Third Parties

Liquidate the Libertarian Party?

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Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, reason contributor Ilya Somin repeats a pretty consistent call from the more intellectual end of the libertarian movement oh these past 25 years or so: give up on the Libertarian Party as a meaningful vehicle for political/ideological change. An excerpt:

….third party politics simply is not an effective way of promoting libertarianism in the "first past the post" American political system. That system makes it almost impossible for a third party to win any important elected offices. And such a party also can't be an effective tool for public education because the media isn't likely to devote much attention to a campaign with no chance of success.

Libertarians have had some genuine successes over the last 35 years. These include abolition of the draft (heavily influenced by Milton Friedman's ideas), deregulation of large portions of the economy (of which libertarians were the leading intellectual advocates), major reductions in tax rates (facilitated by libertarian economists, libertarian activists, and the legislative efforts of libertarian-leaning Republicans), the increasing popularity of school choice programs, increases in judicial protection for property rights, gun rights, and economic liberties (thanks in large part to advocacy by libertarian legal activists), and heightened respect for privacy and freedom of speech (promoted by libertarians in cooperation with other groups). Libertarian academics and intellectuals have also done much to make libertarian ideas more respectable and less marginal than they were in the 1960s and early 70s.

What all these successes have in common is that they were achieved either by working within the two major parties or by efforts outside the context of party politics altogether. The Libertarian Party didn't play a significant role in any of them.

Libertarians often emphasize that failed enterprises should be liquidated rather than kept going on artificial life support. That enables their resources to be reinvested in other, more successful firms. The point is well taken, and it applies to the Libertarian Party itself. For 35 years, the Party has consumed valuable resources, both financial and human. The money spent on the LP and the time donated by its committed activists could do a lot more to promote libertarianism if used in other ways.

Of course, for some people third party activism is exactly and only how they would care to participate in the game of public ideological change. And for some (including yours truly) getting hooked on the team-sports aspect of an ideological movement through what seems, especially to the young, its only significant action element, political parties running for office, leads them on to other parts of the ol' war for liberty (for better or for worse, I grant).

I wrote on how and why third party politics might be more a consumer good (for its own sake) than a capital good (meant to lead to something else, like political or ideological change, that is meaningful for its own sake) back in 2004.

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  1. Can libertarians do more damage as a party or as a faction within the Republican Party? Only time will tell.

  2. Proposals to eliminate the Libertarian Party would make more sense if they did not all imply or explicitly state that working in the Republican Party is the way to promote liberty.

    Seriously, that has been tried. But “libertarian” Republicans were largely unable or unwilling to separate themselves from the Bush League statists who dominate the GOP. The Republican Liberty Caucus is smaller than the LP, but with a bigger head, and a greater willingness to portray pro-goverment politicos as “libertarian” if they were the GOP label.

    In the free market, businesses are not just liquidated. Sometimes they fall to competition – and the people who propose to liquidate the Libertarian Party have failed to come up with a strategy that really does lead to more freedom, without associating us with the failures of the big government Republicans.

    Did Ilya Somin actually fail to read the election returns? The Republican Party was repudiated. Perhaps the GOP should be liquidated so that conservatives would have a means of opposing Democrat statism.

  3. As I’m fond of saying, Friedman pointed out that the most successful party of the last century was the socialist party. They may never have gotten more than 5% of the vote, but if you look at their party platforms from early in the century, they’ve been enacted into law virtually in their entirety.

    The role of a third party – whether it’s the libertarian party, socialist party, green party or whatever – is to advocate its ideological message. When that message resonates with voters enough so that several percent of them will vote for an obvious loser, then one of the major candidates will co-opt the message in order to tap into that support.

    The libertarian party isn’t about having candidates win elections, it’s about spreading a particular political philosophy. They only field candidates because candidates are vehicles for the message.

  4. This is an argument I have never understood. If I left the Libertarian Party where would I go? To the No Child Left Behind/Medicaid-Loving/Iraq War fighting/$700 billion bailout/Pro-Life Republicans? Or to the No Child Left Behind/Medicaid-Loving/Iraq War fighting/$700 billion bailout/Pro-Choice Democrats?

  5. Of all people, libertarians should know that a movement can’t be planned. Libertarians of all stripes will continue to try a variety of means to effect change, and that’s the way it should be. Political free enterprise.

    As for the LP, I think it’s useful to have around. They don’t really get enough attention to do any harm in their kookier moments, and they serve a valuable purpose as a touchstone for activist circles. I think it’s possible that once you reach a critical mass of people identifying explictly as “libertarian”, then the LP will start to take off. And there’s always the “Ross Perot” scenario, where some enterprising famous billionaire or media personality (Penn/Teller 2012!) swoops in and uses the LP as a vehicle. As long the billionaire’s a libertarian, I have no problem with that. And no, Barr was not nearly famous (or well-funded) enough to really test that scenario.

  6. For me the main problem is that both the major parties are so awful nowadays that there is really nowhere else to go than the LP, other than avoiding electoral politics altogether. (Unless a Ron Paul is running, but notice that he was treated like dirt by his own party. Like I say, awful.)

  7. I just noticed that SOFL had already made my point. Probably a lot of people have the same experience.

  8. Wasn’t the GOP originally a third party?

  9. President Obama, following the Great Panic of 2008/Depression 2.0, should wipe out those gains in deregulation, lower taxes, civil liberties, property rights, freedom of speech and the draft.

  10. I disagree. The LP gives libertarians a place to go, other than the Democrats, when the Republican social-cons get too powerful.

