Baby Steps or Cold Turkey
Imagine the following scenario...
You are stranded on a desert island, a la the wonderful film Castaway. You are starving, and literally minutes from an agonizing death. Suddenly, two doors appear out of thin air, and you must choose one. If you choose Door A, there is a 75% chance there will be a ration of stale bread, Milk Duds, and lukewarm water behind that door (and a 25% chance of there being nothing). These food items will not satisfy your thirst and hunger, as you will still be very uncomfortable. But it will be enough to keep you alert and avoiding death, and would provide you enough time while you wait for help to arrive. Behind Door B, there is a 15% chance of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, juice, milk, ice water, and a soft mattress and pillow. Ample supplies to keep you satisfied and strong. Which door do you choose?
I often wonder about the Libertarian Party, the US political organization formed in 1971 whose platform closely matches many of our readers' and contributors' ideals. It's also a party that often has a self-image problem and, sometimes, unsure of what it wants to be: Do they want to maintain a 'purist' platform, or water itself down into a relative moderation, drawing more voters into its fray?*
Libertarians pride themselves on being the Party of Principle, a party consistent in its viewpoints. On the surface, this appears to be supported by Michael Badnarik, the just-announced party candidate for the 2004 presidency. In a sense, one can say Michael is pure in his ideology, as he literally promises to blow up a (vacant) UN building upon being sworn in the Oval Office, indict IRS officials on criminal charges, and declare the Second Amendment as his one "hot button" (Frankly, while I could relate to his position, I could think of hotter buttons to chat about at the office water cooler than selling over-the-counter AK-47s without bothersome background checks).
Badnarik's positions would certainly appeal to those of us with a strong belief in individualism along with the natural suspicion of government. But at the risk of suggesting an option that may be deemed a "sell-out", would a lightened version of the LP platform be a better direction for the party to pursue? Issues about Bush's outspending his predecessors, the various embargos and tariffs that prohibit free trade, red tape on new health care medicines, FCC media censorship, abusive eminent domain, and relieving one's tax burden would seem to grab hold of 'mainstream' hearts and minds more than bravado talk of razing UN buildings and jailing tax guys.
Let's look at two hypothetical candidates:
LP Platform Uno proposes a low tax burden, fiscal responsibility, minimal foreign adventurism, loosening of immigration standards, greater school choice, school vouchers, and legalization of marijuana. Platform Uno gains a much significantly higher number of political offices and influence throughout the country, and even ruptures the very fabric of the GOP's space-time continuum, and forces the GOP to re-think their newfound Socialism Lite policies. This is stale bread and milk duds, but better than dying of starvation under socialism.
LP Platform Dos proposes an abolishment of taxes, wipes out nearly every federal agency acronym, drops the US borders in favor of the unlimited free flow of immigration, and legalization of all drugs under the sun. Platform Dos, while proposing the taste of fresh fruit and tasty meat, is too so-called 'radical and scary' for the masses, is written off (unfairly or not), and doesn't register a blip on the national mindset's radar. Meanwhile, the GOP goes along its merry way to become One with the liberal Democrats, as the last vestibule of individualism has been branded too 'out there'. It may not be radical or 'out there', but this sort of massive abrupt shift won't win many elections in our lifetimes.
Again, at the risk of choosing the sell-out path, is Platform Uno the necessary path to begin the process of 'baby steps' to pure libertarianism? Is "something better than nothing", so to speak? There are certainly politicians who do fit into the Platform Uno, being called, or calling themselves, the rather clich?d social-liberal/fiscal-conservative label. Does the LP become the S-L/F-C based party, or do they stick to their guns (no pun intended), staying true and hard to its unwavering principles?
I know my personal preference may somewhat contradict others' opinions who read and post here and on other blogs, but I tend to lean toward baby steps. I'd prefer to eat the stale bread and Milk Duds in hope that this is the prelude to even better food ahead.
(* - I do also realize that many Libertarians will find this entire essay bunk to begin with, as they do not recognize any political party or participate in voting due to an abhorrence to majority-rule democracy and the governing system as a whole)