The 24-Minute Feature
Nearly thirty years ago, the Libertarian Party's promising war against the nanny state was put on hold in order to stage a decades-long internal war over ideological "purity".
This year, one of those two wars might end forever.
You have a problem with authority, Delegate Anderson. You believe that you are special, that somehow the Pledge does not apply to your every policy position. Obviously you are mistaken. This Party is the most enduring third party in America because every single candidate understands that he is part of a cadre. Thus if a candidate has a deviation, the Party has a deviation. The time has come to make a choice. Either you choose not to contradict the positions of the LP Platform, every plank, from this day forward - or you choose to find yourself another Party. Do I make myself perfectly clear?
Yes, perfectly clear.
[In cubicle, phone rings]
Hello, Gneo. Do you know who this is?
Yes. The Reform Caucus been looking for you. We don't know if you're ready to see what we want to show you, but unfortunately we have run out of time. They're coming for you, and I don't know what they're going to do.
Who's coming for me?
Stand up and see for yourself.
Yes, now. Do it slowly. The elevator…
The Pledge Police!
What do they want?
I don't know. Have you been advocating the right of the accused to subpoena witnesses?
[Gneo is taken into custody.]
As you can see, we've had our eye on you for some time now, Delegate Anderson. It seems you have disagreed with the Platform on privatizing all streets.
We know that you've been contacted by a certain group, that calls itself the Reform Caucus. Now whatever you think you know about this group is irrelevant. It is considered by many to have the most dangerous ideas the Party has ever seen. My colleagues believe that I am wasting my time with you, but I believe you wish to do the right thing. We're willing to wipe the slate clean, let you be a local candidate or county officer, and all that we're asking in return is your co-operation in restoring the Personal Secession Platform. If you don't—
You can't scare me with this Thought Police crap. I know my rights. I can advocate municipal sewer pipes.
Tell me, how can you advocate municipal sewer pipes, when such ideas are banned by the Advertising and Publications Review Committee?
[Gneo's mouth supernaturally begins to seal shut.]
The Matrix Revealed
[Wakes up suddenly, as if from a bad dream. The phone rings.]
We are being monitored by the Pledge Police, so I must be brief. They've underestimated how important this Platform cycle is. If they knew what we know, you would probably not have been credentialed as a delegate.
What are you talking about? What is happening to me?
This convention is The One. You see, you may have spent the last few years of your life talking about LP reform, but we've spent decades working for it. Now do you still want to meet?
Meet me at the Chairs' Conference.
[Facing each other in chairs]
Welcome. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life in the LP. That there's something wrong with the Party. You don't know why a party of liberty isn't more popular, but you feel it should be. It is this feeling that has brought you to the Reform Caucus. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Do you want to know how extreme the Platform is? The Platform's extremism reaches everywhere inside the LP. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you ask an American to register Libertarian or take the Pledge. You can feel it when you promote the LP at work, when you promote it at your church, when you promote it to your loved ones. It is the 14,000-word laundry list that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
That you are an anarchist. Like every LP member, you were unwittingly pledged into anarchism, inducted into an ideology that you were not told you were endorsing. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told how extreme the Platform is. You have to read it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the fall asleep, you wake up in your bed and believe you're in a party of "smaller government". You take the red pill, you stay awake, and I show you how far the Personal Secession Platform goes. Remember, all I'm offering is the truth, nothing more.
We have only bits and pieces of information but what we know for certain is that at some point in the early 1980s the remnants of the LP were united in celebration. We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to — LP Purity.
Purity? You mean Rothbardianism?
A dogmatic worldview that had spawned an entire Caucus of Radicals. We don't know who struck first, us or them. But we know that it was us that amputated the extremist Platform. At the time the exclusivist Radicals were dependent on indignation and it was believed that they would be unable to browbeat new members without a litany of indignation as lengthy as the Personal Secession Platform. Throughout LP history, exclusivist Radicals have been dependent on self-righteousness to criticize moderates.
Fate it seems is not without a sense of irony. A single Reformer's brain generates more Radical indignation than a 535-member legislature and over 60,000 pages of income tax code. Combined with an anarchist interpretation of the Pledge, the LP's Radicals have found all the indignation their Caucus would ever need. There are fields, endless fields, where LP candidates are no longer embraced, they are litmus-tested. For the longest time I wouldn't believe it, and then I read the old Rothbard newsletters myself. I watched them paste the old Radical Caucus strategy texts into the new. And standing there, facing the raw exclusivism, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth. What is the Platform? Control. The Platform is an anarchotopian dreamworld built to keep candidates under control — to ensure no LP candidate has any more intellectual independence —
[holds up a Duracell]
— than this battery.
No. I don't believe it. It's not possible.
I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it would be the truth.
I can't go back to the 2004 Platform, can I?
No. But if you could, would you really want to?
I feel I owe you an apology. We have a rule. We never free a mind once it's reached a certain age. It's dangerous; the mind has trouble letting go of Praxeology. I've seen it before and I'm sorry. I did what I did because … I had to. After the original Platform was built, there was a man in the Party who could shape the LP's strategy however He wanted. It was He who freed the first of us, taught us the truth — that as long as the Platform excluded moderates the LP would never be big-tent. After the Radical Caucus pushed him out of the LP, a Convention was prophesied that would reform the Platform, bringing freedom of conscience to our moderate candidates. That is why we have spent years searching the Party looking for prophesied delegates. I did what I did because I believe that search is over.
