Libertarian Party (United States)

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Libertarian Party
Missing image
LP Logo

Party Chairman Michael Dixon
Senate Leader None
House Leader None
Founded 1971
Headquarters 2600 Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20037
Political ideology Libertarian
International affiliation none
Color(s) Blue (unofficial), Yellow (used occasionally to distinguish them from the Democratic Party)
Website Libertarian Party (

The Libertarian Party is a United States political party created in 1971. It claims to be the largest third party in the United States although others dispute this claim (see below for a full discussion of the issue).

The stated platform of the Libertarian Party is consistent with the philosophy of libertarianism, favoring minimally regulated, laissez-faire markets, favor social freedom including legalization of drugs, and strong civil liberties.



Key tenets of the Libertarian Party platform include the following:

Libertarians claim that their platform follows from the ultimate value of individual liberty. In their "Statement of Principles," they say "We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose." To this end, Libertarians want to reduce the size of government (eliminating many of its current functions entirely), and "support the repeal of all taxation"[1] (

Libertarianism [edit]


Austrian School
Classical liberalism
Individualist anarchism


Key issues
Economic views
Views of rights
Theories of law

Many Americans view politics on a spectrum between left and right, with the Democrats representing the center-left, and Republicans representing the center-right. Libertarians reject this description of political positions; instead, Libertarians refer people to the Nolan chart to communicate their perception of the political spectrum.

Many political commentators cannot seem to agree on how to classify the Libertarian Party. Prominent conservative author Ann Coulter accused the Libertarians of being a single-issue party because she disagrees with them on the Drug War, while others accuse Libertarians of focusing predominantly on issues of market regulation.

Within the framework of libertarian politics, the Libertarian Party's platform falls roughly in the realm of free market minarchism. The party advocates limiting the government as much as possible, within the confines of the United States Constitution. As in any political party, there is some internal disagreement about the platform, and not all the party's supporters advocate its complete or immediate implementation, but most think that the USA would benefit from most of the Libertarian Party's proposed changes. However, a few Libertarians are actually anarcho-capitalists who view minarchy as a first step towards the abolition of government.


The Libertarian Party was formed in the home of David Nolan on 11 December 1971, after several months of debate among members of the Committee to Form a Libertarian Party. This group included John Hospers, Edward Crane, Manual Klausner, Murray Rothbard, R.A. Childs, Theodora Nathan, and Jim Dean. Prompted in part by price controls implemented by President Richard Nixon, the Libertarian Party viewed the dominant Republican and Democratic parties as having diverged from what they viewed as the libertarian principles of the American founding fathers.

Libertarian Presidential Tickets

1972: John Hospers and Theodora Nathan
    2,691 popular votes (0.003%); 1 electoral vote;
1976: Roger MacBride and David Bergland
    173,011 popular votes (0.21%)
1980: Ed Clark and David Koch
    921,299 popular votes (1.1%)
1984: David Bergland and James Lewis
    228,705 popular votes (0.25%)
1988: Ron Paul and Andre Marrou
    432,179 popular votes (0.47%)
1992: Andre Marrou and Nancy Lord
    291,627 popular votes (0.28%)
1996: Harry Browne and Jo Jorgensen
    485,798 popular votes (0.50%)
2000: Harry Browne and Art Olivier
    384,431 popular votes (0.36%)
2004: Michael Badnarik and Richard Campagna
    397,367 popular votes (0.34%)

By the 1972 presidential election, the party had grown to over 80 members and had attained ballot access in two states. Their presidential ticket, John Hospers and Theodora Nathan, earned fewer than 3,000 votes, but received the first and only electoral college vote for a Libertarian ticket, from Roger MacBride of Virginia, who was pledged to Richard Nixon. His was the first vote ever cast for a woman in the United States Electoral College. MacBride became the party's presidential nominee in the 1976 presidential election.

In the 1980 presidential contest, the Libertarian Party gained ballot access in every state, the first third party to accomplish this since the Socialist Party in 1916. The ticket of Ed Clark and David H. Koch spent several million dollars on this campaign and earned over one percent of the popular vote, the most successful Libertarian presidential campaign to date.

