Sunday, 7 November 2010

A party member speaks...

The party to which I am a novice member is holding its annual meeting, and strangely the first item on the agenda is suicide, of a kind. The leader-in-waiting is pushing for us to junk the party name and re-brand ourselves as the Libertarian and Constitutional Party. I am very much opposed.

I am a libertarian. This is why I joined the Libertarian Party. If I had to define the creed, it would go something like this:

A belief and commitment, fortified by Reason, to:

Individual liberty, private property, non-aggression, free market capitalism and as minimal a state as possible.

The second and third items are tautological, for they are indispensable elements of the first. The concept of individual liberty (properly understood) contains within it private property as its object. Our lives, our bodies and our wealth are our property, and the liberty which we confess is over these very things. The axiom of non-aggression is the logically necessary limit upon this freedom, without which individual liberty is meaningless. If I am 'free' to rob or assault the property of another, the freedom of this other person is clearly violated.

The fourth and the fifth are logical progressions from the first, if not also tautological. Free market capitalism is private property in action, a system whereby everyone is free to do as they will within their rightful sphere - that which they own.

Recognition of the state as our foremost adversary in the pursuit of liberty requires no great reservoir of insight. Outside the state, our only enemies are mere individual criminals, essentially amateurs and free-lancers in comparison to the state's professional operation - a difference of degree, not kind. Like them, the state has taken no vow of non-aggression. The contract it avers to exist between it and us contains a clause called 'force majeur', which authorises the state, according to them, to break every rule in the book if they really really need to, for the 'greater good', you know.

But apart from this disagreeable claim over us, the state's malign influence spreads far farther, into realms where it professes only to want to help, meaning us no harm apparently. So it establishes rules over all manner of things, it sets up institutions and puts to work many thousands of people, measuring, monitoring, assisting and administering. It farms the nation for taxes, which it justifies on the basis of all the work it is doing for us. Even when admitting the waste and inefficiency inevitable in such a grand project, it maintains steadfastly the absolute necessity of its own existence: the state must be, and cannot not be.

Holding back from unleashing the anarcho-capitalist battery, merely conceding Paine's 'necessary evil', the all-important issue is one of size and scale and cost. The state intrudes ever more into our private spheres, and like a virulent weed invading a garden, it must be hacked back and rooted out, at least as far as the boundary. It's clumsy interventions in the economy do more harm than good, it's desire to interfer in the most private of matters positively perverse. However and wherever it can be accomplished, it is the task of libertarians to seek the state's reduction. The message is clear, imperative and ever-current: cut spending, cut taxes, cut your coat according to your cloth.

For me, the Libertarian Party should be a party for all libertarians, but no one else. It should position itself within the libertarian movement here in this country and across the globe. The goal should be the victory of libertarianism, the setting-up and upholding of a free society. Winning elections can be a staging post on this great road, but no more than that, surely. What the party can do is take the message of liberty into areas it would not otherwise be heard. There is also its value as a free association of like-minded people who can get together to share information and opinions and learn from one another. The party is still young. What was it expected to have done by now?

Changing the name and fixing the focus on a written constitution, specifically based on the Swiss Constitution, will not broaden the appeal of the party (an appeal that can only be as wide as libertarianism itself), but rather limit it to that faction of libertarians wedded to a very particular course of action. Such a Constitution is not inherently libertarian, rather it is democratic. These are two very different things. Not only that, the failure to understand the difference - nay, the fundamental antagonism - between democracy and liberty is one of the barriers we must overcome to get our message across. Another such barrier is having to explain why we uphold the liberty of everyone within their own private spheres, even racists, bigots and the like.

I will be attending the party meeting later this month, and am hoping to be able to get these points across.


Guthrum said...

Look forward to seeing you there, you can exercise your democratic vote then

Cheers A

Trooper Thompson said...

And indeed my democratic voice!