The Libertarian Party: A Personal Retrospective of a Time Long Past.
Note of A Political Nature to Chris Hocker
Privily speak I of promises well made
For I would have you know I them remember
For pen to paper thus I put - for so you bade,
And hearing thus your words could I malinger?
You said that you would give me many wonders
For papers writ with wisdom good and clear
That Clark did read to parry many blunders
Of policy when run he did last year.
And murmured you of booklets that you wrote
Designed to teach my candidates of things
That will make them yet less clumsy with the votes
And credit to the cause of freedom bring.
So find the stuff - tout suite, and make it fast!
For I needed it all months ago, you ass!
Earlier today Lee Wright, the editor of Libertyforall.net as well as the present vice-chairman of the National Libertarian Party and I were chatting about my most recent contribution to his excellent publication and the subject of my early memories of the LP came up. Natural enough since I was myself a long time activist starting in the Libertarian Party starting in the early 1970s.
The upshot was that I threatened, promised, to jot down some of those memories for the amusement and edification of those Libertarians of more recent vintage having only had to be nudged a little to attack my computer. So here it is. Part memories and part memoir; personally gleaned insights I hope will serve to make some points that need making.
Long ago and far away when we were all young and less wrinkled and I was the shiny eyed young mother of several small children (the number magically continued to grow) and learning some interesting lessons about life, the Universe and Libertarianism I found a wonderful thing. It was called freedom. I had been reading about it since my initial encounter with the ideas of liberty when I was six. That was the year James Dean told me about his views of freedom, just days before his own life ended.
James Byron Dean was 24 then, unimaginably young when I look back on it through the shrouding events of so many decades. But the vividness of that afternoon stayed with me. Freedom became forever a magical destination for me; something to be cherished that made me most truly human. At age six I had listened, enraptured to the words of someone who seemed as old as Methuselah to me then. I was barely breathing I listened so intently. Jimmy told me about how we each choose and how sacred the right to make those choices is. When you choose, he said, it is your life you mold and make. When someone else chooses for you your life belongs in part to them. Jimmy had told me many things but this telling was perhaps the most important. Jimmy had been coming over to visit since I was two or three. My first memory of him had been the sharing of Beanie Sandwiches at the small table in the kitchen where I always ate lunch. He came back regularly for sandwiches and conversation. His mom and mine had been friends before she died and he went to live with his aunt and uncle in Fairmont, Indiana.
That day Jimmy told me the story of a man named Howard Roark who saw freedom as building in his own way. Roark suffered to learn his craft and then to practice it. His way was to make the structures a part of the Earth so that his buildings sheltered, enclosing those who lived and worked in them economically and well. The buildings were the extension of the mind of Roark and by building them Roark made his statement about himself and the world. That was freedom for Howard Roark and it did not matter what he had to do to build them. When he was doing that work he was free.
For Jimmy being free was doing different kinds of things. His freedom was his craft done so that he merged with and because the character he played. He loved acting and intended to try every part of that art. He got to do just a few of those things but all of his work spoke his intense spiritual commitment to his craft and to his right to choose for himself
Jimmy told me what he would do with the freedom God gave him. To do that he used the story of Roark from Fountainhead. I listened. That is where it started for me.
The reason I became a Libertarian was because I loved the ideas of freedom. James Dean was my personal inspiration.
When the Freedom Movement began its present incarnation in the early 1970s I was an eager participant. I had passed out literature for Goldwater, read Atlas Shrugged, and gorged myself on the science fiction books of Robert A. Heinlein. I thought I knew everything , just like we all did.
I was wrong, of course. But it was never boring and along the way I did learn a few things.
We made history, like it or not; good or bad. And that history needs to be remembered.
The history of the Libertarian Party and the Freedom Movement holds insights that can be helpful to the next generation of souls hungry for the freedom enunciated by people like Jimmy and so I am going to share some of those stories with you and try to make some small points. Studying any successful movement is as much about accepting what went wrong as what went right.
The real issue isn't heading towards freedom, the issue is arriving.
The Libertarian Movement launched itself towards freedom. It arrived someplace else. How that happened is a story both horrifying and instructive; horrifying because it happened, instructive because it is not too late to change direction.