On December 29, 1981, the first successful election in the continental United States of a Libertarian Party candidate occurred as Richard P. Siano, running against both a Republican and a Democrat, was elected to the office of Kingwood Township Committeeman in western Hunterdon County, New Jersey. He served a three year term of office.

In 1983, the party was divided by internal disputes; former party leaders Edward Crane and David Koch left the party, taking a great deal of support with them. In 1984, the party's presidential nominee, David Bergland, only obtained ballot access in 40 states and earned only one-quarter of one percent of the popular vote.

A new strategy brought former Republican Congressman Ron Paul to the LP's presidential ticket in 1988; that year, the party regained ballot access in all 50 states. Andre Marrou, a Libertarian elected to the Alaska state legislature and Ron Paul's running mate in 1988, led the 1992 ticket. Investment adviser Harry Browne headed the 1996 and 2000 tickets; in all of these cases, the party's presidential nominee drew in between one third and one half of one percent of the popular vote. In 2000, a split between the Arizona chapter and the national party led to the placement of science-fiction author L. Neil Smith on the Presidential ballot in Arizona rather than Harry Browne.

The 2004 election cycle saw the Libertarian Party's closest presidential nomination race to date. Three candidates -- gun-rights activist and software engineer Michael Badnarik, talk radio host Gary Nolan, and Hollywood producer Aaron Russo -- all came within two percent of each other on the first two ballots at the 2004 national convention in Atlanta. Badnarik was chosen as the party's presidential nominee on the third ballot after Nolan was eliminated, a comeback many saw as surprising, as Badnarik had not been viewed as a frontrunner for the nomination — the majority of delegates were won over during the convention itself, due to Badnarik's perceived strength in the debates compared to Russo and Nolan. Badnarik's results were similar to the 2000 results of Harry Browne. He received very nearly as many votes as independent candidate Ralph Nader.

As of 2004, the Libertarian Party's national chair is Michael Dixon and its national director is Joe Seehusen. This year marked the official support of the Libertarian Party for Instant-Runoff Voting. Some LP members felt the Executive Committee endorsed it without appropriate study of other voting methods or the effects the adoption of this method would have on election outcomes for LP candidates. This move created division and dissent among those LP members who viewed the Executive Committee's action as demonstrating a lack of deliberation. There are LP members who support Approval voting and other alternative methods.

Relationship to Major Parties

The Libertarian Party has substantial points of disagreement with both the Democratic and the Republican parties. However, the party has historically had more influence on and closer ties with the Republican Party. For example, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich claimed to be influenced by Libertarian principles, and was praised by many Libertarians for attempting to shrink government. Analysts within the American right have used the language and social critiques of Libertarians with regard to market deregulation (for example, the frequent citing of studies by the Cato Institute). The 1988 Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Ron Paul serves as a Republican Congressman from Texas, and is also a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a group of libertarian-minded members of that party.

Libertarian candidates have even occasionally thrown their support behind Republican contenders. In a 2002 South Dakota election for Senate, for example, Libertarian candidate Kurt Evans suspended his campaign a week before Election Day and urged voters to support Republican candidate John R. Thune. The Libertarian Party supported Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton, although for different reasons (citing several actions they deemed to be unconstitutional). In 1992, after incumbent Georgia Senator Wyche Fowler won a plurality but failed to achieve 50% and was forced into a runoff, the Libertarian candidate publicly threw his support to Paul D. Coverdell, who then won the election.

On the other hand, the Libertarian Party has also worked towards defeating some prominent Republicans, such as Bob Barr and George W. Bush. It opposes the Republican Party on some issues of civil liberties: for example, the Libertarian Party has sharply attacked the USA PATRIOT Act for its potential for infringements of civil rights. The party has also made the repeal of drug prohibition laws one of its priorities, a position that puts them at odds with both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Size and influence

The Libertarian Party claims to currently be the largest third party in the United States, a nation which is overwhelmingly dominated by two major parties who typically capture more than 95% of the vote in partisan elections. Their claim is disputed by some, especially other third parties such as the Greens. There is no single objective, agreed-upon standard to compare the size of third parties, so what is presented here is a collection of various measures sometimes cited.

