Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Hint At Why The LP Is Such A Train Wreck

It appears my critique of Redpath's "list of promises" struck a chord outside of DL.

I received around a dozen phone calls and emails today from various wheedling surrogates of Mssrs. Starr and Redpath, launching a soft browbeating campaign.

Not a huge surprise. Apparently, if I don't stop criticizing the two reclusive LNC members, I'm not going to get to be friends with their lackeys. Boo hoo.

More surprising to me was the willingness of several more radical Libertarians, who have largely been silent in the face of the latest power plays by the Starr Chamber, disputing my assertion that the Vietnam War was an important -- and arguably THE most important -- formative stimulus behind the creation of the LP in the first place.

A typical email excerpt:

the LP was started as a reaction to Nixon's wage and price controls, not the VietNam war, which was pretty well over by the time the LP was started in 1971


One of the more amusing tricks of the NeoConTarian faction is to challenge the accuracy of even the smallest statement and use sweeping generalizations like "rant" and "liar" to attack those who they wish to avoid addressing directly. That treatment is typically not applied to their own boys, like Bob Barr, who can claim at the convention that he wants to repeal DOMA, yet show up on cable news a couple of days later and hail DOMA as a great example of Libertarian legislation.

This tactic is old hat to those of us used to campaigning against Republicans in the 1990s, when a large proportion of the present NeoCon support base in the LP was campaigning AS Republicans. A quick examination of Newt Gingrich's memo on "language as a tool of control" sheds a bit of light on this, and Libertarians who are serious about campaigning against the righties' tactics would be well-advised to read and memorize every word of it, so they're aware when language is being used as a tool to attempt to "control" them.

Meanwhile, it's disappointing that people who *should* be taking the fight to the NeoConTarians are falling for such tactics themselves and directing their big guns at me.

What of the history of the LP vis-a-vis the Vietnam War?

Marc Gilbert's seminal analysis of the Vietnam protest movement, The Vietnam War on Campus:

Only a united front, the students realized, would truly threaten the Establishment. As the 1960s crumbled around them and the forecast for change in the 1970s looked bleak, these students decided that only a completely new way of thinking and acting would force such institutions as the government, the university, and more amorphous "social order" to respond to their demands... For some, this dream came true in the creation of the Libertarian Party in 1972.


Not into academic citations? How about the mainstream press in one of its few balanced examinations of the Libertarian Party from 2002? Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The disenchantment of a few over the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon's wage and price controls has grown into what they say is the nation's best-organized and most successful third party.

"Other parties come and go," said David Nolan, considered the party's founding father. "The reason we have staying power is that we are consistent."


(If only Mr. Nolan's statement was true today, just six years later).

Still not convinced? Suspicious of academia and the press?

Why not ask the Libertarian Party of Colorado?

David Nolan and several other friends got together in the summer of 1971 after being disgusted with then president, Richard Nixon announced to the public the implementation of wage and price controls, which basically removed the gold standard and allowed the government to impose inflation easier. Along with the 'illegal' Vietnam War, loss of fiscal conservative direction of the Republican Party and the socialist directions of the Democrat Party, the group started the think tank to come up with a better political solution for real limited government and individual freedom.


Or the Libertarian Party of Michigan, noting the groups that came together to form that state's party affiliate, including:

Goldwater supporters. Karl Hess's rhetoric inspired many citizens in a country torn over the Vietnam War. Defining liberty and its defense becomes more than academic when you have a draft card in one hand and a rifle in the other. Later, many supporters became active in Young Americans for Freedom and College Republicans.


I could go on and on. I'm not going to. Worse, I shouldn't have to.

I know that the "bad guys" are prone to mendacity, but excusing their "forgetfulness" and losing the anti-foreign-interventionist heritage of the LP is just another way that the party's heritage is being stolen.

The reason why Starr and Co. are successful is because too many Libertarians are quiet and timid, accept their faulty premises, and spend more time coming after their friends than after their adversaries. Wasting time "proving" truisms like the LP's origins in anger over the Vietnam War only keeps libertarians on the defensive against the indefensible.

14 comments:

Rocky Eades said...

