Friday, December 06, 2019

Platform Crowd-Sourcing Project: "Unreasonably"


Over at Facebook, Mike Shipley writes:

The immigration plank’s conditional language (“unreasonably”) is a loophole so big you can drive a wall through it. Who is on board with closing this loophole in Austin?

The Libertarian Party's 2020 platform committee is not yet fully assembled -- the Libertarian National Committee has filled its quota, but several states also get to send representatives -- but I don't see any reason why I shouldn't get to work listening to suggestions from, and discussing those suggestions with, party members (and non-party libertarians).

Here's the back story on the plank in question.

As of 2016:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

Current version, following amendment at the 2018 Libertarian National Convention:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

The platform committee, on the basis of strong arguments from several of its members, recommended that change to the convention, a delegate (Starchild) successfully moved on the convention floor to have it be the first recommendation considered from the committee's report, and the convention delegates overwhelmingly approved the change.

Obviously I didn't get it done all by myself, but I do like to think that I helped at least as much as any one other person. As friends and readers may remember, getting that change accomplished was the top item on my "campaign platform" when I sought selection to the 2018 platform committee, and it was the first (non-procedural/organizational) item I moved to consider on that committee.

So why did I not move, at the same time, to strike the word "unreasonably" from the plank? Two reasons:


  1. The more changes a proposal seeks in a plank, the less likely it is that any of those changes will be adopted. Each and every change presumptively puts more people on the "no" side. Each and every change adds to debate time (during a time-limited platform session). Each and every change invites further amendments from the floor to change that change. And so on and so forth.
  2. I wanted to leave "soft" non-open-borders supporters an out that would allow them to support the change we did make. The removal of that final clause took the positive general argument for government control of borders out of the platform, but left room for immigration restrictionists to argue that any specific restrictionist proposal was "reasonable." I don't know of any such proposal that would pass muster with the party's Statement of Principles in particular, or with libertarian thought in general, but hell, let them try, right?

Was my approach on the word "unreasonably" cowardly? I won't argue the point. I wanted to get the one thing done badly enough that I was willing to let the other thing go ... or at least leave it for another time.

Mr. Shipley appears to believe that that other time is now. So do others in the party whose opinions I share and/or respect, at least one of whom (Josh Barton) has already sent me some sample language for a complete re-write of the plank.

I'd like to hear other opinions.

By way of disclosure, let me make it clear up front that in my opinion "open borders" is the only libertarian position on the subject and ought to be the Libertarian Party's position on the subject. So I'm not looking for opinions on why the plank should be more restrictionist. I'm looking for opinions on whether I should pick this next fight and, if so, how to win it.

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