The Problem with the Libertarian Party
More so than ever before, this year my social media is flooded with friends who plan to vote third party, specifically Libertarian. As Democrats echo “Vote blue no matter who” throughout my feed, these friends actively resist. These are the people in my feed who despise the Two Party System, the ones who would burn it to the ground if they could, and they’ve turned to the Libertarian Party in hopes that it can provide the means to achieve that goal. These newfound Libertarians must be at least a little bit optimistic, because they either believe that Jorgensen can win or that or that an increased showing for her can send a clear message to the two parties that dominate Washington. I can’t disagree with that sentiment. What I can tell you is that there are plenty of other reasons not to vote Libertarian, beyond the simple partisan one you’ve been hearing for the last few months.
While I believe most Americans agree that the Two Party System is flawed, now more than ever, it is vitally important to lay out who the Libertarian Party is. It’s time for people to really dig into their policy platform, and the core beliefs of their group. I fear that by remaining an outlier in American politics, they have managed to gain popularity without a substantive evaluation of these details, and it is time for that to change.
I would like to begin by acknowledging there are elements of the Libertarian Party’s platform that I completely agree with. Some of their policies are thoughtful and essential to the prosperity of the American people. For example, I am a huge fan of their Big Switzerland approach to foreign affairs, which, if you can’t guess as much, essentially equates to let’s stay out of it. I also believe that Libertarians should be included in presidential debates as well as legislative discussion in this country. There’s an extremely long, unfair, and sad tradition of excluding them from both.
All of that said, after thoroughly evaluating their platform, I believe many of their policies either:
a.) Only sound good on paper but would be disastrous in practice
b). Do not go far enough, have a clear and thorough plan, and/or fail to address the true issue.
How do you know if a policy is a good policy or if it just sounds good? Well let’s take a look at one and find out.
The Libertarian plan for retirement, also known as the 6% Plan, is the perfect example of a plan that only sounds good. The 6% Plan says that Americans should have a greater say in how the 6% Social Security tax all Americans pay on their income is invested. Essentially, it would allow Americans control over what they’ve paid. You could choose how your tax is invested and pick a private option of your liking. Sounds awesome, right?
Here’s the catch: Most younger Americans would almost definitely pull their money from the current system, while older, near-retirement or retired Americans would likely stay in the current system. Then factor in the fact that Social Security is a frequent target that Republicans place on the chopping block. Ever since politicians of the 80s reallocated Social Security funds to fix their poor management of our federal budget when supply sided economics failed, Social Security has run on a deficit. Since Social Security relies on the younger folks paying into the system in order to support the folks it’s currently paying out, the 6% Plan seems particularly dangerous.
So what would happen to older Americans on Social Security if all of that in flowing money was diverted to other, private systems? Although I do not know this answer, I can assure you nothing good. I suspect they would be entirely left to the lurches, especially since some politicians have been calling for Social Security cuts for years. It’s an absolute tragedy that after paying into that system and counting on that money their whole lives, there would be a potential for these Americans to receive little to nothing if Libertarians were in power. It is a literal lifeline for millions of people that could evaporate overnight under the 6% Plan. This plan is just one of many policies they’re proposing like this; it sounds great theoretically but in practice would present problems. Not to mention, it also does nothing to address how Social Security ended up in such a precarious position to begin with, which is perhaps a great transition to the next type of Libertarian policy.
Many Libertarian policies fail to go far enough or fail to address the true issue. Immediately, the Libertarian policy toward Justice Reform comes to mind. At its heart, this is a good policy. It centers around the idea that too many Americans have been locked up due to The War on Drugs or as a consequence of traditionally poor incarceration policy. I full-heartedly agree. However, it fails to acknowledge one of the biggest reasons America ended up in this situation: The Free Market.
Look, I love the Free Market too, but there are just some elements of a country that should not be regulated by the Free Market, and incarceration is certainly one of them. By allowing the Free Market to regulate our prison system, we ended up with for-profit prisons, which have no viable reason to rehabilitate incarcerated Americans and every reason in the world not to. In fact their profits rely on incarcerated Americans not getting rehabilitation resources and becoming repeat offenders.
