Saturday, October 21, 2006

How Should Libertarians Vote?

This week's Economist has an article about libertarians, or as they call it "the neglected swing block":
What's a true freedom-lover to do on polling day?

AMERICA may be the land of the free, but Americans who favour both economic and social freedom have no political home. The Republican Party espouses economic freedom—ie, low taxes and minimal regulation—but is less keen on sexual liberation. The Democratic Party champions the right of homosexuals to do their thing without government interference, but not businesspeople. Libertarian voters have an unhappy choice. Assuming they opt for one of the two main parties, they can vote to kick the state out of the bedroom, or the boardroom, but not both.
Of course, I would disagree with The Economist's assessment of the Democratic Party. The primary way in which most Democrats want to interfere with businesspeople is simply by taxing the very richest of them by a little bit more today - which translates into effectively cutting taxes on them in the future (by reducing the government's debt). But enacting generally increased regulation of business is not high on the agendas of most Democrats.

But this piece reminded me of the interesting debate that has gone on at the Cato Institute (the intellectual home of American libertarians) regarding this question: should libertarians vote Democrat? If you're curious for the details of all of the salient arguments, check out the initial essay by Markos Moulitsas as well as all of the subsequent reaction by numerous thoughtful, well-spoken people.

However, if you don't need all of the details and instead will just be happy with the punchline, then I present to you the list of reasons for libertarians to vote democratic, as originally complied in a classic post by Angry Bear almost three years ago (and very slightly added to by me):
Here's my offer to Libertarians: you've tried the Republicans and that clearly isn't working out, so give the other side a try (and bring your Libertarian friends with you). Here's what you'll get in exchange:
  1. We'll let you sleep with whomever you want to.
  2. We won't force you to pray or otherwise interfere with your private religion.
  3. We won't force you to pay for other people's religious choices.
  4. We still won't let you smoke pot on the public square, but Democrats generally support decriminalization. And we'll do all we can to promote rehabilitation over incarceration.
  5. We won't start unilateral wars without evidence of a real threat.
  6. We won't spend as much of your money as Republicans, though still more than you would like.
  7. For most Libertarians, those making roughly $100k or less, we'll tax you either no more, or less than the Republicans will.
  8. We will generally support free trade at least as often as Republicans.
  9. We will run a smaller government than Republicans.
  10. We will regulate business no more than Republicans, other than by doing more to fight monopoly power and ensure vibrant competition. In fact, we may interefere less with business by no longer playing favorites with some industries over others.
  11. We won't interfere with your reproductive rights and choices.
  12. Despite what you might think, we really won't take your guns away (possible exception: if you are a criminal).
It seems like a pretty good case to me.

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