Leadership - Not Compromise!
DOCUMENTS DEFENDING A DETAILED
and THE MEMBERSHIP STATEMENT
These were written in 1993 during the last major attempt to make the party more "mainstream" and still maintain their validity
From: Joe Dehn
To: All Msg #294, 04-Jan-93 08:30pm
Subject: I am a Libertarian because...
The following is a handout I picked up at the Colorado State Fair this
| I AM A REPUBLICAN BECAUSE...
| * I believe it is important to respect each person's ability, dignity,
| freedom and responsibility.
| * I believe individual initiative must be encouraged in getting things
| * I believe government exists to protect the freedom of each person, not
| restrict it.
| * I believe people who cannot provide for themselves deserve help and
| also deserve to be helped to become self-supporting citizens who can
| take pride in their self-reliance and independence.
| * I believe equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity are
| everybody's rights.
| * I believe respect for laws, the courts and the Constitution are vital
| to preservation of the nation and security for the citizen.
| * I believe excessive taxation, inflation and government waste can
| destroy our country; government must maintain sound money and a
| responsible economy.
| * I believe while we remain militarily strong, we must continue our
| efforts towards world peace and friendship.
| These principles reflect a Republican's basic beliefs. Republicans have
| held firm to these principles for nearly a century and a quarter. The
| nation needs more Republicans today so our nation can be stronger
| tomorrow. That's the best reason to be a Republican.
Why am I not reassured by this? Why am I not a Republican?
The following is the first paragraph of the 1992 Democratic Party Platform:
| Two hundred summers ago, this Democratic Party was founded by
| the man whose burning pen fired the spirit of the American
| Revolution -- who once argued we should overthrow our own
| government every 20 years to renew our freedom and keep pace
| with a changing world. In 1992, the party Thomas Jefferson
| founded invokes his spirit of revolution anew.
Wow -- sounds like my kind of people! Why am I not a Democrat?
And in this past presidential election, H. Ross Perot attacked the status
quo with stirring words and a charm that attracted millions who share the
goal of getting government under control and restoring prosperity to
America. Why did I not join them?
It is easy to talk in general terms about how much we value "freedom",
"responsibility", "enterprise", and "peace". It is easy to condemn in
general terms "waste", "bureaucracy", and "injustice". But what does it
mean when a politician says these things? Do Congressional committees spend
their days debating the question of whether there should or should not be
"freedom" in this country? Is my state senator going to get a chance to vote
on a budget line labeled "waste"?
No, the sad state of our economy and the dangers facing our civil liberties
are the result of specific actions taken by those wielding government power:
laws, regulations, treaties, taxes, and budget decisions that each by
themselves may seem unimportant, but cumulatively comprise the political
environment which we as Libertarians decry.
Politicians who make these decisions without a guiding principle wind up
making a mess of our economy and sacrificing our liberties to the whim of
special interests. But those who profess a principle and don't apply it
consistently to their specific political acts are just as much a part of the
problem. It is the actual laws they enact that take away our freedoms, no
matter how eloquently they profess the value of liberty. It is the taxes
and regulations they impose that drain our economy, no matter how much they
say they value free enterprise. It is the interventions they make -- both
military and economic -- that limit the prospects for world prosperity and
peace, no matter how much they proclaim their belief in universal
brotherhood and the rights of all people.
The general principles are important -- essential. Our Statement of
Principles is something we should be proud of, and be ready to stand by. We
should be prepared to explain the basis of our positions, through general
formulas such as the non-initiation of force. But this is not enough for a
political party which is proposing the election of actual individuals who
would make the decisions that control our lives and our futures.
If I am to support a candidate and have confidence that he or she will
actually act for liberty, I want to know more than that he or she thinks
liberty in general is a good thing. Those Republicans who have "held firm
to [their] principles for nearly a century and a quarter" have done an awful
lot of harm in the specific laws they have imposed on us. I want to know
that my candidate is prepared to translate general principles into concrete
action. And if I am to support a political party, I want to know that this
is the sort of candidate I can expect to find running under its banner.
