(HTML version, courtesy of Libertarians for an Open Party)
To: whom it may concern among Libertarians
From: Lloyd Sloan
Date: 11 November 1998 (revised 30 September 1999)
Subject: Why I must decline Libertarian Party Membership offers
I received your membership offer in good form. Regrettably, I must (again) decline. In hopes this may change some day, please read my explanation.
FIRST, let me assure you that I am well aware of the Libertarian Party. I have voted for Libertarians since 1984. I was the Missouri LP state chair in 1985. In 1988, I was the LP candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Missouri, 3rd district (incumbent Dick Gephardt).
I currently hold two positions that officially govern the Libertarian Party under Missouri law. I am the elected LP Township Committeeman for Missouri River Township, St. Louis County. As such, my fellow Township Committeemen have elected me to the MOLP State Committee.
Over the years I have petitioned for, campaigned for, written letters for, publicly debated for, and given thousands in both dollars and hours to the Libertarian Party and its candidates.
AND YET, despite my desires to join, the National LP has always excluded me as a "member". I am not now and never have been "Libertarian" according to the national party. This because--
I have never signed, nor will I ever sign, "The Oath" required for Party membership.
WHY will I not sign the LP oath? (against any "initiation of force" for social goals) Briefly, two reasons--
1. The Oath is Anarchistic in general principle
2. It is Foolish as a general practice
I ask, Are taxes an "initiation of force?"-- well then, Libertarians require an oath against all taxes. The same logic may be applied against all courts of justice and even against the American constitution. Taxes, courts, the constitution-- are these "initiation of force" for social goals?-- then these are all in violation of the LP oath.
As a general rule, obligatory oaths do not put an end to hypocrisy-- they may often encourage it! An open party requires faith that people will reason best for themselves whether they belong or not. A closed party is the stuff of oaths and mythical fears-- without it, we'd be just like them! To which I reply-- speak for yourself.
In an age where less-government ideas are everywhere gaining, the LP has floundered for years. What's wrong with this picture? The party requires its members to sign an oath against advocating any taxes, any courts of justice, and the constitution as well-- and then it sits bewildered & frustrated by its lack of success?
The LP oath originates from Ayn Rand. It was considered the essential Libertarian philosophy by (anarchist) Murray Rothbard (among other party founders), and yet members are fraudulently told-- it's "no big deal". The oath only means you won't "blow up" the government. I've even heard, "it means whatever you want."
First, if "it's no big deal", then why the hell would the party require it? Shouldn't something be rather important before it becomes a rule for excluding people? The exact opposite reasoning applies-- if it's really no big deal, then get rid of it!
Second, The oath does permit self-defense, and force against a tyrannical government would usually be justified as such. (for example, within the Declaration of Independence) Therefore, the oath does in fact permit you to blow up the government!-- (in retaliation, of course. Come to think about it-- isn't that the claim of anyone who ever blew up a government?)
If the oath really only means "no bombs", then it is very poorly written indeed and quite easily improved as follows-- "I do not advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government". Would I be able to sign this new and improved oath? Of course! (After I stopped laughing at the stupidity of it all.)
Third, the oath is meaningless to most of its signers, even many in leadership roles. They sign to show they are "principled"-- but without asking what it means? All we know is-- if you won't sign it, then you must be "unprincipled". Afterall, since the oath means "whatever you want", only those without principles would refuse to sign! Right? And so upon this foundation, we hope to build a party which will remake America? Yeah, right, whatever you say.
The great myth & underlying fear is that the party would become "unprincipled" without the oath. This tragically forgets that people are principled, not parties.
I have always agreed when the LP called itself "the party of principle", because I believed this means that we are "the party (for people) of (less-government) principle", and not "the party of (one anarchist) principle (for everybody)!"
The real question is whether everyone must share the same principles, or should the party allow different (long-term) principles in pursuit of the same (short-term) goals? The question is ultimately-- can the party agree on issues based on different reasons? And if not, the party will fail as such. (for many, it may be more a religion than a party.)
The LP likes to pretend it is open to anyone who wants (much) smaller government.
We're told-- Like a train, we can all ride together, even with different destinations. "All aboard for the next stop!" This is the rule of the party, and each individual member decides "Is this train taking me closer to where I want?", and it all sounds quite reasonable--
And yet, before anyone can ride the LP train, they must first buy the last-stop ticket to anarchy-- in principle!
Now-- Is it any wonder that most people will not take such a train, even when it's going the same way? I ask you-- Is this any way to run a railroad?
I write you (again) that you may possess concrete evidence of my (unaltered) position.
I wish you well. I support you as a sympathetic outcast, never "good enough" for equal membership. Understanding the circumstances, this is more loyalty than the party deserves.
That you may fully understand and appreciate my current intentions--
When I learn the National Party no longer requires "The (anarchist) Oath" for membership, I shall promptly and gladly send $1,000 for lifetime membership.
Until such time, you only waste your efforts upon me, and I suspect in many other cases like mine, for whom you might be wise to consider me as representative.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
(elected) LP Township Committeeman, Missouri River Township, St Louis County
Missouri abolished the required oath in 1985 (when I was state chair). I have never been excluded from the Missouri LP.
Yet I note that only national members are counted when apportioning delegates to national conventions wherein the party decides Presidential candidates and platform statements, as well as whether or not to require the oath!
In hopes of some productive influence upon the inevitable future (endless) debates over "The Oath", I freely grant permission to openly publish this letter within the party. And I deeply regret that I can not attend your conventions on equal terms to debate this issue with you.