Crowd-Sourcing The California Libertarian Newsletter

Libertarians advocate voluntary, decentralized, self-organizing solutions to problems that other people think require centralized top-down control of aggregated equal contributions from everyone thought to benefit from the solution.  The Libertarian Party of California had in recent years been spending over $20K/yr in members’ dues (including over $4K/yr for editing and as much as $8K/yr for graphical layout) to communicate once a month with the ~1300 recipients of its newsletter California Freedom. The LPCA leadership has been cutting those costs, but not fast enough to avoid suspending the print newsletter last week while they seek more cost-effective arrangements. In response, California Libertarians today unveiled a volunteer-organized online complement to California Freedom.  CalFreedom.net says its mission is

to help the Libertarian Party unite all California voters who seek both more personal liberty and more economic liberty behind the choices that will most move public policy in a libertarian direction. It will provide an informative and lively blend of political news, policy analysis, and civil discussion. It will focus on:
  • California events, rather than national.
  • Externally oriented politics, not internal debate.
  • Our successes, rather than our disappointments.
  • Libertarian analysis of positions that resonate with California voters who want more freedom.
  • Practical guidance on winning elections and changing public policy.
The site will cover the same ground as the LPCA’s printed California Freedom newsletter, but will be more timely, more comprehensive, and more engaging.  Past contributors to California Freedom are welcome to publish content here that aligns with the editorial mission.  Just as with the printed newsletter, nothing on this site constitutes an officially-adopted statement of the Libertarian Party unless so indicated.

The site’s editor is Brian Holtz, who was an unpaid contributing editor for California Freedom from 2006 to 2007, and served on the LPCA Executive Committee from 2007 to 2009. He has been developing the project for several months, but the final impetus came in the following Oct. 12 email from the LPCA Newsletter Chair:

Dear California Freedom Subscriber:

We’ve suspended publication of our state Party’s newsletter, California Freedom, until we implement more cost-effective arrangements for its publication.

The Party’s Executive Committee has authorized research into changing our newsletter so that it remains a high-quality publication with much lower publication costs.

Until we are ready to resume publication, subscribers are welcome to contact Beau Cain at 818-782-8400 or office@ca.lp.org for updates on the state Party’s news service.

We regret the inconvenience to you, our faithful subscribers, especially at a time when our Party is working hard to take great advantage of the current political climate. We will notify you of our new news publication as soon as it is ready to be implemented.

In the meantime, we invite you to subscribe to our free online event announcement service, which will send notices and reminders of upcoming California LP events only a few times each month. You can subscribe to this e-mail announcement service in the lower left corner of our Party’s home page, or by clicking this link.

24 thoughts on “Crowd-Sourcing The California Libertarian Newsletter

  1. Don Lake, late at night

    As a non Lib with Libertarian stripes whom has tried [usually in vain] to work with West Coast Libs, I believe the biggest prob with the news letter was it’s emphasis on philosophy rather than real world issues.

    I must agree, that ONCE AGAIN I am criticized by party loyalists [of a derisive nature] of various sins only to see my concerns [see bullet items above] spot lighted by the very folks whom earlier derided my attitude, person, parentage, IQ and right to breath the same air!

    Libertarians are some of their own worst enemies. Here’s to the real world of human concerns rather than the on going, nit picking, philosophic debating society. Told ya so, years ago!

  2. Brian Holtz Post author

    Don, I’m curious who are these “very folks” in the LPCA who derided your parentage and right to breath. That kind of behavior deserves specific public shaming rather than elliptical vague accusations.

    Note that the mission statement above is an almost verbatim copy of the 2005 California Freedom mission statement. One problem with a printed newsletter is that its space constraints invariably amplify the impact of the editor’s interests/obsessions. Space is not a problem at CalFreedom.net, so this should be much less of an problem than it may have been in the printed newsletter.

    I do think civil and constructive philosophical debate has its place. As Keynes said: The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

    However, a party newsletter should be more outwardly-focused than inward. The best way for Libertarians to get their philosophizing into this new forum is to get their philosophizing in front of a non-libertarian audience in California. CalFreedom will gladly cover such outreach efforts.

  3. Don Lake, late at night

    Brian Holtz // Oct 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm:

    Painting with a broad brush:

    Libs gripe about large government. The GOP, whom I literally hate, [Fed inmate, U of Misery alum, and former Congress Person Puke Cunningham] makes a high profile stab at privatizing socialist Social Security. The Lib silence was deafening!

    Smaller Government ?????? Let’s start with the worst statast programs, veterans issues. The Lib silence ……

    Got a spare HOUR ??????

    donlake@ymail.com

    619.420.0209

  4. Ralph Swanson

    The FLLIB pioneered the same thing for several years, and recently unveiled a new blog site focusing on wins. It’s a movement organ that publishes official news of Libertarian parties in Florida. We’re also “back-publishing” past stories so it works as a training mechanism as well.

    We’re discussing re-starting the paper letter as that tracks getting new supporters better.

    http://www.floridaliberty.com/

    Good luck!

  5. Don Lake, late at night

    Brian Holtz // Oct 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm:

    Painting with a broad brush:

    ‘I’ve got a moment. Richard Rider, 6 foot 2 inches of human sand paper. ‘Lord help me from my enemies, but t’is my ‘friends’ that I worry about”

    When I mentioned that LPCa and LP San Diego needed to reasonably reach out to non Libs and or those Libs that were fed up with the debating society, he mentioned that [mid 1990s] were in good shape. [And this is the county chair!]

    Local party loyalists revere ‘Mister San Diego Libertarians’! MILLIONS of Southern Californians think the guy, especially if they have had contact, is a semi total jerk!

  6. Don Lake, late at night

    ah62 // Oct 20, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Why is this not on the CA LP website? We need less fragmentation, not more…….

    “No, no, no. Everything Libertarian is just dandy! Don’t you be gettin’ a reputation as a complainer, no matter how factual you are!”

  7. Aroundtheblockafewtimes

    After more than 35 years, only 1,300 subscribers? Then again, this is about 10% of the total national membership. With it on-line, maybe they can afford to e-mail it out to former members and registered Libs to try and revitalize the party.

  8. Ralph Swanson

    @10–Good point on the e-mailing, and I suspect they already have that in mind. Some rambling thoughts below. Hope you enjoy.

    Ralph

    We’ve been doing it in Fl but the logistics are very challenging, starting with the fact that registered Libertarian info does not give e-mail and (in FL at least) only recently phone numbers for some…after considerable Lib prodding. Also, context, compare: 1,300 for this type of narrow interest newsletter is very impressive, particularly staffed by basically volunteers, so you go, California, girl.

    I’d like to address this “Libs are failures, after 35 years, you’ve only done X!!!” meme. People who say this in my experience generally have no idea of a) LP goals, and b) LP environment at the time. For example, young people today live in a world with growing 3rd party registration, easy communication including internationally, 20% + Libertarian-receptive public, and growing ease of political participation. The LP and the movement essentially created or catalyzed these things in the last 36 years in many unsung battles. Critics want to see what the LP and the movement have done so far? Look around you.

    These types of thing had to happen first before a strong focus on getting people in office beyond piloting projects. I would say the first 12 years were focused on basic education (we started with exactly 5 people who really believed in what we were doing in 1970), lobbying, deregulation, and getting a minimal legal existence and skills; the 2nd 12 years in foreign affairs getting rid of the Communists and dictators abroad and battling off takeover attempts from extreme left and right alike, and expanding the education infrastructure like CATO, Advocates, LIO etc.; and the last in getting clear on best practices, consolidating legally, and developing skill sets. Right now the political movement is struggling to organize its materials and set and carry out goals.

