Iowa Responds to Reno’s Biggest Controversies

The Libertarian Party of Iowa thanks and congratulates the 10 members of the Iowa delegation that spent significant time and money to spend their Memorial Day weekend in Reno, Nevada to represent Iowa at the 2022 Libertarian National Convention.  We especially congratulate Joshua Smith on his election to LNC Vice Chair, a well-earned victory that we are confident will reflect well on his adopted state of Iowa. Many are celebrating the election of new leadership and the promise of renewed energy based on the record-breaking donations of over $400,000 coming in just the first few days.  Others are concerned by the changes brought by the delegation,  represented by the Reason article, “Mises Caucus Takes Control of Libertarian Party” which speaks to fears of “right-wing deviationism and racism”.

As the Iowa delegation included members of the Mises Caucus, we wanted to provide the most charitable explanation for the two most controversial events which occurred at the convention, which was the deletion of Platform Plank 1.5 on Abortion, and the amendment of Plank 3.5 on Rights and Discrimination.

Regarding the deletion of Plank 1.5, the previous plank read:

“Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”

While a pro-life anarchist may agree with this wording, the proponents of removing this plank argued that it was explicitly pro-choice.  In explaining their endorsement of removing this plank, the Mises Caucus pointed to lack of consensus in libertarian thought and tradition as to whether abortion should be considered a violation of the non-aggression principle, arguing it would be better for the party to be silent and allow the candidates to speak to their conscience and principle.  The Mises Caucus also said they would oppose any effort to add a pro-life plank to the platform to keep it truly neutral.

Like most states, the Iowa delegation did not vote unanimously on this important vote, but as the LP bylaws purposefully make platform planks easier to delete (by majority vote) than to amend (by 2/3rd vote), the removal easily passed by over 60%.

The second major change to the platform receiving the most criticism was the vote to remove the sentence, “we condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant” from Plank 3.5.  The harshest critics of this vote are claiming that only a bigot would remove a sentence condemning bigotry, and this action confirms the worst accusations against the Mises Caucus.  However, there is a good-faith explanation that fellow libertarians should consider. 

As a political party, our platform is to explain our position on political issues, and the realm of politics is exclusively the realm of what government should and should not do.  Plank 3.5 already makes it clear that “government should neither deny nor abridge any individual’s human right based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference, or sexual orientation”.   With bigotry defined as prejudice against a person or people based on their membership of a particular group, the libertarian position is that government should not engage in bigotry.  

So, what would be the harm of condemning the bigotry of private citizens?  The answer is two-fold.  First, why not condemn other vices in our platform, such as infidelity?  We could imagine dozens of moral offenses that do not raise to the level of force and aggression, but as libertarians, we leave these out of our party platform.   If libertarians subjectively value anything, it is consistency.

Finally, we must be blunt that one person’s “bigotry” may be another person’s freedom of religion or freedom of association.  However we may feel as individuals on private bigotry, as libertarians, we must stand for the rights of self-ownership and the property rights of the proverbial baker not to be forced to bake a cake, for any reason.  For those who find private bigotry irrational and repugnant in the exceptionally few cases where it exists, Plank 3.5 states “individuals are free to respond with ostracism, boycotts, and other free market solutions.”  In other words, if people are being bigots, then try to use peaceful means to persuade them to act differently, and if that fails, use your own freedom of association as you see fit. 

Like the removal of the abortion plank, removing the condemnation of bigotry from Plank 3.5 was likely to be split and contentious.  But before it came to a vote a motion was made from the floor to consider a compromise amendment authored by our 2020 Vice Presidential candidate Spike Cohen.  This motion proposed to replace the bigotry sentence with “We uphold and defend the rights of every person, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or any other aspect of their identity”.  When this compromise amendment was announced the national delegation breathed a collective sigh of relief, and it enthusiastically passed by an estimate of 90%.

Whether you are pleased or upset with these developments, our advice is the same: get involved.  If the 2022 Libertarian National Convention proved anything, it is that we are a party experiencing a surge of new membership and activism, and we will only get stronger as a party with more libertarians joining the battle of ideas.  We welcome good-faith criticism and spirited debate; it is the best way to sharpen our minds and prepare us for the real work ahead.

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