Real World Politics and Radical Libertarianism

Real World Politics and Radical Libertarianism

by Anthony Gregory <mailto:anthony1791@…>

This talk, "Real World Politics and Success for the Principles of
Liberty," was given at the Libertarian Party of California Convention in
San Ramon, CA, on April 22, 2007.

In considering the actual political reality we confront and the
realistic potential for libertarian reform, we often hear that radical
principle will just not do, for only through gradualism and electoral
compromise can we expect to see liberty advance. Becoming too devoted to
the non-aggression principle or the most radical applications of
free-market reasoning is seen as making the perfect the enemy of the
good. Here and there, we must give the state an inch, we are even told,
or else we will actually move further from our common goals.

One important point is that America remains one of the freest
civilizations in world history. We're told not to forget this and become
doomsdayers. Certainly, we have more secure property rights than have
been enjoyed by most human beings, either now or in the past. This had
led to a marvelous explosion of productivity in the United States and
has continued to be one of the best real-world examples of freedom in
action. Capitalism in America has produced a prosperity that the
socialists of a century ago claimed was impossible. Their criticism has
accordingly shifted from a critique that markets could never provide the
most basic needs of the common man to a complaint that markets produce
too much, offer us too many choices, result in decadent consumerism and
other such nonsense.

Furthermore, there have also been advances in American liberty in recent
times. The most fundamental, I would say, is the elimination of military
conscription. We have also seen a reduction of income taxes, some
liberalization of state gun laws, a lowering of some trade barriers, and
various instances of deregulation in such sectors as telecommunications
and transportation. We don't have the price controls we once did. There
are ways that America is freer than it was only 20 or 30 years ago, and
surely, for huge segments of the population, 60 years ago, 160 years
ago, or 200 years ago. Worldwide, there have also been huge advances
that should not be understated. Stalinism is dead. China is moving
toward freer markets with Constitutional guarantees of private property
rights - not airtight guarantees, of course, but still a definitive mark
of improvement since Mao. Much of the world has followed the
classical-liberal trend toward freer trade. Central planning is not as
popular as it was in the interwar years. Looking at the situation over
the last several centuries, slavery in the purest sense is not as
officially and openly defended as it once was universally worldwide.

To ignore such developments completely is, I believe, a huge error in
understanding where we are and how we can move closer to the libertarian

And yet, surely America is not freer than it once was in all ways.
Surely it is not nearly as free as it could be. If it were there would
be no need for libertarian activism. So what energizes us? A vision for
an even freer tomorrow, one without the oppressive structures of today.

Some policies today are frankly so destructive and authoritarian that it
is easy to sympathize with those who laugh at the idea that America is a
free country. Consider the war on drugs. Some think that the Libertarian
Party has become too obsessed with this issue, but I strongly disagree.
There is no shame in calling this program what it is: a moral
monstrosity and a human-rights catastrophe. It is, in fact, one of the
clearest embodiments of modern political evil in domestic policy. It
would be hard to imagine any libertarian being too concerned with an
issue of such importance.

Before 9/11, the drug war was the state's favorite excuse to militarize
and nationalize police forces, equipping them with battle rifles and
rubberstamped warrants with which they can invade any home, any
business, any bank account and, to be quite direct, get away with murder
when push comes to shove.

Hundreds of thousands of peaceful people are being subjected to
treatment that a more humane culture would probably hesitate to force
animals to endure. Indeed, this speaks to the entire prison system, an
obscenity that should concern anyone who loves liberty and thinks
overbearing government is a bad idea. Within these holding cells is a
dystopian totalitarianism, where outcasts, criminals, and a million
people who committed no real crime are caged, monitored and controlled
by an unspoken code of police brutality and inter-prisoner rape and
violence. The whole institution must be rethought, and in the meantime
there is absolutely no excuse for not immediately freeing every last
prisoner who was sent there only for drugs or any other victimless

There are peaceful people trapped in the so-called justice system for
violating immoral gun laws, tax laws, economic regulations and even laws
that dictate what people can do voluntarily in their sexual relations.
Is there any greater tyranny? I happen to think the war on prostitution
deserves more libertarian attention, as well.

