Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Maryland Bylaws and other alternatives

To accomplish this we need to encourage local groups to adopt the techniques
used by Maryland. Since the adoption of their new bylaws Maryland has managed to elect two Libertarians to office and to lead a coalition that succeeded in reforming the state's ballot access laws. These are just two of the accomplishments of a group that was previously wrought with conflict.

Dean Ahmad, their former Chairman and the co-author of the bylaw changes encapsulates the extensive rewrite into three major areas.

The first was to rewrite the certification of agreement with the non-aggression principle required for voting membership. Their version now reads: :Nor person or group has the right to initiate force or fraud against any other person or group to seek to attain their values." Individuals who wish to be voting members of the party now must reject the use of aggression and fraud in achieving all of his or her values, not just the "political and social goals" as per the national certification. Other changes were included, but making the pledge inclusive of all actions is central to the focus. In Maryland proxies were allowed before the changes were introduced and continue to be allowed.

In broadening the pledge to include personal and professional choices as well as political action the Maryland Pledge brings into sharp relief the need individuals have for a schematic for ethical action. Do right, and you are a Libertarian. Do wrong and you are not. No other political movement sets such a high standard for personal behavior. The only possible consequence for not living up to the Pledge is exclusion from the LP and the condemnation of peers. Social exclusion has always been a powerful force for maintaining appropriate behavior in individuals so this is not the empty threat it might appear.

The second change was to move to proportional election of the central committee, both at a county and state level. Other offices, such as a state or county chairman, are elected from this body. The effect of this is to end factionalism. While differences still exist among members of the party and while some groups occasionally vote as blocks for slates, the guarantee of proportional representation that any such incipient faction will receive a proportional share of representation and no more has completely stopped the internal feuding. Constructive competition has replaced destructive factionalism. There is an ongoing concern that the actual counting of ballots is too complicated, but this has not been a practical problem since more often than not, no ballot counting at all is required. The mathematical certainty that all groups will be fairly represented in the executive committee has combined with the aversion to ballot counting to result in a cordial, informal sorting process under which excess nominees to the executive committee voluntary withdraw before the election. The slate is then approved by a 3/5ths vote. In any case a computer program has been developed to count the votes in those cases where an actual contest remains.

The third change was to decentralize all decisions to the lowest level practical. This effectively put control of specific projects directly into the hands of those performing the work, linking responsibility with performance. By removing any appearance of power and authority beyond the minimum required high office in the part has been made less attractive for the power-hungry, who no longer pursue it. The effective decentralization of power forged a new technology for using political action that is on the model that we envision for the institutions that in a Libertarian future should replace government.

There is one additional important element to the decentralization of power in the Maryland Libertarian Party. Any action of the Executive Committee may be overturned by the Central Committee. Thus, the Executive Committee only executes such actions as it believes will be endorsed by the full central committee. Since the all potential factions of any size are represented on the executive committee, the committee is able to anticipates which, if any, issues might be controversial and to take them to the central committee directly.

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