The Libertarian Party in the US is the target for many criticisms. It seems as though it’s in a constant state of turmoil, and people are coming and going frequently. Some people get upset with the two “major” parties and change their voter registrations to the LP, then get frustrated with the LP and go back to their original party or just register as an independent. There very well may be more infighting in the LP than anywhere else, and many point their fingers towards a host of issues that cause this, as well as not gaining real traction to become a more relevant force of change.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that the very basis for libertarianism is the ideals of individualism. Libertarians have come to their conclusions about governance and about how government should be or not be by means of independent thinking. They have rejected collectivism and abhor it. If you gather a group of people of this mindset together, it’s likely that there are going to be lots of strong opinions and lots people who tire very quickly of being anything rank-and-file. Getting consensus on much of anything amongst such a group is a tall order – regardless of the commonalities of beliefs. But, that isn’t going to change so long as LP members are libertarians. It’s like gathering a bunch of hermits together and telling them they have to live together in order to have someplace to live. It’s counterintuitive, but also necessary to become anything organized against big government foes.
So, if we accept that there will always be conflict within the LP more than other political parties, what other real issue might there be that inhibits the LP’s ability to be a more significant force? I believe that the real issue is simply numbers.
Many of the greatest criticisms of the LP are that both leadership and membership can, at times, lack experience and may be less capable of organization. Some people even level the accusation that most LP members are fringe and nutjobs. While strongly disagree, there are some times I have found agreement with this, I don’t think the answer is for me to find my home in another political party. Many argue that they are more effective and have a greater voice in another political party, but I would argue that those other political parties hold less agreement with libertarian ideals than the LP, and therefore, one can make no greater impact there. There have been only a handful of libertarian thinkers who make it into positions as members of another party. Sure, a few is better than none, but it’s not gaining really any additional traction. The numbers opposed are far too great.
What’s the difference in the effectiveness of Republicans and Democrats over Libertarians? It’s simple. They have far greater numbers. It’s about the law of averages. Statistically, the larger the sampling of the numbers of a group of people, the more representative they are as a part of that group. It’s a strange thing that in order to achieve their goals, libertarian thinkers must think, in a very small sense, collectively. In order to achieve a greater representation of the sort of people that are really good at organization and really sharp and polished political agents, greater numbers of such people need to join the LP.
It’s a chicken and egg scenario. Many people don’t want to join the LP because they are disappointed in the representation there. Yet, if those people do not join the LP, that sort of representation that they want will never be there. If you want candidates you don’t find embarrassing (and I believe the reason the impression is that there are a lot of nutty candidates is due to a larger highlight being placed on the nutty candidates), then you need to be willing to make a move yourself. And, if you are unwilling to run as a candidate yourself, you need to attempt to recruit like minded people that you think would make a good candidate. Not as a Republican, but as a Libertarian.
The LP appears to be a fringe group of people, because the libertarians who are not fringe are often been unwilling to participate. One can blame the organization for disincentivizing increased membership, or one can accept that the first step is to join and bring others with you if you believe the organization is ineffective. If you think the LP is full of nutty people that represent your beliefs but unpolished and ineffective, then becomes that polished effectiveness within the LP, and ask your friends to do the same.
Making changes to a government system with such large and significant foes is a tall order and a whole lot of work. You can either complain about it, or you can become a part of the movement yourself and do something about it. Even if the only thing you do is join the LP, then the LP will have at least one more individual similar to you. The libertarian ideals abhor collectivism, but in societies where government can only be changed by a collective group of people, then it’s necessary to organize. That group can not organize effectively unless people like you are willing to help. Republicans and Democrats have different goals from libertarians. they will never be organized into pursuing a libertarian agenda, and you can’t make them something they are not. But, you can work with others who mostly agree with you to organize a real change. It makes a whole lot more sense to work with people of like minds to affect a change than to work with people who mostly disagree.
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