An update below from Marc Joffe on a Covid-19 protest, which it looks like some folks are actively organizing. There have also apparently been some protests in other states (maybe I'll post something separately on that). Regarding protesting against the Covid-19 restrictions, I share Marc's view that the government abridgments of civil liberties in response to the Covid-19 situation deserve to be opposed, and am personally interested in taking part in a protest.
I would also like to see the LPSF as a group at least speak out if not protest as a group on the issue, although I'm mindful of seeking consensus on what official action or position we take. As clear as the preferable libertarian stance seems to me in political terms, nevertheless how to respond to an epidemic is not a super-clear-cut libertarian issue in terms of how the Non-Aggression Principle applies.
An interesting point is raised in this short video that Doug Ross passed along from James Corbett of CorbettReport.com, asking whether forcing people to stay home is justified because you are guilty of murder if you happen to become part of a sequence of viral transmissions that results in someone's death which you could have avoided doing by following a government quarantine order: https://twitter.com/starchildsf/status/1251045021580619776.
Marc also shared below some thoughts in response to Michael Edelstein, who had echoed his comments about being agile and doing away with bureaucracy, not taking time on things like discussing bylaws and internal elections, and asked him to give us some suggestions. In response to that, I wrote a reply which ended up considerably longer and deeper than planned, but which I hope you will find worth the time to read.
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))
* * *
(Limiting to SFLP members)
That may be above my paygrade since I did cancel my membership immediately after the meeting.
I burned out from the LP in the 1980s and have only engaged again briefly.. Normally the experience is a letdown. The one exception was the Iraq War protest when SFLP members like you, Francoise, Phil and Marcy were incredibly supportive.
To some extent, the LP has to be the way it is because it is a creature of the state. It has to have bylaws, elected officers, etc. It may not be fixable.
The proper form of organization is the subscription model. One individual or a small group of individuals (who normally agree with one another) run an activist group in a non-democratic way. People can join and participate at whatever level suits them. If they don’t like the policies of the organization, they are always free to exit and create another. The leader or leadership group is the publisher; everyone else is the subscriber. Subscribers don’t get a vote and they don’t get to argue about how the organization operates or what priorities it chooses, but they are always free to unsubscribe.
Although this approach does not directly follow from the NAP, it is implicit in the libertarian literature on political economy. We observe that democracies are inefficient in part because they waste a lot of time and energy on debate. We like small businesses that rapidly adopt to changing market conditions. We should use these insights and preferences to govern our activism.
I regret not having you as a member, and naturally hope you will reconsider. You have been part of our local pro-freedom community here for years, and seem to me like part of the clan. While whatever conservative or other group(s) whose correspondence you've forwarded may indeed be pleasing you by planning to protest the Covid-19 lockdown, compared with your frustration at the LPSF at not doing the same, will they be pro-freedom on the next issue that comes along, or the one after that? Surely there's something to be said for standing in solidarity with (and tossing a few bucks toward) the only pro-freedom group in the Bay Area I'm aware of that has an organization in most if not all the region's counties.
I'm copying this to the LPSF-Activists list as I proposed doing, to bring the rest of our local group in on this conversation, especially as your response to Michael Edelstein makes an interesting and somewhat provocative suggestion about the LPSF's structure/operations. I don't believe we're necessarily required to have bylaws and elected officers as a local party chapter – indeed for years we paid minimal attention to our local bylaws. As do you if I understand you correctly, I would like to see us operate as more of a "do-ocracy" so that we can get more accomplished with quicker turn-around for stuff like this, as I hope we all want. At the same time, I don't want such a change to come at the cost of democracy or debate. It seems to me that allowing local activists' and members' votes and voices to be heard is important for many reasons, among them making people feel their involvement is valued so that they will feel good about being involved.
In that vein, I'm kind of surprised to see you arguing here against a democratic approach to party governance, as it was my understanding that you briefly joined as an LPSF member last Saturday in order to have a vote at the meeting, and then asked for a refund and to resign your membership after it was made clear that a Libertarian Party of California rule disallowing this due to your residing in another California county is held valid under our bylaws (a rule and provision I personally believe we would do well to change).
The impression I'm getting from your post below, that you believe we'd be better off as an organization if someone in the LPSF (or a small group of us) were making decisions in which you didn't have a vote, or even the ability to argue about how the group operates or what priorities it chooses, seems at odds with your own recent actions as described above. Don't you think a more autocratic approach would tend to deter people's support as it apparently did yours? I'm not saying we should welcome everyone to vote in our organization regardless of what they believe (the Libertarian Party currently limits voting membership to signers of the non-aggression pledge), but I don't want people who share the party's philosophy and goals as much as I believe you do to be alienated from participation.
It seems to me that the challenge is to come up with and adhere to a model or approach that (not necessarily in this order!) (a) enables us to get things done efficiently, (b) is capable of attracting participation/support beyond a small number of people, and (c) is sustainably libertarian in outlook and positions, i.e. consistently takes pro-freedom stances across a broad range of issues and is fair and balanced enough in this to appeal to people with both progressive and conservative leanings on different issues. Do you agree with these organizational goals?
Small businesses do tend to adopt rapidly to changing market conditions, and their employees and customers also typically have more of a vote and a voice in their operations and priorities than is true in big businesses which tend to be slower to react to changing market conditions. The typical big business employee has less of a say in the group of which they are a part. There's a saying, "To err is human, but to really foul things up it takes a computer." I would propose that, To err is human, but to really do harm on a large scale usually requires an institution.
On the other hand, by working cooperatively with others in an organized manner, it is of course often possible to get more, sometimes much more, done than one could alone. I think you said you personally didn't want to go out and protest Covid-19 if it was only five or ten people. I can relate, although I think my threshold for participating in a public protest against the government lockdown orders would only be two people. Naturally I would prefer more! So I'm not against people working together in organizations, especially organizations formed for a temporary and limited purpose like a group of activists planning a protest. However I am against, or at least consider very problematic, some of the qualities often associated with institutions, such as bureaucracy, hierarchy of power, and a distinct, impersonal nature. A question that strikes me as particularly interesting – I may not be asking precisely the right question, but something along these lines – is this:
At what point does an organization become less simply a group people cooperating as individuals, and more an institution with its own independent existence, such that the nature and tendencies of this thing to which we have given birth becomes important and potentially dangerous?
And how can we avoid institutionalization? If there is a line to be crossed, does having officers and/or bylaws put the LPSF across that line? I don't think so. Yet I think that sort of thing tends to move an organization in that direction. I guess I'm proposing that there's a sweet spot where people coming together in pure voluntary cooperation as an organized group can harness the most aggregate power possible from that cooperation before the harm or risk of harm starts to outweigh the gain. What if the State (government) is just a type of institution, a type which tends to be particularly powerful and malignant, but with a more fundamental underlying problem being the institution qua institution?
But how do you Marc, or others here, feel about the idea that institutionalization is generally best avoided? That is my perspective, not necessarily mainstream libertarian thinking. Curious to hear folks' thoughts...
In the meantime, in the spirit of doing, I'd like to see whether anyone would like to get together with me and do some #EndTheLockdown or other Covid-19 related sidewalk chalking! I've got chalk and my schedule is pretty open.
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))
Chair, Libertarian Party of San Francisco
P.S. – Melanie Morgan (conservative former KSF radio host) and Melanie Swanson are the same person?