THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 497, December 14, 2008
"There's no single Libertarian future, but as many
different futures as there are individuals to create them."
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Something very bad happened this past weekend, and something truly wonderful has come of it.
Let's start with the good news, because it has been a long time in coming. George Donnelly, Michael Seebeck, Paulie Cannoli, Matt Harris (currently chair of LP West Virginia), Susan Hogarth, and others have now organised a Libertarian Party Sunshine Caucus, also known as the Transparency Caucus. They plan, among other short term goals, to have the process for selecting a replacement for Libertarian National Committee member Angela Keaton as public as possible.
At the request of some members of the caucus, I composed the following mission statement for it:
"Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. For consent to be meaningful, it must be informed. A political party which seeks to control the government of a free people should welcome inquiries and provide information openly. The Libertarian Party Sunshine Caucus seeks to enhance the spirit of liberty by increasing the transparency and openness of the business operations, headquarter operations, and policy operations of the Libertarian Party and Libertarian National Committee. The purpose of this work is to inform the membership as thoroughly as possible so that their consent may be knowing, willing, and competent."
I think that's important, and it is part of the design of the Boston Tea Party to have open deliberations, as well. I think secrecy is dangerous. In fact, I think it is a kind of disease.
For a free people to be governed, the government must derive its powers from the consent of the governed. If it does not, then it has arbitrary power, rather than just power. But, how is consent to be meaningful if it is not informed?
In contract law we regard a contract as valid only if it is entered willingly, knowingly, and competently, and only if there is consideration (an exchange of value) between the parties. If material information is withheld from either party to the contract, then the contract wasn't entered into knowingly, and consent is invalidated. In fact, there is a criminal term for withholding significant information from the other party to an agreement: fraud. Fraud is also a matter of tort, since it may be withheld by negligence or oversight rather than deliberately.
Simply put, knowledge is power. The consent of the governed has been obtained through fraud. We all remember the lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Those lies were the main reason many Americans felt that going to war in Iraq was justified. Those lies were perpetrated fraudulently and deliberatelycriminally and treasonouslyat the highest levels of government. Dick Cheney, among others, lied to Richard Armey, among others, to get the votes for the Iraq war.
Fraud has also been perpetrated in other matters, relating to torture, relating to domestic wiretaps, relating to the justifications given for the USAPATRIOT act. Other scandals, such as Iran-Contra, Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, the lies about the secret bombings of Cambodia, the lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Arlen Specter's magic bullet, and many other lies have figured prominently in recent history. So it should be no surprise that Americans who seek freedom reject fraud.
If the Boston Tea Party or any other party is going to seek to elect officials to govern a free people, its affairs ought to be available for the scrutiny of at least its own members. A large number of criticisms have been leveled at the LP over the years, and many of them arise out of a lack of openness. The fact that an insider clique has on several occasions picked the nominee before the party's convention at which its members are ostensibly to pick the nominee, and caused national party resources to be made available to one candidate while other candidates were still contesting the nomination, is wrong. And it is the kind of thing that would happen less if it were more widely known that it was happening.
The bad news is that Angela Keaton, for health reasons, and out of concern for her professional commitment to liberty and to peace, resigned from the Libertarian National Committee on Monday. She was obviously unwilling to sit through a months long process while a committee just appointed by the LNC reviewed her conduct. She was the target of a thought crimes prosecution brought by LNC member Stewart Flood and Acting Executive Director Krause at the most recent meeting, and had been asked to resign at the September meeting. Of course, she was one of the most effective and principled libertarians in the party, so getting rid of her was vital to the neo-conservative agenda of the Barr faction in the LP.
I should note that the chairman of the LP, Bill Redpath, is a supporter of many types of gun control. He was also an LP candidate for public office this year.
If you want a political party that conducts its deliberations in the open, has rules for membership oversight such that any five members of the party can demand that the entire party reconsider any action of the national committee, and no national budget for staff or other forms of corruption, and you want such a party right now, then the Boston Tea Party is a good choice, I think. If you want, instead, a party which would benefit greatly from such design features, but doesn't have them, and you are willing to await their arrival, perhaps the LP is for you.
In any event, I welcome the establishment of a transparency caucus for the LP. Here is how to find them:
A formative discussion about them.
Information about Angela Keaton.
And information about The Boston Tea Party.