article was first published in the June-Sept.-Dec., 1980, issue
Forum, Vol. 13.5-6.
Liberty! O Liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!”
~ Madame Roland
epitaph for the Clark campaign is this: “And they didn’t even get
the votes.” Libertarian principle was betrayed, the LP platform
ignored and traduced, our message diluted beyond recognition, the
media fawned upon — all for the goal of getting “millions” (2-3,
3-5 or whatever) of votes. And they didn’t even do that. All they
got for their pains was a measly 1% of the vote.1
They sold their souls — ours, unfortunately, along with it — for
a mess of pottage, and they didn’t even get the pottage. Maybe they’ll
demand a recount. Extrapolating from the Clark gubernatorial campaign
of 1978 — as they liked to do last winter — they in effect promised
us 4.6 million votes. (5.5% of the total). They got less than a
campaign was a fourfold disaster, on the following counts: betrayal
of principle; failure to educate or build cadre; fiscal irresponsibility;
and lack of votes.
principle is of course the most important, as well as the most extensive,
category. The campaign was marked throughout, in strategy and in
tactics, by deception and duplicity. The platform was ignored, the
message distorted. ‘Basic principles were evaded and buried. The
Clark defenders maintain that, in many of the instances of betrayal,
he took a good stand from time to time — generally not in front
of the media but before small libertarian audiences. My reply to
all these feeble defenses is simply this: It’s a helluva note when
all we have to fall back on is the inconsistency of our candidate.
The Back to
Camelot theme, arguably the single most odious aspect of the Clark
campaign, reached its apogee on the ABC-TV national Nightline
program (11:30 P.M. EST) a few days before the election. Commoner
and Clark were each invited to give a brief, one-minute summary
of their respective programs. Commoner, with his usual forthrightness,
summed up his platform as a governmental assault on the corporations.
And Clark? Here was the entire libertarian position of the man whom
Libertarian Review has had the chutzpah to refer to as “Mr. President”:
We want to get back to the tax and spending and inflation levels
of the Kennedy administration. When the puzzled interviewer asked
for clarification, Ed Clark reiterated the theme: “We want to get
back to the kind of government that President Kennedy had in the
early 1960’s.” At this point, the rather bewildered interviewer,
thinking naturally that Libertarians were some species of left-wing
Democrat, wanted to know why we didn’t end it all by merging with
the Citizens Party. To which Clark replied no, they are believers
in centralized power whereas we are in favor of decentralization.
So no wonder
that Tom Wicker and all the rest of the liberal media loved Clark
during the campaign! And here I had thought for two decades that
Kennedy was one of the Bad Guys! Live and learn!
But of course
in the Clark campaign there were no Bad Guys. One of the
mendacious aspects of the campaign was the hiding, the distortion
of our platform and our principles. Another was the strong impression
given by the Clark commercials that there are no Bad Guys and no
conflict. Every American is going to join Clark in celebrating “A
New Beginning, Amer-i-ca”; there will be no pain, for anyone, not
even briefly, as we all march into the new dawn. No bureaucrats
will lose their jobs, no specially privileged will be kicked out
of the public trough. All sweetness and light and jingles. The Clark
But of course
this is all pap and nonsense. The advent of liberty will immeasurably
benefit most Americans. But some will lose — those who have been
exploiting us and feeding at the public trough. And these special
interests and ruling elites will not surrender their ill-gotten
gains so readily. They will fight like hell to keep it. Libertarianism
is not a message of treacle and Camelot; it is a message of struggle.
What will happen to those who have joined up thinking that all they
have to do is sing and pull a lever to achieve victory? Won’t they
be the first summer soldiers to fade away when the going gets a
little tough? How are these supposed new recruits to be prepared5
for a protracted struggle against the State?
theme was a leitmotif throughout the campaign. The infamous Clark
White Paper on Taxing and Spending Reduction, which the campaign
played up heavily and took out big ads listing the endorsers, was
repugnant partly because it assured the readers that the projected
budget cuts in the first year of the Clark administration should
not be thought of as radical. After all, they would only return
us to the budget, in real terms, of the Kennedy regime of 1962.
Which was one of the things wrong with it.
And then there
were subliminal messages: there was the Clark brochure with our
candidate standing in front of a picture of Jack Kennedy; and there
was the Clark TV commercial promise that he was “bringing a message
of hope” to the American people. There was the graceless imitation
of the jabbing Kennedy finger of the right hand in the anti-draft
commercial; and the Clark hair in the late commercial that seemed
uncannily made up to look like Jack Kennedy’s.
So it’s to
be Camelot again. And, gentlemen, who is going to be dunked in the
White House pool? (To mix our Presidents, we all know who is
slated to be the new Haldeman)
It was almost
enough to make one vote for Jimmy Carter. After all, inept as he
was, he did manage to whup some Kennedy ass.
with the Camelot theme was Clark’s oft reiterated favorite summary
slogan of libertarianism: “low-tax liberalism.” We are of course
not, repeat not, “low tax liberals.” We are no-tax libertarians.
The “low tax liberal” scam was clearly designed to suck in the media,
who were seen, not very incorrectly, as being moderate liberals.
How better to get favorable media attention than to pretend to be
just one more moderate liberal? And, the calculation went, if we
get media attention, we will get more votes, and votes are the name
of the game, right?
purpose of an LP electoral campaign is not to get as many
votes as possible. If that were the objective, then the place to
go for votes is the Democratic or Republican parties. The purpose
of any campaign is, in the short-run, twofold: to educate the electorate
in libertarian principles, and to find more libertarians and bring
them into the party (“party-building” or “cadre building”). The
third, long-run, objective is to get into office so as to roll back
But the evident
strategy of Clark, his campaign chief, Edward H. Crane III, and
the other handlers was to maximize the number of votes, so as to
fool the media and the public and the politicians into thinking
that we really have millions of dedicated libertarians. In short,
their purpose was not to build cadre, or to start the march for
the long haul, but to reap a quick success by use of mirrors: using
lots of money and slick media commercials to con everyone into thinking
we are really a mammoth movement. Libscam!
Many of the
specific deviations and horror stories committed by the Clark campaign
were denied by the handlers, attributing them all to bumbles, misprints,
typos, et al. But not only did too many of these alleged bumbles
pile up, they all slanted in one direction. How come that all of
the “bumbles” pointed one way: to creating a media image of libertarianism
as “low tax liberalism”, that is, as approximately the same ideology
as the readers — and more importantly the writers — of the New
York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, etc.? In short,
that we are a likeable, nonthreatening group who believe in slightly
lower taxes, in a more efficient version of the welfare state, in
moderate civil liberties, and in a moderately dovish stance abroad.
Sort of a Jerry Brown Democrat. That we achieved this part of our
objective can be seen in the fact that Tom Wicker and a whole bunch
of other media people liked us. But did they vote for us?
the Welfare State
A genuine libertarian
stance, like our platform, must be abolitionist; that is, we must
not ourselves embrace gradualism as in some way better than an immediate
achievement of the libertarian goal. Because, if we do so, this
means that we are holding something else to be more important than
the achievement of liberty. And that means that we are no longer
libertarians. In the words of the great Strategy Statement, adopted
by the National Committee of the L.P. several years ago, and the
forgotten stepchild of the Clark campaign: “Holding high our principles
means avoiding completely the quagmire of self-imposed, obligatory
gradualism: we must avoid the view that, in the name of fairness,
abating suffering, or fulfilling expectations, we must temporize
and stall on the road to liberty. Achieving liberty must be our
And this means,
too, that Libertarians must not commit themselves to any particular
order of destatization. We must not present a four-year plan, saying
we will Cut Tax X by a certain percent, Cut Budget Y by a certain
figure, etc. in the first year, then a bit more in the second year,
etc. For this would imply that any greater tax cut or budget
cut in any of these areas is bad, would be combated by a Libertarian
President. We must never act so as to close the door on more and
more destatization, wherever and whenever we could achieve it. The
relevant question is this: If President Clark introduced his 30%
tax cut scheme in next year’s Congress, and some principled Libertarian
Congressman amended the bill to repeal the infamous income tax altogether,
would President Clark veto it?
