A More Honest Pledge

With the 2006 LP convention around the corner, I figured I’d tackle an issue of concern to many Libertarians-the pledge.

Currently the pledge reads as follows:

“I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”

Now, let’s stop and think about this. The Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Constitutionalists… they all don’t have a pledge. This isn’t something most political parties do. Who does have pledges, though? Most religions have some sort of pledge or initiation rite, most secret societies… yeah. We’re a political party, kids. At least we should be.

But, you know, I could be wrong. Maybe we aren’t. Maybe we’re a debating club. Maybe we should have secret Libertarian decoder rings, as Tim West jokes. But if we’re gonna keep the pledge, I think that the pro-pledge forces should at least be more honest about their intentions. Here’s my idea for a more honest pledge that would more accurately reflect what the Libertarian Party is trying to do, if we go down that road:

I believe in Locke, the writer almighty,
The creator of Liberty’s words,
And in Ayn Rand, his only heir, our lord:

Who has conceived of Objectivism,
Born of Soviet Russia,
Suffered under the cult of the omnipotent state,
Wrote “Atlas Shrugged,” died, and was buried.

It descended unto obscurity and ridicule.

On the third printing it rose again from the dead.

It ascended unto the bestseller lists,
And sits at the right hand of Lady Liberty,
Whence she shall come to judge the moderate Libertarians as statist bastards.

I believe in the free market,
The holy Libertarian Party,
The non-initiation of force,
The forgiveness of drug crimes,
The resurrection of the US Constitution,
And the rights to life, liberty, and property everlasting.



Stuart Richards

Stuart Richards is a 26-year-old land surveyor based out of Portland, OR. He is a left-leaning geolibertarian and (theologically) liberal Christian, and has been blogging on HammerofTruth.com and other libertarian sites since 2004.

  1. Stuart you may be on to something. If it can’t be sold a politics maybe religion will be the key.
    Amen Brother.

  2. You make Libertarianism look like some sort of religion. You’re making it look ridiculous and absurd.

  3. No, having to take a pledge to join a political party makes us look ridiculous and absurd.

  4. Wow, you all are far too serious. Take a step back and laugh at yourselves once in a while. It’s good for you.

  5. I agree, the pledge should be dropped. It makes us look too much like pacifists. I dont even think I agree with it anyhow; Im not exactly sure what it means.

    I dont agree with the idea that government is suppose to protect rights either though, so Im kinda of a strange libertarian. I think the purpose of govt is to keep order, provide for the general welfare,…. And its the Constitution that protects our rights, from the government.

  6. Well there is the Hippocratic Oath and I don’t think that qualifies medical doctoring as a religion. When people testify in court they take an oath (or affirmation – same thing) and court isn’t a religion in my book either.

    But let’s discuss the actual issue which is that (presuming that the four parties mentioned don’t have a membership pledge) that the Libertarian Party has a barrier to entry and the others don’t. I take this to mean that being part of the Libertarian Party means something and that people who consider joining us should *think* before they join the party.

    Of course, I could be wrong and the Libertarian Party doesn’t really have a committment to principles and should scrap the pledge. In my opinion that would *really* mean we have turned the Party into a debate club with no clear connection to the real world that we all live in.

    The above words are my take on the pledge.

    You can find Ernest Hancock’s thoughts on the pledge at:


  7. Agree with you, Michael, we should all take a chill pill. Still, what a perfect opportunity to bounce an idea off you chaps! I’m creating an apparel business with a mate, am bored and what the heck, even tho I need another biz like a hole in the head! Anyways; this one particular t-shirt is Libo themed and apropos to this thread. Tis black in colour and has a picture of a flesh coloured fist in the front centre. The fist is clenched, knuckles on top, thumb tucked under. On fingers 1, 2, 3 ,4 are PAINTED the letters P, A , C, I. That is how I see Libertarianism, PACIFIST but…don’t tread on me, mofo. Waddaya reckon? Regards.

  8. Thane,

    That’s the most convoluted, illogical reasoning I’ve read yet about keeping the pledge. In a nutshell, you argue that dumping the pledge would turn the LP *into* a debating club. It’s a debating club *now* for heaven’s sake! We’re trying to turn it *into* a *politcal party*.

    Politics is a get down, good old boy, baby-kissing, mudslinging brawl. If it is beneath the LP to participate, then I won’t be long for the LP. Support reform of the LP – http://www.reformthlp.org.


  9. The simple fact of the matter is that the pledge in and of itself means absolutely nothing more than that we don’t plan to blow up government buildings.

    Which given our foundations and the time it came into being, was a necessary declaration to make.

    In the course of time, however, it has become a badge of honor for the anarchistic element within the LP.

    These are the same people who complain when non-anarchist libertarians make noises about being mechanically active, and come out with statements about purism & statism — or “collectivism.”

    I have my opinions, judgments, and conclusions where freedom and anarchy are concerned. To those who’ve seen me post before they should be obvious.

    I will sum it up, however, with the following:

    For far too many, the cause of “anarchy” — realized or not — has superceded the cause of liberty, within the “libertarian movement.”

    Somehow, pure 0-government idiology has replaced sound reason.

    Still working on that one.

  10. I’ll feed the troll…

    The pledge shows that we are an *ideological* party. We are the Party Of Principle, and that is what sets us apart. big-L libertarians are *supposed* to be little-L libertarians.

