The Dallas Accord Is Dead

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Here Lies
the Dallas Accord
1974 Died: 2008

A few days
before the Denver convention to nominate the Libertarian Party presidential
candidate for 2008, it appears that the frequently-mentioned (though
not necessarily understood) Dallas Accord of 1974 is dead. Whether
a purging of the anarchists occurs or a new and improved understanding
replaces it is yet to be seen. In the hopes of the latter, I want
to offer my thoughts.

At the LP Convention
in Dallas, Texas in 1974, disagreement on whether police, courts,
and large-scale defense ought to remain government functions or
be provided on the free market threatened to derail hopes for libertarian
anarchists and minarchists to work together. Apparently at the behest
of members of the platform committee representing both viewpoints,
an informal agreement was made that, for the purpose of developing
the platform and party activities in general, the question of the
ultimate legitimacy of government need not be settled. Since then,
the Dallas Accord has frequently been cited to silence discussion
of these issues, even internally.

From a peak
that may have been above 30%, the percentage of LP members identifying
themselves as anarchists has been dropping steadily, and most guesses
place the anarchist proportion of the LP at between 10% and 15%
today. Among non-political libertarians, though, market anarchists
may dominate, and it is definitely true that the Libertarian Party
is unrepresentative of self-described libertarian authors and bloggers,
who are mostly anarchists. Frankly, it is frustrating to be one
of the party anarchists and to have one presidential candidate (who
wasn’t even an LP member at the convention in 2006, let alone 1974)
speak about “anarchists and us libertarians,” and to have a respected
long-time libertarian minarchist casually comment on the “incoherence”
of anarchism without feeling the need to elaborate. (If I may be
permitted my own rebuttal, the theory behind limited government
libertarianism is that free market capitalism is best protected
by a centrally-planned socialist monopoly, which seems to me to
have a coherence dilemma of its own.)

Even sillier,
a prominent member of the platform committee talks constantly about
anarchists controlling the platform prior to the Portland Massacre
of 2006 that deleted 80% of it, when it is quite clear that the
pre-demolition platform was a product of more than 30 years of voting
by delegates who were ALWAYS primarily minarchists. This has led
to a suspicion that some would like to see the anarchists leave
the LP completely, and I don’t believe that is either healthy for
the libertarian movement nor the intent of most minarchists, let
alone anarchists, in the party.

As I see it,
the Dallas Accord is dead, and it is time to reopen the discussion.
Especially in light of the Ron Paul Revolution and the expectation
that, after the September Republican convention, there will be an
enormous number of inspired young people who will see the Republican
Party is not their home and doesn’t want them, I believe we have
a great opportunity to reinvigorate the libertarian movement and
prepare for a major move in the direction of liberty in the near
future. At worst, the Ron Paul Revolution may be the Russian Revolution
of 1905, which didn’t topple the Czar, but did radicalize his opposition
and lead to his downfall a dozen years later. If the Libertarian
Party is in the midst of a bloody divorce in September, it will
not be that home, and might as well pack its bags and leave the

There is no
need for that. With sufficient goodwill and a more explicit and
workable agreement, the LP can be a useful vehicle for the future.
To be so, we need to abandon the idea that it is somehow divisive
to openly debate some of the most important elements of a free society,
including dispute resolution, law enforcement, and large-scale defense.
At the same time, those who represent the LP should honestly portray
the current consensus of the party, whatever it may be. For decades,
pro-life libertarians were willing to work in a party that was explicitly
pro-choice, and those of us who are anarchists can work in a party
that is explicitly minarchist, if that is the consensus.

One reason
I am supporting the Restore ’04
at the convention is that I want a comprehensive platform
which guides whoever might be the presidential and vice-presidential
candidates. I want a platform that is considered binding on the
nominee. I don’t want someone campaigning either to retain government
courts or to abolish government courts in the name of the LP so
long as members of the LP have not decided which position to adopt.
It is perfectly reasonable to expect anarchists to honor the coalition
status of the LP and the fact that it ISN’T a party dominated by

What has been
unfair is an imbalance that treats the Dallas Accord as one-sided,
obligating only anarchists not to discuss courts, police, and national
defense, but leaving minarchists free to speak their mind and to
openly campaign in favor of government-based services. I believe
that one reason LP members are far less likely to be anarchists
than non-LP libertarians is that LP publications and online discussions
do not discuss them. In the early 1980s, I was the publisher of
the official California Libertarian Party organ, Caliber,
and wanted to include debates on these issues, but was repeatedly
warned that this was a “violation of the Dallas Accord.” Oddly enough,
I heard this from anarchists in the LP as well as minarchists. Today,
market anarchist theory is being developed outside the LP, but those
in it remain, by and large, ignorant of this theory, and many hold
views just as uninformed as the broad public that thinks it is a
form of lawless chaos.

I don’t want
the LP coalition to end: I want it to thrive. I propose that 2008
be the year of the Denver Accord, and offer the following resolution:

  1. The Libertarian
    Party is committed to advancing the principle of non-aggression
    and a society based on mutual respect for life, liberty, and property.
  2. We support
    a comprehensive platform based on the current consensus of the
    party, to guide candidates, activists, and new members toward
    an understanding of the LP’s position and how it would apply to
    different areas.
  3. No idea
    is too dangerous to be discussed. Platform debates should be open
    and respectful, and include proposals related to courts, police,
    and defense, which may succeed or fail, but will educate all who
    participate. These debates should not be limited to conventions
    or to platform committee members, but be ongoing and supported
    by the official party, with official web sites and blogs allowing
    all to participate, and with platform committee members expected
    to moderate online discussions as part of their service between
  4. Candidates
    and activists speaking on behalf of the LP should select their
    themes from the platform, and design brochures, speeches, and
    press releases based on those issues where there is a party consensus.
    When asked questions in interviews and Q&A sessions on a matter
    on which the LP has no official position, or where the individual
    disagrees with the party position, they should respond with integrity,
    identifying the silence or disagreement of the party with their
    own position.

None of us
know it all (including the know-it-alls). Although I became a self-conscious
libertarian 30 years ago, I continue to learn and change some of
my positions (for example, 30 years ago I saw intellectual property
protection as essential, and now consider it to be a dangerous monopoly
privilege that should be abolished). I’m not done learning and changing,
I hope, and the LP must do a better job of encouraging its members
to learn and become better salespeople for liberty.

I believe LP-financed
sites to discuss platform issues should be open to non-members:
there are too many bright people in the movement who choose not
to participate in politics from whom party members can learn. Voting
on formal changes to the LP platform should, of course, be limited
to dues-paying members of the LP who have signed the non-aggression

The Accord
is Dead! Long Live the Accord!

12, 2008

Antman [send him mail] has
been a member of the Libertarian Party since 1979, was the leading
LP vote-recipient in the nation in 1982, and received the Karl Bray
award for libertarian activism.

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