1998 National Platform of the Libertarian Party
Adopted in Convention
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives, and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.
Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
In the following pages we have set forth our basic principles and enumerated various policy stands derived from those principles.
These specific policies are not our goal, however. Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL ORDER
No conflict exists between civil order and individual rights. Both concepts are based on the same fundamental principle: that no individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government.
FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY
We believe that individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. We must accept the right of others to choose for themselves if we are to have the same right. Our support of an individual's right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.
We believe people must accept personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Libertarian policies will promote a society where people are free to make and learn from their own decisions. Personal responsibility is discouraged by government denying individuals the opportunity to exercise it. In fact, the denial of freedom fosters irresponsibility.
The continuing high level of violent crime -- and the government's demonstrated inability to deal with it -- threatens the lives, happiness, and belongings of Americans. At the same time, governmental violations of rights undermine the people's sense of justice with regard to crime. The appropriate way to suppress crime is through consistent and impartial enforcement of laws that protect individual rights. Laws pertaining to "victimless crimes" should be repealed since such laws themselves violate individual rights and also breed genuine crime. We applaud the trend toward private protection services and voluntary community crime control groups. We support institutional changes, consistent with full respect for the rights of the accused, that would permit victims to direct the prosecution in criminal cases.
THE WAR ON DRUGS
The so-called "War on Drugs" is a grave threat to individual liberty, to domestic order and to peace in the world; furthermore, it has provided a rationale by which the power of the state has been expanded to restrict greatly our right to privacy and to be secure in our homes.
We call for the repeal of all laws establishing criminal or civil penalties for the use of drugs and of "anti-crime" measures restricting individual rights to be secure in our persons, homes, and property, or limiting our rights to keep and bear arms.
We oppose the current practice of forced jury duty and favor all-volunteer juries. In addition, we urge the assertion of the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law. In all cases to which the government is a party, the judge should be required to inform the jurors of their common law right to judge the law, as well as the facts, and to acquit a criminal defendant, and to find against the government in a civil trial, whenever they deem the law unjust or oppressive.
The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights -- life, liberty, and justly acquired property -- against aggression, whether by force or fraud. This right inheres in the individual, who -- with his or her consent -- may be aided by any other individual or group.
The right of defense extends to defense against aggressive acts of government. We favor an immediate end to the doctrine of "Sovereign Immunity" which ignores the primacy of the individual over the abstraction of the State, and holds that the State, contrary to the tradition of redress of grievances, may not be sued without its permission or held accountable for its actions under civil law.
FREEDOM OF COMMUNICATION
We defend the rights of individuals to unrestricted freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right of individuals to dissent from government itself. We recognize that full freedom of expression is possible only as part of a system of full property rights. The freedom to use one's own voice; the freedom to hire a hall; the freedom to own a printing press, a broadcasting station, or a transmission cable; the freedom to wave or burn one's own flag; and similar property-based freedoms are precisely what constitute freedom of communication. At the same time, we recognize that freedom of communication does not extend to the use of other people's property to promote one's ideas without the voluntary consent of the owners.
We oppose any abridgment of the freedom of speech through government censorship, regulation or control of communications media, including, but not limited to, laws concerning:
-- Obscenity, including "pornography", as we hold this to be an abridgment of liberty of expression despite claims that it instigates rape or assault, or demeans and slanders women;
-- Reception and storage equipment, such as digital audio tape recorders and radar warning devices, and the manufacture of video terminals by telephone companies;
-- Electronic bulletin boards, communications networks, and other interactive electronic media as we hold them to be the functional equivalent of speaking halls and printing presses in the age of electronic communications, and as such deserving of full freedom;
-- Electronic newspapers, electronic "Yellow Pages", and other new information media, as these deserve full freedom.
-- Commercial speech or advertising.
We oppose speech codes at all schools that are primarily tax funded. Language that is deemed offensive to certain groups is not a cause for legal action.
We favor the abolition of the Federal Communications Commission as we would provide for free market ownership of airwave frequencies, deserving of full First Amendment protection.
We oppose government ownership or subsidy of, or funding for, any communications organization.
We strongly oppose the government's burgeoning practice of invading newsrooms, or the premises of other innocent third parties, in the name of law enforcement. We further oppose court orders gagging news coverage of criminal proceedings -- the right to publish and broadcast must not be abridged merely for the convenience of the judicial system. We deplore any efforts to impose thought control on the media, either by the use of anti-trust laws, or by any other government action in the name of stopping "bias."