    Libertarianism is a political *philosophy* first. The Libertarian Party is trying to implement that philosophy by getting (big-and-little-L) libertarians elected to public office.

    Great! Whatever structural problems the LP has, I still support that goal.

    However, if the Party gets reformed to the degree that getting big-L libertarians elected is more important than getting little-L libertarians elected to office, then I will have little use for the Party.

    Winning is great and important, but if we sell our soul by electing Libertarians-in-name-only just so we can chalk up a victory for our side, then the victory will have been hollow.

    I don’t just want to win — I want to debate and win. Otherwise, we are just a political machine for hire, like the Reform Party was to Buchanan.

  11. #11, IanC,

    I agree with you — the anarchist faction of the Party is, in my experience, over-represented. However, I still support the *libertarian* pledge — not the *anarchist* pledge.

    The problem lies with the assumption being made — that only anarchists willingly take and support the pledge. I can tell you that is not the case.

    If the move to purge the pledge is an tactic by the reformers to excise the anarchist faction from the Party — I wish the reformers would find a better tactic.

    I’m not an anarchist, but I still want the LP to be the Party Of Principle, and the pledge helps keep it that way.

  12. Nobody wants to get rid of the anarchists-we just want to get everyone who loves liberty on board this train, not just the extremists.

  13. Don,

    I never said that the Libertarian Party shouldn’t participate in the political market. I do think that having a pledge sets the LP apart from the parties who have no pledge.

    Also, just so your ideas have a chance for a fair review your URL was missing an “e”. Here is the currect URL:


    I still think that Ernest Hancock’s position on the pledge is more persuasive than any I’ve heard so far in favor of eliminating it. That URL is:


  14. The main problem with the pledge is that every libertarian knows exactly what it means, and most of them disagree with each other. When I ran for National Chair in 2002, I listened to various people disagree about what it mean, including people who support the original author’s interpretation, people who think it forbids taxes, and people who think it requires taxes.

    If there had been regular and systematic repetition of David Nolan’s remarks on drafting the statement, and his explanation of what he meant, this issue might not have arisen, but it is a bit late for that.

    Mind you, I do not expect that repealing the Pledge is going to change things very much.

  15. Just want to go on record that I support the pledge.

    The pledge draws the correct balance between the flaw of being too general and too specific.

    It also is so short that all libertarians can commit it to memory.


    “I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.” [20 words]

    to another famous pledge:

    “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” [35 words]

  16. This is a corrollary to my previous comment as I suspect I wasn’t clear enough for my own standards. (That’s what I get for writing in a rush. :) )

    I have signed off on the pledge. In the terms of what I have been given to understand were the author’s intent upon its writing (the “we aren’t a rebel Alliance out to destroy the Evil Empire with guns & bombs” bit), it’s the best answer out there — currently.

    However; it is my experience that vehement ideological anarchists (or just plain contrarians) have overtaken the wording of the pledge, and use it as a “pimpstick” on those whom they deem “less pure” or “insufficiently libertarian.”

    In essence, there is a concerted effort to redefine libertarianism into anarchism. I’ll take a common perspective for it — taxation as an initiation of force. There are real, *sound*, arguments that refusal to pay taxes can be seen as an initiation of force against society.

    But these are the same people whom refuse “society” exists.

  17. The problem here is that the pledge is invariably set aside for expediency. Did Weld sign the pledge and mean it? Did Stern? Did Darby? Actually, republicans and democrats DO have pledges to get into their primaries. They go along the lines of “I am not running for office on another party’s ticket”. Perhaps the pledge ought to be reworked: “I will not use libertarian party resources to further revocation of liberties, or be subject to withdrawal of same” or something similar. The LP pledge right now doesn’t have any meat in it by the fact that there’s no downside if you falsely swear to it.

  18. Well, here in Oregon when we were forming the state LP over 30 years ago, we adopted the pledge *explicitly* to keep the party from “drifting” as it grew. Now, the LPO is actually attractive enough that we’re running candidates who have taken the pledge but who obviously haven’t “taken the pledge.” Did it slow this process? Maybe. Or maybe we needed a stronger pledge…

    BTW, it’s not that “only anarchists support the pledge.” It’s more that if you support the pledge to its logical end, well, then you arrive at anarchy. (Try not to get too excited.)

  19. (cont’d)

    Perhaps this is more unique to my environs here in Arizona. I couldn’t *absolutely* say.

    However, it seems that anytime someone attempts to point out flaws in arguments that simply because you live in society doesn’t mean it has the right to expect certain contributions in return for your drawing resources from it… then you’re a “collectivist” or a “fascist” and should be kicked out of the movement as an uneducated fool.

    For the record: I *AM* a libertarian *PURIST.* I want a libertarian world. Not an anarchist wet-dream.

    No offense to Ian Bernard & the folks at FTL — all good people in my book! — but they are emblamatic and symbolic/symptomatic of this “religion of liberty.”

    I’ll give an example: “The free market will regulate murderers because people don’t want murderers going free.” — Ian Bernard.

    Now, I ask you — how is that *ANY* different than mob rule or the current set-up, or *BETTER* for that matter?

  20. My Creed pre-dates the Apostles Creed by 100 years:

    Philippians 2:5-11

    “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

    And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death””even death on a cross.

    Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

  21. unfortunately, I’m a watcher, not a player in this business.

    I reserve the right to petition this government for redress of grievances, as guranteed by the first amendment, and will never give up that right by taking a ridiculous pledge.

