Monday, August 01, 2005

What's So Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?

I’d like to start out this post by apologizing to Chris Farris for the quite livid remarks I directed his way in the wake of his resignation. He’s proven two of my statements wrong, showing more honor and civility than I gave him credit.

It’s not like he asked for an apology, nor am I saying this because I’m concerned about any harm I may have caused him. I’m concerned about the harm I have caused to myself.

There is way too much criticizing and backbiting among Libertarians these days. Way too much. Libertarians attacking each other is one of those things that really sets me off, and I often react in an all too human way by, well, attacking other Libertarians for it. Especially if it’s me you are attacking, I’m usually far too weak to resist that temptation, all too willing to take the bait.

Once people getting rolling with criticism, then every little thing becomes a target. When we’re in a critical frame of mind, we make a big deal out of small stuff that we would blithely let slide if we were happy.

Lately, as you can see from my articles on LFA I have been trying the more generalized positive approach. But sometimes you still need to address these problems head on.

My two activist axioms have always been that anybody who wants more Liberty on any issue is my friend and ally, and anybody who wants more Liberty rather than less belongs in the Libertarian Party. We would all be better served if we acted like these things were true.

Based on these principles, I have always maintained that most all of the internal disputes over tactics or philosophy within the party are completely unnecessary. There is no inherent conflict between moderate and hardcore, between purist and pragmatist, or even minarchist and anarchist. We all want more Liberty, less government and political success. What’s not to like about each other?

The success of the Libertarian Party does not depend upon any resolution between these poles of thought. Instead, we need to create an atmosphere where everybody who wants more Liberty is comfortable working for any and all Libertarian solutions. People need to be made to feel welcome, and that their efforts are meaningful. We need to keep things fun and achieve results if we are going to attract and keep new people.

We can start by changing our default reaction. Whenever anybody does anything for the party, it’s because they are trying to help. It would be good if our first thought is to honor that person for trying, be thankful that somebody is Doing Something. If we start there, our criticisms can be couched in the language of love, not the language of conflict. We can say the same thing by starting, “Yes, and...” instead of “No, but...”.

Getting back to Mr. Farris, his resignation message basically said that he felt like the LP was a hostile work environment. My reaction was to place all the responsibility for that on his own personality. Now that I’ve had a chance to calm down, well, maybe some of it is still on him, but some of this also has to be on us. The simple fact is that he did not feel welcome in the LP. He was not having fun. And he is not alone in that reaction.

Folks, the only way we are going to gain even the slightest increment of freedom is if we work together. When you meet somebody who has even the most moderate inclination towards Liberty, be joyful!

We need to build a party where everybody who wants more Liberty can join. It needs to be equally inviting to the most hardcore student of Rothbard or Rand as well as the person who wants lower taxes or no more war or even just some particular regulation off their back.

We need to establish a path towards Liberty, and make it easy for people to join us as far along the way as they want to go. Some will get off our Freedom Train at an earlier stop than my own preferred destination, but wherever they want to disembark, we all need their fellowship on that ride to even get as far as they want to go.

We need a party where “real world libertarians” work side by side with self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalists and everybody in between and the voter who just saw something about us in the newspaper, all with joy in their hearts. The struggle for Liberty can be a beautiful and noble pursuit, if you let it be one.

Lord, please help me follow my own advice!

13 Comments:

Anonymous GregD said...

"There is no inherent conflict between moderate and hardcore, between purist and pragmatist, or even minarchist and anarchist. We all want more Liberty, less government and political success. What’s not to like about each other?"

Sean: This is an excellent point. And I agree with it. Purists and pragmatists should be able to work side by side as long as they treat each other with respect.

I have been called every name in the book. From "closet Republican" to "purist." How can I be both? If somebody disagrees with me, that's fine. They should look for the reason and explain the reason, not engage in name-calling.

Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed "reformers" do just that. The recent editorial by Daniel Cloud preaches intolerance for any ideas different than his own -- yet he fails to prove that his ideas work. I may not be from Missouri, but I say, "Show me!"

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann said...

I certainly agree that we should all try to get along and work towards a more productive outcome for the LP. Of course criticism is a central core, to my way of thinking, in working out issues to try and find the best solutions, but it never hurts to try and criticise in a positive light where possible. After all, criticism may be the best method of reducing error in a system, but it is also on of the things that people seem to naturally despise hearing.

Greg, I'm certainly sorry if there are "reformers" who have, effectively, called you names. As one of those I would consider to be in the camp of "reformers" I can certainly attest that there are many who attack them in exactly the same manner. It's no different from either side, it just happens all over, unfortunately.

I will say that I did not see an attitude of intolerance in Mr. Cloud's editorial. Maybe it's just how I read it, I don't know. Maybe there's been enough "bad blood" between that sides that some may naturally assume the worst when they see a message not specifically advocating their own viewpoint. I will say this, though. You ask here for Mr. Cloud to "Show you!" that this kind of change in direction can be positive for the LP. I'm with you on that point, but here's teh rub. Reforemers are going to need a little time and a little room to be given a fair shake to "Show you!" So far the dues, oath and platform insisting upon complete libertarian reforms (affectively reducing government by 80-90%) all accomplished in one fell swoop has not, IMHO, been a resounding success for the party for over 20 years. Our last major success was likely 1980... maybe 1984. So I think trying a new direction is not unwarranted, but it will need a little time to ramp up and will need to be given a little more room to be given a chance, even if it fails.

So, offer constructive criticism, but please consider giving the movement the rope it needs to hang itself, if that is what you truly feel will happen. There may yet be some good to come out of it, even if it does not prove successful. There may be enough positives learned to improve upon the old ways that have been less than successful so far.

We just have to be willing to give it a shot.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous gregd said...

"Show me" means at least give me some evidence that there is a basis for the "reformers" ideas.

There is no foundation for their proposals. Their proposals are as poorly researched as the Iraq Exit Strategy.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann said...

So, "reformers" are poor researchers, as are the framers of the IES. I see.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous nameless said...

well put, Sean.

and Greg may have a point. While at this point I am leaning to the reform side, I tend to agree that blindly changing things that may not need to be changed will only cause more problems. That said, however, I also tend to view the lack of significant progress as significant evidence that change is warranted.

Lenny, you may not be the one to answer this, but has the reform caucus done any research into truely identifying the areas ripe for change? Surely it would be unwise to revise a portion of the platform that actually gains the party support.

I tend to be in agreement with the Squires proposal, but platform work may need to be handled a little more carefully. Any way to get an independent poll on the favorability of certain platform positions? any documented cause-effect analysis?

let me browse through CATO's website to see what I can find.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

I love it, I preach peace and immediately a fight breaks out. :-)

nameless, you are very close to the mark. The weakness of any faction within the party is thinking that we must do things their way to succeed. All we know is what we have done and what results we have gained. I personally take a positive view of our accomplishments, but it is what it is. Obviously something else is needed to reach the level of success we desire.

What I want to see is party where everyone is encouraged to try to win their way. We need to try absolutely everything that fits into our ethics and pay attention to the results. Telling other Libertarians they're not doing it right isn't helping, but showing them how to win is invaluable.

2:26 AM  
Anonymous GregD said...

On this point, I once again agree with Sean. We don't need a faction saying put us in control and do things our way.

We need people who say, "I did this and had a measure of success." In some regard, we have those people. They are the real heroes of Liberty. Unfortunately, their accomplishments are belittled and discounted by the "reformers" who seem to be more interested in control than in achieving liberty.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous David Tomlin said...

'I love it, I preach peace and immediately a fight breaks out. :-)'

I think it was Clausewitz who pointed out that invaders love peace. They would much prefer that the invaded submit peacefully than resist.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous lenny Zimmermann said...

