Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« For some lefties, the worst four letter word starts with "J" | Main | Well, it's a start »

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Liberty's partisans are busy on both sides of the border

Statue_of_liberty1 America’s Libertarian Party is showing off its newest member today. Former Alaska senator and 2008 long-shot Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Gravel, has joined the Libertarian Party.

In a press release, Gravel said:

"I'm joining the Libertarian Party because it is a party that combines a commitment to freedom and peace that can't be found in the two major parties that control the government and politics of America."

Libertarians in Canada are encouraged by this news south of the border and expect their party to begin to attract high-profile supporters as they head into their May convention in Edmonton. Convention organizer Mike Sturko, a neo-conservative turned libertarian, believes the party’s commitment to freedom will draw supporters from all the mainstream parties. Sturko also announced that Officer of the Order of Canada, Jan Narveson, will be speaking at the convention on the threat of global warming politics to freedom. More speakers will be announced shortly, according to Sturko.

The convention will also include a leadership contest resulting from the resignation of Jean-Serge Brisson. Brisson is perhaps best known to Canadians for openly refusing to collect Ontario’s provincial sales tax at his independent radiator shop. He was also sentenced to 105 days in prison for what started out as a simple seat belt fine which he publicly protested.

With Brisson stepping aside, the challenge for the party is to find a leader who can capture the imagination of voters who support both economic and personal freedom.

“I think most Canadians could be described as moderate libertarians. They believe that free markets can create prosperity and peaceful economic cooperation among nations – and they also think the government should stay out of their private affairs,” said party supporter Dennis Young. Young is a veteran of the Bosnian conflict and works as a legal agent in Calgary.

The party’s convention will be held on May 17th-18th.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on March 26, 2008 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Liberty's partisans are busy on both sides of the border:


"“I think most Canadians could be described as moderate libertarians. They believe that free markets can create prosperity and peaceful economic cooperation among nations – and they also think the government should stay out of their private affairs,”

If only this were true. I believe the majority of Canadians sadly, still lean left. It may be changing slowly, but I doubt most Canadians are ready for the self-responsibility and self-reliance that comes with real freedom.

We will need erase a lot of the damage done by PET and his constitution before we can truly move forward to a freer more prosperous future in Canada.

Posted by: John West | 2008-03-26 11:22:02 AM

Hmmm. While 'recovering' will we be able to 'undo' the 'involvement' that resulted in a education system that teaches against family values, and a gov't that pays to kill babies? That's a pretty big 'recovery'.

Lefties support stuff that gov't pays for, because it makes them 'feel' GOOD. (Having no other way...) It might be tough to replace .

Posted by: lwestin | 2008-03-26 11:42:49 AM

I have to wonder if most Canadians (or Americans) know what a free market is, since neither country has one. Both governments constantly "regulate", interfere and tamper with the economy that what we actually have is a far cry from a free market.

Of course the people, at least the most vocal ones, in both countries share the blame. When we demand that the government must do something for unemployment, child care or anything else that should remain the personal responsibility of each, then we feed the giant to grow even bigger.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-03-26 12:16:53 PM

Matthew, not only is Gravel joining the Libertarian Party, but he is also pursuing his 2008 run for president within the LP.

"I look forward to advancing my presidential candidacy within the Libertarian Party, which is considerably closer to my values, my foreign policy views and my domestic views."

A recent comment on the same blog by J. Skyler McKinley, Mike Gravel for President National Multimedia Coordinator said yesterday (before the email quoted above):
"The Senator will be investigating the opportunity to campaign to become the Libertarian candidate for President, however, this does not preclude his current Democratic campaign, nor does it make a run for the Green party impossible.
The Senator would like to become the ‘fusion’ candidate in this election"