I don't demand that every LP candidate agree 100% with the Platform. There
are many examples of candidates who are worth supporting, even though they
differ with the Platform on a few points. After all, the planks of our
Platform require a 2/3 vote for adoption, not unanimity. But I expect my
candidate to support _most_ of those planks, and to be prepared to say so
publicly. If he or she is not prepared to even _acknowledge_ the generally
agreed-upon Libertarian position on an issue, why should I believe that he
or she will be able to stand firm in the face of real-world lobbying and
vote trading? Why should I support, as my representative in the political
arena, someone who is unwilling and/or unprepared to stand up for what I
It is important that candidates inspire the voters with their general
vision, but that is not enough. Too often the vision turns out to be an
illusion, and the reality of a politician's actions turns into a betrayal of
his or her supporters.
It is important that candidates have clear and specific proposals of what
they would do in the short term, and say how they stand on the "hot" issues
of the day. But that is not enough, because as office holders they will
have to react to and deal with an ever-changing environment of proposals and
issues, and the mere fact that I agree with them today on a few particular
questions does not give me confidence in the more general case. The fact
that many of our "interim" or "compromise" proposals are also supported by
candidates of other parties should give us pause -- a candidate's agreement
with us on such a question may simply reflect a belief that this is
something that a significant part of the electorate is "ready" to consider,
and tell us nothing about that candidate's willingness to take the
Libertarian position on other controversial questions. Of course there is
never really any guarantee, but if a candidate agrees with the longer-term
Libertarian position on most of a wide range of issues, my confidence will
be high. On the other hand, if there are many issues on which a candidate
disagrees with me, or is unwilling to state a position, my confidence that
we will agree as new questions come up will be low indeed.
Our Platform serves as a benchmark for candidates, and quite properly so for
a party of principle. It distinguishes our candidates from those of other
parties and movements who mouth attractive-sounding slogans but who advocate
liberty-destroying specifics, and from those who decline to discuss
specifics at all. It discourages a few people who might otherwise be
tempted to run as Libertarians but discover that they disagree with many of
our positions -- they should not be representing us. It does not prevent
principled people from running as our candidates just because they disagree
on a few issues, as long as they are willing to stand up and make clear
where they differ. Our Platform does cost us the support of many voters who
disagree with us, but it gives the public and the media confidence that a
Libertarian vote has a real meaning -- that our increasing vote totals
reflect increasing agreement with real Libertarian positions, not simply our
learning to play the same obfuscatory game as traditional politicians.
I am a Libertarian because I want certain principles _implemented_, not just
talked about, and I want to know I am supporting candidates who are prepared
to apply those principles to the specific decisions they must make about
laws, regulations, treaties, budgets, and taxes. I have no confidence that
I will find such a candidate in the Republican or Democratic parties, or in
the transient and special interest "reform" movements that arise from time
to time. The Libertarian Party's Platform, with its specific stands on a
wide range of issues, gives me confidence that LP candidates will represent
me well, or at least feel an obligation to tell me where we differ so I can
decide for myself whether they are still worth supporting against the
alternatives. An LP without such a Platform will not have my confidence, and
will likely lose the support of those who, like me, want more than
platitudes, more than a few specific reforms, more than a handful of interim
measures that are also supported by many politicians of other parties -- who
want a party of principle ready to defend the implications of its principles
in the real world.
From: Bill Evers
To: All Msg #369, 10-Jan-93 12:30am
Subject: Our Platform: Building a Shared Vision of the Future
Re-reading the Libertarian Party Platform is always an exhilarating
experience for me. It is so complete, so consistent, and so principled.
I support it. I endorse it. I have run for public office on it without
embarrassment. I'm always prepared to improve it through modification --
but we don't need to alter it drastically or scrap it.
Our Party Platform is the foundation on which much of the activity of
our party rests. It provides needed detail when political campaigns or
internal education get into the wide array of controversial issues in
Our Platform (24 pages) sets forth our stance on the many public-policy
issues of the times. It is comparable in length, breadth of coverage,
and detail to the Republican and Democratic party platforms (71 and 16
pages respectively), but is far more principled.
