Montreal, November 26, 2006 • No 203




Christopher Awuku lives in England and works within the voluntary-community non-profit sector.




by Christopher Awuku


          The libertarian movement has been in existence for a number of decades. In that period, we have pursued party politics as one primary means of spreading libertarian values and bringing forth a libertarian society. I feel that, as libertarians, we should attempt to create other avenues and strategies of implementing our beliefs. In short, party politics doesn't seem to be working. I don't believe this approach will work for the foreseeable future.


The American experience

          The US Libertarian Party is the world's oldest existing libertarian political party. Since the early 1970's, the party has put forward candidates for presidential, congressional, state and local elections. Still, how successful has the LP been in that period?

          As you can see, the results for the LP have been fairly woeful. One could ask whether it's worth the effort of placing candidates in elections if the returns are so slim. The dilemma can only be attributed to one source: People are too statist in thinking!

          The sooner that libertarians realise this, the better it will be for our movement in general. Granted, the existence and continual passing of ballot access and campaign finance legislation may hinder the LP. Nonetheless, even without these laws, the cause would still be insurmountable.

          Because people are too statist in thinking, they would not actively choose to vote for a party that drastically sought to reduce the size of government. In essence, the average Joe cannot help but be statist. His society continually emphasises and promotes statism. From his school days, he is taught to trust the government and that the state exists for his own benefit and well-being. No one, in our current state educational sector, is taught that the state only violates our self-ownership, individual sovereignty and hence our liberty.

          Of course, there are some surveys that denote Americans desire smaller government. Nevertheless, most Americans only believe that government is too large and intrusive in specific areas. Few would translate and apply such a belief to all governmental services. There still is a feeling that government is somehow "necessary" to administer certain services. Questions like "well what about the roads?" or "what about the schools?" are still common statements from the American electorate, especially in reference to reducing the size and scope of government across the board.

“If party politics is not showing any evident signs of working, then what is the alternative? In my mind, the solution is consistent outreach, grassroots activism and even civil disobedience.”

          One must also account for burn out amongst some libertarians. It can't be very heartening to consistently see the LP fail. If one is eager to see a libertarian society in their lifetime, then success via party politics probably isn't the key to such an occurrence. The libertarian movement could be in danger of losing libertarians if the LP continues to secure poor returns in elections. This is probably one major reason for the emergence of schemes like the Free State Project. Some libertarians are starting to realise that more direct action is needed in order to institute libertarian values in the near future.

          As long as society is "against" us, then the cause of libertarian party politics will be futile.

The solution

          If party politics is not showing any evident signs of working, then what is the alternative? In my mind, the solution is consistent outreach, grassroots activism and even civil disobedience.

          The Advocates for Self-Government have proven to be successful in attracting new libertarians and spreading the message of liberty. This has been accomplished with the Operation Politically Homeless campaign and the World's Smallest Political Quiz. With organisations like the Advocates, we don't really need the LP to act as a means of recruiting new libertarians. With more concerted efforts of outreach, we would bring the message of liberty to a greater number and help secure the next generation of libertarians.

          In relation to grassroots activism, this approach may produce similar results to outreach. Protesting at your local council regarding tax increases and other anti-liberty measures may persuade those who possess a distrust of the state to become a principled libertarian. At the least, it would direct some publicity to the libertarian cause. After all, it is said, "any publicity is good publicity."

          Civil disobedience, again, would succeed in attracting publicity to the libertarian movement. Granted, some may not welcome the prospect of prosecution or even imprisonment. Still, for those who are willing to take that risk, the likelihood of potential "martyrdom" may arise. Such acts could inspire other libertarians to oppose the oppressive and coercive nature of government.

          Libertarian party politics evidently is not only conducted in the USA. However, the only successful libertarian political party is in Costa Rica (see "Winds of Change From Central America," le QL, no 153). No major Western liberal democracy has ever possessed an electorally successful libertarian party, whether this is the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or any other country with an active libertarian party. If we are honest, libertarians must accept that party politics won't work, given the statist mentality of the man in the street. It is up to us, as a movement, to create viable alternatives for spreading liberty and achieving a completely voluntary and free society.