Thursday, June 22, 2006

Platform shoes

Those readers who are active in the Libertarian Party are likely familiar with various "platform reform" efforts.

The most active such effort aimed at securing changes through this year's national party convention in Portland, Oregon, is the Libertarian Reform Caucus. I was briefly a member of LRC and a participant in its deliberations, but recently left the organization for reasons that aren't especially important to this post. It seems likely that there's going to be a bit of a dust-up in Portland between LRC "reformists" and their various opponents. I can't predict what the fallout from that fight will be, but I've been considering the issue of "platform reform" and want to offer a single proposal of my own.

First, a little background:

- One of the staples of outreach and recruitment by the LP and other libertarian groups is the Advocates for Self-Government's World's Smallest Political Quiz. While I have reservations about its accuracy in terms of political classification, it's a neat little tool at any rate. It's engaging, catchy and easy to use.

Engaging. Catchy. Easy to use. Keep those things in mind. They're important.

- While I've engaged myself in the "platform reform" debates for some time now, one thing I hadn't done in a long time was take a "from scratch" approach. That is, I hadn't really given much thought, recently, to how I would put together a party's platform from the ground up rather than simply revise an existing one.

This morning, while doing some household chores, I was thinking (yes, I do household chores; yes, I think), for some reason I've already forgotten, along precisely along those lines. When I reached a stopping point, I sat down at my trusty computer to take a shot at a "ground-up" platform, with the Green Party's approach -- "Ten Key Points" -- in mind as a guide.

I knocked out my first "Key Point" quickly and easily. And then I sat, considering which point should come second. And then I sat, considering, some more. And then I sat for awhile. And then the bolt of lightning hit me.

That first key point is catchy. It's engaging. It's easy to use. Sort of like the World's Smallest Political Quiz. Furthermore, in my opinion, it is an accurate summation of the bare minimum which any party claiming the label "libertarian" should stand for. It's "big tent" insofar as it does not specify an anarchist or minarchist end state, nor does it preclude either incrementalism or "giant steps."

Why do we need ten, or even five, "Key Points," let alone sixty-odd separate planks, when one simple statement will get the job done, fit easily into damn near any "sound byte" length, and leave the party free to address issues with relevant, short program points and resolutions addressed to the issues which Americans actually care about in each election cycle? Believe it or not, the Moon Treaty is unlikely to be a hot issue this November.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The World's Smallest Political Platform:

The [insert name here] Party supports reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose.

One sentence, folks.

Next time: A revised Statement of Principles in limerick format.

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