This was received by me from a local member of the LP: "When, in addition to the social and moral issues, we throw into the mix foreign policy issues, we lose still other liberty-leaning potential supporters. I meet so many libertarian and “patriotic” Americans, who believe sincerely that the libertarian policy so well defended by Ron Paul --that our armed forces should be used to defend the United States, not fight for “allies” or regimes who we see as being on our side in lands all over the world—would be abandoning our young men fighting overseas and all that they have sacrificed, the young soldiers protecting America far from home. When we talk about bringing the troops home right away, we play into the hands of the conservative establishment, the sort of politicians in the Republican Party whom some of us got to see too closely last spring at county and state conventions, men and women who argue that Republicans stand for “less government” (less only than Mao and Stalin, perhaps; but at least they stand for “less”) and “strength abroad”. And they beat us in the elections."

This follows a rant about how libertarian positions on drug policy and gay marriage and against the death penalty are "divisive" and embarrassing.

His suggestion, then, was that we stick to the talking points in Redpath's list - apparently the positions taken there are not "divisive" for some reason. Yeah, they're not divisive if you're only talking to lying, hypocritical, weasly partisan "small government" Republican hacks who can use Redpath's list to bash Obama.

And this guy is old enough, and has been around the LP long enough, to know that the founders of the LP had already split with the YAF and the Republican Party over its support for the Vietnam War before Nixon's wage/price controls were even a gleam in his eye.

Rob Power said...

Thank you, Brian and Rocky, for posting this evidence.

The idea that America's third-largest political party was founded solely over Nixon setting the price of a porterhouse is as absurd as the idea that America declared independence solely over a tea tax.

It doesn't really matter what the "last straw" was -- it was the pent-up rage over other issues that made our founding possible, both as a nation and as a party.

I'm glad that some people are refusing to let the LP's founding history be re-written to "make room" for pro-war types. I wish people like Brian and myself, both born after 1975, could rely on older members of the party to speak this truth, instead of Brian having to dig up things written three decades ago by people who are still very much with us today.

Brian Holtz said...

Miller's original claim was that the LP was "founded largely in opposition to the Vietnam War". Now he retreats somewhat and claims that "that the Vietnam War was an important -- and arguably THE most important -- formative stimulus behind the creation of the LP". Nobody is disputing that the LP was anti-war -- and especially anti-draft -- from the very beginning. However, it's still the case that it was the events of Aug 15 1971 that actually triggered the formation of the LP. Miller cites four texts discussing the formation of the LPUS. Three of them correctly identify Nixon's wage and price controls as the proximate stimulus for the LP's founding, and the fourth gets the year wrong and just happens to be in a book about -- wait for it -- Vietnam war protests. Thus Miller's own evidence rebuts his original "founded largely" assertion.

Of course, Miller does not even attempt to quote Aaron Starr being an “outspoken proponent of foreign military interventionism”, nor does he attempt to defend his characterization of Redpath's talking points as "neocon" despite them not even mentioning foreign policy. And Miller was flat-out wrong to charge that Redpath's list takes “swipes at the UAW”.

So of my four specific criticisms of the truthfulness and accuracy of Miller's diatribe, three stand unrebutted and the fourth is confirmed by Miller's own evidence. QED.

Brian Miller said...

Holtz's attempts at spin are endearing, yet as usual, rather transparent.

I do not back away from my statement -- in fact, I repeat it.

The Libertarian Party was largely founded in opposition to the Vietnam War.

It's in the history of the party pages on at least a dozen parties' web sites.

It's listed in at least four Vietnam War opposition books.

It's cited by numerous individuals who were there in the "early years," when Mr. Holtz was a Republican.

Mr. Holtz is a master at obfuscation, in his efforts to replace the Libertarian Platform with his Republican Lite replacement platform. His "demands" for "proof" are hilarious, since I provided more than sufficient evidence to back my original contention on the Vietnam War and he's STILL spinning to ignore it and STILL trying to characterize the LP as some bastard child of neoconservatism.

Libertarians should not indulge such silliness -- we should invite pro-war conservatives like Mr. Holtz to return to their natural home in the Republican Party.

