Why Principles Matter: A Reply to Norm Olsen

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Why Principles Matter: A Reply to Norm Olsen

by Ari Armstrong, July 29, 2004

Candidates of which political party in Colorado support the following policies?

  • Federal gun control.
  • Politically-funded education.
  • The criminalization of spanking.
  • Tax-supported rail transportation.
  • Drug prohibition laws.
  • Restrictions on immigration.
  • Restrictions on abortion.

If your answer is the Libertarian Party, allegedly the "party of principle," you are correct. Some supposedly Libertarian candidates are worse than some elected main-party legislators on matters of liberty. Now, the main "principle" operative among the leadership of the Libertarian Party of Colorado (LPCO) is moral subjectivism. Thus, various LPCO leaders have sanctioned a variety of positions that entail the violation of individual rights.

Olsen's Moral Subjectivism

In the edition of Colorado Liberty (the official publication of the LPCO that was mailed in July, 2004, LPCO Chair Norm Olsen replies to me and other critics of the LPCO's nomination of Mark Brophy for state senate. In his "Notes from the Chair," Olsen makes clear he has no regard for making sure candidates and other representatives of the LPCO advocate policies consistent with individual rights and properly limited government.

Olsen writes, "The pessimists suggested that the nomination of a candidate who did not meet their standards of Libertarian purity indicated that the Libertarian Party had lost all sense of principle..." He also refers to me as "the self appointed Lord High Minister of Libertarian Purity."

What Olsen does not do is attempt to argue that the principles I've outlined are wrong or that they don't apply to the case at hand. Instead, he assumes that the principles I've outlined are merely subjective preferences, of no significance to the positions other so-called "Libertarians" should advocate.

Even though I have discredited Olsen's bogus argument about "purity," Olsen completely disregards my case. As I've argued, the matter at hand is one of consistency. Holding consistent principles, and acting on them with integrity, is a moral virtue. Disregarding or violating good principles is morally wrong. Olsen ridicules as "purity" an advocacy of consistent principles -- what, then, does he advocate? Apparently, he advocates impure motives and actions; he sanctions doing the wrong thing precisely because it is wrong. He condemns moral consistency precisely because it is morally consistent. The bare fact that I and others insist on adherence to a moral code is what Olsen takes as proof that we're wrong.

As Harry Binswanger's analysis in a February, 1981, essay ("The Possible Dream," published in The Objectivist Forum) implies, Olsen's notion of "purity" makes moral consistency into a Platonic ideal, something not to be achieved in the real world. As Olsen demonstrates, his notion of "purity" can be used to rationalize patently immoral behavior. If we can't achieve moral "purity," what's the sense of trying? If moral consistency is impossible, how can we criticize the morally inconsistent? For Olsen, the "Party of Principle" is instead the party of approximation.

As Binswanger summarizes, "Moral principles do not admit of compromise. Either what is right is one's supreme guide, or it is not. There is no such thing as an 'almost supreme' principle -- this phrase merely indicates that some other factor is supreme, and the principle enters, if at all, only as a secondary, dispensable consideration."

For obvious reasons, Olsen has not attempted to describe which positions would be incompatible with the LPCO. If some people suggest standards, they can only be "their standards," not objectively verifiable standards. Those who claim otherwise are merely "self-appointed" moral imperialists. If somebody wanted to run as a Libertarian candidate in order to nationalize the means of production, who's to protest? By Olsen's analysis, only "self-appointed Lord High Ministers of Libertarian Purity." If Olsen were to deny this, and claim that somebody who wants to nationalize the means of production has no business running for office as a Libertarian, then he would have to argue that some principles are necessary, but then he would also have to explain why he thinks Brophy meets those principles.