Removal of all of these regulations and practices throughout the communications media would open the way to diversity and innovation. We shall not be satisfied until the First Amendment is expanded to protect full, unconditional freedom of communication.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION
We defend the rights of individuals to engage in (or abstain from) any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. In order to defend freedom, we advocate a strict separation of church and State. We oppose government actions that either aid or attack any religion. We oppose taxation of church property for the same reason that we oppose all taxation. We oppose the harassment of churches by the Internal Revenue Service through threats to deny tax-exempt status to churches that refuse to disclose massive amounts of information about themselves.
We condemn the attempts by parents or any others -- via kidnappings or conservatorships -- to force children to conform to any religious views. Government harassment or obstruction of religious groups for their beliefs or non-violent activities must end.
PROTECTION OF PRIVACY
The individual's right to privacy, property, and right to speak or not to speak should not be infringed by the government. The government should not use electronic or other means of covert surveillance of an individual's actions or private property without the consent of the owner or occupant. Correspondence, bank and other financial transactions and records, doctors' and lawyers' communications, employment records, and the like should not be open to review by government without the consent of all parties involved in those actions.
We support the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment and oppose any government use of search warrants to examine or seize materials belonging to innocent third parties. We also oppose police roadblocks aimed at randomly, and without probable cause, testing drivers for intoxication and police practices to stop mass transit vehicles and search passengers without probable cause.
So long as the National Census and all federal, state, and other government agencies' compilations of data on an individual continue to exist, they should be conducted only with the consent of the persons from whom the data is sought.
We oppose all restrictions and regulations on the private development, sale, and use of encryption technology. We specifically oppose any requirement for disclosure of encryption methods or keys, including the government's proposals for so-called "key escrow" which is truly government access to keys, and any requirement for use of government-specified devices or protocols. We also oppose government classification of civilian research on encryption methods.
If a private employer screens prospective or current employees via questionnaires, polygraph tests, urine tests for drugs, blood tests for AIDS, or other means, this is a condition of that employer's labor contracts. Such screening does not violate the rights of employees, who have the right to boycott such employers if they choose. Private contractual arrangements, including labor contracts, must be founded on mutual consent and agreement in a society that upholds freedom of association. On the other hand, we oppose any use of such screening by government or regulations requiring government contractors to impose any such screening.
We oppose government regulations that require employers to provide health insurance coverage for employees, which often encourage unnecessary intrusions by employers into the privacy of their employees.
We oppose the issuance by the government of an identity card, to be required for any purpose, such as employment, voting, or border crossing.
We further oppose the nearly universal requirement for use of the Social Security Number as a personal identification code, whether by government agencies or by intimidation of private companies by governments.
We condemn the government's use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have. We favor substituting a system in which no individual may be convicted for violating government secrecy classifications unless the government discharges its burden of proving that the publication:
a. violated the right of privacy of those who have been coerced into revealing confidential or proprietary information to government agents, or
b. disclosed defensive military plans so as to materially impair the capabilities to respond to attack.
It should always be a defense to such prosecution that information divulged shows that the government has violated the law.
THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS
The Bill of Rights recognizes that an armed citizenry is essential to a free society. We affirm the right to keep and bear arms and oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, regulating, or requiring the ownership, manufacture, transfer, or sale of firearms or ammunition. We oppose all laws requiring registration of firearms or ammunition. We also oppose any government efforts to ban or restrict the use of tear gas, "mace," or other self-protection devices. We further oppose all attempts to ban weapons or ammunition on the grounds that they are risky or unsafe.
We support repeal of the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, and we demand the immediate abolition of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
We favor the repeal of laws banning the concealment of weapons or prohibiting pocket weapons. We also oppose the banning of inexpensive handguns ("Saturday night specials"), and semi-automatic or so-called assault weapons and their magazines or feeding devices.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND ABORTION
We hold that individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. We call for repeal of all laws discriminating against women, such as protective labor laws and marriage or divorce laws which deny the full rights of men and women. We oppose all laws likely to impose restrictions on free choice and private property or to widen tyranny through reverse discrimination.
Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that libertarians can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept entirely out of the question, allowing all individuals to be guided by their own consciences. We oppose all restrictions on the sale of RU 486, and on the sale of menstruation-inducing contragestive pills, which block fertilized eggs from attaching themselves to the womb. We oppose legislation restricting or subsidizing women's access to abortion or other reproductive health services; this includes requiring consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, and mandatory indoctrination on fetal development, as well as Medicaid or any other taxpayer funding. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another's abortion.
We also condemn state-mandated abortions.
It is the right and obligation of the pregnant woman, not the state, to decide the desirability or appropriateness of prenatal testing, Caesarean births, fetal surgery, voluntary surrogacy arrangements, and/or home births.
We believe that adults have the right to private choice in consensual sexual activity.
We oppose any government attempt to dictate, prohibit, control, or encourage any private lifestyle, living arrangement or contractual relationship.
We support repeal of existing laws and policies which are intended to condemn, affirm, encourage, or deny sexual lifestyles or any set of attitudes about such lifestyles.
TRADE AND THE ECONOMY
We believe that each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. Therefore we oppose all intervention by government into the area of economics. The only proper role of existing governments in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected.
Efforts to forcibly redistribute wealth or forcibly manage trade are intolerable. Government manipulation of the economy creates an entrenched privileged class -- those with access to tax money -- and an exploited class -- those who are net taxpayers.
We believe that all individuals have the right to dispose of the fruits of their labor as they see fit and that government has no right to take such wealth. We oppose government-enforced charity such as welfare programs and subsidies, but we heartily applaud those individuals and private charitable organizations that help the needy and contribute to a wide array of worthwhile causes through voluntary activities.
Since we believe that all persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor, we oppose all government activity that consists of the forcible collection of money or goods from individuals in violation of their individual rights. Specifically, we:
a. recognize the right of any individual to challenge the payment of taxes on moral, religious, legal, or constitutional grounds;
b. oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes;
c. support the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, and oppose any increase in existing tax rates and the imposition of any new taxes;
d. support the eventual repeal of all taxation; and
e. support a declaration of unconditional amnesty for all those individuals who have been convicted of, or who now stand accused of, tax resistance.
As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.
We oppose as involuntary servitude any legal requirements forcing employers or business owners to serve as tax collectors for federal, state, or local tax agencies.
We oppose any and all increases in the rate of taxation or categories of taxpayers, including the elimination of deductions, exemptions, or credits in the spurious name of "fairness," "simplicity," or alleged "neutrality to the free market." No tax can ever be fair, simple, or neutral to the free market.
In the current fiscal crisis of states and municipalities, default is preferable to raising taxes or perpetual refinancing of growing public debt.
We support the drive for a constitutional amendment requiring the national government to balance its budget, and also support similar amendments to require balanced state budgets. To be effective, a balanced budget amendment should provide:
a. that neither Congress nor the President be permitted to override this requirement;
b. that all off-budget items are included in the budget;
c. that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes; and
d. that no exception be made for periods of national emergency.
The Federal Reserve should be forbidden to acquire any additional government securities, thereby helping to eliminate the inflationary aspect of the deficit. Governments facing fiscal crises should always default in preference to raising taxes. At a minimum, the level of government should be frozen.
We condemn all coercive monopolies. We recognize that government is the source of monopoly, through its grants of legal privilege to special interests in the economy. In order to abolish monopolies, we advocate a strict separation of business and State.
"Anti-trust" laws do not prevent monopoly, but foster it by limiting competition. We therefore call for the repeal of all "anti-trust" laws, including the Robinson-Patman Act which restricts price discounts, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and the Clayton Anti-Trust Act. We further call for the abolition of the Federal Trade Commission and the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice.
We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives, and other types of companies based on voluntary association. Laws of incorporation should not include grants of monopoly privilege. In particular, we oppose special limits on the liability of corporations for damages caused in noncontractual transactions. We also oppose state or federal limits on the size of private companies and on the right of companies to merge. We further oppose efforts, in the name of social responsibility, or any other reason, to expand federal chartering of corporations into a pretext for government control of business.
UNIONS AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
We support the right of free persons to voluntarily establish, associate in, or not associate in, labor unions. An employer should have the right to recognize, or refuse to recognize, a union as the collective bargaining agent of some, or all, of its employees.
We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or the imposition of an obligation to bargain. Therefore, we urge repeal of the National Labor Relations Act, and all state Right-to-Work Laws which prohibit employers from making voluntary contracts with unions. We oppose all government back-to-work orders as the imposition of a form of forced labor.
