There are more than just a few bi-partisan people out there who think Libertarians should just pack it in. “Become a wing of the Republican or Democrat Parties,” they say. “You’ll never have any luck going head-to-head with the Republicans and Democrats.” For them, it is simply a waste of time to be in a third party.  Why even try?

They may have a point. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No sense being a damn fool about it.

But if it weren’t for us, where would our family, friends, community and the nation be?

Who would speak to competition in all its forms, economic, political, and cultural? Competition is what gives those with talent and a dream a chance. That’s the American way. It is what brings out the best in people and leads to higher standards of living. Politics without competition becomes oppression. Since it’s been left it to them, the state is now all powerful, the economy is managed for the benefit of a few, and war is a way of life. There are laws that favor them and limit us in our peaceful desire to compete politically. They advocate state power as the solution to everything. It isn’t.

Where would real solutions to the never ending, wasteful wars on drugs, terror and poverty come from? They gain control by having more people dependent on the state. Their legislators routinely trade liberties for security, and achieve neither. We all lose when nameless, faceless, rulers and bureaucrats seek to make people safe and healthy, for their own good, by making others victims.

Would consensus over coercion be the way our leaders operate? Sure, they compromise on how much the tax increase should be, or what banks should report about your financial transactions, but there would be no one to live the elegance of the non-aggression principle. Not initiating force in all its forms to get what they want is as foreign to them as Sanskrit.

Who would address the fraud that permeates financial regulation, the Pentagon, the economic statistics, and the public face of foreign policy? They make rules based on giving privileges to friends. In Florida, the law says they can even give a tax break to one specific company over all others, and keep it secret from you at the same time. That says it all.

Who would fight for the rule of law instead of the rule of men? People used to be innocent until proven guilty. Now they have started civil confiscation, search without warrants, passports withheld until taxes are paid, official permission necessary to travel, and “kill lists” on citizens overseas without public evidence, charges, or a trial. Their officials lie before Congress, get caught in the lie, admit they lied, and nothing happens to them. All of this would have been unimaginable 50 years ago.

Who would be there to point out the red herrings in identity politics, global warming, the “Muslim threat,” healthcare, those mad Russians, racism, bigotry, and centrally planned economics?   They thrive on perpetuating these problems.

Who would lament what could have been? We see not just what happens from policy, but what might have been had there been no policy. Imagine a world where the government did not assume the roles of community, church and charity. Imagine a world where money held its value. Imagine a nation where privacy was real instead of a sham. Imagine people held responsible for their violent or fraudulent actions, but otherwise left alone.

And who would hit them where it hurts; candidates opposing them in elections unimpeded by the baggage their candidates have to carry with them wherever they go?

America became great through protecting the power of the individual in the face of wealthy interests and power hungry government functionaries. Over the centuries, exploiting public fear, they have given up on that mission. We seek to preserve what made the USA worth living in all these years. This actually benefits them as well as us.

Give up and join them? Nah. I guess I’ll just have to be a damn fool.

 Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer


Keeping the LP Down

There are certain ideas that keep America going.  Ideas like every kid can grow up to be President, all you need is hard work and a dream, and America is basically fair to everyone.

It’s this last idea that I’d like to talk about.

I am a member of a third party, the Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF).  It always seemed odd to me that 318 million Americans all have different opinions, but when it comes time to vote, everyone falls into line behind one of two the major parties.  What gives?

Part of the reason, no doubt, is our winner take all voting system.  If you get 50.1% of the vote, your guy wins.  This makes people vote for the lesser of two evils instead of what they want because they are afraid the “other guy” will get into office.  Of course, with time, things get worse and no one understands why.  

The rest is more subtle.  A recent case with the LPF is a good example.  The LPF had a $70,000 fine levied against it after the 2012 elections for allegedly not filing $1700 in campaign donations with the State.  It took six months for the case to come to a hearing, and all the while we sweated how $70,000 could break us.  For six months it was tough committing to plans or instilling confidence when Florida held a hammer over our heads. In the end, the LPF was completely exonerated.  We filed correctly after all.  The State said “sorry,” but in the meantime, the system pretty much kept us in limbo. 

It goes further.  Most people think campaign contribution limits control big money and spur political competition.  On the contrary, they limit competition.  I was manager of a Congressional campaign where our opponent spent $450,000 to keep his seat.  We raised $15,000, but the law limits state parties to a total donation of $5000, and individuals to $2500 for such races.  This inherently favors big parties that already have long lists of donors, and financially limits new party networks.  If the big parties today had nothing but a dream and hard work, they couldn’t organize political opposition with the laws as they are now.  The advantage lies with the major parties, and not those trying to build new ones.

How about ballot access?  In Florida a candidate needs simply 1% of the district voting population to sign a petition, or about 130,000 petitions to run for Governor.  In my campaign it took six months of continuous hard work to get around 3000 valid petitions, and we had 33 volunteers.  Our Republican opponent tried to get petitions and failed, so he simply paid the ballot access fee of about $10,000.  Officially counting petitions also costs 10 cents apiece or $13,000 for Governor, assuming they are all correct.  

Even local parties have hurdles.  One thing that I keep an eye on in our local affiliate is not to be liable to Federal Election Commission reporting.  Such reporting easily requires professional filing assistance, and it begins with just $1000 in federally reportable expenses.  If there is a problem, the local party has to plead its case (lawyer anyone?) before the FEC.  In addition, once you report, you are always liable to report until they say you can stop.  No kidding.  Try getting neighbors together when they realize they may have to be accountable for years.  Of course, local parties must also report to the state or be criminally liable.  

On top of all this, Republican and Democrat party officials get to be on the ballot every four years, but not “minor” parties.  Candidates for Governor can get government matching funds (something Libertarians are against), but you have to raise $150,000 in donations first, and the two major parties even removed the ability of minor parties to control who can run under the minor party name, so anyone with a checkbook big enough to pay the ballot fee can take the Libertarian name regardless of party support.  Everything favors the established parties while appearing to be equal and above board. 

Basically fair? No.  It just looks that way, which is just fine with the Republicans and Democrats. 

Pete Blome is a retired military officer and an At-Large Representative for the Libertarian Party of Florida