Olsen apparently has not considered the relationship of his arguments to the political purpose of the Libertarian Party. Supposedly, the Libertarian Party of Colorado exists to offer libertarian (i.e., pro-individual rights, pro-free-market) candidates for office. But if Libertarian candidates need not be principled, why should Libertarians expect any better from main-party politicians? Olsen might try to reply that Libertarians are somehow "better." But who, other than "self-appointed Lord High Ministers of Libertarian Purity," could make such a claim? If there's some objective standard by which to evaluate libertarian candidates as "better" than main-party candidates, then this standard necessarily serves also to distinguish between good and bad libertarian candidates. (This point is more general than the obvious one that, in fact, some of Colorado's main-party candidates are objectively better on the issues than some Libertarian candidates.)

Olsen is, by the implications of his own statements, a hypocrite. Either Olsen believes moral standards are mere subjective preferences, in which case he is a hypocrite for heading an organization that purports to run candidates who are objectively superior to main-party alternatives; or Olsen believes moral standards are objective, in which case he is a hypocrite for carelessly dismissing well-argued criticisms of a Libertarian candidate.

Olsen's Ad Hominem Attacks

Olsen makes no effort to counter the specific criticisms against Brophy. Instead, he resorts to ad hominem attacks. He refers to me and his other critics (those who criticize him because of his sanction of Brophy and candidates of similar stature) as "pessimists." Pessimists are people with unreasonable expectations that the future will go badly. Olsen implies his critics are irrational in this way, though he never tries to prove it.

As mentioned, Olsen refers to me as the "self appointed Lord High Minister of Libertarian Purity." Olsen's statement is an endorsement of moral subjectivism, but it is also hysterical name-calling.

Olsen writes, with my comments in brackets, "How are we [LPCO leaders and activists] going to attract new individuals to our cause [what cause is that, precisely?] if they know that failing to meet the standards of the self appointed Lord High Minister of Libertarian Purity [supposedly me] will subject them to vicious public attacks?" Here's how my Random House treats the term "vicious:" "addicted to or characterized by vice; depraved; profligate... readily disposed to evil... spiteful; malicious... marred by faults or defects... savage; ferocious." If you're going to accuse somebody of being vicious, you'd better have some evidence to back it up. Olsen offers no such evidence. Instead, he points merely to the fact that some people have made criticisms. But he offers no idea of what those criticisms are or why they might be wrong. Olsen also ignores the important context that I have not made any comments at all about some Libertarian leaders and activists, and I have praised others. Thus, ironically, Olsen himself commits a vicious attack against me when he wrongly accuses me of that fault.

Olsen's Misuse of the LPCO's Publication

In a further demonstration of his intellectual dishonesty, Olsen refuses to name me in his article, or cite any of my specific criticisms, even though he is obviously talking about me personally. Only people who have already read my comments on the matter (or heard about them) would be able to recognize who or what Olsen is talking about. Those unfamiliar with the case would be in no position to know anything about the relevant issues, nor would they be given any direction in learning about them.

Olsen spent the funds of LPCO members to publish his comments. Given he chose to viciously attack me personally in the LPCO's official publication (itself an inappropriate action), the least he owed the members of his organization was to offer enough context for readers to understand the issues at hand and pursue the facts independently.

I, on the other hand, have documented in exhaustive detail the evidence behind my criticisms of Brophy and his supporters. I have cited Olsen's article here. The issue of the newsletter in which Olsen's article appears is not dated or identified beyond what I've described. The LPCO's web page did not link to the article when I recently checked, and thus I am not able to provide an internet link.

(For those just learning about this matter, here is the specific evidence that Olsen is discussing me personally. In his opening sentence, Olsen writes, "In recent weeks, some pessimists suggested that the Libertarian Party was dead." Though I was discussing only the state Libertarian Party, Olsen's comments correspond to my article, Libertarian Party of Colorado, R.I.P. At the end of his first paragraph, Olsen refers to the phrase, "Libertarians In Name Only," which corresponds to my article, Gun Rights and the Rise of the LINOs. Some of Olsen's other comments are also directed at me. The other critics to whom Olsen is referring are listed at Mark Brophy Updates.)

