The Libertarian Party Prepares for Its Day in the Sun

Convention Hall at Orlando's Rosen Centre, before business Friday morning
Convention Hall at Orlando’s Rosen Centre, before business Friday morning

ORLANDO, FL — Orlando’s Rosen Centre may be the most press-heavy location on Earth this Memorial Day weekend. With a ratio of about one credentialed journalist for every five 2016 Libertarian National Convention delegates, it feels like the proverbial 15 minutes of fame are in reach not just for the Libertarian Party but for everyone in it. We’ve made the big-time … for the moment, anyway.

But it’s work. I’ve been here since Thursday and expect to remain until Monday, perhaps Tuesday. Every Libertarian National Convention feels like it ages me five years. This is my sixth.

If you’ve ever followed a national political convention on television or in print media’s color commentary, you might believe it’s a sort of patriotic vacation for the participants.  The pep rallies here are as red, white, blue and loud as any Republican or Democratic event. The days are fueled by Starbucks, the nights  by alcohol (among other substances) with parties running into the next night and even bleeding into morning business sessions.

But ultimately the thousand or so delegates from 49 states and the District of Columbia (yes, 49 — Oregon’s Libertarians chose not to send a delegation for reasons too complex to explain, leading to the convention’s first floor fight only moments after the opening gavel) are here to get things done. Aside from nominating presidential and vice-presidential candidates and electing new officers, they’ll spend hours revising and updating our party’s bylaws and platform. If that sounds boring, well, it can be. Thus the caffeine.

The reward? Satisfaction of a job well done, of course. Renewing friendships that span decades. The belief that we are offering America not just a choice, but a BETTER choice. Expecting that at some point our shout-outs for freedom will be heard instead of disappearing  silently into the vacuum of  America’s moribund political system.

By the time you read this column, we will have nominated our 2016 presidential slate. You may be surprised by the composition of that slate based on what you’ve heard on the news. Our conventions aren’t coronations and sometimes we surprise everyone, including ourselves.

 

Either way, I can confidently state that this election year, as usual, the Libertarian Party will offer America its best chance at national revival and a rebirth of freedom.  Not a tall order given the major parties’ likely slates, true.  Their bad luck is our — and your — good fortune. Pay attention. November is right around the corner.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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This Memorial Day, Remember the Victims of Democide

Skulls from Choeung Ek in Cambodia
Skulls from Choeung Ek in Cambodia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This weekend, Americans will seize the opportunity to sleep in an extra day, fire up the family grill, and maybe — probably not, but maybe — wheel out to a family cemetery, lay flowers on graves, and contemplate the memories of their beloved for a few minutes.

Veterans’ organizations will parade in celebration of their own fallen comrades with star-spangled patriotic spectacle, and families out shopping last-minute for brats, steaks and cold beer may encounter American Legionnaires taking donations for red paper poppies evoking the memory of World War One and Flanders Fields:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Once upon a time, Memorial Day — previously known as Decoration Day — was set aside as a day of remembrance for war dead. The holiday was established after the American Civil War, which counted 3% of the combined populations of the Union and the Confederacy as casualties.  8% of white males  of military age — 6% in the north and 18% in the south — died in the war.

I suppose there’s something to be said for the contraction of the holiday into just another weekend of shopping and recreation. War is horrible to contemplate and there’s a strong case for the proposition that  long weekends are really for the living.

But to be honest, I’d rather expand the holiday back to its original purpose — mourning and remembering all those killed in war and by state violence, not just those in uniform. And, furthermore, resolving to put a stop to the carnage.

The late and lamented Rudy Rummel, a professor at the University of Hawaii and the acknowledged expert on the phenomenon of “democide,” estimated that governments murdered more than 260 million human beings in the 20th century alone. That figure excludes — and is six times as large as — military casualties in the century’s wars.

As Americans, we’ve enjoyed a certain insulation from the horrors of war since the middle of the 20th century. We occasionally see a flag-draped coffin, or encounter an amputee on the street, but our concerns with, for example, terrorism, simply aren’t in the same league as the reasonable fears of those around the world living with American planes and drones constantly overhead or American troops on their streetcorners.

This Memorial Day, let’s set aside a moment to think about them.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Overwhelming Force: An Answer to the State

The black flag, a traditional anarchist symbol...

guest column by Nic Leobold

Libertarians and anarchists talk about achieving minarchy, small government or a stateless society. But I fear we’re just fooling ourselves and being totally unrealistic.

We’ve already had anarchy, then minarchy, eons ago. The world arose in anarchy and we have already had countless small governments compared with the monster-size governments of today.

Anarchy failed and so did small government. We know big government is bad and constantly makes things worse, but we could honestly say that big government is the natural state of things, because that is what happened naturally. That is history.

Anarchists and minarchists can argue that our goal is to achieve a stateless society again. But observing the history of the fall of the Soviet Union, which was replaced by  crony capitalism and a series of tyrannical governments, we can only conclude that this would be the fate of the United States if it ever collapses.

So what can or should anarchists and minarchists realistically hope for and aim for besides constant pining and debating about our dream of anarch-utopia?

I would argue that our main goal as anarchists and minarchists should be focusing on how best to live and be happy in the face of the reality of the giant state. We should be spending our energy looking for tactics and strategies to circumvent the state and secure for ourselves the greatest good and greatest happiness possible under the reality of an overarching state.

This means focusing our efforts on the all-important sphere of counter- or elusive-economics to preserve our hard-earned money from the grasp of parasitical state collection authorities, starving the beast as much as possible while enjoying the highest standard of living possible (and looking forward to a smaller, leaner, less predatory state when the current one finally implodes.)

It also means looking for ways to avoid participating in the state as much as possible, so that we preserve our time, our energy, our life force and our honor. Such things as ignoring jury duty notices, parking tickets, “abstaining from beans” (non-voting), counter-economics and grey and black market economies, barter and cooperation with like-minded neighbors, and other strategies to avoid empowering the state and to conserve our energy and money.

The mega-state may be a depressing reality for a long time to come, and what follows may be just a lighter dose of tyranny. But our lives do not have to be depressing. We can win victories and exercise dominance over the state in our own personal and small ways, keeping the flames of hope and liberty alive and burning brightly in our spirits.

This is our hope and victory: Winning the best quality of life and most prosperity despite the tyrannical, megalomaniacal state which destroys everything in its path. Because someday, hopefully soon, the present obese state will fall, to be replaced by a much smaller, leaner government like the Russian Republic. That would not be the worst possible world for us to bear, but something for us to look forward to.

Nic Leobold is a free market anarchist businessman, artist & athlete who calls the Earth his traveling home. Follow him on Twitter at @nleobold.

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