For each caged victim of the political system, his or her humanity is
being held on hold by the state. It is a moral necessity that we call
for immediate release of the peaceful.

The prison guard union lobbies for more and more laws and ever more
prisons. Every year, these factories of brutality continue to pop up all
over the map. We must stand up to this pressure.

Some might think I am going too far. I have even heard some people in
libertarian circles say that if you broke the law, even an unjust law,
you should do the time. This is incorrect. Such an attitude simply buys
into the central tenet of statist morality: That the state has the right
to violate people's rights. No state has this right. Indeed, no
individual or group of any kind has the right to violate the rights of
another. Or are we going to start believing A doesn't equal A, after

There are other ways in which America has lost liberty. Eminent domain
was always a favorite way for corporate-government partnerships to seize
property from rightful owners and enrich politically connected
businesses and local governments with higher tax revenues. But the
practice has become much more widespread recently. Social Security has
grown from a meager 1 or 2 percent tax at its beginning into a
government in itself, a system of massive intergenerational plunder.
Licensure has crept into ever more sectors in the economy, destroying
livelihoods by stripping people of their human right to make a living by
offering goods and services to anyone willing to buy.

There's a creeping move toward health care fascism, most clearly seen in
Bush's prescription drug leviathan, whereby costs are socialized but
profits privatized. Public schools gobble up more tax dollars than ever
and have become instruments of social engineering, whether to inculcate
PC leftist influences or hierarchical rightwing ones. Environmental laws
have wrecked private property rights, including the right to build a
porch in your own backyard without having to call a federal agency and
pay a fee first. The freedom of association has been battered by laws
regulating who people can hire or fire. Meanwhile, the freedom to hire
illegal aliens - as in, the right to engage in capitalistic acts between
consenting parties - is under more danger than ever. It has become so
absurd that you could probably get in trouble for hiring an undocumented
Mexican immigrant, or for not hiring him and breaking a Civil Rights

How come our country is such a paradox? So free yet so not free? We have
the biggest government in world history yet the most robust economy
ever. We have the freedom to speak our mind that many people around the
world would die for, yet we have the highest per-capita prison
population on the planet, half of which, again, are people who shouldn't
have even had their wrists slapped.

Well, this goes all the way back to the founding of the country and ties
in to the theme I want to stress: the relationship between practical
political reality and radical political principles.

America began as a paradox. Wrongly demonized by the politically correct
left and wrongly characterized as heaven on earth by conservatives and
many libertarians, the fledgling United States was neither a libertarian
paradise nor a society without many unique merits.

America sprung from radical revolution against the doctrine of empire
and political centralism. The American colonists revolted against a King
that they rightly believed had no right to rule them. The Declaration of
Independence fleshes out these principles, but Tom Paine's Common Sense,
which also came out in 1776, is perhaps an even more radical document.
Paine pointed out the absurdity of being ruled from 3,000 miles away by
a despot who claimed absolute power and wisdom yet also claimed to be
checked by the Constitution. Yet here we are today, 3,000 miles away
from our own King George and his dictatorial doctrine of the unitary

The American Revolution was a moment of clarity that excited the world
and inspired revolutions for centuries to come. The most inspiring thing
about it, however, the thing that maintained a lasting positive
influence on American life, was the ideas. The most unfortunate aspects
were the political compromising, the establishment of a new government,
and the conservative counterrevolution of the Federalists.

It was from the cascade of liberal thought in the late 18th century that
the ideas of toleration, free trade, free association, limits on
government power, religious freedom, and equality for women first
started getting a fair hearing. The American Revolution coincided with
the founding of the first Anti-Slavery societies of any stature. People
began to wonder about power itself, about the inequality of political
authority and legal rights between state and individual, between master
and slave, between man and woman.