From a living room in Denver in December of 1971 where it was founded by David and Susan Nolan and a handful of others, the viewpoints propounded by the LP grew into the major force in American policy. We began as a resounding NO! To the imposition of wage and price controls by President Richard Nixon. So our birth cry was born from the impact of policy on the lives of individuals who decided they were just not going to take it any more.
Both major parties eventually embraced our ideas; examining laws coming into existence today make that clear. So where is the freedom? America has never been less free; the Libertarian Party remains small and is wracked by power politics and greed that might intimidate the denizens of the major parties.
The answer is in the form adopted, the relationship of form and action to rhetoric, and to the underpinnings of culture in which each of these reside.
The structure of the LP is hierarchal and adversarial. It sends the message that success is counted by moving up an organizational structure. In Libertarian politics words speak louder than action. Winning, no matter how, is the final justification for what you do to win nominations and rake in money for fundraising. But that is all wrong, of course. That is not the world we wanted to create.
This happened because the LP spoke a rhetoric of freedom through the infrastructure of centralized control. Each major party has been through the same cycle of idealism leading to internal corruption. The Democrats spoke an agenda of socialism and the Republicans of economic opportunity. Each talked about freedom nearly as much as did Libertarians. They all have become corrupt no matter how hard we work to fix them.
This happened faster in the LP than in other comparable movements of the last two centuries is due to the kind of people who became Libertarians. Over 60% were male.
It is women whose efforts provide the consistency and the institutional memory for an organization. This provides a compass and stability. While women do not exercise much control in the Republican Party they historically do most of the volunteer work. In the Democratic Party women share power more equally, although women in general are disenchanted with them, too. In the Libertarian Party there are, percentage wise, far fewer women than in either major party. The lessons of our history are therefore more quickly forgotten.
The means by which our values are transmitted are always cultural. Culture is the water in which we live and breathe.
The means of transmission for new ideas into law is policy. Through policy, read and bred in the spin offs of politics, the think tanks, the new ideas are turned into bills, becoming the walls, doors, and guts of law and through law the customs and practices of the court and commerce.
Ideas are the tools we use to build new worlds; but weapons are also tools. And the ideas of liberty have been turned and used to forge the weapons that have helped to destroy the founding principles on which America was built.
All of this starts with people; what they say; what they do and the sometimes yawning gap between the two. In the lives of people the real story is always present.
The people I met on the road to liberty became my friends, adversaries, lovers, and enemies. Sometimes all of them rolled up into one. In the stories of the people is the truth most finely writ.
Roger Mac Bride was the adopted grandson of one of the three women who were the godmothers of the Freedom Movement of the 1950s – 2000 period. Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, was the actual author of Little House on the Prairie Series. Rose wrote the series of books, basing the story line on the recollections of her mother's childhood. Into those recollections she injected the values that made the books instant classics, still being read by yet another generation of young people.
Rose was the author of The Discovery of Freedom and pursued the issues of freedom in multiple directions. Her adoption of Roger stemmed from their mutual commitment to those values.
Roger was a good guy. It was his act as an elector from Vermont in 1972 that put the LP in the history books. Roger jumped ship and cast his vote for John Hospers instead of the newly elected Republican incumbent, Richard Nixon. In doing so he also cast the first electoral vote in history for a woman, Tonie Nathan the LP candidate for vice president. This act was incredibly valuable to the Libertarian Party. How they repaid Roger speaks loudly about the values of the LP.
So in 1976 Roger Mac Bride was not unnaturally a shoo in to be the nominee for president of the shiny new Libertarian Party. His running mate was David Bergland, an attorney from Orange County, California. A wealthy man, Roger campaigned from his own plane, fondly known as NO Force One. Roger was himself a pilot as well as producer for the original television series created from Little House on the Prairie. Roger paid for a big chunk of his campaign himself. I later realized that this was the high point of the movement. We all believed in what we were doing; everyone chipped when there were projects to be paid for; we all worked; and while there was much debate on things like platform there was very little backbiting and unsocial behavior. Debate on issues continued with a modicum of dispassionate civility.