    A lot of people in the LP still don’t get the changes (the Greens are going through a similar saga). In Florida my affiliate, Pinellas, is getting crucified because on no budget it (Gasp!) set goals, is thus getting a lot of people in local office (2/3rds the State total) with a focus on advisory boards , is very active in coalitions, and the strict Libs who run it who make Rothbard look like a Red (like me) also welcome quasi-Libs who work hard. But to people who think we should be raising zillions for any candidate who claims to be a Libertarian and think effectiveness=numbers alone, this next step in libertarianism is too much. I see the new California Freedom has a big emphasis on wins, and it may soon find that the real divide is not between prags and purists, who are two sides of the same coiun in my book, but people who get the job done and those who have no clue. The many “Libs” who are convinced we need a moderate message won’t welcome some Lib in public office who’s forging ahead and getting things implemented however modestly.

    Back to my affiliate, the send-us-money so we-can-fail-running-fringe-candidates crowd, combined with the usual moles, naturally hates that. The state party acually just tried to dissolve the affiliate and set up a new one with, I kid you not, GOP members as the affiliate began an outreach with more materials than (almost) the rest of the US LP: to 50,000 (10%) of households (which makes circulation irrelevant). Give people Libertarian Literature for free with a link to our blog? (The nerve!)

    Other areas have similar tales of this internal stuff going on for years…my point is all this is bad enough trying to grow but also while you’re trying to get your registered or other list to send out a letter. I’m not up to problems in California LP, but I’m sure there are some tales to be told.

    But there’s more. As far as growth let me just add an administrative angle of the sort of thing we overcame or we’re just getting out from under. In Florida we didn’t have ballot fairness and legitimate existence until a few years ago after a three decade battle (and we predate the USLP!), which most of the national LP, often run in my view by right-wing mole kooks, opposed. The State Supreme Court actually called us a dangerous faction. It’s taken several iterarations since victory for the local and state DOE to even get procedures straight and agreed on (like a unified designator for “Libertarians” so we knew who are registereds even were, then running people by petition to force the state to keep the process fair for which effort we were called “GOP Moles” and “time-wasting losers who can’t run real candidates for election” by an LNC staff member) …undertsand the DOE wasn’t giving us trouble at that point, but now 3rd parties is all new to them, and they take time and dialogue to create process we can live with.

    In the 1970’s and 1980’s most of our time and effort was spent in communications in Florida, which was typical of state LP’s that were more than a few fans. We communicated by snail mail that took months to get basic data you now get in 10 seconds, a call to the next town was an expensive long distance call, printing a newsletter was incredibly expensive, there were no computers (I started the first one) to process the info, and we were in and out of court or spent weeks in dusty archives just to get basic information like who are registereds were, how to run for office by which forms, and where the appointive offices actually were. We met with legislators at great expense just to explain how the laws then blocked this thing that became the internet, cell phones, multiple cable channels, plus why they should care. (Senator Foghorn, 1978: “Bless they hahts they vote for us, but y’all mean NIGRAS using computahs in they homes? Y’all Libertarians ARE nuts! Wah don’t y’all get practical and run as Democrats for computahs in the schools by 2020? Teachus love dat.Not even Ma Bell wants this stuff. But no harm, I s’pose, in legalizing these extrah phone connections if it will shut y’all up. Wah, next y’all be asking for laws so people can put phones in they cars and pahkets without no gummint fees. Y’all moah persistent than the DAR, I sweah.) The papers noted it was easier to get a Libertarian in office in St Pete Russia than even find out the election forms in St Pete Florida.

    Florida is now considered a ballot access and direct democracy paradise compared to most states.

    Finally, getting back to the subsriber issue, 1,300 is like 14,000 for the whole US. The FLLIB stopped at 3,000, which is like 60,000 nationwide, but it was killing our staff. A lot of magazines would love that sort of circulation. (And now there’s a here’s-where-we’re-winning and you-can-help with our nifty sidebar links blog in CA? Great! Let’s see more!)