A green-libertarian fusion future for the freedom movement is something that I've recently been thinking a lot about, especially for Canada. It's certainly a strategy which ought at least to be explored. If right-libertarians (the category into which many self identified libertarians fall) are willing to go along for the ride, it may well be the most successful.
My evaluation of Gravel? I really do appreciate his history and record as a Senator, his speak-truth-to-power attitude, his anti-authoritarianism, and his National Ballot Initiative proposal. His positions on gun control, education flexibility, and government accountability further reveal his libertarian instincts and tell me that he's not a typical leftist. However, his positions on health-care socialism, free trade, and a number of economic issues leave much to be desired from a libertarian perspective. He’s not a stubborn ideologue and who knows – perhaps with his new identification as a L/libertarian he may yet improve his positions in the future, but that won’t happen in 2008. The most unfortunate thing about Gravel is that he fully embraces the cranky old uncle persona; he’s too goofy and angry to ever get a serious hearing by most people in the media or the public. His Libertarian Party experiment may well flop, but if it is any sort of success it will surely not be an electoral one, he’s unlikely to be acceptable to most LPers (I wouldn’t vote for him), but he may sow the seeds for convergence or some cross-germination between greens and libertarians.

A recent comment on the same blog by J. Skyler McKinley, Mike Gravel for President National Multimedia Coordinator said yesterday (before the email quoted above):
"The Senator will be investigating the opportunity to campaign to become the Libertarian candidate for President, however, this does not preclude his current Democratic campaign, nor does it make a run for the Green party impossible.

The Senator would like to become the ‘fusion’ candidate in this election"

A green-libertarian fusion future for the freedom movement is something that I've always found intriguing, especially in Canada. It's certainly a strategy which ought at least to be explored, and if right-libertarians (the category into which many self identified libertarians fall) are willing to come along for the ride, it may well be the most successful. As for Gravel, as much as I appreciate his history and record as a Senator, his speak-truth-to-power attitude, his anti-authoritarian attitude, and his National Ballot Initiative proposal, I think that his positions on health-care socialism, free trade, and a number of economic issues leave much to be desired from a libertarian perspective. At the same time, his positions on guns, education flexibility, and government accountability tell me that he's not your typical leftist;

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-03-26 1:55:25 PM

There is nothing more anti-Libertarian than the Green movement.

It is environmentalism, politics, and religion all rolled into one, shoved down the throat with the fist of totalitarianism and a chaser of pure sophistry.

Libertarians would take to the Green philosophy like a train takes to a gravel road.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-03-26 2:30:04 PM

I think there are a number of strains of the green movement. The dominant strain is the watermelon greens, so called because they are green on the outside but red on the inside, take Dave Suzuki as a good example. Beneath their apparent concern for the earth and the environment lurks a more important disdain for capitalism, self-reliance, and in some cases humanity itself.
There is another more libertarian strain which is represented in Canada by a diverse group including former Green Party leader Jim Harris, Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely, and Environment Probe Director Elizabeth Brubaker. These greens don't have leftist blinders on and therefore combine a deep concern about the environment with pragmatism. Because they understand the tragedy of the commons, the successes and benefits of a free-enterprise system, and the nature government failure, this pragmatism takes the form of finding effective and realistic solutions to real problems which take advantage of human nature and market incentives.

Many greens do mistrust corporations and capitalism but also have a distrust in big government and preference for decentralization and local accountable government. Apart from their social views, lifestyle choices, and party loyalties, their political views are very similar to paleo-conservatives and crunchy-cons with whom they might find strong allies. In the U.S. context, one could say that they are all Jeffersonians.

While libertarians ought not water down or sell-out their principles, we should look both left and right for allies who can help advance the freedom agenda.

