Parties should say what they mean

By: By Thomas L. Knapp - Contributing Columnist

Orlando, Florida, 2016, at the Libertarian Party’s national convention: “Jim Fulner (MI) moved that we adopt the following resolution: ‘Be it resolved, taxation is theft.’ Following debate, the resolution was adopted by a voice vote.”

Thus making a slogan much-loved by radical libertarians, and a claim implicit in the party’s Statement of Principles and platform, official party dogma.

Are Mr. Fulner and the convention delegates (including me) fire-breathing radicals? Well, he certainly is, and I certainly am, and a number of those delegates certainly were.

But here’s former Massachusetts governor William Weld, whose reputation as a squishy moderate nearly cost him the party’s 2016 vice-presidential nomination (conferred on him by those same delegates), in a speech a decade earlier: “I think coercive taxation is theft, and government has a moral duty to keep it to a minimum.”

Slightly weaker tea (“stealing car stereos is wrong, what say we cut it back on that a little, say to two or three a month?”) but the sentiment’s at least in the same ballpark.

So, let me say this again: It is the official position of the Libertarian Party that taxation is theft. It is also the official position of the Libertarian Party that we oppose theft (per our Statement of Principles, “[we] support the prohibition of robbery”).

Why do I bring this up? Because in recent discussions with some of my fellow partisan Libertarians, I get the impression that they either honestly don’t understand that it IS the party’s official position, or else do understand that but think that it’s a bad idea to say so in public.

I disagree. A political party should always be completely honest and crystal clear about its positions when addressing the public.

Yes, we want the public to agree with us and to elect our candidates to office.

No, we shouldn’t try to trick the public into thinking it agrees with us if it doesn’t.

Nor should we let ourselves be pressured by internal factions to conceal or minimize positions that those factions find embarrassing or inconvenient. If those internal factions don’t like the party’s positions, they’re free to try to persuade the party to change those positions.

So, I’ll say it one more time:

Agree with us or not, it is the official position of the Libertarian Party that taxation is theft. It is also the official position of the Libertarian Party that we are against theft. Vote accordingly.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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By Thomas L. Knapp

Contributing Columnist