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Pinellas Libertarians lead Coalitions in Florida

August 2nd 2005

Pinellas Libertarians lead Coalitions in Florida

Libertarian Party

Tampa, Fl, -As people seem to like Libertarians more and more, perhaps the simply most unnerving evidence of Libertarian appeal is this: 98% of the people who vote for their candidates aren't even formal members of the Libertarian Party.

Libertarians turn pre-conception of government, and politics, upside down. One reason might be in their ability to do politics by ideas, listening, and legwork at a time when it seems nothing can be done without glitzy ads and vast finances. . Despite their advocacy of individualism, Libertarians have in fact long had a reputation in sophisticated political circles as savvy coalition builders and diverse community leaders able to quietly build consensus, find common areas, and get things done.


It must be so, as several community groups met to look at common issues in a meeting co-facilitated by the Libertarian Party of Pinellas ( ) for Tampa Bay community leaders. The meeting was held at National-Louis University.


"We value the Libertarian perspective on civil liberties and their consensus skills," said Candi Jovan, an organizer for Common Ground, which is sponsoring the series of brainstorming meetings, who also praised other facilitating members of the event.. "Their ability to apply principle in practice often attracts many community leaders," said another attendee, "The ones I've met get it done and are fun."

Libertarians nationwide are also known for sometimes being overly self-critical, agonizing over numberless details. The image is not helped by pronouncements from their national party staff, say some Libertarians, who often are new to the movement and have little sense of what’s happening. And many sites run by conservative groups masquerade as Libertarian to attack the Libertarians saying they must give up their principles and tore the conservative or neo-conservative line to be effective.

Yet continuing self-criticism is part of their sharp edge. They perhaps unjustly have a reputation as a debating society, as new members come to some meetings unawares and find participants arguing Robert’s Rules, and schooling themselves on a range of topics from local policy minutiae to discussing Immanuel Kant’s effect on welfare economics. Yet this also makes them formidable debaters, and often they lose an election battle but win the war as opponents must address the points they bring up and promise to implement Libertarian ideas. Plus college and high school students, who will in the long run determine much of the country’s direction, love the challenging discussions.

Paradoxically, Libertarians can cheer up by listening to their opponents. “If you like small government, join the Libertarians, they have class,” Says former Florida Democratic Senator Graham. Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr notes that “Increasingly if you don’t think Libertarian ideas are increasingly mainstream and effective, you’re not in the mainstream or effective.” on a local Pinellas radio show run by Libertarians. Even figures like Ralph Nader have nice things to say about Libertarians: "They're organized," he tells admirers bluntly in a recent book, urging people to pay attention.


Indeed, Libertarians would argue that they have a niche precisely because individualism and non-coercion (Libertarians take an oath or affirmation not to advocate initiation of force, including by government) oblige people to co-operate. A common principle lets them self-organize independently, and focus on a bottom-up approach of 'self-leadership.'

Indeed many Libertarians quote Science Fiction author Robert Heinlein, creator of 'Starship Troopers' and himself an active Libertarian before his death: "Leaders obey where the individual people will lead."

"Libertarian Individuals Mean Community Progress" is in fact the motto of the Libertarian International Organization, and has been adopted by Libertarian groups around the world. Libertarians view traditional coercive government—with its taxes, social control, and commercial regulations—as inhumane and obsolete, and work for an array of 'voluntary government' private and co-operative alternatives that are slowly being adopted around the world. These alternatives, they say, will better protect people's rights and curb abuses. They say they’re right in line with the Founders, pointing to Jefferson’s call for diminishing government.

True, they recognize that their principle of non-coercion and less government--or no government--is quite an adjustment for most people. But they patiently advance their ideas with small, and sometimes 'paradigm changing steps,' says Gary Iavecchia, a Republican activist who recently joined the Pinellas Libertarians.


They must be doing something right, not only in Pinellas, but Florida: Libertarians hold a small, growing, portfolio of influential local positions there from Soil & Water Boards to the advisor on economics of the Governor, who is also the President’s brother. They have led successful coalitions on difficult issues, such as Revision 11. which overnight--that is, after 15 years of relentless, polite team organizing--changed Florida's anti-third party election laws from among the world's most stringent ( Libertarians noted that Russia's laws were more liberal, and the media soon ridiculed laws it previously had supported) to among America's most enlightened.

That’s a phrase you hear about Libertarians in Florida: polite team players and relentless.


Indeed, the National Libertarian Party itself dubbed their coalition the "Libertarian success story of the decade." It was followed by elections where an average of 16% of the electorate voted Libertarian--half the number voting for Democrats, and a slow but steady growth of Libertarians elected or appointed in local offices, cutting taxes and blowing the whistle on official abuses.

