Mr. Colborne saw our discussion on IPR regarding Brett Pojunis, LP of Nevada’s current chair and candidate for the chairmanship of the Libertarian National Committee, rejecting the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). I asked in a comment if this was a recent development, and David contacted me with some information. He wrote this proposal, which has very recently been passed.
David Colborne is currently Northern Regional Representative to the Libertarian Party of Nevada.
Regarding the proposal, I put in language in it to explain what we were trying to accomplish and why:
Currently there is no benefit to registering to vote as a Libertarian in Nevada, and several drawbacks – among them, Libertarian-registered voters in Nevada are ineligible for participating in Republican or Democratic caucuses or primaries. By allowing any Libertarian-registered voter to choose their candidates for partisan office, the Libertarian Party will finally achieve competitive parity with the major parties in Nevada. Additionally, by striking the 30 day voter registration requirement and the requirement to become a member of the national LP, this will allow LPN candidates to bring excited supporters to our conventions, have them register (or update their registration) at the convention door, support their favorite candidate, and become a productive part of the nomination process. At the same time, though, the LPN still wants to encourage members to become further engaged in the LPN, either by donating labor or money to the Party. To that end, certain Party business can be restricted to dues-paying members -those who have paid their dues either in money or sweat equity. This business can include serving in a leadership capacity, choosing Party leadership, shaping the Party’s governing documents, creating county affiliates, serving as representatives for the Party in the National Convention, and so forth.
Expanding on the above a bit, there were several problems we wanted to solve:
Convincing people to register as a Libertarian Party voter in Nevada was an uphill battle because, outside of certain psychological benefits, there was really no point in doing so. We considered LP Oregon’s example of using voter registration as a criteria for membership, noted that the Party up there did not, in fact, collapse, and decided we could safely offer the same benefits to registered LP voters that the GOP and Democrats offer to theirs – namely, the ability to choose their local and statewide candidates.
We also noted that there are people who might want to support LP Nevada but, for various reasons, might feel uncomfortable supporting the national LP. Given that it’s possible to support the national LP without supporting any state affiliates, we decided that forcing LP Nevada members to support another organization that they might be less comfortable supporting was inappropriate, especially given LP Oregon’s recent issues.
At the same time, we also wanted to reward those that assisted LP Nevada. To that end, we increased our dues from $25/year to $60/year but also provided an in-kind donation path so that those without money could still participate and lead LP Nevada – all they have to do is make a few phone calls or walk a few precincts. This further lowers the barriers of entry into LP Nevada.
As for the pledge, many of us have had several issues with it for a number of years. First, many of us disagree that it is, in fact, a “non-aggression pledge” or that it reflects the Non-Aggression Principle. For example, let’s say someone who has signed the pledge is pulled over by a police officer and given a speeding ticket. Following a particularly shallow understanding of the concepts behind the pledge, one could argue that the police officer “initiated aggression” – therefore, all aggression in response to that initiated aggression is morally acceptable. Want to kill the police officer? Well, they initiated aggression, so why not? Blow up the police station? Well, their organization initiated aggression, so why not? Kill the police officer’s family? Well, the police officer is a product of the cultural norms and traditions passed on to that officer, and that officer was clearly conditioned to view initiating aggression as morally acceptable, so I’m within my moral rights under the pledge to respond with any and all aggression needed to stop the aggression that was initiated with me. If I only kill the officer, they will just be replaced by additional officers, after all, so I better strike decisively at the source.
Call me unprincipled, but, if a principle can be twisted to exterminate entire families, that’s not a principle I’m interested in subscribing to.
At the same time, if we take a more serious and morally constricting interpretation of the pledge, what happens if a Libertarian Party candidate gets elected? As any self-respecting anarchist will tell you, casting a vote is aggression – you’re using your electoral power to counter someone else’s political power. If a Libertarian is elected to public office, it doesn’t matter if they’re elected 51-49 (or 34-33-33) or 99-1, there will be at least one person they nominally represent that won’t subscribe to their political ideals; yet, I think everyone here would expect – no, demand! – that a Libertarian public office holder would use aggression (the vote) to install a low- or no-government platform in their jurisdiction. This would arguably be a violation of the very pledge that we used to require all candidates to sign before we let them run for public office, yet if they didn’t violate that pledge, they’d be completely ineffective once elected.
In short, either the pledge does far too much or far too little, depending on how you read it – so why should anyone sign it or agree to it?
That’s why we removed the pledge from our membership requirements. If you believe the Non-Aggression Principle is the foundation of Libertarian philosophy (a position that’s open to debate, even among libertarians), the pledge doesn’t accomplish any of your goals. If you don’t believe the Non-Aggression Principle is the foundation of Libertarian philosophy (perhaps you prefer Consequentialism – the belief that Libertarian philosophy, when practiced, produces the best outcomes – or self-ownership), the pledge is an incoherent, contradictory mess. Either way, we believe requiring members to sign or otherwise signal agreement to the pledge extracts far more value than it provides to the Libertarian Party of Nevada.