Strategy Statement says: “We must not commit ourselves to any particular
order of destatization, for that would be construed as our endorsing
the continuation of statism and the violation of rights. Since we
must never be in the position of advocating the continuation of
tyranny, we should accept any and all destatizing measures wherever
and whenever we can.”
But the Clark
campaign did just the opposite. From the beginning, Clark expressly
stated that we must cut all subsidies to business before we can
even conceive of slashing the welfare state. In his first formulation,
Clark vowed not to cut welfare until private charity voluntarily
assumed that burden (fat chance!), or, next formulation, until “full
employment” is achieved. So it is not only back to Kennedy, but
also back to Keynes! Are we to pick up on these two gentlemen just
when they are finally being repudiated by one and all? There is
no such thing as “full employment”. Employment depends on wage rates,
and, must I point this out to a libertarian reader? Welfare payments
reduce the net wage a person can earn by working. Hence, the higher
the welfare payments, the more the unemployment. Are we to repudiate
elementary economics a5 well as libertarianism?
odious White Paper on Spending and Taxation, welfare is kept virtually
intact. And Clark manages to find a way out of having to advocate
even eventual abolition of welfare: in his neo- Lafferite vision,
one year’s thirty percent budget cut (only returning us to Kennedy!)
would so enormously increase jobs, production, and prosperity that
no one would be on welfare anyway. Thus we see a typical example
of Clark’s evading the necessity of making hard choices or statements
that might lose some votes; worse yet, the supposed new converts
among the public are not being prepared for the nasty fact that
the budget cut would not eliminate welfare clientele because the
incentive to remain on welfare — free handouts — would remain unbreached.
But we cannot
eliminate welfare until we reach neo-Lafferite heaven, Clark is
strongly implying, because of the suffering of those removed from
the welfare rolls. But what happens to the libertarian insight that
welfare is bad for its clients, not helpful; and what happened to
the Strategy Statement? Blankout.
4. The Order
Strategy Statement, the Clark White Paper commits us to a specific
and detailed order of destatization in the first year of the Clark
administration. No other candidate bothers with such a detailed
program. Why must we? To look “Presidential.” To look “respectable.”
Like a low-tax liberal. There are some gratifying abolitions and
cuts, but there are some mysterious omissions. Why isn’t the Department
of Agriculture abolished? Or the Federal Reserve? Or the FBI? And
who can shout hosannahs for Back to Kennedy, anyway?
White Paper is far worse than a Four Year Plan. For it only commits
Clark to one year’s worth of cuts. And that’s it. This is
far worse than mere “gradualism”. For the ultimate goal is not simply
downplayed, but drops out altogether. Which makes Clark seem like
a slightly more libertarian John Anderson (or Jack Kennedy?) rather
than a genuine Libertarian. Another crucial part of the Strategy
Statement is here violated: “Any intermediate demand must be treated,
as it is in the LP platform, as pending achievement of the pure
goal and inferior to it. Therefore, any such demand should be presented
as leading toward our ultimate goal, not as an end in itself.” But
the Clark White Paper merely points to the first year program, and
then says, wildly, that these cuts will be so beneficial, will lead
to so much prosperity, etc. that the public will raise a clamor
for further budget and tax cuts, after which President Clark would
be happy in’ taking the lead to achieve them. I should hope he would
at least tail after public opinion. But we are supposed to be the
vanguard of libertarian opinion; what is the Party except leading
the way to liberty?
long is it supposed to take for the public clamor to arise? Instantaneously,
as in Laffer’s increased revenue from tax cuts? How many years?
And in the meantime, before the clamor, it is clearly implied that
President Clark would sit on his laurels and do nothing further
to achieve liberty.
5. The Tax
are nothing if not anti-taxation, and it is therefore our duty to
take the lead in pushing for “drastic” (as the platform calls it)
cuts in taxation, pointing toward its eventual abolition. It therefore
behooves us never to allow ourselves to be outflanked by other groups;
never to allow any other group to be more libertarian than the LP
on taxation. And yet, the Liberty Amendment people, calling for
the repeal of the 16th Amendment and abolition of the income tax,
have been toiling in the vineyard for many years. We owe it to truth
and justice and liberty not to fall behind the Liberty Amendment
people. Instead, Clark calls for a piddling 30% tax cut. Shortly
after his nomination, Clark appeared at a press conference in Denver,
at which he expressly repudiated the Liberty Amendment as “too radical.”
piddling cut, Clark, in an interview with the L.A. Times,
said that we could not cut the corporate income tax at this time.
Like hell we couldn’t! But I suppose that this would be considered
too radical, too extreme, by Tom Wicker and our other buddies at
the New York Times.
Clark has devoted
a great deal of time to showing that the Reagan proposed Kemp-Roth
30% tax cut (at least before Reagan’s shift to the center) is really
much less than his 30% cut. Frankly, I’m not much interested,
and I don’t think the voters were either. It is absurd and shameful
for a libertarian candidate to run up and down demonstrating
in detail that our tax cut is greater than the Republican proposal.
We shouldn’t have to spend a lot of energy on such demonstrations.
Our anti-tax superiority should be crystal-clear to all. For example,
if we called for repeal of the income tax. Not only the Liberty
Amendment people, but even John Rarick, the American Independent
Party candidate for President this year, called for repeal of the
income tax. How dare we be less libertarian than they?
ask us what specific budget cuts we would make? But apart from calling
for abolition of a bunch of departments, we don’t have to
spell out our budget in detail. And we wouldn’t, if we weren’t captivated
by the idea of looking “Presidential.” We could simply say: “That’s
their (the bureaucrats), headache. We’ll cut their budget
by say 90 percent, and let them figure out where to allocate
And while we’re
at it, while up in Wyoming, Clark endorsed the controversial state
tax on coal, which is beloved of Wyoming citizens of all political
persuasions because they are thereby mulcting the national coal,
corporations. Clark is quoted as endorsing the tax because “coal
is a non-renewable resource.” So what? The Clark handlers have intimated
that this was a bumble or misquote, but if that is the case, why
was the press clipping on this sent out as part of the official
Clark literature? Even “free-market” Senator Wallop supports the
tax, so perhaps this gained Clark a few votes in Wyoming.
Security system is not only coercive; it is the biggest single racket
of all the welfare state programs. It is also bankrupt, and many
people now understand this fact. Instead of taking the bull by the
horns, following the platform and calling for the abolition of this
system, Clark calls for a 35-year phase-out (there’s “gradualism”,
with a vengeance!), while in the meantime, everyone 40 and over
must stay in the program and can mulct other taxpayers for the rest
of their lives. Even the Clarkian “ideal” or “ultimate” program
is scarcely ideal; it involves a network of tax exemptions for individual
retirement funds. There is nothing wrong with tax credits and exemptions
as a step toward the ideal of no taxes, but it is
a betrayal of principle to term this an “ideal.” Tax credits, after
all, distort the economy, and will continue to do so until the day
of tax abolition. Furthermore, in the Clark White Paper on Social
Security, even the “ideal” and “ultimate” explicitly includes retaining
the welfare system. Except that, again in Clark’s neo-Lafferite
buncombe, “increasingly, as Libertarian administration frees the
economy and produces economic growth”, in which case “voluntary,
charitable institutions” would be allowed to take over the welfare
functions (Clark, White Paper on Social Security Reform).
a more efficient, more streamlined, welfare state is the Clark program.