Brian Miller said...

lying, hypocritical, weasly partisan "small government" Republican hacks

Now, now, let's not make Mr. Holtz feel TOO unwelcome. ;)

Brian Holtz said...

"Obfuscation" is Brian Miller ignoring the fact that all his sources above about the LPUS founding that don't get the year wrong also cite the Nixon Shock of Aug 15 1971. Widespread opposition to the Vietnam War had raged for at least four years, but Nixon's "Vietnamization" and troop withdrawals had started taking the wind out of its sails by the time the LP was formed. More significantly, the draft was winding down and already scheduled to end, and that significantly undercut antiwar activism among draft-age youth.

Gene Berkman now reports "I was working for SIL when Dave Nolan started the Committee to Organize a Libertarian Party, in protest over Nixon’s imposition of Wage & Price Controls." Nolan's http://libertarianmajority.net/1972-temporary-lp-platform did indeed include a one-line call for withdrawal from "the Indo-China war", but it was the last item in a Military section that few Libertarians would recognize today. It included language about "alliances with countries whose continued free existence is vital to our legitimate national interests" and about "defend[ing] the United States and its allies against aggression". The first LP convention proceeded to remove from the Platform any mention of the Vietnam war. It remains simply bizarre to claim that the LP "was largely founded in opposition to the Vietnam War", but the LP forgot to mention the war in its first official platform.

Miller's "Republican lite"/"conservative" smear is so tedious that I've posted my standard dismemberment of it at http://libertarianmajority.net/is-non-anarchism-just-republican-lite. Miller has never once attempted to respond to it; he just repeats such name-calling whenever he's losing the argument.

In the LP's "early years" I wasn't a "Republican" -- I was in elementary school. I've been a libertarian and atheist since college, but I didn't join the LP until I thought there was hope of weaning it from its platform's crypto-anarchism. Eight years later, my hopes were realized.

It's a typical outright lie of Miller to claim that I am "trying to characterize the LP as some bastard child of neoconservatism". I already pointed out that neoconservatism is defined as supporting foreign interventionism, and I said "Nobody is disputing that the LP was anti-war — and especially anti-draft — from the very beginning." Miller lies about me because he cannot answer my criticisms -- such as my pointing out his (deliberately?) false statements about Starr being an “outspoken proponent of foreign military interventionism”, or about Redpath's talking points taking “swipes at the UAW”. I quote Miller's false statements; he smears and lies.

As for me being "pro-war", that's just another attempt to smear me because I happen to believe (like LP radical Starchild) that the self-imposed duty of a liberty-loving polity to defend human liberty should not vanish completely at lines drawn on maps by statists. Miller's smear is obviously a red herring designed to distract from the multiple inaccuracies in his essay, but anybody interested in my views on intervention is invited to read http://knowinghumans.net/2007/04/defending-libervention-in-iraq.html.

I thank Miller for his invitation that I leave the LP -- I'll add him to my collection of radicals who have voiced a desire to cleanse the LP of people who disagree with them.

G Rex said...

Okay guys, I was barely a year old when Nixon was first elected, but didn't he campaign on the idea of ending what was seen as Lyndon Johnson's war? It seems reasonable enough to me that a third party would form out of rejection of a Democrat war on one side and of a Republican domestic policy on the other.

Brian Miller said...

He also is rather perfectly employing Gingrichian language that he learned from his Republican Party roots.

After all, it was he and his bully-boy friends who targeted and drove Angela Keaton off the LNC -- yet they insist that anybody who deviates from or disagrees with their Republicanization of the LP is seeking to kick *them* out.

Brian Miller said...

the self-imposed duty of a liberty-loving polity to defend human liberty should not vanish completely at lines drawn on maps by statists

I didn't see you picking up a weapon, or voluntarily funding the war out of your own pockets, Mr. Holtz.

Ironically, many Democrats who seek to turn the LP into the Democratic Party Lite (the polar opposite of Mr. Holtz's Republican Party Lite agenda) would claim that "the self-imposed duty of a liberty-loving polity to defend human liberty from poverty should not vanish completely at property definitions drawn on contracts by statists." Bingo, "Libertarian" redistributionism!