    Otherwise, libertarians would be chained to the Republicans and have even less influence. Or be non-voters altogether.

    If the LP didn’t exist, someone would invent it. It would probably be getting invented right now, if it didn’t exist.

  11. I like the LP, espc in Ca where they often run candidates in statewide and local office.

    The case for liberty needs to be made and there are many fronts to cover. We need the true believers, the political party, the writers, the magazines, the think tanks, and the OC Register editorial page (Review Journal too). We need the pragmatists and the purists.

    There is a place for the LP and there is a place for the Republican Liberty Caucus. If, at some point, the two can get married, so be it.

  12. Yeah, because the Dems are such great allies on social issues even when the GOP is great on economic issues! Our powers combined, we can turn this sinking ship around and head right back to port!

    Err… as it turns out, they are both an anathema to a fiscal conservative, social liberal ideal. The problem with the US is institutionalized, and there is no hope given our current situation. Sarah Palin 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. The reason the LP does terrible every time is there is too much “this election is just too important, so i’m going to go with team A (which i deem to be .05% better) this time” every fucking election. The parties will never respect you or your ideas if they know you aren’t willing to leave, which we won’t.

  14. The real problem is with electoral politics, period. The majority of people want government benefits at someone else’s expense. People will not be disabused of the notion that they can vote for the impossible until they’ve already done it and received instead the disastrous possible. And even they often claim it was because the cause was hijacked.

  15. Politically, the rights of life, liberty, and property are a losing proposition. Most people would prefer a platform based on the “right” to a job, health insurance a 40-hour work week, government-mandated vacation, bread, circuses, et al.

  16. Oh, yes, and of course the sacrosanct “right” to vote for whatever insane platform one wants.

  17. Oh, yes, and of course the sacrosanct “right” to vote for whatever insane platform one wants.

    I’m not sure what you are getting at.

  18. “President Obama, following the Great Panic of 2008/Depression 2.0, should wipe out those gains in deregulation, lower taxes, civil liberties, property rights, freedom of speech and the draft.”
    Libertarian is dead! Long live the glorious reign of the workers*!

    *”workers” not necessarily requiring that the individuals denoted to useful work. Or any work, for that matter.

  19. Boston,
    I’m getting at the (highly elitist, I’ll admit) idea that the vast majority of people who vote are about as qualified to exercise the franchise as a donkey is to design a canal.

  20. If I left the Libertarian Party where would I go? To the [many bad things] Republicans? Or to the [many bad things] Democrats?

    But this is like asking, If I stopped hitting myself on the foot with a hammer, what would I do? Hit myself on the head with it, or on the hand?

    How about “Put down the goddam hammer.” Seriously, the best presidential candidate anyone could field this time around was Bob fergodsake Barr! Doesn’t that imply something about the whole process? The one thing the Libertarian Party consistently contributes to libertarianism is that every four years there’s a big civil war over who’s going to lead the exercise in futility, and then everybody gets to look and feel like losers for a while. But everybody troops back four years later to do it again. And they say that thing about lemmings is a myth.

    If the LP poured as much sturm und drang into local elections as it did into the presidential race, it just might fill some seats here and there and get people used to the idea. Instead they ignore fights they have some prayer of winning and gear up to tilt at that ol’ windmill, over and over.

    I just don’t get what’s so compelling about politics. Unless you’re already in the BOYN party, it’s a loser’s game.

  21. Joel,
    Most of us here have strong masochistic tendencies. Otherwise, we wouldn’t pay attention to political events.

  22. nonPaulogist,
    Let’s not get started on the anarchist thing again. For one thing, it just confuses people into thinking that we’re the asshole that run around bashing in car hoods to bring down “Teh Man”.

  23. Now that I’ve taken a shot from the bottle, I feel better.

  24. I can take any one of you pansies in a gfiht! Ye hear me!???

  25. I don’t buy the trope that plurality voting is responsible for the marginalization of the LP. The UK and Canada have plurality voting and healthy third (and fourth, and fifth) parties. There may well be significant structural obstacles to third parties, but the voting system isn’t one of them.

  26. Anonymous–

    Canada has proportional representation. That helps a lot.

  27. I’m all foriquidating the LP, but the end of the draft and other supposed successes of libertarian thought seem like pretty small potatoes in the face of bank nationalizations and the relentless growth of the state. I don’t think we’re winning.

  28. Skeptic,
    You’re probably right. The only thing to do now is sit back and laugh at the idiots who are supporting all of it.

  29. Maybe Sarah Palin is the answer.

  30. This stuff is so stupid. As I’ve always said while the Libertarian movement may not have tons of electoral success they have a noticeable effect on the public debate and ideas.

    And they influence the major parties that way. Anything that makes the GOP has that is stomachable it has because of its libertarian leaning members. If the GOP was simply a conservative party we’d have two parties, one (Dems) that shared liberertarian goals of increased freedom and liberty but with opposed means (which may or may not undercut the shared goals) and one that was straight up authoritarian and loving it. And the latter would be bound to win sometimes. We can thank the libertarian movement for braking the GOP from going full Taliban on us.

  31. “Antyhing the GOP has that is stomachable…”

  32. Weren’t you just praising Huckabee?

  33. The reason the LP does terrible every time is there is too much “this election is just too important, so i’m going to go with team A (which i deem to be .05% better) this time” every fucking election.

    YEAH. Who is doing that, and why won’t they stop?

