Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Libertarians, Politcal Defeat, and the Loss of Common Sense

         Lew Rockwell is a noted libertarian.  As you might guess, his guy in this election was Ron Paul.  Paul lost, big time.  In response to that loss, Rockwell has now decided that the RNC is led by a “criminal syndicate,” the answer to which, he asserts, is “secession and independence.”
         No, it is not.  Not even close.
         First, there's no "criminal syndicate” at the convention in Tampa, period.  The libertarian candidate lost.  That’s it.  My guy (Gingrich) lost too.  I’m not happy about it, but I’m not walking and I’m not slandering the winner.  Demonizing the winner and his team mates, on the one hand, and marginalizing themselves, on the other, just means that the freedom-loving libertarians will keep losing.
         Second, the greatest failure of libertarians is that they do not know how to get their hands on the levers of power, much less how to keep them there.  They would do themselves and their important movement a great favor by learning how to win.  But “secession and independence” is not how it’s done.  Why? -- because you don't win from the margins.  You don't win by means of self-imposed exile or by burning your political bridges behind you.  That’s how to sign a long-term contract with defeat.
         Libertarians know very well how to lose elections in America.  They’ve been doing a remarkable job of it for decades.  They need now to change their trajectory.  Secession and independence will not change it.  Secession is for fools.


Steve said...

Secession is for fools? What a quote! The very founding of the US was an act of secession. When a group of people do not feel represented by their government, they have a right to secede and govern themselves. Allegiance to the crown is for fools, and those who desperately seek to "get their hands on the levers of power".

The politically-savvy Republicans are eager to use the state to try and create a society of their vision. The Democrats are obsessed with using the state in exactly the same way.

It's only the liberty-minded who want change. We don't want some group of politicians to mold individuals' lives. We want individuals to solve problems, not the heavy hand of the state. Let people live freely.

But honestly Mark, if your government oppresses you, surely, surely, you must reject the notion that "secession is for fools". Such blind faith in a human structure, regardless of the behaviour of that institution, is just nonsensical.

Mark said...

Lew Rockwell is an libertarian-anarchist who does not seek the power to control the masses. As an anarchist, he does not partake in elections. He rejects the notion of centralized government, in favor of governance through free markets, personal property rights and free association without government coercion. He is also a devout, traditional Catholic. You are mis-characterizing Mr. Rockwell and other libertarians. I find it very disturbing that so many claim victory by "get(ting) their hands on the levers of power." Classical liberalism is not about winning or retaining the power to control others through force and violence. It is about adopting and living non-aggressive lives in which you do not use the force of government for personal gain.

And, as a witness to shenanigans played by (R)epublican party bosses, I can understand why Mr Rockwell is angry. Dr. Paul was slandered heavily by the Romney camp, as well as the RNC. To be ticked off at Romney, his camp and the RNC for not playing by party rules (and changing them when threatened by an "outsider" with huge support) is completely justified. Also, Dr Paul is Rockwell's close, personal friend and I would hope that anyone would defend their friend and point out injustices the way Mr Rockwell did.

Steve...Great points on secession.

John Galt said...

I knew a man once who said he would stop the motor of the world.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

!. The Revolutionary War was not a secession. It was a conservative revolution, one in which the Americans reasserted their ancient rights as Englishmen, rights that had been usurped by George III. It has nothing to do with Rockwell's advice for libertarians to secede from the Republican party. No human rights were usurped. They lost the nomination and they showed themselves to poor losers. The American Revolution has nothing at all to do with how Rockwell or I used the "secession" in this context. You have not made a telling point by taking a word out of its native context, placing it foursquare into another, and then commenting on the context into you have placed it. To say that secession from a political party is foolish is not even remotely the same as "blind faith in a human structure."

2. No one here is against individuals trying to solve their own problems. Many problems, however, have no individual solution, like nuclear deterrence, for example.

