Libertarian Alliance Statement on the Demise of the Libertarian Party

by Sean Gabb

Statement by the Libertarian Alliance
On the Demise of the Libertarian Party of the United Kingdom

I am writing on behalf of the Libertarian Alliance and of its Executive Committee, to express fraternal regrets at the demise, announced yesterday, of the Libertarian Party of the United Kingdom. Several of our friends were involved in the formation of the Libertarian Party, and we know that they worked hard to make their party a success. We sympathise with their natural disappointment over the failure of their efforts, but do urge them to form or to join other organisations, and to continue putting the libertarian case.

We would prefer to end our statement here. However, there is an obvious similarity of name between a libertarian party and the Libertarian Alliance. For the avoidance of doubt, therefore, we make these further statements:

First, the Libertarian Alliance was established in 1979, the Libertarian Party in 2007.

Second, at no time has any Officer of the Libertarian Alliance been an Officer of the Libertarian Party. Nor has the opposite been the case.

Third, while the ends of both have been the bringing about of a libertarian society, the means of each organisation have always been different. The Libertarian Party sought to achieve political power via the ballot box. The Libertarian Alliance has, during the past 32 years, been seeking to bring about a long term shift of ideology within the intellectual classes. There has been no necessary conflict between these chosen means. At the same time, they have been different, and sometimes in actual conflict.

Whatever its history, whatever its current prospects, no organisation is guaranteed a future. This being said, I declare that, failing some unexpected misfortune, the Libertarian Alliance will continue to put the case for liberty in its widest and most radical sense. There may or may not be another Libertarian Party. There is, and will be, the Libertarian Alliance.

31 responses to “Libertarian Alliance Statement on the Demise of the Libertarian Party

  1. Good that the party is gone. Now all the creative energy of these people can go into more productive areas. All work within the system is a waste of energy. I think it was Paul Goodman who said, if I were the esteblishment and wanted to get in control of an uprising libertarian movement, I would found a libertarian party. Sadly the establishment does not need to found a libertarian party at this point. But hopefully we will see some good projects coming from ex members of the party that will really challenge the establishment.

  2. Tim Carpenter

    Dear Sean,

    The Libertarian Party has had what could be described as a Mark Twain moment.

    Those announcing its demise had no authority to do so and it lives. We have been receiving support from within, without and ex., from members and donors who have heard of our determination to reform and maintain due process and transparency.

    We hope this will herald a deepening of fraternal interactions with the LA and its members (whom we fully understand might not want to touch party politics with an imperial length pole) and other Libertarian and Libertarian-leaning organisations within and without the UK.

    Tim Carpenter
    Policy Director and Leader Designate,
    The Libertarian Party

  3. Dear Tim,

    Whoever turns out to have full control over the Libertarian Party can count on the fraternal best wishes of the Libertarian Alliance. But, seen from the outside, things do not presently look good.


  4. UK Libertarians please get with it, and join the Independence Party. C’mon. You all agree with UKIP on 98% of the issues. Do you really want to spin your wheels on the other 2%.

    And I’d venture to say that some of that small area of disagreement is on foreign policy. But we US Libertarians are becomming more Hawkish with the onslaught of Radical Islamism, and strongly urge our UK compatriots to move in the same direction. We read across the pond the UK press, and to our astonishment, Muslims in East London are now vandalizing Bikini ads at bus stops for H&M stores. Not only is that a gross violation of property rights, but poses and enormous cultural threat to our sexual freedom.

    UK Libertarians please get with the program on fighting Islamo-Fascism. UKIP is moving in that direction, thankfully. We urge you all to do the same, and to help them have a consistently pro-liberty stance on other issues. Work from the inside!

    Eric Dondero, Founder
    Republican Liberty Caucus
    Fmr. Senior Aide, US Congressman Ron Paul 1997-2003

    Houston, Texas USA

  5. Many of us vote UKIP any way. However, the Libertarian Alliance is not a political party, and so has neither desire nor need to associate with any one political party.