  34. “The real problem is with electoral politics, period. The majority of people want government benefits at someone else’s expense. People will not be disabused of the notion that they can vote for the impossible until they’ve already done it and received instead the disastrous possible. And even they often claim it was because the cause was hijacked.”

    Yep. And mixed with career politicians, people who have an emotional and material investment in expanding their own power, it’s a recipe for big-government disaster.

    And how could we forget:

    1. The self-perpetuating and power-hungry nature of bureaucracies in general.

    2. Big-government control of much of the educational institutions. Which:
    -shift public perceptions over time
    -provides legions of left-leaning academics to write the history books, conduct “studies,” and draft government plans
    -also educates the government technocrats that carry out and choose amongst the latter

    3. Fabian socialists throughout the entertainment industry, i.e. literally the best propaganda organs money can buy. Throw in a good portion of the newpaper reporters and editors that create the first draft of “history.”

    4. (The one the utopian libertarians love to hate) Tens of millions of poor people from societies with no history of limited government and, from their narrow perspective, every incentive to vote for that which they mostly aren’t paying for. And too few people to tell them why, in fact, they shouldn’t (see 1-3).

    Yep, I’m full of sunshine. Just wait till I get started on foreign affairs.

  35. If the young lack the outlet of the Libertarian Party to apply their passion for liberty, they will be forced to seek out new, more effective ways to do so. Ron Paul, for all his faults, has been more effective than the efforts of all LP officials, everywhere, combined.

    I say, let a dozen Ron Pauls bloom (this time, without newsletter scandals).

  36. If the LP had any goodwill, I’d say buy its IP portfolio, then stop all this 3rd party talk. Then recruit libertarian Democrats, moderate republicans and otherwise competent leaders who can claim to be for smaller government on at least 3 fiscal issues and 3 social issues. You can even be for gun control, so long as you believe that gun ownership is a good thing (and I don’t mean a quick goose hunting photo-op).

    Somebody needs to claim the center-right position, and at first blush, the LP seems to fit the bill. Libertarians are fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and pro-trade in lieu of war. Kick out the strict ideologues and recruit southern Democrats, northeastern Republicans, most anybody from the west.

    Don’t say, “government is the problem.” Say “government is the third best solution.” You got a problem with that? Try reading the Cato policy paper on vertical integration of electricity markets. Show me where it advocates a zero regulation regime.

    OK, so I’m a little out of control here. I’m just tired of libertarians being unrealistic and impractical. Markets are the best way to allocate resources, not the only way. Government regulations screw things up more often than they help, but let’s not pretend that no market anywhere needs oversight. For example, I’m a lawyer, and I believe that state-run bars are heavy handed (amounting many times to a protection ring), but free markets and malpractice suits are not enough to protect people from shitty lawyers who blow deadlines repeatedly.

    Transform the LP from a fringe 3rd party into a reason-based (I’m already drinking, so can it) party that makes sense. Toll roads are great, developers should pay for roads that benefit their property, but privatizing the roads isn’t going to get you anywhere.

    Milton Friedman is dead. Let’s put his ideas in our toolbox, right at the top. But let’s also understand that Keynesian economics can have benefits, albeit short term and with a cost to the middle class. Low taxes are great, but deficit spending is irresponsible. Global trade is imperative, but if you bomb our embassy or target Americans, there will be nasty repercussions.

    Appeal to the part of America that likes their guns, but at the same time wants science taught in schools and doesn’t see Steve and Roger across town boinking each other as a threat to their family.

    And please, please please please, no more Wayne Allyn Root. I just don’t have the constitution to defend schmucks like that.

  37. Libertarian minded Republicans are asking themselves, “where’s the next Barry Goldwater, the next Ronald Reagan to lead the party out of the intellectual darkness after Bush?” The answer, of course, is that he’s collecting signatures for a Libertarian school board candidate in Iowa, who will be crushed anyway in the general election.

  38. the libertarian party is an effective political party at the local and state level. if we can get more ballot access and get into more debates we will someday have congressmen and senators with an L next to their name. right now it seems that we have to use the republican label to get access to higher offices but that day will come to an end sooner or later. if the national party would be more coordinated and could take advantage of the Ron Paul revolution, the libertarian party will become more than just the third largest party in the US and will become a serious contender. they need to focus on areas where success is more likely. the national and the state libertarian parties seem disorganized and don’t do enough to spread the message and get candidates elected. Bob Barr should have been making stops in areas where other libertarians were running for office in order to bring more press.

  39. There’s actually one way that third parties could begin to matter. Eliminate the electoral college.

    A massive part of the problem is that winner-take-all electrol votes disincentivizes third-party presidential runs.

  40. Ron Paul, for all his faults, has been more effective than the efforts of all LP officials, everywhere, combined.

    OHHHMMM…the cult never dies.

    So, the LP might have thrown a Senate race to the Democrats (GA), but the guy who pulled ~5% and blew through millions of dollars on a failed primary was more “effective”?

    Again, the cult will never die.

  41. Eliminate the electoral college.

    Gah! No! This is the one of the few vestiges of federalism left. You might as well just give the federal government to NY and CA if you eliminate the EC.

    What we need to do is get individual states to apportion their electors. That would be much better than getting rid of the EC. If you got rid of the EC, third parties wouldn’t stand a chance of ever gaining a foothold.