Unfortunately, these radical insights were ignored by the conservatives
that the war brought to power. They soon established a government that
came to tax and micro-manage the colonies far more than the British
Crown ever could. The Constitution had only solidified the power of the
elite interests - just as the Anti-Federalists feared. True liberty was
betrayed quickly. The birth of the U.S. happened amidst a birth of
libertarian principles, but they were not followed through enough. There
was too much compromise. There was too much gradualism.

By the time of the Mexican War, the United States had started to become
an imperial power. It was growing into that which the colonists had
struggled against. Slavery was as entrenched as ever, and protected by a
federal constitution years after the British abandoned it.

An abolitionist movement had emerged that saw slavery as an evil to be
abolished as soon as humanly possible. They were seen as too idealistic,
but their radical ideas echoed throughout the world and culminated in
the eventual abolition of chattel slavery. William Lloyd Garrison had
said that gradualism in theory was perpetuity in practice: He recognized
that compromising the least bit on the principle of self-ownership would
mean you'd lose your moral standing and could easily be discredited or
absorbed into a practice of defending evil. He recognized that slavery
would not end as soon as it should, but that only by calling for its end
immediately would it end as soon as it could.

Despite the many problems of Antebellum America, there remained the
wonderful principle of decentralism, of secession, of local
self-determination, that had energized the colonists. But this was
destroyed by Abraham Lincoln.

Gloriously, chattel slavery ended, but war was not necessary for it, any
more than it was in the rest of the Western Hemisphere where it was done
away with peacefully in the 19th century.

Meanwhile, the federal government came to have despotic powers the
Jeffersonians would have never tolerated: Conscription, income taxation,
national bureaucracies of corporate privilege, gun control, massive
inflation, total war, the executive power to suspend habeas corpus,
censorship, and the use of the military in domestic policing. In a very
real way, the modern American government was created in the 1860s by the
Hamiltonians who had first hijacked the American Revolution with their
reactionary Constitution and later formed the Republican Party as an
engine for creating a nationalist corporate state. They succeeded.

The end of slavery coincided with the beginning of the current regime.
This is a difficult issue for many libertarians to confront, but I think
it is important to understand America's early legacy as one that was
tainted by both the sins of slavery and belligerent, corporate

Ludwig von Mises had a great insight into economics that one government
intervention into the economy, which disrupts the free market order,
invariably creates problems that people typically attempt to solve with
yet more government intervention. My way of thinking of this might seem
a little more New Age, but it is also distinctly libertarian: I think of
it in terms of reverberations of aggression.

The aggressive way that the US Constitution was foisted upon the
colonies, along with the steady social crime of slavery, combined with
the aggressive impulse to consolidate power in the national center, as
well as the aggressive looting of some interests by others in the form
of tariffs, culminated in the American system that developed in the 19th
century. So slavery never went away fully, it was only nationalized and
reconstituted in such forms as conscription and in more subtle ways.
Aspects of its legacy as racial oppression also lived on in the Black
Codes, Jim Crow, forced segregation and forced integration, and they
continue today in the form of drug laws, gun laws, the welfare state and
the criminal justice system.

In short, the problem was the principled abolitionists and other
radicals were too few in number, and what existed throughout the 19th
century was a confused political dynamic in which no major faction
appeared to favor liberty above all. The Antebellum Democrats were great
on trade but not so good on war and slavery. The Hamiltonians were
cautious of some wars but bad on everything else. This continues to this
day, when we have one party that speaks of economic freedom (but doesn't
come through) and another that speaks of personal choice but neither
that embraces the full program and philosophy of freedom.

The reason America is not as free as it should be is there hasn't been
enough principled libertarian thought in American history, and there's
where we come in. To the extent we do have freedom, it is because of the
radicals of the past. To the extent we have oppression, socialism and
imperialism, it is because of insufficient radicalism of the past, an
attempt to mix the libertarian instincts of the American Revolution with
the statist values of corporate conservatism, centralized statism, mixed
economics, policed morality and continual foreign war.

Some say we have lost liberty gradually so we should seize it back
gradually. Well, we should reclaim it in any amounts we can, but this
understanding fails to note the stark degree to which libertarian
gradualism in theory has been statist perpetuity in practice.

