Hamstrung By Principle

Dave Killion — October 16, 2014

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Elected leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada in May 2014, Tim Moen has attracted a lot of attention with his well-known campaign ad (above). Not long ago, Moen made his way to Victoria, B.C., where he met with a small group of local liberty lovers. After speaking briefly about his recent campaign efforts, and the importance of freedom, he fielded a wide assortment of questions concerning both his views and the actions he proposes to take if he should ever attain office. It was all very pleasant, and I found the new leader engaging, attractive, and diplomatic without being evasive. He strikes me as sufficiently ‘pure’, and I think he is a worthy representative of Canadian libertarians. But Mr. Moen has a problem.

The problem is that, aside some outliers like Justin Amash and Ron Paul, politicians get elected by log-rolling, compromising, and horse-trading… none of which are libertarian practices. Libertarians (like Tim Moen) are upright, forthright, consistent, and logical. Voters don’t really go for that. So, what does the Party intend to do? Is it going to be pragmatic, compromise, and do what it takes to get people in office? Or is it going to maintain integrity, at the cost of being relegated to an educational body and, likely, irrelevance? I put the question to Moen.

After acknowledging that this dilemma is well understood by party leadership, Mr. Moen explained that without an ideologically pure stance, the Libertarian Party of Canada could wind up as simply another statist tool. Clearly though, he (like many of us) is frustrated by the implications. To my surprise, he asked if I had any thoughts on the matter. Well, it just so happens that I do: I think that Tim Moen is right.

Give the party another name, and it can adapt, compromise, evade… whatever. But a Libertarian Party, well, that’s a different thing. It is a rigid thing, a principled thing; bend it more than a little, and it shatters into nothing. It must remain pure. Even in party politics, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Keep campaigning, run all the candidates you can, and perhaps a black swan event  will put some of us in office. But I’m sorry to say, if you are a libertarian who means to get elected, I don’t think the Libertarian Party is where you should be.

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