  42. the libertarian party is an effective political party at the local and state level. if we can get more ballot access and get into more debates we will someday have congressmen and senators with an L next to their name. right now it seems that we have to use the republican label to get access to higher offices but that day will come to an end sooner or later. if the national party would be more coordinated and could take advantage of the Ron Paul revolution, the libertarian party will become more than just the third largest party in the US and will become a serious contender. they need to focus on areas where success is more likely. the national and the state libertarian parties seem disorganized and don’t do enough to spread the message and get candidates elected. Bob Barr should have been making stops in areas where other libertarians were running for office in order to bring more press.

    The only way the Libertarian Party would ever become a party with anywhere near the influence of the Democrats or the Republicans (under current law) would be if it were to replace one of them. However, to do this, the Libertarian Party would have to become a catch all party with a vague or non-existent ideology. It could lean libertarian, but it could never be libertarian. It would likely become corrupted over time, ceasing to be libertarian at all after the next shift in the political landscape.

    Option two is get the electoral system to change in a manner that would make it more open to other parties. That is, get Democrats and Republicans to change the laws that allow them to keep other parties out.

  43. Lamar:
    I can get on board with almost everything you said, except that part of about Keynesian economics.

    Keynesian economics is a pyramid scheme, especially when it involves deficit spending. It’s about pork barrel spending for the ignorant masses, and corporate welfare for the politically connected. It’s about creating the illusion of prosperity and kicking the can down the road.

  44. If the United States had proportional representation, the Libertarian Party would have 3 US Representatives in the 111th Congress based on the proportion of all votes cast in House races. There’d be one Green, too.

    Just a thought.

  45. TAO:
    Apportioning wouldn’t work because there’s incentives to using winner-take-all. Swing states that use winner-take-all become more critical, so more money gets spent there, and more attention is paid to keeping thier voters happy. Why would any state give up their enhanced influence just to be more “fair” to third parties?

    I don’t see why NY and CA would dominate the presidential vote either. They’d only have as much influence as their population.

    Pure popular vote counts would make election night a lot more boring too. Which would do us all a service.
    No more red-state vs. blue-state horse race coverage.

    But most importantly, you would never have situations like Nader in Florida where the third party gets blamed for siphoning votes away from the major party candidate and costing him the state.

    Take that out, and the third party can get 5% of the vote an noone will blink. It allows third parties to grow without making people afraid that voting for them will undercut one of the other parties on “their side”.

  46. I would also move to enlarge the House of Representatives. There is no reason we should be stuck on this “zero-sum” number of 435.

    The point of the HoR is to represent people at a reasonable proportion. We have let that get entirely out of control.

  47. Hazel –

    Part of what has been fueling Nader is the fact that he did, in fact, cause the Democrats to lose in 2000. I consider that a *good* thing.

    Also, what happens in the case of a recount? Dear Lord…we wouldn’t have a certified President until March!

    Apportioning wouldn’t work because there’s incentives to using winner-take-all.

    Sure there are, but there are incentives to apportioning, too. If you’re a solid-blue (or red) state, you should consider apportioning your vote because no one pays attention to your state.

    Think about it: How much advertising and time did the candidates spend in Kansas this year? Or California? There’s no need; those states are in the bag.

    But if you apportioned their votes, all of the sudden every state is important.

  48. A friend of mine just sent me this:

    Mike: Too bad the Libertarians have never figured out how to appeal to vast swaths of people or to run a real campaign.

    Best, (name withheld)

    Obama-Biden 66,882,230 52.8% 365 electoral votes
    McCain-Palin 58,343,671 46.0% 173 electoral votes
    Nader-Gonzalez 698,798 0.6% 0 electoral votes
    Barr-Root 511,324 0.4% 0 electoral votes
    Baldwin-Castle 181,818 0.1% 0 electoral votes
    McKinney-Clemente 152,811 0.1% 0 electoral votes
    Others 103,418 0.1% 0 electoral votes
    Total votes 126,686,145 538 electoral

    My response?

    Thankfully, I’ve been drinking.

  49. MIR,

    Between you and me, we could blot out the sun.

  50. economist,

    Oh, yes, and of course the sacrosanct “right” to vote for whatever insane platform one wants.

    Ain’t democracy great?

    Too bad every other option man has ever come up with sucks an even bigger moose.

    On another thread somebody suggested that we should add more members to the House, like one rep for every 30k people. This way the HR would be too big for anybody to bribe off entirely. Interesting idea, maybe it’d actually be more representative.

    I’ve thought that maybe we should do away with parties all together, and turn all elected positions into something like jury duty. Draw names from a hat, and that’s how you get a seat in the house.

    Maybe, we could still let the senate and president be elected, but I’m not sure why. Or we could do the “republic” thing and elect somebody who elects *somebody* who elects the president. Then we’d have a lot more somebody’s to bitch about.

    Or we could do the ancient Athens, Greece thing, go pure democracy, and then either banish or hang whatever politician pisses off the masses. In a country this size, we could have at least one hanging a day going on somewhere in the continental US.

    Which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad idea.

    Damn, I’m feeling better already. Now I know what to do with the Libertarian party. We’re gonna be the Vote and Hang Bunch.

  51. Hazel,

    A massive part of the problem is that winner-take-all electrol votes disincentivizes third-party presidential runs.

    That’s true.

    OTOH, I’ve read enough French and Italian history that I’m not so convinced that multi-party politics is really any better. Due to the existence of multiple parties with inherently opposing platforms, and each getting its little turn at the steering wheel, the French for example spent a whole century of never quite figuring out which damned direction they were going in.

    In the end they predominantly became social democrats. Which seems to be exactly where we’re heading…..well gee whiz, that’s different.

