Vote Libertarian and Make Your Vote Count!

In every presidential election, people are told that they are “wasting their vote” if they vote for the Libertarian candidate.

As one who has voted for every Libertarian presidential candidate since 1972, I think the exact opposite is true. By voting for my principles, my votes over the years have had far more impact than if I had allowed the two “establishment” parties to dictate my choices.

Consider this: no matter how you have voted for President in the past, your vote has never made a difference in the outcome. Nor will it do so in the future. Even if you live in a “swing state” that could go either way, your lone vote will not spell the difference between victory and defeat for either establishment party candidate.

So if you can’t change the election outcome, why vote at all? The answer is that by voting Libertarian, you will be adding to the vote totals of the only party that consistently supports individual freedom. And those vote totals matter – the establishment parties pay close attention when a significant number of voters break with the two-party system, and they will often modify their stands on certain issues to protect their base and prevent further defections.

On the other hand, if you vote for the “lesser of two evils,” you are saying in effect, “I support the political status quo. I have faith in the two-party system, and I’m not interested in supporting candidates from other parties, even if they have fresh ideas that I agree with. I don’t like either of the two establishment party candidates, but I will vote for Establishment Party Candidate X because he is not quite as bad as Establishment Party Candidate Y.” This truly is a waste of your vote, and does nothing to advance the cause of freedom.

Vote Libertarian instead, and declare your independence from the broken two-party system and its deeply flawed candidates. Your Libertarian vote will put the establishment parties on notice that you are not satisfied with the candidates they offer, and unless they come up with better choices they will not earn your vote in the future.

Copyright © 2012 by Charles Barr

Stability, Security and Liberty

In his recently published book “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite,” David DiSalvo identifies a widespread human trait – one that helps explain why it is so difficult for libertarians to successfully challenge the political status quo. He writes: “The brain lives on a preferred diet of stability, certainty, and consistency, and perceives unpredictability, uncertainty, and instability as threats to its survival – which is, in effect, our survival.”

This universal human tendency – developed in a much more dangerous world to cope with ambiguous threats, and now part of our evolutionary heritage – raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the methods we libertarians use to advance our political philosophy. In proposing a radically freer society, we face a daunting challenge. Our widely employed “educational” strategy depends on the power of logic to overcome the conventional political views of the general public. But in using this method, we are thwarted at every turn by the hardwiring of the human brain that craves “stability, certainty, and consistency.” The problem is that our political agenda, and the manner in which we present it, is not an obvious fit in any of these three categories.

When engaging the public, libertarians typically ignore or downplay voters’ concerns regarding stability, certainty and consistency, preferring to focus almost exclusively on the advantages of liberty and small government. In doing so, we make it difficult to gain adherents, because we are urging them to take a leap into the unknown and untried – at least in their experience.

The prospect of instability triggers a perception of heightened risk and uncertainty in voters’ minds. A majority of these voters are risk-averse, especially in matters concerning their own survival, their livelihood, and the well-being of their families. In times of crisis such as now, they gravitate toward solutions that promise stability, and shun proposals that are fraught with uncertainty, even if such proposals promise a greater level of individual freedom.

Unless we are willing to switch gears and confront the issue of social stability head-on, we will allow our opponents to continue offering voters a false set of alternatives – freedom and instability vs. big government and security.

Undeniably, this issue is a thorny one. Benjamin Franklin is famously quoted as saying, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We have embraced this quote as part of our intellectual arsenal, incorporating it into arguments opposing the Patriot Act and similar legislation. Unfortunately, we often present this quote in either/or terms: you can have liberty or you can have security, but you can’t have both. However, a close examination of Franklin’s words, with special attention to the modifiers “essential” and “temporary”, shows that this supposed either/or choice is a false dichotomy. To some extent there is an inescapable trade-off between liberty and security. The terms of the trade-off determine its degree of acceptability in a free society.

In reality, the libertarian approach is much more capable of achieving a stable and secure social order than the heavy-handed, rule-based approach favored by advocates of a more intrusive government. High levels of stability and safety are prerequisites for establishing and maintaining a society in which people are free to control their own lives. A social order subject to government whim creates more uncertainty and provides less stability to individuals, families and productive enterprises than one organized around the principle of individual freedom. We need to emphasize this.

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Barr

Winning Tactics: A Matter of Perspective

Advocates of freedom often tend to view the political landscape as a battleground of ideologies. They spend considerable amounts of time and effort promoting principles of individual freedom that most Americans claim to support. However, these efforts have failed to convince the majority of voters to elect candidates who share these values. Advocates of bigger and more intrusive government have dominated the American political process for more than a century, despite their growing appetite for power and their disregard for the principles of individual liberty. Why is this the case?