In the late 1980s Roger left the Libertarian Party. He was disheartened and disappointed. He had endorsed Hunscher for President in 1979 and could not understand the political machinations used to defeat him. It is the practice with all major parties that their former presidential candidates are treated with decorum and courtesy. In the case of Roger Mac Bride this was far from true. After his departure he asked to address the national committee as it met in Las Vegas on a project he was undertaking and was treated with discourtesy and barely disguised contempt. This would never have been the case in either major party; the contributions of presidential candidates are there remembered and honored even when the principles have been political enemies.
This was wrong not just because it was rude but because it devalued what had been built on the months and money Roger had contributed. This sent the clear message that those who work do not necessarily create credit for what they have done. It is just one of dozens of examples of similar behavior.
Respect should be created by the acknowledgment of virtues, not for reasons of political expedience. When Roger was still active in the LP he had been generous. He loaned money to those trying to make it, contributing to their attempts to achieve their dreams. One of those to whom Roger loaned money was Michael Emerling Cloud. Michael repaid him by declaring bankruptcy without even a thank you. Yet Michael Cloud is celebrated and far more well known to Libertarians today than is Roger Mac Bride.
In Santa Barbara while Roger Mac Bride was running for president Bob Poole was putting Reason Magazine together on the dining room table. The Libertarian Party had used the Reason list to get started in 1971 when Bob loaned that list to David Nolan. The two had both belonged to YAF and Young Republican for Goldwater in the 60s.
Bob had bought the struggling magazine when it was just months old from the founder and editor who had solicited from Bob his first article. Bob himself determined the subject and it was to be a pivotal issue that would eventually change national policy. The subject was deregulating the airlines. The reason Bob chose the issue goes straight to the heart of a young boy.
Bob grew up in Florida and his dad was an airline pilot. Bob had a cousin and his uncle, the cousin's father, was also a pilot. But in the old days airlines had routes set by government mandate. Bob's cousin could fly west and thus enjoyed many, many vacations at Disneyland. Bob could only go north to NY and DC. The Statue of Liberty did not measure up to Mickey Mouse in Bob's eyes, understandably. This injustice burned in the heart and mind of young Bob. The deregulation of the airlines was the outcome.
The personal moves us; small injustices live in our minds even when we are long past the events themselves. Bob shared this story with me in 2000. He had not realized himself why he chose the subject until I asked.
It was Bob who originated the term 'privatization;' He has not become wealthy working for liberty but now he does have time for his consuming hobby, model trains.
The birth of Cato Institute came about when a young man named Edward H. Crane, III clearly saw something that another insightful young man would notice twenty years later. There is a market for policy. Ed announced his intention to, “go to D.C. and get rich.” in the elevator of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco during the National Libertarian Convention in 1977. The immediate means for this tidy plan were the brothers Koch, Charles and David. To this day they remain stalwart funders of Cato.
Now, wealth is not in itself a bad thing. Money, even vast amounts of money earned through consensual exchange beneficial to all parties is laudable. But money earned through the misuse of power is just another more sophisticated form of theft. When that happens it is the duty of those closest to call foul especially when the law, which always lags in enforcing what is appropriate, has not allowed for specific abuses.
Over the next twenty years the 401ks of those employed at the think tanks, including Cato, continued to be burnished; the Cato banquets grew ever more lavish. The policy proposals that wended their way through into law using the libertarian tools of deregulation and privatization to redirect the flow of cash and power grew in number and in scope. Those on the receiving end were not necessarily the ones who had created the wealth.
Policy is a legitimate tool for enabling changes that allow for better outcomes. But when policy, like the hazardous but glittering blue of your unfenced pool lures in the innocent or when policy is used to disguise that what is happening is actually a subtle form of wealth transfer then it is imperative that those who profit to be held accountable. Those who made the tools share culpability.
So here we are today living in a world where George W. Bush is discussing 'privatizing' Social Security, the idea originated, surprise, in a white paper researched and written for the Clark Campaign in 1979 and borrowed from Bob Poole. When done right privatizing the functions of government returns choice and control to the individual. But unfortunately, this is not always how it works.
Ed Crane was the man in charge of the Clark campaign and the man who ensured that Ed Clark received the nomination over William Hunscher, a candidate who pledged to campaign full time for a year. Bill Hunscher was a wealthy businessman and good friend of Roger Mac Bride.