  6. I voted UKIP at the last election and even emailed the candidate to thank him for standing. But to be honest, I couldn’t join them. Far too conservative for me.

    This really is the problem for me. I am a social liberal. I care more at a gut level about social than economic liberalism; maybe because I am always skint. But in a serious sense, I don’t believe that any economically liberal/social conservative movement is ideologically coherent, and that is why conservatives have lost the ideological battle.

    I may start a Libertine Alliance.

  7. Good luck with your Libertine Alliance. But I do think you fail to see the merits of a broadly conservative view of the world.

  8. Well Sean, my major problem with the idea of conservatism is it’s sort of last century’s progressivism, and that doesn’t seem to be much use to me. I remember you writing somewhere (sorry I cannot remember where) something to the effect that most of the people in UKIP just want to leave the EU so they can ban tits and bums on the telly without interference, and I am inclined to agree with that.

    It is simply no use to me as a philosophy.

  9. Ah, but conservatism is not the same as Conservatism.

  10. What’s the distinction in your view Sean?

  11. There is one, but I regret I am too shattered to say what it is.

  12. Don’t take it like that Sean. There’ll be other political parties. Chin up!

  13. I find nothing wrong with a broadly conservative view of the world – unfortunately, the Conservative party leadership does!

  14. Ian a conservative (small c) means supporting/advocating certain institutions and traditions that society needs to function and help individuals to acheive their full potential. For example the institution of marriage.

    Some conservatives support authoritarian measures to achieve this (the state) others (like me) support libertarian measures.

    Take marriage, the state monopoly on marriage has meant that it is far easier to walk out on a marriage than it it is to walk away from a car loan, now that the state supports no fault divorce.

    Now an authoritarian conservative might want to make the traditional marriage contract a state monopoly. But I want a seperation of marriage and state as I am perfectly trusting that such a result would favour traditional marriage contracts, which actually penalises the party that breaks the contract.

    I tend to contrast with the social liberal outlook which is pretty much sees all institutions, lifestyles and equally valid. They tend to tolerate anything that doesn’t harm others except a conservative who chooses to make distinctions.

  15. Ian a conservative (small c) means supporting/advocating certain institutions and traditions that society needs to function and help individuals to acheive their full potential.

    Well that’s the problem really. Everybody has a different idea of what institutions and traditions a society needs to function, what a person’s “full potential” is, and so on.

  16. I joined the Libertarian Party in 2009. Big mistake, because I’m entirely apolitical. And I did know that anyway beforehand. Politics is about sucking up to people, whereas I always tend unfortunately to do the opposite. But I also found that most of the members, although enthusiastic and well meaning seemed to be more conservative than libertarian in outlook anyway.

    I do think however that there could be a useful place for a political libertarian organisation despite the glaring contradictions that are inherent in such a project and work against it. Our society is unfortunately highly politicised and political parties tend to receive undue publicity as a consequence. Politicians are looked on as important people whose views need to be heard (!). A libertarian political party therefore has the potential to put across libertarian ideas through channels that would otherwise be untapped. Whatever activists may think, the idea of such a party ever actually taking in part in government will always be nonsensical. Whilst that might be the stated aim, the potential opportunity to educate the public is much more important. This is where the UKLP really fell down, because perhaps unsurprisingly its manifesto was fatally flawed. I’m referring of course to the laughable commitment to “intellectual property rights”. If there is anything which is fatally destructive of real property rights in material things (which underlies all libertarian thinking), it is IP. The operation of IP depends crucially on exerting control over other people’s property. Societies which would otherwise be relatively free are crippled economically by the operation of patents and copyrights. The patent system in particular has spawned a monster which is quite out of control. There is no evidence at all that creativity has ever been stifled if innovators and artists are denied the opportunity to exercise monopoly rights over their creations, but huge resources are squandered needlessly on the non-productive implementation and maintenance of such illusory rights. Perhaps just one example of the tragic consequences of modern IP is the GM crop business. Overtly, by incorporating genes into plants unnaturally, GM crops are supposed to increase production, reduce pesticide application, resist drought and be the answer to all the world’s ills. The reality is quite the opposite because not only do they fail in practice to achieve these apparently laudable objectives, but they act to enslave farmers worldwide to seed producers, which is their true unstated aim, and they often introduce new more serious problems which eclipse the ones they were originally claimed to solve. A new form of feudalism.