In the late 19th century, liberals stood for industrialization,
progress, liberation and material abundance for the masses, free trade,
personal liberty and much of our modern platform. But they were led
astray first by utilitarianism and then by the temptation of socialism -
the attempt to achieve liberal ends with statist means. They came to see
the state as the worker's potential savior, rather than co-conspirator
with the corporate interests. In the early 20th century, the Democratic
Party, which had, at least under the Grover Cleveland presidency of the
late 1800s, made its mark as the more libertarian of the two parties,
became wholly corrupted during the Woodrow Wilson administration and
especially the advent of World War I.

The US, by getting involved in that war, not only failed to make the
world safe for much of anything except maybe Communism and fascism, but
it also became an authoritarian regime with income tax rates in the high
70s, conscription, and the imprisonment of people merely for criticizing
the draft, the war, or even the British government and other allies.
Five thousand new federal bureaus came with the war. As all too usual in
American history, pro-freedom rhetoric was used to defend the opposite
of freedom.

But the Democrats still seemed the more libertarian party, which would
explain why, in 1932, after the Stock Market crash and several years of
typically extensive government growth under Republican Herbert Hoover,
Ayn Rand cast her vote for Franklin Roosevelt. Libertarian heroine
Isabel Paterson also supported FDR. Why? Well, his platform was overall
much better than Hoover's. He vowed to cut government by 25%, protect
sound money with a gold standard, lower trade barriers, cut taxes,
balance the budget and end alcohol prohibition. Indeed, what Franklin
Roosevelt offered would pass today as a moderate libertarian agenda.
Some in this room might even have considered it too radical, given the
economic calamity and real world politics the Democrats seemed to be

But the real problem was that there wasn't a strong enough movement to
decry him when he moved in the opposite direction, instituted the
ghastly New Deal, played big businesses against each other, and
destroyed crops in a twisted socialist scheme to improve the economy.

Not enough people understood why every single thing he did to expand the
state was a disaster. There weren't enough radicals. Now, he moved so
far toward collectivism that many previous supporters abandoned him and
joined other forces in the informal opposition movement known today as
the Old Right, which was an important stepping-stone to modern
libertarianism. But the real lesson here is that no moderate political
program of restoring normalcy and retracting the state can serve as a
substitute for the radical libertarian ideology, which will also inform
us of what's a real libertarian reform and what's a move toward statism.
Like Wilson, FDR had also defended all his despotism with a rhetoric of
freedom - the Four Freedoms, as he called it.

Fast forward a few generations and consider the supposed Reagan
revolution. Now, Ayn Rand refused to vote for him, because of what she
saw as his unacceptable position on abortion. This was ironic, since as
California governor he liberalized abortion law. But his rhetoric never
lined up to his actual governance, and Rand was right when she thought
she smelled a rat. Under Reagan, government spending skyrocketed, just
as it did when he was governor. Indeed, when in charge of California, he
gave this state its first major modern gun control law and the biggest
tax increase in state history. He erected bureaucracies faster than the
Democratic gubernatorial father and son before and after him. And as
president, he was similarly a nightmare. A protectionist, a compromiser
on the welfare state, a man who only cut some taxes by raising others
and inflating the money supply, a warmonger with an insatiable appetite
for defense spending, Ronald Reagan was no free enterpriser, despite his
rhetoric, and he left behind many ugly legacies, including the modern
war on drugs. Rand was right not to vote for him, for this man, despite
his pro-freedom language, was responsible in many ways for one of the
greatest assaults on personal liberty in our time. Or are we going to
forget about that innocent 20-year-old being raped and treated like a
slave in a federal dungeon right now so we can pay homage to this
supposed hero of freedom?