Jorgensen fails to provide an adequate roadmap to how she would achieve her goal. She has not laid out an intricate framework for how she would end the War on Drugs. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has said he will pardon, create drug courts, invest in rehabilitation instead of incarceration, and he vows that no American will be imprisoned for only drug related crimes. His plan is way more detailed than that, but that’s the briefest summary possible.
Although it’s nice that Jorgensen is on the same page, it’s basically like Biden is on his second read through. He’s lapping her. While the broad idea she has is great, it doesn’t address the cause, and Biden provides actionable steps that he will take that go much further. Not to mention Biden seems to have a clearer picture of what the end result should be, a new imagining of how America approaches addiction that upheaves our current justice system, ending for profit prisons for good. Whereas Jorgensen appears unable to see that far ahead, as she’s only mentioned wanting to end the War on Drugs and release people who have been wrongfully incarcerated. Again, a noble part of the plan, but it’s like she’s only talking about taking the ball to the fifty yard line, and Biden is running for the touchdown.
Then there is a fundamental disconnect, at least for my own values, with the core belief of the Libertarian Party. At the core of the Libertarian Party’s belief system is the idea of “Rugged Individualism.” This idea has been a pillar of America society since its very conception. However, these days it is extrapolated in order to explain why the market should have free domain over healthcare, education, and virtually every facet of our lives. In the world we live in though, it’s not individuals controlling those sectors, it’s corporations. The difference being that an individual at least has a chance at weighing the greater good versus the greater profit, but corporations almost exclusively select the greater profit. Having lived in a country with a Free Market healthcare system my whole life, I’ll tell you it doesn’t work. Particularly if you’re poor. Before anyone gets riled up in the comments, yes, I know Libertarians are against humanization of corporations, but that’s not the point I’m making here.
It’s weird and contradictory to me that Libertarians can understand that the Free Market doesn’t work for prisons(at least in so much as they can see the need to reform them) but still insist it would work for these other parts of our lives, healthcare, education, etc… While Rugged Individualism, just like so many of their policies, sounds great, it’s frequently flawed in practice. I believe that our country is at its strongest when we lift each other up, not when we compete against each other but when we compete together. If we want to be world leaders, that is the only way to achieve it. So at least for me there is a fundamental difference in ideology.
Then there’s the messaging. A huge portion of Americans feel Biden and Trump are essentially the same option (Despite how mind-boggling this may be for Biden Supporters). That’s one of the biggest reasons newfound Libertarians want to vote Third Party from what I’ve seen. They’re a different option. These are the people who the words “blue no matter who” trigger an immediate and visceral reaction from, because to these people, and understandably so, a blind partisan loyalty is ignorant. It is not a reason meriting their vote. They fundamentally dislike the two-party system. Telling these people to vote Biden because he isn’t Trump stands no chance to winning them to Biden’s side, clearly.
The question then becomes: Why are they allowing it to win them to the Libertarian side then? Their party’s message thrives on being different, not the other guy. If you don’t believe me check out literally any Libertarian ad ever. They claim their ideas are different, but truthfully many of them are not. There are many similarities between Biden’s policy and Jorgensen’s, just as there are similarities between Jorgensen’s policies and Republican staples. The truth is, she’s not different. Being an outsider does not inherently mean different or better: case in point Donald Trump.
So before you head to the polls to cast a vote for a Libertarian, consider these four questions:
- Do their plans adequately meet your standards for addressing the problems you care about?
- Should the Free Market have dominion over Education, Healthcare, and other major components of your life?
- How is Jorgensen any different than Biden or Trump?
- And the most important question: Do you think the country is better off if we all struggle to make improvements individually, competing for resources, or do you feel that problems only get solved and the country only moves forward if we work together, collectively, to make the world a better place?
I know my answers, and I won’t push them on you or judge you for contradicting them. That’s what’s so great about America. But if these are questions you’ve never asked yourself, then it’s time for you to come to your own conclusions. And for goodness sake, no matter who you’re supporting, get out there and vote!