The Libertarian party believes that government should have as small a role as possible. Instead, everybody should figure out what’s best for themselves. They argue that you don’t need a government to enforce rules, since social pressure and market pressure will do most of the work.
For example, imagine that a grocery store was selling apples that made you sick. Libertarians argue that you wouldn’t need a government agency to force them to stop. Instead, the grocery store would suffer the consequences of many fewer people shopping there, and they’d do more to make sure their fruit was safe.
5 important positions Libertarian positions:
- Many fewer taxes. Get rid of income tax completely.
- Reduce government influence on the economy. No financial regulations, rent control, minimum wage requirement, etc.
- Greatly reduce what the government may call a crime, e.g. drug use, sex work, gambling, driving without a seat belt, etc.
- Freedom of speech. No government censorship of any kind.
- Government organizes a big enough military to defend the U.S., but avoids overseas intervention
Where do Libertarians fit in with current U.S. politics?
People with Libertarian leanings often vote for Republicans and conservatives, since those groups are less likely than Democrats to propose government solutions to social problems. For example, Republicans and Libertarians agree that we should pay less in taxes, there should be fewer regulations on business, and that individuals and private companies should be able to do whatever they want with land and resources they own.
However, Libertarians also share beliefs with Democrats and liberals. For example, these folks all believe that government shouldn’t police personal choices that don’t affect other people, such as if 2 men can get married, and that people should be able to smoke marijuana.
Though it’s much less influential than the Democrat or Republican party, Libertarian presidential candidates do get votes each year. For example, in 2016, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got more than 4 million. (This wasn’t enough for any electoral votes, but 4 million’s definitely not nothing.)
Conflicts within the party
Libertarians differ in…well…just how libertarian the party should be. For example, you’ll hear some staunch libertarians say we should get rid of driver’s licenses, since they’re an instrument of government control. (Presidential candidate Gary Johnson was booed at a debate for suggesting that a driver’s test isn’t a bad idea.) They also hold positions such as end the income tax and the IRS, get rid of police, and that private businesses should be able to refuse service to anyone for any reason. The official Libertarian platform positions itself against the “cult of the omnipotent state,” which is a way of saying that government’s bad and we shouldn’t trust it.
However, some prominent libertarians hold positions closer to typical Democrats or Republicans, such as that we should intervene in foreign conflicts. Former presidential candidate and Libertarian-leaning Ron Paul argued that each state should decide if gay marriage was right for its constituents. (The more “pure” Libertarian position would be that no government should intervene in an individual’s personal decision to marry someone.)