SOME POSSIBLE PROBLEMS
PROBLEM: Some say our Platform isn't very selective. It doesn't provide
candidates with a list of issues to focus on nor does it tell voters
which few issues we think are salient.
SOLUTION: True, our Platform does not tell our candidates which issues
to emphasize and how to promote them. The candidates decide that for
themselves. The national Libertarian Party does have a Program which
lays out the issues and interim proposals that the national party as an
organization is emphasizing. If they wish, candidates may choose to
take the Program as a ready-to-wear set of issues to emphasize.
PROBLEM: Some say our Platform isn't very effective as a hand-out.
SOLUTION: Our Platform is not intended as a street flyer to be handed
out to passers-by. Political activity provides many opportunities for
candidates, local parties, and campaigns to make their own leaflets,
brochures, and advertisements. Our Platform is an integrated
arrangement of policy proposals, not a substitute for day-to-day
PROBLEM: Candidates or party representatives sometimes find themselves
uncomfortable with a particular stance in our Platform.
SOLUTION: If the person thinks libertarian principle was wrongly
applied in the Platform, he or she can explain that and then later work
at the National Convention to modify the Platform.
PROBLEM: Some people find that they are not familiar with some of the
issues addressed in our Platform.
SOLUTION: Specific issues get addressed in our Platform because people
care about them: either some prominent individual or group is
advocating a policy change, or a governmental body has _already_ made a
law or regulation.
Our Platform is a convenient catalog of issues that LP candidates and
spokespersons should familiarize themselves with. Candidates can't be
expected to know everything, of course, and should always offer to find
out the answer when asked about something they are not familiar with.
If candidates discuss with other Libertarians those issues with which
they are not already familiar or if they read some of the literature on
public policy, candidates can become sufficiently knowledgeable.
A candidate who can only talk about a set of "top ten" issues, or his
or her own pet issue, will appear unprepared for office and uncaring on
other issues that often are the more important ones for individual
PROBLEM: Some people believe that the Platform puts off newcomers to
SOLUTIONS: This is not a problem caused by our Platform. Our party does
need a better approach to welcoming and educating newcomers.
Unlike the Libertarian Party, other groups have fully developed
programs for welcoming and educating newcomers. These groups respect
newcomers and value them highly as individuals seeking greater
knowledge. We Libertarians need to welcome newcomers with open arms,
and we need ladders of development that let newcomers become over time
more experienced and knowledgeable activists.
PROBLEM: Some people believe our Platform doesn't have enough interim
or transitional proposals.
SOLUTION: The existing process of modifying our Platform allows for
interim proposals. In fact, the Platform used to contain many interim
proposals that were deemed consistent with our goals. Past National
Conventions removed these interim proposals, in part, because they
proved too internally divisive. These old interim proposals or new ones
could be put back in if the National Convention delegates so desire.
SOLUTIONS THAT WILL NOT WORK
GIVING UP A PLATFORM. Liquidating the Platform will not work for two
First, people will still ask us questions about current issues. Even
without a platform, people will ask about what the LP Presidential or
congressional candidate is saying. If you say, "I just don't know," or
"We don't have a platform," or "Everybody has his or her own view," you
look stupid, and you make the LP into the second Know-Nothing Party in
Second, the entire Libertarian Party will lose out on the extraordinary
internal education that takes place at national conventions when the
activists in attendance discuss and debate on how to apply libertarian
principle to current issues and changing developments.
KEEPING A PLATFORM, BUT MAKING IT INCOMPLETE, INDEFINITE, OR FLEXIBLE.
The attendees at a National Convention could say, in effect, we're
tired of having a principled and full-fledged platform. We are still a
pro-private enterprise party, they might say, but we repudiate our past
insistence on principled consistency and thorough coverage of the
Now, they might say, with a flexible platform, we can nominate any
candidate whose views have some sort of "family resemblance" to the
views of other LP candidates. For example, again hypothetically, we
would encourage and welcome a candidate who said "I support private
enterprise and civil liberties but in particular:
(1) I favor a welfare-state safety net for the poor.
(2) I oppose legalizing drugs, except marijuana under carefully
(3) I favor U.S. military intervention in Somalia, former
Yugoslavia, Panama, and the Persian Gulf.