    LIBERTY has about 13,000 I think. REASON, which has money, a think tank, Drew Carey, and more, has maybe 40,000. Other magazines and newsletters are declining. So again, context.

    At that’s pretty much my thoughts for the month. I’ve long said that we must educate and what we must educate most on is our movement’s good work and the solutions already underway people can repeat. Seems like this is starting to spread, and I predict it will have its own momentum no one can stop. Now, thanks for reading but I’m 83 and have been fighting since 1939 when the big Lib issues were a world rights charter, inter-racial marriage, getting economic education to the citizen, re-legalizing gold, and legalizing co-ops and 30 year mortgages (our Lib newsletter at the time, run by Robert Heinlein, had 2 million subscribers) . They said we were nuts then too, particularly the guys in the White Hoods (Hey! We have 4 million members!) and Red Stars (Hey! We have our own major country!) and the Liberal Republican pragmatists (What? There were LIBERAL Re-what?).

    Time for lunch and my nap!

  9. Aroundtheblockafewtimes

    Ralph – interesting points, all. My point is that the Cal.LP (and probably Fla. as well) were all as strong 30 years ago as they are today. Cato, etc. etc. have made progress (not as much as one would like) but the LP seems to have stagnated at a certain level of activity which is much too low to be effective. “If we keep doing….” you know the saying about insanity.

  10. Brian Holtz Post author

    ATBAFT, nobody’s claiming that the levels of success for the LPCA/LPFL/LPUS are monotonically increasing. Ralph’s perspective is very inspiring, and I’d like to underscore the idea that the key to “revitalizing” (or heck, vitalizing) the LP is to connect it to the broader mainstream freedom movement. The LPCA has an email distribution list of around 5000, and putting California Freedom online is going to make it easier to engage them.

  11. Michael H. Wilson

    Whoops! I know that misspelling on my part above was pure accident, but there might be some hidden meaning to it 😉 Brian or Brain! I guess either one works.

  12. Brian Holtz Post author

    I’m no longer on the LPCA ExCom, so I can’t speak to when the print edition might be resumed. What I’ve been advocating is that our printing/mailing budget instead be used to send out postcards to a broader audience, with teaser headlines to draw them to our online news, and a plea for them to give us their email address.

  13. Ralph Swanson

    @12–Hey! Thanks for your kind comments. I understand your concerns. It’s good people care like you. I have these facts to share plus a few more comments. Then I’m shutting up.

    Ralph

    30 years ago was 1979. 3 years later was 1982.

    In 1982 the USLP had (local, state, national) some 3,000 members, and some 30 people in public office. It specifically created what is now CATO and LewRockwell to do what you praise…those are LP successes. Now it has about 100,000 active pledges and they’re recounting the people in office (my count last year was 120)but proved they can have hundreds in the early 2000’s if they set a mind to it. They do have a problem on LNC which to my mind is setting or at least disseminating goals and keeping out the kooks. That’s based on Nolan’s idea of an open party and in some states legal issues. I have no doubt they could get 3000 in various offices in 15 years with focus, and the movement in that direction is happening no matter what LNC does, which was part of its plan. LIO has started an effort worldwide to get people in appointive office created in consultation with the US LP, so US LP can as that progresses claim it played a key part. We’re setting up groups in every country. In 1982 we didn’t have parties or even clubs in every state.

    The LPF collapsed starting in 1979 after a right-wing infiltration. In 1982 I stepped in and began to grow it again. At that time after some work and hard verifying records (national claimed we had 1000 members) it had 30 members, charitably 150 registereds ( we were battling to keep them on the rolls), no one in office, and couldn’t easily or legally run people to even see its level of voter support, though our best estimate was 1%. A survey showed 5% of the population testing Libertarian oriented (tolerant, free-market), and we couldn’t even find our own supporters or communicate easily as I explained.