    So IMHO there is great potential for a libertarian party to do good by spreading the message, but only provided that message is not watered down and fatally flawed in the process. If a new UKLP insists on bowing to popular conventions over IP as the old one did in order to attempt to gain popularity then it might just as well call itself the NuConservative Party, for that is all it will be, and leave the field open for real libertarians.

  17. Your whole comment shows the unwisdom of a Libertarian Party. These differences can easily be accommodated within the Libertarian Alliance – because we aren’t seeking election, and don’t care if we are seen to disagree. The moment you have a party, you need a line. And, unless you are running the party, it may not be your line.

  18. Fortunately I have no intention of forming such a political party so I won’t ever have to attempt solve the problem you describe.

    Perhaps I need to add that I’m not suggesting in any way that artists and innovators shouldn’t be rewarded for their work, perish the thought, but simply that they shouldn’t depend on the collusion of the state in order to be paid. Patents and copyright involve such collusion. In the case of musicians, charging admission to live performances is an example of a means of earning a living which doesn’t depend on government intervention.

  19. All property rights involve the collusion of the State. A property “right” is an agreement between members of a society to define certain things as property, and to enforce that ownership.

    Georgists (“geolibertarians”) similarly argue that land should not be property. To them, it is not a “natural” property either. But you can say the same for all property. Even the property in your own body. The one unifying characteristic of all property types is that none of them have ever been absolute as we libertarians wish them to be. The State chooses what titles you may have in land. It may violate your body (or send it to war). It may take your goods. It may order you to provide, or deny you the chance to provide, services. There has never been an absolutely propertarian society. So to talk of one as natural and another as not is a defiance of the history of humanity. Nonetheless, the existence of the various qualified property rights defined by various societies has allowed markets to exist.

    In general, people tend to argue against a property right when they believe they will benefit from its redistribution. Socialists don’t want financial property. They think they will be wealthier if your money is taken and shared out to everyone, including themself. Thus, poor people tend to prefer violation of financial property.

    Georgists tend to be people who do not own land. They consider that the redistribution of land would thus benefit them.

    Anti-copyrightists tend to be people who do not own intellectual property, and thus consider that they would benefit from the redistribution of everybody else’s.

    In all these cases, the anti-propertarians ignore the basic fact of economics, which is that without property there is no market and no commerce. Without a market there are no prices, no incentives and thus no production. A naive redistributionist will say, “without property right restricting access, everyone will have as many Marvel Comics as they want”. But they do not realise that without property rights over the comics, there will be no Marvel to produce the comics. No way to fund their production. No wages for the writers and artists. Everyone will indeed get an equal share. Of zero.

    Feel free to abolish property. It has been tried. It is even possible to round up every kulak. But do not expect abundance. Expect shortage. Because that is what has happened every time it has been tried. There is only one impersonal system of interaction that works. It is called trade. And trade requires property.

  20. My own experience leads me more to the conclusion that the state spends its time violating property rights rather than creating them. In fact it seems to me to do little else of note. Perhaps your experience is different. I think we’ll have to disagree on that. I’m referring of course to real property rights in material things, not the fallacious idea you can have property rights in things which aren’t scarce and have no physical existence, i.e. abstractions.