(4) I favor well-crafted government regulations to protect the
human environment and do not believe that property rights and
social pressure by themselves can do the job.
(5) I favor allowing abortion only in cases of rape, incest,
serious deformity, or threat to the life of the mother.
(6) I favor a value-added tax."
Today such a "moderate" candidate could not get nominated by the
Libertarian Party. But repudiation of the current platform could easily
lead to this hypothetical scenario becoming reality.
If it becomes reality, we give up presenting the public with an
unashamed, bold, consistent libertarian option. Indeed, the lines
between the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian parties will become
so fuzzed by such a change that there will be little point in keeping
the LP alive as a separate entity.
HAVING A BRAND-NEW PLATFORM EACH CONVENTION. In the Republican and
Democratic parties, the presidential nominee usually has a guarantee of
rubber-stamp adoption of whatever platform the nominee wants.
The Libertarian Party is different. Because the LP aims at a consistent
application of principle in its platform, the delegates argue carefully
over the wording of all parts of the Platform.
In order to have our Platform cover the wide array of issues that the
Democrats and Republicans cover and to allow the LP delegates
sufficient time to deliberate on proposed additions, deletions, and
modifications, we have a cumulative platform. That is, we add to,
delete from, or modify our previous platform. This is time-tested and
makes good sense, given the fact that we are a party of unchanging
principle whose members and delegates take the content of the platform
The Platform debates on the convention floor may seem quibbling at
times or entangled in parliamentary procedure at other times, but in
fact beneath this distracting noise, a glorious truth-seeking process
is going on.
The convention delegates are itemizing the many grievances of a public
tyrannized by Big Government and framing alternative Libertarian
solutions to social problems. The delegates have a noble
responsibility: building a shared vision of a Libertarian future. Let's
not rob them of this important work.
From: Don Ernsberger
To: All Msg #273, 03-Jan-93 01:33am
Subject: The Oath
TO: All LP members
The Oath Debate- The Heart and Soul of the Party
The Libertarian Party was founded as the Party of Principle.... The
Libertarian Party continues as the Party
of Principle because our political and social policies stem from rejection
of the "initiation of force" as incompatible with human liberty.
Those who would abandon and repudiate the oath
as a condition for membership believe that the result
would be an increase in membership, improved public
image and a moderation in our political positions. They
naively see the scraping of the oath as a panacea for our lack of rapid
political success. They are wrong in fact and wrong in principle. Their
proposals grow out
of frustration, not out of vision.
Ask yourself what the oath affirms each time you
think of its meaning. When the President calls for
compulsory military or civilian service for youth, the oath rings loud
and clear! ..... "initiation of
force is wrong and unacceptable!" When Congress
passes legislation to outlaw private ownership of
handguns, the oath rings loud and clear!.... "intitiation
of force is impractical and immoral!" When the courts
suspend the fourth amendment protections of private
property, the oath rings loud and clear!.... INITIATION OF
FORCE IS AGAINST THE LIBERTY OF ALL PEOPLE!!!. Those
who argue that in some instances the initiation of
force is OK are arguing that "in some cases" Liberty
and individual rights are not the most important value
in politics..... I have had students who favored the War
on Drugs, favored banning all handguns, supported
a compulsory two year civilian service after High
School graduation and at the same time supported
higher min wage laws and ending foreign imports- Their score on the
"Nolan Chart" 70-70. Do I
want their vote- Sure! Are they libertarians NO WAY.
When each of us joined the Libertarian Party, we were
asked to sign a statement, not as a religious vow or
a secret society writ, but a statement of personal
conscience. A statement that proclams that all
individual liberty is threatened by the acceptance
of the initiation of force. A statement that Liberty is
both practical and moral, that the initiation of force
is both impractical and immoral.
The oath must be preserved if we are to remain
a Party of Principle and to avoid the erosion of our principles in a sea of
opportunism. What political value
do any of us hold higher than Liberty? Liberty works
and Liberty is right, even if it is sometimes unpopular
with the electorate. The oath must remain as the
personal commitment of all who join the Libertarian
Don Ernsberger..... Libertarian