    That’s right, I said it. I think that by taking that pledge, you relinquish parts of your first amendment rights. So all of those LPers who are filing lawsuits to force the governement to do one thing or another are in direct violation of their own pledge. It’s a catch22, and I’ll have no part of it.

  22. One of the problems with the pledge is that violating it has no consequences and it happens everyday in the LP.
    In any other organization if you violate the rules then something usually not so good occurs. Do something Mom told you not to do, something happens, come to work late, something usually happens, run a red lights, might get a ticket, violate the pledge….

  23. re: “The simple fact of the matter is that the pledge in and of itself means absolutely nothing more than that we don’t plan to blow up government buildings.”

    It’s interesting that David Nolan, who explained the original meaning of the pledge, just announced that he is running for office in Arizona. I’m hoping that his campaign positions will be decidedly not anarchist, and the anarchist guardians of LP purity will learn something from that. I may be hoping too much.

  24. “I am not a crook”
    –Richard Nixon

    If the pledge simply means that the LP is not a terrorist organization, we are making ourselves look really bad. Imagine if the Democrats had their members sign an oath saying “I am not a communist.” Would this give people more confidence in the Democratic party? Or, what if the Republicans had their members sign an oath: “I am not a racist.” Would this help them get the African American vote?

    After all these years the Libertarian Party has accomplished something. We are recognized as a political party that participates in the legal electoral process. In states which have difficult ballot access laws, the LP is the third political party.

    Even if such a pledge was needed 35 years ago, it is very much obsolete today, and quite an embarassment.

    Also, the other interpretation of the pledge leads to much acrimony.

  25. Posts 24 and 29 hit it spot on. The pledge needs to go. “Cult of the omnipotent state” needs to go. The crapola in the platform that (PEOPLE DO READ!), needs to go. End of story.

  26. Do you send you kids to government schools? Did you get a government marriage license? Are you collecting social security, medicare, or medicaid? Are you paying your income taxes which is going to support the war in Iraq? These are all forms of initiation of force against tax payers and/or people around the world.

    Let the who have never initiated force line up on one side of the convention and argue to keep the pledge. The rest of us need to support getting rid of it, so we are not seen as hypocrites in the eyes of the general public and fellow libertarians.

    Democratic-government and republican-government are forms of government of ever increasing size and without principles. Unlike the D’s and R’s, Libertarians by the definition of the word libertarian have our principles. Libertarian = advocate of liberty.

  27. Sigh. While we may never achieve a society based on the non-aggression principle, it still serves as the ideal toward which we strive. It gives us unity of purpose and action. NOTHING in the principle excludes incrementalism, which I endorse, especially for candidates. The NAP pledge is an impediment to membership, so I don’t have a problem eliminating it for members, IF we retain it for party officers, convention delegates, and candidates for public office – as we do in New Mexico. That way, the integrity of our defining principle is protected and we can still mass-recruit members. It’s NOT an either-or situation. Joseph Knight

  28. Mike Laursen — IIRC, you are somewhere in AZ as well, yes?

    The problem I have with “libertarian culture” in AZ is that it is *decidedly* Anarchist.

    I’m crossing my fingers on the whole David Nolan non-anarchist thing… but not holding my breath.

    And to those of you whom believe that the “NAP” or “NIP” et al. has the “inevitable logical end result” of anarchy — sorry for the vehemence here: Get a clue.

    1) Logic proves whatever you want it to.
    2) Initiation of force also entails refusing to redeem debts.
    3) Each and every person not wholly & totally self-subsisting without anything more than non-technological, audible verbal contact with other human beings is in fact indebted to the sum total mass of individuals that make up society. Hence, a certain — vastly lower than currently exerted — level of taxation is actually appropriate under libertarian viewpoints. It’s called payment for services & goods rendered.

  29. The pledge was a response to laws that allowed the government to crack down on so-called subversive organizations that were dedicated to overthrowing the government by force, something the government was doing with particular vigor at the time the LP was formed, during the reign of Nixon. If memory serves, many of those same laws — or very similar ones — are still on the books today. Some may remember the “militia” witch-hunts of the 1990s. There was a concerted effort by authorities, facilitated by the media, to conflate libertarianism and the allegedly dangerous militia movement: to make the word “libertarian” synonymous with “public menace.” At the time, the “pledge” helped the LP dodge that particular bullet. Has the government become more authoritarian, and more worried about subversive organizations, since the 1990s? If so, why would we think the “fig leaf” shield that worked for the LP in the 1970s and 1990s would be LESS useful today?

  30. What is wrong with “challenging the cult of the omnipotent state”? I think that is one of the coolest turns of phrase, and I don’t know of very many libertarians who would agree that the state is omnipotent.

    Getting rid of the pledge will accomplish absolutely nothing. Maybe a few “reformers” will become members again. But that will probably offset the loss of a few “purists”. And we’re talking about at most a net 50 people either way. I personally think that it is useless, but I’m certain that without it, the party will be exactly the same.

    The best way to reform the LP is to run for office and get elected. Then tell others how you did it. If we don’t want the LP to be a debating society, then why are we debating so vehemently about something as useless as the pledge.

    I’m a libertarian because I always have been. I’m a Libertarian because I say I am.

  31. re: “Mike Laursen ”” IIRC, you are somewhere in AZ as well, yes?”

    No, I’m in California. I don’t know much about the LP in Arizona.