As far as I can tell the "reform movement" isn't really fully organized, per se. I know that there is http://www.ReformTheLP.org which does cover a lot for folks who would like to offer comments on each plank of the platform (voting if they like it or not, if it should be gotten rid of completely) and offering alternatives (also voted on). So in this respect there are some things like that going on. I would offer that for myself I am very new to the LP so I can't speak directly to any specifics other than what I have seen on the net so far.

As for the accusations of "put us in control and let us do things our way"... well, some people do say that, ot both sides. I find most of those folks, from what I have seen, have been those who express more of a Rothbardian view of libertarian policy more than the reform-minded folks. The "reformers" seem to mostly be looking for ways to gain more liberty with processes that seem to have worked for political parties before. I know of NONE of them that want the LP to "compromise their principles", despite that accusation constantly being laid at their feet. They are folks looking for alternatives, alternatives that would still be radical in terms of comparison to the Rs & Ds (since we are talking about libertarian views here), but that would be moderate in scope. Effectively advocating taking small steps that the voting populace would find acceptable in order to keep a constant pressure on to move public policy ever in a more libertarian direction.

I notice there is a lot of use of quotes here, BTW, as if "purist" or "reformer" wree somehow dirty words. I admit to being a bit confused here. It is inefficient for us to fully describe the general (not pervasive, but general) philosophical push of folks considered "purists" or "harcdore" or "pragmatists" or "reformers". These are stimply words to quickly convey a general philosophical principal and may, in some contexts, be bandied about as some kind of derogatory term, but I think normally they are not used this way, from what I have seen.

So if these terms are used and some take offence to the terms. Well, I'm not sure how to respond to that. I will say that personally I certainly mean no disrespect or disparagement by using terms such as "purist", but only as a delineating statement to save time since we all know where the line is generally drawn.

The problem here is that any idea that might be viewed as "radical" by the establishment is often harshly stood up against. I have seen harsh comment on BOTH sides of these issues. Neither side is somehow morally righteous in the arguments, the all use logical fallacies as mtehods of persuasion to their beliefs. Welcome to the fallacies of human reasoning.

Getting to the core issues, however, is what I think is most important here. Complaining that one side or another "hurt our feelings" (in effect, since they aren't "playing by the rules") doesn't accomplish much. Feeling hurt by the criticism of one side or the other doesn;t accomplish much either.

Instead we ALL need to attempt to communicate, understand and offer up what facts we can constantly working to support the theories we present. Effectively, the scientific process. And, frankly, that process can be something of a brutal battle in the terms of constantly hammering at a given premise so we can do our best to disprove a premise in order for it to better withstand the test of disproof. So it can weather the hammer blows od criticism until a consensus can be reached.

The "purist" view (again, apologies if some take that to be derogatory, it is certainly not meant to be) is effectively the mainstay of the LP and folks who work from this viewpoint hav had their successes and their failures. They are slo the status-quo and, as is often the case, are resistant to change. (That's not necessarily a bad thing! It is simply a statement of the basis on how the status-quo is normally resistant to change in social dynamics.) The "reformers" believe there are changes that could be made to improve the methodology of the LP. They are naturally going to do their best to make change happen. That's how social dynamics naturally work. Phrasing it in terms of an invader always wanting a peaceful takover does little to improve the situation for either side. It just makes it more of an "us or them" proposition.

Our greatest asset as human beings has long been adaptability. It is almost a founding principal for the belief that individuality has as strong philosophical basis for survival. These kinds of dynamics are natural. Change may or may not need to occur. Change may prove to be the undoing of the liberty movement, but many of us feel that without change the liberty movement is gaining little, if any ground, anyway.