  21. Intellectual property rights seem to have been most successfully used by the big corporations simply because they have the bucks to enforce them. Small guys don’t really stand much of a chance. I have had experience of this when working with the International Institute of Innovators and Inventors, Research and Development. (The founder, Don Pilkington, had a perverse sense of humour when it came to words.)
    However, without the ability to enforce intellectual property, if it exists, there is indeed reduced motivation to invent and discover.
    Having seen the hoops that inventors had to jump through to partially protect their ideas, and the vast expense, I decided that trying to bring a new product to the market is not really worth it unless you are very rich.
    Where does property begin and end, indeed.
    And at the end of the day does it just come down to power and Mao’s barrel of a gun?

  22. Have you seen Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michael Boldrin? It’s all here:

    It makes interesting reading, though to tell the truth he didn’t have to convince me of the case anyway, as is probably evident.

  23. I guess that’s what you’d call the utilitarian argument which could just as well be applied to getting all those idle aristocrats off their land?
    Or me in my house, if I don’t keep it fully utilised?
    Or car?

  24. I found your comment baffling John. Utilitarianism doesn’t come into this to my knowledge.

    The ownership of legitimately acquired property is the very cornerstone of libertarian theory and practice. But in order to make any sense of this we need to know what we mean by the concept of property, i.e. can just anything be property? I think for a long time there was some confusion over this, but for me at least Stephan Kinsella brilliantly got to the bottom of the issue and settled it pretty conclusively.

    The issue revolves around the question of whether something which has no physical existence, a thought, a melody, an invention, etc., can be regarded as property and treated in the same way as material possessions such as cars, houses, books, TVs, furniture, etc., and ultimately the most important form of private property which is our own bodiy. The reasoning behind Stephan’s conclusion that it can’t is explained at his web site:

    This is not a peripheral issue; I P, Intellectual Property rights (sic) are a huge shaping force in our society and daily becoming more significant.

    The problem with I P is it ultimately makes the ownership of real property untenable and so unavoidably drives a stake through the heart of the free society. Again Stephan makes it pretty clear why this is the case.

    I would say that one way I’ve seen people try to circumvent this dilemma is the non-aggression argument which for instance was trotted out by the LPUK as an excuse for supporting I P rights. The problem with this argument is that it depends on a tacit acceptance of the importance of material property. It simply is not possible to aggress against an abstraction such as an idea, concept, invention, whatever, without embodying that aggression in the form of interference with something existing in the real physical world. It simply ends up as a recognition of the primacy of real world property in contradistinction to abstractions.

  25. MWR-

    That’s the second time you’ve linked to something else that would take a long time to read. Kinsella’s website. A book. I suspect you’re trying to not present an argument you have to defend, instead falling back on argument from authority. If you’ve a good argument in favour of abolishing creative property, you should present it so we can discuss it rather than asking us to wade through books and websites.

    It is interesting to note that Kinsella claims IP over his work, as do mysteriously most anti-IP-ists. It comes with a list of conditions. We can use it, but must attribute it to him (why?) and most significantly, he does not waive his “moral rights”. Whatever argument he presents (you have not told us what it is, and I am not going to wade through the website looking for it) is somewhat abrogated by the simple fact that Kinsella recognises his work as a distinct object; the abstract is objectifiable and always has been. “England” is an abstract too, but we all agree on waht it is, where it is, and who owns it.

    All property rights are abstractions. You cannot declare one sort to be more concrete than another, a point I made above and which you ignored. As I pointed out, Georgists deny the right to make land into property (funnily enough for the exact opposite reason- it is too scarce). All one can do is, as a society, agree which arbitrary abstract properties will be respected. There have been all sorts. Some tribal societies would consider a family name property, for instance. They may declare some areas of land taboo to all. These things vary a lot.

    But you still have this problem which all libertarians should understand; if you want production, you need a market and, if you want a market, you need property rights. You can abolish those rights, but in so doing you abolish the market. And what we know from economics and history is that once you abolish the market, it doesn’t mean everybody gets what they want, it means that nobody gets what they want.

