Pick one: birther conspiracies or socialist nightmare

I’m sure, as educated members of the electorate, you’re already aware that this election is a terrifying situation in which civility and social norms have been thrown out the window, replaced by birther conspiracies and comments on Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle. We’re even seeing a socialist revival, well-branded as “democratic” and sold by a man who is genuine and likable, even to the most cold-hearted libertarian. The libertarian take on the 2016 election cycle? If this is what politics looks like, we need to reduce the amount of power entrusted to these fools.

Trump and Cruz are two sides of the same bigoted, faux-limited-government coin. Rubio is closely behind them, with slightly more civility and intelligence. None of the top three, however, legitimately favor the limited government that is consistent with libertarian principles. Escalating foreign intervention, sticking to tough-on-crime mandatory minimums and outdated drug policy, and yelling onstage about the ills of politically correct culture does not closely align with the ideas of limited government, but rather an unpalatable brand of conservatism that isn’t working for young voters.

We can be in the business of discouraging medical innovation, technological advancement and the creation of valuable, affordable products, but I don’t think it will serve us well.

From a libertarian perspective, Bernie is the best pick in terms of criminal justice reform and non-interventionist foreign policy. I’ve followed the Sanders campaign closely, deeply intrigued by his momentum and appeal, as well as the degree to which he’s detracted from Hillary Clinton’s base.

Any student of economics, however, should be a cautious consumer of his democratic socialism sell: more government regulation and intrusion will not be a good thing. Higher taxation of the wealthy will only disincentivize entrepreneurs and innovators. Sanders’ platform claims that, “[he] will stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes,” but he entirely misses the point — outsourcing happens as a result of comparative or absolute advantage. Moreover, if businesses are taxed at drastically higher rates, they will no longer have the same incentives to operate in the United States — they will simply shift to other countries where taxes are lower and they can be more profitable. We can be in the business of discouraging medical innovation, technological advancement and the creation of valuable, affordable products, but I don’t think it will serve us well.

I understand why his messaging is appealing. Capitalism feels inherently flawed to many millennials — there’s an unsettling hierarchy created by it, but it’s also responsible for millions of valuable innovations in our society, from cancer treatments to Facebook. Read some Milton Friedman, think about the unintended consequences of Bernie’s policies and reflect on the way incentives play into human behavior. I recommend reading Arthur Brooks’ “The Conservative Heart” or John Mackey’s “Conscious Capitalism” (take heart: he’s the CEO of Whole Foods, not some Glenn Beck pawn). If your attention span is shorter, check out Nick Gillespie’s excellent interview with John Mackey. Bernie’s economic policy sounds the best, but I don’t think it actually is the best.

In other words, the GOP is stacked with clowns and Bernie is selling idealistic millennials a poor economic plan sandwiched between good criminal justice reform and excellent foreign policy.

In other words, the GOP is stacked with clowns and Bernie is selling idealistic millennials a poor economic plan sandwiched between good criminal justice reform and excellent foreign policy. That leaves us with Hillary, who will be only marginally better than Bernie, but leaves libertarians skeptical about her ability to follow laws and prioritize transparency. The libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, is fairly good, but we’re all aware of how unlikely people are to vote for him, even if they believe in his policies — people are simply afraid of throwing their votes away. In short, we’re doomed.

But we don’t have to be. The libertarian way of looking at the world prioritizes limited government — not because we hate the poor or love the hierarchy created by capitalism — but because we believe people largely deserve the ability to provide for themselves, make their own choices and pursue their own fulfillment without paternalistic government intrusion. We believe in an end to the failed drug war, greater accountability and transparency in government agencies, a return to Fourth Amendment principles and protection of privacy. We believe in less government regulation and more economic opportunity. Until a mainstream candidate can show commitment to those principles, I’ll be gladly throwing my vote away for Gary Johnson.

Disclaimer: This does not represent the opinion of everyone in College Libertarians. Come hang out with us on Thursdays at 7 pm to learn more.

Email Liz Wolfe at elwolfe01@email.wm.edu


  1. “Throw your vote away” by voting for a Libertarian. What an odd idea.

    First, any thinking person should easily recognize that your odds of actually deciding the election with your one vote are much, much smaller than your odds of being killed by a lightning strike on the way to the ballot box. Voting is a self-actualizing ritual. Thinking people vote – not to actually decide the election – but to assert their authority and to make a personal statement to themselves. Voting for someone you don’t approve of is the ultimate in silliness and the vote most wasted.

