Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.”     Milton Friedman

July 27, 2006

What’s A Libertarian To Do ?

by Doug Mataconis

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.

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22 Comments

  1. I’m seriously considering voting Democrat in my local Congressional race this fall. It’s not that I dislike my representative; I’ve met the guy and he seemed like a good guy. He supports the FairTax, and seems to vote for Porkbusters type reforms. But vote after authoritarian vote, whether it’s in favor of the flag-burning amendment, tightening online poker restrictions, etc etc, I may have to put my foot down. Luckily I can do it with impunity, in my district, a Democrat has no chance in hell of winning.

    Probably what I’ll do is start sending out some feeler emails to the local Democratic candidate, and see if I can get him to at least offer us Libertarians a reason to come over to his side. If he can offer some good talk, I might give him a vote. Otherwise I might simply stay home.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — July 27, 2006 @ 9:51 am
  2. Personally, I think it depends on the individual race, and sometimes, the voter themselves. I personally have a hard time seeing myself voting democrat because I dislike socialism more than I dislike the Republican authoritarianism (not that I support it) plus, there’s the age old “democrats are weak on national security” argument that nags at me again and again.

    I would also consider voting LP, but again, the weak on national security part scares me. I think it really depends on the candidates and the individual elections. I’ll have to look at each race and see which candidate I agree with more I guess.

    Comment by Ryan — July 27, 2006 @ 11:59 am
  3. I will be voting for every Libertarian that is on my ballot and contributing to Libertarian candidates who are running in other locations.

    Comment by George Whitfield — July 27, 2006 @ 2:14 pm
  4. George,

    With all due respect, why ?

    I’m serious in asking. Do you really think supporting the LP will accomplish anything ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — July 27, 2006 @ 2:45 pm
  5. George is exercising his right to vote. I think that is as much important as the candidates.

    Comment by VRB — July 27, 2006 @ 3:40 pm
  6. I don’t deny he has the right to vote for whoever he wants. I’m just interested in knowing why he thinks the LP is worth his vote.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — July 27, 2006 @ 3:59 pm
  7. what we need is a unity08 that instead of aiming for ‘moderates’ aims for people who think government is out of control.

    Instead of “look at me! I worship Ayn Rand!” we need an option that says ‘government’s out of control! let’s reign the fucker in!’

    once those people are under our umbrella, we make our brainwashing move.

    Comment by IndianCowboy — July 27, 2006 @ 4:44 pm
  8. Voting is a tactical decision, frequently a pure matter of self-defense against the worst of the candidates.
    Participating in a political party is a strategic decision about where your influence is likely to be most effective in the pursuit of liberty.
    I vote mostly LP, but have the pleasure of supporting GOP candidates like my California State Senator Tom McClintock.
    However, I long ago concluded that the only rational *strategic* option is working within the Republican Party to “bring it back” to the principles of Goldwater: individual rights, limited government, and free enterprise.
    The only active group pursuing that strategy is the Republican Liberty Caucus. I’m happy to act as the RLC Chairman and quite pleased with the progress we’ve made.
    We’ve endorsed over 140 GOP candidates for this election [ http://www.republicanliberty.org/candid/c_look.asp ] and have a half-dozen members in state legislative seats. We welcome the active participation of all libertarians.

    Comment by William Westmiller — July 27, 2006 @ 5:13 pm
  9. Explain to us please why it is that there are more libertarians holding public office today that at any point in the history of the Modern libertarian movement, most all of them under the GOP banner?

    Have you not heard of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, or Cong. Jeff Flake of Arizona?

    How about State Representatives Leon Drolet in Michigan, Vic Kohring in Alaska, Bob Hedlund in Massachusetts, Ken Lindell in Maine, Toby Nixon in Washington State, Jerry O’Neil in Montana, most of whom are currently or have in the past been affiliated with the Libertarian Party, but who are now all Republicans.

    Kind of odd that one would asset that the “Republican Party is no longer a home for libertarians,” just at the precise time that more libertarians hold more elected offices as Republicans than ever before?

    Comment by Eric Dondero — July 27, 2006 @ 6:31 pm
  10. Additionally, George Bush appointed Gayle Norton, the former Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado to head the Dept. of Interior. Bush has also appointed 5 to 6 other hardcore Libertarians to Federal offices, more than any other President in History. Even longtime Radical Libertarian and Libertarian National Committeeman Williamsom “Bill” Evers got a Bush appointment.