3. If a man does not participate in elections, he undermines his own criticism of the outcome.

4. It is bizarre to oppose centralized government and simultaneously to adhere to the Catholic church -- which is also a government and runs Vatican City as tightly as any government in Europe. The Catholic church is not, and never was, remotely libertarian or anarchistic in its political teaching, even though Rockwell is. To that extent, he is not a traditional Catholic.

5. In the actual world in which God has placed us, if you wish for your views to prevail, they will do so only if your side wins. If you do not understand well how the world in which God has placed you actually works, you are being untrue to your calling. This is not about classical liberalism. It is about bringing all things, including political things, captive to Christ. God has established government for participation in such a purpose. God is no classical liberal. If anything, He is a monarchist. In that sense, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is much more of traditional Catholic than is Rockwell, a his excellent book on leftism demonstrates. So also is Dante, whose book Monarchy is worth considering from a Catholic perspective. So don't give me any of the "rejection of power" line and then mention traditional Catholicism at the same time.

6. My guy lost too. He was unfairly characterized too. But he is far better at political realities than Paul. It takes no particular political acumen to be a purist. That's enormously easy. It' always easy to lose. It takes an enormous amount to bud winning coalitions and winning strategies by which to get your agenda farther and farther down the field. Like it or not, Romney won. He pulled it off. If you don't learn how to win, his ilk will beat you again.

7. You guys think I am the enemy. I am not. I am telling you that the Rockwell way is the way to defeat. It always has been. The history of libertarian victories is exceedingly short. You cannot win by a self-imposed march to the margins of political life, or by self-imposed exile. Rockwell's advice is silly in the extreme. Don't do it. No one is kicking the libertarians out. They lost, now they are leaving. They are taking their toys and going home. They do politics like babies. They flatter themselves by describing themselves as purists and others as statists and compromisers. The truth is that they are amateurs, and amateurs lose at politics all the time -- because they are amateurs. They need to become political grown ups.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

For clarity's sake, my comment above is for for my friends Steve and Mark, not "John Galt," who posted while I was writing.

Maria Mitchell said...

The Republicans changed the rules to favor Robamney. If they had just let him lose fair and square, there wouldn't be such a backlash. Libertarians aren't wanted in the Republican party because the Republican and Democrat parties are virtually indistinguishible from each other on spending, war, the debt, regulation, the creation of massive government beaurocracies, etc., etc. They both cite the Constitution, but neither party reads it.

Lew Rockwell has been saying the same thing for decades, just like Ron Paul - yet the Republicans/neocons have never listened. The people are liking what he has to say. It's not about Lew Rockwell OR Ron Paul - it's about a sane fiscal and foreign policy, and getting the government off the backs and out of the pants (TSA) of citizens. The people are tired of listening to the Stupid Party and the Evil Party. Deal with it.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

A fwpoints:

1. Your reconstruction of what happened at the convention is, in my view, inaccurate.

2. I'm afraid that it argues lack of insight and precision to say that the Republicans and Democrats are virtually indistinguishable on all those issues. It is simply and demonstrably untrue.

3. Lew Rockwell has indeed been saying that for decades, which is precisely why he is on the margins of American political life. He does not know how to make his ideas prevail, even within the party closest to his views. And when he loses, as he always does, he can think of nothing more constructive than to go play in some other sandbox: "secession and independence."

4. We ARE dealing with it; you are retreating. We will win in November You will lose, again. You will have done nothing more constructive than distancing yourself from the winners, the very party to which you are ideologically closest, and thereby you will have lost your chance to advance your agenda prudently within the options actually available to you.

Mark said...

Participation in the Catholic Church is a voluntary act, and adherence to the rules of the Church (or central government as you call it) is also purely voluntary. There is no contradiction in being opposed to central government and voluntary participation in the Church.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Mark, You're missing the point. The Catholic church has very clear teachings on politics and on economics. It does not teach or endorse what you describe libertarian anarchism, which is your description of Rockwell's views. His view on such things and the Church's view on such things are widely divergent, and at points actually antithetical. This has nothing to do with one choosing to be Catholic voluntarily.

Phil said... .... For conservatives and libertarians who want to win.