An Open Letter to Someone Who Wants to Spread the Message of Liberty...
...Has the Cash To Do So and Is Tired of Waiting for the Libertarian Party to Accomplish Anything

by Warren Tilson

The Libertarian Party sucks, no way around it. Their entire purpose is to try and get Libertarians elected and thus change how the state is run. Ideally, this will lead to a freer place for millions to live their dreams.

I know thousands of the freedom minded have wasted loads of time, money and energy on trying to change things via electoral strategies. I think it is clear that the LP will never rise above being an occasional spoiler in a small number of close elections. Politics destroys whatever it touches and thusly the LP will never achieve success without destroying the core values that have attracted so many people to the movement in the first place.

One example of this is the LP leadership’s pro-war stance after 9/11. How much more values will be sacrificed for a short-term PR gain? It is time to dump the LP and move on to something stronger.

I write this even though I have never been a member of the LP and have never attended any LP events. When the convention was in Sacramento I thought of going but could not make it happen. I am so glad I did not go. Friends who attended told me it was "the usual crap" plenty of political maneuvering, infighting, backstabbing and group dementia. And of course someone is said to have crapped in the punchbowl. I am not sure about that last bit, I assume it was a metaphor. I mean, a punchbowl at an LP event? How likely is that? Later on they showed me videos of another convention and I tell you it was a hard slog to watch most of it. The speechifying was dandy but once things got down to the actual business of managing the Party my eyes glazed over and my mind went into hibernation.

This was the Vanguard of Liberty in the US? People arguing over by-laws? Complaining about procedure? It seemed like they took their cues from Roberts Rules of New World Order. Crikey, what a waste of energy. These people could have been outside in the sun and fresh air, or doing productive work somewhere. You know, creating wealth, allowing themselves and others the chance to live the good life. By-laws! You cannot get to freedom if you are caught up arguing about by-laws.

You know that largely accurate maxim: "You cannot get rich working for someone else" well the same applies here. "You cannot get to power and thus to freedom by playing by the statists’ rules."

So I think it is time to adopt a new strategy and create a new group based on an eco-group model. I am confident that it will lead to success in the Pursuit of Happiness.

Why am I confident? Back before I was introduced to Libertarianism I worked for GreenPeace. From 1988 to 1993 I worked in various GreenPeace offices as a canvasser/activist, and whilst there I witnessed and was part of a great rise in the influence of environmental groups and thought.

A big part of the success of GreenPeace in the US was due to the efforts of the Canvass.

Imagine 30 or so people going into various communities and fundraising door-to-door. We would average a little more than 100 dollars a person, that is over three grand a day just from one office. Over $66,000 a month from a good-sized office such as the ones in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York. Has the LP ever done so well consistently?

When not fundraising the canvassers put together protests which were usually short and over in time for the canvassers to go out fundraising, and campaigns which would cover multiple days and could involve lengthy road trips.

So in one office you had fundraisers and activists. It was a potent combination. The nature of the Cause attracted mostly young people who were eager to fight the good fight and take on the Man. Oh, the stories I could regale you with of things gone right, things gone wrong and great times had by all. The canvass office was a whirlwind of activity. Canvassers, no matter how long they had worked there could and did suggest ideas for protests and campaigns as well as deciding the details for same. In many instances a protest was proposed and by the next day it had been planned and executed. Is the LP that flexible? The most important thing in my view was not the fundraising or the protests but the actual knocking on doors. Regardless of coming away from that door with a contribution the canvasser had talked to somebody about the issues, an actual face-to-face meeting. Take 30 canvassers by say 50 conversations each per night and you get 1500 people introduced or reminded of the Cause each night. 1500 a night! For each office! In one year 395,000 (263 canvassing days) people could be talked to. Imagine if you had 10 offices, that is almost 4 million people a year hearing the message. Imagine if you had more offices and/or more people per office. Now do you suppose the cause of freedom could be advanced that way? Does the LP have that kind of ability? How much does the LP pay just to reach a small portion of that by mail? The canvass pays for itself and gets the word out. What a deal. If you assume that just a small percentage of those canvassed gave money the canvass could support itself very well and afford to do some exciting things. Now also assume that a small percentage of contributors would come out to protests and events, that is a large gathering that the media types would definitely put on camera. Could the LP generate that kind of media exposure?

It would be imperative not to promote specific politicians, political parties or legislation through the canvass. This would make it impossible to get caught up in any campaign contribution limit controversies as well as insulating the canvass from having to deal with the internal politics of any political party. The canvassers’ only job would be to spread the idea of freedom as far and as wide as possible.

Any money above the costs of the canvass could be set aside for funding large scale protests or lengthy protest campaigns. Or the money could be given out as scholarships to worthy students or it could be donated to an existing foundation that seeks the ideal of liberty. There is one other idea for some of the money, this I will discuss below.

In addition to the money, the gain in publicity through protests and the talking to millions of people is the fact that out of the various offices are going to come many of the future studs of the libertarian movement. People who for whatever reason might be passed over today as they have no "in". They may not ever be exposed to chance at an internship or a fellowship, they might not enjoy or want to participate in the electoral side of the cause. They could not work for liberty and support themselves -whatever the reason the canvass will be there and be a proving ground for them. A place to both work for freedom and get known in the freedom community. To encourage such folks and to give them the skills necessary to play philosophical hardball with statists I would suggest that each office have an ongoing series of classes, paid for out of the profits from the office’s fundraising. Out of these classes will come those future studs. Not only will they have a solid grasp of the philosophy of freedom they will be experienced fund raisers, they will be experienced activists and due to their course work they will be intellectually capable of driving the cause where it needs to go. Those that do well and want to continue their education will have a chance to compete for the scholarships mentioned above.

Out of this one idea, you have the chance to raise funds, train activists, talk to millions of people, provide an education to hundreds of eager people, discover and encourage future Liberty Studs, generate loads of positive publicity, and advance the cause of liberty a hundred fold.

If you decide against the idea then I hope that anyone reading this that has the will and the means to do it does so. Then they can be the ones who are applauded and recognized as the visionary risk takers they are.

August 16, 2002

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Warren Tilson will one day be president of his own Insurance/Defense firm.  Unlike many others, he chooses not to have a vanity website. 

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