To this day, the reverberations of aggression from past government
policies are seen all around us. Each intervention has led to human
suffering, which is why a holistic approach to thinking of real world of
politics is so crucial. Gun laws render victims less safe against
madmen. FDA regulations have caused tens of thousands of Americans to
die prematurely and in senseless pain. Every single tax, every single
regulation, every single act of government intruding into the natural
order of free and voluntary human action leads to the destruction of
wealth and diminution of freedom. The violence of the state - that
privileged organization that monopolizes legal force - always injures
someone somewhere, no matter the well-intentioned ends to which it may
be directed. To be an individualist and libertarian is to understand
that no one, anywhere, should ever be aggressed against by anyone, and
that the state is the principal form of institutionalized aggression in
our world. But its effects and its causes are sewn throughout culture.
The state is a reflection of prevailing ideology. We must change that
ideology. First we must understand it, which requires a deep
appreciation of history, economics, and the dynamics of interpersonal

In our time and country, the greatest threat to liberty is the warfare
state and the ideology of warmongering. On this issue, many libertarians
wish to embrace utilitarianism and shun moral principle, trust the state
to bring down and rebuild whole nations abroad when they wouldn't even
trust it to build a public park down the block. Like the confused
liberals of a 120 years ago who came to adopt socialism, today's pro-war
libertarian seeks to use statist means to achieve liberation. He also
often ignores the degree to which the modern state is a creation of all
the wars of the past - the fact that almost everything about today's
government can be traced back to the Civil War, World War I, World War
II or the Cold War.

What has today's warfare regime done for freedom? At home and at
overseas bases, the Bush administration's attack on civil liberties has
been staggering. Habeas corpus and the Fourth Amendment are gone. And
Iraq is, if anything, worse off than before.

The US government has an imperial presence worldwide that is reviled and
resented by most peoples, though their governments have often been
intimidated, bribed or coerced into going along with the empire.
Furthermore, the same government that has long banned guns in its own
capital, and assisted in rounding up personal weapons in Baghdad after
the invasion of Iraq and in New Orleans after Katrina, has the largest
arsenal of devices for slaughter ever consolidated in one place. Indeed,
the destructive capacity of our government - the largest government of
all time - is unspeakably evil. No institution should have the power to
wipe out human life the way our supposedly free system does.

None of this is sustainable. The taxation, the welfare statism, the drug
war, the gun control, the treating of human beings not as individuals
with dreams and wants of their own but as national resources - this is
all an affront to human rights and the spontaneous orders of human
interaction that spur progress, innovation, and wealth creation and
allow for the precious flowering of scientific, artistic, emotional and
spiritual discovery of each and every individual soul.

Libertarian principle helps explain the world, why some things seem to
go so wrong, and why so much has nevertheless gone right. It has also
been libertarian principle that has led to the improvements I've talked
of earlier. And there are others. As terrible as the current war on
terror is, it is much milder than it would have been when people had
less libertarian instincts on war. They did not immediately institute
the draft and throw all Arabs into camps. They have not strategically
bombed the Middle East the way they did Japan. They didn't abolish
freedom the way they likely would have had Manhattan been attacked in
the 1910s or 1940s. There has been a resistance to government that we
only have because of previous generations who dared to take on the
Woodrow Wilsons and Lyndon Johnsons. At the time, they were seen as
hopeless idealists, kooks, or even traitors. Yet we owe much of our
freedom to them as we do to the abolitionists and radicals of the past.

Libertarianism is forward-looking. We don't want the America of 200
years ago, or 100 years ago, or 50 years ago or even 10 years ago. We
seek a world where every individual can pursue happiness in the context
of voluntary community and free markets. Will we ever get there? Perhaps
not, but only by aiming for the ideal, by holding fast to our principles
and constantly re-examining them and challenging ourselves always to
appreciate the lessons of liberty as much as we possibly can - only by
being principled can we hope to move toward our goals. Only by
principles can we even define ours goals in the first place, and know if
we're moving the right way.

Until people are more favorable toward freedom, no election of one
person or another can bring about a massive retrenchment of the state
that everyone here wants. Indeed, voting for what seems to be a good
step between what we have and what we want will likely get us another
Reagan or FDR, another drug war or another New Deal.