At any rate, to suggest that any concept of reform somehow implies compromising the principals of smaller government and greater personal and economic liberties is really not enforceable. Reform in the Ds & Rs went in directions that did not have an eye towards the core principals of those parties. The reform movement in the LP, however, firmly keeps their eye on the "end game". The reformers I have spoken with all want the same things the core of the LP has wanted all along, there is only a feeling that the methodology of trying to get there needs to see some changes occur.

I've yet to see the logical fallacy of that poition be unhinged yet. Despite the accusations that have been levied to the contrary. Saying something is illogical without showing why it is so does not make the statement itself true.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous David Tomlin said...

'The "purist" view (again, apologies if some take that to be derogatory, it is certainly not meant to be) is effectively the mainstay of the LP and folks who work from this viewpoint have had their successes and their failures. They are also the status-quo and, as is often the case, are resistant to change. (That's not necessarily a bad thing! It is simply a statement of the basis on how the status-quo is normally resistant to change in social dynamics.) The "reformers" believe there are changes that could be made to improve the methodology of the LP. They are naturally going to do their best to make change happen. That's how social dynamics naturally work.'

What a load of pseudo-intellectual trash.

'Phrasing it in terms of an invader always wanting a peaceful takover does little to improve the situation for either side.'

You sound just like one of the villains from 'Atlas Shrugged'. 'It's not true as long as no one says it.' Complaining about people telling the truth, doesn't make the truth go away.

The 'reformers' want a certain kind of party, and they think the best way to create that party is by taking over the LP and transforming it. That means there is going to be a fight.

When the reformers say 'Let's not fight among ourselves', they mean 'Your side hold still while our side beats the hell out of you.'

David Tomlin

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann said...

David Tomlin suggested about one of my statements: "What a load of pseudo-intellectual trash."

Ok. I can take that as your opinion on that. Why not back it up? Where is my reasoning flawed? I accept that it may very well be flawed, so please point it out to me so I may be better enlightened.

He further states: "When the reformers say 'Let's not fight among ourselves', they mean 'Your side hold still while our side beats the hell out of you.'"

Maybe some folks do mean it that way. I won't say that I do, though. Hence my disagreement with the point I think you are making. When I say let's not fight amongst ourselves I most certainly do not me "let's not debate amongst ourselves". In fact I am advocating the opposite. It is the debate, the criticism of the scientific process, that should, hopefully, help us to find a way to improve the group that we all seem to feel the desire to associate with. I do NOT expect opposing viewpoints to simply dissapear, nor would I expect or want them to. They are needed. To somehow equate that concept with wanting holders fo the opposing viewpoint to "hold still while our side beats the hell out of you" is simply a false assertion from my point of view. I don't think that way at all. I think the wording only servers to emotionally energize the arguments to make folks who think they have ideas that may provide positive changes to the LP and are offering those changes as an alternative to the methods they feel are not working as well as they could as, well, as you claimed I seemed to be, one of those "villains". That such folks muse somehow be evil, like a schoolyard bully is evil.

I'm sorry if you feel that way, as it implies a malice is meant here that, speaking for myself at least, is certainly not there.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann said...

Oh, and my request to be enlightened above is definitely not meant in a sarcastic manner. I am human, I am fallible. Those are a basic premise of my worldview. That does not mean I am never "hurt" by being proved wrong, only that I acknowledge that being wrong is not a foreign entity to me, nor to any of us. (Hence my trying to often use prhases such as "I think", "I belive" and "IMHO", because I often wish to convey that these statements are definitively my opinion, not statments of abject, indisputible fact.)

12:10 PM  
Anonymous David Tomlin said...

>Lenny Zimmerman: David Tomlin suggested about one of my statements: "What a load of pseudo-intellectual trash."

Ok. I can take that as your opinion on that. Why not back it up? Where is my reasoning flawed?

David Tomlin: There wasn't any reasoning, just assertions. Anyway, my point was not that your generalizations about 'social dyanamics' are necessarily false, but that they are an irrelevant diversion from the issues at hand.

2:29 PM  

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