29 November 2011

Where to from here for those of us who believe in freedom?

ACT, Libertarianz, Freedom Party, Liberal Party, whatever name there is for the future of those at the libertarian/freedom oriented end of the political spectrum is not important right now. What is important is that those of us who share some fairly core values and principles agree to sit down and talk. The options that have been taken up till now have been somewhat spent. ACT has long been the pragmatic option, but until 2008 was never part of government. In government, many (including myself) believe it under-delivered, and certainly the strategy taken by the leadership the past few months has been an abject failure. I wont repeat my previous views on this, but needless to say ACT as a liberal force for more freedom and less government cannot limp along simply led by John Banks to the next election.  I suspect even he realises that the status quo isn't sustainable.

To be fair to Libertarianz, every election since the 2002 administrative debacle has been an improvement, both in campaigning style and result. Yet without getting virtually any media attention or having enough money to buy advertising, it struggles to get heard. Even when it had its peak in 1999, it was due to Lindsay Perigo’s leadership and presence on a nationwide radio station. Yet this end of the political spectrum has been sadly filled with the sorts of chasms and arguments that are not entirely dissimilar from that of the far left. It occasionally has been a little like the Trotskyites vs. the Stalinists vs. the Maoists. ACT has blamed Libertarianz for being too purist, Libertarianz has blamed ACT for being soft sellouts and others have said that Christians have felt excluded, along with non-objectivists, or even those who are conservatives in their personal life and have conservative values, but don't believe the state should impose them.  Bear in mind I’m an objectivist libertarian and Libertarianz member who has voted Libertarianz four times and ACT twice since MMP came along.

The bare faced truth that needs to be admitted is that there is a difference between seeking to win Parliamentary representation and influence, and to be a lobby group that seeks to influence more widely than that. Those on the left, including the environmentalists are expert in doing this, having set up a number of moderate to high profile lobby groups that focus on specific issues. Those of us who want less government, need to do more organising, less in-fighting and recognise the difference between running a successful political party, lobbying on issues and being movements of populism or philosophy. 

I agree with Peter Cresswell that those of us who are freedom lovers need to start talking. So I suggest there be a conference of some sort in that light.

The default invitees being senior members of ACT and Libertarianz, and others specifically invited by people from both parties (who may come from National or elsewhere inside or outside politics). It should be a session to think, not necessarily to decide what to do, but to spend time to chew the fat and provide the catalyst to do more thinking, before acting.  It shouldn't be a session to grandstand or for publicity seekers, but a serious closed conference.   It wont be to make final decisions, but to make substantive progress on what to do next.  It should form the basis to produce proposals for discussions with existing party members, and to reach a conclusion within a year.

The agenda should be as follows:

- Introductions ;

- What sort of objectives should exist for a political party of freedom;
o Principles and values; 
o Political goals 

- Understanding philosophy (where do our principles and values come from ((intention to understand, not debate, how different people came to the freedom/liberal/libertarian end of the spectrum));

- Key policies and issues (identifying policies that unite us, and those that divide us. Not looking for detailed discussion about tax rates, but to establish common ground and to understand clearly the issues that cause some of us problems and finding a way to address, discuss them);

- What’s right about ACT and Libertarianz, and what is wrong;

- What a successful party of freedom would look like, campaign like, and focus on;

- What to avoid (Open, frank and honest discussion about what a future party should avoid);

- Options (revitalising ACT, strengthening Libertarianz, starting from scratch, rebranding and merging) with the objective of narrowing down preferences to two;and

- Next steps (widening discussion with respective parties, another meeting to create concrete proposals). 

This should happen next year, around mid-year (so people will want to stay inside). It should be good willed, good natured and well disciplined. It shouldn’t just be a meeting of suits, or a meeting of loud mouthed angry ranters, but a meeting of good people, with good intentions, who have by and large, shared values, but haven’t been talking from first principles and objectives with each other.  Bear in mind also that what may finally come could be a two pronged strategy - one involving a political party, another involving a think tank/lobby group (or two?).

The most important thing of all, for everyone, will be to listen. 

In advance of that, those of us in ACT, Libertarianz, and indeed freedom oriented members of National, ALCP (and others if they find themselves in a less conventional political home) should sit down and talk amongst ourselves, and with each other.  It is time to rise above the morass of noise, detail and personality clashes.  Nothing should be in or out, but it should be obvious that unless there is a consistent belief in there being less government and more freedom, then we will get nowhere. 

