/2008

See Less Antman's comment here.


Justin A Bowen - 5/22/2008

Unfortunately for libertarians, they have this nasty habit of being somewhat consistent in their beliefs. That said, if what you are predicting does come true, wouldn't that simply cause the true libertarians to jump ship and form yet another politically unimportant party where they can talk amongst themselves?

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