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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Radical Center

I confess that I do not know quite where I fit in within the current known factions of the Libertarian Party. There seems to be a one-dimensional spectrum from Radical to Reformist, and I do not fall anywhere along it. (Perhaps we need a Nolan Chart for internal LP politics.) I find myself most sympathetic to those in the Radical camp, largely because Mary Ruwart's "Healing Our World" spoke to me as no other libertarian text has. While I think I'm a fairly bright fellow, I have never had a head for political theory or philosophy, but Dr. Ruwart's arguments made sense to me.

That said, I am no anarchist, and dare I say it, in many respects I am a statist. Nearly three years ago, I penned an essay on "Big Government" libertarianism. I no longer agree with some of the ideas I had then -- my political thinking, like my religious thinking, is in constant evolution -- but I do still sympathize with the person I was then, who joined the LP to seek the protection and multiplication of rights while eschewing a total reduction of government.

I sympathize with the Radicals because their camp is the one most focused on the issues I care most about -- the renewal of civil liberties, the ending of the War on Drugs, the right to make one's own decisions about education, the ending of marriage apartheid, and so on. However, on economic matters I am more moderate, and rather un-libertarian by most measures. I fully agree with the philosophical arguments against taxation, and have made some of them myself (especially in a Liberzine piece from 2000 that equated taxation with theft of the creative impulse, an essay sadly lost to the ages), but these matters don't burn me up the way so-called "social" issues do.

My Libertarianism is generally instinctual. I remember when I was about 12 years old, our small town imposed mandatory recycling requirements, and I loudly protested to my mother that the government had no right to tell us what to do with our garbage. She started at me like I was nuts. I don't remember how I first heard of the LP, but I was aware of it long before I could even vote. I did not and have not read Rothbard, Mises, Spooner, etc. -- perhaps if I did so, I would not be "wishy-washy" on monetary issues. It just made sense to me.

2 comments:

Allen Hacker said...

Peter,

Your political home, and Libertarian flavor, are probably in the 1972 Statement of Principles. That would be the one the original LP convention wrote, before the 1974 anarchist "revolution" shoved their radical revision down everyone's throats.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29615

Libertarian Party Platform of 1972

June 17th, 1972

THE PARTY OF PRINCIPLE
Adopted in Convention, Denver, Colorado, June 17-18, 1972

STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES

Adopted unanimously by the delegates to the first national convention of the Libertarian Party, on June 17, 1972.

We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state, and defend the rights of the individual.

We hold that each individual has the right to exercise sole dominion over his own life, and has the right to live his life in whatever manner he chooses, so long as he does not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live their lives in whatever manner they choose.

Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the life of the individual and seize the fruits of his labor without his consent.

We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that the sole function of government is the protection of the rights of each individual: namely (1) the right to life -- and accordingly we support laws prohibiting the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action -- and accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property -- and accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support laws which prohibit robbery, trespass, fraud and misrepresentation.

Since government has only one legitimate function, the protection of individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. Men should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders on a free market; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of man's rights, is laissez-faire capitalism.

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Allen Hacker said...

Note that the original LP Statement of Principles recognized a role for government and actually supported certain types of laws.

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