Circus showman P. T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Amongst libertarians, millions of suckers are reborn every four years–just in time for the next presidential election.
Many well-meaning believers in peace and freedom are repeatedly stampeded into voting Republican or Democrat. If pressed, they’ll usually admit that neither choice is attractive.
But they’ll quickly follow up with a classic excuse: the alternative would be worse.
In reality, “the alternative would be worse” is a scam. Like scams that offer quick riches, effortless weight loss, or “natural male enhancement,” the goal is to get something for nothing.
Republicans and Democrats use this ploy to get votes from libertarian-leaning people. Then they continue to expand government and empower themselves. It’s a sweet deal.
Gone is the responsibility of actually having to contract government and expand freedom. Instead, simply scare enough libertarians into going along for another ride.
If you’re the Republican candidate, you don’t have to bother with proposals to eliminate taxes or political agencies. Just rail against those “tax and spend” Democrats.
If you’re the Democratic candidate, you needn’t talk about stopping unconstitutional crime enforcement or foreign meddling. Just decry those strict-religionist Republicans.
Of course, it’s also useful to pay some lip service to freedom. But that’s easily achieved with vague generalities and feel-good clichés.
It’s a simple deception. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely successful.
Think I’m exaggerating? Think one choice is significantly better than the other from a libertarian perspective? Look at the facts.
Since the 1950s, the federal budget has steadily skyrocketed. Federal regulations have proliferated. The number of bureaucrats has soared. The prison population has multiplied.
During this period, the White House has changed partisan hands several times. The net difference–even under the allegedly antigovernment Ronald Reagan–has been tiny.
In every election, libertarians were told that they absolutely had to vote Republican or Democrat. Don’t “waste your vote” on a candidate who won’t win; that would be stupid.
Case in point: the 2000 presidential race.
Many libertarians were persuaded to support George W. Bush. “W” is kind of receptive to some libertarian ideas, we were told. And besides, you don’t want Al Gore to be the president, do you?
Fast forward to 2004. Here are just a few of President Bush’s major achievements:
Would Al Gore have been a much worse president from a libertarian perspective? Unless he committed mass genocide, it’s difficult to see how.
Realizing that the Bush presidency has been a disaster, many libertarians have vowed not to support him again. Fine. But one has to wonder whether supporting John Kerry would be any better?
Throughout his political career, Senator Kerry has been a reliable supporter of bigger, more paternalistic government. Virtually every area of society is fair game.
Even in the area of foreign policy, Kerry is hardly a stark contrast to President Bush. Kerry, who voted for the Iraq War resolution, supports a “progressive internationalism” that basically involves U.S. involvement everywhere on Earth.
So what can libertarians do to avoid being manipulated? There seem to be two sensible options.
The first option is to vote for a third-party candidate who makes specific proposals to increase personal liberty. Although that candidate won’t win, a large vote total would signal widespread support for seriously downsizing government–and journalists and politicans would pay attention.
The second option, is not to vote at all. That won’t allow you to register support for liberty, but at least you won’t be helping the bad guys.
And either way, you won’t be a sucker.
Jonathan Trager is a staffer at the Cato Institute.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire