1998 National Platform

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1998 National Platform of the Libertarian Party

Adopted in Convention
July 1998
Washington, D.C.


Preamble

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.

Statement of Principles

We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.

We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.

We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely, (1) the right to life -- accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action -- accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property -- accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.

Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.

I. 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.

1. 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.

2. Crime

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.

3. Victimless Crimes

Because only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes, we favor the repeal of all federal, state, and local laws creating "crimes" without victims. In particular, we advocate:

a. the repeal of all laws prohibiting the production, sale, possession, or use of drugs, and of all medicinal prescription requirements for the purchase of vitamins, drugs, and similar substances;

b. the repeal of all laws restricting or prohibiting the use or sale of alcohol, requiring health warning labels and signs, making bartenders or hosts responsible for the behavior of customers and guests, making liquor companies liable for birth defects, and making gambling houses liable for the losses of intoxicated gamblers;

c. the repeal of all laws or policies authorizing stopping drivers without probable cause to test for alcohol or drug use;

d. the repeal of all laws regarding consensual sexual relations, including prostitution and solicitation, and the cessation of state oppression and harassment of homosexual men and women, that they, at last, be accorded their full rights as individuals;

e. the repeal of all laws regulating or prohibiting the possession, use, sale, production, or distribution of sexually explicit material, independent of "socially redeeming value" or compliance with "community standards";

f. the repeal of all laws regulating or prohibiting gambling;

g. the repeal of anti-racketeering statutes such as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which punish peaceful behavior -- including insider trading in securities, sale of sexually explicit material, and nonviolent anti-abortion protests -- by freezing and/or seizing assets of the accused or convicted; and

h. the repeal of all laws interfering with the right to commit suicide as infringements of the ultimate right of an individual to his or her own life.

We demand the use of executive pardon to free and exonerate all those presently incarcerated or ever convicted solely for the commission of these "crimes." We condemn the wholesale confiscation of property prior to conviction by the state that all too often accompanies police raids, searches, and prosecutions for victimless crimes.

Further, we recognize that, often, the Federal Government blackmails states which refuse to comply with these laws by withholding funds and we applaud those states which refuse to be so coerced.

4. 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.

5. Safeguards for the Criminally Accused

Until such time as persons are proved guilty of crimes, they should be accorded full respect for their individual rights. We are thus opposed to reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused.

We oppose labeling cases as "civil" strictly to avoid the due process protections of criminal law and we further oppose governmental civil and criminal pretrial seizure of property for criminal offenses.

We oppose police officers using excessive force on the disorderly or the criminally accused, handing out what they may consider to be instant punishments on the streets, preventive detention, and no-knock laws. Instant-punishment policies deprive the accused of important checks on government power -- juries and the judicial process. We oppose any concept that some individuals are by nature second-class citizens who only understand instant punishment and any claim that the police possess special insight into recognizing persons in need of punishment.

We support full restitution for all loss suffered by persons arrested, indicted, tried, imprisoned, or otherwise injured in the course of criminal proceedings against them that do not result in their conviction. When they are responsible, government police employees or agents should be liable for this restitution.

We call for a reform of the judicial system allowing criminal defendants and civil parties to a court action a reasonable number of peremptory challenges to proposed judges, similar to their right under the present system to challenge a proposed juror.

6. Justice for the Individual

The present system of criminal law is based almost solely on punishment with little concern for the victim. We support restitution for the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or wrongdoer.

We oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense.

We oppose all "no-fault" insurance laws, which deprive the victim of the right to recover damages from those responsible in the case of injury. We also support the right of the victim to pardon the criminal or wrongdoer, barring threats to the victim for this purpose. We applaud the growth of private adjudication of disputes by mutually acceptable judges.

We support a change in rape laws so that cohabitation will no longer be a defense against a charge of rape.

7. Juries

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.

8. Individual Sovereignty

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.

9. Government and Mental Health

We oppose the involuntary commitment of any person to or involuntary treatment in a mental institution.

We advocate an end to the spending of tax money for any program of psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral research or treatment.

We favor an end to the acceptance of criminal defenses based on "insanity" or "diminished capacity" which absolve the guilty of their responsibility.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. The Right to Property

There is no conflict between property rights and human rights. Indeed, property rights are the rights of humans with respect to property, and as such, are entitled to the same respect and protection as all other human rights.

