If You Have To Vote for a President

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In these days of heightened scrutiny of sites taken by some to be anti-governmental — such as this one — and given the new elections law, we do well to avoid baldly endorsing a candidate or a political party. Thus, nothing in the present article should be interpreted as advocating that one vote for any such. However, we political junkies cannot merely sit idly by the circus upcoming this November totally oblivious to it all. At the very least, we’ve got to root for one or the other. The following essay, then, it dedicated to a discussion of who the libertarian should cheer for.

It has become fashionable in some libertarian circles to deride, of all things, the Libertarian Party. (No, there are no typographical errors in the previous sentence).

Yes, I know, Murray Rothbard has had troubles with this organization, and I agree with him, not them, in these various disputes over the years. However, favoring a candidate or political party (that is, rooting for them from the sidelines) is not a matter of apodictic certainty or praxeology; no such person or organization, by the very nature of things, can be perfect on each and every single issue. Applauding is, rather, an exercise in picking the best of the candidates, or, at minimum, the least worst of them all. When looked at in this manner, there really is no choice for anyone who favors peace, an end to imperialist ventures all around the world, limited government domestically, private property and free markets: The Libertarian Party, imperfect as it is, is simply the only choice.

Let us consider a few of the other options.

1. George Bush and the Republicans. I don’t care that he sometimes steps on his tongue. It does not trouble me that he is no intellectual. It certainly does not bother me one whit that he is a wealthy man. Nor is it any problem for me that his script writers are seemingly guided by the dialogue of numerous corny western and gangster movies. "Bring it on," indeed.

On the other hand, I am not at all favorably impressed by his "credentials" as a limited government conservative. He has been spending like a drunken sailor, he has promulgated tariff increases (steel is only the tip of the iceberg), and he has done little or nothing to rein in out-of-control regulators. Okay, okay, the federales lessened their unwarranted pressure on Microsoft on his watch, but it is not at all clear to me that this was due to Bush’s adherence to the free market; rather, Bill Gates saw the writing on the wall and started bribing Washington D.C., and the rest, as they say, is history.

What bothers me about the man is that minor detail that he happens to be a mass murderer. Bush has presided over the killing of innocents. There may have been some justification for chasing Osama, but 15 out of the 19 murderers of 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, not Iraq.

2. John Kerry and the Democrats. I shudder when I think of the kind of Supreme Court we will have under his administration. Every "progressive" shibboleth will be given a boost. Hate affirmative action? You ain’t seen nothing yet. It is hard to tell, given that he has been on both sides of just about every issue, but it looks as if he will further socialize the American health industry, raise tariffs and taxes even more than Bush, promote unions with a vengeance and move us even closer, and more quickly, to the socialist vision in numerous other ways.

However, I see foreign policy as more important than domestic. For one thing, "War is the Health of the State": economic regulation tends to be promulgated as an emergency measure, just for the duration. For another, interstate relations tend to kill more innocent people than what goes on intrastate (in this connection, see especially Higgs and Denson). So, how does Kerry stack up in this vital arena? It looks as if he will be just as much of an imperialistic warmonger as W. Yes, he will likely sugar-coat his foreign adventures with a veneer of multi-nationalism, but for the victims, this will matter not one whit. Who cares if you are murdered by several armies or by one? In any case, George is now doing his level best to bully, bribe and threaten other countries to lend him troops for his nefarious dealings.

But, the point is, Kerry has, at least so far, not murdered a single solitary individual! Bush, in sharp contrast, is responsible for more than quite a few. Kerry is so wishy-washy it would not totally surprise me to witness him actually pulling our troops back. I tell you, if we were limited to a choice of Kerry vs. Bush, I would go with the former, much as I hate the democrats on economic issues and detest their smug socialism. As to civil liberties, neither is exactly champing at the bit to legalize drugs, etc.

3. Fortunately, however, our choice is not limited to the Demopublicans, or the Repblicocrats. There is a third option: the Libertarian Party. On the issues, whether economic, social or foreign policy, the LP is, of course, pretty hard-core libertarian. Yes, there might be a legitimate quibble with this or that plank in the party platform, but caviling at them while supporting either of the major parties is like Ayn Rand refusing to vote for John Hospers, the first Libertarian Party presidential candidate, on the ground that he didn’t fully buy into "A is A," or some such.

No. The only problem is that Mr. Michael Badnarik will not be elected, even if every libertarian were to vote for him 100 times over (I’m not suggesting any law-breaking behavior, here, just making a point). The most likely prospect, were this to occur, is that his vote total would go from 1.50% to 1.51%, or something of this order. However, it really doesn’t matter much, from the point of view of the cause of liberty, which major party candidate staggers over the finish line in November. They are as tweedle-dum and tweedle-dumber.

But wouldn’t it be great if the LP vote total, in one vital senate or house race or another, were greater than the difference between that of the Democratic and Republican parties? That would make the smug self-righteous commentators sit up and take notice. Okay, okay, already, it wouldn’t; nothing would do that. The Libertarian Party has already attained this goal, and we are still not a household name. But, think of the joy in Mudville a repeat of this glorious occurrence would bring! And, dare we hope for it, if this phenomenon took place on the national, not merely the state level, well I betcha Murray would be up there somewhere, smiling.

4. Nader, the Greens, the Commies, other minor parties. I fail to see how any of these worthies would promote the cause of liberty to any degree. Rather, the very opposite would occur. I include them, without discussion, to show how broadminded I am.

I am of course, abstracting from the Ron Paul phenomenon. Surely, there is no question but that he deserves the support of anyone with even a scintilla of libertarian sentiment.

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans. See his Autobiography Archive.

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