Plus they get high praise from their political colleagues: "They're small but understand the one thing that is gold coin in politics: if you have a reasonable principle and have the will to stick with it ignoring people who say ‘compromise’ and politicians willing to sell out their grandmothers, all until you win, then you win," said an aide to the former State House majority leader who asked not to be named, "And then the victories come more easily as people realize you intend to win, and know how to win."

Many observers agree that, because of their principle that coercive government is never the solution and actually the problem, Libertarians are able to be relentless from a long term focus and the strong bargaining position that gives them: they don't bargain. While they do offer a variety of incremental steps, they always move towards getting the public more voluntary alternatives. Their message is they simply won’t support more taxes, regulations, or official social intolerance of any kind.

Thus Pinellas Libertarians draw a sharp distinction between compromising promises to the public and advocacy of transitional measures that head in the right direction. And they patiently meet with groups to build consensus, citing LP Founder David Nolan, who called the LP a consensus organization. “People spend a lot of time on what they won’t do, we focus on what people are willing to do, and there are often areas of agreement people don’t realize are there until they start talking,“ Says Pinellas LP Chair Michael Gilson-De Lemos.” Step by step is good, but in the context of the need to ask for what you want up front in any discussion so people get over the sticker shock, so to speak—but often people realize that they agree completely with what at first seems an ‘extreme’ proposal. If you don’t ask, the answer is no. Anyone who’s sold a house can tell you that. I would say that 80% of what people say ‘Oh, they’ll never do that’ people will do on a little discussion. And we listen carefully to other’s proposals, always looking for a common area of action.”

It's also creating a reputation for integrity among the public. “When people ask, how do I know Libertarians will not go back on their promises, I point to the fact of the pledge and that we simply see no role for government coercion,” Says activist Jon Kueny. Libertarian candidates, who in Florida run deliberately low-budget, legwork based campaigns de-emphasizing campaign contributions (they’re often outspent even by the Greens) actually had lobbyists complaining in a newspaper article that Libertarians were driving up the price of what many feel are de-facto bribes—what are called campaign contributions for access—since Libertarians won’t compete for lobbyist funds. Unsurprisingly, Pinellas Libertarians posted the article on their website with glee and it now forms part of their presentations to community groups. . "Public bodies notice a change with even one Libertarian present" says the St Petersburg Press. The Times-Union puts it more succinctly: "The Libertarians are doing what political parties are supposed to do" at the local level.


Their abilities continue in Pinellas County, Florida, where Libertarians have been attracting international attention with their systematic approach to education, activism, and political action on Libertarian ideas. Pinellas County includes the resort and retirement cities of Clearwater and St Petersburg.

Pinellas was among the first American counties to privatize ambulance services. Libertarians have led coalitions that cut taxes and expanded voluntary home schools. They’re working with local peace groups, are talking to community leaders about a Pinellas city adopting an Iraqi or Middle East sister city for long term peace, and point out that Libertarians are at work in Iraq, including a workshop for 63 Iraqi Legislators interested in less government and more human rights. Lately they've been active in fighting the Patriot Act and promoting better election procedures, notably in a coalition with Democrats, Greens, and numerous community groups ( using ideas developed from standing-room only public hearings the Libertarians also helped facilitate.

And it isn’t just the Libertarian Party. An array of non-partisan Libertarian groups focused on books, cultural discussion and community projects have an Adopt-A-Road Program, assist new home schoolers, and have a Libertarian radio show that interviews a parade of local and national officials and figures on voluntary approaches. There are monthly seminars open to all on how to be a candidate, fill out Rube Goldberg government forms, activism, and a dinner group. There’s even a well attended short workshop on the Libertarian pledge, which relates it to policy proposals and self-improvement books, and compares it with the less well known oaths of the Republicans, Democrats, and Greens.

All this makes for political capital. Several Pinellas Libertarians are on the short list for appointment to local citizen advisory boards, and a group of non-Libertarians has offered to fund Libertarian candidates for local elections. The Election Reform proposals are being studied by several local boards and groups involved in the subject.

And for the future?

"We’re developing a long-term coalition for slashing local taxes while improving public services through Libertarian voluntary techniques," says Mr. Michael Gilson-De Lemos, a retired Fortune 100 consultant with a background in economics and systems philosophy who also helped found the modern Libertarian movement. "We’re also looking at statewide interest in raising the homestead property tax exemption to the median level, $150,000 from the present ridiculous $25,000. Libertarians around America are halving taxes while doubling services through common sense measures and voluntary approaches. Why shouldn't Pinellas lead in that regard?"

Why not indeed? Pinellas Libertarians may stand posed to hit another nerve: The property taxes are up, and the county budget has ballooned. An open house on tax issues by the Libertarians recently was—again—mostly non-Libertarians, standing room only.

By Mike Davis
Freelance Writer

  Libertarian Books

Keywords and Misspellings: Libertarain Libartarian Penellas Pineslas Floreda


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:38 PM