Olsen also omits relevant facts about me in another article for Colorado Liberty. In "The ONDCP Comes to Town," Olsen writes, "On April 8, the Office of National Drug Control Policy came to town. They invited all sorts of folk to hear their message, and and three other Libertarians (Frank Atwood, Bo Schaffer, and Paul Tiger accepted their offer" (typographical errors in original). Yet Olsen knew full well that I also attended that event -- I took a photograph of Olsen there -- and he knew I was an LPCO member at that time and at the time he wrote about the event. Olsen's response to my criticisms is to avoid mentioning my name -- and to use LPCO funds to misrepresent the historical record concerning me.

Olsen's Equivocation

Olsen begins by noting the criticism that "the Libertarian Party was dead." Indeed, I used the lines, "The Libertarian Party of Colorado is dead. All that remains is a walking corpse without a soul." Quite obviously, I was not claiming that the LPCO has ceased to exist; I was claiming that prominent leaders and activists within the LPCO had sold out libertarian principles.

Yet Olsen responds to my claim that the "Libertarian Party of Colorado is dead" -- i.e., that it has become an organization unguided by principles -- with the argument that the LPCO continues to operate as an organization. Thus, he evades the clear, intended meaning of my criticisms.

Specifically, Olsen reminds us the LPCO "did not die in 2000," when the party also ran unprincipled candidates. Instead, Olsen reviews, the LPCO got media attention and speaking invitations that year -- which of course is irrelevant to my point. Today, Olsen continues, "The party remains alive and in acceptable health" and "the party is growing."

Obviously, the fact that the LPCO continues to operate as an organization with members is not a counter to my criticisms that numerous LPCO leaders are compromising moral principles.

Olsen's Context Dropping

Olsen writes, "In the 2000 election cycle, we managed to place 84 Libertarians on the ballot. This was a team effort lead by Joe Johnson. One of the leading pessimists was a very active member of the team. At that time, anyone on the registered Libertarian list who answered their phone was qualified to be a Libertarian candidate. The result included one individual who wanted the American Disabilities Act expanded and another who supported the war on drugs. Who knows what sorts of other Libertarian impurities lurked inside the other 82 candidates who were nominated that I am unaware of."

The "leading pessimist" to whom Olsen refers is me. In 2000, I produced the LPCO's official publication. I also ran as a Libertarian candidate for state legislature.

Olsen thus implies that I'm a hypocrite -- I supported the LPCO in 2000, when I knew at least one LPCO candidate held anti-libertarian views, yet now, in 2004, I am attacking the LPCO leadership because some LPCO candidates hold anti-libertarian views.

The most obvious reply is that my motives and alleged hypocrisy are irrelevant. If my arguments of this year are correct, then Olsen is (logically and morally) obliged to take them seriously, regardless of my actions in 2000.

But Olsen is dropping so much context that his charge of my hypocrisy is totally without merit.

In 2000, I indeed complained about the candidate who supported the war on drugs. Should I have been more forceful in my complaints then? Yes! Olsen is using a mistake made within the LPCO in 2000 as justification for making the same mistake in 2004! What's worse, the same candidate who supported the war on drugs in 2000 is a Libertarian candidate again in 2004!

I admit I was hopelessly naive about certain matters in 2000. I assumed that people who self-identified as Libertarians understood the philosophy and upheld high moral standards as the foundation for proper political policy. Further, I assumed that the mistakes made in 2000 were obvious to everyone else in the LPCO, and thus they would not be repeated.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

Olsen conveniently skips from 2000 straight to 2004. Was there anything that happened in between those years that might be considered relevant? Anything at all? Any additional example of running an unprincipled Libertarian candidate? Here's a hint: the party in question has since been convicted on two related felony charges.

I made a mistake in 2000, and I'm trying not to repeat a similar mistake in 2004, especially now that I've gathered a lot more relevant evidence concerning the problem at hand. (Perhaps Olsen will discuss whether he thinks I was wrong to criticize Stanley in 2002.) Olsen, on the other hand, tries to excuse the errors of 2004 by invoking the errors of 2000! And this is the guy heading the state LP.