    I just watched the movie Thor. It cost $150 million to produce, according to wikipedia. That’s a lot of money. I would like an anti-propertarian to explain precisely why anyone is going to spend $150M on a movie if there is no market in which it can be sold. I might be a pessimist here, but I don’t think a Paypal tip jar is going to cover that. Do you?

  26. Michele Boldrin’s main opening point seems to be that the Industrial Revolution was held back 20 years because James Watt insisted on trying to patent protect his ideas. Which is a utilitarian argument and has nothing to do with whether he was right or wrong.
    I’m not sure what the correct position is.
    Kinsella says that ideas are not a scarce resource. That once they are out there they have no intrinsic scarcity value. Ideas are not property?
    That does not seem to be a moral argument. The abuse of the bright by the stupid?
    Much as the poor that Sean refers to want to liberate money, or the landless, the land.
    Perhaps the bright might then feel inclined to do an Atlas shrug and just shut up?
    And certainly with no financial return Ian’s movie maker will soon go bankrupt and make no more movies.

  27. It is intellectual property that is seen as having utilitarian benefits not the other way round! The argument that without I P innovation and authorship would be discouraged with all the outcomes attendant on that is a utilitarian argument. Unfortunately if you haven’t time to read Kinsella, e.g. his classic Against Intellectual Property, it’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick.

    I’m reluctant to summarise that piece because it covers all the relevant objections in a way no-one can do in a handful of words. But if you want a very short summary it boils down to the fact that I P rights have the consequence that the holder of the rights is thereby enabled to take control of the tangible property of their victims (my expression) and ultimately in effect becomes a part owner of their property to a greater or lesser degree. That simply cannot be justified in a property owning society.

    I have in fact put it very badly but that’s the best I can do in a couple of sentences. Much better to read the source material. Incidentally I see that Kevin Carson has a stirring piece on I P below on this very page. It’s titled: Intellectual Property is Murder. It’s fairly short.

  28. Okay, MWR, to say invention would be discouraged without IP, as with Bodrin’s point that the Industrial Revolution lost 20 years, is a utilitarian point of view. Or Carson’s point that it is murder.
    Kinsella, from the small amount I have read, does seem to argue the case more on the basis of what constitutes property.
    And what does indeed?

  29. Is pointing out, for instance, that living in a free society is infinitely better than living in a socialist hell-hole a case of making a utilitarian argument? Are we supposed to refrain from commenting on the bad outcomes resulting from current statist movements such the global climate fraud, or the intellectual property scam, for fear of being accused of being utilitarians? At that rate we will simply end up refraining from saying anything about the quality of life nowadays, or lack of it.

    If you only read snippets of these works you can easily get the wrong impression. IMO the essence of the argument against IP is that it is a cancer tirelessly gnawing away at the genuine institution of private property, and you cannot possibly get any more anti-libertarian than that. We live in a world increasingly dominated by digital technology, and that technology is already fatally, universally, infected with the IP bug, both in hardware and software. That is totally unnecessary, as are all IP projects. As I pointed out, and it’s worth repeating, the argument for IP is purely utilitarian, nothing more, and like all such arguments horribly mistaken.

    You finish by asking what constitute property. Off the top of my head, quick answer, it is material objects that we can legitimately claim title to, and which we are freely able to monopolise as a result. Kinsella goes into question of legitimate title at some length, more than I’ve possibly got time for.

    Is the world better off for the institution of private property? You bet!

  30. So property is only the physical stuff to which you can somehow make a ‘legitimate’ claim?
    Yes, that’s one way to work it.
    Otherwise your comment is just conflating my position on this, which is that I really don’t quite know how and where you draw the line. Or lines.

  31. Daz Pearce

    As a former member, still a supporter, if I can team up with the alliance in any way let us know. You are also encouraged to follow my new OutspokenRabbit blog