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26


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 26, April 15, 1997

What Wins Liberty? Tithes or Teeth?

Donald Silberger
silbergd@npvm.newpaltz.edu

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         The other morning I was yanked out of my snooze by a cheery voiced young phoner identifying himself as "Chris". He introduced himself as a fund raiser for the National Libertarian Party, working on a campaign having Harry Browne's name attached to it, and aimed at doubling our Party's membership, surely a commendable goal from my starry-eyed vantagepoint.
         How many others in LPNY have been similarly telephone hustled by Chris or one of his voice-trained clones? Maybe I am getting a little weary of our "growing to major-party status"? Naw. It's not that. I'd really like us to be big, and start winning. That is why I didn't immediately hang up on Chris, as I would hang up on somebody trying to hard-sell me a life insurance policy. (I fit the "age profile" where that starts getting urgently important to a feller.) But I also fit the political profile of the True Believing free-change-tossing, petition carrying, literature distributing, grassroots footsoldiering Libertarian Party sucker. However, the other morning I decided to get myself a facelift.
         One of the things my fellows in the Party, whose antecedents derive from "the right wing", have been able to educate me about is this:
         I as an individual free person am responsible for sniffing the meat before I shell out good hard-earned cash to buy it. Some of this meat has been on the shelf too long. That's my opinion.
         I've "tithed" LP National even more than I once tithed the NRA's political action branch: the one whose representatives write me to plead poverty; just plumb down on their cash resources, they therefore will not be able to defend my "gun rights", by golly by gee. Well, the last time I wrote that part of the NRA it was by personal letter. I received no answer to that one, nor to its predecessor. I do at times get responses from high-ups in LP National, but mainly when I praise them. I believe that some of those guys deserve praise. But I am no longer sure whether the hustlers-for-good-cause deserve it.
         Cheery, people-personish, Chris thanked me for the fact that every month the LP gets to dip into my checking account and pull out a (trivial) amount of money, representing my doing my financial bit for the Party. Almost as much as I thus allow the LP to take from my bank account is spent by the LP on a thank-you note accompanied by a feel-good newsletter consisting mainly of photocopies of op-eds and newspaper letters from here and there in the country, helping its readers (and Party contributers) feel that what we are doing thereby steamrolls our Party ahead to victory in the Twenty First Century.
         Well. Maybe. I hope so. I'd like that very much. But I'd like also to remain cognizant that what's winning is what I to win.
         What do I want, really?
         I want the fucking drug laws to be repealed en masse and pronto.
         And I want us to talk about their being repealed, not about fund raising and "organizing". Hell, I know that money is essential if we as a political party are to gain power and institute political change through the normal electoral channels. But I'm not sure that possible success through normal electoral channels isn't an illusion in today's United States. I believe maybe ten thousand people who identified themselves as Libertarians-in-action, and to staged mass smoke-ins at police stations all over this country, might get some notice as people who put their frail asses on the spot their mouths usually are. "What in Hell is it that we are about, Chris?"
         That's what I wanted to ask the kid who hustled me on the phone the other morning on behalf of National.
         Chris informed me that if I'd offer the Party merely a dollar per day, coffee change in other words, then we'd all GO OVER THE TOP. I thought, "Hm-m-m... maybe. But I haven't done the calculations. Should I just take this nice State-Farm saleskid's word for it?"
         Then Chris came up with the clincher: If I hiked by a mere $25 per month the dip which LP National makes into my bank account by means of "automatic withdrawal" then I would receive, absolutely free, a copy of Harry Browne's book "Why Government Doesn't Work".
         Suddenly, as if the nightscape had been illuminated by a slow zipping and zapping of moderate lightning in the clouds near by, I saw the world around me as one sometimes sees it during the late lazy afternoon. Harry Browne, is it? He was the guy who was going to get us into the debates? It seemed to me he really did try. But now, in retrospect, it strikes me that he never had a moment's expectation that we would really ever make it there. I've nothing against Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking, dear friends. But I must insist that there exists a serious discrepancy between positive thinking and self deception.