    For a List of Elected and Appointed libertarians currently holding office nationwide, all as either Republicans or Libertarian Party members, (Not a single libertarian in any state holds office under the Democrat banner) go to:

    http://www.mainstreamlibertarian.com

    Comment by Eric Dondero — July 27, 2006 @ 6:36 pm
  11. [...] Further thoughts here and here [...]

    Pingback by Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » Libertarians And The GOP: What’s The Point Anymore ? — July 28, 2006 @ 2:23 am
  12. I’m not surprised that Eric Dondero and his website claim that not a single libertarian holds office under the Democratic (not Democrat) banner. His strong opposition to working within the Democratic Party makes him a blind ideologic pawn of the GOP.

    For one example, Mike Bozarth was elected to the St. Joseph City Council just this April as a Democrat. Before joining the Democratic Party, Mike was very active in the Libertarian Party of Missouri.

    I also find it ironic that Eric is bold enough to throw out Ron Paul as an example of an elected libertarian Republican when he’s made calls for him to be defeated by a ‘true’ pro-war libertarian.

    Comment by LoganFerree — July 28, 2006 @ 4:34 am
  13. “History” is a strange teacher, isn’t she? For the most part she’s ignored. Occasionally, some exceptionally bright individual gets an “idea” that s/he thinks is so brilliant and off they go into the wild blue yonder of success. Years later they learn that they weren’t so bright after all. That someone else had already done the same sort of thing, and that they, too, had succeeded.

    Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears!…

    American “third”, “fourth”, “fifth”, “etc.”, parties buck the current, they swim up stream against a torrent, they encounter rock after rock and knock themselves out trying to punch each and every one out of their way. They get no where!

    Once upon a time! In the late 1930′s. A fellow named Hitler invaded Poland. One thing led to another and on another day he also invaded a country called the USSR. In the USofA, in those days, a bunch of extremist groups decided they needed to melt into the woodwork of American party politics. So all (well nearly all) of the American “Commies” and “Anarchists” became invisible. Most joined the Democratic Party. Several became Republicans. As the years went by they became trusted and loyal Democrats and Republicans –though they still kept in touch via mail and in “professional”, “civic” and “social” organizations. Many became Teachers, and later Professors. Many became Lawyers; over time, the best and brightest became Judges.. Many worked hard and advanced within their party’s organization; some were elected to local and state office, a few made it to Congress. Some became Ministers and Preachers, Rabbi’s and Priests; they too advanced within their calling, and attained more and more power over the direction of their congregations. Many were already in Labor Organizations, they too bit their lips and advanced over time. Many joined the organizations of the Civil Rights Movement; they, too, worked hard and advanced. Many of the children of these hard working people went on to follow their parents. They, too, became believers and hard working apostles of the Gospel of Marx. Many of them founded or joined new groups like the Black Panthers, or Women’s Lib, Inc., or Gay Rights, Inc., etc. Needless to say, they were all very successful. When the opportunity presented itself, in the late-1960′s, they began to make their push to take full control of the Democratic Party. The rest is… (history?)

    Suggestion: Take over, and TAKE BACK, the Democratic Party! We DO need two parties in this country; both of which are “American” and believe in a traditional, non-European, non-Communist, non-”All Power and Glory to the U.N.” philosophy. You may also want to cover your bets and keep increasing your strength in the GOP as well. Unless the two major parties are both “American”, we’re sunk.

    With the likes of Ted “The Red” Kennedy, Crazy Howard Dean, Nancy Pill-o-si, etc., etc., ad nauseam, you shouldn’t want for motivation. “History” really is a strange teacher, isn’t she? If the “bad guys” could make it happen once, it’s possible the “good guys” can also make it work for them. Right? Left? Si?

    Let’s Roll.

    Comment by Rue-Mur — July 28, 2006 @ 6:03 am
  14. Eric,

    Name one libertarian-oriented bill that the Republican Congress has passed this year. Just one.

    Name one libertarian-oriented policy decision that President Bush has made this year. Again, just one.

    When you have the House GOP leadership pushing a bill to raise the minimum wage, what value is it if the only Republican who votes against it is Ron Paul ?

