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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Can Libertarians Matter?

Bruce Bartlett continues to try to find some way to increase the influence of the Libertarian party in the political process. He has come to the conclusion that the only way to do that is to tear the whole thing down and start over from scratch:

Libertarian or libertarian?, by Bruce Bartlett, Washington Times: In a recent column, I discussed the disaffection of libertarians within the conservative coalition, suggesting many might be more at home on the political left. A number of readers wrote to say they agreed ... and had left the Republican Party for the Libertarian Party (LP). Among these is former Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr, who officially joined the LP last week.

Of course, people are free to do what they want... But if their goal is to actually change policy in a libertarian direction, they are making a big mistake... The LP is worse than a waste of time. I believe it has done far more to hamper the advancement of libertarian ideas and policies than to advance them. In my view, it is essential for the LP to completely disappear before libertarian ideas will again have political currency.

The basic problem with the LP is the same problem faced by all third parties: They cannot win. The reason is that under the Constitution, a candidate must ... have at least 270 electoral votes to win, period. ...[Because of this], the Electoral College imposes a two-party system on the country that makes it prohibitively difficult for third parties to compete.

Furthermore, to the extent third parties exist, they invariably hurt the party closest to them ideologically. When Ralph Nader ran for president in 2000 and 2004, ... he didn't hurt George W. Bush, he hurt Al Gore and John Kerry. ...

Over the years, I have known a great many people who have flirted with the LP, but were ultimately turned off by its political impotence and immaturity. ... [T]he LP is essentially a high-school-level debating club where only one question is ever debated -- who is the purest libertarian and what is the purest libertarian position?

At times, serious people have tried to get control of the LP and make it a viable organization. But in the end, the crazies ... have always run them off. However, they have also run off millions of voters who have supported libertarian candidates at one time or another. After realizing what a waste of time the LP is, many became disengaged from politics and don't vote at all.

The result has been that libertarian-leaning activists have been drawn away from the Republican Party and the Democratic Party by the LP, leaving the major parties with fewer libertarians... [T]he net result ... has been to make our government less libertarian than it would otherwise be.

My conclusion is that for libertarian ideas to advance, the LP must ... cease to exist, period. No more candidates, no more wasted votes and no more disillusioned libertarian activists.

In place of the LP, there should arise a new libertarian interest group organized like the National Rifle Association or the various pro- and anti-abortion groups. This new group ... would hire lobbyists, run advertisements and make political contributions to candidates supporting libertarian ideas. It will work with both major parties. It can magnify its influence by creating temporary coalitions on particular issues and being willing to work with elected officials who may hold libertarian positions on only one or a handful of issues. They need not hold libertarian views on every single issue, as the LP now demands of those it supports.

I believe this new organization would be vastly more influential than the LP and give libertarian ideas far more potency than they now have. ...

    Posted by on Wednesday, December 20, 2006 at 12:01 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (17)


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