More Proof of the Moral Deterioration of the LPCO

Chris Leinster, chair of the Denver LP, announced (as was noted on Rand Fanshier's page) his organization was hosting the viewing of a film by "a conspiracy theorist who believes that George Bush ordered Bin Laden to attack America..." (I don't know if his analysis of the film was correct, but the relevant issue is that he promoted a film he believed was as he described.) In a follow-up note posted at the LPCO blog page, Leinster said the viewing "may have been our most successful outreach event yet." Pandering to mindless conspiracy theorists is thus considered a success, according to the new anti-philosophy of the state LP.

Additional details about several LPCO candidates running this year are also disturbing. The views expressed by the problematic candidates do not reflect the views of all LPCO candidates. I know that several of this year's candidates advocate high moral standards, and I wish them well in their races. However, running unprincipled candidates as Libertarians has become common enough, and those candidates advocate anti-rights positions to such a degree, to suggest a deep-rooted problem within the LPCO.

As discussed at length, Mark Brophy, a Libertarian candidate for state senate, advocates federal gun control laws and the criminalization of spanking. Yes, he also is trying to repeal the grocery tax in Fort Collins, and that's wonderful, but that alone doesn't qualify him to run as a candidate for the self-professed "party of principle." After all, Republicans and Democrats advocated the repeal of the grocery tax in Littleton.

Alberto Squassabia, the candidate to whom Olsen refers as the drug-war advocate from 2000, is running again for state legislator this year. At a 2000 training event for candidates, I was horrified to hear Squassabia express support for drug prohibition laws. Unfortunately, that is not the limit of his anti-libertarian positions.

The Rocky Mountain News asked Squassabia, "If there were one law you could pass or repeal in 2005, what would it be?" Squassabia answered, "Introduce some form of public transportation solution along the I-25 corridor. The intent is to provide effective commuting options among the employment centers of the Front Range, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Refurbishing some old railroad line would be great." The most important policy goal for this alleged Libertarian candidate is to increase the socialization of transportation!

On education, Squassabia granted that "tax-funded education is leading to the perception of free education that leads to the debasement of its standards." His solution, however, is to bring accountability and standards to tax-funded schools. In response to a question about Amendment 23, which increased tax funding for government schools, Squassabia commented, "I support the plea of the voters who approved this amendment to educate our children. Unfortunately, Amendment 23 throws gasoline on the fire in its present form. It's a gravy train for the educational bureaucracy, rather than for the children that bureaucracy should serve." At no point does Squassabia question the legitimacy of tax-funded education; instead, he speaks only about bringing reforms to that system.

Squassabia also replied, "In extreme cases abortion may be a solution of last resort. Abortion, however, is not a routine family planning tool." His comments seem to suggest that he would allow abortion only in "extreme cases" (as decided by whom?), rather than as a general right women have over their own bodies.

Squassabia's views are similar to those of most Republicans. Indeed, I know plenty of Republicans who are far more libertarian in their thinking than Squassabia is. Why, then, is Squassabia running as a Libertarian candidate, and why do the Libertarians who nominated him believe he's a good representative of the so-called "party of principle?"

Bruce Eckhart, once a candidate for the Reform Party, made some disturbing comments about immigration at this year's LPCO convention, according to Lloyd Sweeny. Now, Eckhart is a candidate for Weld County Commissioner. Sweeny reports, "On the first vote, NOTA [none of the above] won." Sweeny characterizes Eckhart's views: "He wasn't a Libertarian, he was (at best) a sorry example of a confused Republican." Yet the first vote was ignored, and Eckhart was nominated on a second vote.

In 2000, the LPCO ran one or more candidates with overtly anti-liberty views. Then, in 2002, ignoring the lessons of 2000, the LPCO nominated another unprincipled candidate who "earned" an enormous amount of media for the LPCO, almost all negative, a "gift" that kept on giving into this year as that former candidate went on trial for threatening two judges. There could be no more obvious object lesson than that. Yet, here we are in 2004, and LPCO leaders supported unprincipled candidates again, on the grounds that unprincipled candidates have run in the past.

