What is Libertarianism?
From the Website http://www.libertarianism.com/what-it-is.htm
Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians strive for the best of all worlds – a free, peaceful, abundant world where each individual has the maximum opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and to realize his full potential.
From Wikipedia and other sources
The Libertarian Party is a United States political party founded on December 11, 1971. In the thirty states where voters can register by party there are 225,529 voters registered with the Libertarian Party, making it one of the largest of America’s alternative political parties. Hundreds of Libertarian candidates have been elected or appointed to public office, and thousands have run for office under the Libertarian banner.
The political platform of the Libertarian Party reflects that group’s particular brand of libertarianism, favoring minimally regulated, laissez-faire markets, strong civil liberties, minimally regulated migration across borders, and non-interventionism in foreign policy that respects freedom of trade and travel to all foreign countries.
Libertarians state that their platform follows from the consistent application of their guiding principle: “mutual respect for rights.” They are therefore deeply supportive of the concept of individual liberty as a precondition for moral and stable societies. In their “Statement of Principles,” they declare: “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.” To this end, Libertarians want to reduce the size of government (eliminating many of its current functions entirely).
Libertarians reject the view of politics as a one-dimensional spectrum, divided between Democrats representing the Left or Center-left and Republicans representing the Right or Center-right.
The Nolan Chart, with the traditional left-right political spectrum, as seen by David Nolan, on the dashed diagonalTo illustrate their view that the one-dimensional view of politics is insufficient to describe the myriad political philosophies held by the public, Libertarians introduced the Nolan chart to communicate their belief that politics is at least two-dimensional. A variation of the Nolan chart is enhanced (via a link from the main website) by a ten-question poll (five questions dealing with economic-freedom issues and five questions dealing with personal-freedom issues), which it bills as “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz,” allowing respondents to classify their political leanings.
Among outside political watchers, some consider Libertarians to be conservative (primarily because of their support of the right to bear arms, their opposition to economic regulation, opposition to entitlement programs in pretty much all forms, and their views on taxes — with strong support for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment – and states’ rights); while others consider them liberal because of their advocacy of a non-interventionist foreign policy, the repeal of drug prohibition, including restrictions on tobacco and alcohol, and the elimination of laws that interfere with private consensual acts (such as prostitution and gambling). Libertarians consider themselves neither conservative nor liberal; rather, they believe they represent a unique philosophy that is all their own.
The party advocates limiting the government as much as possible within the confines of the United States Constitution. As in any political party, there is some internal debate about the platform, and not all of the party’s supporters advocate its complete or immediate implementation, but most think that the United States would benefit from most of its proposed changes.
Current structure and composition
Further information: Organization of American Political Parties (Politics of the United States)
The members, when gathered at the bi-annual Libertarian National Convention, are the ultimate authority within the Libertarian Party.
The 17-member Libertarian National Committee is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of the national Libertarian Party and its headquarters, in representative style.
The Libertarian National Congressional Committee (LNCC) assists party candidates in state-level races.
Each state also has a state committee, usually consisting of statewide officers and regional representation of one kind or another. Similarly, county, town, city and ward committees, where organized, generally consist of party members elected at the local level. State and local committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction, oversee local conventions and in some cases primaries or caucuses, and may have a role in nominating candidates for elected office under state law.
Since its inception, individuals have been able to join the Libertarian Party by simply signing their agreement with the organization’s membership pledge, which states that the signer does not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. During the mid eighties into the early nineties, this membership category was called an “instant” membership; currently these are referred to as “signature members”.
Individuals may remit annual dues to obtain additional benefits, such as a subscription to the party’s monthly newspaper, LPNews, or to have a vote at party conventions.
In the late nineties, the LNC began sharing annual national dues with the state parties, under a program called the “Unified Membership Program” or UMP. However, this program was terminated in 2006 due to funding shortfalls at the national level, and the inability of many state parties to fund a staffer or find a volunteer to prepare the required bookkeeping to account for it.
At about the same time the Libertarian Party was about to abandon UMP, the Democratic National Committee adopted the idea and in 2005 DNC Chairman Howard Dean began a program called 50 State Strategy that uses DNC national funds to assist all state parties and pay for full time professional staffers. Some Democratic activists have suggested that the DNC program has contributed significantly to the turnaround in Democratic fortunes in state, local, and national elections since 2005.
