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Dries Van Thielen
The Dutch elections are upon us. On March 15, residents in the Netherlands will head towards the election booths and vote for a new parliament (Tweede Kamerverkiezingen). Whereas the mainstream media focuses on Geert Wilders (PVV), we discovered that the Netherlands have their own Libertarian Party (LP). Their president, Robert Valentine, stressed that the LP will be more successful than five years earlier when the party raked in about 0.05% of the popular votes.
TLR: Why will the 2017 elections be more successful than the one in 2012?
VALENTINE: Like the American Libertarian Party, the Dutch Libertarian Party was inspired by anarchists. However, similar to the American Libertarian Party, we recently had a strong disagreement on approach. On the one side, we had dogmatic theorists, stating that the libertarian ideology could not dilute. On the other side, we had an uprising of pragmatics – favoring a more conciliatory attitude. We went along with the pragmatics and thus far we reached a wider audience and I myself, receive more phone calls from journalists. Without betraying our ideology, we composed a more attractive program which resulted in more – and younger – members.
TLR: Your campaign shows similarities with Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign which was unable to attract major media attention. What is the approach of the LP towards media?
VALENTINE: For 2017, our strategy consists out of two approaches. First, we try to attract political attention for the upcoming elections. In doing so, we make efforts to draw attention by focusing on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn – and mixing ourselves in online discussions by creating our own content. You see, similar to Johnson, we are never asked for political debates. When we are debating on a local level, the audience is drawn into our ideas since we pose a different concept than ‘spending more money on ‘ topic A or B’ as our colleagues propose. Political TV debates are somnolent since no party offers solutions for ongoing problems (like poverty, …).
Secondly, we try to look further than the upcoming elections. In 2017, we will work to introduce three cornerstones (political, intellectual and social) of libertarianism in the LP. A political cornerstone since it is the only way to become more influential in the Netherlands. An intellectual cornerstone since we are too often drawn to American media outlets (FEE, Libertarian Republic, CATO, and Mises.org,…), focusing on the United States. Instead, we would introduce our own articles and platform – focusing on the Netherlands.
Third, a social cornerstone, showing the power of freedom and individual cooperation. We missed out on a strong equip of volunteers throughout the years, being active in the fibers of society will change that. Currently, we are working to maintain and professionalize our team.
#Nexit, Transnationalism, and Migration
TLR: According to your recent Twitter campaign (#Nexit), the Netherlands have to opt out of the EU and NATO. Why would this be a good idea?
VALENTINE: People who join politics are well-intended, I presume. They join a party with the firm belief to change the mishaps in their respective country. So did the EU: it started with good intentions – free movement of goods, people and capital, a lessening of trade restrictions… These ideas are utterly libertarian-inspired, but the reality and elaboration differ from these well-intended ideas. Nowadays, we have an army of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and Luxembourg, designing our society! This is as un-libertarian as can be.
Without sounding too much like Geert Wilders (the entire Preliminary Election Program of PVV is 1 page long), I believe that the EU-agreements can be summed up on 1 page: freedom and free trade doesn’t need codices. Brussels needs to disappear and The Hague needs to retake control.
As an alternative to the European Union, I would suggest the model Switzerland holds up. Granted, it isn’t a libertarian utopia, but it only has 8 million inhabitants – divided amongst 26 cantons, each with its respective constitution. The smallest particle decides which results in a more involved population. The citizens witness first handed the effects of their own policies.
TLR: And NATO?
VALENTINE: The same goes up with NATO. The NATO pact took off with good intentions, for we have to defend ourselves against invaders: libertarians aren’t pacifists. However, similar to the EU – the intentions are overtaken by reality.
See, the moment we centralize our country’s interests, it gets troublesome since the organization you transfer your own interests to, has incentives of their own. In the case of NATO, the interests of its largest member – the United States – prevail on the ones of smaller member states (Netherlands and Belgium).
It is untenable to keep this relic from the Cold War alive – as you take into account what it is used for nowadays: bombing sovereign states. Consistently bombing neighboring countries will not lead to a more secure Europe.
TLR: Can free trade solve the question of security, as a reaction for the dismantling of NATO? The majority of wars are fought for a lack of free trade.
VALENTINE: “If goods don’t pass the border, troops will”. No sane country will put well-functioning commercial relations at risk since every interaction is advantageous for both participants. It would benefit the world if the world-wide free trade would be allowed (decline of poverty as the main advantage).
TLR: Besides free movement of goods and capital, your program mentions the open border solution – based on the 19th-century European model. Will every individual integrate into this model?
VALENTINE: We favor the open border policy. Every individual is free to cross borders – but we will check in your country of origin, whether you have ties with terrorist organizations.
Also, we encourage immigrants to work as soon as they enter the country – instead of being pampered by the government, as is the case nowadays. Only, we will not allow immigrants to make use of the social benefits. In doing so, we counter the argument (‘they’ll ruin our welfare’) made by advocates of closed borders.
I find our system logical. Therefore, we counter the argument made by Geert Wilders. He states: ‘We have to close borders, no one is allowed to cross borders and the Muslims already residing in the Netherlands will soon be kicked out!” These accusations are nonsense and will harm the economy.
Book Recommendations and Successful Elections
TLR: You grew accustomed to libertarianism by the writings of Ron Paul. Do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
VALENTINE: As an introduction into libertarianism, I highly recommend “Revolution: A Manifesto” by Dr. Ron Paul. Besides the classics (“Economics in One Lesson” or “The Law”), I was impressed by Matt Radley’s “The Evolution of Everything.” He refers to himself as a libertarian in minuscule. Many libertarians are attracted to libertarianism for its moral or economic aspect. It never goes both ways. The entire world is driven by invisible natural laws so it is unnecessary and illogical to set up structures – according to Radley.
Since it is election season, I am currently reading The audacity to win by David Plouffe, Obama’s Senior Advisor. It was he who was responsible for his (re-)election which interests me nowadays and I think it is a good read for many (non-pragmatic) libertarians. Unfortunately, the story does not tell itself.
TLR: I heard a passionate libertarian. When do you call the elections successful?
VALENTINE: The goal of the American Libertarian Party was to reach for 5% of the votes – mainly to become a household name. The same goes up for us: the long-term is more important than these elections. If we reach 1 seat in parliament, it will be considered a grandiose success. Even if we reach 0.5 seats, which will correspond with about 20 thousand votes, these elections will be considered successful. This way, we will become a party worth taking into account.
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