The Organizational Deterioration of the LPCO

The LPCO's three main internal sources of news, Colorado Liberty (available only by regular mail so far in 2004), Fanshier's This Week in the LPCO, and the Libertarian Party of Colorado Blog, review the activities of LPCO members. Members of the Boulder County affiliate marched in a parade. Mark and Mary Brophy submitted petitions to repeal the grocery tax in Fort Collins. LPCO members have run booths at various events. David Aitken organized ads in local publications. These are good, positive political activities. LPCO has also put up bus bench ads, which I've argued aren't very effective, but that's is a debate over strategy.

Are those activities significant in terms of building the LPCO or winning elections? Not very. To my knowledge, not a single Libertarian running in Colorado this year has the remotest chance to win an election. If there is an exception, it is for a lower-level office, not state legislature or higher. The only other reason to run candidates, to educate the electorate about individual rights, free markets, and properly limited government, is moot when candidates don't consistently support those values.

The overt hostility to principle common among the current crop of LPCO leaders has driven away a number of prominent activists, some of whom once ran for office as Libertarians. This is a self-reinforcing trend. The more the LPCO compromises its principles, the less active principled people will be in the party, and the more the party will attract the unscrupulous, the reactionary, and the unprincipled. What's left might be an active organization, but it will have little to do with the principles of individual rights.

The evidence indicates the LPCO is not doing very well even on the organizational level. It's important to note, though, that I'm making two quite distinct and independent arguments. I'm arguing the LPCO has dramatically deteriorated in its ideals, a point that's logically unrelated to the organizational strength of the party, yet I'm also arguing that the LPCO's organizational strength has deteriorated, too. These two trends are historically connected: the anti-principled stance of many LPCO leaders has driven away some LPCO members. It's possible, of course, for the LPCO to regain its organizational strength -- my broader point is that this is not a positive development, if the LPCO is merely a growing organization that promotes moral subjectivism and unprincipled politics.

Here are a few of the trends. In 2000, 145 people attended the LPCO convention, then-chair BetteRose Smith reported in the May, 2000, edition of Colorado Liberty. In 2001, over 100 people attended the convention in an off-year. In 2002, 186 people attended the LPCO convention (my wife Jennifer tells me that, with last-minute additions, 209 people actually attended the banquet). Some people came because of two contentious battles between candidates, but the convention (which Jennifer and I organized) was successful even discounting those who came because of contested races. In 2003, around 100 people attended the convention. It was an odd year, and thus a slow time for elections, so it was a relatively successful event, despite the fallout from the disastrous LPCO U.S. Senate campaign of 2002. In 2004, Steven Gallant, the LPCO Publications Director who wrote an article about the convention for the party's newsletter, did not report how many people attended, perhaps because turnout was low (considerably less than 100). Lloyd Sweeny reports around 30 members voted on some matters, around half the number of voters in 2003. Another member reports only a dozen people voted on some of this year's matters. And this is a major election year.

In 2000, the LPCO published 11 editions of its newsletter (nine of which I produced), for a total of 164 pages, and the newsletter was distributed to the entire membership list. In 2002, the LPCO distributed eight newsletters (five of which I produced) to the entire list. In 2004, the LPCO is scheduled to distribute four newsletters of eight pages each, with three distributed to around 10% of the list. Yes, the LPCO uses the internet now, but for a limited audience. Various parties have debated the proper size and scope of the newsletter, but one reason given for cutting back the newsletter was lack of funding.

In 2000, the LPCO ran 87 candidates, many more than it had ever run before. In 2002, the party nominated 51 candidates at the convention. In 2004, according to Gallant, the LPCO has a "slate of 32 candidates." Joe Johnson, busy with his own elected position, didn't make a push to find candidates the way he did during the previous two cycles. Another factor is that some former candidates had no interest in running with the party in disarray.