Main article: History of the Libertarian Party (United States)
Symbols and name
In 1972, “Libertarian Party” was chosen as the party’s name, narrowly beating out “New Liberty Party.”
Also in 1972, the “Libersign”—an arrow angling upward through the acronym “TANSTAAFL”—was selected as the party’s emblem. Some time after, this was replaced with the Lady Liberty, which has, ever since, served as the party’s symbol or mascot.
For many years, there has been a small movement to adopt “LP” the Liberty Penguin as the official mascot, much like the Republican elephant or the Democratic donkey. The Libertarian parties of Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, Hawaii, Delaware and Iowa have all adopted “LP” as their mascot.
The first official slogan of the Libertarian Party was “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” (often seen as “TANSTAAFL” for short). The current slogan of the party is “The Party of Principle”.
Relationship to major parties
At the local level, the Libertarian Party often joins, and sometimes leads, trans-partisan and non-partisan issues coalitions. It emphasizes, in the words of its co-founder, David Nolan, “consensus and coalition building” on issues important to its members. It also engages in lobbying at the state, local and national levels. The Libertarian International Organization estimates that Libertarians around the country are involved in more than 500 initiatives a year.
The Libertarian Party has substantial points of disagreement with both the Democratic and the Republican parties. However, the party has historically had more influence on and closer ties with the Republican Party. For example, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich claimed to be influenced by Libertarian principles, and was praised by many Libertarians for attempting to shrink government. Analysts within the American right have used the language and social critiques of Libertarians with regard to market deregulation (for example, the frequent citing of studies by the Cato Institute). Republican President Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric, notably his campaign promise to “get government off our backs,” was often heavily libertarian. Indeed, in a 1975 interview, Reagan said, “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” While crafting economic reforms, David Stockman, Reagan’s OMB director, also mentioned his belief in libertarian values. The 1988 Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Ron Paul serves as a Republican Congressman from Texas, and is also a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a group of libertarian-minded members of that party. On the other hand, there is strong Libertarian influence on some Democrats, too; Mike Gravel, a Democratic senator from Alaska, ran unsuccessfully for the Libertarian Party’s nomination in 2008. The Democratic Freedom Caucus is a group of libertarian-minded members of the Democratic Party.
Libertarian candidates have occasionally thrown their support behind Republican contenders. In a 2002 South Dakota election for Senate, for example, Libertarian candidate Kurt Evans suspended his campaign three weeks before Election Day and urged voters to support Republican candidate John R. Thune. The Libertarian Party supported efforts to impeach Bill Clinton for different reasons (citing several actions they deemed to be unconstitutional). In 1992, after incumbent Georgia Senator Wyche Fowler won a plurality but failed to achieve 50% and was forced into a runoff, the Libertarian candidate publicly threw his support to Paul D. Coverdell, who then won the election.
On the other hand, the Libertarian Party has also worked towards defeating some prominent Republicans, such as Bob Barr. Interestingly, Barr subsequently spoke at numerous Libertarian Party functions, expressed agreement with many of the party’s positions, and, perhaps ironically, in late 2006 became a Life Member of the LP, joined the Libertarian National Committee, and became the party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2008.
Libertarians oppose Republicans on various issues of civil liberties, and government spending and national debt. For example, the Libertarian Party has sharply attacked the USA PATRIOT Act for its potential for infringement of civil rights. The party has also made the repeal of drug prohibition laws one of its priorities, a position that puts it at odds with the “mainstream” of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
Despite this, former Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne noted that he drew approximately an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to his campaign. Michael Badnarik made a similar claim in 2004. Surveys by Libertarian Citizen, an activist education group, in 2002 showed Libertarians drew equally from the left, right, and independents—with more than 30% saying they would not have voted at all in the absence of a Libertarian candidate.
Media such as the St. Petersburg Times have speculated that even one Libertarian could influence public bodies to look at different ideas. They are often strong in local appointed office, and sometimes lead the boards to which they belong. In 2005, local Florida Democrats joined a coalition with Libertarians that, after a voter forum, is calling for a reduction in ballot access restrictions.