    I don’t have a problem with the pledge per se. The “pimpstick” remark above sums up very well my problem with the way some Libertarians use the pledge to whack other Libertarians over the head whenever they disagree about strategy or some difference in philosophy.

  32. Quoth Wes Benedict:

    “I don’t agree with everything promoted by the Libertarian Reform Caucus, but I do agree with some of it. Should I join?”

    Depends. Membership in a group doesn’t necessarily mean that you “agree with everything promoted by” it. It just means that you’re willing to identify yourself with the organization and back it regardless of minor disagreements.

    I joined the LRC, and later left. I knew from the beginning that I would not agree with everything it did or tried to do, and didn’t consider that a problem. When its approach and activities crossed my subjective threshold — a point where I went from being willing to identify with and support it to being unwilling to do so — I left.

    Specifically, I supported the LRC’s goal of getting rid of the “pledge” (here’s some information for those still operating under the misimpression that the pledge was a mere “FBI shield”) …ctd

  33. Wes, joining the Libertarian Reform Caucus is appropriate for anyone who agrees with the Statement of Purpose on the front page.

    J.A. Merritt: why should the LP have to have a pledge? Why not the other parties? We are now recognized as a political party. The pledge is unnecessary and it has many downsides.

    Chris: I like the “cult of the omnipotent state” phrase too. I actually used it at a Kiwanis presentation earlier this year. I dislike the Pledge because it does mean to many people that you have to be an anarchist. To advocate any taxation is to advocate initiating force, technically. 25 years ago, I signed the pledge with that understanding.

    Today, I still wish to minimize the initiation of force. In the near term, this means doing palatable politics. In the long term this could well entail endorsing some government. There are serious economies of scale for doing national defense — which is a public good under no government. (continued)

  34. … ctd … and with some of its platform proposals. Other proposals I disagreed with, and it reached a point where I disagreed more than I agreed, and disagreed on planks that I consider more important than planks I agree with LCR on.

    The deal breaker was probably the intellectual dishonesty — while LRC holds out an ostensible olive branch to “purists,” and purports to say “we’re about practical politics, not factional fights,” the group’s materials (including its recent postal mailing) make it clear that the proffered peace offer is false, and that LRC is at this point at least as much about bashing “purists” per se (often, at times, through blatant misrepresentation) as it is about attempting to bring practical politics to the fore.

    Tom Knapp

  35. And the historical record for successful anarchy in a civilized society is rather slim.

    Anarchists can correctly state that limited government is unstable. They often ignore the empirical data that show anarchy to be more unstable.

    Currently, I don’t know what the optimal/minimal amount of government is ultimately. I do know that the minimum amount of government in the near term is what the voters are willing to accept. This requires advocating some government!

    The Libertarian Party bills itself as the Party of Principle. Asking people to sign a vague pledge with multiple meanings is incredibly unprincipled. And do we want to exclude small government libertarians because they are too principled to sign a pledge that they cannot adhere to?

    If the LP is to purely an educational organization dressed up as a political party, then keep the pledge. If the LP is to do real politics and shrink government, then the pledge must go.

  36. James Anderson Merritt wrote:
    “If so, why would we think the “fig leaf” shield that worked for the LP in the 1970s and 1990s would be LESS useful today?”

    It wasn’t needed in the 70s-90s. We are a political party who should be trying to attract the broadest possible support to get libertarians elected.

    To argue that we need a pledge to separate us from some bomb throwers just puts us into the group of bomb throwers by association.

    The polls, the pundits, and the voters are ready for third party. We need to make a strong step forward at the convention this year that will show Americans that we are that third party.

    IMHO, it requires getting rid of the pledge and adopting a new platform. The platform ought to lead with a paragraph about our principles, and then follows with the practical — what libertarians will do in the next 4 years if we are elected.


  37. Is it Groundhog Day or am I just stuck in a time warp. I’ve heard all this tired old crap for 25 years in the LP.

    Why do people take the LP pledge, join the LP, and then proceed to insist that the pledge be dropped? Next, they
    complain that the LP is a “debate club” after they instigate debates about the pledge they just took. Then, they want to change the LP platform and abandon long standing libertarian principles because “the people” aren’t ready for such radical ideas – even though they themselves must be ready because they joined the LP and took the LP pledge.

    The evolution of new libertarians continue to the point where they believe everyone in the LP who believes in the very things that attracted them to the LP in the first place is involved in a conspiracy to make sure the LP never wins elections.

    Ah, if only the evil purists would abandon the pledge, millions of people would suddenly join the LP and libertarians would control the world.

  38. Carl says: Asking people to sign a vague pledge with multiple meanings is incredibly unprincipled.

    Some might think it is incredibly unprincipled to argue that the LP advocates anarchy when a quick read of the platform suggests otherwise. The Constitution is mentioned at least 10 times and there are many references to government and laws, etc.

    Anarchists don’t have laws and constitutions, they don’t run for political office, and they don’t vote.
    The claim that eliminating coercive taxation is the same as anarchy shows an incredible lack of creativity. Revenue derived from sales, rents and royalties of public resources is one source of revenue. User fees are another. There are more.

    I’m ready to get rid of the pledge just to shut down the reformers’ perpetual debate club over this issue – then maybe you guys would have the time and energy to “do real politics”. My only fear is that some new insignificant issue would arise.

  39. Quoth Tom Blanton:

    “Anarchists don’t have laws and constitutions, they don’t run for political office, and they don’t vote.”