And what happened
to our platform, which demands that Social Security be abolished
forthwith, and that payments to meet expectations be met by selling
off government land and other property? Too extreme, of course.
Clark and his
handlers know damned well that the cause of inflation — America’s
No. 1 economic problem and the No. 1 issue of the 1980 campaign
is the Federal Reserve’s continued expansion of the money supply.
They also know that the only cure for this is to stop the Fed, in
short to abolish it and return to a market commodity money like
gold. And yet Clark persisted throughout the campaign in falsely
identifying federal deficits as the cause of inflation. In his infamous
White Paper on Spending and Taxation — the major Clark showpiece
of the campaign for which they obtained extensive ads and support
— there was not a mention of Fed responsibility. Quite the contrary.
The public was assured that if the Clark 30% budget and revenue
cut were put into effect, this would end inflation.
What is more,
the detailed Clark budget made no mention whatever of the Fed, of
whether it would be cut or not. Presumably it would not be
abolished, again despite the clear-cut call of the LP platform.
So base and
mendacious was the Clark campaign that when Clark kicked off his
White Paper at the American Economic Council meeting in Los Angeles
— a gold standard, anti-Fed, outfit — he failed to mention either
the Fed or gold, giving his standard balanced budget (i.e. Keynesian)
line. Even when asked point-blank by one of the libertarian gold
advocates at the press conference where he stood on the gold standard,
Clark ducked it, and finally stated lamely that he favored a “gradual
return to the gold standard.”
knows anything about gold or money knows that there ain’t no such
thing as a “gradual return”; either one is on gold or off it. A
gradual return to gold makes as much sense as someone being “gradually
pregnant.” Gradualism gone berserk!
came a cropper at the gold standard group’s press conference, Ed
Crane’s characteristic way of handling the situation was to denounce
the libertarian gold-bug for raising the issue and thus hurting
the Clark fund-raising. Typically, the manipulator blames the person
who reveals the truth.
Later in the
campaign, under severe pressure by outraged libertarian economists,
Clark did, at various points, endorse the gold standard, as well
as issue a paper by myself on the causes and remedies for inflation.,
But all this was grudging and low-key. The real, upfront discussion
was balanced budget all the way.
So, why is
this? There can be only one answer. Because John Anderson-type,
New York Times-type liberals all favor a balanced budget
(who doesn’t, at least in theory?) but they get edgy and nervous
when they hear about gold or the Federal Reserve. To them, this
sounds crack-potty and “right-wingy”, and God forbid that Clark
and Crane should ever be caught dead sounding like that!
The Clark idea
of educational tax credits is a fine first step, but one wonders
why his maximum limit of $1200 per student? This is substantially
below most private school annual tuition; why not provide tax credits
for full tuition, whatever that may be?
But there are
two disquieting aspects to the tax credit idea. One is that there
is no clear-cut statement by Clark that this is only a transition
demand, and that, in fact all tax credits distort the economy by
pushing people in the direction of spending toward which the government
would like them to go (the same criticism applies to the elaborate
retirement tax credit scheme of the Clark Social Security scheme.)
Still, tax credits are excellent, but only insofar as they lower
taxes; our ultimate objective should clearly be to eliminate taxation
altogether. The Clark proposal should have been made in the context
of the nineteenth century speech of President William F. Warren
of Boston University to the university’s approving trustees: “Tax
Exemption the Road to Tax Abolition!” Instead, all we get from Clark’s
White Paper on Education are cloudy phrases about how great it would
be if someday government were completely divorced from education.
does Clark spell out in the concrete what this really means: for
example, abolition of the monstrous public school system, and of
compulsory attendance laws. To the contrary, Clark has stated during
the campaign that the objective of his tax credit proposal is to
“improve” the public school system. That should not be our objective;
our goal should be abolition. Similarly, Clark angered Southern
California party members early in the campaign by sidestepping a
question by a reporter about his stand on compulsory attendance
laws. That, Clark evaded, is not “a Presidential issue.”
Not a Presidential issue indeed! No one says that Clark should have
made abolition of compulsory attendance laws a key feature of his
speeches or pronouncements. But when asked the question, he had
the moral obligation and the obligation to libertarianism and to
his fellow Party members, to answer and to answer truthfully! We
call for the abolition of compulsory attendance laws! And be damned
whether Tom Wicker likes it or not! Instead, we got Libscam!
It is important
to realize that Clark was not simply his own person, running for
office. By getting our nomination, he put himself into a moral obligation
to carry forth our principles and our platform, to truly represent
us in the political arena. He failed that test time and again, consistently
and grossly, Always, he and his handlers acted with total arrogance
toward the Party and its members; the members’ job was to gather
signatures, get us on the ballot, contribute funds, and keep their
mouths shut; the job of Clark, Crane, et al. was to run the campaign,
and to brook no interference.
While we are
on the issue of answering questions truthfully, Clark, to be sure,
did it and did it very well — but only once. In his kickoff
January press conference in Washington, D.C., he was asked about
the ultimate objectives of the Libertarian Party. What about the
streets, the courts, etc? And Clark answered it well: that our ultimate
objective was to privatize all-of society; to turn all governmental
operations over to private enterprise. It was a great and shining
moment for Clark, but it was to be his last. Edward Crane was livid
at this disclosure of truth to the media and to the public; how
can they be conned into liking us if they know our real views? And
because of Crane’s pressure, Clark was never allowed — or perhaps
never even felt tempted — to stand up for basic libertarian principles
Many of us
have been hammering away at Clark on these matters since early last
winter. All we got for our pains was lots of soft soap and mendacity.
The object: to baby us along and keep us quiet so that they could
get on with their unprincipled and sellout campaign. For example,
after the hard-hitting criticisms of the Clark campaign by the Radical
Caucus this summer (notably, my own “Libertarianism versus ‘Low
Tax Liberalism’,” Cadre, July/August, and Justin Raimondo’s
“A Matter of Principle,” Cadre Supplement), Clark let it
be known that his soft approach was all a design. His Grand Strategy
was that, after August, with the media already softened up by his
low-tax liberal approach, the Clark campaign would become feisty
and hard-core. Well, of course, it was all a scam. Libscam! If anything,
the Clark campaign got worse as it kept going, and the deviations
and betrayals accelerated, especially whenever the precious media
were in attendance. Babying along the critics was a key leitmotif
of the Clark-Crane campaign. How many more times are we going to
permit ourselves to be fooled?
Let us press
on. What did Clark say about unions during the campaign, either
in person, in literature, or in white papers? Not a damn thing.
Even though the government-union comple is a key part of our economy
and our society, and even though labor law reform is a direct and
immediate political issue. Correction: he did say one thing, and
only one. In his Village Voice interview with Cockburn and Ridgeway,
Clark said that there is nothing wrong with unions. Period.
well! It is true that in a free society, provided that unions don’t
use coercion against strikebreakers (a big proviso!), there
is nothing un-libertarian about voluntary unions. But this is not
a free society, as our “realists” never fail to remind us, and unions
are now specially privileged, almost a creature of, the State. Yet
nowhere in the Clark literature is there a hint of our platform
position: the repeal of all this special privilege, notably including
the Wagner Act and the Norris-LaGuardia Act.