    Multi-party systems might, maybe, give more people a voice. But what you’d get is even more bickering which, in politics, means that you end up with more (and often worse) compromises. Or else you end up with total incoherence and a new constitution every few decades. Not that it did the French any good.

    If you have a democracy, sooner or later it’s going in the ditch. Because elected politicians have incentives to offer their voters freebies, and the voters sooner, if not sooner still, will take them.

  52. I’m one of those weirdos who likes to dog on the 17th Amendment whenever possible.

    I’m a lot of fun at parties.

  53. I don’t see why NY and CA would dominate the presidential vote either. They’d only have as much influence as their population.

    Their population is a lot. I grew up in upstate NY, which leans Republican. It made no difference in national elections because NYC is going to vote Democrat sure as the sun rises.

    Big cities are where the voter power and influence are. And predominantly, they lean left wing.

    Which has been true to large cities since the beginning of recorded history. I’ve never figured out why, I just know it’s true.

    The first left wing pacifists in recorded history were Chinese, because the Chinese grew big huge cities sooner than anybody else.

  54. the Party has consumed valuable resources, both financial and human

    I am… “annoyed” I guess is the word, at the point of view that says, here are a bunch of people who’ve organized themselves in a way that promotes their own utiliy, and if they only did what *I* — brilliant, all-knowing, clever I — think they should do, we would all be so much better off.

    That’s a game for children and other social engineers.

    The Party hasn’t just “consumed” resources; it organized them, it produced them, it earned them.

    I mean, I had no idea there was this huge vat in the middle of Missouri somewhere, labelled “resources for the freedom movement — take all you want”, and it turns out all those jerks in the LP are elbowing everyone else aside to hog it all to themselves. Pigs.

    Aside from the many other good points that others have offered, I would add three.

    1) Some of us, I don’t know why, are just wired to be political in elections. I have absolutely no respect for government, so I can’t see how I can care about elections, but I’m just programmed to go vote every election and having the “L” as one of the choices makes it rebelious rather than completely nauseating.

    2) I have made friends for life in the LP. I guess I could have done that with HnR meet-ups, or anarcho-capitalist bridge clubs, but Ilya Somin hasn’t seen fit to organize those in my area yet, so I think I’ll just remain grateful for the LP.

    3) As a practical matter, when you’re a political party, you actually get free goodies from the state. When someone signs up with your political party, you get that info for free, plus whether they voted in the primary, etc etc. In an age where working lists is a big part of any movement, the LP gets state subsidized.

    Let a thousand flowers bloom. I hope there will be more libertarian Republicans. Someone needs to step forward as a libertarian Democrat, so we can mess with their debates next time. (Not that I’m not thankful for Gravel!) I’m happy for the anti-party folks, for the non-voting folks.

    If you have a better alternative, sell it to me. Really, I’m open to it. If your sales pitch starts with insulting my friends, dismissing my choices, and framing my efforts to build a movement as just being a loser… well, I think you have something to learn about salesmanship.

    And if your marketing of an alternative is that bad, maybe you should stay away from the market-driven analogies, too.

  55. I mean, I had no idea there was this huge vat in the middle of Missouri somewhere, labelled “resources for the freedom movement — take all you want”, and it turns out all those jerks in the LP are elbowing everyone else aside to hog it all to themselves. Pigs.

    Geez, neither did I. But I do have a pig sticker. I gotta go find this vat and take it for myself.

    Seriously, if the Libertarian Party didn’t exist, libertarians would probably never manage to invade the fringes of the Republicans and Democrats. Which means no Ron Paul runs.

    That would be a sad thing.

    Though I’d like it better if we could find a Ron Paul who didn’t summarily shoot himself in the foot whilst running for president.

  56. Canada has proportional representation. That helps a lot.

    No it doesn’t. The Canadian and British Parliaments both have regular FPTP voting, and both have third parties with substantial numbers of MPs, enough to hold the balance of power on many occasions.

  57. “Lamar:
    I can get on board with almost everything you said, except that part of about Keynesian economics.”

    Don’t get me wrong, pyramids schemes never last and are a poor substitute for creating wealth, just like Keynesian manipulations. I only put that in there because of the short term effect. There does seem to be short term traction under the right conditions. It’s like a credit card. You can’t keep using it over and over. You use it a few times when it really effing matters (and even then, who knows? But its a tool to try).

  58. Of all people, libertarians should know that a movement can’t be planned.

    I don’t know why not.

    Planning isn’t the problem. Good planning, combined with good marketing, is.

  59. The reason the LP does terrible every time is there is too much “this election is just too important, so i’m going to go with team A (which i deem to be .05% better) this time” every fucking election.

    So what? My Team or Bust?

    If I had a bumper sticker on my car it would read

    Just Say No To Kooks

    I do not have such a bumper sticker for fear that everyone would think I, my very own self, was a kook.

    But my own personal line in the sand is that I don’t vote for anybody who’s more than 45% kook. Ron Paul was nearer to getting my vote than anyone, but his kook fraction was running up around 65%.

    Face it. The man got on the national stage and in true Barnie Fife form, shot his left foot whilst trying to draw his six gun. He did this by blabbering on and on about the gold standard, which utterly drowned out the validity of his economic message.

    This left Ron Paul to hop around on his one good foot. But then, like Barnie Fife, he proceeded to shoot his own right foot whilst trying to draw his other six gun. He did this by walking into the Republican Convention — at this very moment in history — and blasting the Iraq war right out of the water. Any valid point he might have made, was thus assured to fall upon deaf ears.

    Which left our hapless Ron Paul without a proverbial foot to stand on.