We need to change minds and touch hearts. We must be forward looking and
never lose sight of the massive oppression in our time. We must jump for
joy at all triumphs of freedom, no matter how small, and condemn any and
all attacks on freedom. It might seem like a matter of academic
frivolity, but any small change can mean the difference of freedom or
imprisonment for one priceless and irreplaceable human being somewhere.
In economic terms, a single small change can mean a family well fed or a
child going hungry.

The Libertarian Party is what brought me into libertarianism and it
changed my life for the better. My love of liberty is something I feel
blessed to have and without the LP, I might have never discovered how
exciting it can be to look at the world through the eyes of someone who
believes in liberty.

But I have wondered sometimes about what the LP really thinks its
mission is on earth. If it wins elections with an FDR-style platform, it
could potentially - given how much power corrupts - lead to the
discrediting of many of the ideals we all hold dear. One reason so many
people hate capitalism is because they associate it with corporatism.
One reason people hate tax opposition is because it's associated with
the slaveholders who applied the principles so inconsistently 200 years
ago. One reason people hate privatization is because they think of huge
contracts to corporate cronies and Wall Street or the contracting out of
prisons to private enterprise - as if a company making money off of
people being treated worse than animals is somehow a move toward the
libertarian vision.

And one reason people hate economic freedom is because it is espoused by
a hypocritical US empire that has imposed some of the most comprehensive
trade restrictions in world history and continues to conflate liberation
with military occupation, freedom with social engineering and
peacemaking with the bombing of civilians.

Freedom is most often stolen by the state in the name of freedom. Let us
not contribute to these misconceptions. We do not believe in a slightly
cheaper version of the US police state, or a more smoothly running
welfare state or private companies doing the bidding of politicians
abroad on our dime. We do not need the mercantilism our Founding Fathers
revolted against. And we also don't need the gradualism in theory that
led them to tolerate slavery, tariffs and inequality between the sexes
under the law, as well as the horrible crimes against the American

The LP used to be called radical on the drug war, and yet it now runs
candidates who have softened their rhetoric against it even as the
prisons grow and public opinion turns against prohibition. The LP used
to be seen as reflexively antiwar, but now it almost seems at times to
be more pro-war than the American population, which now realizes that
there are limits to power even when politicians are well-intentioned,
but also that politicians frequently aren't well-intentioned, and that
all this applies to war at least as much as domestic policy.

Retreating from principle is a horrible strategy for effecting positive
change. A watered-down message is not going to get you votes, either,
since such rhetoric can be found in the Republican Party.

I ask you all to recommit yourself to our principles daily. It will seem
futile only if you look at things very short term. As an analogy, we
might never get rid of murder completely, but there is no reason not to
oppose it outright. One day, moral principles pay off, if gradually, as
more and more people question the fundamental ethical assumptions that
allow the status quo to persist. But only fundamental challenges can
lead to such changes in society - that, and economic law, which dictates
that no socialist structure can maintain beyond a certain point.

The limits of government power and the wonders of human nature are on
our side in the long term. Let's speed the process along by telling the
truth, by opposing all statism, all socialism and all aggressive warfare
- by constantly rededicating ourselves to the principles of individual
rights in life, liberty and property. Insofar as we have the blessings
of liberty, it is because these ideas have caught on. Insofar as we
don't, it is because they haven't.

Now, spreading the message does require an understanding of activism. We
do need to be willing to work with others, to explain our ideas with
different arguments for different audiences, to reach out to elements of
the so-called left as well as the so-called right. Libertarians like to
take sides in the culture war, and it is indeed crucial to recognize the
importance of culture and social opinion, which are what allow the state
to persist in the first place. But as it concerns activist outreach, we
need to work harder to reach all potentially persuaded segments of the
population. We indeed should reach people of the so-called cultural
fringe. We also need to do a much better job addressing mainstream
America. I believe it very possible for Libertarian candidates to spread
the message of freedom in a highly persuasive manner for different
audiences, all without watering down their principles.