By several measures, the Libertarian Party is the largest third party in the United States—a nation which is overwhelmingly dominated by two major parties that typically capture more than 95% of the vote in partisan elections. This claim is disputed by some, especially other third parties such as the Constitution Party, Green Party, and Independence Party of America. There is no single objective, agreed-upon standard to compare the size of third parties, so what is presented here is a review of various measures cited in the media.
Presidential candidate performance
Libertarians point to the performance of their presidential candidates, who have often finished above most other permanently-organized third parties. For example, in 2008, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr received more votes (523,686) than any other third party; although Ralph Nader, running as an Independent, received 725,696.
In the 2004 election, Libertarian Michael Badnarik received more votes (397,265) than all non-major party candidates combined (again except for Nader, in the race as an independent but with the endorsement and ballot lines of the nearly defunct Reform Party), more than twice as many as the Constitution Party candidate (Michael Peroutka 143,630 votes) and three times as many as Green Party candidate (David Cobb 119,859 votes).
In 2000 and 1996, Libertarian Harry Browne was bested by both the Green Party and Reform Party nominees. The Libertarian candidate finished ahead of all other third party candidates in 1992, 1988, 1984, and 1980 (though he finished well behind independent candidates Ross Perot in 1992 and John Anderson in 1980). No other currently active third party has finished third in a presidential election more than once, or received an electoral college vote. This occurred for the Libertarian Party in 1972 when a GOP “faithless elector” pledged to Nixon cast his ballot for the Libertarian ticket, effectively awarding the first-ever electoral college vote to go to a woman in a US Presidential election to Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate Tonie Nathan.
Earning ballot status
Ballot access can be considered as a measure of a political party’s level of motivation, size, and financial and volunteer-base strength. Despite internal argument over whether to pursue ballot access or not, in 2004, the Libertarians earned a space on more ballots than the Greens (48+DC vs 27+DC). Historically, Libertarians have also achieved 50-state ballot access for their presidential candidate three times, in 1980, 1992, and 1996 (in 2000 L. Neil Smith was on the Arizona ballot instead of the nominee, Harry Browne), a feat no other third party has achieved more than once.
The ability to fund the party’s candidate(s) can also be used as a measure of organizational size and strength. The following are the amounts spent on 2008 campaign activities for the presidential candidates, as reported by the FEC:
Barack Obama (D) $976,830,398
John McCain (R) $604,951,924
Ralph Nader (Independent) $4,510,191
Bob Barr (L) $1,405,899
Alan Keyes (Am. Ind.) $481,991 (mostly raised as a Republican candidate)
Chuck Baldwin (Const.) $262,010
Cynthia McKinney (Green) $240,360
Gloria LaRiva (Soc. & Lib.) $24,441
Brian Moore (Soc.) $9,516
While most Libertarian candidates for federal office (House and Senate) raise less than five thousand dollars the party has a relative history of at least one candidate a cycle raising substantial funds.
One measure of size is the number of donors a group attracts. In the Libertarian Party, some donors are not necessarily “members”, because the Party since its founding in 1972 has defined a “member” as being someone who agrees with the Party’s membership statement. The precise language of this statement is found in the Party Bylaws. There were 115,401 Americans who were on record as having signed the membership statement as of the most recent report.
There is another measure the Party uses internally as well. Since its founding, the Party has apportioned delegate seats to its national convention based on the number of members in each state who have paid minimum dues (with additional delegates given to state affiliates for good performance in winning more votes than normal for the Party’s presidential candidate). This is the most-used number by Party activists. As of December 31, 2006, Libertarian Party reported that there were 15,505 donating members. 1,108 of the donors gave the federal minimum ($200) or more for required individually itemized contributions.
Historically, dues were $15 throughout the eighties; in 1991, they were increased to $25. Between February 1, 2006 and the close of the 2006 Libertarian party convention on May 31, 2006, dues were set to $0. However, the change to $0 dues was controversial and was de facto reversed by the 2006 national convention in Portland, Oregon; at which the members re-established a basic $25 dues category (now called Sustaining membership), and further added a requirement that all National Committee officers must henceforth be at least Sustaining members (this was not required prior to the convention).