    You can blabber all day about “well hey man, he was right you know”. It doesn’t change the fact that a good politician would have packaged his message a bit more subtly. If you start out with a literal series of blows to the people whom you must depend on for your support, they’re going to blow you off.

    In which case you aren’t going to have any real impact on anything.

    The thing that really sucks about politics is that it’s ultimately a great big game of compromise. Because the alternative is another civil war.

  60. Multi-party electoral systems also tend to break down into two factions, since they too require a majority to create a leadership position. Two-party and multi-party systems seem to be just seperate ways to create bi-polar coalitions.

    CED,

    …one (Dems) that shared liberertarian goals of increased freedom and liberty…

    I’d say that libertarians (that is, liberals) on average have far different notions of what freedom and liberty mean than what Democrats do. Which is why the policy proposals of both are quite different. When Democrats start to across the board (and not just on one subject or two) about say self-ownership then I’d say there was some meeting of ideas and purposes. Until then, Democrats and liberals are generally going to be at cross-purposes and there is no reason to suggest otherwise.

  61. “OTOH, I’ve read enough French and Italian history that I’m not so convinced that multi-party politics is really any better.”

    Just remember that our system of unions has been in place for over a hundred years. Europe has had the predecessors of unions for close to 1,000. Perhaps that is why “multi-party” politics doesn’t work there….Nothing can.

  62. That’s a good point.

  63. Give up? Wow, now there’s an attitude that will get you where you want to be.

    How ’bout, instead of just punting on libertarianism, the efforts that go into the Libertarian Party are redirected into something that would solve the problem?

  64. Two things

    A. I didn’t mean to say that if people just voted the way that their policy preferences are that the LP would be a major politcal force, something like the cato projection of 15% of the electorate. Just that the LP’s numbers wouldn’t be abysmal as they are right now.
    B. I don’t see why people approach this LP vs. working inside either party as a zero sum game.

  65. real libertarians are anarchists minarchists.

    Fixed.

  66. The problem is Libertarians and their Ivory keyboards.

  67. “The thing that really sucks about politics is that it’s ultimately a great big game of compromise. Because the alternative is another civil war.”

    Libertarians don’t understand this. Most democracies are centrist.

    Nations that attempt to function on rigid, ideological grounds, usually end up having to maintain their influence through tyranny.

    Even if Lew Rockwell shit sunshine one day, and a Libertarian candidate was actually elected to office, the country would still move back toward the center at some point in time, if not soon after.

    So, you can either start becoming a well adjusted, functional member of the “system,” or you can continue to suffer from the politcal world’s version of blue balls.

  68. The Ron Paul campaign has shown that a libertarian candidacy within a major party results in more attention than the LP effort.

    Reading the comments here, this apparently will require some people to loosen their ideas of partisanship. That is, to undertstand that supporting a good candidate in a major party primary doesn’t require that one swear allegiance to the Party in question.

    There are some problems. One problem is that too many libertarian activists get involved in selecting the least bad candidate at the Presidential level. Huckabee is no good. We should support Guiliani. No. The idea is to support libertarian campaigns in the Republican primary.

    A related problem is that because the campaign is less of a longshot, there has traditionally been a tendency for the candidates to try to downplay their libertarian views to appeal to primary voters. For libertarian Republicans, that means running as a fiscal convervative and downplaying personal liberties and foreign policy. And, the libertarians who have won office often soon become traditional conservatives.

    However, victory is very distant at this time. I think that the anwer is to just support candidates who run with a libertarian message (on the federal level, that is all three legs of the stool–personal liberty, economic freedom, and peace.) If some candidate starts off with such a message, and then, in subsequent campaigns runs on a more standard conservative (or liberal) message to win primary votes–stop supporting that candidate. If they win, and then, in order to win reelection, supports policies more consistent with the others in their party. Stop supporting them.

    I don’t advocate that people volunteer to do the household chores in the major parties. Just work on libertarian campaigns.

    There is no need to prove party loyalty in the general election when a conservative (or liberal) wins.

    Maybe, one day, when there are a significant number of libertarians in Congress, it may be time for try for a new party. For example, if the primary is clearly a stumbling block to reelection for some libertarians. (Close cals in the primary against, say, a religious right challenger, then easy victory in the general election even though the religious right sits on their hands.) Significant libertarian presence in both major parties. The libertian Republican Congressman from Idaho wins the primaries in the mountain west. The libertarian democrat from Oregan does well in New England and West Coast primaries. Libertarians can’t win either primary, but maybe, a new party combining all 20 of them libertarian Congressmen..

    We are so distant from that world.

    At the Presidential level, especially, it is easier to get into primary debates than general election debates, and the campaign can focus on early states.

    Paul proved that substantial interest can be generated. And while, he came nowhere close to winning, neither do LP candidates for high level office.

    I think Paul had weaknesses as a candidate and his campaign made some serious errors. Such is life. But, he did generate a lot of attention.

  69. “Libertarians don’t understand this. Most democracies are centrist.”

    This is how illusion gets ya — the center of a spectrum shifting to the left means the center is more and more left. All centrism says is that at any given time people will not go to the present extremes, yet today’s center was yesterday’s extreme.

  70. Has liberty no cause greater than the battle for the hearts and minds of our fellow countryman ?

    Is there no place for a frontline battle ? Yea, as I cast a gloomy eye on those who would preach the cause and never suffer it.

  71. Famous Mortimer,

    Libertarians don’t understand this. Most democracies are centrist.

    The “center” is at best a moving target.

