Last night at the Pro Liberty Social I repeatedly promoted an idea I had a long time ago about how to handle policy decision making in a libertarian party. There was more interest in this there, than I remember the original article getting. It was a long and rambling tour of issues current at the time, but not widely appealing, so I will save you the bother of reading the whole thing.
Here is the specific section I had in mind:
if it is wrong to impose a coherent manifesto on the membership, then should the Party continue to have a manifesto at all? Such documents are traditional but are they actually useful? They are not subject to “reasonable expectation” like a contract, they can and must vary according to circumstances, but they do serve the purpose of informing voters about policies. Can we publish something else – anything else – that tells the public what our policies are, without also claiming every member supports it and exactly the same policies will be adopted in power? Of course that is possible, it’s just odd.
To replace the manifesto I suggest a process of submitting categorised statements, initially to the membership, and polling members to establish the genuine level of support. Extremely unpopular policies (with less than, say, 5% of members’ endorsement) will remain private to the Party to prevent the creation of straw-men. To deal with the evolution of policy and ensure consistency it will be possible for members to withdraw their endorsement and force the removal of a policy statement from the public list. If this fails to occur then we can tune the process, perhaps by adding a cap to the number of statements a member can simultaneously endorse within a category.
If the Party is schizophrenic on one issue, or the top-polling policy lacks majority support then it will be clear that what happens in power (assuming it ever becomes an issue) is still up for discussion and may vary. This is mature and honest, and reasonably simple to understand as a voter. It is in effect an extra degree of transparency on top of what happens anyway within parties. The body of policies that do enjoy strong support will organically become part of the identity of the Party as it campaigns in the media and on the streets. Individual candidates should then disclose – in their own literature – which of the policies they support, so that the voters can make informed choices.
There is a section following, about how to build a system architecture to apply the concept to a federal party structure. I am a computer programmer, you have been warned.