Why no mention
of removing special privileges to unions? Again, the answer is obvious:
N.Y. Times liberals wouldn’t like it, and Tom Wicker might not like
us anymore. Tsk, tsk!
provided probably the greatest (or perhaps the second greatest)
single scandal of the Clark campaign. New York Times liberals, you
see, love Mexicans but only in Mexico; they are not too keen on
Mexicans immigrating to the United States. And so the Clark position,
which not only betrayed the libertarian principle of free and open
immigration, but also froze immigration restrictions in with the
welfare system. Clark’s position on immigration, detailed in an
interview with the English-language newspaper, La Prensa,
published for San Diego’s Mexican- Americans, was stated as follows:
I would move to increase substantially the immigration quotas
from Mexico and Latin America…I believe absolutely in free immigration!
In a perfect society people would be allowed to move freely anywhere.
Today’s realities, however, make it difficult. In the United States
we have a welfare system that precludes that. The level of maintenance
for U.S. citizens is so high that it would induce individuals
to come here to live only on welfare. .. I would support a legal
contract system of labor to bring in people from Mexico (two to
three million) to come for six months at a time to work then return…”
A Matter of Principle,
The Clark position
on immigration manages, at one and the same time, to betray principle
and to be factually and economically incorrect. Undocumented aliens,
including Mexicans, have not gone on welfare for the simple reason
that they would have exposed themselves to arrest and deportation.
These “illegal” aliens, as in the case of most immigrants of the
past, have proved themselves to be among the most productive, hard-working
members of society. Clark kicks them in the teeth, and unjustly.
Later, on nationwide
television, Clark managed to retain his position but to put it less
baldly. When asked where he stood on foreign trade and immigration,
he said, craftily, that he favored free and open trade, and increased
immigration (not free and open.) This is holding high
the banner of freedom? This is the lamp beside the golden
Raimondo points out, Clark’s endorsement of the hated bracero
program (the six months-and-then-return) would return to a policy
that locked the Mexicans into their cheap-labor status, and which
kept Mexican-American wages below the free market level. The Clark-bracero
program, Raimondo properly concludes, is “nothing but government-sanctioned-and-enforced
exploitation on a massive scale.”
how Clark has been brought to this shameful point by having locked
himself into a measured, prepared order of destatization. He has
already asserted that we can’t slash the welfare state until we
have achieved “full employment”; he now adds that we can’t have
free and open immigration until we eliminate the welfare state.
And so it goes; the “gradualists” lock us permanently into the status
quo of statism. As the great libertarian abolitionist of slavery
William Lloyd Garrison prophetically warned: “Gradualism in theory
is perpetuity in practice.”
There is another
grotesque feature of the Clark stand on immigration. He adds, in
the La Prensa interview:
I would say
that in an ideal society there is little or no need for a Border
Patrol. I don’t believe the Border Patrol should be involved in
violence. Their role is administrative. Individuals should not
be killed just because they are trying to cross the border to
for you Ed! So if the Border Patrol is not supposed to shoot to
kill, what are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to administer
the quotas on Mexican immigration? Maybe a bit of clubbing? Or tranquilizer
guns, such as are used on animals?
on immigration is akin to his position on virtually the entire spectrum
of political issues. It always takes the form: “Of course, I am
a libertarian, but…” Pick any issue, and you can fill in the blanks
yourself. “As a libertarian, I am of course in favor of ……………………..
However, we must understand that we are living in the real world.
In such a world, ……………………… would be too extreme,
would cause problems, suffering, and fail to fulfill expectations.
Therefore, much as I favor ……………………….. in the
abstract, in the meantime we must advocate ………………………..”
and here comes the sellout. The sellout, “realistic” position turns
out to be more or less what everyone else says, more precisely like
a middle-class liberal.
Power and the Environment
I have already
spelled out the nuclear power controversy at great length in the
Lib. Forum. Suffice it to elaborate here on two aspects of
this controversy: (a) the treachery and duplicity of the Clark/Crane
forces vix a vis the Publications Review Committee; and (b)
that nuclear power is only the tip of the environmentalist iceberg.
First, to carry
the story to its conclusion since our May-June 1980 issue (“Opportunism,
Nukes, and the Clark Campaign.”) When we left our story, Crane,
communications director for the Clark campaign, had issued an infamous
anti-nuclear brochure in which Clark endorsed the notorious anti-nuke
propagandist Gofman, and vice versa. This brochure had been issued
despite the fact that it had never been submitted to the campaign’s
Publications Review Committee, which was supposed to clear all publications
in advance. Furthermore, the brochure was issued in defiance of
the express unanimous directive of the Committee not to issue any
anti-nuke or Gofmanite propaganda, and despite the repeated assurances
of the campaign’s nominal director, Ray Cunningham, and of Clark
himself, that such a brochure would never be issued!
After the brochure
was- issued, intense pressure zeroed in on Clark, fortified by the
fact that frontlines broke the issue open (frontlines
has been the major force for truth in the libertarian movement).
At that point, Crane and his cats paw, Chris Hocker, the virtual
co-director of the campaign, gave one and all assurances that the
offending brochure was being withdrawn. Victory appeared to be ours,
but one of our members, highly knowledgeable in the ways of Crane
et al., sardonically commented: “I won’t believe they’ve withdrawn
the brochures until I see them burned at the Washington office.”
associate turned out, of course, to be right. For lo and behold!
at the August Students for a Libertarian Society convention in October,
what should turn up but our old friend the anti-nuke pamphlet, being
happily distributed by the SLS ruling clique at the Commoner-Clark
debate? In short, in the old but now we see to be highly revealing
phrase, if lying helps…
declared in their defense that “we couldn’t write letters to every
group withdrawing the pamphlet.” Why not?
In a massive
bit of rewriting of history (to put it at its kindliest), the Clark
people now maintain that the Publications Review Committee was not
supposed to have the final say on Clark literature, that we were
only supposed to be advisory, to express our input.
Who is right?
Or who is lying? Or, more charitably, who is “misspeaking”, to use
a word that came back from obsolescence under the Nixon-Agnew regime?
Well, the decisive point is that none of us would have joined such
a committee if we had thought it was going to be in a purely advisory
role. This has not been publicly revealed before, but the whole
point of forming the committee is that some of us, at the August
1979 convention, were worried about Crane’s potential for dominating
the campaign, and distorting libertarian principles in the course
of that control. It was to mollify, to soft-soap us, that Clark
and his handlers set up the Publications Review Committee, which
was explicitly designed to have the same role as the similarly named
committee long in force at the National Committee: namely, decision-making
rather than advisory. The members of the Committee were many of
the same people who had expressed such concerns about a future Crane-dominated
campaign. We would therefore never have accepted a purely advisory
role. But of course now we know, as the more realistic of us suspected
all along, that the function of the PRC was to soft-soap us and
baby us along until the election. To which we must all resolve:
nuclear power issue is only the tip of the environmentalist heresy
that Crane, Childs, Mueller and Co. have been toying with for a
couple of years. Not just nuclear radiation, but any radiation,
indeed anything which someone might think to be “pollution”, is
to be outlawed. All this, even at best, violates the fundamental
libertarian rule laid down a century ago by Benjamin R. Tucker:
When in doubt about whether some activity is aggressive, the answer
is laissez-faire. Let the person alone! Or, to apply venerable
Anglo-Saxon law, nothing should be considered aggressive or criminal
or tortious unless proven so beyond a reasonable doubt. Every person
must be assumed innocent until proven guilty.2
the Cranian imposition of environmental tyranny goes grotesquely
much farther than even the weak “preponderance of evidence “rule.