  72. As I’m fond of saying, Friedman pointed out that the most successful party of the last century was the socialist party. They may never have gotten more than 5% of the vote, but if you look at their party platforms from early in the century, they’ve been enacted into law virtually in their entirety.

    And of course, Friedman missed the point, while Hoppe got it. The reason why the US has become socialist is that democracy by its very nature leads to socialism: this change was inevitable, Socialist Party or no.

  73. So, you can either start becoming a well adjusted, functional member of the “system,” or you can continue to suffer from the politcal world’s version of blue balls.

    Well said.

    But the point about the eventual shift left also seems to be on too.

  74. Famous Mortimer,

    So, you can either start becoming a well adjusted, functional member of the “system,” or you can continue to suffer from the politcal world’s version of blue balls.

    Or you can ignore what is happening in the realm of politics and basically be as libertarian as possible in your own life (as millions of other Americans do).

  75. Ironic that Gene Berkman would call libertarian efforts within the GOP “useless” the very year that we saw the most libertarian member of Congress ever elected, on the Republican banner: Tom McClintock of Berkman’s home State of California.

    Yup, electing McClintock was a failure of the libertarian Republican strategy alright.

  76. “So, you can either start becoming a well adjusted, functional member of the “system,” or you can continue to suffer from the politcal world’s version of blue balls.”
    Gee, I could become a socialist who thinks maybe the government shouldn’t regulate as heavily as it does, and occasionally suggests that the latest nationalization is a bad idea. No thanks, I’ll just laugh at the centrists who, in the end, have nothing to stand for and will thus for anything as long as it doesn’t sound “extreme”.

  77. DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOO!

  78. Barack Obama worked with the New Party in Chicago. They were an independently-organised party who worked to elect New Party members and endorsees to the Democratic ticket via the Democratic primary. Their membership was informal enough that the real rising stars, like Obama, could deny membership even as his face appeared on all the New Party literature.

    Libertarians should work with proven methods, and the New Party method is now proven.

    For a start the Libertarian Party should pledge not to run candidates independently, except where the Republicans opt not to run a candidate at all.

  79. David Ross,
    Wouldn’t libertarians still have the problem that most Republican and Democratic candidates are not worth endorsing?

  80. economist, that’s why God (or at least his Prophet, Saul Alinsky) invented community organising.

    Recruit a Libertarian candidate, get him (or, less likely, her) onto the ballot as a Republican (or, less likely, Democrat) and then there will be a candidate “worth endorsing”. Because s/he’s already been selected for that purpose.

  81. David Ross,
    That depends on the Republicans accepting a libertarian candidate. That’s about as likely as a libertarian being accepted by the Democrats (which in its turn is about as likely as the moon suddenly crashing into the earth).

  82. What the Libertarian Party needs is a figure that people are interested in, and money. Like I said in another post, if the walking stiff that is Ron Paul (all the respect in the world to the guy, but his speaking ability is akin to what I saw in high school debate class, at best) can garner that much support and money so rapidly, it suggests to the capitalist in me an untapped market.

    If the Libertarians had a face that motivated people, they would be in much better shape. I don’t really agree with Barrack Obama on just about anything, but he is an interesting enough person that you actually do think about him and what he’s saying. Once you get someone actually thinking about what you’re saying, well, if you’re a libertarian you have now won your battle.

    Trouble is, libertarians do not get people thinking about what they are saying, they get the worst reception of all, laughed out of the debate. Too many times I think the “people at large” are laughing the messenger and not the message out of the room. For the Democrats and the Republicans, the dynamic works exactly opposite…love for the messenger even while everyone knows the message is complete fiction, even their own supporters to a degree.

    Bob Barr was the LP asking to be a punchline again, even if he was Adam Smith reborn the package that came in was going to sit on the shelf at the store of ideas. Just the way it is. You need to gussy up the box your selling your product in or no one is going to buy it. Getting rid of the LP Party is no way to go though, you just take your box off the shelf completely. If we libertarians are competitive by nature and not just thought, then we should be much more competitive in the marketplace of ideas. We just need better marketing.

  83. A combinative approach …
    Enlarge the House of Reps to 600 seats.
    Introduce proportional representation.
    The LP vigorously recruits big money donors (Peter Lewis for example).

  84. Part of what has been fueling Nader is the fact that he did, in fact, cause the Democrats to lose in 2000. I consider that a *good* thing.

    Strongly disagree there. I think there were a large number of liberals who would have voted Green, but for the fear that George W. Bush would win as a result. Fears repeatedly proven correct every time a third-party costs someone an election by losing a bunch of electoral votes in a swing state.

    The Naderites getting drubbed by Democrats after the 2000 election is the reason the Greens never took off. You seem to have forgotten the vitriol directed their way after that event.

    The LP is the same way.

    Not sure there’s a great advantage to apportioning either. If the state is dominated by Republicans, there’s an incentive to give as many electoral votes to “their side” as possible. Partisanship takes over in decidedly “red” or “blue” states. I’m sure people in CA would say they want all 50 votes to go to the Democrats, and they’d think you were crazy to demand apportionment when everyone else isn’t. It’s like handing free votes to the other side.

    So winner-take-all is incentivized no matter what.

  85. I have made friends for life in the LP. I guess I could have done that with HnR meet-ups, or anarcho-capitalist bridge clubs, but Ilya Somin hasn’t seen fit to organize those in my area yet, so I think I’ll just remain grateful for the LP.

    There are HnR meetups, and anarcho-capitalist bridge clubs?