Brian Holtz said...

I cite facts; Miller smears with content-free name-calling like "Gingrichian". Miller addresses none of my facts about the LP's founding texts, Starr's public record, or the imagined "neocon"/"UAW" content of Redpath's talking points. Every sentence Miller writes about my liberventionism is just another confirmation of his inability to address these facts. Now I'll gleefully demolish Millers clumsy red herrings that attempt to distract from the above facts:

I publicly called on Angela to narrowly apologize only for insulting party members and urging people not to join the LP, and to stay on the LNC so she can represent her constituents and keep working for LNC transparency.

Miller's "redistributionism" argument makes a lot of sense -- but only if you think that property rights are as arbitrary and contingent under libertarian theory as are the borders drawn on maps by statists. I for one would not agree with Miller if he claimed that the idea that you own your own labor is as arbitrary as the idea that the Rio Grande should be an international border.

I indeed willingly parted with the portion of my taxes that went for overthrowing Saddam, just as I willingly part with the portion of my taxes that fund defense of liberty here inside our borders. As for "picking up a weapon", it's inane to argue that unless I'm a combination cop-fireman-jailer-soldier, I can't argue for state provision of these services.

Gene Berkman said...

I would like to state emphatically that opposition to the Vietnam War was the main issue that led to the creation of the Libertarian Caucus of Young Americans for Freedom, and its spinoff, the California Libertarian Alliance.

When I was working for SIL, and we received an article from David Nolan proposing a Libertarian Party, I did not take it seriously because Nolan downplayed the Vietnam War as an issue.

When I posted at IPR a mention of the dispute over the Vietnam War at the founding convention of the Libertarian Party, it was for historical accuracy.
It was to point out that the Libertarian Party has been plagued from the beginning by people who felt that our commitment to freedom implied a commitment to engage in military activism to promote such freedom.

The real libertarian critique of statism includes an understanding that War is a government program, and therefore has costs that almost always outweigh the benefits.

Brian Holtz said...

Gene, I'd agree that historical "military activism to promote freedom" has been about as faithful to the cause of true freedom as have been what Republicans claim are "free markets". I don't take either of these historical records as a dispositive case against a proper freedom agenda -- just a severely precautionary tale. Libertarians, of all people, need to distinguish possible practice from actual practice.

Brian Miller said...

Holtz is a hoot.

Brian, the LP is not a pro-war party and was formed out of animus towards the pro-war philosophy that you embrace with such vigor.

Now far be it for me to prevent you from further self-embarrassment on this issue, but I'd really suggest quitting while you're, ehrm, behind. ;)

Brian Holtz said...

Brian, I'm not "pro-war", but rather anti-aggression and anti-genocide. I've never said the LP is or was liberventionist, and in fact said above "Nobody is disputing that the LP was anti-war -- and especially anti-draft -- from the very beginning." Just keep demonizing and smearing those you disagree with; it's easier than thinking. It's wrong when "pro-family" types do it, and it's wrong when "pro-peace" types do it. If you ever do want to stop hating and start thinking, try answering http://knowinghumans.net/2007/04/defending-libervention-in-iraq.html.

As for who's being "embarrassed" here, well, that would be the one who ignores Gene Berkman's first-hand report that David Nolan's formation of the LP "downplayed the Vietnam War as an issue", and who by not defending or correcting the following statements leads us to conclude they were deliberate lies:

* The Redpath list takes "some swipes at the UAW" [when in fact it mentions no unions at all]
* Aaron Starr is an "outspoken proponent of foreign military interventionism" [when no such advocacy is in evidence]
* Redpath's list of economic freedoms are "neocon talking points" [when in fact it ignores the defining neocon topic of foreign policy]

I'll close by repeating that the first official platform of the party "founded largely in opposition to the Vietnam War" did not even mention that war or advocate ending it. By contrast, that platform did advocate "repeal of all controls on wages, prices" and legalizing "private ownership of gold" -- underlining the connection to the Nixon Shock of Aug 15, 1971.