Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Why Libertarians Don't Vote Republican

Chip Taylor writes on Trent Lott, the GOP and libertarians:

[S]everal Republicans in several different forums have recently accused Libertarians of standing in the way of freedom and liberty by our refusal to vote for Republican candidates -- by our refusal to be Republicans. They say that we are selfish, that we are too stubborn, that we want to have things strictly our way, that we won't compromise in order to move forward the parts of their agenda that we do agree with. (I'm leaving aside, for the sake of argument, the fact that they seldom advance the parts of their agenda that we agree with.)

Now comes Trent Lott, who as one of their leaders, you would expect to show great committment to their agenda. But for him, the agenda takes a back seat when faced with a choice between doing what's good for his party and preserving his own personal power and priveleges. So I ask, Why should I, as a Libertarian, show more committment to the GOP and their agenda than Trent Lott?

The answer, of course, is that Republicans (and Democrats) don't have principles, so you shouldn't expect Trent Lott to uphold them. (This is also why the “liberal” and “conservative” labels are not congruent to “Democrat” and “Republican”.) In essence, parties translate voters' preferences into policy by providing an effective organization for coalitions of politicians to form. “Principles” are convenient ways to facilitate this organization, but they aren't the sine qua non of political parties. (Hence why the Libertarians' “party of principle” statement is at once both refreshing and impractical: political parties, by their very nature, must compromise to be effective.)

To clarify: the GOP and Democrats articulate principles, but they take a back seat to electoral considerations.