Why do libertarians running for public office usually only win a few percent of the vote in most cases? Those who have been reading this blog are probably wondering “why” this is? The truth of the matter is that I am NOT a doctrinaire libertarian. I do have membership in the national party, but this does not imply that I agree with everything that the national party stands for. For the one good reason that some of their ideas are “dead on arrival” if they were ever presented to the voters. If we want to create a libertarian society, we have to offer ideas that make sense to the majority of people.
The major problem is that there are a lot of people who would oppose at least some of the policies offered by the US Libertarian Party. In the case of Republicans there are many who would be opposed to repealing our “vice laws” because they believe that no one should be allowed to do such things such as use drugs, even if their actions effected no one but themselves… There is also the “hot button” issue of abortion, especially among fundamentalist religious groups, and even contraception is a problem, especially with Catholics. The requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers contraception has been a problem with Obamacare, never mind the other problems that Obamacare creates. The problem appears that there are large numbers of people who sincerely believe that no one should be allowed to do such things, even if their own activities do not harm anyone else. Then there is the issue of “gun control”, which is a “hot button” issue on the Democratic side of our political system along with opposition to school vouchers, elimination of racial preferences for minority groups, and so forth.
Additionally there are economic issues. The licensed professions and occupations are well aware that they would not be able to earn the incomes they now do without having “government” provide them with legal monopolies that grant them the power to extract more money from the rest of us. Organized labor to some extent is dependent too upon the power of the State. The same thing is true with the issue of copyright and patent, which have been extended considerably over what such laws used to cover, much to the profit of those involved. All of these “favor” some people economically over everyone else. They are all people who benefit from the power of the State acting in their favor. And while their numbers as a percentage of voters is in the single digits, they are also well aware of the benefits that “government protection” gives them as opposed to life under a true free market where the role of the federal government is severely restricted to national defense and international relations. With the state governments also forced to operate under restrictions that prevent them from favoring one group of people over another. With the same rules applying to local governments regarding zoning and such.
A good example of “government protectionism” being favored by certain groups is visible right here in Muskegon county. The two northern cities of Whitehall and Montague are under “pressure” from their local small businesses to prevent a Wal*Mart superstore from being built on presently vacant land to the east of these two little cities. The fact that having a Wal*Mart might be of benefit to most citizens of these two little cities is ignored over the effect that a Wal*Mart might have upon the small businesses in the area. So we have a prime example of a small group of people fighting against allowing the rest of the citizens of the area from benefitting from the lower prices Wal*Mart would bring. I might add here that at one time (1960’s) we had what were called “fair trade” laws. These laws were designed to prevent “discount stores” from underselling “Main Street” stores. The result was of course higher prices for the consumer which is usually the case when you introduce government “protectionism” into the “picture”.
What this all means is that convincing the majority of voters to support libertarian ideas is going to be more difficult than what most people realize simply because there are tens of millions of people who benefit (or believe that they do) from today’s “status quo”. Add to these all those who receive “benefits” of one kind or another from “government”. It is of course possible to now replace programs like Social Security and Medicare upon a voluntary basis using an investment fund based upon 50% preferred index stocks and the same proportion (50%) of a mix of corporate and government bonds. As it is, both Social Security and Medicare are currently based upon a system where one generation pays the benefits to the preceding generation. However, since the system is not designed to actually “grow” in value, the net result long term is not going to be good. Especially as US birth rates are falling (partly due to greater use of contraceptives along with an economy that is now still doing rather poorly for the majority of Americans). Of the two, Medicare is in deeper trouble because of the uncontrolled rise in health care costs. Which are best controlled by removing the government protectionism that now makes US health care a government enforced monopoly with little incentive to control costs. Of course these same laws also give those working in the health care fields much higher incomes than what they’d enjoy if they had to compete in a true free market of the sort that would exist in a libertarian America. Which we will never see unless those of us who see libertarianism as the “answer” seriously start considering the problems of convincing a majority of Americans to support libertarianism instead of what the Democrats and the Republicans are now offering us. This is really a problem we need to seriously consider!