For those of you who are newbies I will mention that Ed Clark was the Presidential Candidate of the Libertarian Party in 1980. Ed did very well, though not as well as Edward H. Crane, III promised Charles and David Koch he would do. The means for funding the Clark campaign was the vice-presidential candidacy of David Koch. The mother and father of the campaign was Ed Crane.
This is where personal agendas come in.
Much of the policy new being formulated and sold by Cato is now being used to advance the agenda of those willing to pay for a justification to steal and then cancel all liabilities. The problem with privatizing Social Security is that this ignores the fact that the fund does not exist and 'privatizing' the program means that the millions of victims of theft are left high and dry, facing old age without the money they hoped would carry them.
The name of the man who noticed how well policy could be marketed in Texas in the early 1990s was Karl Rove.
Today Karl Rove is celebrated as a genius in political strategy. But this is not really accurate. A genius is one who originates. Karl Rove simply, with nearly Japanese intensity to detail, optimizes existing practices. That practice can be summarized as chopping off body parts from one set of individuals to sell to another. That, and wearing silk underwear are his most stellar virtues.
Now, I wonder where he got the idea? The means of transmission could well have been yet another Libertarian. This one's name is John Fund.
John Fund got his start in Libertarian politics as the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of California. From sleeping on the floor of the northern office because the LPC, always careless of their financial obligations, ran out of money to pay him, he was hired by Evans and Novak in D.C., who seeing his potential as a political operative sent him on to the Wall Street Journal. There, John Spent 18 years on the Editorial Board before being fired for being too well known for things the Wall Street Journal doesn't like being known for.
It was John who colluded with Matt Drudge to make up the story that Sidney Blumenthal beat his wife. That's a fact. Lots of freedom-types paid good money into a defense chest to protect Drudge from charges that were absolutely true. Why did they do this? It was to keep the White House busy so they would chase their tails instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing. Not that I wanted them doing that, either. But if the truth does not matter then because the bad drives out the good soon there will be no truth at all – which is remarkably close to where we are now, isn't it?
Now, we all know that acting as a political operative when you are overtly a journalist is not considered to be quite the thing. But it pays well, far better than being a journalist would. It also provides access to power and all that comes with power.
Not all of the above are Libertarians, but all have and continue to use the tools created by the movement for liberty. Think about that and ask yourself this: Have we arrived at liberty?
Each of these is a personal recollection. There are lots more. The poem at the beginning of this essay was written when I was managing campaigns for 14 candidates in the San Fernando Valley and serving as Southern Vice-Chairman of the Libertarian Party of California. Chris said he would send it; didn't; and then asked me to drop him a note to remind him. I sent the poem. Then I borrowed the white papers and copied them for my candidates. Most of the papers, I understand, ended up in the hands of large donors, which I certainly was not.
So that is the first few pages of my recollections. No sex, not yet. Maybe later. But I include in closing this poem that seems suitable.
18. The Predator (dedicated to Michael Emerling Cloud)
The hooded eyes intelligent, assessing and unfed
Taste the likelihood of meat to be found, brought down and dressed.
But the eyes have human contours and the face is human born
Predators walk among us, their identities deeply worn.
Their goals are sex and power; all forms of human wealth.
Their means are fraud and violence and every form of stealth.
They smile, use charisma; they milk cajole and bleed.
Their goals: enjoy and prosper, make sure they’re first to feed.
They choose the weak and needy; they use our trust and minds.
They speak the rhetoric of honor to carry out their crimes.
They insinuate with widows and they take a cripple’s time.
They use the rhetoric of honor to pad their bottom line.
You find them selling cars and you meet them down the block.
They smile and drip charisma as they grimace, share and talk.
But their eye is on the income and their hand is in your purse
They will slander and defame you if it isn’t something worse.
But real humans have the power to remove the jungle’s maw.
The predators of the hour can be reformed through rethought law.
Reform the standards for deception; so the weak can see wrongs called.
Eliminate exceptions that allow abuse, misuse and fraud.
The statute is the enemy of freedom and the truth
The common law is justice that conforms to honor’s roots.
The predators live in darkness; their acts must not being seen
For what they do is ugly and the light defines their being.
I see a world a-borning where truth is not disgrace
Where children know that human is the world behind the face
Oh, the futured world of human promise, where doing right is safe.
A world of commerce and of honor; a place for human grace.