Sometimes, it seems that if A’s action could conceivably
or possibly harm B, then it should be outlawed. This, of course,
would outlaw the human race. Every person, for example, emits radiation;
from radiation, some other person might get a random
Yet Clark has
hinted that he, too, would go to the grotesque extremes of the Childs/Mueller
clique. In his Village Voice interview, Clark spoke with
great favor of the Environmental Protection Agency, asserting that
it was engaged in establishing property rights! Even if, some day,
libertarian courts might establish property rights in this area,
it is absurd and outlandish to claim that the current EPA is doing
anything of the kind. What it has been doing is crippling production,
raising costs, and imposing the life-style of upper-class liberals
on the rest of society.
his White Paper on Spending and Taxation, Clark keeps EPA and OSHA,
the tyrannical agency engaged in crippling small businesses everywhere
through idiotic regulations in the name of “safety.” Again, Clark,
in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, indicated that
he would keep EPA and OSHA, and even went so far as to suggest that
any action that might eventually give some one cancer should be
outlawed. Like smoking? Like going out in the sun? Like living?
OSHA is perhaps
the single most hated governmental agency across the country, certainly
among small business people. We could have picked up a lot of votes,
as well as followed libertarian principle, by launching a blistering
and radical attack on OSHA. Why didn’t we do it? Indeed, why have
we succumbed to the worst excesses of environmentalism? Clearly,
because middle-class N.Y. Times liberals love environmentalism
above all else, and we must suck up to them, mustn’t we?
and anti-nuke agitation are the liberals’ first love, ERA comes
in a close second. So naturally, ever attentive to their concerns,
and to the putative votes of N.Y. Times liberal females,
Clark has strongly supported ERA throughout the campaign.
It is ironic
that, in a campaign in which basic principles, and a term like “rights”
were to drop out completely from the Clark vocabulary, the only
place where “rights” was stressed was in an anti-libertarian manner.
The ERA is anti-libertarian for two basic reasons: (a) because “equal
rights” can just as well be equal tyranny as equal liberty; and
(b) because the courts would not construe such wording as “public”
or “government” action the way we would; and so they would enforce
this equal tyranny upon private groups and employers as well as
the government. The pro-ERA libertarians answer the first count
that “we” will fight to see that equality is equal liberty and not
tyranny. But that evades the point. The basic point is this: if
there is a draft, should women be drafted as well as men? The answer
must be no for every libertarian; just because half the youth population
is enslaved, is no reason for us (though it may be for egalitarians)
to call for enslaving the other half. It is no answer to say, with
the ERA advocates, that we’re against the draft altogether and must
fight against it. For this evades the crucial point: If there is
a draft of males, should women also be drafted? The ERA would
impose a Yes answer, that is, would impose female slavery. All genuine
libertarians must say No.
reply to the charge that in our present context public or governmental
would be construed to include private citizens, either denies this
outright or says that we must go only by how we would construe the
phrase. But this is absurd. As George Smith has pointed out: Suppose
that this were 1850, and some Senator introduces a Constitutional
amendment calling for the government to protect the absolute rights
of private property? Should we have shouted hosannahs, because the
phrases looked great? Certainly not, because if we were alert people,
we would realize that the courts would have interpreted such an
amendment by hauling back fugitive slaves from the North, since
slaves were then considered as “private property”. The analogy holds.
myself, and others wasted a great many man-hours last year arguing
with the Crane-Childs-Mueller clique about the principled libertarian
stand on nuclear power and ERA. We needn’t have wasted the time.
What we should have realized is that these gentry did not have the
slightest interest in discovering the libertarian position on any
particular issue and then upholding it. What they were interested
in was finding libertarian-sounding rationales for positions already
held by what they conceived to be “our constituency”: middle-class
New York Times-type liberals. Libscam!
We might recall
that in the dear dead days of the MacBride campaign of 1976, Roger
stuck closely to the triad of libertarian principles: free market
economy, civil liberties, non-intervention abroad. The Crane clique
might have been right that Roger showed less than full enthusiasm
for applying these libertarian principles to the gamut of specific
issues, but by God he never sold out on the principles themselves.
One of those
fundamental principles was civil liberties. What did Clark, in contrast,
have to say about civil liberties this year? The answer is Zilch.
Nada. Hardly once did civil liberties ever get mentioned. Perhaps
the Clark handlers will say that civil liberties are not “Presidential”.
Like hell. Like wiretapping, like rooting out “subversives”, like
COINTELPRO? At any rate, civil liberties dropped out of the campaign.
When asked about drugs — and of course the Federal government plays
a large role in drug enforcement — Clark would reply that he is
in favor of legalizing “soft” drugs: i.e. marijuana. Here, again,
was “gradualism” with a vengeance, for this sort of answer directly
implied that “hard” drugs, e.g. heroin, should remain outlawed.
Thereby not only abandoning principle, but failing to point out
a major cause of urban crime.
here for the Clark/Crane clique was simply this: everyone, even
middle-class liberals, is in favor of legalizing marijuana; hell,
most of them smoke it themselves. But heroin is a very different
story; it has the aura of the poor, the blacks, the ghetto, and
so heroin continues to be a definitely “out” rather than “in” drug
at the good grey New York Times. So therefore, we cannot
come out for its legalization. How embarrassing when Clark is trying
to be so Presidential!
resolved the heroin problem to his own satisfaction on nationwide
television: for heroin, we should adopt the British system. Sounds
good, because heroin there is legal, right? Wrong. Heroin is dispensed
gratis by licensed, socialized doctors to their certified addicts;
in every other situation, heroin, marijuana and all rules when they
are incorrect, since we believe in fusing crimes and other drugs
are ruthlessly stamped out by the police.
is Clark’s odious “libertarian” solution to the heroin question:
the taxpayer has to be coerced into paying for free heroin shots
for some addicts, while everyone else is heroin-freedom ruthlessly
stamped out! Another cause of Clark-Crane “gradualism” in action!
But how about
the draft, you might ask? Surely libertarians are solidly against
the draft, and Clark was adamant on this issue? Surely? Well, yes
and no. We can excuse the fact that it took a while in the campaign
for Clark to attack the draft as “slavery”; he finally did so. We
can also excuse his caution in not taking the possibly illegal step
of advocating resistance to the draft (although some ACLU lawyers
were bold enough to do so.) But then, like a bolt from the blue,
there was the incident of the lengthy Clark interview in Penthouse
November 1980. Here was unquestionably the strangest incident of
In the course
of a lengthy interview (in which precious little was said about
libertarian principle), Clark declared that, as a libertarian, he
would of course be against the draft if this were a perfectly free
world. However, since we live in a non-libertarian world (here it
comes again!) and since Russia has the draft, we have to be content
with a “gradual dismantling” of the draft.
The Clark handlers
have been claiming that it’s all a misprint. But look at the offending
passage carefully. It sure doesn’t read like a misprint, and if
“draft” were a typo for “defense” the passage wouldn’t have made
any sense. So, it doesn’t read like a misprint. Furthermore, they
can’t claim that the interviewer was hostile. The interviewer was
long-time libertarian Jim Davidson, who certainly wouldn’t have
deliberately distorted Clark’s words in a non-libertarian direction.
And besides, why didn’t Clark complain when the interview was in
galleys? No, if they want to convince us that some grisly error
occurred, let them get a copy of the taped interview and play it
for us… and make sure that there’s no 18- minute gap.
of gradual dismantling, a gradual “phase-out” (a favorite Clark
term throughout) of the draft, of course requires that the draft
be imposed now and then be phased out over how long? How
about 35 years, the same arbitrary numbers game as in the Social
are under the impression that, at least on foreign policy, Clark
stuck to the LP platform position of nonintervention. It is true
that the sellout here was proportionately less than in other areas;
but the reason, of course, is that New York Times liberals
are pretty dovish themselves. But very, very moderately dovish.
And therein lies the rub.
policy pronouncements, supported by his White Paper on Foreign and
Military Policy, abandoned a principled policy of non-intervention.