It’s time to not be too solipsistic and realise that this election less than 1.5% of the public voted for parties that expressly espouse less government. Many of us have been doing this for some years, but we also have eager, hard working and enthusiastic young people who reject the mainstream view that the answer to any problem is automatically that the government should do more. Let’s do it for them, do it for us, do it for the country we want New Zealand to be - I believe that at the very least it means free, prosperous, optimistic, where people are judged not by their ancestry, sex or background, but by their deeds and words. A country where being a tall poppy is not something to sneer at, but something to celebrate and aspire to. 

The conservative right has got its act together, and has built a highly credible platform that could cross the 5% threshold in 2014. 

We must do the same, but better.

Who’s with me?

P.S.  The reports that John Banks is talking to the Conservative Party to consider some sort of relationship, simply exemplifies the fact that ACT is finished.  LET Banks take whatever is left of ACT with him, let him go.  He'll never win Epsom under that banner.   I'd don't need to say the three word phrase that starts with "told", but I am SO glad I did not vote ACT to be represented by Banks.   It isn't schadenfreude at all, it's just frustration when this whole debacle is res ipsa loquitur.


Mark Hubbard said...

I'm in for a classical liberal party: and that has to define it. I have no truck at all with Statist conservatism, any more than I do with the collectivists and central planners on the Left. I'm sick of Statists - and that is every single individual in parliament at the moment.

And no classical liberal party will have a bar of ACT's branding after the pure poison of the loathsome Banksy has been injected like a virus into its every vein. (ACT on Campus have been taken for chumps I'm afraid). Already he's having merger talks with Colin Craig and his Conservatives. Appalling.

But yes, by all means, a classical liberal freedom party.

Sean Fitzpatrick said...

Banks should either resign from ACT or dissolve it and merge with Conservative. That, at least, would be honest.

Andrew B said...

We should at least grab a think tank name of Liberty, before some snivelling libertarians do, like they have here in the UK. The party can follow.

(As an aside, and still in the UK, I actually like UKIP's namecarkerse because after gaining Independence from the EU, they could be very libertarian, advocating for a welfare-dependent nation to become a nation of independents.)

Question: If Banks resigns, and stands again as a Conservative candidate, and wins - does he activate their 2.8% share of the vote?

Libertyscott said...

Mark- Yes, I fear the ACT brand is exhausted.

Sean- Yes, although if he resigns from ACT it ought to trigger a by-election, morally if not legally.

Andrew- Yes! Well Banks would be a Conservative MP, but if it is a by-election it wont mean list MPs join him. It would only be after a general election.

Greig McGill said...

I really like this idea. I've never made it to a Libertarianz party conference due to time conflicts, but I'd love to be a part of this.

I agree there needs to be more coming together, and less divisiveness among those of us who love freedom, but I do fear that we are all a bit too true to our principles. I consider myself an objectivist, and tend to find it hard to discuss values with people who derive their principles from superstition. For me it's a case of "if they believe that, they'll believe anything", and that makes it hard to trust their conclusions.

Yes, we all need to put this sort of stuff aside, but our principles are what makes us who we are, and it's where we derive the concept of liberty to begin with. I can't see people being so prepared to compromise those principles.

Anonymous said...

One thing that UKIP have, and ACT have lacked since Prebble, is an articulate and impressive leader who is able to both lead the party and be an effective public face.

The Tomahawk Kid said...

LIBERTARIANZ and ACT could still have their groups that uphold their core values - NOTHING could persuade me to change or compromise the principles I have learned and followed. But a new party that pooled resources that would help all the SHEEPLE understand liberty and our cause would only point more people in our LIBERTARIANZ direction. I think this is a good idea. Once again I state that those of us with our uncompromiseable principles would still have LIBERTARIANZ - it would just be a party a wider group of people could vote for.

James said...

Totally agree with this post...I have been thinking of something similar and know many others have too. Yes...grab the name "Liberty" and have it form the base of the new entity whatever happens. I remember ACT had sewn up "Liberal party" a few years back so a totally new fresh designation that says loud and clear what its all about is a must have.

Dinther said...

As liberty loving individuals we are not terribly good at taking direction from others and forming a solid front. Running a freedom loving party is like herding cats that all do their own thing.

