A question frequently asked in libertarian circles is “what is the best way to advance liberty?” Some claim that the Libertarian Party is the best vehicle for spreading libertarian ideas. What should be considered, first and foremost, is to understand what liberty is, and why the Libertarian Party can’t deliver it.
Libertarianism is a way of life, a philosophy about leaving others be, and interacting with them in a peaceful manner. At its core, libertarianism is about property rights and self-ownership. This is why libertarians are for limited, or the lack of, government. This is why they support free-market economics (not to be confused with the “free market” economics that many conservatives claim to support but yet still make excuses for government intervention here and there). It is why they support the Non-Aggression Principle.
Rep. Justin Amash recently declared his independence from the Republican party at the time of this writing. As I read his reasons for leaving, I couldn’t help but notice how he put, with much more eloquence, my own thoughts into words as to why I left party politics almost a decade ago.
Like me, he looked to both Washington’s Farewell Address and to the corruption of the two largest parties in America. President Washington recognized that political factions ran counter to liberty. Rather than being bastions of free thought and advancing liberty, they would inevitably become corrupt and erode our rights. The last 200-plus years has shown that to be sickeningly true. Both Republicans and Democrats have, time and again, throughout our nation’s history, expanded the size of government and its intervention in our lives, trampled our rights, and controlled the minds of the masses through the same propagandistic tactics that Marxists and fascists used in the last century.
This doesn’t happen in America only, just look at any other nation with a democratically elected government and political parties. It is the same old story anywhere you go. Why then should we believe that it couldn’t happen to the Libertarian Party?
Aside from their stance on slavery, the Democratic party, prior to William Jennings Bryan, was essentially a libertarian party. Look at that same party now and see how far they have fallen. To believe that the LP is incorruptible, or that it can’t fall the way the once classically liberal Democratic Party fell, is folly. Putting your trust in any political party is unwise, they will all disappoint, and they will all try to expect a certain group mentality from their supporters. Libertarianism cannot be properly represented by a political party because it is a mindset, a way of life, a choice to be made by free-thinking individuals. Political factions destroy liberty. Liberty cannot be confined.
I’ll leave you, as Rep. Amash did, with some of the words from Washington’s Farewell Address:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.