While I don't know enough about climate science to form an educated opinion, I think that a lot of the apocalyptic global warming doomsayers deal in hokey and sensationalism. That doesn't mean that I don't see the negative effect we've had on the very earth that is necessary to our survival. When I visit pollution filled cities like Beijing or Bankgkok, when I think about the human cost of accidents like Chernobyl, or when I see plastic bags and other waste washing up on the beach in Vancouver, I recognize that something is very wrong. I think that the culprit is not free-enterprise, the profit motive, or self-interest (these will be the solution) but rather bad law, perverse incentives, disdain for property rights, and socialization of the costs of both government and private action.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-03-26 3:47:21 PM

Libertarians do not look left or right ...... since left and right are terms only meaningful if you assume there is a substantive differance between the two type of big government. Harper massively outspending the Liberals is just the latest example of so many.
Try this link to see how the idea works:

Posted by: Valentine Smith | 2008-03-26 6:30:13 PM

See, this is the problem that Libertarians had - the same problem that the Ron Paul campaign had/posed.

Namely, they tend to attract - and often by led by - people who mainstream people see as well, frankly nuts.

People like Mike Gravel - or the fruits and nuts who tended to gravitate to Ron Paul - do a severe disservice to the libertarian cause by painting a picture in the minds of the public of libertarianism as a kook/fringe belief system.

That's one of the great services that William F. Buckley did for modern conservatism - driving off fringe elements who provided energy but also tainted the movement. Birchers, Randroids, and the rest.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-03-26 6:44:49 PM

Bob Barr thinking ‘very serious’ thoughts about a presidential race, Iraq, and torture

Wednesday, March 26, 2008, 06:47 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On an Internet site called Anti-War Radio, former Georgia congressman Bob Barr confirmed on Wednesday that he’s “very seriously” looking at joining the race for the White House as a Libertarian — and had harsh words for both the Iraq war and for the Bush Administration’s defense of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”


Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-03-26 6:54:32 PM

Now, Bob Barr - while I'm not a fan, for obvious reasons - is different. He's a credible figure. The kind that the Libertarians ought to want to attract.

Mike Gravel is about as good a catch for the Libertarians are Cynthia McKinney was for the Greens.

For that matter, isn't Gravel an advocate of a negative income tax, among other things? Some 'libertarian' there.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-03-26 8:14:43 PM


Gravel is actually for a form of the Fair Tax, if he were for the negative income tax that would make him only as libertarian on taxation as Milton Friedman (which I agree is not completely libertarian) who advocated the same.

I agree the fact that the libertarian movement and Libertarian parties attract genuinely and seemingly nutty characters is one of their biggest PR and outreach problems. My favourite example is Stan Jones, the Montana LP Senate candidate infamous for turning his skin blue from taking the quacky cure-all colloidal silver. A lot of that is simply a result of being on the fringe, but rather than take the Buckley route and purge all the weirdos I think that libertarians should mostly continue to practice what they preach -- tolerance.
There is a delicate conflict between pursuing whatever strategy or alliance may be beneficial and ending up in a association with assorted "fruits and nuts." I think that Ron Paul is serious and principled, and although he may be dry, uncharismatic, and dogged, he's the sort of non-nut that is good for the movement.

I don't think that Gravel is nutty either, he just doesn't know how better to express his frustration with a system and a party which are seriously screwed up; I wish he did -- maybe that way he wouldn't seem like such a crazy and could move his mostly positive agenda forward more effectively.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-03-26 9:59:16 PM

Have you read Ron Paul's newsletters, Kalim? Or read what most of his supporters wrote?

Before he became a one-note surrender monkey, Paul's shtick was a very good example of how libertarianism, by refusing to purge itself of lunatic elements, had become marginalized.

Libertarianism has some very good selling points - and some very sound arguements to make. But when you spend all of your time ranting about the Federal Reserve and indulging in conspiracy theories, you end up in a place where normal people aren't interested in listening to you.

Especially when you folks, as it often the case, take up people with obvious personal flaws as your leaders. Gravel - two bankrupticies. Emery - obvious. I believe that the LP candidate in 2004, whose name I forget at the moment, was a peddler of kook income tax theories and refused to obtain a drivers' license for some reason or another. Etc, etc.

...on the other hand, being part of an oppressed, kook fringe is very good if you want to make money out of peddling newsletters, running campaigns, and so forth.