There is nowhere a hint that the reason for our policy of non-intervention
is to avoid the high crime of mass murder; principles, rights, mass
murder all dropped out here just as they did in the rest of the
Clark campaign. Instead, we had a tough, “realistic” Ravenalian
analysis (not a coincidence, since Professor Earl Ravenal was the
author of the White Paper) which reads like a left-liberal counterpart
of the Hudson Institute; the discussion is all on throw-weights,
triads, diads, etc., and the reason given for a foreign policy of
non-intervention is that nowadays West Germany and Japan
are strong enough to pay for their own defense, so why should we
pay for it? All this is fine and correct, as far as it goes, but
for a Libertarian presidential campaign, it scarcely goes far enough.
Non-intervention is a principled position deriving from the nature
of States and the avoidance of mass murder; whether or not West
Germany or Japan are strong is irrelevant to the principle. Thus,
the Clark/Ravenal position implies, say, that in the 1940s and 1950s,
when West Germany and Japan were weak, the United States should
have then paid for their defense. Indeed. Clark has said as much
during the campaign. Thus, the search for utility and “practicality”,
what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism”, abandons libertarian
principle and undermines the policy of non-intervention.
Clark, during the campaign. Thus, the search for utility and “practicality”,
what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism”, abandons libertarian
principle and undermines the policy of non-intervention.
Clark, during the campaign, had the gall to suddenly expand the
American defense perimeter to include Canada and Mexico. As Clark
demagogically put it, “We shouldn’t wait for them to get to Toronto
before we defend Detroit.” So if we are to abandon a principles
policy of non-intervention on behalf of the domino theory, why stop
at Toronto? Why not Saigon? And are we to defend Mexico despite
itself, yet not admit Mexicans into the U.S.?
And even this
utilitarian non-intervention is, like everything else, to be “phased
in” gradually. We are only to pull our troops out of NATO gradually.
On the Iran
question, Clark was no more steadfast or principled than the major
politicos. Denying the right of asylum, he first declared that the
Shah should not have been admitted into the country; later. However,
Clark opined that the crackpot Iran rescue mission was within the
“outer limits” of permissible intervention!
Clark, in summing up his military policy, used the phrase: “a strong
national defense.” This phrase is, of course, a code word for the
militarists and the war hawks, and should not have been used. What’s
wrong with “adequate” national defense, such as is used in our platform?
Also, Clark was silent on another key plank in our military platform:
the search for mutual complete and general disarmament down to police
levels. The nuclear threat hangs over the human race; why didn’t
Clark launch a great crusade to try to remove that threat? Instead,
it’s “strong national defense,” and West Germany and Japan are strong
enough to pay for their own defense. It is to such a dismal status
that the noble policy of anti-war, anti-foreign intervention, and
anti-militarism has been reduced!
the Clark campaign, libertarian principle was traduced and abandoned
in a quest for media respectability and votes. Thus, Clark repeatedly
defined libertarianism as a belief that everyone should be allowed
to keep “more” of their own money. Well, well! How much more?
By what standard? How about all of their own money, Ed? As
Jarret Wollstein records, the worst single example of this sellout
gradualism was David Koch’s definition of the three “great principles”
of liberalism at the disastrous Alternative ’80 telethon (for more,
see below): “lower taxes, less intervention into the
affairs of other countries, and less interference with people’s
personal lives.” (Jarret B. Wollstein, “The Clark Campaign” The
Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, Individual Liberty, November
1980, p. 4.) The three great principles are, of course: no
taxes, no intervention, and no interference. In this
way, as Wollstein puts it, we are presented with an “ugly and dishonest
trivialization of radical and revolutionary principles of libertarianism.”
Wollstein concludes his analysis: “Clark has in fact succeeded in
running a campaign under the banner of the ‘Party of Principle,’
without clearly enunciating a single fundamental principle. He gives
lip services to liberty, but never mentions the concept of inalienable
individual rights. He talks about ‘non-interventionist foreign policy,’
but never defines just what this consists of. He opposes ‘high taxes,’
but never identifies taxation as theft.”
“In the long run the battle for liberty will be won or lost based
on the strength of our principles and the courage of those who advocate
them. It is both philosophically dishonest and tactically mistaken
for professed advocates of libertarian to abandon forthright statement
of principles in the name of pragmatism.” (Wollstein, pp. 4-6.)
Reagan Was Better
A minimal responsibility
of any Libertarian candidate is not to let himself be outflanked
by any other group or candidate; he should be ahead of, not behind,
any other group in his libertarianism. We saw above that we should
never have been outflanked on taxes by the Liberty Amendment people.
Similarly, Clark should never have been behind any of the other
presidential candidates. Yet there were several significant issues
in which moderate Conservative Ronald Reagan was substantially more
libertarian than Clark. (And this is not to deny the massive sellout
that occurred during the campaign of Reagan’s own commitment to
the free-market.) Let us set aside the tax cut, in which Clark certainly
did not place himself as perceivably more radical than Reagan. And
let us set aside Clark’s astounding “gradual dismantling of the
draft” position — in contrast to Reagan’s seeming opposition to
the draft — as some sort of unexplained fluke. There are several
other significant areas where Reagan was more libertarian than Clark.
(a) Clark was
ardently in favor of the statist ERA; Reagan, in an unexceptionable
statement, said he was for equal rights for women, but against government
as the enforcement arm of such rights. (b) Clark was in favor of
outlawing nuclear energy per se. Reagan was not. (c) Clark
was in favor of restricting Mexican immigration; Reagan called for
a Common Market with Mexico and Canada, which, at least presumptively,
seems to call for unrestricted immigration. (d) Clark was against
welfare cuts until we have achieved “full employment.” Reagan at
least favored eliminating the “welfare cheats” from the rolls. (e)
Clark timidly came out in favor of the promising idea of a “freeport”
or “urban enterprise zone” for Miami only; Reagan favored it for
“several” inner cities.
Smith’s Prophetic Satire
George H. Smith,
a brilliant young philosopher and a leader of the anti-party libertarians,
wrote a satire during the 1976 campaign that was published by anti-party
leader Sam Konkin. (George H. Smith, “Victory Speech of the Libertarian
Party President-Elect, 1984″ New Libertarian Weekly Supplement
(October 31, 1976, pp. 3ff.) As a pro-party person, I have to admit
that Smith’s projected “Victory Speech” is a chilling and dazzlingly
prophetic portrayal of the Clark campaign. It deserves quoting at
LP President is making his 1984 victory speech. He begins his sellout
thus: “I appear before you this evening to tell you of my vision
for this country and to unfold my plan for liberty… But let us
not forget that we live in the real world. We live in a world of
brute facts that cares nothing for our ideals. We must face the
fact that the devastation caused by political meddling has created
an extremely complicated situation. Many of our citizens depend
entirely on government jobs and handouts. As much as we desire liberty,
we cannot sacrifice these innocent people in a blind repeal of laws.”
The President goes on to say that the coercive laws can only be
whittled away gradually.
are those who criticize our gradualism. Some of our former comrades
who, before the purge of 1980, also referred to themselves as
‘libertarians,’ continue vociferously to campaign for the immediate
and total repeal of all unjust laws. In upholding gradual repeal,
they say, the Party must necessarily defend and enforce those
unjust laws that remain. This is true…So many people have become
dependent on government money and services, that to abolish them
outright would clearly lead to disorder, rioting, and starvation.
The good of society requires that such laws be phased out in increments,
step by step, while we prepare the country for freedom. This is
the wisdom of gradualism. “But still we are assailed by reckless
visionaries who scream for the immediate abolition of taxation
— the root, they say, of most government evil. Now, taxation is
wrong, of course; but to repeal all taxation would lead to the
collapse of national defense, police services, welfare, and many
other essential services. Thousands, perhaps millions, would die.