    Actually, what anarchists don’t “have” is an affection for the existence of the state.

    You (correctly) point out that eliminating coercive taxation is not the same as anarchy.

    I’ll point out some things myself:

    – Having laws or constitutions is not the same thing as having the state. The Covenant of Unanimous Consent is a constitution; authors including David Friedman and Robert P. Murphy have written extensively on non-state provision of law.

    – The first man known to refer to himself as an anarchist (Proudhon) was elected to France’s constituent assembly.

    – A number of LP anarchists have stood for election to public office and are voters (I’ve run for elected office four times and am an appointed federal officeholder).

    As an anarchist, I’m fine with taking the pledge, but prefer that the party not impose it on non-anarchists.

    Thomas L. Knapp

  40. Tom: The reason people keep joining the LP and then try to get rid of the Pledge is that the LP keeps recruiting such people. The LP has a mission statement about moving public policy in a libertarian direction by electing libertarians. LP affiliates use the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to recruit from all over the libertarian area on the Nolan Chart.

    If the LP wants to be an [borderline] anarchist only club, fine. I’ll just start a new party. However, I do not want to get tagged with “splitting the party” or “trying to destroy the LP.” Also, starting a new party is a lot of work, thousands have joined the LP thinking it is a political party that tries to win elections.

    I demand clarity. I want the LP to explicitly be what Rothbard wanted it to be, or become a political party designed to win U.S. elections. The schizophrenia of having two different business models is a source of rancor and wasted efforts.

    To anarchists: your best bet is an incremental LP coupled with counter-econ

  41. Tom,

    you are the exception to the rule I think. I think it’s a fair statement to make that most self desribed anarchists in the LP dont care much about the current or former govermental system in the US. If I had a nickel for every LP’er that sid he never signed the Constitution, therefore hes above the law I’have enough money to pay off my medical bills.

  42. Carl,

    I agree that an incremental LP coupled with counter-economics is the anarchists’ “best bet.” Too bad the LRC decided that bashing anarchists was more fun than making that case.


    I was speaking to constitutions generically, not specifically to the current US Constitution. I am not an exception — most, if not all, anarchists recognize the validity of constitutions for groups composed of consenting members (the US Constitution being no such thing, of course — but it is the existing system within which a US political party works, and it has its uses during transition to a free society).

    The key part of the above paragraph with respect to the LP, of course, being that if the LP is to be a political party with an electoral orientation, it must both accomodate itself to, and make wise use of, the system in which it functions (that being, in theory, a republic described by the US Constitution). We certainly agree that far.

    Tom Knapp

  43. I do not bash anarchists per se. I bash those anarchists who claim that all minarchists are “socialists” or “criminals” or “evil.” I want anarchists to be slighly more humble. If anarchy can work, fantastic! Make it so. I might just help.

    There are many more libertarians of good will who are skeptical of the workability of anarchy. They believe that minimizing the initiation of force requires some government — even though that does entail some force initiation. These people may be wrong, but it ain’t obvious.

    Both limited-government republics and zones of zero government have proven to be unstable. However, the latter historically has been more catastrophically unstable. The former tends towards social democracy, which is something quite unpleasant. However, it is less unpleasant than feudalism, civil war, tribalism etc.

    So, I am a fan of David Friedman. I bash Murray Rothbard.

  44. FYI, the NAP pledge does not actually prohibit violence against the state. One could make the argument that the state, as it currently exists and operates, IS an intiation of force and any force used against it is therefore not initial but retaliatory or defensive in nature.

    By the way, my own essay explaining the NAP and its application was published in my hometown newspaper. A year later, they did a spontaneous rerun. A county commissioner in Valencia County liked it so much he switched parties and is on the verge of recruiting other commissioners!

    I’d be glad to share it on request.

    Joseph Knight

  45. One more note to Tom. Regarding:

    “I’m ready to get rid of the pledge just to shut down the reformers’ perpetual debate club over this issue – then maybe you guys would have the time and energy to “do real politics”. My only fear is that some new insignificant issue would arise. ”

    I have expended many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours doing “real politics.” I have worked many tables, knocked on hundreds of doors, put on symposiums, written letters to the editor, spent thousands on LP campaigns etc.

    My efforts to reform the platform and get rid of the pledge have resulted in more LP member recruitments than my efforts at doing “real politics.”



  46. Knapp wrote:
    “Too bad the LRC decided that bashing anarchists was more fun than making that case.”

    I just read through the packet of information that the LRC sent to convention delegates. It might be my frame of reference, but I didn’t see any anarchist bashing in it. Perhaps in other forums there are LRC members bashing anarchists, but I haven’t seen it in their ads or in their convention packet.

    The LRC’s seems to be targeting the all-or-nothing people. I know small government folks who are all-or-nothing. I know anarchists who believe in a incremental approach — one joined the Vermont LP because of the direction the LRC is trying to move the LP.


  47. Hardy,

    I have my hard copy of the LRC packet now (I had already downloaded the documents in PDF form, and to be honest, you’re fairly accurate.

    The mailing includes only one gross inaccuracy about anarchists (a misrepresentation of Rothbard’s opinion of incrementalism under the heading “I am an impatient anarchist!”). Although I took the matter of that up with Dr. Milsted too late for it to be changed (and he did not seem inclined to change it anyway), the mailing isn’t really as bad as it seemed to me before I held it in my hands in “hard copy” form.

