Today we're going to learn about the Libertarian Party! Come on! It will be fun!
Everyone knows about the USA's two party system, with the Democrats and the Republicans. Did you know that there are other political parties in the United States? Well there are! And the Libertarian Party is the largest third party in America.
Generally, Democrats are liberals and Republicans are conservatives. Members of the Libertarian Party are usually libertarians. There is no one definition of what makes a person be libertarian, but their ideas are often based on one of four thinkers: philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, economist Murray Rothbard, or economist Ludwig von Mises.
Libertarians support unregulated free market capitalism. Issues they feel strongly about include: legalizing drugs, giving people the right to own guns, and cutting taxes. The Libertarian Party generally supports any policy that maximizes individual freedom and limits government intrusion.
Did you know? America is a republic, not a direct democracy, and when you vote for a president, you're really voting for your state to send an elector to the electoral college, which chooses the president. When Nixon was elected, there was a rogue elector who voted for the Libertarian Party candidate in the electoral college!
The Libertarian Party is divided into various caucuses, each of which promote different issues and a different point of view. The Anarcho-Capitalists (also called AnCaps) want anarchy. The Pragmatists Caucus wants to win elections. The Radicals Caucus wants to take extreme and shocking policy positions. And the Mises Caucus tries to promote the ideas of Mises and Rothbard within the Party.
Did you know? The Libertarian Party's first presidential candidate was John Hospers, who was not a politician but was instead a philosophy professor. He told a colleague "I'm running for president" and they said "of the American Philosophy Association?" and he replied "no, of the country!"
The Libertarian Party asks its members to take a loyalty pledge that they will never advocate for the use of violent force in society. Some members of the party disagree with requiring a pledge, but it remains to this day. Other areas of internal disagreement include immigration and abortion, which some in the Libertarian Party support and some oppose.
Did you know? The Libertarian Party is America's fastest growing and largest third political party!
As a third party, the Libertarian Party routinely does not have ballot access, and must petition and collect signatures to get on the ballot, unlike Democrats and Republicans. Despite this, many Libertarians have run for office, and dozens have won positions at the town and city level across America.
Did you know? Ron Paul, the longtime Republican Congressman from Texas, was a member of the Libertarian Party for many years, before switching to the GOP. His son Rand Paul went on to become a Republican Senator from Kentucky. The Koch Brothers, who were famous as billionaires who donated vast sums to conservative causes, also supported the Libertarian Party at one point, although they later shifted their allegiance to the GOP.
The Libertarian Party is actually a patchwork of organizations: the National Libertarian Party exists, and each of the 50 states has its own State Libertarian Party, and towns and cities can have their own Libertarian Party Affiliate. Joining one organization does not automatically sign you up for the others, so you could be a member of a state Libertarian Party but not the National Libertarian Party, or vice versa.
The Libertarian Party has an official mascot, the porcupine, to answer the donkey and elephant of the two major parties. The porcupine was chosen because it is typically non-violent but uses its spikes to defend itself if attacked.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Libertarian Party! I'll bet you thought there are only two parties, right? Now you know better!