So, before even going into a conference, it might be worth while to have a look at similar overseas groups and find out what makes them tick, what binds and keeps them together and why do we perform so abysmal as a group.

If we are so individualistic that we can not effectively be represented by a single party with a clear message, how can we use our individualism as a strength?

Libertarianz who are based on objectivism are an intellectual bunch and more importantly a principled group. The problem is, an honest man in politics has no hope in hell to gain traction with the masses. People want to be lied to and principled people refuse to give it to them. Is there then any point to engage in politics at all?

The freedoms we enjoy are declining and a principled stance does nothing to defend our freedom. Is it not time to use those same manipulation mechanisms to defend our freedom?

Again something to contemplate when studying more successful groups overseas.

If the "occupy" brand spreads around the world so easily, why not the teaparty? Why not leverage on that concept?

The biggest thing we libertarians have to learn is not to say everything we think and scare the horses in the process.

In that I agree with Scott. Identify the most common things we all agree on.

Make those policies palatable for the masses and deliver it in a easy and short list using the same clever mechanisms that has been serving the greens so well.

We are a clever bunch. If the greens can deliver eternal damnation in a sugar coated jacket and get 10% then we can do better.

Peter Cresswell said...

I posted a few talking points over at Bookface on what I'm calling The Party of All Talents.
See what you think...

Kiwiwit said...

I'm not sure that a conventional political party is the answer. I think we will be most effective when the other parties adopt our tenets. We should learn from the enemy and seek to emulate Gramsci - educating, persuading, indoctrinating, infiltrating and generally doing everything we can to subvert and convert the collectivist mainstream.

Libertyscott said...

Greig - For me the key is to distinguish between a political vehicle, a thinktank/lobby group and a philosophical association.

An objectivist party has no chance at success and is unnecessary, for all an objectivist needs from the state is a libertarian one. Beyond that, objectivism is about reason, values and ways of living life, it doesn't need a political vehicle and indeed shouldn't.

James Stephenson - Yes that is key, but isn't the first order of priorities, but not far down the second one.

Tomahawk - Dare I say it might be a little like "the Alliance" in its earlier form, being an umbrella foe all those heading in one direction, but at different paces and emphasis.

Dinther - Tea Party may be tainted far too easily, being an inherently US term and the MSM simply thinks it means evangelical extremists, as wrong as they may be. However, brand is top of the second order of priorities, first order is objectives and strategy.

PC - Read it, like it and agree, well done.

Kiwiwit - I agree that this is the approach that is needed - permanent revolution, not a campaign every three years. Yet a party is ONE vehicle to move forward, we need to adopt a multi-pronged strategy, and that means working hard, and not just relying on advertising at election time.

Mark Hubbard said...

Peter, your link comes up as not available?

James said...

Well said LS.....get the basics in place with a lot of thought and planning and this thing could really rock...

Anonymous said...

James (and et al) might I suggest the name "FREEDOM" rather than "Liberty". I think liberty has negative connotations/baggage in NZ. Constantly hammer Freedom and being a Free man/woman, use this as the umbrella idea.

Jeremy Harris said...

I think the problem with the Libnz is that they proudly put "all the crazy" up front.

What do I mean by that? Well when I first realised 5 years ago at 23 that I had to figure out what I believed politically I looked at the main parties and the minor ones including the Libnz website and thought, "no taxes but voluntary donations, ha ha ha ha ha", "polygamy, bigamy, ???".

But as I read more about the development of liberty and economics I realised the Libnz economic policies wheren't really outlandish but to understand that took a lot of study and self analysis.

Most people aren't interested in economic and political study or political self reflection, so putting such principled but non mainstream ideas proudly front and center of an ideology is a recipe for a reactionary rejection.

It may make the "enlightened members" feel better to view those that don't agree with them as dullards or sheeple, or Christians as suffers of superstition but it doesn't attract votes.

If the classic liberal group of NZ want to be politically relevant, pick a name that is simple and resonates, The Freedom Party works well and focus on what unites you. Less tax, less regulation, a large and vibrant competitive private sector, more choice, more responsibility, less government or moderate the message to allow it to resonate with people, for people to become interested in the ideas behind it. As long as your principles are the same that drives the party, moderating the message is common sense.

Darren said...

Great to see people taking this idea and beginning to run with it.

At it's core, freedom is such a simple message and if presented to an electorate as such will resonate with many I believe.

