Steve G.

Cato’s Niskanen on the ‘case for a different Libertarian Party’

In Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Politics on October 2, 2008 at 10:30 am

Cato Institute Chairman William Niskanen, a fine gentleman who had the (much larger) office three doors down from mine during my brief time at Cato, and who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan, makes “A Case For A Different Libertarian Party” in the latest Cato Policy Report.

Niskanen argues, “The effectiveness of the Libertarian Party and almost all other third parties in U.S. history in promoting their policy positions has usually been counterproductive, because running a third-party candidate reduces the vote for the less undesirable of the major party candidates. A disciplined group that is prepared to endorse one or the other major party candidate in a close election, however, can have a substantial effect on the issue positions of both major party candidates.”

Any thoughts?

  1. Yeah, thoughts are Cato is saying Cato is better than the LP in supporting libertarianism, and does so by compromising ideology at every turn.

    Now, I’m as anti-LP as any libertarian, but this is the wrong tack to take.

  2. might not be a bad idea, although in most cases, both R and D candidates are unacceptable. i’m skeptical that a L “voters league” can either be disciplined or influential on the majors. heck, look at the rlc and dfc for evidence. I like that they exist, but it’s not obvious that they have had much effect.

  3. Wouldn’t we first have to build a strong, active grassroots libertarian community? How many local clubs does Cato have?

  4. The LP has many local affiliates, but when the rubber hits the road, by far most of our affiliates accomplish NOTHING in the way of regaining liberty.

  5. Milsted & I have already figured this out. Either create his new ‘ upper left” party, a Progressive party equivalent, or implement the Progressive Alliance Strategy. If the LP insists on being “pure” & independent it cannot win. Cato’s own study put the maximun libertarian vote at 20%.

  6. It’s Cato, so they can be dismissed immediately for the clueless cosmoterians they are. I used to think they were good for something. Then I discovered that the something was actually nothing.

    LP endorsing other candidates?

    Let’s see…

    In the best case that gets affiliates deactivated. See also, Riverside County, CA, and Starr, Aaron.

    In the worst case they endorse candidates that aren’t libertarian. That’s the same as endorsing a dragon as he’s putting on a napkin just before he reaches for the ketchup bottle.

  7. I guarantee this guy did no field research and so has no clue as to what’s going on, like Trosper and Milsted.

  8. Actually, Ken, he was Chair of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, so I expect he knows exactly what is going on, namely the McKain campaign is making like the bow of the Titanic in the minutes after the Titanic broke in half. And his message is “We’re Republicans! Save us!”

  9. Gene Trosper wrote:
    “most of our [LP] affiliates accomplish NOTHING in the way of regaining liberty.”

    That is because the LP is organized from the top down. State parties try to emulate the national party and the local parties try to emulate the state parties.
    Conventions and meet-ups and running candidates for offices for which they are not qualified does not result in developing a cadre of politically effective individuals. LP members who do get elected and who do try to serve in office effectively are treated as the lowest ranked individuals in the party. Take Bonnie Flickinger for example.

  10. That is because the LP is organized from the top down. State parties try to emulate the national party and the local parties try to emulate the state parties.

    So what’s the problem? Organize a local affiliate from the bottom up, and show the rest how it is done.

  11. An accurate picture of the Republican Party is presented by Mish Shedlock, who is also an extremely interesting financial writer:

  12. Uh, ken, Gene Trosper has plenty of clue what is going on.

  13. Isn’t there a libertarian party that has endorsed a Republican candidate, in North Carolina? See

    The question to send back to Cato in rejoinder is, which candidate is slightly better on liberty stuff? McCain is an authoritarian shill for the defense contractors who hates freedom, has never been involved in free enterprise, voted for both wars, voted for the USAPATRIOT act, voted for FISA, voted for the Military Commissions Act ending habeas corpus – where is the liberty in this guy’s policies?

    Much the same may be said of Obama, who is similar on so many issues. Where is either of them on record calling for an end to the war on drugs? The war on terror? The war in Iraq? Any war?

    How could a principled libertarian conceive of ever endorsing either candidate in this race? And, if that’s not possible, why not run a candidate with libertarian values? I mean, if the LP could find one.

  14. John Famularo:

    I was heavily involved in Bonnie Flickinger’s successful first attempt at becoming a city councilwoman for Moreno Valley, CA.

    She is a good case study in why ultra-radical libertarians really have no stomach for real world politics. The smallest things she did in office was blown up into some sort of “selling out” of principles by our hard core members. As time (and criticism) wore on, she just didn’t give a damn what *any* Libertarian thought about her anymore and eventually quit the party.

  15. I don’t think the Libertarian Party and Niskanen’s ideas are mutually exclusive.

    Why not create a Liberty PAC and only apply Niskanen’s plans in districts where there are no Libertarian Party candidates? Then both approaches could be tried and we could compare the results in the competitive free market.

    I would be willing to help with such a project.

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