Shifting the Balance

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The 2010 November elections are going to be very important, and I believe that libertarians should vote for the Republican rather than the Libertarian Party.

It would be an ideal world if the LP could win elections. But it cannot. Its cause is hopeless. The reason has nothing to do with the stupidity of the American public or the incompetence of LP candidates. It arises from the fact that the LP is a third party in a two-party system.

In the United States candidates are elected from geographical regions and the regional winner is the one who reaches a plurality of the votes, as opposed to a European parliamentary system in which seats are apportioned by percentage of votes. Therefore it makes sense for an American candidate to seek support from as broad a coalition as possible, to find common ground among a large number of interest groups in order to get the crucial plurality. No third party can succeed in a plurality system because the political dynamics motivate all special interest groups to align themselves with the largest majority interests they can tolerate. Hence, the libertarian special interest group must support Republican candidates if it wants to have any chance of challenging the now-dominant modern-liberal Democrats.

Even if a libertarian is pro-choice and antiwar (as I am) and dislikes pro-war, pro-life conservatives, he must concede that only a coalition that includes both conservatives and libertarians can challenge the labor union-backed liberal coalition. The LP will matter when, one day, the majority of Americans are libertarians, but in the meantime Republicans are generally much more pro-capitalist than Democrats. Under these conditions, it would be irresponsible not to vote Republican.

Of course, the counterargument is that the Republicans and Democrats are just alike, that they are destroying our democracy by giving the illusion of voter control without giving the voters a libertarian option, and that the LP provides this much-needed real choice. That argument is wrong. There is a vital difference between the two major parties. Even if, right now, the Republican politicians in Washington are fiscally irresponsible morons, the American public votes Republican because it still believes that Republicans are the party more devoted to free enterprise. The Republicans must appease libertarian voters or watch their coalition decay. Observe the Tea Party movement and its impact on the GOP.

The Republican Party really is our best shot at getting libertarian candidates elected. The Libertarian Reform Caucus’ plan to make the LP capable of actually winning elections is motivated by a good intention, but in a plurality system it will only split the vote between the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party and cost us elections.

An unwise strategy is not ameliorated by a noble purpose. If we vote LP then our vote is meaningless, but if we vote Republican we become a crucial swing vote that can actually count for something.

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