    Today? It today has 30 in office and 15,000 registereds, and gets 15% of the branded statewide vote, which is why I’m starting a PAC to push for MMP as the ACT did in NZ, and push for getting Libertarian policies in by Direct Democracy, which we basically have in Florida…thanks to the LP even with all its faults. Plus, instead of wandering around trying to find our own pledged supporters, we have people coming to us to inquire, join, or switch allegiance as sitting people in office. Over 20% test Libertarian-oriented now. I get lketters from the Elections people inviting us to monitor their operations. This didn’t happen by magic: there was a lot of thought, sweat and effort.

    So we are much stronger than 30 years ago. We cleared away a lot of problems, and part of that is we couldn’t even function in the way many people think of as normal (at least in Florida) until a few years ago. Sadly, many smaller states anmd even be ig ones like NY are struggling but they’re doing what must be done, starting with clearing away the ballot and other problems that keep them from even getting candidates in (and this greatly affects appointive, since a few elected helps build interest in appointments).

    Should the LP NOT have created think tanks, lobbied for de-regulation, helped the spread worldwide, and learned both the skills and created the legal infrastructure so a third party could function in appointments, elections, initiatives? Versus what? You would have done what? Unstated comparisons from demonstrably false data such as being as “strong” as 30 years ago? That may not be what you’re saying, but when people say that meme, it’s what a lot who were there or doing the work are hearing. Which is what I’m saying.

    The LP has been tremendously effective, but whether the present LP can build on that I’m not sure. (Anyone who thinks they can start with 5 people today and do better in 36 years starting with 1972 conditions has my blessing.) Someone will, of that I’m sure. What smart thing one fool does, another will.

    However, CALP history may be very different, and if you have some data there to share, I’m very interested. When I was last there in 1980 they had maybe 200 really active members working against some very vicious election laws and making quite a splash. I’ve read some disturbiung things on this blog. However, from a distance, and granted the usual hi-jinks, looking at what Brian has put together at CALIFORNIA FREEDOM, it looks like there has been a lot of progress in both the LP and the broader movement it incubated.

    But the USLP has to do something different, or more properly, new that it couldn’t do before (which is what I think a lot of people miss): Set goals with the states on people in public office (and long term goals for the Presidential races), spread direct democracy, get rid of the last restrictive ballot law hold-outs, and continue to aggressively spread the word. It has plans galore for these things approved and ready to go. I assume most folks in the LP trying to make them happen despite local unpleasantness as I described. I know my affiliate is. And again I think things like CALIFORNIA FREEDOM deserve every encouragement. Thanks!

    .

  14. Ralph Swanson

    @16–“printing/mailing budget instead be used to send out postcards to a broader audience, with teaser headlines to draw them to our online news, and a plea for them to give us their email address.”

    Brian, you may already know this, but the Postal Service, thanks in part to prodding from our Libs on advisory boards, now has a “post office at home” feature online where you can design, print and bulk mail postcards cheaper than ever. See: http://www.usps.com/createmail/premiumpostcard.htm
    as one starting point.

    We did a post card thing for the local Club similar to what you’re saying, I think, and it was very successful, lots of hits, phone calls, and volunteers after follow up. Data (off the top of my head):

    Averages (2 mailings after little contact for years):
    1000 cards to former subscribers, actives
    About 200 came to site and updated/got 100 phone/e-mail address
    40 phone calls
    5 good volunteers

    We got about half that to registereds alone.
    Mailing cost about $270 with post cards.

    Contributions paid for the mailing and then some. This was pre-crash.

    I think you’re right to bring this up based on our experience. Give it a whirl.

  15. Just an Observation

    “Florida is now considered a ballot access and direct democracy paradise compared to most states.”

    Curious, then, that the Libertarian Party of Florida has never fielded a candidate for any statewide office.

  16. Ralph Swanson

    Only curious to those who make assumptions. It made the decision to focus on local offices and change by initiative. In part this was too keep e.g. GOP moles out who screw around with growing third parties by getting in and running phony candidates. At this moment, GOP moles are disrupting the state party with such fringe candidates to block that strategy.

    The same is happening to the Florida Greens.

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