Libertarians point to the performance of their presidential candidates, who have often finished above most permanently-organized third parties. In the 2004 election, Libertarian Michael Badnarik received more votes than all non-major party candidates except for Ralph Nader, who ran as an independent but accepted the endorsement and ballot lines of the mostly-defunct Reform Party; received more votes than all the other third party candidates combined, and three times as many as the next placed third party candidate (David Cobb). In 2000 and 1996, Libertarian Harry Browne was bested by both the Green Party and Reform Party nominees. The Libertarian candidate finished ahead of all other third party candidates in 1992, 1988, 1984, and 1980 (though it finished well behind independent candidates Ross Perot in 1992 and John Bayard Anderson in 1980). No other current third party has finished third in a presidential election more than once, nor have they received an electoral college vote, as the Libertarian candidate did in 1972 (from a renegade Nixon elector). Libertarians have also achieved 50-state ballot access for their candidate four times (in 1980, 1992, 1996, and 2000), a feat no other third party has achieved more than once.

In recent elections, Libertarians have run far more candidates for office, at all levels, than all other third parties combined. In the 2004 elections, there were 377 Libertarian candidates for state legislative seats, compared with 108 Constitution Party candidates, 94 Green Party candidates, and 11 Reform Party candidates. In the 2000 elections, the party ran about 1,430 candidates at the local, state, and federal level. More than 1,600 Libertarians ran for office in the 2002 mid-term election. Accordingly, their combined vote totals have far exceeded those of other parties: in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections, Libertarian candidates for state House of Representatives received more than a million votes -- more than twice the votes received by all other minor parties combined.

Libertarians have had mixed success in electing candidates at the state and local level (no third party is currently represented in the U.S. Congress, although Republican Ron Paul is a former Libertarian presidential candidate). 581 Libertarians currently hold some form of public office, although many of these are appointed positions [2] ( Following the 2002 elections, more than 300 Libertarians held elected state and local offices; following the 2004 elections, at least 221 Greens hold elected office [3] ( Though twelve Libertarians have previously been elected to state legislatures, none hold that office currently, unlike the Greens (one in Maine), the Independence Party (one in Minnesota), the Progressive Party (six in Vermont), the Republican Moderate Party (one in Alaska), and the Working Families Party (one in New York). Some Libertarian candidates for state office have performed relatively strongly in statewide races. In two Massachusetts Senate races (2000 and 2002), Libertarian candidates Carla Howell and Michael Cloud, who did not face serious Republican contenders (in 2002, the candidate failed to make the ballot), won a record-setting 11.9% and 19%, respectively. In 2002, Ed Thompson, the brother of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, won 11% running for the same office, resulting in a seat on the state elections board for the Libertarian Party, the only one for a third party in the U.S.

As of October 2004, the Libertarians ranked fifth in voter registration nationally. The Constitution Party ranked third with 367,521 registrants, next to the Greens' 312,963 and the Libertarians' 258,408. However, in the opinion of Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, of the 326,763 California voters affiliated with the Constitution Party, who are actually registrants of California's American Independent Party, nearly all registered in the belief that they were registering as independents i.e. not associating with any political party. Also, excluding New York (where Libertarians just recently won the right to register) and California (where the American Independent Party skews the results), Libertarians rank third in voter registration. The Libertarians ranked third in fifteen states, the Greens ranked third in eight states, the Constitution Party ranked third in two states, and the Reform Party ranked third in one state. (Only 27 states require voters to affiliate with a party. Some states don't allow voters to register with third parties.)


Note 1: Template:Web reference Note 2: Template:Web reference Note 3: Template:Citenewsauthor

See also

External links


Libertarians as "spoilers"

Template:USPartyde:Libertarian Party ja:アメリカ・リバータリアン党 sv:Libertarian Party zh:美国自由党


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