progress

Home » progress

The Libertarian Vote: How Big Is It?

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Now that Rand Paul has officially announced he is seeking the presidency, attention is being focused on the libertarian voting bloc. Just how big is it? How many libertarian-minded voters are out there?

The answer may surprise you.

First, it’s important to note that “libertarian voter” doesn’t necessarily mean a voter who meets the stricter definition of a libertarian, i.e., someone who consistently opposes the initiation of force. Rather, it refers to someone who would be inclined to vote for a libertarian candidate in an election. Someone who is more supportive of libertarian ideas than liberal, conservative, statist or centrist ideas.

Different organizations have used different methods to determine the size of this libertarian bloc. And they’ve come up with some pretty consistent estimates.

* For 20 years Gallup’s annual Governance Survey has divided voters into liberal, conservative, libertarian, or populist, based on their answers to two questions:

  1. “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?”
  2. “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”


In their 2014 survey Gallup classified 24% of respondents as libertarian (with 27% conservative, 21% liberal, and 18% populist). This is hardly a rigorous political litmus test, but it may well help single out voters who might be sympathetic to libertarianism.

  • The Cato Institute’s David Boaz has done a lot of work on this over the years, including an important 2012 book (with David Kirby Emily Ekins) that summarizes numerous polls by Cato and others on the topic: The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center.
    They conclude that, depending on the criteria used, roughly 15-18% of voters can be classified as “libertarian voters.”
  • A 2006 Zogby poll, commissioned by Cato, found surprising results. Zogby asked half of a group of 1,012 people who had voted in the 2006 election: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?” Fully 59% of the respondents said “yes.”
    Zogby asked the other half a more challenging question: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian?” A surprising 44% of respondents — representing 100 million Americans — answered “yes” to that question, thus self-identifying as libertarians. This is obviously higher than the number of true libertarians in America, but certainly it at least indicates that millions of people are open to these ideas and this label.
  • Finally, here’s an often-overlooked but remarkable finding — based on the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz. In August 2000 Rasmussen gave the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. The Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” or other looser definitions used by polling firms. Yet fully 16% scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure closely matching to the other estimates we’ve cited.

What can we conclude? While the numbers and the criteria in these studies vary, at the very least there is broad agreement on a figure between 15% to 20%. That’s 30 to 40 million voters — a huge, and growing, voting bloc that could easily swing an election.

Add to this the additional millions on the left, right, and center who may vote for a libertarian-leaning candidate who stresses issues of great importance to them — such as a more peaceful foreign policy, marijuana re-legalization, slashing taxes, and reforming the out-of-control surveillance state.

Which brings us back to Rand Paul’s presidential run announcement. Rand Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian. He has described himself as “libertarian-ish” and in 2013 told Sean Hannity “I use the term constitutional conservative, but I also use the term libertarian conservative. … I accept all of those terms if they mean they believe in limited government and more individual liberty.”

But he is certainly the most libertarian-inclined presidential candidate — outside the Libertarian Party — in memory. Cato’s Boaz notes in TIME what may well be the most important thing to come out of a Rand Paul campaign:

“One result of his campaign will be to help those tens of millions of libertarian-leaning Americans to discover that their political attitudes have a name, which will make for a stronger and more influential political faction. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.”

Three Caterpillars, a Butterfly… and Liberty

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Three caterpillars — a conservative, a liberal, and a libertarian — looked up and saw a butterfly. butterfly

The conservative caterpillar said, “That should be illegal. Why, it’s blasphemous! If God had meant for caterpillars to fly, he would have given us wings.”

The liberal caterpillar said, “That looks incredibly dangerous! Who’s in charge of it? What’s going to happen to the crawling industry if this catches on? This needs to be stopped until the government can investigate it and set up inspection and regulation to make sure it’s safe.”

The libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”


 

People have always feared the innovation and choice that liberty brings. Liberty shakes up the status quo. Liberty constantly creates new opportunities and replaces old industries and institutions with new and better ones.

This wonderful process is scary and threatening for many people. That’s understandable.

Yet the history of the progress of the human race is the history of removing government control of our personal and economic lives.

Religious liberty made both religion and the state more humane. Economic liberty — lessening government control over the economy — brought us incredible abundance and saved billions of lives. Ending alcohol Prohibition in America ended the crime and loss of civil liberties that misguided policy provoked.

