What’s A Libertarian To Do ?

These are not good times to be a politically active libertarian. The Libertarian Party, recent platform changes notwithstanding, is unlikely to ever become a force with any real political power in the United States and has done an abysmal job at promoting libertarian ideas among the general public. The Republican Party has pretty much abandoned even the rhetoric of limited government and seems to be fully controlled by the authoritarian social conservatives, who preach about freedom but rarely practice.

And what about the Democrats ? I’ve discussed the possibility of libertarians aligning with the Democratic Party in the past (here, here, and here), and its clear that the biggest obstacle for libertarians thinking of voting Democratic is that, while the GOP has become more authoritarian, the Democratic Party has become more socialist in its economic philosophy. While there may be some candidates who don’t buy into the economic policy of the Democratic Party completely, it is in the platform, and reconciling traditional Democratic economic policies with liberarian/classical liberal ideas is pretty close to an impossibility.

Logan Ferree, who has started a group that calls itself Fredom Democrats argues that its time for libertarians to give up on the GOP and try something new

The Republican Party of today is an unholy alliance of theocons and neocons that depends on majorities in Congress and control of the White House to win the additional votes needed to stay in power through fear-mongering and bribery. Control of the modern Republican Party rests largely in the hands of the Religious Right, which has grown to dominate the party since the late 1970s. Where once social conservatives hoped to use libertarian means to achieve their goals by liberating families, churches, and schools from left-wing utopian schemes, they now turn to the government as a weapon to wage a cultural war against their enemies: feminists, gays, non-Christians, and even fellow Christians that do not embrace their extremist beliefs. The government is used to impose a top-down policy of mandating school prayer and radical abstinence only sex education. Federalism is ignored in intervening in personal medicinal decisions, be it a woman’s right to choose or the right to die with dignity. However, the divide between libertarians and the Republican Party runs even deeper.

While I agree that the GOP, at least on the national level, is close to being a lost cause, I don’t see the Democratic Party as being a viable alternative for the reasons discussed above.

So what should libertarians do ? As James Joyner points out, there really are only three alternatives; either you vote Libertarian, you vote Democratic, or you don’t vote at all. I can see myself engaging in a combination of all three options depending on the circumstances, and waiting for the day when this authoritarian streak comes to an end.