    The GOP was a great place for libertarians in the days of Reagan and the Contract with America, but that certainly isn’t true now.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — July 28, 2006 @ 7:08 am
  15. After reading a few remarks on this site, it is apparent that the name “The Liberty Papers” is about as appropriate as North Korea calling itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. What propaganda! What a bunch of fascists! Go paint a few swastikas, and leave loyal, honestly democratic Americans alone!

    Comment by Fred — July 28, 2006 @ 9:38 am
  16. Fred,

    I’d ask you for evidence to support your argument, but its rather obvious you don’t have any.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — July 28, 2006 @ 10:43 am
  17. Re: Comment by *Fred* = “…leave loyal, honestly democratic Americans alone!

    Can only believe that I’am the object of your affliction, since I was the most abusive toward those you apparently commune with. While you protest that you are, in fact, a “loyal, honestly democratic American” me thinks you protest too much and, therefore, in fact, are not what you claim to be. Let me put you to a test; a short, painless question: ‘Should the U.N. Flag fly above the U.S. flag?’ Please be honest. Even the slightest wavering will be indicated on microscopic examination of your typed response.

    Comment by Rue-Mur — July 29, 2006 @ 5:57 am
  18. Name one libertarian-oriented bill that the Republican Congress has passed this year. Just one.

    Actually, the gang that can’t shoot straight did pass one. Unfortunately, time will tell if this bill will actually accomplish something and this is probably it on the limited government front.

    Name one libertarian-oriented policy decision that President Bush has made this year. Again, just one.

    Zip, nada, zilch, just like the other four years.

    When you have the House GOP leadership pushing a bill to raise the minimum wage, what value is it if the only Republican who votes against it is Ron Paul ?

    We’ll see if Ron Paul is the only one.

    The GOP was a great place for libertarians in the days of Reagan and the Contract with America, but that certainly isn’t true now.

    The problem is that today, I’m not sure that Reagan and even Newt Gingrich could win the Republican primary. The 2008 presidential primaries will probably determine the course and the fate of the GOP and whether or not limited-government supporters can call it home or not. Unfortunately, it’s not looking good at this point with George Allen, John McPain, and Mitt Romney as the front-runners (the only thing these three have in common is they stand for nothing).

    Comment by Kevin — July 29, 2006 @ 1:03 pm
  19. Actually, Mitt Romney does stand for something: Bashing gays at every opportunity he can.

    Comment by Mark — July 29, 2006 @ 2:01 pm
  20. [...] When the Democratic Party is too socialist, the Republican Party is too fascist, and the Libertarian Party is too small, Doug Mataconis at The Liberty Papers asks What’s A Libertarian To Do? [...]

    Pingback by Carnival of Liberty LVI - Homeland Stupidity — August 1, 2006 @ 7:22 am
  21. I wonder if the Libertarians are setting their sights too high. While taking control of the Federal government would be sweet, I suspect it would be far more practical to move in on the local front, take over city governments and work towards the capturing the State level of government as well.

    Not only will there be an immediate impact (lower property taxes, for example) to excite the voters and educate them towards the Libertarian position, but this will also provide the training ground for a large and critical mass of legislators to learn their trade before setting off to the Congress.

    A solid base of accomplishment will be needed before Libertarianism can ascend to the national stage. Even if a sub critical mass is achieved, this will either result in the GOP “stealing” the best ideas and people for themselves, or allowing the Libertarians to become the dominent force inside the Republican tent. This is probably a program for a generation.

    Comment by Arthur — August 1, 2006 @ 11:53 am
  22. Trapped in Massachusetts, with a 100% DEMOCRAT Federal delegation, and an 87% Democrat state legislature, I ASSURE you that LP members are better off with the GOP.

    As far as Romney bashing gays – ONE citation, Fred. After 17,000 citizens signed two seperate petitions to define marriage, and eliminate the Goodrige decision by our court (btw – did you know that the two gay plaintiffs had split up?), after EIGHT YEARS of trying to allow the electorate to have a say as is their RIGHT under the Massachusetts Constitution – Romney said he thought the vote should proceed. THAT is called gay bashing in Massachusetts!

    And THAT my friends, is how a one-party Dem legislatue works.

    Comment by Peter Porcupine — August 1, 2006 @ 12:57 pm

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