Olsen writes, "Between April 2003 and April 2004, the Libertarian Party of Colorado grew at a faster percentage rate than any other party in the state." I didn't look up the registration numbers, available from the Secretary of State. However, the LPCO lost membership in 2003. Ballot Access News reports that, in January, 2004, 852,910 Coloradans were registered as Democrats; 1,042,296 as Republicans; 907,637 as unaffiliated; 5,602 as Green; and 5,769 as Libertarian. With numbers that low, it doesn't take much to claim a "faster percentage" of growth. Libertarians claim around 0.5% as many registered voters as Republicans do.

Just in terms of its organization, the LPCO is in decline. A major reason that's the case is that the LPCO is also in moral decline.

The LP's Structural Problems

In America's winner-take-all system, if a voter has a clear first, second, and third choice in an election, the voter will understandably be concerned that, by voting for a minor-party candidate, he or she will risk throwing the election to the third-choice candidate. This basic fact of American elections leads to the "wasted vote" syndrome, it tends to entrench the two-party system, and it encourages talented political activists to migrate to the two most influential parties. Several prominent Republicans in Colorado, and at least one Democrat, used to be active in the LP. Many people have been active in the LPCO for a few years before drifting away.

The general trend, though one that admits plenty of exceptions, is that the most talented political organizers migrate to the two main parties, leaving those who are, on average, less talented to run the LPCO. One reason the LPCO ends up with some incompetent, even idiotic, candidates is that they would be laughed out of the major parties. Why did the LPCO select a warmed-over Reformer to run? One reason is that the LPCO leadership feared a declining base of candidates. Rarely do would-be candidates within the LPCO face competition. Olsen became state chair, in part, simply because nobody else wanted that position.

Some polls indicate around 15-20% of the population agree with libertarian policies. Yet only around 3% of the population vote for LP candidates in typical three-way races. In part this is because of the "wasted vote" concern, and in part it is because many LP candidates lack political talent and/or serious interest in the race.

Given these institutional problems, what is the purpose of the LP? Those who argue the main purpose of LP candidates is to win, given the appropriate alignment of stars, need to explain why they don't simply join a libertarian wing of a major party. It's much more likely to elect a libertarian-oriented candidate as a major-party candidate than it is to elect a candidate as a Libertarian. The only sensible goal of running a Libertarian candidate in most races, then, is to educate the citizenry about the principles of individual rights, free markets, and properly limited government. Obviously, this goal is incompatible with running LP candidates of compromised principles. There's not even a pretense of an argument in favor of running LP candidates with worse views than main-party alternatives.

Two Libertarianisms

In my recent reply to Peter Schwartz, I granted that one particular strain of "libertarianism" eschews moral principles and attempts to construct a political theory on moral subjectivism (or moral skepticism). Such an attempt is doomed to failure. This is precisely the sort of libertarianism practiced by Norm Olsen and others within the LPCO. It is characterized by moral compromise, mindless activism, reactionism, and hostility toward those who insist on adherence to principle.

The other type of libertarianism advocates clear moral standards regarding individual rights, the value of economic liberty and progress, and the appropriate limits of state power. By this definition, I am a libertarian, I have been a libertarian for many years, and I anticipate I will always be a libertarian. By this definition, all Objectivists (including Peter Schwartz) are libertarians. We can distinguish between morally subjective libertarianism and morally objective libertarianism. There is some variance in the moral beliefs that can properly ground libertarianism -- more variance than what Schwartz recognizes -- but not very much.

To review elements of my reply to Schwartz, Objectivists need to resolve at least two important issues in order to continue a blanket attack on libertarians (not that all do so, but some do). First, they need to explain why terms like capitalism and selfishness can be rescued and used in particular ways that differ from other negative usages, whereas the term libertarianism can't; and, second, they need to explain why it's okay for Objectivists to, say, endorse Barry Goldwater or vote for Republicans or Democrats, but it's never okay for Objectivists to cooperate with or "sanction" self-identified libertarians. Schwartz's case, while an excellent analysis of morally subjective libertarianism, simply does not apply to all self-identified libertarians. Moreover, even libertarians who sometimes fall into subjectivism (or relativism) can do really great work in some areas. For example, I plan to continue to learn from the economic and legal work of Mises and Randy Barnett (respectively), even though both scholars offer incoherent moral theories.