We are unwilling to sacrifice lives to the tyranny of false freedom,
in a country where people cannot as yet handle their freedom in
a proper manner. “Indeed, it was policy of gradualism that led
to our massive support by the American people.”
then goes on to point out how various groups of voters were convinced
to vote Libertarian: because they were told that all of their privileges:
Social Security; welfare; union privileges; taxi monopolies; victimless
crime law enforcement; whatever, that all of these would “be chiseled
away in painless steps”. To abolish such privileges would be “only
a long-term objective.”
The rest of
the satire is even more chilling, for then the “President” goes
on to say that any libertarian purists who insist on disobeying
these unjust laws or in not paying taxes must be cracked down on
by the “libertarian” government; otherwise that government would
be discredited in the eyes of the public. The “President” urges
the libertarians in his audience: “Become a model law abiding citizen
for the sake of gradualism, even if you personally disagree with
many of the current laws. Above all do not cheat on your taxes.
Remember that your tax dollars will now go for the cause of freedom…”
We are going
to have to have a mighty and thoroughgoing transformation of the
Libertarian Party if we are going to demonstrate that George Smith
and his fellow anti-party libertarians were not right in their qualms
about Libertarian political action. So far, their warnings have
been all too correct.
So much for
the grievous and systemic betrayals of principle. What was the point?
The goal was to maximize votes; the larger the vote totals, the
greater the “success” of the campaign was to be defined. How were
votes to be maximized? By getting the media to like us, to pay attention
to us, to give us wide and favorable coverage. Who are the media?
As everyone knows, they are moderate liberals, New York Times
— CBS liberals. If, then, we pretended to be New York Times-type
liberals, we would get favorable attention,
What was the
point of whoring after maximum votes? The idea was that if we got
a lot of votes, this would fool the media into thinking that we
were really a mighty mass movement, with several million dedicated
libertarians. Of course, we are not a mass movement; essentially
what we were in 1980 was half a dozen guys at the National Offices,
lots of money, and slick, Pepsi-type TV commercials. But a movement
cannot be created by trickery, cannot be achieved with mirrors.
the entire Grand Strategy of the campaign rested on lies and duplicity:
fooling the media, fooling the party members, fooling the public.
But a solid movement cannot be built on duplicity; it can only be
built by honesty and by educating the public in our libertarian
To an extent,
the narrow tactic worked: surely we got more national media attention
than we have ever gotten before. (Although, as Dave Nolan points
out, we did not get to tap the crucial national media.) But
so what? For to the extent that we fooled the media into giving
us attention we didn’t deserve, they will not be fooled again.
To some extent, the media fell for our propaganda that we would
get “several million” votes, become a major third party in 1980,
etc. But when the piddling vote totals came in, the media learned
the truth. The tipoff was Walter Cronkite’s contemptuous dismissal
of us on election night: “The libertarians thought they’d get millions
of votes, but they’re doing nothing.” Come 1984, and the media will
remember the floperoo of 1980; we can predict that media attention
will be much less in 1984. Even on whoring after the media, we muffed
we had gotten 2, 3, 5, 10 million votes. So what? What would these
votes have meant? Would any of the media have believed for one moment
that these millions of votes were votes for libertarian principles?
How, if these principles were carefully buried throughout the campaign?
What’s the point of getting millions of votes, for low-tax liberalism,
for some vague replica of Jack Kennedy? How does that build the
libertarian movement or spread the ideas of libertarianism?
How the media
regard us may be seen in the flap over the notorious Hocker TV commercial,
in which a bunch of national office employees and volunteers pretended
to be “men-in-the street” coming out for Clark. Apart from the general
meretriciousness of the commercial, former National LP Director
Chris Hocker, the No. 2 man of the Clark campaign, is pictured behind
the wheel of his car, saying: “I used to be for Anderson, but now
I’m for Clark…”
lie is defended by the Cranians as mere use of advertising techniques,
as simply doing what other parties have done. But most advertising
people I know believe in truthful advertising, and would consider
such an ad mendacious and unethical. But apart from that, it’s tacky.
Let’s put it this way: Crane and his henchmen have always prided
themselves as being “professionals”; in contrast to the rest of
us bumbling amateurs, they are bringing us competence, and major-party
professionalism. But what professional party would have,
say Jody Powell, acting as a “man-in-the-street” pretending to be
converted from Reagan to Carter?
For all its
slickness, the Hocker-commercial demonstrates that the Clark campaign
was tacky and sleazy, rather than professional. It also demonstrates
that there are damned few libertarians around, that we are not
a mass movement, or anything like it.
of the commercial is that the media didn’t care about the duplicitous
tactic. But that is just the point! The media would have roasted
Jody Powell and the Carter campaign if they had pulled such
a stunt. Why didn’t they roast us? Precisely because they didn’t
care, they didn’t care about us at all. We were at best a
pleasant diversion, and no real threat to anyone, much less the
major parties. And because they didn’t care, they didn’t bother
The media liked
us; we sucked up to them enough for that. But what reason did we
give them, or other New York Times liberals, to vote
for us? If they wanted “low tax liberalism,” they could support
John Anderson, or the major parties; at least they had a
chance to win. By aping the “respectable” parties and candidates,
Clark offered no real alternative; he didn’t give anyone a reason
to vote from him. If you’ve got no chance to win, you should at
least offer the voter a sharp alternative to their other, more realistic
choices. Clark failed to do so, and therefore his entire whoring
after-the liberal-media strategy was a disaster, qua strategy,
and apart from the gross betrayal of principle throughout the campaign.
most charming media articles on the LP during the campaign were
in two Marxist weeklies: In These Times, and the Guardian.
They were charming because, being Marxists, they took ideology seriously
and proceeded to engage in a fairly objective, though naturally
critical, depiction of Libertarian ideology and its variants. The
Guardian’s article (Sam Zuckerman, “Anarchy for the Rich”,
October 29, 1980, p.9) was particularly heart-warming because it
stressed our platform, and therefore thought that our campaign was
much more hard-core than it actually turned out to be.
The major purpose
of a political campaign by a Libertarian Party is surely not to
get into office or to amass votes; the major purpose is to educate
the public in libertarian principles, and in that way to build the
libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party as our spearhead
in the political realm. But the Clark campaign did not educate;
it mis-educated. Hiding and burying libertarian principle,
it instructed the voters that “libertarianism” was some sort of
Jack Kennedyish movement.
Even if we
had gotten several million votes, and even if these millions had
joined the LP. It would not have built the LP as a libertarian
party; for we would simply have been swamped by millions of Kennedyish
liberals, and Libertarianism would have been crushed in the party.
At least we
don’t have to worry about that; for there is no evidence that the
900,000 LP voters are going to join the LP or become libertarians.
The number of new LP voters are going to join LP members or libertarians
discovered by this large and highly expensive campaign is minuscule;
essentially, we have the same number of activists we had before.
After Clark’s famous 377,000 votes for governor of California, for
example, nothing at all was done to recruit these voters
into the movement or Party; in fact, nothing was done with the 90,000-odd
registration signatures we gathered to get us permanently on the
California ballot. It is doubtful, in fact, that the Clark/Crane
forces are particularly interested in building the Party
or the movement. Party members vote, and are therefore troublesome,
because they might vote “incorrectly”; how much easier to employ
half a dozen people and millions of dollars! They are far easier
to control. If you get more than a handful of people, they
might not be willing, in one of Crane’s favorite phrases, “to go
along with the program.”
the voters in libertarianism, you must run a principled campaign;
to build libertarian cadre, you must run a principled campaign.
