You may have noticed the hashtag, or come across the related LPTexas merch. What’s up with this?


Many of us here in Texas are increasingly weary of the partisan infighting in the Libertarian Party that is personal and identity-driven. We’re also increasingly aware of the irony of the Libertarian Party’s uncannily mirroring the cultural divide (and bitterness, and hatred, and fear) of the polarized culture around us, even as we proclaim that we are “The Party of Principle”.


What principle is it exactly that we claim to embody? In what way are we different from everybody else? It’s getting harder to see that from the outside, as extremist partisans inside the party double down on the “we’re right, you don’t belong here” rhetoric.


It is axiomatic that an organization based on the primacy of the value of individual autonomy is going to struggle with . . . organization. Group effort demands a division of labor, teamwork, leadership, followership, and cooperation behind a shared mission. Without the unifying force of an agreed shared mission, a bunch of “you’re not the boss of me” libertarians wouldn’t be able to organize a potluck, let alone win an occasional election, let alone collaborate to supplant an entrenched national bureaucracy supporting the consolidation of planetwide control in the hands of a powerful plutocracy.


Our keepers (government) and handlers (media) have been running a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy for decades, and they keep running it because it’s working. Logically, coupled with the gradual centralization of power, it has to work. Give enough people enough time and enough issues to think about, and they will inevitably find something they can’t agree on. Typically lots of ‘somethings’. Add the power of the internet to a 24-hour ‘news’ cycle and you can keep most of the people pissed off at each other most of the time, mostly online, and mostly over abstract propositions about people they don’t even know, let alone care about, in real life.


Meanwhile, back in the real world, most of us have an immediate circle of family and friends that have very close to a shared value system, at least more alike in the center and then different around the edges. In our professional life or wider community relationships, we can afford a little more tolerance of divergent values, but still typically need some shared purpose and a base set of core values to drive the relationship.


Then past some point, say around 150 folks if Dunbar’s number has anything to do with it, people just fall off our radar. There are only so many people you can keep track of, let alone care about. And the only “relationship” you’re going to have with people outside of your circle is no real relationship at all. They exist as abstractions, avatars on social media, maybe just records on a spreadsheet or in a database somewhere. But they don’t matter in the same way, and you don’t care in the same way.


And this is where being the so-called “Party of Principle” can be a real bitch. To the extent we prioritize abstract principle over flesh-and-blood people we can actually do more harm than good to our cause, using our principles as an excuse for hate.


I’ve met a lot of interesting people on my libertarian journey. Most I get along with just fine, some I really enjoy. For some, the only thing we have in common is a shared desire to reduce the size and reach of government; otherwise, we don’t share many values or priorities, may not even get along. But that one thing we have in common is enough to build on, if we can keep at the front of our minds this core understanding: that the better we are at scaling back the centralization of everything and giving individuals more freedom to design and live their own lives, the more we will have to get used to the idea that ‘someone out there somewhere is doing something I would not recommend to someone I care about’.


In a couple of days many of us will be at the Libertarian Party Convention in Washington, D.C., surrounded by people we don’t really know, or at best don’t really know well. (For a big state like Texas, we won’t even know all the people in our own delegation.) Identity politics and stereotyping are shallow substitutes for actual knowledge of a person’s beliefs and motivations, so let’s tread carefully and try to listen to a person as an individual before judging, especially if we don’t actually know that person in real life, and could only base some prejudice we have about them on second-hand opinions or guilt-by-association.


“Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” is ancient wisdom, but it’s still good advice. It’s especially good advice for a bunch of people who mostly don’t know each other trying to make important decisions together on behalf of a diverse group in a stressful environment. I’m appealing to my fellow Texas delegates to help “set the tone” at convention. Being insulting to other delegates doesn’t make you more effective, it makes you less. Let’s be the professionals in the room in D.C., regardless of what others might do, then come back home together and show the rest of the country what Libertarians are capable of when we focus on opposing the tyranny we agree on, instead of opposing each other where we don’t agree.