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Libertarian Party organizes national park cleanups

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Republicans and Democrats may be sniping at each other over the partial government shutdown, but it’s the Libertarian Party which is putting words to action. Libertarians have organized multiple national park cleanups over the last week to show maybe the government isn’t needed to provide services.

Libertarian Party National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark sees it as a real opportunity.

As Libertarians, we advocate replacing federal taxpayer funding for many services with private charity or privatization. We wanted to show how this could be accomplished by volunteering in our local communities. We know that people are inherently generous with their time and energy. We want to set an example by calling on the public to join us in maintaining our beautiful parks and landmarks this weekend and throughout the government shutdown.

The first cleanup was organized last Sunday with LP members, libertarians, anarchists, agorists, voluntarists, and more gathering at the National Mall in Washington D.C. do trash pickup and more. The interesting part about the project is it was inspired by a Facebook post on LP Membership Manager Jess Mears’ wall following media reports saying trash was piling up in the parks because of the partial shutdown.

Mears took it from there, creating a Facebook event which ended up drawing in a few dozen volunteers. She told me it was really worth taking time out of a Sunday to clean up the mall.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Washington DC and people I have never met before came out for the trash pickup. We were out in the sunshine, exercising, and thoroughly enjoying the day. We heard lots of thanks from the public, including a Vietnam War veteran. We collected many bags of trash and left the parks cleaner than we left it. I think many people walked by us picking up litter and probably thought a second time before letting something fall to the ground and not pick it back up after seeing volunteers with trash bags earlier in the day.

Libertarian Party members are also organizing national park cleanups in Ohio. Libertarian Party of Ohio Vice Chair Kryssi Wichers organized her own event near Columbus just to show they could be good neighbors. Via ABC 6 in Columbus.

“We’re trying to be leaders in the community — kind of lead by example,” she explained Tuesday. “We should be able to pick up the slack that our government can’t handle.”

Wichers is the driving force behind clean up-event. The event is part of a larger statewide effort being sponsored by the Libertarian Party, one of the largest traditional “third-party” groups on the ballot each year in the United States.

Libertarians are cleaning up the parks since national park rangers are on furlough during the 17 day-long government shutdown.

“We don’t believe the government should have to hold our hand to go pick up litter,” Wichers said. “Why not show what it looks like, for the people to go and do these things, which the government shouldn’t be stealing taxpayer dollars to do anyway?”

Wichers says trash bags, bottled water and potentially snacks will be provided during the clean-up.

This is probably one of the best ideas the Libertarian Party has ever had because it puts their beliefs in action. Small government folks – myself included – constantly harp on the fact government (any government) is too large and the private sector can take care of things. It sends a clear message to others – and hopefully politicians – on how it’s a-OK to loosen the stranglehold the government has on our lives. There’s something to be said about this and for the ambitiousness of the LP to go, “there’s a problem, we’ll organize, and solve the problem.”

What’s going to be curious to see is how the Libertarian Party uses this momentum to advance its agenda in the future. The biggest critique I’ve had of the LP – as a small-l libertarian who isn’t a member of the party – is its seeming disorganization. The park cleanup shows the party is more organized than people realized and it also goes a long way to show people who may not hold to the ideology how free markets can easily replace what the government has seized.

It will also be curious to see what happens once the rest of the government re-opens. Will there be a push to privatize the National Park System or, at least, part of it because of how well the LP did in their organization? Will more people start voting for Libertarian Party candidates in local, state, and federal elections? I don’t expect the government to suddenly give up power, but if there’s enough of a push it might happen in the future.

This is the long-term strategy by the Libertarians. Kudos to them for showing it works.

I asked Jess Mears from the Libertarian Party how this could change the impression of the party, specifically the idea it’s too disorganized. Her answer is below

“The shutdown is an illustrative failure of the two-party system and Libertarians are mobilizing to show America that their solutions are viable alternatives.”

She’s right on this, and I hope it brings more momentum for the LP.

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