Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Dallas Accord: RIP 1974 - 2006

Iraq tops many polls as the most important issue of the day. But in ten years, Iraq will likely be almost as irrelevant to American politics as Monica Lewinsky and impeachment are today. For the timescale on which the LP needs to strategically plan, the antiwar issue will have even weaker legs than it had in 2004, when a perfect antiwar storm for the LP yielded only a few raindrops. Our party's strategy needs to be built on issues chosen for their

  • left/right balance,
  • multi-decade legs,
  • favorable longitudinal demographics (i.e. appeal to the young and/or parents),
  • differentiation from other parties -- or at least opportunity to be seen as the trend-setter, and
  • solubility by market- and freedom- oriented approaches endorsed by mainstream libertarian economists and think tanks.
These criteria point to issues like:
  • healthcare
  • retirement security (i.e. the S.S. pyramid scheme)
  • education
  • market-smart environmentalism
  • victimless crime
  • gay rights

The unified field theory that can promote freedom and progress in all these areas simultaneously is destatization through decentralization -- eliminating federal control of these issues so that the less-free states and localities have to eat the dust of (and respect the decisions of) the more-free states and localities. I'm only recently realizing how tragically important it is that the LP has what amounts to serious brain damage in this area. Radical federalism -- maximizing competition among polities according to what political principles they follow -- is the best hope for both libertarianism broadly and (paradoxically) anarchism in particular.

However, the LP has an anarchism-sized blind spot that makes it formally oblivious to the critical importance of the institutional design of government. The LP's anarchist minority has for over three decades ensured that the LP is utterly irrelevant to the great debate (can you say Public Choice Theory?) in America about the institutional design of government -- a debate in which the broader libertarian movement has played an influential role. Even though constitutionalism has been the central campaign theme of nearly every Libertarian presidential candidate, anarchist groupthink and inertia has ensured that the LP's official position has been that all the levels of government are indistinguishably evil.

This blind spot, this brain damage, this anarchism-shaped hole in the LP's cerebral cortex, has a name: the Dallas Accord. This was the LP's 1974 political-suicide pact in which the anarchists made the minarchists revoke the 1972 Platform's endorsement of the existence of the state, in exchange for the dubious concession that the Platform would not explicitly say that the state would be formally abolished once the LP had finished eliminating all the state's roles and tools. The Dallas Accord was unceremoniously repealed at the 2006 Portland convention, not so much through the infamous plank retention vote, but rather by someone slipping in this sentence: "Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property." (I think the hero here was Mik Robertson, who was in charge of consolidating the old Crime and Victimless Crime planks. The sentence was never quoted on the 2006 PlatCom email list, and I have no record or memory of any of us on PlatCom or the Convention floor objecting.)

Tom Knapp in 2003 called for his fellow anarchists in the LP to trade in the 1974 Dallas Accord and, for the good of the party and the cause, make the LP "an open organization, not only representing, but welcoming, all people who want less government and more freedom." Let's finish that job in Denver.

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