    Of course, the mailing is not the only matter involved. The mailing went to the entire delegate list for the national convention, but chances are that MOST of the delegates have either followed LRC’s activities already, or will receive material from LRC’s opponents, which is less flattering to LRC as having an ostensibly inclusive agenda.

    They mave read, or may read, for example, Kristan Overstreet’s “Proposed 2006 Manifesto” (cont’d)

  48. (cont’d) They mave read, or may read, for example, Kristan Overstreet’s “Proposed 2006 Manifesto”, which as of this writing has the support, in varying degrees, of 37 of the 38 members who have voted on it.

    Or they might read Overstreet’s It Takes Two To Compromise (supported by 32 of 34 voting members)

    If they read either one,they will find that, far from wanting to work in alliance with “purists” who are willing to engage in practical politics, the LRC has already decided that anarchists and “purists” are the enemy (and, as an aside, that said anarchists and purists are possessed of superpowers which enable them to “drive people o.ut” of a party with no process for driving anyone out).

    Or perhaps they’ll have read, or read, Dr. Milsted’s own direct attacks on anarchism per se which, while not published under the LRC’s auspices (cont)

  49. (contd) Dr. Milsted’s own direct attacks on anarchism which, while technically not published under the LRC’s auspices (they’ve appeared on sites such as Free Market News Network and The Free Liberal), are either a poor tactical move or an intentional “second front” on which to attack anarchists and “purists” with organizational deniability.

    I joined LRC based on the claim that it was open to “Radical libertarians who realize that to shrink government a lot, we must first shrink it a little” and “Anarcho-capitalists who realize that to eliminate government, we must first shrink it.”

    Once I’d joined, it quickly became clear that LRC is oriented toward disbelief in the existence of either category, and either inclined or resigned to a fight on ideological, rather than practical political, grounds.

    I’d like to find room in the party for ideology AND practicality. But if it’s one or the other, I’ll go with ideology. The latter is of no value to me without the former.

    Tom Knapp

  50. sent it just to you this time in case it was getting caught in your spam filter because of the ccs, let me know if you get it

  51. My “attacks” on anarchy were attempts to preserve most of the natural rights perspective for those who find anarchy unworkable/scary. On FMNN (http://fmnn.com/Analysis/34/3524/2006-01-24.asp?nid=34&nid=3524) I wrote:

    “The critical point of this essay is this: We need not appeal to the Cult [of the omnipotent state] in order to justify limited government! We can rightly give government a limited license to kill and steal because without government we would have more killing and stealing. Killing, stealing, and other injustice will always be with us. They are sunk costs. The proper size and scope of government is that which minimizes these evils.”

    If a zero tax “government” can perform these services, then the government that minimizes these evils is indeed zero. On the other hand, if zero government means Somali style tribalism, then a minimal government would be more libertarian than anarchy.

  52. OK, on the Free Liberal web site I was a bit harsher. http://www.freeliberal.com/archives/001823.html
    I wrote:

    “Proposition 1: Taxation is theft.

    “Observation 1: Anarchy has failed worldwide. Every society that was anarchistic has either been conquered or created a government of its own. That is, unless you count Somalia, which is hardly a libertarian paradise.”

    This observation is true. DUH! In other words, the burden of proof is on the anarchist. Anarchists have no business questioning the morals of limited government libertarians until the anarchists succeed in generating some fresh data in favor of no government.

    To do otherwise is the logical equivalent of criticizing starving Africans who choose to eat GMO corn instead of holding out for the all natural product.

  53. Dr. Milsted,

    Setting aside the fact that I find your arguments versus anarchism unconvincing (for those who are interested, this should suffice by way of explanation), here’s the thing:

    You can attempt to get anarchists on board your “practical politics” train on a “let the ideologies live and let live in the party, placing the emphasis on incremental work toward shared goals” basis, or you can attempt to discredit anarchism. You can’t credibly do both, as the latter seriously degrades the perceived sincerity of the former.

    The FMNN link doesn’t work, but the articles I actually had in mind were this one and this one. In those pieces, you don’t just pose incrementalism, you attack anarchism as untenable. That’s not a smart thing to do if your goal is to get anarchists on your side.

  54. Mr Knapp writes: I’d like to find room in the party for ideology AND practicality. But if it’s one or the other, I’ll go with ideology. The latter is of no value to me without the former.

    Amen – I agree completely. I am not a hardcore anarchist, minarchist, or constitutionalist – I’d happily settle for any of these arrangements. All of which are better than what now exists. And that is the point. The endless debates, bickering, blaming, and finger pointing in the LP is counter productive and no way to maintain an effective organization.

    It seems to me that the LP would be much more effective without the arcane catorgorizing, defining, and labeling of the various types of people in the LP. Either you agree with enough of the LP platform to join, or you don’t.

    Things like the pledge and the Nolan Chart are the least of the LP’s problems.

  55. Dr Milstead writes: I have expended many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours doing “real politics.” I have worked many tables, knocked on hundreds of doors, put on symposiums, written letters to the editor, spent thousands on LP campaigns etc. My efforts to reform the platform and get rid of the pledge have resulted in more LP member recruitments than my efforts at doing “real politics.”

    Well, a lot of us have done much “real politics” as you define it above, but many of your screeds I have read suggest that without some unspecified reform, the LP can’t “do real politics”. So, now I am baffled. How could you have done real politics before “reform” has been achieved.

