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In modern day democracies, the issues of change and political stability are intimately related to the advancement of influential political party systems. Takeda (2015) explains that for at least two generations prior to the 1970 dogmatic regime saw the emergence of political systems that were built upon stabilized systems that embraced key social issues such as religion, ethnic boundaries, class, as well as center-periphery ties. However, Schmidt et al. (2012) reveal that with the inception the post-1960 regime, radical changes were experienced in the political arena of the United States as a result of the alignments, realignments, and dealignment that imposed massive alterations in the previously known continuities.
The Libertarian Party in the United States is probably one of the most significant cohorts of new political parties. Seidman (2017) explained that just like the “left – libertarian” political parties evident in other advanced economies, such as the Netherlands, France, and Scandinavia. The United States’ Libertarian party has attracted higher levels of electoral support since 2000. The Libertarian Party was founded on December 1971 under the leadership of David Nolan with the aim of promoting political ideologies aimed at strengthening the country’s civil liberties, diminishing the scope of government and promoting nonjudgmental capitalism in the United States (Ceron, Curini and Iacus, 2015). According to Spring (2017), the formation of this political institution was fueled by the multiple administrative concerns experienced in the regime of President Nixon, the culmination of the gold standard and the political issues that surrounded the Vietnam War.
Schattschneider (2017) explained that the Libertarian Party of the United States is well known for its infamous critique of the logics adopted by governmental institutions to foster economic developments as well as the policies put in place to infuse compromises between labor and capital in industrial communities. According to Silver (2017), the party bases its ideologies on the premise that the country’s economic development needs not to be considered as a political agenda but as a right to the citizenry of the U.S. Further, the Libertarians’ political ideologies greatly oppose the current fashions of setting administrative policies which are considered to bear a restrictive effect on the democratic participation of centralized groups of interest, political leaders, and the welfare state that is considered to be immensely bureaucratic. As a consequence, the political ideologies of the Libertarians are tailored in such as a way that it is minimally confirmative to the traditional Republicans and the ideologies of the Democrats while upholding the inherent concerns of equality. The current study seeks to undertake a critical analysis of the U.S. Libertarian Party by underscoring the reasons that stirred its formation, the voter groups in support of the party, its activities, and effects since 1971.
The Libertarian Party is the third largest political group in the United States. Navarro (2017) explained that the party was formed with the aim of protecting the US citizens from the detrimental economic effects that result from the tough regulatory frameworks adopted by historical administrative regimes. As a consequence, the Libertarians’ political stands are implemented with the end goal of favoring minimally controlled and laissez-faire economies. On the other hand, Szasz (2017) explain that The United States Libertarian Party fosters political campaigns aimed at fostering proper advocacy for strong civil liberties, little institutional regulation of the dominant cross border migrations, and the adoption of foreign policies that are non-interventional Havercroft and Murphy (2018). Seidman (2017) explained that the founding fathers of this political party were stimulated by the inherent need to adopt federal policies that put little pressure on the economic activities of other nations through the institutionalization of laws that showed utmost respect to the freedoms of travel and trade for foreign states.
The United States Libertarian Party was formed on December 1971 at the residence of David Nolan located in Colorado Springs. According to Ceron, Curini, and Iacus (2015), the formation of this political party was as a result of the flaws committed by President Nixon’s administration in the Vietnam War, the closure of the Gold Standard and conscription. To date the United States Libertarian Party recites its operational goal in is platform “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.” Schmidt et al. (2012) explain that its Statement of Principles begins: “We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual… Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty”. As a consequence, the party implements its operational strategies with the sole aim of promoting individual liberty in the economic affairs of the citizens through the alienation of foreign interferences and the US militaristic interferences experienced in other economies. Navarro (2017) explain that Libertarians in the U.S. uphold the belief that the solution to the political problems faced by the United States is the country’s inherent commitment to the previous freedoms that earned it its current global position. The scholars reveal that the Colorado based founders of his political organization advocated for proper institutionalization of a free market economy and dedication to the hard-earned civil liberties, a foreign regulatory regime that upholds peace, non-intervention and free trade as proposed by the country’s founding fathers.
