The Voluntaryists, Voluntaryist.com
The Voluntaryist 1982-Present
From their Home Page:
Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society.
We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy.
Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends.
This long standing and unique libertarian group organized in the early 1980s shortly after the boom in the Libertarian Party growth following the Ed Clark/David Koch presidential campaign in 1980. David Koch’s funding provided the LP with 50 state ballot access for the first time ever and considerable national publicity.
However a small but significant group of libertarians, including Voluntaryists founders Carl Watner and Wendy McElroy joined to create this libertarian group that rejects politics as a means of change. Hearkening back to 19thcentury individualist anarchists like Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker and Josiah Warren, this group instead advocates reliance on education and passive resistance to the State.
Their well-organized website contains all of the past issues of their regular publication (roughly bi-monthly) The Voluntaryist, in an online archive. This is linked from the Home Page at “Table of Contents & Archives” from 1982 to the present. In this they are one of the rare libertarian periodicals which is complete and online, hosted by the original organization (now run primarily by co-founder Carl Watner.)
While their Internet presence is well represented by their website, the influence of this group is difficult to measure. They don’t hold conferences or conventions though in the past did sponsor exhibits/tables at various libertarian venues. This loose organizational format and education-only strategy has limited fundraising and their opportunities for public presence awareness, unlike more visible political activity.
Nevertheless, this anti-political, anti-government stance appeals to many Americans who have become cynical about politics and politicians. It represents a purist version of modern American libertarianism which also has had advocates such as Robert Lefevre and his Rampart College. The core ideas of the still active Voluntaryist founders have shown continuing appeal and this longevity has outlived all but a few other libertarian organizations and groups.
On the other hand, the far more visible and identifiable group of contemporary libertarians who in one way or another engage in political action, via the Libertarian Party, the Republican Party or independent action via petitioning, initiatives or referenda, argue that merely criticizing politics and the State will not make it go away. You can try to ignore the government, but the government won’t ignore you. Engaging in political activity has, in practical terms, mainly been an educational activity in the past 50 years. The long term success of either approach remains to be seen.