The caucuses are run by the state parties, and unlike primary or general elections aren't regulated by the government. They were designed as an insiders' game to attract party activists, donors and political junkies and give them a disproportionate influence in the process.He makes it sound like a bad thing.
We nutcase Libertarians thought we were doing the rest of the world a favor by holding a nominating convention instead of primaries. We spared the gummint the expense of helping us select our candidates. We suffered the divisions and defections that come with nominating a controversial candidate. And to the extent possible we aired our dirty laundry among ourselves.
Despite it all, we kept nominating people we thought had their heads in the right place.
Some disadvantages we suffered, or could have, such as a well-financed but philosophically crippled candidate who flooded the convention with his people (the annoying example of Howard Stern in NY). Mitt Romney is doing little different, but through a government-sanctioned primary process that culminates before the convention. Not much left to do in Minneapolis but get hammered and make the back rooms smoky.
Attracting party activists and donors and giving them a disproportionate influence was a feature, not a bug. If it mattered enough to you to send yourself and bring money, you had a place and a voice. People who tacitly disagree with you from the comfort of home need not be counted, rational ignorance keeps some people out of the caucus or convention, and some people to whom it genuinely matters still won't make a showing for whatever reason.
Libertarians do not consider money an 'evil' but a badge of accomplishment, so donors didn't automatically evoke images of hook-nosed financiers chomping cigars.
I'll concede that weird rules of conduct of the caucuses, such as standing in a corner to be counted, seem to be skewed to make their outcome favorable to party hacks. But every human institution, large or small, seeks to manipulate the processes toward a given result chosen by insiders.
It comes with the territory, it is a flaw inherent in all public dealings. State Libertarian parties tend to be too small and too poor, and probably too quarrelsome, for such a thing as "party insiders" to emerge and take power over them. Lucky us.
I'd rather see fewer primaries and more quirky local processes wholly in the hands of parties, than the spectacle of States trying to preempt one another by moving primaries earlier.
If anyone criticizes the Iowa caucuses, do so over who's running them and how, stressing the importance of ground rules to the perceived fairness and efficacy of the process, and perhaps shaming their party officers into adjusting them. Don't criticize them for failing to have a primary---though it carries the imprimatur and regulation of the government, it is just as fallible.