My WSJ Op-Ed: The Mistake That Is the Libertarian Party

In tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal is my op-ed, The Mistake That Is the Libertarian Party.  Here are some excerpts:

In 1972, the Libertarian Party nominated University of Southern California philosophy Prof. John Hospers as its first presidential candidate and ran Tonie Nathan for vice president. When Roger MacBride, a Virginia Republican elector pledged to Richard Nixon, voted instead for Hospers-Nathan, he cast the first electoral vote in American history for a woman. The Libertarian Party was off and running. In 1976, it nominated the renegade elector as its presidential candidate.

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. [Omitted from the piece was my recollection of seeing Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard making motions for the party platform from the floor.]

But, while I am as libertarian today as I was then, I have come to believe that the Libertarian Party was a mistake.

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.

To 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.  <snip>

Libertarian activists should choose whichever party they feel more comfortable working within. That’s what Ron Paul did. Likewise, Rand Paul has brought his libertarianism inside the GOP tent. 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. <snip>

Libertarians need to adjust their tactics to the current context. This year, their highest priority should be saving the country from fiscal ruin, arresting and reversing the enormous growth in federal power—beginning with repealing ObamaCare—and pursuing a judiciary who will actually enforce the Constitution. Which party is most likely to do these things in 2013?  <snip>

Libertarian activists need to set aside their decades-old knee-jerk reactions to the two major parties, roll up their sleeves, and make the Republican and Democratic parties more libertarian. When it comes to voting, libertarians need to get serious about liberty and give up on the Libertarian Party. Nov. 6 would be a good day to start.

In the omitted portions, I reply to some arguments commonly made on behalf of the LP.  Read the rest of it here.  [It appears as though the link I am using is behind the subscription wall.  If so, my regrets.]

The Libertarian Party has been around for 30 years, and the strategy has not worked yet. The Tea Party strategy has proven to be far more effective