An unprincipled campaign might get votes, it might fool people temporarily,
but it will mis-educate, and it will not build a movement. There
is no substitute for honest education and for patient, long-range
building of a movement and of a party. There are no short-cuts to
victory. That way lies only betrayal and defeat.
to everything else, the Clark campaign was run wildly, with all-out
spending and ineffective fund-raising (except of course from David
Koch.) After they had proclaimed loudly and repeatedly that the
campaign would not run up any debt, we now find that Clark/Hocker
et al have run up the gigantic debt of $300,000 some of which,
furthermore, they are trying to get the National Committee to assume.
In a magnificent
piece of truth-telling and investigative reporting. frontlines
(November, 1980) reports on the debt and the mismanagement of the
campaign. It reports that Dr. Dallas Cooley, Treasurer of the LP
and a high official of the Clark campaign, is worried about the
S200,000 deficit, which is 60 percent of the entire LP operating
budget for one year. “The LP is in trouble,” said Cooley,” and we
could have accomplished just about the same thing without going
into debt at all.”
disastrous was the highly touted Alternative ’80, a fund-raising
telethon put on at Los Angeles and distributed across the country.
frontlines quotes many hype comments at the event, such as
Roy Childs’ trumpeting that “with the kind of enthusiasm we see
here, we could raise a hell of a lot of money.” Indeed, the Clark
campaign put out a whopper of a press release the day after the
telethon (Sept. 29), proclaiming that it had raised $247,000. Mendacity,
mendacity! In actuality, the telethon cost us no less than
reports that the finance director of the Clark campaign, Dale Hogue,
later resigned his post, partly in disgust at Crane’s mismanagement.
Hogue points out that the telethon, as he originally had planned
it, would have raised a considerable amount of money, perhaps up
to $150,000, but that Crane had insisted on turning the telethon
into a costly “entertainment and media event.” The result: financial
Again, in real,
professional political parties, campaign committees are responsible
for their own debt; they can’t stick the Party with liability for
that debt. If the National Committee has any spunk or sense of fairness,
they will tell the Cranians to go clean up their own mess, to pay
for their own fiscal irresponsibility. And all libertarians should
tell them the same thing.
They Didn’t Even Get the Votes
“several million” votes, after trumpeting imminent major party status,
after a campaign of lies, evasions, and mendacity, the Clark/Crane
campaign fell flat on its face. They got only 1% of the vote.
What has the
C/C response been to the vote totals? Predictably, by rewriting
history, and by claiming that the campaign was, after all, a big
Part of the
success claim rests on the smug assertion that this is what
the Cranians had expected all along. Perhaps so: and their prescience
is supported by my information that the national campaign office
put on a betting pool, in which no one was more than several hundred
thousand votes off the mark! But that hardly gets the Cranians off
the hook. Quite the contrary. For it means that at the same time
they lied to the media to hype them, while they lied to the party
workers to fire up their enthusiasm and get financial support, they
knew all along that they would get less than a million votes!
And, what is
more, both Clark and Crane said many times publicly that less than
a million votes would mean failure. On their own terms, then, they
failed, and failed miserably.
It might be
said that, after all, we got more than four times the MacBride vote.
Sure, but at enormous financial expense. Furthermore, we slipped
badly in our strong states, such as California. Clark’s 1.7% of
the vote is a miserable flop compared to the 5.5% he got for governor
in 1978. In Alaska, we were promised that we would come in second,
and add three or four more state representatives. We added only
one, and garnered only 12% of the presidential vote. None of the
other races amounted to a hill of beans. The “victory” of Mary Shell
as Mayor of Bakersfield, California had better be soft-pedaled;
for this was a non-partisan race, and Miss Shell, though an LP member,
is in favor of outlawing marijuana and a hawkish foreign policy.
aspect of the campaign was the way that financial supporters were
conned. For example, the hype had it that Roberta Rhinehart had
a “good chance to win” a seat in the State Assembly of California
from Los Angeles; and on that basis, many California libertarians
were induced to kick in funds at the last minute. In reality, Ms.
Rhinehart got only 17% of the vote.
We must face
up to the hard facts: We are not going to be a third major party,
now or in the foreseeable future. The Cranians wailed that Anderson
spiked our guns, that he had, in the words of Cranian Youth Leader
Jeff Friedman in Libertarian Review, “stolen our constituency.”
But Anderson’s “constituency” is ours only if we try absurdly to
be more “low tax liberal” than he; as libertarians, our constituency
is not confined to New York Times liberals, but to anyone
and everyone ripped off and exploited by the State. Furthermore,
the Cranians had better reevaluate the future, because Anderson
is going to be around for a long time; he is already threatening
to build a real party and run again in 1984. And then there is Barry
Commoner’s Citizens Party. It is true that we beat him four to one,
but on the other hand, for an initial race, Commoner did better
than MacBride in 1976. He is not going to disappear either.
No, we had
better not try to barter principle for a lot of votes, for Quick
Victory. We’re not going to get all that many votes, and There Ain’t
No Such Thing as Quick Victory. (TANSTAQV).
What Is To Be Done?
campaign, the Cranians and most of the Partyarchy tried to silence
all criticisms of the campaign. The excuse was that the unity of
the campaign must not breached, that we need maximum votes, and
that it would be disloyal to the candidates to launch any public
criticism; that should wait until after the campaign. Now that the
campaign is over, however, the Cranians take a new tack: the campaign
is all ancient history, we did pretty well. So let’s forget the
whole thing and go onward and upward into the light.
No! That must
not be permitted to happen! Many party members throughout the country,
fed nothing but pap from a puff press, don’t even know what went
on. They must be informed, and right away. We must have a mighty
campaign of analysis, and of protest, throughout the country. The
party members must be aroused before it is too late, and before
our souls have been lost. We must not permit this infamy to happen
ever again. Honest libertarians will not stand for another
Presidential campaign like the one we have been through. Once was
a tragic mistake, twice would be intolerable.
We must expose
and denounce, not only to right the record of 1979-80, but also
that we may escape a similar fate in the future. We must form a
mighty popular coalition throughout the Party to make the necessary
changes. For this is not a question of “right” or “left”, “liberal”
or “conservative.” This is a fundamental question that cuts right
to the heart of our movement: of honesty versus duplicity, of principle
We must resolve
Never Again, and to do this we must make fundamental changes in
our Party. There must be structural changes, so that candidates
will no longer be able to get away with murder, and betray us and
the platform; all candidates must be accountable, day by day, to
the Party structure and the Party platform. State candidates must
be accountable to state parties, and national candidates to the
national party and its National Committee. And since opportunists
are real persons, and the betrayal was engineered by persons, we
must see to it that those persons are never again in a position
to run and to ruin a presidential campaign. In short, we must resolve:
Never Again Clark, Never Again Crane. $
- If reports
are correct, David Koch spent $2.1 million of his own money to
achieve 1% of the total vote. But to achieve victory, surely he
would have to spent at least as much per vote as did Jay Rockefeller
procuring his re-election victory in West Virginia this year:
a mere $50 per vote. At that rate, we figure that for a measly
$2 billion of his personal fortune, David could buy us victory
- Some of
our fuddy-duddy libertarian lawyers are horrified at this proposal.
They point out that the “reasonable doubt” standard only applies
to criminal law; in civil cases, in cases of torts, the weaker
“preponderance of the evidence” rule has applied. But there is
no reason that libertarians should advocate current legal rules
when they are incorrect, since we believe in fusing crimes and
torts anyway, we should apply the innocent-until-guilty rule to
tort as well as criminal cases.
N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School,
founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer of
the Mises Institute. He was
also editor — with Lew Rockwell — of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his literary