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My Last Column as Chairman

by William Redpath

reprinted from the May 2010 issue of LP News

I don’t know how he did it. Mickey Spillane supposedly squirreled himself away for a short period of time, and BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM—he would write a book. He wrote “I, the Jury” in only nineteen days, according to his Wikipedia page.

Ayn Rand was a big fan of Mickey Spillane’s. But, my writing speed is more like hers (slow, in case you didn’t know).

So, it is with mixed feelings that I tap out this last column during my terms as Chairman of the Libertarian Party. It’s time for someone else to enjoy the benefits and bear the burdens (e.g., writing this column) of this position.

I will not be going away, however. As of the time I write this, it is my intention to seek an At-Large position on the next term of the Libertarian National Committee and continue to work for ballot access for the LP. Whether or not that occurs, I will continue to be active with the LP.

As we move forward, I anticipate that the Libertarian Party will remain the third largest political party in the United States and grow stronger in that role. I have long thought that the argument of whether we are an educational organization or a political party is a false choice. We educate by running candidates for public office and through other direct political activism, something no other organization in the entire libertarian movement in this nation does.

One thing that I would like to see is for the pursuit of electoral reform to be an always living, breathing part of the Libertarian Party. Where Libertarian parties are getting elected to higher level offices in various nations around the world, there is a system of proportional representation elections for legislatures.

The Free Democratic Party (“FDP”) in Germany won zero seats in single member district elections for the national legislature in September 2009 (sound familiar?), but because half of Germany’s national legislature is filled from a party list vote (voters simply choose their favorite party) from which the FDP earned about 15% of the vote, the FDP now has 93 of 622 seats.

In Costa Rica, proportional representation has allowed Movimiento Libertario (“ML”) to grow from 1, to 6, to 6, to 9 seats (with 14.5% of the vote in February 2010) out of 57 in its national legislature in the four elections since its founding in May 1994. It will be Costa Rica’s third largest party in its national legislative assembly for the next four years, and I would not be surprised to see it move into second place in next election in February 2014.

ML’s stature in Costa Rica allowed Otto Guevara (the LP’s 2002 Convention Keynote Speaker) to finish third in the February 2010 Presidential election, with nearly 21 percent of the vote.

Is Costa Rica a hotbed of libertarianism that the United States is not? No. If we had a similar election system in the United States, I think the LP would be doing as well as, or perhaps even better than, ML.

Please note that I am not warranting that proportional representation itself will bring about a libertarian society. But, it will make political minorities, such as Libertarians (at least for now), electable and will bring much more people, money and media to our cause. And, because entrenched R&D (and I don’t mean “Research & Development”) legislators will not make a change in the electoral system by themselves, this is a reason (among others) to support the adoption of Initiative & Referendum (“I&R”) procedures in states that don’t currently have I&R.

I have often said that a politician does not have to have an original thought in order to be successful. He or she only has to choose wisely among the ideas that are already floating around out there.

That said (and I’m using the term “politician” extremely loosely with respect to myself), I will close by quoting the late Harry Browne.

Someone said to him in 2000 when he was the Libertarian Party Presidential candidate for the second time, “Well, Harry, if you don’t get elected, it will all have been a waste of time, won’t it?”

Harry replied, “Quite the contrary. It will have been a good use of my time, because through the Libertarian Party, I have met the greatest people in the world.”

That’s the truth. I can’t top that. I don’t know who could.