IPFS Powell Gammill

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More About: Politics: Libertarian Campaigns

Arizona Libertarian Party’s pro-taxation platform down ... but out?

Yesterday I attended the Arizona Libertarian Party’s annual convention. I had no plans on attending. But a friend asked and offered to pay. He mentioned a platform change had been proposed to seriously consider approving a statement supporting taxation. Well this I had to hear for myself!

But first, a bit about myself and my history with the Libertarian Party. In 2000, I quit the national Libertarian Party (NLP) after that party decided to recognize a new group organized as “The Arizona Libertarian Party” over the “old guard” (their description, not mine) Arizona Libertarian Party.

I actually rejoined the NLP on two occasions, to attend their 2002 and 2004 Conventions just to see how bad it had become. While I did not attend the 2006 Convention – who did? – its stripping of the platform [in a manner directly against the NLP’s bylaws requiring platform items to be removed one at a time, rather than en masse], and the attempt to remove both the NLP member pledge “not to initiate force” against others, and the reference to “the cult of the omnipotent state” pretty much sum up the reason I want little to do with the NLP. I just don’t like many who the NLP has attracted in leadership position. Still, I have both friends, and know many good people who still believe in the NLP and are trying to bring it back into libertarianism. Occasionally, I rejoin the NLP to help them out.

Similarly, I left the Arizona Libertarian Party (ALP) in late 2001 after the Arizona Court of Appeals took away control of the ALP from the old guard and handed it to the new group, and reapplied the struck down Arizona Precinct Committee laws to place the ALP firmly under the control of the state.

No longer could we freely associate. No longer could we determine who was or was not a member of the party, nor determine who could or could not vote on the future of the ALP. Worse, those who would be voting members of the ALP, got their voting privilege from participating and getting elected Precinct Committeemen in taxpayer funded elections, with no control over who could run as a precinct member except through the good graces of the state. Is there anything more antithetical to libertarian philosophy than that? So I left.

The ALP literally evaporated as an election party for one election cycle. It was reborn by a group of libertarians who did a credible job of revamping the ALP. It was not a group I could join, because of my moral objections to its control by the state, but it could still be a useful focus in promoting libertarianism.

The ALP is a microcosm of the NLP. Same type of crowd. First the Party gets organized and grown by the activists. Then it gets taken over by the political electioneers. Two groups who don’t get along, and who do not have similar goals. In the end, the political electioneers will win. Why? Because these are political parties, not activist centers.

It basically comes down to two philosophies: Political activists who organized the Libertarian Party’s to use the state’s tools (the political and election apparatus in this case) against the state. And the political engineers, who view the only purpose of a political party is to elect its candidates (not hold non-candidate debates, or proselytize philosophy).

With any other philosophy, that is not a problem. With libertarians there is a clear conflict of interest. We either see support of the state through libertarianism, or we see rejection of the state through using the state’s own party mechanism to promote libertarianism.

New incoming members into the Libertarian Party have two paths. The path from limited government (and occasionally free market economics attracts people) that attracts all members to the libertarian party ... which leads to questioning what government should remain and what government should be discarded (or privatized)?

Each person is asking: What is limited government? If I were King, what segments of the current government would I keep? What is crucial? [Keep in mind the SOLE stated purpose of our government is TO PROTECT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. Government’s real purpose is a different discussion.] This typically leads a person to min-archism and eventually anarchism. This typically takes years, and a lot of questions over how our Rights can be protected without this or that function of government? Many libertarians never reach anarchy, but most traveling down this path very quickly eliminate over 95% of government, and struggle with the remaining 5%. Not bad!

Or, the other path: The successful group from the standpoint of taking over the party apparatus are the political managers. They are focused on one goal ... getting candidates who are electable elected. They tolerate nothing in their way of building their power base through recruiting members who will loyally cast their lot as directed (party apparatchiks), and cajoling money and labor out of various sources. What the reward, other than personal gain will be should they succeed in electing LP candidates is unclear to me.

Unprincipled candidates and elected officials are no different and will behave no differently than their Republican and Democratic counterparts.

So perhaps these political engineers either failed to thrive within or were shoved aside by the two major parties and now wish to cast their lot in the already organized LP. Whatever. Any candidate they produce will not be representing libertarian philosophies, and cannot be expected to vote in a limited government-free markets manner, but instead vote as those special interests that contribute to their re-election campaigns dictate. You cannot fight a corrupt government with corruption. You can only switch one corruption with your own corruption for personal gain.

The political engineer’s motives range from naively pure to wanting access to the money that comes into political organizations and campaigns from both taxpayer coffers and individual and corporate donations. Either way, such people typically rise fast in political organizations because they are focused on a single goal. Those advocates out for the money have from time to time been rewarded. Those who actually want to get candidates elected are not likely to find much comfort in the NLP, or the ALP in our two party system, unless one of the two major parties collapses (not impossible). But if that happens look for the flood of rejects to come storming into the LP and don’t be surprised if you get shoved aside for proven campaigners and rainmakers.

Which brings me to the end. I left the NLP, I left the ALP. My one last linkage to the movement through the state’s political apparatus was maintaining my voter registration in the ALP. I did this because I still used the system against itself by running as a candidate, and to help the ALP maintain its automatic ballot status.

The pro-taxation plank would have been the last straw for me on that. As is typical of the LP – any LP – we never seem to be prepared. Even though the platform change has been discussed out there on the discuss lists I presume, there is still no copy on the AZ LP’s official website.

As it turned out there were two proposed tax platforms: One a rejection of taxation that I could live with. The other the very thing I feared: A taxation plank advocating limited taxation, “fair” taxation. Of course fair is undefined, awaiting definition by those with the guns and the will to use them. Government currently believes the amounts of transaction, property and income taxes it demands in various forms and combinations in annually increasing percentages is “fair.” And it routinely chastises those who object to “paying their fair share.”

If the ALP were to approve a plank advocating the initiation of force to steal people’s labor and property, I would have switched my voter registration to Independent the next business day, and eventually filed the laborious paperwork required to remove my name from the voter registration list. I would have severed all ties with the state in voting, and the ALP. The ALP ONLY serves my interests as a beacon to my philosophy. When it becomes the very thing I rebel against, I walk away and continue my activism through other means. A tool is either useful or it is abandoned.

Fortunately, the platform change was relegated to committee, meaning next year. I also sensed the taxation plank did not have enough votes to pass, but since only statewide precinct committeemen could vote it was hard to gage the measure’s support in the crowd. Only time will tell if the ALP will become, as many of its members advocate, “just like the other parties.”