Should libertarians side with the Democrats?

First perhaps libertarians are not very numerous and thus they are playing against immovable opponents in the relevant political game.  That is, they won’t get anything back from Democrats.  That also suggests their support is worth nothing, and the decision can be viewed in that framework.  I suspect this is the relevant case.

Alternatively, perhaps libertarians are numerous enough to get some concessions from Democrats.  They would be playing a "threat-bluff-bargain" game with the two major parties.  Isn’t a mixed strategy usually best in these settings?  It becomes a question of "how much" to lean toward a party rather than "whether."  Libertarians would not want Republicans to feel they were abandoned altogether.  In any case the key is to act strong, offer more than you really have, and be prepared to bolt.

Keep also in mind there is a nested game within the so-called "libertarian movement."  Strategies which make sense in a coordinated fashion often fail when there is discord from within.  If libertarians think that the Republicans need to worry about the libertarians bolting, well, I suspect the libertarians have more than a few potential bolters of their own. 

My personal inclination is not to worry too much about such matters.  None of the obvious arguments, even if they appear strong, get us very far toward an answer.

Comments

Libertarians, both small-l and big-L, should think more about shifting coalitions than which party to side with. You have your sets of issues, now figure out who you have to ally with in order to implement your agenda. Put the environmentalists together with the economic conservatives to form the anti-ag subsidy coalition, for example.

I think the Libertarian Party could come in handy if libertarians would use the Party more strategically. If one of the two major party candidates is "libertarian enough," the LP doesn't run a candidate of their own and actively supports that candidate. If neither candidate fills the bill, then run a candidate. If you wanted to be even more sophisticated, make the decision based on the relative difference in "libertarianness." Thus, the Party might still support a not-so libertarian candidate if doing so would unseat a hardcore unlibertarian. You'd do even better if you target close races, especially Senate races in small states.

The libertarians really need to maximize the leverage of their modest numbers, and focusing on tight races and strategically deciding who to support and whether to run a candidate are ways to do this.

My biggest problem with libertarian political activists at this point (other than just plain disagreeing on the optimal size of government) is their whole anti-tax thing.

Like Tyler, I think libertarians should be a bit smarter about realizing that taxes are very desirable from the point of view of limiting government, because taxesactually show voters what government costs. Plus, the income tax is the least distortionary way to raise government dollars, so the libertarian opposition to the income tax strikes me as nutty.

I'd like to see the libertarians have more of an effect on American politcs, because I think libertarians would be most effective on those particular issues where they are correct.

For me, it's all about divided government. I don't really "support" either party; I merely try to make sure they fight too much to do anything constructive.

If they are true libertarians how can they be coordinated to be for or against any party? Even having a party strategy would be stretching it.

"...because taxesactually show voters what government costs."

In theory. But most people don't pay much for our government, and what they do pay is often obfuscated. Nevermind that when spending exceeds taxation, taxation is less clear as a reflection of the costs.

As Stalin might have said, "How many divisions do the libertarians have?" Libertarians are far more prevalent on the Web than in the voting booth.

I don't agree with the whole Taxation is theft crowd.
It is more like Taxation is Extortion. Some guy comes around selling you "protection", some times he protects you from others but usually he is the one you need to be protected from. Anyway, we are all Sharecroppers now.

I'm not sure whether or not playing a mixed game is really necessary for identifiable voting blocks. African Americans and Jews have both shown consistent resistance to Republican overtures, but it hasn't stopped Republicans for making a play for these groups. Now it could be that those plays are disingenuous and are just designed to get the other side to sink money into a bloc that they thought was safe. Hypothetically (these numbers are drawn out of thin air, but they have actual correlates), let's say that Republicans can afford to a 10-point gender gap but Democrats can't let it drop below 7-points. It makes sense for Republicans to try to make a play for that bloc... but on the other hand, it does seem like some Republican strategists are genuinely interested in expanding the party's base to, say, Catholic Hispanics. The Democrats, similarly, are not ready to give up on places like Kansas despite it being solid Red. So it seems like something else might be going on with how political strategists relate to voting blocs.

"Libertarians are far more prevalent on the Web than in the voting booth."

That's my sense, too, but why would that be true?

I don't agree with the whole Taxation is theft crowd.
It is more like Taxation is Extortion. Some guy comes around selling you "protection", some times he protects you from others but usually he is the one you need to be protected from. Anyway, we are all Sharecroppers now.

Wow, Steve, you just summed me up completely. (no sarcasm)

Ok, so I'm just throwing this out there.

Aren't taxes, especially progressive income taxes, the price to live in a country? I assume most libertarians would support price descrimination (or at least think it should be allowable), and progressive income taxes are just another form of price descrimination.

This just occured to me so feel free to point out where this is wrong.

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