Time and time again, we see that personal and economic liberty create harmony and abundance.

Yet in each of the examples above, and many more, good people from across the political spectrum feared and opposed the changes that ultimately proved to be so beneficial.

Today our liberal and conservative friends are on our side on these once-contentious issues. No one yearns for subsidies to prop up the horse and buggy industry. No one wants to return to slavery, or alcohol Prohibition, or compulsory state religion.

As libertarians, an important part of our job is to reassure our fearful friends on the left and the right that liberty works, and the more liberty we have, the better off we will be. On every issue.

Eventually, just as they did on the issues above, they will come to see the benefits of liberty on the remaining issues as well, and they will join with us on them.

As the libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”

(Thanks to that most prolific of authors, A. Nonymous, for the original version of this fable that I encountered on the web.)

Nurture and Protect New Libertarians

in Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Successful martial arts schools nurture and protect their newest students. Their beginners.

They care for and help develop their beginners’ skills and discipline.

They protect them from far more experienced and skilled students.Nurture and Protect

Because if new, young students make progress, they will keep practicing and keep coming to the dojo.

And, if they are able to learn with, and train with, those with comparable skills and experience, they will become more and more confident — and they will stay with the program.

But if older students are allowed to bully and intimidate younger and weaker and less skilled students, the young students will drop out. And, if this happens often enough, over a long enough period… the number of students will stall and shrink. Finally, the school will close.

We have this same challenge in libertarian organizations.

We must nurture and protect our newest libertarians. Our beginners.

They will misapply libertarian ideas. They will say things that are not libertarian.

Because they have not read as many economics, history, and libertarian books as longtime experienced libertarians have read.

Because they haven’t been to two or four or more libertarian conferences — as more experienced libertarians have.

Because they haven’t discussed and debated the implications and applications of core libertarian concepts.

When they make mistakes — just like you and I did — we need to be caring teachers and mentors to them — while letting them learn and develop at their own pace.r,

They need our knowledge and guidance. We need their excitement about liberty — and hunger to learn more.

For the growth and development and progress of the movement for liberty.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Best Libertarian Science Fiction/Fantasy of the Year Announced

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cory Doctorow's Homeland

Want some great libertarian-oriented reading? The Libertarian Futurist Society has some new recommendations for you.

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Futurist Society has given its coveted annual Prometheus Awards, which celebrate outstanding current and classic works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

This year’s Best Novel Award was a tie: Homeland by Cory Doctorow and Nexus by Ramez Naam.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Cory Doctorow has generously allowed readers to download Homeland — and some of his other works — for free here.

Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s 2009 Prometheus winner Little Brother, follows the continuing adventures of a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers — who must decide whether to release an incendiary Wikileaks-style exposé of massive government abuse and corruption as part of a struggle against the invasive national-security state.

This is Doctorow’s third Prometheus Award for Best Novel. He won last year for his Pirate Cinema. All three are young-adult novels with strong libertarian themes.

Nexus by Ramez Naam is described as “a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.”

The other finalists:

* A Few Good Men by Sarah Hoyt
* Crux by Ramez Naam (sequel to his Best Novel-winning Nexus)
* Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

The Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) winner is Falling Free, a 1988 novel by Lois McMaster Bujold that explores free will and self-ownership by considering the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

The other 2014 Hall of Fame finalists: “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 short story by Rudyard Kipling; “Sam Hall,” a 1953 short story by Poul Anderson; “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” a 1965 short story by Harlan Ellison; and Courtship Rite, a 1982 novel by Donald M. Kingsbury.

In a separate awards ceremony, four-time-Prometheus Award-winning author Vernor Vinge will receive a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Author-filksinger Leslie Fish — according to Prometheus “perhaps the most popular filk song writer of the past three decades and one who often includes pro-freedom themes in her songs” — will receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 for the combination of her 2013 libertarian-themed novella “Tower of Horses” and her related filk song, “The Horsetamer’s Daughter.” (No, that’s not a misspelling. Filk songs are songs created from within science fiction and fantasy fandom, usually dealing with related subject matter.)

The Prometheus Award will be presented in a ceremony during the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in London, England August 14-18, 2014.

For further great libertarian fiction reading recommendations, see the list of past Prometheus Award winners and nominees.