    Second, most people live in a state where, due to decades of work by D or R activists, at least the presidential election is a foregone conclusion because of how presidents are elected. I live in Washington State, and what’s absolutely certain for 2016 (except to some delusional Rs) is that the D nominee, whoever it is, will take all of Washington’s 12 electoral votes. I have some friends who are Libertarians but foolishly threw away their 2012 vote on Mitt Romney. Obama – predictably – got all Washington’s votes; those people truly wasted their vote.

    Third – and most importantly – we have an election to discover, not determine, a winner. It’s like playing the Superbowl; we do that to discover the winner. But, the winner was determined long before the game was played by draft picks, training, planning, and preparation (short of some catastrophe like a star QB getting injured). Just so, this year’s election has already been determined by the hard preparation of political activists over the last several years. We just don’t yet KNOW who has won. We hold the election to find out. Changing your single vote won’t alter the outcome because an election cycle isn’t enough time – even at a year or more – to change the political thinking of any significant number of people.

    We come to our political thinking over years – usually decades – of interaction with friends, family and co-workers. Politics is a long-term game. In 1848 some crazy nut-jobs first met in Seneca Falls, NY advocating the idiotic notion that women should vote. SEVENTY YEARS later, the 19th Amendment passed. It took seventy years, but only because in 1848, people who wanted to change the world, started promoting women’s suffrage. This year’s election has been decided, but what happens in twenty or thirty years is an open question. If you want to EVER see libertarians win, then you have to pick a year when you start voting for libertarians and building party recognition. You can wait until next cycle, or wait a decade or two if you like, but that will only delay the time when libertarians actually win because no one sweeps to victory by just talking “the truth” on a soapbox in a single election cycle. You have to build a huge following; you have to build your “Superbowl team.” The sooner you start, the sooner you achieve your goals.

    For all these reasons, the only way to waste your vote is to foolishly cast it for a candidate having a political agenda with which you simply don’t agree.

  2. “Higher taxation of the wealthy will only disincentivize entrepreneurs and innovators”, she says without a speck of empirical evidence.

    • http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/high-taxes-forcing-startups-to-move-to-the-uk-31396789.html
      Interesting things have happened in Scandinavia too. Of course, like with any economic theory, there are multiple schools of thought on this (there was a great NYTimes article a while back detailing the case for the opposite being true). Just as Keynesians and Hayek-die-hards can find support for their cases, this theory sees both support and opposition–but read Friedman, Mackey, or Tax Foundation’s coverage of Scandinavia to find your own theory about whether Sanders will be good for our unique and innovative brand of capitalism, or bad.

      • Fair enough, but more than enough ongoing debate to require inserting the qualifier “may” in place of “will”. The story of cutting taxes without having the will and/or the means to cut spending doesn’t have a happy ending except for those receiving the lion’s share of the tax cuts..

          • That’s not a policy; it’s a philosophy. The first step would be to re-prioritize spending. When the bloc of people who consider themselves Libertarians reach a consensus on that, let us know. And that’s the easy part.

          • Do you mean re-prioritize cutting spending? It’s not really my responsibility to speak for all libertarians, nor to fixate on one small element of philosophy/policy/platform (whatever you would like to call it), but if you think there are tangible elements of libertarianism that you would like to bring attention to, I more than encourage you to write for a libertarian publication or The Flat Hat (if you are a student).

          • No. I meant what I said. It’s not MY responsibility to explain a comment that’s easily understood by any serious student of economics who knows you don’t put the cart before the horse. Simply saying you favor cutting spending is no more credible on its face than saying you favor free college tuition or medical care. As for the remainder of your last comment, perhaps you should find a more comfortable forum in which to express your views where comments aren’t invited.

          • …I wasn’t sure if your initial comment (re-prioritize spending, which is an odd way of putting it) included a typo or not, thus the clarification. There’s no need to be rude, I legitimately want more ideas disseminated in the FH, as it is a student newspaper and the intention is to engage with these ideas in a civil way. I have only good intentions in terms of representing libertarianism fairly, kindly, and honestly and can take any reasonable criticism that comes my way.

  3. saying higher taxes will drive business to other countries is not the whole truth! you miss this one fact that will stifle a lot of that ship jumping. the u.s. is not just a manufacturing giant economy! we also buy stuff! we are the most voracious consumer economy! the loss of the markets to these giant corporations will be tied in to their defection! let them go! we will replace them!


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