Nov 22, 2010

David Nolan, Founder of Libertarian Party, Passes Away: The Case for a Libertarian Political Party and the Myth of the Two-Party System

From Wes Benedict, at the Libertarian Party blog:
We have received news that David F. Nolan, a founder of the Libertarian Party, passed away this weekend. The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971 in Mr. Nolan's living room. He had remained active with the Libertarian Party including currently serving on the Libertarian National Committee and running for U.S. Senator from Arizona in the recent elections. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth. He will be dearly missed by the Libertarian Party and the liberty community. We'll have more information about David Nolan soon.
See also Independent Political ReportBallot Access News, and Uncovered Politics.  Uncovered Politics has re-published a seminal article by Nolan, entitled The Case for a Libertarian Political Party, from 1971.  In a central passage of the article, Nolan elaborates upon the idea that the "two-party system" is a myth:
The Myth of the Two-Party System
This statement may seem a little strong, at first reading – especially as most of us have been raised from first childhood to believe that the two-party system is The Best Of All Possible Arrangements.
We are told, for instance, that it is the hallmark of a free society – with the Soviet one-party system held up as its antithesis. Conversely, we are told that a multi-party system produces “chaos”, which in turn means loss of freedom for those persons so unfortunate as to live under such a system.
The fact of the matter, however, is that, logically speaking, if a one-party system is tyrannical, a two-party system is only one step removed from tyranny. And empirical evidence shows that citizens of a country which has a multi-party system can be just as free as we are here in the United States; such countries as Germany, France, and Australia, while hardly libertarian nirvanas, are not significantly more repressive than our own country – and Switzerland, which has a four-party system, is probably the least despotic of any of the world’s major nations.
The second popular argument against a multi-party system – that is produces “chaos” – is, from a libertarian viewpoint, actually an argument in its favor. The prospect of a coalition government, where any of a number of small parties can veto legislation, is far from horrifying to anyone who is inclined toward a limited-government (or no-government) philosophy.
A third argument, often brought to bear against anyone who advocates the establishment of a third party here in the United States, is that (historically speaking), third-party candidates “can’t win”. This argument has two basic flaws in it, however.
First, third-party candidates CAN win – especially in local or nonpartisan elections. Even at the national-government level, it happens occasionally. Third-party candidates have been elected to Congress more than one hundred times in this century, and there are two “third-party” Senators (Buckley and Byrd) in office at this very moment.
And second, “winning” (in the sense of electing someone to office) is not the only reason for having a political party – especially in the short term sense.
In fact, this very mania for “winning now” is one of the factors that makes both of our present major political parties unlikely vehicles for libertarianism. Both the Democrats and Republicans are so concerned with “winning” that they are almost rabidly hostile to the idea of candidates who would “rather be right than President”. A third party, in contrast, can take a long-range approach – running candidates with no intention of immediate victory, for the purpose of building up support and organization for future elections.

1 comment:

DLW said...

I doubt very much the third party candidate campaigns for major offices have built up much momentum for a better gov't.

What we really need is to use both winner-take-all and winner-doesn't-take-all elections.... so that even if there are two major parties, they both need to be more responsive to (preferably local) third party outsiders in how they govern.

The sad fact of the matter is that there are economies of scale in winning major offices and that coalition gov'ts have a hard time making serious changes in the ways things are done. The coalitions shift too easily.

Ultimately, the problem of order entails the need for both hierarchy and equality, continuity and change....