    I would suggest that average people who read that the LP is a bunch of anarchists may decide not to look much farther as most people wrongly associate anarchy with chaos.

    Regardless of how people define themselves or each other, the LP is what it is – libertarian. The platform is the basis of definition.

  56. Tom,

    “It seems to me that the LP would be much more effective without the arcane catorgorizing, defining, and labeling of the various types of people in the LP. Either you agree with enough of the LP platform to join, or you don’t.”

    True. One thing I find attractive about the LRC agenda is that it seeks platform reform to short-term deliverables (which most libertarians can support a la carte) instead of long-term goals (which we most manifestly disagree on, as indicated by the categorizing, defining and labeling. Some of us want anarchy, some minarchy, with splits within those two factions. Etc., etc., ad nauseum.

    To me, a Statement of Principles which implies anarchy and/or extreme minarchy (without argument over which) is sufficient to meet Rothbard’s “incrementalism is okay as long as principle and ultimate goal is held high” dictum. The rest of the platform could then be “this is what an LP majority could do for America on issue X, NEXT YEAR.”

    Tom Knapp

  57. And another thing.

    Not long ago a member of the LNC told me that the number of contributing members to the NLP has shrunk to 15,500.

    Now, if all the self-described reformers, Boortz followers, neolibertarians, and the small government conservatives are recruiting as many members as they claim, why is the number of contributing members going down?

    If these people are actually bringing in vast numbers of new members, it would seem that old members are fleeing in droves or have quit contributing. Could it be that for every new recruit that is marginally libertarian, two hard core libertarians quit?

    Do we want a big tent that is empty or a crowded small tent?

    I would prefer a large number of enthusiastic libertarian activists that promote libertarian ideas as opposed to a small number of moderates that seem to dislike libertarians and disagree with libertarian ideas.

  58. Tom,

    You’re mixing some not-necessarily-mixed issues here. Yes, there’s overlap between various groups, but belonging to one of the groups you name above does not necessarily (or even facially) imply support for the zero-dues membership model, or the claim that said model will or would increase members or contributors.

    The zero-dues issue is tangential to other “reform” agendas such as platform change, pledge elimination, etc. Some people support some of those agendas but not others.

    In particular, I supported zero-dues (but don’t regard it as a “silver bullet” for party growth), but am certainly not a Boortz follower, a neolibertarian, or a small government conservative.

    Tom Knapp

  59. Tom (K): In the first cited article I wrote:

    “Note that I have not disproved the possibility of anarchy working and being a better arrangement than what we now have. I have only stated that the empirical case is weak, and that the risks involved in completely doing away with government are high. The real point I am trying to make is that one can be a moral libertarian and still believe in having some government, with some authority to tax. And it is possible to hold this belief without rationalizing away the proposition that taxation is theft. A libertarian does not have to be an anarchist.”

    In other words, I have tried to work out a case for moral libertarianism which doesn’t demand anarchy regardless of its workability. Since 99+% percent of the population believes anarchy to be unworkable, they tend to reject moral libertarianism (in Rothbardian form) once they realize that it demands anarchy regardless of the consequences.


  60. The second piece did go into attack mode in response to the vicious and downright idiotic reponses by writers on lewrockwell.com and elsewhere. These guys are truly Marxists of the Right.

  61. Dr. Milsted,

    I’m still not making my point in a way that gets across, so I’ll try again:

    1) Although I disagree with your arguments versus anarchism, let’s assume for the sake of argument that they’re correct in every respect.

    2) That doesn’t matter.

    What matters is that you formed a caucus which purported to extend a hand of partnership to anarchists who were willing to adopt in incremental political approach, while the other hand (overtly yours, implicitly and informally the caucus’s) raised itself in attack on anarchists generally.

    As an anarchist, I can argue with minarchists all day — but if I propose a new, formal alliance with minarchists, I realize that I’m going to have to say “okay, let’s set aside our differences for the nonce and knock the feuding shit off” (and then turn the other cheek to those who aren’t interesed, in the cause of establishing credibility with those who are).

    Multi-tasking is great … but not if the tasks are incompatible.

  62. As a side note, let me clarify one thing that I may not have been clear on. Although I consider some of the LRC material, including some of Dr. Milsted’s holdings about Rothbard, misrepresentative, I don’t consider Dr. Milsted insincere in his desire to convince anarchists to adopt incrementalism even if they won’t adopt minarchism.

    The convincing evidence for me is that despite his holdings elsewhere in favor of a necessity of minarchy, I haven’t noticed him proposing any changes which would void the Dallas Accord (under which anarchists and minarchists agreed to leave the ultimate disposition of government/the state open rather than stated one way or the other).

    As a matter of fact, he advocates (and I support) platform planks which concentrate on near-term deliverables, as opposed to end-states at all (let alone particular end-states). I disagree on some of his (and the LRC’s) proposed deliverables (the “Fair Tax,” for example), but that’s a different argument.

  63. Tom: what I have been trying to get across is that the minarchist/anarchist debate should be a scientific debate — not a philosophical debate. I am trying to show that the minarchist libertarians are sharing the same values (minimizing the initiation of force), but differ on how to bring that about.

    I am asking the anarchists to accept some burden of proof, to accept that some experimentation and engineering is needed to demonstrate the viability of no government before one can categorically call all government evil.

    I have not rejected the competitive government model (i.e., anarcho-capitalism.) I have rejected the notion that such would automatically arise if existing government were to be eliminated. History indicates the opposite to be the case.

