Is Political Realignment Even Desirable?
The Libertarian Party Would Probably Fail By
Succeeding, If It Could!Since the 1960s many libertarian activists have
lamented the particular lines of political division in the USA: philosophically
"liberal" or "left" vs. "conservative" or "right", and politically Democrat vs.
Republican. These activists have hoped for a realignment into libertarian vs.
authoritarian, with the major political parties reflecting that alignment. Some
have hoped the Libertarian Party could accomplish that, either by itself
becoming a major party or by somehow causing one or the other of the existing
major parties to become radically, or at least fairly consistently, libertarian.
Ask some of these people and they'd say that was the primary goal the Libertarian Party
could accomplish, as a tool for increasing liberty.
Be careful what you wish
for. While it may be philosophically satisfying for the activist or even
the observer, I'm afraid such a realignment would be bad for the progess of
freedom. Say we did manage to realign the parties...then what? Do you flatter yourselves that as
long as people saw clearly and considered a choice between more and less
freedom, that they would tend overall to choose more of it?
are correct that, at least in the USA, the general tendency is always to have
exactly 2 major political parties, basically in opposition to each other. That
means if one is a libertarian party, the other is going to be an authoritarian
party. I'm afraid the authoritarian party would pretty well wipe the floor with
the libertarian party.
It was almost a quarter century ago that CATO
published Maddox & Lilie's survey and analysis, "Beyond Liberal and
Conservative". They showed by surveys that the descriptions "liberal" and
"conservative" missed a large proportion of USAmericans, and identified the
other strains as "populist" and "libertarian". This is not far from the diamond
chart system many of you have seen, but the label "populist" was applied instead
of "authoritarian" because the USA has not had a major tendency toward the truly
ideologic authoritarianisms represented popularly in many other countries as
communist, socialist, dirigiste, phalangist, fascist, etc. In Maddox &
Lilie's analysis, all 4 poles of the diamond could be traced to an early
American liberalism, and those they labeled as populists, without any philosophic predeliction toward
theoretic authoritarinism, just wound up giving the most consistently
outnumbered the libertarians in the survey by about 3:2. (Send me no
stories about how your WSPQ
finds otherwise; you're not getting a random sample.)
Maddox & Lilie thought the populists, because of their numbers,
would have great potential for organizing, but for other factors. For one, they
have no coherent ideology. For another, racist tendencies among populists tend
to keep black and white populists from recognizing each other as
But what if organizers of the populists got a big favor by one of
the two major parties becoming a libertarian party? It would simplify their task
considerably: "That's what we're against." General oppositional tendencies would
lead to the other party's becoming authoritarian. Of course the general tendency
of large political parties toward centrism, to be like each other, would still
operate, but the authoritarian party would quickly find a large base among
Maddox & Lilie's "populists" to keep from becoming too libertarian. Once
unified politically, it is quite likely they'd develop think tanks that would
then develop a coherent authoritarianism resembling those of the Old World as
mentioned above, or maybe a uniquely USAn version. The liberatarians would unite
the now-scattered authoritarians against them, and the authoritarians would
thereby be more politically effective than they are now.
A quick look at
the rest of the world sustains this view. In democratic countries having
approximately libertarian and authoritarian parties among the larger political
parties, the authoritarian party or parties are usually considerably more
authoritarian than the major parties of the USA, and they usually command a
bigger following than do the libertarian parties.
Libertarian Party will never accomplish this realignment, because it is not an
effective political force.