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Free Press Article

A Report on teh 2004 Libertarian State Convention

For Warrensburg Free Press April 8, 2004 issue

What political activist hasn’t dreamt of attending a political convention? The banners, the pomp, the speeches – they all make the televised conventions look so exciting. For a “third party” activist at state level, the experience is quite a bit more down-to-earth.

This March, the Libertarian Parties of Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska held a joint convention in Kansas City. Attendance was slightly under 100, a far cry from the thousands seen at the Democratic & Republican national conventions, but pretty satisfying for this part of the country. The organizers actually ran out of nametags. Contrary to stereotypes, a good number of attendees wore suit-and-tie.

The keynote speech was delivered by noted author Dr. Mary Ruwart, who talked about the adverse impact of government regulation of small businesses. One of her key points was that minority-owned businesses find it easier to start and succeed in low-regulatory environments, since they don’t have to jump as many bureaucratic hurdles. She pointed out that regulation leads to cartels and monopolies, since regulations make it harder for new competitors to enter the marketplace. This speech was well-received by the audience, since Libertarians strongly believe in free market economics.

Dr. Ruwart was followed by a regional representative of the national party, who discussed organizing at the local level to get the most local impact. Johnson County Libertarians must have been listening to this part, since Warrensburg residents filed for Governor, State Senator and 121st District State Representative. With two more statewide candidates from Jackson County, this area should see a lot more Libertarian presence between now and November.

The high point of most conventions is the anointing of the candidate. Since the Libertarian Party won’t decide its presidential candidate until the national convention in Atlanta, attendees had the opportunity to hear and meet the three main contenders. No professional politicians these, the choice will be among a semi-celebrity movie producer from Las Vegas, a radio talk show host from Cleveland and a professorial type from Texas. The producer promised money to run a real campaign, the talk show host promised media savvy, and the Texan promised the ability to convert people to libertarian principles – in small groups. Questions were asked by a couple of libertarian radio hosts; unfortunately one of the questioners concentrated on arcane party philosophy issues that shed little light on the candidates’ fitness for the fall campaign. When substantive questions were asked the candidates showed little divergence. All favored a non-interventionist foreign policy, less government interference in the marketplace and in private decisions, and limiting government to those powers enumerated in the Constitution.

After a buffet lunch, the various state parties split up to hold their own private meetings. Missouri’s meeting was dominated by discussion of a motion to support gay marriage. There was general consensus that the state ought to get out of the marriage business entirely, since it was noted that state licenses for marriage were often instituted to prevent racial mingling. With the consideration that advocating the removal of state restrictions on gay marriage was not consistent with the proposition that marriage wasn’t state business anyway, the motion failed by one vote. The most cheers were reserved for the announcement that the state Democrats had put aside Lady Liberty as their ballot symbol in favor of the donkey, so the Libertarians could again lay claim to the symbol of freedom.

One of the best aspects of attending this convention was the opportunity to participate in fairly lengthy issue-oriented discussions with the presidential candidates. This opportunity could not arise in the carefully orchestrated campaigns of the “major” parties. Other highlights of the convention for those who could attend late functions were the cocktail hour and banquet. As was expected, the activists returned home all fired up to run a good campaign this fall.

While this report is somewhat light-hearted, convention attendees were serious about their belief in less intrusive and less expensive government and about their intent to make their issues visible to the voters. The Libertarian Party, one of three recognized political parties in Missouri, will field candidates for all statewide and federal offices this year, and will contend for 5 state senate and 13 state house seats. The party will offer the only opposition to major party candidates in 6 of those legislative races, including the 121st District here in Johnson County. The Missouri Libertarian Party can be found on the internet at www.lpmo.org.

Party websites are: