by Tom Rhodes, 1/12/2012
Christ famously said “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is a truism and an undisputable part of human nature. As libertarians we can be proud of the fact research is clear that those who believe that people should be responsible for their own well being, are on average more generous and give more to charity to help those in need.
Nobody really argues that people don’t invest their time and money and effort into what they think is valuable. This is true not only individuals but also groups. Businesses invest in what they believe is valuable, I work for a large fortune 500 company, what it values has changed in its more than one century history. It now places a huge value on the safety of all its workers. Not just because of monetary considerations, but because there has been a real shift to a culture of safety. Safety is no longer just keeping people from losing life or limb. The company now worries about and actively works to protect against minor strains and sprains on a very serious note. The proof is in the substantial dollars, time, and resources invested in making safety a priority. Safety is now a core value even ahead of profits at this company.
Let’s consider our party, the Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF), where exactly does the LPF put its treasure (meager as it is). The short answer is the LPF puts in treasure in the bank, it sits on it. It values money in the bank over any other activity that money could be used for. We in our recent past, had a treasurer who was so un-willing to spend any LPF funds that he refused to spend money on what the Executive Council decided to spend it on. Where the LPF is willing to spend is a clear indicator of what it values. If it’s not willing to spend its treasure, then its heart must be in having a large bank account not actually doing the work of a political party.
Consider some more of Christ’s words. One of the more famous parables Jesus told was the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The LPF as body appears to have acted like the man who was given one bag of gold.
It is very clear that the LPF (or at least its past leaders) does not value its constitutional officers, does not value its constitutionally mandated convention, and does not value its opportunity to have representation at the LP National convention, and does not value the volunteers it expects so much from.
Over the past year, the evidence that the new LPF leadership is trying to better promote and expand the LPF is evident. As a body however the LPF and its current traditions and actions doesn’t show that it actually values what its leaders do. I am not, nor do I want to be an elected officer in the LPF, but I am ashamed of how as a party we treat our leaders and volunteers. It is absurd to expect the hundreds and hundreds of hours that these good people put into the work of the LPF, then expect them to pay for the privilege of doing so. Getting anybody to volunteer to help any member of the EC makes pulling teeth seem like giving away money. We as members of the LPF cannot continue to expect great things of our leaders if we never support them. The membership of the LPF either doesn’t value its leaders, or doesn’t actually value the LPF. Look how few show up for regular meetings, fewer still for the state convention, and fewer still actually donate. If you value the LPF and what it stands for, agree in principle with its platform and clearly stated objectives, then prove it. As members your unwillingness to put either time or money into what you supposedly value speaks volumes.
We want the LPF to be a professional successful political party, that cannot happen if the actual values of its leaders and members, as expressed by how and where its leaders put their time and money, doesn’t reflect that both value the LPF as a party.
What this looks like, and in reality shows, is that the LPF is a debate club open to rich people who can afford it. A professional party would not have to be completely dependent upon unpaid volunteers for absolutely everything it does. LPF Volunteers aren’t even fed when working at LPF functions. The fact that the LPF does not see any fiduciary responsibility to sending representatives to the state convention much less national convention, shows that the LPF doesn’t even trust its own members to provide enough resources to put its constitutional officers in a hotel for the state convention, or that the LPF doesn’t actually value the convention.
How can we say we value our state convention, if we are not willing to invest in it? How can we as a party say the state convention is of any value if we aren’t even willing to foot the bill for hotel rooms for our constitutional officers? It is absurd of us to expect people to put in hundreds of hours of labor, then expect and require them to pay for the privilege of doing so. If we have the resources there is no moral, fiduciary, nor logical reason to require that constitutional officers attend the annual state convention, then require them to pay their own way. If we have the resources there is no moral, fiduciary, nor logical reason to require that representatives chosen by our constitutional officers to attend the National LP convention, then require them to pay their own way.
The traditions of the LPF like representatives paying all their own expenses must be addressed, a party that can’t afford to send its Chair to the national convention, can’t afford to run effective campaigns, and maybe can’t afford to exist. This does not show a professional image but indicates a desperate group trying to hang on, and that image will not garner investment of its own membership much less others. The LPF should minimally pay for the travel and lodging expenses of its officers or representatives at conventions (even if it gets donations from the very people it sends to cover those expenses), just so our books show that we are willing to invest in activities and demonstrate that the LPF holds those activities as valuable. If the party isn’t willing to invest in something, why should it expect its members to invest in it. The LPF should expect its members to invest in the party, and spend those resources on things the party values. Expecting people to become leaders, and as leader volunteer not only vast amounts of time, but financial resources indicates that the party does not value, or believe, that the work of its leadership is of any value. The traditions and actions of the LPF are a clear indication that the LPF as a body (or minimally its past leadership) does not value the efforts of its volunteers or leaders. If the funds exist to cover those expenses, I can see no valid rationale not to support the extraordinary efforts that or constitutional officers exert with more than a thank you.
There are a handful of people willing to do something and who work very hard but just that hand full cannot do everything, nor can they be expected to foot the bill for the privilege of working their asses off.
The traditions and actions of the LPF reflect its core values. So I ask, is it a core value of the LPF that only those rich enough can be national representatives? Is it a core value of the LPF that even our own state convention is so unimportant that LPF won’t even invest the minimal lodging costs of its constitutional officers? Does the LPF so undervalues state and national meetings that they are not willing to fund any of the officers the membership elects to attend these events? Obviously if the membership chooses a leader who is not financially well off then these traditions seem to be a way to keep any “lowlife poor” from actually being where decisions are made, and to discourage good working people who are not “well to do” from even running for LPF office? or if they do, keep them from remaining for long? The traditional method of leaders being expected to always foot their own way in the LPF, even the bragging from a former chair that they never have the party cover their expenses to national conventions, seem to indicate that the LPF is a rich-man’s debate club not a serious political party. Such bragging is more an indicator that that person is using the LPF for their own aggrandizement, not working to benefit the LPF. If those persons really believed in the LPF then they’d donate that money to the LPF and let the LPF leadership select and send a representative to the national convention. That representative may or may not be the donor, but the LPF would at least show it values the activity enough to materially support it. Let’s work at changing that image and those traditions. We’re the third largest state LP in the nation, if we aren’t willing to invest in sending our Chair to the national LP convention what does that say about the LPF?
Even if we can’t afford it, the funding for lodging etc, of our elected officials at official conventions should be through the party, not on their personal accounts. If the party can afford to fund such minimal expenses, but if the leader in question can and does choose to donate to the party to cover those expenses, that would be magnanimous and great, but the LPF should as a matter of policy, show that it values its conventions buy putting its treasure there. If it doesn’t then obviously it doesn’t actually value them. The LPF being unwilling to put its treasure at its constitutionally mandated meetings sends a clear message to the LPF membership, and public, that it doesn’t value those meetings. If we want to be a meaningful and serious party, then we need to start acting like one, and that includes footing the bill for our constitutional officers to attend the constitutionally mandated annual state convention. Unless of course the image of a rich-man’s debate club is not just an image but the reality of what the LPF is.