Reason Podcast

How Can The Libertarian Party Effect Real Change? A Soho Forum Debate

Dave Smith and Nicholas Sarwark debate the 2016 Libertarian Party ballot, what constitutes success in an election, and how to effectively share libertarian principles.


The Libertarian Party should never again put up national candidates whose views are similar to those of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld.

That was the resolution of a public debate hosted by the Soho Forum in New York City on September 10, 2019. It featured comedian and podcast host Dave Smith and Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian National Committee. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein moderated.

It was an Oxford-style debate, in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. Smith won the night by convincing 20 percent of the audience, while Sarwark convinced 16.8 percent.

Arguing for the affirmative was Dave Smith, host of the popular libertarian podcast Part of the Problem, and a co-host of Legion of Skanks.

Nicholas Sarwark argued for the negative. Sarwark is currently serving his third term as chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, which is the executive body of the Libertarian Party of the United States.

The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village.

Produced by John Osterhoudt.

Photo credit: Brett Raney

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  1. Sarwark married his wife, Valerie in 2009. Sarwark was a deputy public defender in Colorado. After building a family in Denver, he returned to Phoenix in 2014 to join his family’s independent car dealership, where he served as vice-president.Sarwark and his wife have four children.In 2019, Sarwark and his family moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, recognizing the success of the grassroots libertarian movement the Free State Project.

    I moved around a bunch in the Navy but geesh. I would also like to how one BUILDS a family? Which iOS do you use these days?

    Good thing Phoenix didnt elect Sarwack, he would have tried to run Phoenix from New Hampshire.

  2. Any Linux distribution will do, but you need to run the following apps: Daddy 2.0, Mommy 2.0 and sex 3.0.

  3. How Can The Libertarian Party Affect Real Change?

    The expression is “effect change.” It refers to bringing change about, not influencing change that is otherwise happening.

    1. Here’s a elementary school grammar lesson for you, Ray. Affect is a verb. Effect is a noun.

      1. “Effect” is also a verb.

        And not that it matters, but “affect” can also be a noun (although it’s rarely used in that way).

  4. So Nick basically said he would vote for Dick Cheney if Cheney ran as a Libertarian. He believes in “party over principle,” which is fine if he wants to be a Republican or Democrat.

  5. The only way libertarians can effect real change is if their car gets a flat tire and they put on the spare. Even then it’s low pressure hot air in the spare.

    This comment not approved by Silicon Valley brain slugs.

  6. Promoting the message of the NAP. Literally become a one issue party. Tyranny is the disease the NAP is the cure everything else people talk about are just the symptoms. Be the Party of Liberty!

  7. Dave makes some good points and I admire his view and passion, however, his primary argument doesn’t hold water. The masses are voting for centrist candidates when they are offered, like it or not. Nick is calm and principled as always – and he happens to be right.

  8. I will pass on this garbage like I said the last time reason tried to push this article.

  9. How can the Libertarian party effect change?

    Abandon leftism.

    Abandon all the leftist philosophy that has infected the party as it infects every endeavor that does not specifically reject it at the outset.

    Abandon the mantra of ‘socially liberal, fiscally conservative’ as the lie that any libertarian should see it as.

    Libertarians should support only those policies that increase, protect, and defend liberty.

    Other than facilitating free trade by protecting against fraud, breach of contract, theft, and interference by outside governments, the libertarian party should allow economics to seek their own level.

    There are no ‘socially liberal’ policies that do not increase governmental control–in one way or another.

    Reason’s insane support of 230 is a prime example. 230 must exist to insure what exactly? That vast corporations can ignore the ToS they demanded people sign in order to use their services? Because without 230, they’d HAVE to abide by them or shut down a whole lot of people. So? LET them kill their own cash cows. Without the current media conglomerations, others could rise in their wake–companies that abided by the contracts they set out. But right now, 230 sits across that path like an 800 pound turd.

    And the arguments over cakes, calligraphers, bathrooms and speech–the Libertarian party should ONLY support those that support TOTAL freedom of association. No business should have to do business with anyone they don’t want to do business with. Period.

    Instead, Reason haggles over what constitutes ‘free expression’. The LP haggles over what constitutes free expression. ANYTHING an individual does is being done via THEIR free expression. End of haggling.

    How can the Libertarian party effect change?

    Try actually being Libertarian, for a change.

  10. Wow, Dave Smith is like Jimmy Dore if he was a Libertarian

  11. I like Sarwark, but he is not debating team material. His work got us a 328% increase in 2016 votes, dwarfed by the mid-term results none of the looter parties mention. But he is not geared to deal with Antifa infiltrators cross-dressing as libertarians. Public defenders see narcs and vice trolls entrapping people to rip them off with cruel laws, yet do not realize this is regular fare for intellectuals of the looter persuasion. It is.

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