However, if you frame this up in terms like 'objectivist', 'classical liberal' and have a very academic/first principles based message then it's a lost cause. I'm a freedom lover but I am reluctant to self-label and even though I have 'objectivist' friends I really don't know (nor care) what this is. The same goes for many other first principle type concepts. How I want to live my life in *practical* terms is pretty clear. Free.

Scott - I think what you are saying about the separation of party and think-tank is critical and neither can pervade the other.

KiwiGirl said...

There is such a lot written by all posters that resonates with me. My conclusions that come to mind:
Being an individualist, I can't imagine finding a group that I would totally agree with on all points - so a group name something like Freedom Alliance or Liberty Alliance would appeal, thought Liberty tends to conjure up America in my mind. Don't use any form of current names (eg Act, Libz, Liberal etc) They all have baggage or are not understood by the masses. Preferably, a name should immediately convey what the groups main principles are.
The idea of an 'alliance' as a grouping with main points of agreement with sub-groups of different emphasis. (And of course co-leaders :-) so that an ego driven personality doesn't take full control.)

I like the idea of a lobby group initially. It might not be a relevant example, but Grey Power seem to think they have some influence when Parliament are debating their areas of interest.

I like your suggestions around a conference of like-mindeds LibertyScott. I was brought up in a family with a father whose leisure time included listening to Parliamentary debates on the radio, so my interest in government goes back a long way. I have never found a party that I wanted to give any of my time to, but your idea appeals.

Redbaiter said...

I suggest the name should be "The Progressive Party".

BTW, is the need to create a "new" party an admittance that the Libertarianz are as stuffed as ACT?

Why do you think a new party will work when its the same old narcissists with the same old destructive ideas?

ACT once enjoyed pretty good support. So did the Libs. Then along came the pseudo liberals and a few years later, both parties are dog tucker.

You guys need to get real about the reason both these parties have now failed.

Just maybe, its not everybody else's fault as you claim.

James said...

While "Freedom" does have first up appeal it can easily be bought down and lost in confusion if Freedom isn't properly defined...The left would claim people have a "right" to be "free" from want,from poverty,from discrimination etc....while we would of course define it as simply "political Freedom"...the freedom from imposed,coercive force....not from reality and the law of cause and effect.

I'm still liking "Liberty". But Lets first sort out the nuts and bolts as LS says....

Rachel said...

Just to add my 2c...
I would love to see a party like this go ahead, and the idea of starting with a conference to nut out the focus is great. I would hesitantly request that you don't make it too closed, I would love to participate but I wouldn't be on the invite list.

I like the suggestion from KiwiGirl, the Freedom Alliance (or Liberty Alliance) suggests that the party would embrace anyone who is interested in advancing freedom regardless of the underlying reasons for it. I know many Christians for example that do want less state involvement but feel alienated by the atheism of most libertarians. I think it is crucial that the message is not so much that you have to be okay with drug use, prostitution, homosexuality etc. but you have to accept that a moral objection to them does not allow you the right to have the state prevent others from doing it.

Also agree with what Jeremy Harris said about the LibertariaNZ, although I agree with 99% of their policies to the uninitiated it sounds crazy. The policies should push the boundary but still appeal to a sizeable base. I think the policies that can gain the most appeal will be where we can convince average Joe that the costs outweigh the benefits rather than try to convince them that it is an illegitimate role of the state, marijuana legalisation comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

I'm in for a classical Liberal Party, too, there is just so much need for it in this country at the current time.

Freedoms and rights have been ignored for so long and the National Government has started to infringe on people's rights now, too.

Young people are having their cars crushed, which is a violation of their right to own property. What if a top politician sold drugs three times at his mansion in a swanky suburb somewhere? Would anyone (any entity at all, including Government) then have the right to burn his mansion down? I think not. Instead, increase it to four terms (of boy racing instances) and then, upon the fourth time, introduce a compulsory prison sentence of three to six months. Let the racer keep his car; just keep his distance from it for a few months.

Now, in terms of prison, that needs to be reformed. Lifers can commune with those serving three or four years. Not good enough! We need more prisons and a tiered system in prisons, so that those with small sentences get more privileges than they do now than others serving 10 - 15 years.

Also, we need to legalise gay marriage. Gay people getting married does not infringe upon the rights of heterosexuals because heterosexuals can still get married. Let both orientations be allowed to marry, that's how it's meant to be.


Daniel Lang