Libertarian Insanity

Steven H. Nemerovski
Originally published October, 2018

Whether or not the thought originally came from Einstein, there is a great deal of sagacity in the suggestion that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Which then begs the question as to whether or not the Libertarian Party needs to get out of the insanity business of running candidates for political office while finding a more effective way to achieve its goals?

I was recently honored to speak at a conference in which the attendees predominantly subscribe to Libertarian philosophy and principles. I found the presentations that I also attended to be engaging and informative and, in conversation with individual attendees, found a great deal of passion and dedication to their cause. However, this passion and dedication has not been able to translate to any degree of electoral success since the founding of the party in 1971.

Although the Libertarian Party has achieved ballot access in 50 states on multiple occasions and is proud of having obtained almost 5 million votes in the 2016 Presidential election, its overall record is abysmal. The party has never come close to electing anyone to national office under the Libertarian banner, including the U.S. Congress or Senate. It has never elected a Governor or other statewide officeholder and, at present, holds but 4 of the 7383 state level legislative seats. Although the party received just over 3% of the presidential vote in 2016, that was its high-water mark and was also the first time that 1% had been exceeded.

Perhaps it is time to stop the insanity and repurpose the Libertarian cause. Take the equivalent amount of time, effort and funds currently being expended to run national and state level political organizations, including fielding candidates, gaining ballot access and running campaigns, and channel those resources to achieve differing political victories. For an organization that messages around limited government and individual liberties, perhaps it is time for the Libertarians to replace candidates with ballot initiatives.

Citizen initiated ballot measures are currently allowed in 24 states and many local jurisdictions and have become the political weapon of choice for many organizations and movements. As reported by Ballotpedia, there are 155 statewide ballot measures being considered in November, of which 63 were citizen initiated, and the list of issues under consideration is quite varied. Some have attributed the success of national movements, such as efforts to have same-sex marriage recognized, to the early pursuit of ballot initiatives.

Through ballot initiatives and through developing and implementing lobbying campaigns to get other ballot measures sanctioned and approved perhaps the Libertarian Party can become a driving force for success. Consistent with the most basic of Libertarian principles, why not pursue ballot measures that limit the size and scope of government. I suggest starting in Illinois where there are more units of local government than any other state and there is also a massive budget crisis.

Passing ballot initiatives is not easy and it may prove that driving change through ballot initiatives will be as daunting as attempting to win elections for public offices. But, when you have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully for almost 50 years to achieve a goal, well you know…