By Robert Wenzel
I don't pay too much attention to the Libertarian Party since I am a propertarian who would be most happy with no parties and no central power positions for anyone to be elected to.
That said, I do recognize that the LP could be a valuable tool in providing a megaphone for hardcore libertarian ideas. In practice that hasn't been done at the presidential election level since Harry Browne was an LP nominee in the presidential elections of 1996 and 2000, since then it has been the "praggies" who have gained the nominations.
The praggies, such as the
past nominees Bobb Barr and Gary Johnson, probably know there is a difference between a libertarian and a libertine, but this is not certain.
Matt Welch has a solid, but praggie-leaning, report at Reason, on the 2018 Libertarian Party Convention that just wrapped up in New Orleans.
He makes clear it was a parggie win all the way.
Opposite the Praggies was the Mises Caucus. Welch claims that MC national chair candidate Joshua Smith "stumbled badly in a defensive debate performance at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency Sunday night." He lost the chair vote 65 percent-22 percent.
I didn't see the debate, but with that kind of vote difference, it sounds to me that there were just a lot more praggies in the audience than Mises people, rather than necessarily a poor performance by Smith.
Indeed, Welch reports:
[Bill]Weld, the controversial-within-the-party 2016 vice presidential nominee and former moderate Republican Massachusetts governor who is laying the groundwork for a possible 2020 presidential run (and was everywhere to be seen at the convention, amiably taking on all skeptical comers), played a pivotal role in the decisive debate. Candidates had the opportunity to ask their opponents one question, and when it was Smith's turn, a delegate in the audience shouted out, "What do you think about Bill Weld?!" (Weld-heckling was a sporadic feature throughout the three-day event.) Smith decided to make that his question.That sure sounded like a solid question to ask to highlight the important difference between Smith and praggie Sarwark.
"What I think about Bill Weld," Sarwark started slowly, building into a feisty crescendo, "is that he is still in the Libertarian Party, while many of his opponents are not. [He's been] raising money for and endorsing Libertarian candidates. He is fundraising for us. And the exposure of Bill Weld to the Libertarian Party has not made the Libertarian Party more like an establishment Republican, but has made Bill Weld a lot more like a Libertarian....He knows something about winning public office, and [we need to] learn how to do that from anybody who will help us, anybody who will join us. And we should not PUSH PEOPLE OUT who are willing to help!"
How could that answer be pivotal in victory for Sarwark if members in attendance considered the role of the LP to be that of a megaphone to promote hardcore liberty views rather than serving as a launching pad for opportunist vote-getters who can raise money by muddying the libertarian message?
Of note, Welch also points out that Tom Woods was active at the convention. This is new for him but I consider him the best current libertarian communicator out there:
Woods, not previously noted for his party-related activities, organized the day before the convention a raucous Take Human Action Bash a few blocks away, featuring a lively mix of speakers such as anti-war author Scott Horton and a piped-in Ron Paul. Unusually for both Woods and Paul, their speeches each made first-person plural references to capital-L Libertarians, and were basically pleas to make the party more like, well, Ron Paul.
"Most people change or adopt ideologies, not because they're gently led by some stuffed shirt, but because they're jolted by an articulate true believer," said Woods, who spent a good deal of time eviscerating the philosophical and policy errors of Bill Weld, to an audience that occasionally broke out in "Tom Woods for president!" chants. "I mean, is the idea that we should be trying to trick people into voting Libertarian?"
Paul, too, urged the 200 or so people in the room—who he called "the libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party"—to focus on the basics of property rights, volunteerism, and being anti-war and anti-Federal Reserve. "Congratulations for being in the Mises Caucus, keep up the good work, and keep everybody honest," he concluded.
Woods, a gifted and funny speaker with a loyal flock, painted a picture of a modern L.P. too far adrift from the non-aggression principle, too wracked by "fear of seeming unfashionable in elite circles."
"When it comes to pot smoking and gay marriage, everybody has accepted those by now. What is the point? That horse is dead," he said at one point. At another: "Now, I've heard it said that the Libertarian Party ought to avoid certain issues, because it will make it more difficult to make the party appeal to the LGBT community, [that] the party should be pro-LGBT. But, my answer to that is that Libertarians are not pro-LGBT. Libertarianism and the Libertarian Party are pro-humanity, period."Go, Tom! Is he setting up for something bigger? He would know how to use a Libertarian presidential candidacy as a megaphone in a principled manner.
In the meantime, the Mises Caucus should forget about the praggies and focus on local elections where principled-education-style libertarians are running. Murray Sabrin who is running in New Jersey for a U.S. Senate seat comes to mind.
A couple of Mises Caucus local wins that gain some public attention and the praggies will fall into line. The same way the Democratic praggies, including the DNC chair and Paul Krugman, are falling in line behind the socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after her upset victory.
Also see: Tom Woods Just Joined the Libertarian Party
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of "Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person" and also The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on iphone and stitcher.