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Green Party Politics and Libertarianism
By Carol Moore

Published in Libertarian Party NEWS in Spring of 1986 when I was living in Los Angeles. At the time "LPNews" was edited by Karl Hess, author of the book Community Technology and co-author of Neighborhood Power.  I wrote the introduction to a later edition of Community Technology, available at this web site.  Although today the Green Party actually is getting more presidential votes than the Libertarian Party, I stand by the views expressed below.  [I add one note in parenthesis below.]

          A “Green Movement” is growing in America. It is influenced by traditional Jeffersonian ideals, by the experience of progressive activists over the past 25 years, and by the success of the German Greens. In the last two years the movement has formed three continental organizations, the North American Greens, the North American Bioregional Congress, and the Committees of Correspondence. They reach out to constituencies of hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals.
          I myself have been active in local Los Angeles Green and libertarian groups and have written for publications in both movements. I have come to believe that libertarian insights and principles are essential to the achievement of Green goals and that Greens and libertarians should work together.  As you can see below, there is a great deal of overlap between libertarian principles and the widely agreed upon “Green Values” listed.

Ecological Wisdom
          Green philosophy is influenced by “whole systems” theory which describes a world which is both dynamic and interconnected; where balance, unity, and order arise out of flux and diversity. Libertarians, and free market advocates from Adam Smith to Fredrich Hayek to Jane Jacobs, have similarly argued that where people are free to pursue a diversity of interests and activities, healthy societies will emerge.
          Environmentally, libertarians consider pollution of the air, land, water, or watertables to be a violation of rights. They condemn the role of federal, state, and local governments in permitting such pollution and in fostering, as well, public and private despoliation of natural resources. While there are differing opinions between the movements, and even within each, about the nature of environmental exploitation and the best way to preserve nature, these should be springboards for discussion, not excuses for division.

Non-Violence and Peace
          The foremost libertarian principle is that no individual, or government composed of individuals, has the right to initiate force against another. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King constantly reminded us that freedom and non-violence are interconnected. Most libertarians are keenly interested in concepts popular among Greens: non-violent conflict resolution and arbitration, non-violently organized communities, and non-violent civilian based defense. Finally, libertarians have developed thorough critiques of militarism, interventionism, imperialism, and war and are committed to ending them.

Post-Patriarchal Values
          Libertarian feminists have exposed the connections between male dominance and state dominance. They’ve envisioned a world free of such age-old domination.

          Most Greens believe that the planet’s large, centralized, war-mongering nation states must be broken up. Instead, self-determined communities will be loosely federated regionally, possibly according to ecologically significant “bioregional” factors such as watersheds or land forms. Libertarian anarchists and minimal-state decentralists would support these ideas, agreeing with Greens that we should “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

Grassroots Democracy
          Most libertarians take a “minimalist” view of democracy; community decision-making would concern, at most, courts, police, and defense. Many Greens currently call for local community decision-making on a wide variety of issues. While Greens can learn from libertarians about the hazards of “too much” democracy, they will find them tolerant of democratic community alternatives—as long as Greens don’t try to force them on libertarians.

Community Economics
          Libertarians believe that government intervention in economies creates monopolies, stifles innovation, subsidizes big corporations, and destroys their small business competitors. Greens are rapidly coming to appreciate this view as they work to rebuild local economies by establishing alternate technologies, businesses, and even monetary systems.

Individual and Social Responsibility
          Libertarians emphasize individual responsibility. But they support whatever voluntary efforts Greens might organize to help impoverished peoples, locally and globally. Greens might respond that it is actually in one’s own self-interest to help the less fortunate, before their discontent leads to crime, social unrest, and war.

          Why do I believe libertarianism is critical to achieve these Green values? My own experience of bitter factionalism over the “true definition” of the label “Green” reminded me of the importance of the essentially libertarian values of tolerance of diversity and peaceful conflict resolution. As important as maintaining group cohesion, is convincing a skeptical public that-Greens are not just one more power-seeking movement bent on imposing their narrow, sectarian vision on everyone else.
          People worldwide are eager to join a movement that promises to free them from authoritarianism, violence, war, male dominance, environmental degradation, and elite-dominated economies. Greens would be wise to follow the libertarian example of the American Revolution’s original Committees of Correspondence.
          Green and libertarian individuals and groups all over the world should begin meeting to discuss principles, values, and goals, to work out joint strategies for opposing statism, and to create non-state economic and political alternatives. [Both parties need active decentralist-secessionist caucuses promoting candidates and taking party offices.  Check out Secession.Net!!]
          Green and libertarian radical decentralists should begin writing the new constitutions that will allow autonomous communities to network and federate in a post-nation state world. Green libertarians might form “Green Caucuses” in the Libertarian and Democratic Parties.
          Greens have a lot to learn from libertarians, and libertarians might even learn a few things from Greens. We have too much in common not to explore ways of helping each other create the diverse but intensely exciting worlds we envision.

Copyright 1998 by Carol Moore.  Permission to reprint freely granted, provided the article is reprinted in full and that any reprint is accompanied by this copyright statement and the URL