The success of big-government politicians is due in part to the perspective they bring to the political process – a perspective totally different from that of many conservatives and libertarians. Most of today’s politicians view the political landscape not as an ideological battlefield, but rather as a complex and constantly shifting terrain of temporary alliances and hot-button issues that can be exploited to advance their agendas. Often this leads to legislation that “solves” an immediate problem while incrementally increasing the size and power of government. Over time this process diminishes the scope of freedom for everyone.

To become more effective, we can adopt the perspective and some of the tactics of our opponents when devising and implementing our political strategies. What’s more, we can do so without abandoning either our core principles or our commitment to the long-term goal of maximizing individual freedom.

For example, Texas congressman Ron Paul, a long-time advocate of liberty, has gained an impressive amount of political traction and visibility with his campaign to audit the Federal Reserve, despite strong opposition from the Fed and its friends in high places. His efforts have already helped to force the reluctant disclosure of the Fed’s secret loans of hundreds of billions of dollars to major European and other foreign banks. The highly negative public reaction to this disclosure will make it harder for the Fed to put American taxpayers on the hook for further bailouts of this type in the future.

Ron Paul’s success has been achieved by forging single-issue alliances with legislators on both sides of the aisle, and by tapping into voter discontent with the secrecy surrounding endless bailouts of politically connected firms. His crusade for an end to Fed secrecy is a real-world example of how political tactics routinely used by our opponents can be employed by our side to advance the cause of liberty, transparency and government accountability.

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Barr

Advocates of freedom often tend to view the political landscape as a battleground of ideologies. They spend considerable amounts of time and effort promoting principles of individual freedom that most Americans claim to support. However, these efforts have failed to convince the majority of voters to elect candidates who share these values. Advocates of bigger and more intrusive government have dominated the American political process for more than a century, despite their growing appetite for power and their disregard for the principles of individual liberty. Why is this the case?

 

The success of big-government politicians is due in part to the perspective they bring to the political process – a perspective totally different from that of many conservatives and libertarians. Most of today’s politicians view the political landscape not as an ideological battlefield, but rather as a complex and constantly shifting terrain of temporary alliances and hot-button issues that can be exploited to advance their agendas. Often this leads to legislation that “solves” an immediate problem while incrementally increasing the size and power of government. Over time this process diminishes the scope of freedom for everyone.

 

To become more effective, we can adopt the perspective and some of the tactics of our opponents when devising and implementing our political strategies. What’s more, we can do so without abandoning either our core principles or our commitment to the long-term goal of maximizing individual freedom.

 

For example, Texas congressman Ron Paul, a long-time advocate of liberty, has gained an impressive amount of political traction and visibility with his campaign to audit the Federal Reserve, despite strong opposition from the Fed and its friends in high places. His efforts have already helped to force the reluctant disclosure of the Fed’s secret loans of hundreds of billions of dollars to major European and other foreign banks. The highly negative public reaction to this disclosure will make it harder for the Fed to put American taxpayers on the hook for further bailouts of this type in the future.

 

Ron Paul’s success has been achieved by forging single-issue alliances with legislators on both sides of the aisle, and by tapping into voter discontent with the secrecy surrounding endless bailouts of politically connected firms. His crusade for an end to Fed secrecy is a real-world example of how political tactics routinely used by our opponents can be employed by our side to advance the cause of liberty, transparency and government accountability.

Advocates of freedom often tend to view the political landscape as a battleground of ideologies. They spend considerable amounts of time and effort promoting principles of individual freedom that most Americans claim to support. However, these efforts have failed to convince the majority of voters to elect candidates who share these values. Advocates of bigger and more intrusive government have dominated the American political process for more than a century, despite their growing appetite for power and their disregard for the principles of individual liberty. Why is this the case?

The success of big-government politicians is due in part to the perspective they bring to the political process – a perspective totally different from that of many conservatives and libertarians. Most of today’s politicians view the political landscape not as an ideological battlefield, but rather as a complex and constantly shifting terrain of temporary alliances and hot-button issues that can be exploited to advance their agendas. Often this leads to legislation that “solves” an immediate problem while incrementally increasing the size and power of government. Over time this process diminishes the scope of freedom for everyone.

To become more effective, we can adopt the perspective and some of the tactics of our opponents when devising and implementing our political strategies. What’s more, we can do so without abandoning either our core principles or our commitment to the long-term goal of maximizing individual freedom.

