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Plumb-Line Libertarianism
( Walter Block )

 

 

The Rothbard Pledge
for Libertarian Party Candidates and Activists

I pledge that, in addition to explaining the undesirable consequences of the coercive actions by the State, I will also make the moral case for liberty and the rights of individuals to their person and property.

I pledge never to call for an increase in the size or scope of government. I will not advocate more government intrusion in one are a while calling for le ss in a related area. I will never imply that liberty is not desirable immediately.

I pledge not to contradict the Libertarian Party Platform in prepared statements and promotional materials. If I hold a position that contradicts the Platform, I will, in response to questions, always present the Party's official position before my own position.

I pledge that whenever possible, I will widen the scope of debate to the larger issues of our time: war, loss of personal freedoms, and oppressive laws and institutions. I will not miss a chance, even in local races, to point out that my opponents are members of political parties that have created these manifestations of tyranny.


Candidates: How to publicly take the Rothbard Pledge

  • W atch this space for a small banner to paste into your website.

  • Contact us via email at mail@lprc.org. Be sure to include a phone number.


What is the rationale behind the Rothbard Pledge?

Rothbard's approach to strategy can be summed up as follows:

  • Liberty is the highest political end
  • The best foundation for Libertarian action is a passion for justice
  • Libertarians should not advocate positions incompatible with a totally free society
  • Libertarians should be abolitionists, calling for liberty as soon as possible
  • Libertarians should address real-world issues, adopt priorities and make transition demands
  • Libertarians should enter into single-issue coalitions to increase their leverage and recruit others

To this basic framework we add the following observation: Libertarian Party candidates who contradict the Platform are, at best, confusing the public about what the Party is about, and, at worst, moving us in a direction away from liberty.

However, it is a fact that most party members disagree with the Platform in at least one aspect. In this sense, the Party is a coalition of individuals with similar, but not identical views.

Thus it is unrealistic and unworkable to ask that LP candidates and activists adhere to the Platform in every utterance. We therefore ask only that candidates not contradict the Platform in prepared statements and promotional materials. When asked about issues where they hold positions contradicting the platform, candidates and activists should explain the Party's official position as expressed in the Platform before stating their own position.

We note that the Rothbard Pledge has the potential for quelling the endless debates about who is a Libertarian and who should not stay in Party.

Our position on this question is simple: anyone who advocates reducing, and never increasing the size and scope of the State belongs in the LP. There can be honest disagreements about particular government policies and actions. Those debates belong inside the party and can be expected to continue for all time. But for public consumption the Platform represents the Party's position and candidates and spokespersons should not contradict the Platform in prepared materials. Should they hold a position contradicting the platform, they should always give the Party's position as well as their own.

Why do we take this position? As radicals (and make no mistake, Rothbard was as radical as they come), one might expect that we would push for the most radical candidates and spokespersons. We might be expected to be "extremists", at the fringe of our party heckling those who propose transition measures that only go part way to abolishing government programs.

We take this moderate position on who has our approval to be a candidate because we have absorbed Rothbard's strategic insights; strategically, we are centrists. We want to see the Libertarian Party grow while remaining a Party of (Libertarian) Principle. To oppose those who do not take radical positions would be counterproductive. We want the party to be inclusive of all who favor more liberty, not an exclusive "club" of the purest.

Another reason not to "read anyone out of the movement" is that there are issues upon which even staunch libertarians disagree. The most basic issue is the legitimacy of the State itself. Again, calling upon one side or the other to leave is needlessly divisive and counterproductive. We can go our separate ways after abolishing the 99% that we agree on. The Rothbard Caucus therefore upholds the "truce" between anarchists and minimal statists adopted by the Party at its 1974 Dallas LP convention.

None of this is to imply that we, or anyone, should not have preferences among those seeking to be candidates. We prefer the candidate who most strongly defends a foreign policy of non-intervention and a domestic policy opposing the various "wars" (on drugs, terror, immigration, poverty, etc.), and the Rothbard Caucus can be expected to endorse candidates meeting these criteria. See the Ten Points for a succinct list of our priorities.

But each Libertarian can be expected to have his or her own preferences and priorities among the many attributes that comprise a candidate and a campaign. The Rothbard Pledge simply describes the minimum commitment (backed by deed of course) that might earn our endorsement.



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