Number of candidates
In recent elections, Libertarians have run far more candidates for office, at all levels, than all other third parties combined. In the 2004 elections, 377 Libertarian candidates vied for state legislative seats, compared with 108 Constitution Party candidates, 94 Green Party candidates, and 11 Reform Party candidates. In the 2000 elections, the party ran about 1,430 candidates at the local, state, and federal level. More than 1,600 Libertarians ran for office in the 2002 mid-term election. Accordingly, their combined vote totals have far exceeded those of other parties: in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections, Libertarian candidates for state House of Representatives received more than a million votes – more than twice the votes received by all other minor parties combined.
Libertarians have had mixed success in electing candidates at the state and local level. Following the 2002 elections, according to its site , 599 Libertarians held elected or appointed local offices and appointed state offices. Of these, libertarians were in leadership positions in slightly less than half the boards that they served, and were elected in slightly over 1/3rd (approximately 90% of US public offices are appointive, and 5% partisan elective). Most of these Libertarians held nonpartisan appointed positions or were elected in nonpartisan races. Though twelve Libertarians have previously been elected to state legislatures, none hold that office currently, unlike the Green Party (one in Arkansas), and the Progressive Party (five in Vermont). The most recent Libertarian candidate elected to a state legislatures was Steve Vaillancourt in 2000 who was personally not a party member but had libertarian leanings. Vaillancourt a Democratic member of the House had lost the Democratic primary for State Senate that year and accepted the Libertarian nomination for the House so as to keep his seat.
After the party’s 21 electoral victories in November 2008, there are now 207 elected Libertarians serving in office across the United States. In comparison, the Green Party had 48 electoral victories in 2008, and 193 Greens currently serve in public office.
Best results in major races
Some Libertarian candidates for state office have performed relatively strongly in statewide races. In two Massachusetts Senate races (2000 and 2002), Libertarian candidates Carla Howell and Michael Cloud, who did not face serious Republican contenders (in 2002 the candidate failed to make the ballot), received a party record-setting 11.9% and 16.7%  respectively. In Indiana’s 2006 US Senate race Steve Osborn received 12.6% of the vote . In 2002, Ed Thompson, the brother of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, received 11% of the vote (best ever Libertarian result for Governor) running for the same office, resulting in a seat on the state elections board for the Libertarian Party, the only such seat for a third party in the U.S.
Registration by party
The Libertarians ranked third in twelve states, the Greens ranked third in five states and DC, the Constitution Party ranked third in three states, and the Reform Party ranked third in one state (27 states allow voters to affiliate with a party; others prohibit voters from registering with third parties).
Another possible measure of support for each party is the relative popularity of the organization’s web site. According to Alexa Internet Traffic Reports, the Libertarian Party Website is currently the third highest ranked official political party website in the United States following the pages of the Democratic and Republican parties.
As of September 23, 2008, the Libertarian Party is on the ballot in 46 states for 2008; it is not on the ballot in Connecticut, Maine, Oklahoma, or West Virginia. The Party has more ballot lines than any other third-party by comparison to the Green Party (on 24 ballots) and the Constitution Party (on 14 ballots).
Ballot access only for presidential candidate
Working on ballot access
There are a number of states currently in the process of gaining Libertarian ballot access (in court or by petition) either for the party as a whole or just for the party’s 2008 presidential nominee.
 Internal debates
 Anarchist/minarchist debate
The debate that has survived the longest is referred to by libertarians as the anarchist/minarchist debate. In 1974, anarchists and minarchists within the Party agreed to “cease fire” about the specific question of whether governments should exist at all, and focus on promoting voluntary solutions to the problems caused by government instead. Another debate was created by Mike Hihn’s claim the term Libertarianism has been used by anarchists longer than by minarchists. A related internal discussion concerns the philosophical divide over whether the Party should aim to be mainstream and pragmatic, or whether it should focus on being consistent and principled.
In the opinion of some, members who identify themselves as principled have dominated the party since the early 1980s. The departure of Ed Crane and David H. Koch (of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank) is held up as an example. Crane, who in the 1970s had been the party’s first Executive Director, and some of his allies resigned from the Party in 1983 when their preferred candidates for national committee seats lost in the elections at the national convention.