The Libertarian party is the third largest political organization in the United States. Following its formation in 1971, John Hospers was nominated as the first presidential candidate in 1972: a race in which the party only received a single electoral vote (Spring, 2017). Similarly, the political institution was given an automatic ballot status in 30 states in the presidential election of 2012. In the elections of 1994, 40 Libertarians were elected to hold political offices; an aspect that influenced an increase in the number of citizens who made the decision of registering as members of this political movement. Takeda (2015) explained that by the close of 2009, over 145 Libertarians were occupying elected political offices across the United States. Similarly, Havercroft and Murphy (2018) reveal that the Libertarian Party has gained higher levels of popularity in the context of state legislatures although it has never had the opportunity of winning a seat in the Congress. b
Structure and composition
The composition of the Libertarian Party in the United States can be explained through the adoption of three varied theoretical frameworks that are identified as: resource mobilization, structural change, and breakdown. According to Schmidt et al. (2012), the breakdown school of thought explained the process of mobilizing political parties based on the perspectives of responding to the existing societal strains and economic deprivation among the members of a country. Proponents of this framework base their arguments on the premise that political crises emerge in instances where societies breed popular loyalty as a result of the values, beliefs, and norms put in place but fail to achieve the desired levels of political stability and legitimacy. Putting the United States’ Libertarian Party into perspective, the previous political regimes were made up of politicians who promised the populace that they would avail them with fiscal security through provision of the resources needed to foster upward mobility. However, the economic crises that were evident in the 1970s and the 1980s played an influential role in shuttering these expectations. Such a situation led to the emergence of the new wave of Libertarians. The Libertarian Party considers its platform as a suitable avenue of fostering its members’ individual freedom and liberty through provision of an avenue aimed at fostering higher degrees of personal and economic issues without foreign entanglements. Similarly, Schmidt et al. (2012) explain that the political composition of the Libertarian Party that embraces the breakdown school of thought opposes governmental policies that demean people of their security rights such as the gun control laws.
The structural change model is based on the proposition that any society can meet its underlying aspirations and demands through consideration of the avenues on which their legality is founded (Schattschneider, 2017). However, Szasz (2017) explained that since the political society is continuously involved in activities aimed at instilling economic transformations among its people, the accomplishments may lead to the generation of refined preferences that may not be satisfied with the existing institutions, an aspect that leads to the creation of new platforms of dissatisfaction. According to Schmidt et al. (2012), the desired societal transformations lead to the adoption of collective mobilizations surrounding the new founded political issues and lines of wrangles. On the other hand, Silver (2017) reveal that the breakdown approach tends to embrace the functionalist and Marxist viewpoints which demystify that capitalist society only adopt collective mobilization in instances where they experience the economic crisis. An analytical analysis of the composition of the Libertarian Party in the United States reveals that the political institution is made up of Americans who are in favor of an economic environment that is characterized with minimally regulated markets, liberalization of drug laws, opening immigration and fostering free trade. Therefore, the Libertarian Party boasted of 138, 815 people in the United States that had signed the political institution’s membership statement in 2017 (Libertarian National Committee, 2017).
Remarkable results in major political contests
Some candidates of the Libertarian Party have shown impressive performances for certain state races despite the miniature position occupied by the political organization in the United States, an aspect that shows its growing support in devolved institutions Takeda (2015). For instance, in the Senate race for Alaska, the Libertarian candidate Joe Miller managed to garner about 29% of the total votes cast (Alaska Election Results,2016). Even though, the turnout for Joe Miller was quite well. Comparing to the winner from Republican party, Lisa Murkowski garnered 45% of the total votes cast. However, Libertarian Party and other minority political parties still have a huge gap with two major political parties.
The underlying functions of the Libertarian Party can be summarized by what it stands for. The political institution acts as a platform through which its members nominate candidates for election, promoting the policies based on certain agreed principles, organizing elected lawmakers to support or vote against bills, and ensuring that members embrace a state of loyalty to the party. According to Schattschneider (2017), the Libertarian Party advocates for the establishment of an operational environment that promotes the freedom of individuals, economic wellness, an education system that is properly strategized a clean and healthy environment, and a healthcare system that adores the principles of a free market as discussed in the ensuing sections.
The United States’ Libertarian Party advocates for the institutionalization of policy issues aimed at reducing poverty and fostering the welfare of the citizenry through eradication of the existing capitalist economic institutions (Navarro, 2017). According to Schattschneider (2017), the leadership of the party advocates for the adoption of policies aimed at eradicating the issues that strengthen the welfare state. Takeda (2015) explained that the party bases its propositions on the premise that the government should only be left with the role controlling and protecting property rights, offering solutions to economic disputes and availing subsidies for housing infrastructure. Further, Ceron, Curini, and Iacus (2015) explain that the party promotes the economic wellness of its supporters by propelling governmental institutions to provide the necessary legal platforms through which voluntary trade can be protected with higher levels of effectiveness.
