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N. Nathaniel Burdohan: ‘The Spork Principle and the Elephant in the Room’


Emailed to contact.ipr@gmail.com by N. Nathaniel Burdohan and posted for discussion. The views expressed are those of the original author. An earlier version of this article appears at summitlp.org.



I am glad the Libertarian Party has been gaining attention lately. More and more people are familiar with our existence and some of those are familiar with some of what we stand for. We offer our shelter to the politically homeless, of which there is no shortage, with a sensible blend of fiscal restraint and personal freedom. We are at a real turning point, if we can hold it together and maintain our integrity.

We definitely welcome disenfranchised Democrats and Republicans. In fact, recently we have seen a swelling rank of ex-Republicans joining our team. You must know, however, that the convictions we hold strongly only work if they are a package deal. You really have to subscribe to at least 90% of it, or it just won’t work, and thus becomes pointless, much like the other two parties. It’s something I like to call the “spork principle”, as in; you can take two essentially useful things, a spoon and a fork, and can combine them into something that is far less utilitarian, i.e. you cannot really eat soup with it any better than you can use it to spear a chunk of steak. The current two parties are where they are today because they take this spork approach to freedom and control, and you end up with something quite ineffective, like the El Camino or the Mullet. (No offense to our mullet-ed members, but seriously, the business in the front is hard to take seriously with that party in the back, commit already!)

So, if you are a former Democrat, dissolutioned with your old party and their lack of progress on things like the wars, drug policy, and civil liberty issues, but you still support the idea of nanny-state like personal safety laws, tighter regulations, and government intervention over private solutions to our current problems, we can definitely be allies on a lot of fronts, but this is not the party for you. The same can be said, but in inverse fashion, of ex Republicans; we can be allies on many issues, but if you don’t want to reign in our foreign interventionist policies, end our wasteful war on drugs and support equal freedom for all citizens, the message of small government and fiscal responsibility sort of ring hollow. Not to mention, no one seems to want to get serious about monetary policy!

I was in attendance to a speech recently, given by Wayne Allyn Root, a candidate for the chair of the LNC. The speech focused on public employees, taxes, and though it was not an official “elect me” speech, it did breathlessly trumpet the of successes and virtues of the ego-maniacal speaker. I was taken aback by the rapid fire used car salesman delivery, the talk of God in the context of Country, the talk of the wars being merely “peanuts”, and the idea of putting civil liberties on the back burner (during the Q&A). He seemed completely focused on about 50% of what we stand for, neglecting some pretty major stuff. He sounded like, well, Republican-Lite. It kind of makes me wonder how we got to the point where this guy is the great hope to so many in the party. Granted, we need someone with a bit of charisma. For far too long we have sat in the proverbial Denny’s, theorizing and it is fair to say that we may have ran a bit of a deficit in pragmatism. But, this guy?

I thought about this a bit, and I think I have at least some understanding of what is going on, and I cannot say that it is a good thing. As I mentioned above, we have welcomed many ex-Republicans, many of which have “seen the light” so to speak and left their political ills behind to embrace true liberty. Yet others really always were libertarian philosophically, and still miraculously garnered Republican support without ever having to dance the neoconservative shuffle. There are some, however, who have come to us because being a Republican has fallen out of political favor in recent times, and not because their beliefs are necessarily compatible with the Libertarian platform. They have brought a lot of baggage and old, die-hard bad habits with them. Too bad they forgot to bring their spines. (no shirt, no shoes, no backbone, no entry!) I cannot really blame them for their misguidance in regard to libertarianism though. There is plenty of misinformation out there, including one main psuedo-libertarian, a so-called “libertarian conservative” talking head. In fact, we have a few folks in our midst right now who were only too happy to support things like the Patriot Act only a short while ago. Kudos to them if they see the error in their ways, but for shame if this is some sort of shallow political maneuver.

This “conservative” populism is never the less taking hold. Maybe it’s because some do not remember what it was like for us during the Bush years, because they were Bush supporters. Maybe part of this situation comes from having come from a “winning team” so to speak, and not one that is used to taking the high road and slowly and ethically building a foundation. You hear a lot of the old “both sides are bad” rhetoric at the ever popular Tea Parties, with whom some Libertarians are trying to build a base. I totally agree with the “both sides are bad” statement, but you cannot follow that up with: “so vote Republican”. “God and Country” and “Democrats are killing America with the Socialism!!” are not part of our platform. I am very weary of any Libertarian who spends all of his or her time raving about Democrats, Obama and socialism while ignoring the other elephant in the room.

In the end, I would just like to leave you with this; We must be careful who we align ourselves with and who we allow to take the reigns of the party. Branding is important. In the modern world branding really is everything, and we have to be thoughtful about who we allow to represent us, willingly. A lot of work has gone into this movement over the years, and we cannot just give it away to a bunch of brash loud-mouths. Semantically, look at the old terms “Liberal” and “Conservative” and see how their meanings in popular usage have changed over time. Definitions are not concrete, we are in danger of falling into the mediocre trap of being merely the “Republican-Lite” party. The Party of Principles cannot sacrifice those principles in some Faustian deal for recognition of a, by then, hollow name, for it is the contents and not the container that truly set us apart from the rest.

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5 Comments

  1. LP Pragmatist LP Pragmatist May 14, 2010

    So Mr. Nic, what is the choice for LNC Chair?Guess you will find out in St. Louis. This appears to be your first national LP convention. You won’t be in Ohio or Kansas anymore.

  2. Steven Wilson Steven Wilson May 14, 2010

    Being popular isn’t important. If people get tired of lies and propaganda, then they will move. What is important, is that we don’t alter our course to meet any other. What happened in the past is in the past.

    In Saint Louis, Vote phillies, the new path is long term success.

  3. Nicholas N Burdohan Nicholas N Burdohan May 14, 2010

    Well, Kevin, I am favoring John Jay Meyers at the moment. I like his ideas for moving the party forward with the county parties. I do not believe in a strong central government, nor do I believe in a strong central political party. Change is going to happen one precinct at a time. Power needs to return to the individuals and communities. That is how the inverted political structure of this country is going to change, and we need to be a role models for this change. I really don’t want us to end up like the other two parties, which is why I am leery of the polarizing Obama/Democrat bashing that Mr. Root posts almost daily. I could be all wrong about this, but something just doesn’t seem right. I would be happy to get clarification from the man himself, maybe in St. Louis.

  4. little L libertarian little L libertarian May 19, 2010

    Nick is spot on. This is precisely the reason why I always register Independent. I would love for the Libertarian Party to forever hold close to its tenets. I want this as much as I’d like to see Republicans and Democrats hold to their own. Sadly, parties change their ideology over time. They are subject to the same winds of change that has brought this country to where it is now. At one point, small government and free markets were not fringe beliefs.

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