All rights are inextricably linked with property rights. Such rights as the freedom from involuntary servitude as well as the freedom of speech and the freedom of press are based on self-ownership. Our bodies are our property every bit as much as is justly acquired land or material objects.

We further hold that the owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade done in the name of national security. We also condemn current government efforts to regulate or ban the use of property in the name of aesthetic values, riskiness, moral standards, cost-benefit estimates, or the promotion or restriction of economic growth. We specifically condemn all government interference in the operation of private businesses, such as restaurants and airlines, by either requiring or prohibiting designated smoking or non-smoking areas for their employees or their customers.

We demand an end to the taxation of privately owned real property, which actually makes the State the owner of all lands and forces individuals to rent their homes and places of business from the State. We condemn attempts to employ eminent domain to municipalize sports teams or to try to force them to stay in their present location.

Where property, including land, has been taken from its rightful owners by the government or private action in violation of individual rights, we favor restitution to the rightful owners.

13. Protection of Privacy

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14. Government Secrecy

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.

15. Internal Security and Civil Liberties

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16. 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.

17. Conscription and the Military

Recognizing that registration is the first step toward full conscription, we oppose all attempts at compulsory registration of any person and all schemes for automatic registration through government invasions of the privacy of school, motor vehicle, or other records. We call for the abolition of the still-functioning elements of the Selective Service System, believing that impressment of individuals into the armed forces is involuntary servitude. We call for the destruction of all files in computer-readable or hard-copy form compiled by the Selective Service System. We also oppose any form of national service, such as a compulsory youth labor program.

We oppose adding women to the pool of those eligible for and subject to the draft, not because we think that as a rule women are unfit for combat, but because we believe that this step enlarges the number of people subjected to government tyranny.

We support the immediate and unconditional exoneration of all who have been accused or convicted of draft evasion, desertion from the military, and other acts of resistance to such transgressions as imperialistic wars and aggressive acts of the military. Members of the military should have the same right to quit their jobs as other persons.

We call for the end of the Defense Department practice of discharging armed forces personnel for homosexual conduct. We further call for retraction of all less-than-honorable discharges previously assigned for such reasons and deletion of such information from military personnel files.

We recommend the repeal of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the recognition and equal protection of the rights of armed forces members. This will thereby promote morale, dignity, and a sense of justice within the military.

18. Immigration

We hold that human rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of nationality. We condemn massive roundups of Hispanic Americans and others by the federal government in its hunt for individuals not possessing required government documents. We strongly oppose all measures that punish employers who hire undocumented workers. Such measures repress free enterprise, harass workers, and systematically discourage employers from hiring Hispanics.

We welcome all refugees to our country and condemn the efforts of U.S. officials to create a new "Berlin Wall" which would keep them captive. We condemn the U.S. government's policy of barring those refugees from our country and preventing Americans from assisting their passage to help them escape tyranny or improve their economic prospects.

Undocumented non-citizens should not be denied the fundamental freedom to labor and to move about unmolested. Furthermore, immigration must not be restricted for reasons of race, religion, political creed, age, or sexual preference.

We therefore call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for all people who have entered the country illegally. We oppose government welfare and resettlement payments to non-citizens just as we oppose government welfare payments to all other persons.

19. Freedom of Association and Government Discrimination

Individual rights should not be denied, abridged, or enhanced at the expense of other people's rights by laws at any level of government based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference, or sexual orientation.

We support repealing any such laws rather than extending them to all individuals.

Discrimination imposed by government has caused a multitude of problems. Anti-discrimination laws create the same problems. While we do not advocate private discrimination, we do not support any laws which attempt to limit or ban it.

The right to trade includes the right not to trade -- for any reasons whatsoever; the right of association includes the right not to associate, for exercise of this right depends upon mutual consent.

20. 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.

21. Family Life

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22. Sexual Rights

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.

23. American Indian Rights

The rights of American Indians have been usurped over the years. We support the following remedies: (1) individuals should be free to select their own citizenship and tribes should be free to select the level of autonomy the tribe wishes, (2) Indians should have their property rights restored, including rights of easement, access, hunting, and fishing, (3) the Bureau of Indian Affairs should be abolished leaving tribal members to determine their own system of governance, and (4) negotiations should be undertaken to resolve all outstanding differences between the tribes and the government.

II. 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.


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Preceded by:
1996 Libertarian Party Platform
1998 Libertarian Party Platform
1998-2000
Succeeded by:
2000 Libertarian Party Platform