The debate quieted for a time, then arose again in the mid-1990s, when a “Committee for a Libertarian Majority” (CLM) was formed and met in Atlanta, Georgia, and worked up several proposals to alter many aspects of the Libertarian Party’s operations. Two of their proposals (substantially altering the platform and abolishing the membership pledge) attracted a lot of attention and opposition sprang up in the form of another committee called PLEDGE. In the long run, CLM’s proposals attracted some support at the national convention but did not prevail.
Beginning in roughly 2004, the debate arose anew, with the formation of several reform (“pragmatist”) groups, such as the Libertarian Reform Caucus, the Libertarian Party Reform Caucus (now defunct), and the Real World Libertarian Caucus (now defunct). These groups generally advocate(d) revising the party’s platform, eliminating or altering the membership statement, and focusing on a politics-oriented approach aimed at presenting libertarianism to voters in what they deemed a less threatening manner. As in the past, groups promoting a more consonant interpretation of libertarian principles, such as the LPRadicals and the Rothbard Caucus, have emerged in response. These groups advocate a clear, consistent, and principled interpretation of libertarianism, and want the Party to focus on constant outreach with a consistent message marketed by candidates and the Party leadership.
As of the 2008 convention, the debate has been settled for now with the wholesale adoption of pragmatist viewpoints in the new platform, and the nomination of former Congressman Bob Barr for president.
In the early eighties, Libertarians for Life was formed to support a change in the Party’s pro-choice stance. To some extent, those efforts succeeded as the platform was eventually altered to acknowledge that many Libertarians consider themselves to be pro-life. Conversely, in 1987, another group of Party members were concerned that Dr. Ron Paul (at the time seeking the Party’s presidential nomination) might promote his belief that all abortion (from the time of conception) should be outlawed by the states, and thereby confuse voters about the Party’s actual platform stance. This group formed Pro-Choice Libertarians and most members supported Paul’s opponent, Russell Means. Once the nomination went to Paul, they continued their efforts to dissuade him from making an issue of abortion.They have continued efforts to keep the party pro-choice.
Intervention in Afghanistan
On September 13, 2001, just two days after the September 11 attacks and in response to what they saw as ambiguous statements about U.S. intervention in Afghanistan by the Libertarian National Committee, party members formed Libertarians for Peace to encourage the party to continue promoting a consistent non-interventionist position.
In 1999 a working group of leading LP activists proposed to reformat and retire the platform to serve as a guide for legislative projects (its main purpose to that point) and create a series of custom platforms on current issues for different purposes, including the needs of the growing number of Libertarians in office. The proposal was incorporated in a new party-wide strategic plan and a joint platform-program committee proposed a reformatted project platform that isolated talking points on issues, principles and solutions, and an array of projects for adaptation. this platform, along with a short Summary for talking points, was approved in 2004. Confusion arose when prior to the 2006 convention, there was a push to repeal or substantially rewrite the Platform, at the center of which were groups such as the Libertarian Reform Caucus. Their agenda was partially successful in that the current platform was much shortened (going from 61 to 15 planks – 11 new planks and 4 retained from the old platform) over the previous one.
Not all party members approved of the changes, some believing them to be a setback to libertarianism and an abandonment of what they see as the most important purpose of the Libertarian Party.
Occasionally, media outlets have incorrectly labeled Lyndon LaRouche as a Libertarian in articles about the controversy he generates, which the Libertarian Party identifies as a concern. LaRouche’s political views are at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Libertarianism, and he has never sought the Libertarian nomination for President. LaRouche has never been a Libertarian in either ideology or label; he has either run for office as a Democrat or with his now-defunct U.S. Labor Party which, as aformentioned, is in diametric opposition to the libertarian end of the political spectrum.
The core idea is simply stated, but profound and far-reaching in its implications. Libertarians believe that each person owns his own life and property, and has the right to make his own choices as to how he lives his life – as long as he simply respects the same right of others to do the same.
Another way of saying this is that libertarians believe you should be free to do as you choose with your own life and property, as long as you don’t harm the person and property of others.
Libertarianism is thus the combination of liberty (the freedom to live your life in any peaceful way you choose), responsibility (the prohibition against the use of force against others, except in defense), and tolerance (honoring and respecting the peaceful choices of others).
Live and let live. The Golden Rule. The non-initiation of force