My Decision to Renounce My LPCO Membership

I have made the decision to renounce my membership in the LPCO. I will notify the state board of my intent, and I will register as an unaffiliated voter. The reasons for my decision are described above. I felt it necessary to offer a detailed explanation as to why I am parting with an organization I've been involved with for over four years. I did not make my decision lightly, and it involves issues I've been struggling with for around two years. The LPCO is an ineffective organization headed by moral subjectivists. Several LPCO candidates in 2000, 2002, and 2004 have held positions at odds with the principles of individual rights, and several prominent LPCO members have apologized for those candidates and reacted angrily to principled critics. Ironically, it is precisely because I'm a libertarian (in the morally objective sense) that I must leave the Libertarian Party of Colorado, which has been compromised by subjectivists.

I will wait until my dues with the national LP run out before I make a final decision on whether to renew that membership. While some of the actions and positions of the national LP concern me, I have not seen the sort of blatant and widespread subjectivism and hostility to principles that I've found within the LPCO. One potential problem is the dual membership program, in which dues sent to national are automatically split with state affiliates.

I do not rule out working with principled libertarians. I may support Libertarian candidates this year or in the future. I will also cooperate with other libertarian organizations when I deem such cooperation to be appropriate. (Likewise, I plan to remain a member of groups like the ACLU and the NRA, even though I disagree with these groups on a variety of issues.) At the same time, I plan to argue strongly for a politics consistent with objective principles of morality and individual rights.

I may also decide to support main-stream candidates at times. (Indeed, right now I favor the Republican in my area for state senate.) Ayn Rand remarked in 1981, "There is a limit to the notion of voting for the lesser of two evils." I draw from this, however, that supporting the less-bad candidate (perhaps at times a Libertarian) is sometimes prudent. But supporting a partly good candidate does not at all entail apologizing for that candidate's bad positions. That's a crucial distinction Olsen ignores. Olsen supports unprincipled candidates, refuses to criticize their flaws, and ignores the obvious problem that such candidates haven't the slightest chance to win, and thus are serving only to undermine the philosophy of individual rights. To qualify as "the lesser of evils," a Libertarian candidate would have to at least have a realistic chance to win.

No doubt some will claim that I am leaving the LPCO for base reasons, along the lines that I'm bitter about not getting my own way. Yet anyone who has followed my arguments will recognize the care with which I've made this decision. Those content to answer my arguments with ad hominem attacks were never my political allies, anyway.

My stubborn streak makes me want to stick around and fight the problems I see with the LPCO -- almost. But now, after seeing the problems I've described go on for over two years, and being confronted by irrational hostility and moral subjectivism by some LPCO leaders and members time and again, I believe my continued involvement with the LPCO would be irresponsible.

Readers will note that I've changed the descriptive line on my banner from, "A libertarian journal of politics and culture," to, "An independent review of politics and culture." Of course, the nature of my beliefs have not changed -- except that I have become more attuned to the problems of moral subjectivism. I will not object to being labeled a libertarian in my politics, so long as it's understood I'm the morally objective sort of libertarian. I felt changing my banner helped reinforce the seriousness of my decision and my desire not to be affiliated with the LPCO. True, the word "libertarian" does not imply LP association, but I personally have had an LP association, and I want to allow no confusion over my split with the LPCO. I will continue to argue that morally subjectivist, unprincipled varieties of "libertarianism" are illegitimate and unstable. I will continue to argue for a principled, morally objective philosophy of individual rights, economic liberty, and properly restrained state power.

If "libertarianism" has any legitimate meaning, it can only be as I've described it. The moral subjectivists and the apologists for the unprincipled within the LPCO have forsaken the "party of principle." To paraphrase Reagan, it's more the case that the LPCO has left me. I have now recognized that fact, and I have signed the divorce papers.

Now that I'm free of the LPCO, I am also free to more effectively pursue that which has always motivated me: liberty.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com