Life's Better Ideas

Occasional links to, and comments on, ideas that I think will make this a better world, and remarks about things that need fixing, too.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

From Here to Liberty

Since its formation, the Libertarian Party has had no coherent plan to get from where we are today to liberty. That may be changing. In 2004 the party changed its platform by dividing each plank into four sections: Issue, Principle, Solution, and Transition. That’s a good first step, as it exposed lots of problems with the language in those planks. The process of fixing the language has begun, and will continue for some time.

The Transition sections ought to be concrete, viable, real-world plans that outline a logical, step-by-step sequence of legislative steps to get from here to liberty. Right now many Transition statements are either a collection of rants or an unorganized laundry list. The rants should be replaced with tasks that will make us more free. The laundry lists need to be put in some sequence that makes sense. Both need to consider what impact those tasks will have on other planks. Transition sections should be able to be placed in a candidate’s campaign literature without modification. If you are not comfortable with putting it in your own campaign literature, that’s a sign it needs to be rewritten.

The LP’s historical focus has rightly been the United States. But some policies demand a larger focus. Is there anything that needs to happen in the rest of the world for us to have liberty in the United States? The world has changed a lot since the party was founded in 1971. Back then, we could largely ignore things like foreign policy, immigration, and trade. No longer. On our much smaller planet, dealing with these issues is a necessity.

Immigration, Trade, and Foreign Policy solutions require interaction with other nations. That interaction, to be useful and productive, requires that both parties have similar values. Freedom House, which conducts annual reviews of freedom around the world, lists more than half of the nations as partly free or not free. Most of these partly free or not free nations are dictatorships and offer their citizens no civil or economic liberties. Until other nations have roughly the same amount of liberty (values) that we have, implementing these solutions will be difficult, if not impossible. That imbalance of liberty needs to be corrected to have more liberty here in the United States.

Immigration. Open borders should be a solution, not a transition. The US is a magnet for people all over the world because of the freedoms we have relative to theirs. If we had the same freedoms they have (or lack), they would probably not want to come here. The reverse is true, too. If they had the same freedoms we have, it’s likely they would come here only to visit. There would be no need to offer political asylum, no need for migrant workers, and no relatively attractive welfare system. There would also be no significant differences in the standard of living or opportunities available. As long as those differences exist, open borders are not possible.

Free trade is difficult unless your trading partners have sufficient productive capabilities to make trade worthwhile. Some nations aren’t free enough to offer the products and services that we want. That’s why we don’t trade with them. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, understood that you need customers as well as products. That’s one of the reasons why he more than doubled the wages of his employees. They went from an average of $2.34 for a 9 hour day to $5.00 for an 8 hour day, a 140 percent increase. It meant that his employees had more liberty and could buy his products. Likewise, we can only expand our trade with people who can afford it. In order to afford it, they must have the liberty to produce the wealth that trade requires.

Foreign Policy may well be both the most intractable problem and the solution. Over the last 70 years our nation’s foreign policy has been inconsistent at best. Sometimes it’s been noble, like our involvement in World Wars I and II. Other times it’s been incredibly bad, when we’ve gotten in bed with dictators of various sorts without a goal to increase liberty for the citizens of those nations.

So how do we solve these fairly intractable problems? We can continue with what we’ve been doing, which is basically bumbling around without clear, consistent goals. We generally have a laissez-faire attitude towards other nations and how they progress. We figure it’s their business, and not ours. What it means, though, is that progress will be slow. The African continent, for example, has made little or no progress towards liberty, in spite of the fact that the US has virtually ignored that continent. Other nations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are in a similar place. If we do nothing, it’s likely that nothing will change. Corrupt dictators do not usually move towards liberty without outside pressure. Crafting a viable foreign policy transition will require diplomatic, economic, and military resources. In some cases the carrot may be sufficient to encourage more liberty; in others, the stick may be necessary.

Should we do something? If you believe that all people have the right to be free, then maybe the answer is yes.

If the Libertarian Party wants to become a significant player in the political process, it must present credible transition plans to the voting public. We cannot wave our magic wand. We must offer the voters transition plans that are based on the current political reality that include simple steps capable of being implemented in the next 2 to 4 years. These transition plans should be credible enough that they can be used in our candidates’ campaign literature without modification. It is up to us to take the initiative to do the hard work of planning the future. We can’t get from here to liberty without it.


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