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Essays:

Why Be Libertarian?
(Rothbard)

Strategies for a Libertarian Victory (Rothbard)

The Importance of the Caucus (Rothbard)


LP Resolutions:

On Strategy
On Coalition


Audio:

Plumb-Line Libertarianism
( Walter Block )

 

 

Essay: Three Strategic Questions

The first great strategic question is: What is the role of the Party? Rothbard initially thought the Party was formed too early, that there were too few knowledgeable individuals to form the core (the "cadre"), much less a mass of the public ready to embrace libertarian ideas and move them to success in the political arena.

When the party attracted enough adherents to carry on basic activities, such as running candidates, Rothbard changed his mind, noting that the LP became the locus of libertarian activity for non-scholars. For, after all, what is the ordinary person who wants to make an impact upon the world to do? In some cases Libertarians have been responsible for defeating taxes and other onerous burdens. In addition, the LP has introduced many people to libertarian ideas who never would have heard them otherwise.

But in a sense Rothbard's original thought was correct. The LP has not swept up any significant fraction of the electorate to become a major force in American politics and it does not seem likely to do so in the near future unless one of the major parties crumbles. So what should the role of the Party be in this situation? If Libertarians' energies would not be better spent organizing within one of the major parties, then what exactly should their goals be with the LP?

A second strategic question builds upon Rothbard's observation in Strategies for a Libertarian Victory that one goal of any mass libertarian organization should be to get as many people up the ideological "pyramid" of knowledge as possible. It also derives from the clear and present danger that the LP may find some day itself with a majority of its members holding non-libertarian ideas. So the question is: Why is there no comprehensive program of internal education within the LP? It can be argued that this is best left to other organizations, such as the various think tanks, but does this not beg the question? Are not these organizations just as subject to the dangers described? In fact, some are beholden to individual large donors, and so do not have a structure conducive to supporting the Party. No, in an ideological organization such as the LP, its ideology and its worldview need to be explicitly provided as a basis for its conclusions and calls for action, as embodied in its platform. If the platform is the "what", then internal education is about the "why". It should not be left to others to supply the "why".

In light of these two questions, we ask a third, more specific question about the current strategy of the LP to try to elect Libertarians to any office available: Is the "bottom up" electoral strategy correct? Why should Libertarians be running, and in some cases volunteering for positions at the very bottom of the ladder, positions with limited power and especially, limited visibility? There are some 2 million elected positions in the U.S. and many, if not most, are for small domains such as city councils, townships, school boards, water districts, land use planning boards, and the like. For the most part these entities run the infrastructure seized long ago by the state, and do not touch upon the major issues of our time: war, taxation, and civil liberties. This is not to say that Libertarians have not done a service by their opposition to expansion of the state in these arenas, but the question is whether this is a proper strategy for the LP to take: climbing the political ladder from the bottom-most rungs.

There is no question that these are not easy times to be a Libertarian. The major parties have become expert one the one hand at buying the support of the various interest groups with giveaways, and on the other hand at manipulating the war fever via lies and fear. Keeping our strategic bearings is vital to making progress in the long run, which is what counts.


What is the Rothbard Caucus?

The Rothbard Caucus is every Libertarian Party member who explicitly takes heed of Rothbard's insights into libertarian theory and strategy. Murray Rothbard's participation in the party in the 1970's and 1980's gave it much of its radical character, yet his contributions are already almost forgotten.

As a concrete move toward implementing Rothbard's ideas, the Rothbard Caucus urges every Libertarian candidate for office to take the Rothbard Pledge.


Why the Rothbard Caucus?

Because the Libertarian Party needs at least three things:

  • An overall sense of strategy and awareness of the twin dangers of sectarianism and opportunism. These strategic errors are currently manifested to a degree in the debate between the "pragmatists" and the "idealists".
  • A way to end the debates over who is a Libertarian and who isn't, and, especially, who isn't libertarian enough for the Libertarian Party.

  • A program of internal education. It shocks us that there are Libertarians with years of experience in the Party who have no familiarity with Rothbard or his ideas at all!



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