Government-mandated waiting periods for closure of factories or businesses hurt, rather than help, the wage-earner. We support all efforts to benefit workers, owners, and management by keeping government out of this area.
Workers and employers should have the right to organize secondary boycotts if they so choose. Nevertheless, boycotts or strikes do not justify the initiation of violence against other workers, employers, strike-breakers, and innocent bystanders.
Current problems in such areas as energy, pollution, health care delivery, decaying cities, and poverty are not solved, but are primarily caused, by government. The welfare state, supposedly designed to aid the poor, is in reality a growing and parasitic burden on all productive people, and injures, rather than benefits, the poor themselves.
Pollution of other people's property is a violation of individual rights. Present legal principles, particularly the unjust and false concept of "public property," block privatisation of the use of the environment and hence block resolution of controversies over resource use. We support the development of an objective legal system defining property rights to air and water. We call for a modification of the laws governing such torts as trespass and nuisance to cover damages done by air, water, radiation, and noise pollution. We oppose legislative proposals to exempt persons who claim damage from radiation from having to prove such damage was in fact caused by radiation. Strict liability, not government agencies and arbitrary government standards, should regulate pollution. We therefore demand the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency. We also oppose government-mandated smoking and non-smoking areas in privately owned businesses.
Toxic waste disposal problems have been created by government policies that separate liability from property. Rather than making taxpayers pay for toxic waste clean-ups, individual property owners, or in the case of corporations, the responsible managers and employees, should be held strictly liable for material damage done by their property. Claiming that one has abandoned a piece of property does not absolve one of the responsibility for actions one has set in motion. We condemn the EPA's Superfund whose taxing powers are used to penalize all chemical firms, regardless of their conduct. Such clean-ups are a subsidy of irresponsible companies at the expense of responsible ones.
We support strong and effective laws against fraud and misrepresentation. However, we oppose paternalistic regulations which dictate to consumers, impose prices, define standards for products, or otherwise restrict risk-taking and free choice. We oppose governmental promotion or imposition of the metric system.
We oppose all so-called "consumer protection" legislation which infringes upon voluntary trade, and call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called "self-protection" equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.
We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration, which has jeopardized safety by arrogating to itself a monopoly of safety regulation and enforcement. We call for privatizing the air traffic control system and transferring the FAA's other functions to private agencies.
We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration and particularly its policies of mandating specific nutritional requirements and denying the right of manufacturers to make non-fraudulent claims concerning their products. We advocate an end to compulsory fluoridation of water supplies. We specifically oppose government regulation of the price, potency, or quantity able to be produced or purchased of drugs or other consumer goods. There should be no laws regarding what substances (nicotine, alcohol, hallucinogens, narcotics, Laetrile, artificial sweeteners, vitamin supplements, or other "drugs") a person may ingest or otherwise use.
We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended. We call for the repeal of the guarantees of tax-funded, government-provided education, which are found in most state constitutions.
As an interim measure to encourage the growth of private schools and variety in education, including home schooling, we support tax credits for tuition and other expenditures related to an individual's education. We likewise favor tax credits for child care and oppose nationalization of the child-care industry. We oppose denial of tax-exempt status to schools because of those schools' private policies on hiring, admissions, and student deportment. We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether for profit or non-profit.
We condemn compulsory education laws, which spawn prison-like schools with many of the problems associated with prisons, and we call for an immediate repeal of such laws.
Until government involvement in education is ended, we support elimination, within the governmental school system, of forced busing and corporal punishment. We further support immediate reduction of tax support for schools, and removal of the burden of school taxes from those not responsible for the education of children.
Recognizing that the American people are not a collective national resource, we oppose all coercive measures for population control.
We oppose government actions that either compel or prohibit abortion, sterilization, or any other forms of birth control. Specifically, we condemn the vicious practice of forced sterilization of welfare recipients or of mentally retarded or "genetically defective" individuals.
We regard the tragedies caused by unplanned, unwanted pregnancies to be aggravated, if not created, by government policies of censorship, restriction, regulation, and prohibition. Therefore, we call for the repeal of all laws that restrict anyone, including children, from engaging in voluntary exchanges of goods, services, or information regarding human sexuality, reproduction, birth control, or related medical or biological technologies.
We equally oppose government laws and policies that restrict the opportunity to choose alternatives to abortion.