For example, Texas congressman Ron Paul, a long-time advocate of liberty, has gained an impressive amount of political traction and visibility with his campaign to audit the Federal Reserve, despite strong opposition from the Fed and its friends in high places. His efforts have already helped to force the reluctant disclosure of the Fed’s secret loans of hundreds of billions of dollars to major European and other foreign banks. The highly negative public reaction to this disclosure will make it harder for the Fed to put American taxpayers on the hook for further bailouts of this type in the future.

Ron Paul’s success has been achieved by forging single-issue alliances with legislators on both sides of the aisle, and by tapping into voter discontent with the secrecy surrounding endless bailouts of politically connected firms. His crusade for an end to Fed secrecy is a real-world example of how political tactics routinely used by our opponents can be employed by our side to advance the cause of liberty, transparency and government accountability.

Promote Free Markets, not “Capitalism”

Commercial advertisers sell products and services using words that generate a positive consumer response. This is also a sensible strategy to use when discussing our freedom-oriented values with people we seek to persuade. If more than one word or phrase captures the essence of an idea, we should choose the word or phrase most likely to be accepted by our audience.

For example, defenders of economic liberty often use the terms “capitalism” and “free market” interchangeably. Strictly speaking, the two concepts are nearly identical in meaning. But to the general public, the word “capitalism” evokes a multitude of negative associations that do not arise when the term “free market” is used.

For many people, “capitalism” conjures up images of politically connected financial institutions receiving government favors; multinational corporations “outsourcing” American jobs to cheaper and less regulated labor markets abroad; giant retailers crushing helpless smaller competitors; exploitation of conscientious workers by uncaring employers; and awarding of multi-billion-dollar bonuses to rich Wall Street executives.

Although most of these undesirable events result from massive government interference in the economy, the public at large perceives them to be failures of capitalism. This is due to the pervasive influence of the media and the public education system, both of which are overwhelmingly friendly to “activist” government and hostile to business.

However, propagandists for big government find it harder to demonize the phrase “free market.” Both words in this phrase resonate positively with the public, and “free market” is familiar to many people as shorthand for a system of voluntary exchange. While “capitalism” can readily be personified and caricatured (“evil capitalist”, “plutocrat”, “exploiter”, “monopolist”), the term “free market” does not lend itself to such verbal distortion – we never hear leftists castigating “evil free marketers”.

When we promote our ethical and political principles, we are engaging the emotions of our audience as well as their reasoning faculties. We can more easily appeal to their emotions if we strive to use words and phrases that evoke the most positive images and associations in their minds. Promoting the “free market,” rather than defending “capitalism,” is more likely to achieve this goal.

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Barr

Freedom and Fairness

A “values gap” exists between advocates of individual liberty and the voting public. This gap centers around the issue of fairness.

Most voters value fairness at least as much as they value freedom, and they often will choose fairness over freedom if they perceive a conflict between the two. The values of the general public are centered on emblems of fairness such as the “golden rule,” rather than on freedom-oriented abstractions such as property rights.

Anti-freedom activists, who seek to expand the role of government at every opportunity, are more sensitive than freedom advocates to the importance that the average voter places on “fairness”. Big-government proponents manipulate the average voter’s concept of fairness to generate support for redistributive programs such as welfare, government schools, and progressive taxation. These programs are perceived to be “fair” because the public sees them as compensating for inequities resulting from accidents of birth, physical or mental incapacities, and random misfortunes.

While a free-market economy is more fair than a government-controlled one, we cannot realistically expect to attract a majority of voters if we campaign for individual freedom while allowing our opponents to monopolize the issue of fairness. We need to promote our principles and issues using a “fairness” perspective as well as a “freedom” perspective. This will enable us to go on the offensive, pointing out numerous instances in which overzealous government activism leads to unfair outcomes.

For example, voter attention is currently focused on the rapidly worsening economy and the government’s attempts to rescue it through “stimulus” programs and an escalating series of “bailouts.” Many conservatives and libertarians disagree with such programs primarily because they are economically inefficient, not because they are unfair.

Yet most of the public opposition to the bailouts is fueled by a strong conviction that it is unfair to reward politically connected financial, manufacturing, and real estate interests while refusing to help less favored businesses and employees who face an equally dire future. This perception drives much of the heated “Wall Street vs. Main Street” rhetoric.

Many recent polls indicate that a majority of voters are on our side in opposing any and all bailouts. But it will take more than a discourse on economic efficiency to inspire them to join our movement. On this issue as on many others, it will take imaginative marketing of our views and recommendations, in a manner that appeals to people’s sense of fairness as well as their desire for freedom.

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Barr