The time is ripe for a change in social awareness about the benefits of
freedom and follies of the state. The left isn't as anti-market as it
once was. The right is not as bad in some ways, either. Most Americans
are fed up with the war and want some answers. Young people don't trust
Social Security and aren't as blind to police brutality as previous
generations. Central planning for its own sake is less blindly accepted.
There's a lot of reason to be hopeful of getting more people to listen
to what we have to say. Now is not the time to tone down our inspiring
and beautiful message of liberty and the hope it brings for all of

The radical libertarian Murray Rothbard knew that a real step in the
right direction was always a blessing in itself, but that the full
program of liberty was necessary for the long-run battle for freedom. He
knew the pitfalls of moderation in theory and with compromises that gave
an inch to the state. I'd like to close by commenting on something he
said at the 1977 Libertarian Party National Convention, where he gave
the keynote address. In discussing the true differentia between us and
the two major political parties, Rothbard said,

"I don't think that the crucial difference is that we're smart and the
others are dumb; after all, if we may let this secret out to the world,
we're not all that smart! We are a glorious movement to be sure, but we
have hardly achieved perfection. The difference between us and the
Democrats and Republicans is not that we are so much smarter than they
are, but that we are deeply concerned with ideas, with principles,
whereas they are simply concerned with getting their places at the
public trough. We are interested in principles, they in power; and,
gloriously enough, our principle is that their power be dismantled."

We might never see it dismantled altogether. But as I look at the
political reality around us, the lasting Lincolnianism, Rooseveltianism
and Reaganism - the remnants of old oppressions mostly vanquished but
reborn in different forms, the continuation of statist policies that
were supposed to be temporary for a crisis but never went away, the
ripples of state aggression all around - I will say this: Until there
are more of us who want to see that power dismantled, there will be
little hope in seeing it in steady retreat.

So spread the word. Embrace your principles. If you believe in liberty,
don't be afraid of confronting its implications and condemning
aggression wherever you see it. In a world as torn asunder by the state
as ours is, where the benefits of freedom wherever it is allowed to
flower are nevertheless as beautifully clear as ever, I do contend that
holding tight onto principle is the only sensible strategy.

Thank you.

April 24, 2007

Anthony Gregory [send him mail <mailto:anthony1791@…> ] is a
writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research
analyst at the Independent Institute <> . See
his webpage <> for more articles and
personal information.

Copyright (c) 2007

Thanks for posting this, Mike. Anthony's talk was definitely the high
point of the convention for me, along with Starchild's panel on sex
workers. Aaron Starr also asked the right question, which was, if
adherence to principles was the path to success, where the successes
were. Anthony's response contained the nub of the answer, which is that
the term is still too short. Starr, he might well have said, might have
issued the same challenge to William Lloyd Garrison in 1840, and
Garrison would have had nothing to point to. Starr, for his part, can
point to successes like Norm Westwell. I loved Westwell's gadfly
spirit, but was also uneasy when he said, at the end of his talk, that,
now that he was in office, he had to take off his tinfoil hat.

Garrison, I think, was wiser in one important respect than many
contemporary Libertarians: He recognized that, when you're a small
minority, you need to avoid the political process. If he had formed an
anti-slavery party in 1835, there is good reason to expect that it would
have been taken over by moderates. Dismayingly, we saw another clear
demonstration of that this weekend. As others have pointed out, about
half the delegates left before the platform debate without informing
Angela, so the delegate count was still 96, making a quorum 49, though
there weren't more than 51 present. Still, there were many platform
proposals which should have passed unanimously, in any gathering of
Libertarians, with little debate. One was a call to oppose the building
of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which Platform Chair Ted Brown
denounced as a public works project. Another was a call to oppose
overseas deployment of U.S. troops except during a declared war. A
third was a call to oppose jailing reporters for refusal to divulge
their sources. Opposition to all of these proposals was strong; it
looked as though about 80% were opposed to the troop deployment
proposal. Conservative takeover of the LP is a fait accompli;
comparison of the 1980 and 2004 platforms will make you weep.