The Libertarian Party advocates for the provision of high-quality education among the residents of the United States by ending the prevalent public-school system. According to Ceron, Curini and Iacus (2015), key Libertarians hold the ideology that high quality education can only be availed through inclusion of a free market system for the purposes of ensuring the desired levels of accountability and diversity in the choice of the institution that a student yearns to acquire education. Spring (2017) reveal that the Libertarians look at the issue of educating a child as the sole responsibility of the parent; an aspect that calls for the guardian to make decisions of the schools they desire their children to attend at their own expenses and without suffering the pressures that are imposed by the government.
The Libertarian Party considers advocacy for the sensible consumption of the natural wealth provided by nature as a way of ensuring that the populace lives in clean and healthy surroundings. Schattschneider (2017) explained that in the propositions of the Libertarians, private landowners are faced with the obligation of ensuring that such natural resources are used in ways that are environmentally friendly. Similarly, Seidman (2017) explained that the supporters of this party hold the belief that the administrative regimes experienced in the United States have remained adamant in dealing with the problems facing the institutions established to foster environmental protection. Consequently, the leadership of the Libertarian Party consent that the environment is effectively protected in instances where the government gives a clear definition and enforcement of the underlying personal rights and laws aimed at protecting the targeted natural resources. According to Spring (2017), the party believes that proper adoption of free markets and property rights in the United States will be of critical essence fostering the advancement of technological novelties and behavioral alterations needed to protect the environment.
The Libertarian Party opposes the fiscal policies adopted by the government with the aim of intervening and regulating the financial aspects of its citizens through imposition of taxes on wages, profits and rents. According to Navarro (2017), the Libertarians advocate for the abolishment of the regulations that restrict business people from advertising their services, products as well as the process they charge for these merchandises. For instance, the leadership of this party came up in strong terms to propel the government towards repealing income taxes and total expulsion of the Internal Revenue Service. According to Schmidt et al. (2012), the party believes that the federal government can reduce its national debt through adoption of measures aimed at minimizing its expenditure as opposed to instilling tax increments. On the other hand, Schattschneider (2017) demystify that the members of the Libertarian Party operate in favor of fiscal policies aimed at strengthening free market banking initiatives that allow financial institutions to compete for clients based on the efficacy of the services they deliver.
The Libertarian Party of the United States tailors its functions in such a way that they are in total support of a free healthcare market that enjoys minimal influence from the federal government. According to Schattschneider (2017), the leadership of this party advocates for total repeal of governmental influence in the country’s healthcare system that is manifested through licensing, oversight and regulation. A clear analysis of the party’s platform indicates its position as an n institution that acknowledges an individual’s freedom to determine the kind of facilities they can attend as well as the amount of healthcare insurance that suits their financial strengths.
The Libertarian Party has a significant positive effect on the voter population of the United States. Since its inception, Libertarian party has influenced the country’s voter turnout to become the third largest political organization in the U.S. In the presidential contest of 1972, the Libertarian Party received about 3, 674 popular votes. In 1976, the political party had increased its supporter base to over 170, 000; a figure that represented about 0.2% of the total votes cast in the presidential election Takeda (2015). In 1980, the Libertarian Party under the candidacy of Ed Clark increased its supporter base to 921, 128; which is considered to be the highest since the inception of this party. However, the number of supporters saw a significant increase to 1, 788,112 under the candidacy of Garry Johnson in 2016 (Spring, 2017). To date, the Libertarian Party is considered as one of the most influential political organizations in the United States after the Democrats and the Republicans. The party has strived towards attaining a positive advancement in its supporter base since its inception. For instance, its supporter base increased from 3,674 in the presidential elections of 1972 to about 170,000 in 1976 (a figure that represented a percentage increase of over 4000% in the party’s support base). Schattschneider (2017) explains that by 2016, the party had mobilized over 1.75 million supporters. Looking back to the 2016 Presidential election turnout (Leip, n.d.), Donald J. Trump gained 45.93%, Hillary Clinton gained 48.02%, and Gary Johnson gained 3.27%. As you can see, the turnouts between the two major political parties are quite tight. So, Libertarian’s 3.27% of the popular vote played a significant role that affected the competition between Trump and Clinton.
Being the third largest political organization in the United States, the Libertarian Party has been influential in fighting for the democratic rights of citizens in this economy. Similarly, the party has shaken the political stability of the Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. particularly after the inclusion of Gary Johnson as its presidential candidate in 2016. For instance, Spring (2017) explained that following the Republican’s victory in Indiana’s presidential primaries of 2016, a number of Trump’s supporters made the decision of changing their political inclinations to support the Libertarian Party. Key Republican politicians such as John Moore (a Nevada based assemblyman) and Senator Laura Ebke of Nebraska made the decision to switch their political affiliations to join the Libertarian Party. According to Monica, & Hains (2018), as we can see the American political polarization since 1994 to 2017, the two major political parties have become radicalized. The realignments of the centrists were moving to the left or right, some of “centrists” have become leaned Democrat or leaned Republican. Therefore, do two major political parties really concern about the centrists? They might think these “centrists” would become leaned Democrat or leaned Republican eventually.