Surely I can't be the only one wondering how Ron Paul supposedly spent $30 MILLION on that Presidential campaign.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-03-26 11:06:03 PM

Adam, you have a number of good points. I think that libertarians have too often done a terrible job of getting regular people to listen to them. I may even be won over to the position that Ron Paul suffered conspiracists too easily and that he pandered to them when he shouldn’t have. The Ron Paul newsletters were an embarrassment and it is shameful that he lent his name to them and that, if his own version of events is accurate, that he had so little oversight over them. I'm also not buying the story that he doesn't know or doesn't remember who authored the objectionable pieces – or at the least that he can’t find out. I also wish some things were different about Ron Paul, like anyone else, he’s imperfect - I wish he would do a lot less double-talk which makes him seem like a protectionist, I wish he would answer questions (e.g. on health-care) directly in a way that reflected his understanding of economics and not ALWAYS tie every issue back to deficit foreign policy spending and the Federal Reserve, I wish he would talk a little more often about the principles of liberty and a little less about the Constitution, I wish that he never ran that horrible “No Visas for Students from Terrorist Nations” advertisement, amongst others. My frustrations with the Ron Paul followers are many - for example I've found that too many active Canadian Ron Paul supporters are Alex Jones conspiracy types who don't really understand much about economics or libertarianism and are prepared to jump on board almost any health, NAU, NWO, or micro-chips-in-our-brains conspiracy theory - the mailing list for the Montreal Ron Paul meetup group has degenerated into a clearing house for conspiracy theories and Canadian Action Party (not at ALL libertarian) and anti-SPP activism. I lay the blame for this not so much on Ron Paul's appearing in front of the JBS, Conservative Roundtable, or the Alex Jones show, he goes wherever people are receptive to his message and where he might get support, I lay the blame on the supporters themselves. I don't doubt that some Alex Jones listeners heard Ron Paul, became more interested, educated themselves, and became non-kooky Ron Paul supporters and lifelong libertarians. Why not? I saw it happen to one friend who was previously a believer in massive state redistribution and another who was a believer in an aggressive interventionist foreign policy. I can criticize all I want about where he draws his support, but any man who has the political skill and cajones to get continually reelected to go to Congress and just vote NO deserves some respect.

Perhaps the best way to go forward with libertarianism is to take a mainstream respectable Cato Institute-like approach of moderation, pragmatism, and incrementalism – I doubt it. While that is a necessary part of the movement, there also need to be theorists, radicals, and idealists to keep improving ideas and to be keep everyone else straight and working in the right direction. I also think that for libertarianism to have real success, electoral victories and policy influence are not nearly enough, some people need to “strike the root”. How the hell are we going to delegitimate the state if all we can talk about is reforming farm subsidies and implementing a flat tax? My own interest and engagement in libertarianism is as much about learning and discussing ideas as it is about making a positive mark on the world. I like reading essays on polycentric law, road privatization, and Austrian economics and wouldn’t want to give all that up for an air of respectability, which may incidentally come with a loss of principle.
I agree that Michael Badnarik was a very poor candidate for the LP in 2004, he had some really misinformed views about the legality of the income tax and the best thing that could be said about him is that he wasn’t Aaron Russo, the winner of the first ballot at the convention and the director of the conspiracist film ‘America: From Freedom to Fascism’. Of the declared and prospective 2008 LP candidates I have a very strong preference for Rep. Bob Barr. I’ve been closely watching the stirrings and rumours of his candidacy and enthusiastically cheering it on since CPAC. A candidate like him lends a lot of legitimacy to the LP and he is the most likely to be able to continue the momentum of Ron Paul. Everything depends on how good he is as a candidate, how strong his campaign is, and how much media attention he can get himself, and whether Ron Paul continues to say nice things about him and appear together, but he has the potential to draw together LP supporters, Ron Paul supporters, and conservatives who want to cast an anti-McCain vote. If the coverage of his not-yet-existent campaign in the Atlanta Star Journal, Washington Times, and even the BBC are an indication of a media willing to cover him as a legitimate candidate, and if a whole lot of stars perfectly align, he has the potential to take 5-10 percent of the popular vote and ensure a McCain defeat. If he is able to explain well how and why his positions on the Drug War, foreign policy, etc changed, he could also have a real ability to convince a lot of small-government or libertarian conservatives to become conservative libertarians.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-03-27 12:24:27 AM

I agree with West, most may be minarchists deep down, sadly they mostly don't likely vote either, not even to purposely spoil the ballot and be listed as shown up. Vote for the vote.


