In July, I posted a blog entry over at the Libertarian Party website entitled “Can Purism and Pragmatism Co-exist?” My key intent was to better define the role of the LP and figure out some mechanism for purists and pragmatists to ally against our common enemies. I closed my rant with with:

There is nothing wrong with being an ideologue – I consider myself one. However, in a conflict between ideology and politics – as a political party, the LP must act in a principled but political manner.

There is clearly room for both ideologues and political players within the libertarian movement. However, for movement to actually move, it is imperative that we work together instead of in opposition to one another.

The comments on that posting led to another blog entry, which I posted at LibertyForSale. There are many brands of libertarians, and I was trying to get beyond the traditional labels to better define the conflict many of us have with each other. In an e-mail, Tom Knapp summed the major conflict best by stating the real division is probably between the ideological wing and the political wing of the party. He even used this dividing point in an article a few days later.

I thought I had seen every possible legitimate definition and subset of libertarianism until I ran into this one today (which, in turn, led me to this website). The guy who wrote it is a local, so I intend to contact him personally and get more of his views on the topic.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. Back before I self-exiled myself from FreeRepublic, I found that I’d had my fill of some of their more strident Republican-only-screw-ALL-third-party nonsense, and bristled at the concept of the word “liberaltarian”. I found it just as offensive as anyone to right of center would find DemocraticUnderground, with their particular brand of hate-filled ideologists.

    But, hey, my hat’s off to these guys at locustfork, because they’re stirrin’ the pudding. I just wish they’d find a better way to describe libertarian factions.

  2. Actually, I think the borders blurring a bit is a good thing.
    There is no other way to work back to liberty than accepting every comer that measures right up to the line of the nolan chart – and to position the LP to have positions that go FROM the non-libertarian viewpoint TOWARDS the libertarian corner.

    The mission of the LP likewise has to be enlarged a bit. Simply having small government is’nt enough. We need to be a party that unholds the individuals choices and the rights to make those choices in life. I see no difference between railing against the government for intrusions on rights and railing against the corrupted business interests that give ready made legislation that give themselves huge advantages in the marketplace at the public’s expense. I see no difference between a hostile government and a hostile company to individual rights. They work together for a agenda, and we need to see that for what it is.

    The LP must be the last political party left for the individual person, representing no one and nothing but the interests of the person itself. Wherever this road leads, we should follow it. Some of this is smaller government. Some of this is outside of government. But all of it should be so that individual persons can be what they want to be, at every stage in their lives. That’s real freedom.

  3. That’s a slew of good points, T. West, but if someone can explain to me how someone can be “libertarian” AND “socialist”, and not explode, I’ll give them a crisp, shiny, worthless American one-dollar bill.

  4. Keith,

    As I’m busy explaining in the thread you’re participating in over on my blog, the original usage of “libertarian” WAS to denote a “socialist” — specifically, “communist anarchist” — and that usage remains au courant in much of Europe to this day (although between Franco and the Stalinists, “libertarians” were pretty much exterminated in Spain).

    Tom Knapp

  5. Tom,

    I wasn’t aware of the original usage. I may have to re-examine my beliefs, if not party affiliation. :)

    I may be an anarchist, but I’m damn near laissez-faire in my economic beliefs. Unless there’s some other definition of “communist” that doesn’t lead to, say, a Kim Jong Il or Fidel Castro-style dictatorship, I’m not interested. Not even bi-curious.

  6. Keith: The short version is that there was an early split in the socialist/communist movement:

    The Marxists advocated a transition to “collective ownership” through revolution and a dictatorship of the proletariat, after which the state would allegedly “wither away” (we all saw how well that idea worked out).

    The anarchists, led first by Proudhon and then Bakunin, advocated getting rid of the state at the same time as, or even before, the grand redistribution.

    The Marxists won control of the First International versus the Bakunin faction.

    After that, things diverged in various ways. On the statist side, the Fabians came along with the non-revolutionary transition (which pretty much characterizes how the UK, Sweden, et al went socialist). On the anarchist side, any number of schemes have been advanced, some of them tried, some of them with varying degrees of success, varying longevity of existence and varying evaluations as to just how anarchist or socialist they really are.

    I don’t worry a great deal about modes of economic organization. I figure the free society will offer all kinds of alternatives, that it won’t be utopian (i.e. that some of the alternatives will conflict, attempt to implode into coercion and statism and sometimes succeed, etc.), and most of all that it won’t look anything like any of us can predict … but that most of us will probably know it when we see it.