  86. Anyway, we can theorize all day about parliamentary democracy, but the only thing that stands a chance of ACTUALLY HAPPENING is eliminating the electoral college.

    Apportioning just ain’t going to happen, the political hurdles are too big. Eliminating the electoral college actually stands a chance of getting enacted.

  87. Gene: The RLC is not an anarchist organization. Do not condemn it just because it doesn’t advocate overthrowing the state. It is libertarian-lite, which means I have to hold my nose a lot, but it is still libertarian.

    The big-government types in the RLC are leaving in disgust at all the small-government types taking over. The last eight years were somewhat painful, when the pro-war Donderoites seized control and started telling everyone that liberty was about killing brown people. But those guys have been pushed aside by new blood from the R3volution. The big problem now is the anti-immigation protectionism imported from that same R3volution.

    The RLC is “big tent” libertarianism. That’s heresy in some quarters, but it’s effective in getting the word out. I’m running a growing RLC meetup. A GOP congressional candidate came last week and discovered Friedman for the very first time. To my mind that’s a lot more effective than holing up in the LP bunker with a bunch of hardliners.

    p.s. If the Bush years turned you off forever on Republicans, then there’s still the Democratic Freedom Caucus. While too leftist for my libertarian tastes, they’re still an avenue for getting libertarian ideas into Democrats’ heads.

  88. Actually, “first past the post” makes it easier for a third party to win — you only need 34%. And with barely half the eligible people voting, it’s more like 20%.

  89. Most people would prefer a platform based on the “right” to a job, health insurance a 40-hour work week, government-mandated vacation, bread, circuses, et al.

    I think the push now is for a 35-hour work week, or maybe every other Friday off.

  90. Three possible strategies:

    1. Keep doing what we’re doing. It looks hopeless at times (like every election night), but you never know when the great mass of voters will suddenly awaken from their stupor and see the light. There is precedent — see the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the ouster of a certain Romanian dictator.

    2. Join the Free State Project. Last I checked they were up to 8,000, and need only 12,000 more to get the move to NH started. Over 500,000 people voted for the LP presidential candidate, so we’re only talking about 2.4% of Libertarians moving. (You go first.)

    3. Go all in on the Republican primaries. Ron Paul earned one million votes, but a scant seven million more would have secured the nomination. That’s only 3.5% of the eligible voting population. Most people don’t vote in the primaries, so a dedicated 5% movement (with 100% voter turnout) could subvert democracy and get a good candidate on the November ballot. Then apathetic voters would vote for the party label out of habit, and voila.

  91. If the LP didn’t exist, a libertarian who doesn’t like either major party candidate in any particular election could simply skip voting for that office. The amount of influence said voter would not change; that is, it’s zero in both situations.

    The place to push libertarian-leaning candidates is in the primaries, folks. And in both major parties. For example, I always push Russ Feingold as being a libertarian-leaning candidate. His voting record on everything other than campaign finance, taxes, and spending (and he’s great on earmarks) is more libertarian than anybody else in Congress save Ron Paul. Now, if all you care about is lowering taxes, vote for whatever religious wingnut the Republicans put up. But if you care about more than that, at things like Iraq, Gitmo, censorship, warrantless wiretaps, etc., then you have to look at both major parties. Pick and choose, because shooting at the moon with the LP means you miss every single time.

  92. “This is how illusion gets ya — the center of a spectrum shifting to the left means the center is more and more left. All centrism says is that at any given time people will not go to the present extremes, yet today’s center was yesterday’s extreme.”

    Certainly.

    However, it ignores the main point about a Libertarian state being unable to maintain long term power through democratic elections.

    Just because the center may shift back and forth over time, it doesn’t mean that it will shift dramatically enough to embrace full on Libertarianism. In fact, it’s absurd to even suggest that. It betrays all understanding of human history, and man’s status as just another social primate.

    I understand that it is important to remain positive, even in the face of insurmountable odds, but I also know that many of you are smarter than that.

  93. Famous Mortimer,

    However, it ignores the main point about a Libertarian state being unable to maintain long term power through democratic elections.

    A libertarian state would only remain so as long as the culture remained largely libertarian in outlook. Just about every libertarian intellectual since I dunno, at least Spooner, has written something like that in their copious writings.

  94. Economist–

    My point is that for the time being, forget about the general election. Promote libertarian politicies in the primaries. A libertarian candidate runs in the Republican or Democrat primary on libertarian policies.

    If the “Republicans” won’t select a libertarian (that is, the libertarian loses in the primary,) then there will be no libetarian in the general election. Do nothing in the general election. Vote for the lesser evil. Don’t vote. Whatever. My view, however, is that there should be no organized libertarian effort at that point. (Or, write in a libertarian.)

    I disagree with Geotpf. Feingold does have some strength’s, of course. Many poliiticans do on specific issues.

    I don’t think that libertarians running in primaries should run “hard core” educational campaigns. I think they should run moderate libertarian campaigns. They should be trying to get as many votes as possible in the primary, subject to the limit that they have a libertarian message– less government across the board.

    The point is, where can the limited resources of libertarian get the most attention? I think that the Paul effort shows that it is in the primaries.

    This is certainly true at the Presidential level.

  95. FM 5:40am
    Um, I think you sort of missed the point.

  96. Of ocurse, I also think that someone who changes their stated views chiefly to avoid looking “extreme” is really an unprincipled hack. Say what you will about those far leftists from the ’60s, they said what they meant*.

    *Except for the ones who were high and didn’t know what they were saying.

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