Gölök Zoltán Leenderdt Franco-Assisi Buday
"The village atheist has the right to be
heard; he has no right to be heeded.
While he has a right not to have his own
children indoctrinated in what he believes
are false and foolish teachings, he has no
right to dictate what other children may
be taught." -- Patrick J. Buchanan

Posted by: Gölök | 2008-03-28 11:49:09 AM

I agree with incrementalistic libertarianism. You have to wean the sucking child gradually, and our Nanny-State has got us all sucking pretty hard. The average Joe can't relate to the consipracy theorists, other wing nuts and Austrian academians, etc. What we need is a charismatic Leader who can tap into the emotional aspects of freedom in all areas in our lives and help the average Joe see how he can benefit personally from having more freedom. Preaching about interest rates, inflation, etc. will put 95% of the population to sleep. The other 5% are already sitting in the choir seats shouting AMEN! We need to attract new blood, so we need to use a different approach.

Come to the 2008 Libertarian Party Convention, in Edmonton on May 17-18, even if you're not a voting member, to assist us in building the freedom movement! Please email me at [email protected] if you have any questions.

Posted by: Mike Sturko | 2008-03-29 8:31:51 AM

Mike, you put it beautifully, in fact I think I read something by Walter Block ob Llew Rockwell's site suggesting that one way or the other we are all stuck on the statist nipple. Basically in my view largely entrapment, Gregarious Government creating it's own need for existence set up with booby traps needing strategic deflating like the heads of the "powers that be."
The regular person was more energised in the enlightenment, because people from Voltaire to John Adams (earlier on non-aggression than Rothbard's birth) because they could talk to the population without pretence and self lusting egomaniacs.

Pride commeth before liberty's fall.
Adam makes a good point about past figures in the party, and I welcome him, if he can stomach the founding principles to be a voting member and add to the debate, although he has some conservative idiological positions, some of ours hold dogmatic and mindless idiological left positions although may be conscientious. Trust of mankind's intellect is a must, but Von Mises isn't going to galvonize farmers as a Byfield has.
Living in Report Magazine Country as a King Eddy Conservative (Joke label I use about western strip club Libertarians) I know how things work out here or doesn't; something that Mercer doesn't understand is a lot of pro-American and anti-loyalist populist sentiments that exist and his Canadian jingoism may put them off.
In fair play I held off until the contest for leadership was off.
As a Vancouverite, I have no idea why we Libertarians are under the mercy of Burnaquitlamites. Can we offer a voting membership to people who have no vote on a Candidate Challenge or even a Endorcement of yes and no on wether or not a Candidate gets aid and brand naming in a riding at all. It's not like all can meet the conventions. Maybe provincial conventions with am electoral vote system in the future; a board member winning 50+ ridings, winners of President and Leader winning most provinces.
Come to think of it Ted or Link Byfield might have made for and interesting speech in a Western Disenfranchisement matter.


Gölök Zoltán Buday
"Rep. Linder does not address the argument I put forward. A national sales sales tax can not cannot possibly win congressional approval. If it did, it would be an engine for the growth of government. If he has an example of a country where it has not been such an engine, I would love to hear about it." -- Ramesh Ponnuru; Responding to Rep. John Linders letter in National Review on Feb. 14th, 2005; Vol.LVII, No.2 on Ponnuru's Article "The Perils Of Tax Reform" (Dec. 13th 2004) http://en.wiquo.myegopedia.com/

Posted by: Gölök | 2008-05-19 12:01:21 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.