The Libertarian Party (LP) is unique among political parties in that it is grounded in philosophy. Other parties are based upon an ever-changing platform of planks, chosen in accordance with societal trends and with the primary goals of winning elections and gaining power. The LP is steadfast in its goals: freedom, free markets and adherence to the non-aggression principle are non-negotiable values which can be furthered by many avenues other than elections.
We can continue to run political candidates and enact legislation that corresponds with LP beliefs, but elections need not be the heart and soul of party action. A non-election year is the perfect time to ask: how can we move toward a freer world now, without waiting for government permission?
The future of freedom requires that the LP not only be a political party, but also a community. This community should work for those outside of the party as well as those within it. In the process, we will also be bolstering our political goals through exposure and reputation.
This process begins by forging bonds within and between local affiliates. Local affiliates growing their own numbers is helpful, but it is just as important to build friendships and joint projects with other local affiliates to work on projects. Hosting social events among regional affiliates is a good way to start. If an affiliate is working on a particular local issue, others should volunteer and be visible in support. A significant presence at a council meeting or capital rope line can make an impact and coalesce support.
Offer Social Support
Before the state claimed jurisdiction over “social welfare,” many communities created voluntary mutual aid societies. Why shouldn’t the LP serve as a mutual aid society for its members? If one was traveling and found oneself in distress, contacting the local LP could provide assistance. If a member is trapped by an unjust law or ordinance, they should not feel alone. Other LP members should immediately come to their aid.
Libertarians should also promote and, where possible, contribute to social services which operate outside of state coercion. The Libertarian Party of Atlanta affiliate has hosted fundraisers for Lost’N’Found Youth and a sponsors a monthly brunch for The Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency, both organizations offer assistance to homeless Georgians. Local affiliates clean up neglected public parks and stood in public protest of permitting requirements for charitable food distribution, blanket programs, and needle exchanges.
In the same way that people often seek a new religious affiliation when they enter a new community, libertarians moving to an area can contact the local LP for a ready-made circle of like-minded friends. When those friends can offer material assistance to newcomers, and in turn offer opportunities to serve others, tight networks of social support are formed. Rather than arguing that private actors can provide effective community services, LP members demonstrate it.
Project Local Voices
Representatives from LP affiliates are – and must continue to be – regularly be seen and heard at city council meetings and county boards. Local media and voting representatives should receive written remarks on the libertarian position and contact information for the nearest LP affiliate group. Such positions should be stated in relationship to the LP’s core philosophical values: individual liberty, free markets, and non-aggression.
Our values, applied to individual ordinances and government agenda, will protect individual freedom and deter attempts at government overreach.
Seek Strategic Alliances
The LP’s principles are shared by many groups with whom we do not regularly cooperate. The LP should strive to help organizations who are not themselves libertarians, but whose activism overlaps with our policy goals. We can work with the Green Party to achieve ballot access, with progressive groups on ending police abuse, and with conservative groups on second amendment rights.
The Georgia LP has built partnerships with marijuana policy reform group Peachtree NORML, co-authored initiatives to end cash bail and unfair incarceration with the Georgia Partnership for Justice Reform. We have worked with LGBTQ groups to acheive equal treatment under the law, and opposed initiatives limiting free association. Together, we are more likely to make tangible progress in bringing about the principles of liberty, and the positive relationships will positively impact partner group’s perceptions of the LP. When a libertarian runs in the next election, these non-libertarians may see our candidates as advocates for their interests.
No matter how strongly we might disagree on other parts of partners’ agendas, our support and cooperation is necessary on these narrower issues and their outcomes. When we work in conjunction with other groups, we may be in the powerful position of influencing policy change. Walking the walk for our coalition partners means more than a passive statement of written support.
Endorse Educational Equality of Opportunity
Government run schools are a popular government-funded initiative not because they are successful, but because non-libertarians struggle to imagine another route to educational equality. Private and homeschooling educations consistently prove superior to government run schools, but access has been restricted to the very well-off.
Private charter schools and homeschooling initiatives, co-ops, and other voluntary education experiences should be a key focus of Libertarian support. We should be particularly attentive and vocal in our support of Montessori-based curriculums that reflect Libertarian values of freedom and self-direction.
In communities where libertarian schooling options are not yet viable, the LP should consider investing in and heavily publicizing scholarships to private schools, extending educational choice to those who could not otherwise afford it.
Homeschooling is perhaps the libertarian ideal of education, and the cooperative support networks of homeschooling families are a place for local affiliates to serve as partners and political allies. The LP might sponsor events to dispel myths about homeschooling and educate parents on their alternatives. Always and everywhere, we oppose any government attempts to restrict homeschooling, defund public-private charters, or otherwise limit educational choice.
Educate and Advertise
The LP should strive to educate others about libertarian values, and be present in communities where libertarian-minded solutions would provide better results. In addition to outreach events at festivals and conventions, LP members should be made available as guest speakers for groups concerned about educational opportunity, healthcare alternatives, criminal justice reform, and other libertarian priorities.
When we engage in any of the activities listed above, media outlets should be kept informed with branded materials and statements of libertarian stances. Coverage of LP Georgia affiliates appeared last year in The Hill, and the Athens Banner-Hearld. Campaigns are important vehicles for promoting our message, but with voting is polarized, we must be especially diligent in celebrating non-election means of bringing about a freer future.
The Libertarian Party should always be about furthering the ideas and values of freedom that the party represents. Any small steps that bring a measure of freedom into the world should be celebrated, no matter how they are brought about, and no matter who gets the credit.