recently wrote this
article in the War Street Journal: "The Mistake That
Is the Libertarian Party; Voting the LP line could swing the election
to the Democrats. That's not an outcome libertarians should hope
This is a
frontal attack on the Libertarian Party. As a long term supporter
of this organization (I ran for New York State Assembly in 1969,
have addressed dozens of LP state conventions, and hope to do
more of the same in future; I was an advisor to Gary Johnson in
his 2012 campaign), I am happy with this opportunity to respond.
Before I do, let me put matters in context.
Law School Professor says: "As a young libertarian, I was
very enthusiastic about the formation of the Libertarian Party.
I proudly cast my vote for Roger MacBride for president. I attended
the 1975 national convention in New York that nominated him. But,
while I am as libertarian today as I was then, I have come to
believe that the Libertarian Party was a mistake. "
regard Randy Barnett as a libertarian any
more, although I readily acknowledge that in his earlier truly
libertarian days he made important contributions to our philosophy,
and was a confidant of no one less than "Mr. Libertarian,"
background out of the way, what is Barnettís case against the
"The reason is simple. Unlike a parliamentary system in which
governments are formed by coalitions of large and small parties,
our electoral system is a first-past-the-post, winner-take-all
one in which a winning presidential candidate just needs to get
more than 50% of the vote. This means each contending "major"
party is itself a coalition that needs to assemble enough diverse
voting groups within it to get to 51%. Hence the need to appeal
to the so-called moderates and independents rather than the more
"extreme" elements within.
the extent that a third party is successful, it will drain votes
from the coalition party to which it is closest and help elect
the coalition party that is further removed from its interests.
The Libertarian Party's effort will, if effective, attract more
libertarian voters away from the candidate who is marginally less
hostile to liberty, and help hand the election to the candidate
who is more hostile to liberty."
Let me make
my own position clear before responding to these specifics. Although
I am a staunch supporter of the LP, and have been for 43 years,
I do not look upon this organization as any sort of end, in and
of itself. Rather, I see the LP merely as a means. To what
end? To liberty, of course. If the LP is the best vehicle for
liberty, I support it. If the GOP turns out to the best one, as
it was when Ron Paul was running for its nomination in 2008 and
2012, then I support him, and it. But, when Romney won the Republican
nomination, then for me, the LP, and Gary Johnson, came into its
own. (If, slim to none chance, Ron Paul had won the Republican
nomination, beating out Romney, then I would have hoped and expected
that the LP would also have endorsed him. That is why it is absolutely
crucial for the LP to hold its convention after those of
the two major parties.)
"The small-"l" libertarians in the tea party movement identified
the Republican Party as the coalition closest to their concerns
about fiscal responsibility and the growth of government power,
and they have gone about making the GOP more libertarian from
the grass-roots up. They have moved the party in a libertarian
direction, as has the Republican Liberty Caucus.
all this, some libertarians continue to insist that, because the
Republican and Democrats are equally bad for liberty, it makes
no difference who gets elected. However true this once was, in
recent years Republicans have been better for liberty and Democrats
have been worse."
Again I disagree.
I concede to Barnett that the Republicans are slightly better
on economics, and, who knows, maybe even, for the sake of argument,
they are an improvement over the Democrats on personal liberties.
But with regard to foreign policy, curiously not mentioned by
Barnett, in my judgment, Romney was more of a war-monger than
the war-monger Obama, and this is a more important issue than
both of those others put together. (The anti war left, it would
appear, only opposes unjust Republican wars, not Democratic invasions;
the election is over, perhaps a bit of stock taking is in order.
My own strategy is that if a Ron Paul or even a Gary Johnson or
a Rand Paul is running for the nomination as president on the
GOP ticket, I would support that person in the nominating process,
and certainly in the general election. But if, as per usual, the
winner of that run-off is a person like Romney, Santorum, Gingrich,
Giuliani, Paul Ryan or Chris Christie, then I would favor whoever
is the LPís candidate. That is why it is so important for
the LP to hold its nominating convention after the conventions
of the two major parties are held. In that way we can maximize
the LPís effectiveness. If we had done that this time, we might
have had Ron as the LPís candidate, again, and we would have had
a far better chance of getting that very elusive 5% of the vote
which would enable us to get matching funds (for more on this
issue see here.)
to Gary in this election was to take positions as close to Ronís
as he possibly could, so as to get the votes of Ronís supporters.
He did do a bit of this in my estimation, but not enough. My hope
is that if Gary, or Jim Gray, runs for the LP nomination in 2016,
that they take the next four years, well, three years, to become
more acquainted with libertarian theory. Here are the books, I
think, to start with:
the first three of these are available for free on the Mises web.
While Iím unburdening myself of post election thoughts,
I think that the LP should spend the next three years on internal
education for all its members. We could all do worse than start
with these four books.
in 2008, Bob Barr, was an absolute disaster. This man didnít have
a libertarian bone in his body. As but one indication of this,
Barr supported Gingrich in this election cycle, when he could
have done so for Ron Paul. If that doesnít indicate where his
heart is at, then nothing does.
I was rooting, of course, for Gary Johnson to break that 5% barrier.
But, as between Obama and Romney, I favored the former. I did
so for precisely the same reasons as I supported
Obama vis a vis McCain in 2008: foreign policy. My fear was that
if elected, Romney would start a war with China, Iran, and who
knows who else. In contrast, Obama had four years to do that,
and refrained. Another reason: at least we can trust Obama to
be the socialist, interventionist, moderate war-monger that he
has proven himself to be. In contrast, with Romney, he has been
on every side of every issue; you just canít trust that man to
cleave to any principle. Also, Iíll never forgive Romney
for what he did to my man, Ron Paul. Yes, yes, Romney might have
been better on economic policy than Obama. And I shudder at Obamaís
likely Supreme Court nominations (although Iím not much of a fan
of those chosen by the Republicans, either). But foreign policy
is more important than domestic. It murders far more innocents.
And, also, it informs domestic policy. As Randolph Bourne said,
"War is the health of the state."
So, I look
forward to four more years of Obama rule with some (small amount
of) equanimity. Things could have been worse. We could have, horrors!,
had Romney and his neo-con puppet masters. And this is the time
for all of us, whether inside of the GOP or as supporters of the
LP, to step up our efforts to promote liberty. We should do so,
preeminently in my view, by supporting the Mises Institute, which
just celebrated its 30
year anniversary, and has been an undeviating, uncompromising
beacon for liberty in each and every second of those magnificent