The study sought to undertake a critical analysis of the Libertarian Party by underscoring the reasons that stirred its formation, the voter groups in support of the party, its activities, and effects since 1971. The Libertarian Party is well known for its infamous critique of the logics adopted by governmental institutions to foster economic developments as well as the policies put in place to infuse compromises between labor and capital in industrial communities. The political ideologies of the Libertarians are tailored in such as a way that it is minimally confirmative to the traditional Republicans and the ideologies of the Democrats while upholding the inherent concerns of equality. Consequently, the party implements its operational strategies with the sole aim of promoting individual liberty in the economic affairs of the citizens through alienation of foreign interferences and the US militaristic interferences experienced in other economies. That the Libertarian Party has managed to attain the 50- state ballot access principle in its presidential candidacies of 1980, 1992, 1996 and 2016; an aspect that reveals the extents of acceptance and recognition of the political party across the United States. The political institution acts as a platform through which its members nominate candidates for election, promoting the policies based on certain agreed principles, organizing elected lawmakers to support or vote against bills, and ensuring that members embrace a state of loyalty to the party. Furthermore, the Libertarian Party advocates for the establishment of an operational environment that promotes the freedom of individuals, economic wellness, and an education system that is properly strategized a clean and healthy environment, and a healthcare system that addresses the principles of a free market.
However, looking back to the 2016 presidential election, a common theme is the rise to leadership. The success of Donald Trump, and success of his personal “show”, can Libertarian Party learn the lesson from President Trump? According to a poll in 2016 (Sherfinski, 2016), “More than three-quarters of respondents didn’t know enough about Mr. Johnson, the former New Mexico governor and 2012 presidential candidate, to have formed an opinion.” Gary Johnson gained 3.27% of the popular vote in 2016, which was better than the turnout for him in 2012. As the rise of personalized politics, the Libertarian Party has to pay attention to the functions of a party.
- Alaska Election Results 2016. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/elections/2016/results/alaska
- Ceron, A., Curini, L., & Iacus, S. M. (2015). Using sentiment analysis to monitor electoral campaigns: Method matters—evidence from the United States and Italy. Social Science Computer Review, 33(1), 3-20.
- Havercroft, J., & Murphy, J. (2018). Is the Tea Party Libertarian, Authoritarian, or Something Else? Social Science Quarterly, 99(3), 1021-1037.
- Leip, D. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/
- Libertarian National Committee – Membership Report Donor … (2017). Retrieved from http://hq.lp.org/pipermail/lnc-business/attachments/20180103/93c34956/attachment-0001.pdf
- Monica, & Hains, T. (2018, April 22). Pew Research Center: Political Polarization from 1994-2017. Retrieved from https://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2018/04/05/pew-research-center-political-polarization-from-1994-2017/
- Navarro, V. (2017). The importance of considering social class to understand what is happening in the United States: the election of Donald trump. International Journal of Health Services, 47(4), 601-611.
- Schattschneider, E. (2017). Party government: American government in action. Routledge.
- Schmidt, S. W., Shelley, M. C., Bardes, B. A., Ford, L. E., & Maxwell, W. E. (2012). American Government and Politics Today-Texas Edition, 2011-2012. Cengage Learning.
- Seidman, S. A. (2017). Election Posters in the United States after World War II. In Election Posters around the Globe (pp. 361-386). Springer, Cham.
- Sherfinski, D. (2016, March 24). Poll shows Gary Johnson in double digits in 3-way race against Clinton, Trump. Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/24/libertarian-gary-johnson-double-digits-race-agains/
- Silver, R. J. (2017). Fixing United States Elections: Increasing Voter Turnout and Ensuring Representative Democracy. Drexel L. Rev., 10, 239.
- Spring, J. (2017). Political Agendas for Education: From Make America Great Again to Stronger Together. Routledge.
- Szasz, T. (2017). Faith in freedom: Libertarian principles and psychiatric practices. Routledge.
- Takeda, O. (2015). A Forgotten Minority? A Content Analysis of Asian Pacific Americans in Introductory American Government Textbooks. PS: Political Science & Politics, 48(3), 430-439.
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