Monday, December 5, 2011

Murry N. Rothbard's Report On The Formation Of The New York Libertarian Party

The following is Murray N. Rothbard's report on the formation of the New York Libertarian Party (then and now formally known as the Free Libertarian Party of New York). It appeared in Volume V, Number 4 of The Libertarian Forum, a monthly newsletter published in April, 1973.

FLP Convenes: Present At The Creation
by Murray N. Rothbard

On the weekend of March 30-April l, the Free Libertarian Party of New York held its first state convention at the Williams Club in Manhattan, in the process transforming itself from a temporary structure into a permanent, organized political party. Ever since the national Libertarian Party and its state affiliates had been founded a year ago, the editor of the Lib. Forum, while tempted, had held aloof. But to this old political warhorse, the firebell of a Convention proved too much to resist. As the time for the Convention drew near, I made my decision, propitiated the Spirit of Robert LeFevre, and took the plunge: I joined the Party.

As the weekend drew near, I admit to trepidation about what the convention would bring. In the first place, it has been my usual experience that when more than five libertarians (or five anyone-else, for that matter) gather together to meet, it is high time to look for the nearest exit. There is something about any Meeting, or Crowd, that seems either to deaden the spirit or to lead to endless hassles and emotional wrangling. And then there were all the stories one heard about goings-on in various outer reaches of the libertarian movement: "rational bestiality", for example. There were the memories of all the Crazies who had flooded into the first 1969 libertarian conference in New York. And, more concretely, there were stories of a severe and lengthy struggle over the FLP Platform, over attempts to ram an anarchist-Randian platform down the throats of the party, etc. When I opened this door of the libertarian arena on March 30, what joy and/or pain would this new turn bring?

To end the suspense, dear reader, I entered the Williams Club a hopeful skeptic and emerged, exhausted but enthusiastic, forty-eight hours later a celebrant. To my joyful surprise, here was a group of men and women almost all intelligent, dedicated, and knowledgeable about liberty. Here, despite a predictably wide spectrum of temperaments and ideologies, despite occasional emotional hassles, yes despite a twelve (or was it thirteen) hour session on amending the by-laws, here was a group of attractive and intelligent young people who almost literally exuded a spirit of warmth, love, and respect for each other and for the common cause. It was truly a sight to behold. At the risk of being maudlin, I affirm that it was indeed a privilege to be present at the creation of the Free Libertarian Party of New York.

As we shall see further below, the "instincts" of this rather large group of people (approximately 95) were remarkably sound: a blend of high libertarian principle and good common sense and mutual respect that is all too rare in or out of the Movement. And these were Real People; gone was the old predominance of hophead kids, stoned out of their minds and mumbling about "freedom". These were young people with feet on the ground, who do things, who work in the world: scholars, engineers, television people, advertising men, civil servants. I would say that the typical FLP member is an ex-Objectivist with none of the unfortunate personality traits of the latter, who has been moving rapidly into, or on the edge of, anarcho-capitalism. But both the anarcho-capitalists and the sizable minority of limited archists (or "minarchists", to use the happy phrase of Sam Konkin), showed a happy willingness to work together for the large spectrum of common ends.

And then, wonder of wonders to a veteran of the New York movement, there was actually a sizable number of girls at the Convention, ranging moreover from attractive to ravishing (and if this be Male Chauvinism, then make the most of it!) It was also a standing wry joke in the New York movement that the proportion of females ranged from zero to somewhere around one per cent; surely this new quantum leap is a fine omen for the growth and success of the movement. Furthermore, I had personally met no more than a dozen of the delegates before - and this in a movement whose members for a long while barely spilled over the confines of a small living room!

Skipping over the endless by-law amendments, the first major act of the convention was to adopt a set of by-laws with the following admirable set of principles, principles to which all factions and trends in the party could enthusiastically adhere:

"The Free Libertarian Party is a political organization which has as its primary objective the extension of human freedom to its furthest limits. To that end the Party affirms the following principles:

1. That each individual possesses the inalienable right to life and liberty and to justly acquired property.

2. That no person or institution, public or private, has the right to initiate the use of physical force against another.

3. That all individuals are entitled to choose their own life styles as long as they do not forcibly impose their values on others.

4. That the only moral basis of politics is the preservation and protection of human rights.

5. That the voluntary exchange of goods and services is fundamental to any socio-economic system which provides for the harmonious integration of divergent value systems.

In recognition of the fact that the initiation of force by government has been the chief instrument for the expropriation of individual rights and freedom, the Free Libertarian Party enters the political arena for the avowed purpose of eliminating the intervention of government in moral, social and economic affairs."