         We had a "one chance in maybe two hundred" of winning the election for President of 1996? Hey hey, gang. Let's rub some sleep out of our eyes, and wake up.
         Our country is now a police state. Now. Not merely "becoming". The Libertarian Party's votes are going to be counted right if the Libertarian Party actually came to stand a chance of winning?
         Not likely. I fear that we will win an important election only with a candidate who is as "centrist" in his viewpoint as Dole or Clinton. And not even then. Because as an effective employment agency for people seeking electoral taxpayer supported jobs, the LP is for shit. No? Its only good reason to exist is to provide a megaphone for voices like mine. And I wouldn't dare dream there is any sort of reasonable safety to be experienced in the sorts of numbers and brave powers which we as a political party can muster.
         I remember when I considered myself as being "on the Left", way back in Seattle of about 1960. In the Young People's Socialist League a number of earnest-faced college-aged kids met regularly to bullshit politics the way we do now in the LP, and to organize speaking engagements for Bogdan Denitch or Arlon Tussing, that sort of thing: Envelope licking and mimeographed poster hanging. The main thing we wanted we didn't usually talk about:
         Most of us hoped we were going to meet somebody cute who would long to make love with us. What we actually pictured, however, were romantically dangerous adventures involving barricades, etc. And, of course, we'd vote for Norman Thomas when the time came.
         But the little Hitlers who ran our meetings and herded us into a perpetuating group had other concerns: Hovering on our socialist periphery were dangerous adversaries. Those principal adversaries did not arise, as one might think, from the ranks of the Capitalist Pigs or the Oppressors of the Working Class. They, in Seattle, were a much smaller and scruffier looking bunch of beatnik kids who called themselves Trotskyites or Socialist Workers (as opposed to Democratic Socialists, which was what my prospective bedmates called themselves.)
         And when I say "Opposed", I mean: with a vengeance! I remember having sat with the entire Trotskyite contingent one smoky noisy night in the Blue Moon Tavern. There were three of them. One was a skinny bookish loudmouthed individual, Stan Iverson, widely reputed to be an honest man and a scholar. His sound and fury was underscored by the sullen silence of those two other Trotskyites suffering from social isolation and acne, weighing maybe 280 pounds in toto between the two of them.
         The subject of the conversation seemed to be whether "we" (I was mistaken for a Trotskyite on that particular occasion) "ought" to overthrow the government of the United States by "force" (ours maybe?), or whether we instead ought to let the bag of puss collapse and rupture under its own weight.
         So, of what relevance were those Socialist Workers vis-a-vis us Democratic Socialists circa 1960? Well, our Democratic Socialist leaders' main concern was that our pristine ranks would be entered by the Trotskyite scum -- that we'd be "infiltrated" and "co-opted".
         In other words, the whole game was one of vigorous turf protection, with one ant tribe pitted against another. That's a bit the way it is now, except it does strike me that most Libertarians, person to person, know what they want more clearly than any Socialists knew back then. But, on the other hand, we LPers have this modern mania for fundraising. It smells like capitalism in action. I love it, of course. But, as meat? I think I'll await some fresh butchering.
         Now what we libertarians have in common with my political associates of long long ago is an addiction to what are called "meetings". That somehow brings it all together in my head. Back then we met in order to arrange new meetings. Now we do that, and also try to raise money.
         Deja vu. Thanks, Chris. I'll have to think upon it. I'll have to stuff it into my pipe and smoke it. But in the meanwhile I'll just keep standing next to my own trough with the other pigs, to whom it also hasn't occurred yet why we are being sheltered and fed here, while all around us the prisons gorge themselves, and the resumed death sentence has achieved prominence in the law-'n'order crowd.
         That, together with the ubiquitous threat that we're going to get into trouble over violations of proliferating anti-gun laws. They got us cowering in one corner and also cowering in another. The people with whom we are trying to collaborate in order to escape those corners are busily organizing and spending to raise funds.
         Does anybody else share my occasional twinge of annoyed malaise?


Donald Silberger teaches mathematics in a college, and normally writes research papers in his subject and sometimes also poetry and fiction. But these are not normal times. In abnormal times he can be unstable and flagrant in what he writes. Readers are counselled to take his words with a salt grain.


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