We support an end to all subsidies for childbearing built into our present laws, including welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children. We urge the elimination of special tax burdens on single people and couples with few or no children.
POVERTY AND UNEMPLOYMENT
Government fiscal and monetary measures that artificially foster business expansion guarantee an eventual increase in unemployment rather than curtailing it. We call for the immediate cessation of such policies as well as any governmental attempts to affect employment levels.
We support repeal of all laws that impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws, so-called "protective" labor legislation for women and children, governmental restrictions on the establishment of private day-care centers, and the National Labor Relations Act. We deplore government-fostered forced retirement, which robs the elderly of the right to work.
We seek the elimination of occupational licensure, which prevents human beings from working in whatever trade they wish. We call for the abolition of all federal, state, and local government agencies that restrict entry into any profession, such as education and law, or regulate its practice. No worker should be legally penalized for lack of certification, and no consumer should be legally restrained from hiring unlicensed individuals.
We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and "aid to the poor" programs. All these government programs are invasive of privacy, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.
To speed the time when governmental programs are replaced by effective private institutions we advocate dollar-for-dollar tax credits for all charitable contributions.
Recent decades have witnessed growing government involvement in the health care system. That involvement has led to bureaucratic top-down management, rapidly escalating prices, costly regulations, the criminalization of the practice of medicine, and a host of other problems. None of these problems was prevalent prior to the time when government began to increase its involvement. We believe that government involvement is the principal cause of many of the problems we face in the health care system today. Therefore we favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system.
We advocate a complete separation of medicine from the state. We recognize the right of individuals to determine free from government interference and its harmful side effects the level of insurance they want, the level of care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use, and all other aspects of their medical care. We oppose any government restriction or funding of medical or scientific research, including cloning.
We support an end to government-provided health insurance and health care. Both of these functions can be more effectively provided in the private sector. The high cost of health insurance is largely due to government's excessive regulation of the industry. Government's role in any kind of insurance should only be to enforce contracts when necessary, not to dictate to insurance companies and consumers which kinds of insurance contracts they may voluntarily agree upon.
We favor replacing the current fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, government sponsored Social Security system with a private voluntary system. Pending that replacement, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary. Victims of the Social Security tax should have a claim against government property.
We propose the abolition of the government Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages government surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.
1998 National Platform of the Libertarian Party (2)
We call for an end to government control of political parties, consistent with First Amendment rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. As private voluntary groups, political parties should be allowed to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries, and conventions.
We urge repeal of the Federal Election Campaign Act which suppresses voluntary support of candidates and parties, compels taxpayers to subsidize politicians and political views which many do not wish to support, invades the privacy of American citizens, and protects the Republican and Democratic parties from competition. This law is particularly dangerous as it enables the federal government to control the elections of its own administrators and beneficiaries, thereby further reducing its accountability to the citizens.
Elections at all levels should be in the control of those who wish to participate in or support them voluntarily. We therefore call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns.
Many state legislatures have established prohibitively restrictive laws which in effect exclude alternative candidates and parties from their rightful place on election ballots. Such laws wrongfully deny ballot access to political candidates and groups and further deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives. We hold that no state has an interest to protect in this area except for the fair and efficient conduct of elections.
The Australian ballot system, introduced into the United States in the late nineteenth century, is an abridgement of freedom of expression and of voting rights. Under it, the names of all the officially approved candidates are printed in a single government sponsored format and the voter indicates his or her choice by marking it or by writing in an approved but unlisted candidate's name. We should return to the previous electoral system where there was no official ballot or candidate approval at all, and therefore no state or federal restriction of access to a "single ballot." Instead, voters submitted their own choices and had the option of using "tickets" or cards printed by candidates or political parties.
In order to grant voters a full range of choice in federal, state, and local elections, we propose the addition of the alternative "None of the above is acceptable" to all ballots. We further propose that in the event that "none of the above is acceptable" receives a plurality of votes in any election, the elective office for that term should remain unfilled and unfunded.
American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and the defense -- against attack from abroad -- of the lives, liberty, and property of the American people on American soil. Provision of such defense must respect the individual rights of people everywhere.
The principle of non-intervention should guide relationships between governments. The United States government should return to the historic libertarian tradition of avoiding entangling alliances, abstaining totally from foreign quarrels and imperialist adventures, and recognizing the right to unrestricted trade, travel, and immigration.
Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.
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