The Libertarian Alternative | Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute

Posted: January 7, 2021 at 5:25 am

If youve routinely endorsed conservative policies and candidates, but now find that rightwingers have become chauvinistic, fiscally irresponsible and intolerant, consider the libertarian alternative.

If youve previously embraced liberal policies and candidates, but now find that leftwingers have pushed identity politics and socialist bromides, consider the libertarian alternative.

Libertarians have praised President Trump for progress in the Middle East, success against ISIS, reduced troop levels abroad, lower taxes, less regulation, and the confirmation of judges who appreciate individual rights and limited government. On the other hand, we have criticized Trump when he derides our intelligence agencies, cozies up to dictators, alienates our allies, and exacerbates global tensions. Weve also been troubled by his xenophobic immigration policies, protectionist trade barriers, punitive drug policy, excessive focus on the culture wars, and exploding federal spending.

Libertarians will support PresidentElect Bidens plans for criminal justice reform, immigration liberalization, civil rights, social permissiveness, revitalizing American diplomacy, reducing our military commitments, and nonproliferation. On the other hand, we will vigorously oppose higher taxes, more regulations, affirmative action, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, expanded welfare, free college, ballooning entitlements, ahigher minimum wage, and judges who think the Constitution is amalleable document that courts can exploit as an alternative to legislation.

In essence, libertarianism is the political philosophy of personal and economic freedom. We believe that capitalism is the most efficient and morally defensible means of allocating scarce economic resources. Philosophically, we subscribe, as did Thomas Jefferson, to the idea of unobstructed liberty within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. Governments role is to secure those rights, applying sufficient coercive power but no more than the minimum necessary to attain that objective.

Put somewhat differently, we should be free to live our lives as we choose, as long as we dont interfere with other people who wish to do the same. Of course, individuals can never be completely selfsufficient. Thats why we sometimes need rules, enforced by government, to make peaceful cooperation possible. The risk, however, is that rules too extensive will produce asystem of special favors that extracts largesse for the politically connected at the expense of the rest of us. By contrast, libertarianism relies on spontaneous ordering minimizing the role of acommanding power that might preempt freely chosen actions.

Libertarians are not opposed to reasonable safety regulations, selective gun controls, or sensible restrictions in other areas. Moreover, we recognize that markets are not perfect. But neither is government. The relevant standard against which to compare our current framework is not autopian world in which justice is ubiquitous and all inequities have been systemically purged. Instead, we have to look at the current environment versus one in which regulations would be more pervasive meaning that some problems might be solved, but other problems would no doubt multiply.

Among those other problems: disincentives to innovate, favors to special interests, increased cost, reduced growth, governmentconferred monopolies, anticompetitive barriers to entry, restricted consumer choices, higher prices, overlapping and confusing laws, abuses of public power, and excessive resources devoted to politicking and lobbying.

How, then, can someone who views the left as excessively collectivist and the right as excessively authoritarian join with libertarians in advancing socially liberal and fiscally conservative goals? One way is to vote for candidates who come closest to promoting proliberty policies. Given the current political mix, those candidates will not be pristine libertarians. But its not necessary to agree with libertarianism acrosstheboard in order to move public policy in the right direction.

Second, alibertarian movement might be buttressed by supporting legislation and other political actions that foster personal autonomy and limited government. Such support policyspecific rather than candidatespecific could be in the form of lobbying, communications with government officials, letters to the editor, or donations to likeminded organizations.

Finally, theres the outside prospect of forming aviable third party. Two obvious hurdles complicate that approach. First, campaign contributions are presently limited to $2,800 per candidate per election. Effectively, that precludes all thirdparty candidates except those who can selffund. Second, 48 of the 50 states award presidential electors on awinnertakeall basis. Only Maine and Nebraska assign electors, in part, district by district. Consequently, candidates who have no chance of winning astatewide popular vote will not be able to garner any electoral votes.

Regrettably, therefore, fashioning an undiluted libertarian alternative will take time and effort. But incremental progress toward favorable public policy is practicable, opportune, and indisputably worthwhile. Lets get the ball rolling.

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The Libertarian Alternative | Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute

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