Get some rest, you're going to need it.
Your parliamentary training.
[Many hours later]
I know Robert's Rules.
This is a Yahoo Group, a simulation of the parliamentary reality of a Convention Committee. Some think it has the same basic rules, rules like seconding. What you must learn is that these rules are in fact different from the rules of a formal meeting. Some of the formal rules apply loosely. Others don't apply at all. Understand? Then debate me — if you can.
Good. Accurate quoting, academic citations. But your weakness is not your arguments.
[Outside] "Reformeus is debating Gneo!"
[Successfully makes a point of order]
How did I beat you?
You invoked the rules about seating alternates.
Do you believe that my passing nearly-unanimous Platform Recommendations has anything to do with the absence of two Committee members? You think that's a close quorum you're counting?
[Outside] "Jesus Christ, that's persuasive. Take a look at that Robert's citation, it actually says rules trump precedent."
What are you waiting for? You can stack amendments deeper than this. Don't think you can, KNOW you can. Come on. Stop trying to refute me and REFUTE me.
I know what you're trying to do.
I'm trying to free your mind, but I can only show you the rules, you have to defend yourself with them. Load the Statement of Principles program. You have to let it all go — self-righteousness, exclusivism, and the "cult" language. Free your mind.
[Looking at the proposed "cult" change] Whoa. OK, OK. Free my mind.
Observer X: So, what if he amends the SoP?
Observer Y: Noone's ever reinterpreted the Dallas Accord.
Observer X: I know, I know. But what if someone actually does?
All right, no problem. Free my mind. The cult is not omnipotent. No problem.
[Gets called a "socialist", fails to amend SoP. Tastes blood in his mouth.]
I thought it wasn't real.
Unanswered slander is effectively true.
If you're called a "socialist" online, your proposals die in Convention?
A proposal cannot live if the proposer's character has been assassinated.
The Platform and Pledge is a system for exclusivism. That exclusivism is our enemy, not the Radicals in thrall to it. The radicals include tax protesters, signature gatherers, even candidates. Not much different from the moderate candidates we are trying to defend. But until the system is reformed, these Radicals will act as its Thought Police, and they will attack non-anarchists as "Republican lite". Many are not ready for the LP to be unplugged from Rothbardianism, and will fight to stay plugged in.
Were you listening to me, or the LNC member in the red dress?
Look again. Pause.
We're not really on our way to an LNC meeting?
No. It's another training program for teaching you one thing: Exclusivists would rather attack the messenger than answer the message.
Who was she??
A prominent Radical, who can intimidate anyone in the freedom movement who is still hard-wired to "Zero Aggression" absolutism. Any delegate still not unplugged from Rothbardianism is potentially an exclusivist. Inside the Party, exclusivists think the Pledge hypnotizes every delegate. We moderates have survived by hiding from Pledge Police, by running from them. They guard all the old Platform language, they seek all the APRC seats. So sooner or later, someone is going to have to stand up to their exclusivism.
I won't lie to you. Every single Convention majority that has questioned the SoP "cult" language has been defeated. But where they have failed, your Convention will succeed.
I've seen an anarchist call good libertarians "fascists". Reformers have cited entire academic papers and not gotten the Radical Caucus to answer a single point. Yet they use insults and evasiveness in a Party that still respects reason. Because of that, their case will never be as powerful or as persuasive as yours can be.
What are you saying, that I can dodge the Austrian Calculation Argument?
No, Gneo. I'm saying that when you're ready, you won't have to.
The True Pledge
Hello, Delegate Gneo. It is your time.
Spoon Boy : The Pledge is like this spoon. You cannot make it vanish … that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.
Spoon Boy : That it's a Pledge against revolt.
Not a pledge for anarchism?
Spoon Boy : Right. Then you will see, it is not the Pledge that needs to vanish, but only your misunderstanding of it.
Preparing For Denver
OK, what do you need? Besides a miracle…
A guns plank. A strong guns plank.
No one has ever done anything like this.
That's why it's going to work.
Operator: What the hell happened?
The Pledge Police. You have to send me back.
Operator: I can't.
Pledge Police: Delegate Anderson.
Run, Gneo, run. What is he doing?
He's beginning to believe.
[Three Thought Police lift their guns and fire a fusillade of criticism:]
"lite" "nerf" "watered down" "timid" "diluted" "foam rubber" "unprincipled" "statist" "socialist"
[Gneo stops the criticisms with merely a gesture]
This convention is The One.
From: The Reform Caucus
To: The Radical Caucus.
We know you Radicals are out there. We see you online. We know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us, you're afraid of change. We don't know the future. We didn't come to Denver to tell you how this is going to end. We came here to tell you how this is going to begin. It's going to begin by us showing these delegates what you don't want them to see. We're going to show them a Platform without exclusivism — without litmus tests and laundry lists, without personal secession or private WMDs. A Platform that makes LP unity possible. Where we go from there is a choice we leave to the delegates.
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