    I’d love to see some island nations turned into experiments in anarchy. Meanwhile, I would like the U.S. to become a libertarian superpower to provide some protection for such — vs. the evil empire it is becoming.

  64. (continued) Thus, I was attempting to set up a philosophical framework for both camps to work together.

    This may have been a strategic mistake. Much of the reaction I got was similar to the way the Medieval Catholic reacted to alternative interpretations of Scripture.

  65. Dr. Milsted,

    I’ve been trying to leave the details of anarchism versus minarchism aside for the simple reason of not mixing that debate with the specific issue of your proposed internal LP reforms, but I think I may have found where you and most anarchists are really talking past each other. You write:

    “I am trying to show that the minarchist libertarians are sharing the same values (minimizing the initiation of force), but differ on how to bring that about.”

    I’m not sure that all anarchists would agree that that’s a shared value. Anarchism qua anarchism has as its objective the elimination of legitimized, institutionalized initiation of force in the form of the state. While an aggregate reduction of initiation of force might result from that, I suspect that for many anarchists the goal would not change if it could be established that that would not be the result.


  66. For the sake of argument, let’s assume a state environment and an anarchistic environment in which aggregate instances of initiation of force are quantitatively and qualitatively equal (i.e. same number and seriousness of thefts, assaults, homicides, etc.).

    I would choose the stateless environment in such a case, because there are other parts of the equation.

    1. While initiation of force might be qualitatively and quantitatively similar, self-defense and retaliation are more likely to be effective versus independently operating force-initiators than versus a state which can concentrate large forces to crush opponents.

    2. Morally, I simply find the state’s case for initiation of force repugnant. When a thief robs me, at least he’s honest. He wants my money and he’s taking it. The state pretends its for my own good. When al Qaeda does a 9/11 they make no bones about their hatred for me. (contd)

  67. (contd) When al Qaeda does a 9/11 they make no bones about their hatred for me. Congress kills twice as many innocent Americans every year, year in and year out, as died on 9/11 with one law alone (the ban on sale of organs for transplant), and tries to tell us it’s because they care about us. Back to Tom Paine:

    “[W]hen we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”

    I’d accept an aggregate quantitative and qualitative INCREASE in the initiation of force in return for the ability to fight back against less overwhelming concentration of it, and to not to be sold a load of bullshit that said initiation of force is to my own benefit.

  68. Thomas: I don’t attribute the decrease in contributing members to zero dues in any big measure. I was fairly agnostic about it – I didn’t want a dues increase and preferred either zero dues or no change. I wasn’t even thinking about zero dues (or zero dues being a reform) as I wrote the post above.

    I did not mean to infer that any of the groups I mentioned have anything to do with one another – the common theme among them is only that when criticized, they all claim they are recruiting lots of new members.

    My point is that the numbers do not indicate this to be true and if it is true, some other dynamic is at play – possibly that their tactics, strategies and/or political beliefs are driving existing LP members away.

    I don’t know that I consider zero dues a “reform” as much as a new strategy for recruiting new members and building a larger base. This has nothing to do with ideology – pledge elimination and platform changes have much more to do with ideology.

  69. Carl writes: ..the minarchist/anarchist debate should be a scientific debate ”” not a philosophical debate.

    This debate is philosophical. To make this a scientific debate would require polling data, etc. rather than assertions that people want this or that. I would also suggest that politics is not an algorithm.

    The LP platform (and the pledge) do not advocate anarchy in my opinion. Most libertarians (even the anarchists) are not advocating the immediate elimination of government, nor do most reject the “perfect for the good”, nor are “pursits” necessarily anarchists, as is often suggested.

    It seems that if one thought that over 99% of the public thinks that anarchy is unworkable, one would not widely distribute articles that imply that the LP is an anarchist party. This is not reform.

    Perhaps the reason many libertarians react so strongly is the choice of words, the demonizing of other libertarians, and the lack of specificity regarding “reform”.

  70. Tom (B),

    Actually, the LRC has been very specific regarding what kinds of reforms it wants — so specific that it has to point people to its site for the voluminous details. Here are the linked details and vote totals on each proposal (and there were many) that the LRC entertained. On the count of specificity, I doubt you’ll find a group which has more scrupulously documented its deliberations.

    IMO, the real problem is that there’s an antagonistic attitude implicit in many of the group’s appeals, and separately the writings of Dr. Milsted which aren’t directly tied to the LRC agenda, which is more likely to unite “purists” and “anarchists” in opposition to the LRC than to bring them into coalition with it.

    Tom Knapp

  71. Hmm… we need to lay off any kind of debate, philosophical, scientific or otherwise, and concentrate on getting elected.

  72. I agree that the LRC is very specific. I have visited the site before and found little participation and more than a few proposals that I believe are more poorly written than the current LP platform – which is by no means perfect.

    My comments are not directed at the LRC, the zero dues supporters, or anyone who seeks to try different strategies or tweak the platform. My comments are focused on the writings of Dr. Milstead that contain hyperbole, strawman arguments, name calling, dubious mathematical calculations and graphs, and calls for unspecified reform.

    I feel these writings sow discord in the LP, present an unflattering image of the LP to the public, and serve no useful purpose.

    One can draft proposed platform changes and present them to the platform committee along with an explanation of why the proposals are better than what currently exists. Members of the committee and convention delegates can be lobbied. Changes can be discussed and voted on. The tirades aren’t needed