The first battle, and the first critical decision, of the Convention came on Saturday night. over the adoption of a state platform. By dint of various coincidences and circumstances, the first draft of a platform had been drawn up last summer by one Paul Hodgson, a Randian archist who presented the early sessions of the platform committee with a full-scale Randian archist platform. It did not quite begin with "Existence exists", but there was definitely around the Hodgson draft the unmistakable aura of the philosophy club rather than the political platform. And in virtually every paragraph the Hodgson draft rubbed the anarchist noses in: "The proper function of government is...." To offset the Hodgson forces, the anti~archists in the split platform committee drew up a hastily composed "minority platform". In contrast to Hodgson and his colleagues, there was scarcely a single anarcho-capitalist in the FLP that desired to commit the party to an outright anarchist program, let alone to rule out of court any libertarians who were also Christians, utilitarians. pacifists, or even whim-worshippers. To a man, the anarchists, along with many of the minarchists, wanted an "umbrella" platform that would not drive any of the various tendencies out of the party. But while the Minority Platform was a decided improvement over the Hodgson Platform, it still left much to be desired; and both programs, for example, insisted on taking a stand on the theory of crime and punishment even though this is one of the most disputed and least firmly established aspects of libertarian doctrine.

As the day of the convention neared, then, sentiment in the party grew apace for scrapping the platform altogether. More and more party members began to see that there was no great rush for a state platform: we had the excellent statement of principles, we had, if need be, the national platform adopted last year. But, most interesting of all, sentiment grew, as best expressed by young Tom Avery of the Bronx, for avoiding any platform plank which could not - like the statement of principles - command unanimous consent from each party member. For, otherwise, party members would have to be represented by views and positions which they did not hold. More and more, the "minority" platform writers veered around to a no-platform position, while the few Ultra-Randians abandoned the party in disgust.

On Saturday, the Hodgson platform was smashed, gathering only 4 votes (of which only two represented support for the draft in question), and the minority program received no greater shrift. The no-platform position won overwhelmingly. It was agreed, with great good - and libertarian - sense. that the various party candidates could only speak for themselves, for their own individual positions or for the special committees formed on their behalf. There would be no "party literature" as such.

Sunday was the day for choosing party officers and candidates. The elected officers managed to comprise a worthy cross-section of party activists. Chairwoman of the party (or "Chairperson" as they insist on calling it) is the vivacious Andrea Millen, a TV producer and a leader of the FLP from its inception. The two Vice-Chairmen are Howard Rich, another party founder and a leader and candidate in Rockland County, and Raymond Strong, leader of the Brooklyn party and a Ph.D. in mathematics. Secretary is Mike Nichols and Treasurer is the former Chairman, and a leading party founder, Jerry Klasman. After a spirited and very close election for the three posts of State Committeemen-at-large, elected were: Gary Greenberg, attorney, and head of the New York Libertarian Association; the redoubtable Samuel Edward Konkin, Canadian graduate student in Theoretical Chemistry at New York Uiniversity, editor of the ever improving New Libertarian Notes, and leader of the party's Radical Caucus; and Joe Castrovinci, graduate student in history at City College, CUNY, and early member of the Fordham Libertarian Alliance, the first libertarian student group on the Eastern seaboard.

Running for office is a remarkably full slate of determined candidates. For Mayor, the party has nominated the lovely and articulate Francine Youngstein. instructor in sales for IBM; for President of the City Council, Hill Lawry of Queens; for Comptroller, Tom Avery of the Bronx. Also nominated are: Louis Sicilia for Borough President of Manhattan; Paul Streitz (who was given a good going over for his support of the school voucher scheme) for City Councilman-at-Large from Manhattan; Ray Goldfield for City Councilman from the Coney Island region of Brooklyn; and Spencer Pinney for City Councilman from Queens. Also, the dynamic young Sanford Cohen, of the Poughkeepsie region upstate, expressed his determination to begin running now for Rep. Fish's Congressional office in 1974. All candidates were determined to succeed at the very difficult task, in New York, of actually getting on the ballot in November.

The final act of the convention underlined the good sense and even wisdom of the party membership. A proposal was made for the party to endorse legalized abortion. But while a large majority of the Party favors abortion-freedom, it decided by a 2-to-1 majority to respect the deeply held beliefs of those party members who are convinced that abortion is murder - a position which, for any libertarian, is not self-evidently absurd. In short, the FLP decided not to take a position on the abortion issue.

I submit that the Free Libertarian Party is off to a sparkling start; health, happiness, and long life to the new offspring!

No comments:

Post a Comment