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May 28, 2008

Wikipedia: Libertarian Party (United States)

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Libertarian Party
Libertarian Party Logo
Party Chairman Bill Redpath
Senate Leader None
House Leader None
Founded December 11, 1971
Political ideology Libertarianism
Political position Fiscal: Laissez Faire
Social: Libertarian views of rights
International affiliation None
Website Libertarian Party

The Libertarian Party is a United States political party founded on December 11, 1971.[1] It is one of the largest continuing Third parties in the United States, claiming more than 200,000 registered voters and more than 600 people in public office,[2] including mayors, county executives, county-council members, school-board members and other local officials. It has more people in office than all other third parties combined.[2]

The political platform of the Libertarian Party reflects that group’s particular brand of libertarianism, favoring minimally regulated, laissez-faire markets, strong civil liberties, minimally regulated migration across borders, and non-interventionism in foreign policy that respects freedom of trade and travel to all foreign countries.


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Key tenets of the Libertarian Party platform include the following[3]:

  • Adoption of laissez-faire principles which would reduce the state’s role in the economy. This would include, among other things, markedly reduced taxation, privatization of Social Security and welfare (for individuals, as well as elimination of “corporate welfare”), markedly reduced regulation of business, rollbacks of labor regulations, and reduction of government interference in foreign trade.
  • Protection of property rights.
  • Minimal government bureaucracy. The Libertarian Party states that the government’s responsibilities should be limited to the protection of individual rights from the initiation of force and fraud.
  • Strong civil liberties positions, including privacy protection, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and sexual freedom.
  • No government interference in reproductive rights, including access to abortion. (Right-libertarians and Libertarians for Life usually do not support abortion, but they believe that the federal government has no say in regulating the procedure).
  • Support for the unrestricted right to the means of self-defense (such as gun rights, the right to carry mace or pepper spray, etc).
  • Abolition of laws against “victimless crimes” (such as prostitution, driving without a seatbelt, use of controlled substances, fraternization, etc.).
  • Opposition to regulations on how businesses should run themselves (e.g., smoking)
  • A foreign policy of free trade and non-interventionism.
  • Support for a fiscally responsible government including a hard currency (commodity-based money supply as opposed to fiat currency).
  • Abolition of all forms of taxpayer-funded assistance (welfare, food stamps, public housing, etc.)

Libertarians state that their platform follows from the consistent application of their guiding principle: “mutual respect for rights.” They are therefore deeply supportive of the concept of individual liberty as a precondition for moral and stable societies. In their “Statement of Principles,” they declare: “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).

Libertarians reject the view of politics as a one-dimensional spectrum, divided between Democrats representing the Left or Center-left and Republicans representing the Right or Center-right.

The Nolan chart, with the traditional left-right political spectrum on the dashed diagonal

The Nolan chart, with the traditional left-right political spectrum on the dashed diagonal

To illustrate their view that the one-dimensional view of politics is insufficient to describe the myriad political philosophies held by the public, Libertarians introduced the Nolan chart to communicate their belief that politics is at least two-dimensional. A variation of the Nolan chart is enhanced (via a link from the main website) by a ten-question poll (five questions dealing with economic-freedom issues and five questions dealing with personal-freedom issues), which it bills as “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz,” allowing respondents to classify their political leanings.

Among outside political watchers, some consider Libertarians to be conservative (primarily because of their support of the right to bear arms and because of their views on taxes and states’ rights); while others consider them liberal because of their advocacy of a non-interventionist foreign policy, the repeal of drug prohibition, and the elimination of laws that interfere with private consensual acts (such as prostitution and gambling). Libertarians consider themselves neither conservative nor liberal; rather, they believe they represent a unique philosophy that is all their own.

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 debate about the platform, and not all of the party’s supporters advocate its complete or immediate implementation, but most think that the United States would benefit from most of its proposed changes..

Current structure and composition

Further information: Politics of the United States#Organization of American political parties


The members, when gathered at the bi-annual Libertarian National Convention, are the ultimate authority within the Libertarian Party.

A 17-member National Committee[4] (currently chaired by William Redpath) is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of the national Libertarian Party and its headquarters, in representative style.

Robert Kraus is currently the acting Executive Director and Operations Director.

The Libertarian National Congressional Committee (LNCC) assists party candidates in state-level races; its current chairman is M. Carling of California.

State chapters

Each state also has a state committee, usually consisting of statewide officers and regional representation of one kind or another. Similarly, county, town, city and ward committees, where organized, generally consist of party members elected at the local level. State and local committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction, oversee local conventions and in some cases primaries or caucuses, and may have a role in nominating candidates for elected office under state law.


Since its inception, individuals have been able to join the Libertarian Party by simply signing their agreement with the organization’s membership pledge, which states that the signer does not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. During the mid eighties into the early nineties, this membership category was called an “instant” membership; currently these are referred to as “signature members”.

Individuals may remit annual dues to obtain additional benefits, such as a subscription to the party’s monthly newspaper, LPNews, or to have a vote at party conventions.

In the late nineties, the LNC began sharing annual national dues with the state parties, under a program called the “Unified Membership Program” or UMP.[5] However, this program was terminated in 2006 due to funding shortfalls at the national level, and the inability of many state parties to fund a staffer or find a volunteer to prepare the required bookkeeping to account for it.[6]

Interestingly, at about the same time the Libertarian Party was about to abandon UMP, the Democratic National Committee adopted the idea and in 2005 DNC Chairman Dean began a program called 50 State Strategy that uses DNC national funds to assist all state parties and pay for full time professional staffers.[7] Some Democratic activists have suggested that the DNC program has contributed significantly to the turnaround in Democratic fortunes in state, local, and national elections since 2005.

Current events

2007 Elections

In the 2007 Elections, Libertarian Party candidates won 14 elective offices, including an election for mayor of Avis, Pennsylvania.[8]

2008 Presidential nominating process

Several candidates were seeking to become the party’s 2008 presidential nominee. Mike Gravel had changed from the Democratic Party to the Libertarian Party. Bob Barr, a former Republican U.S. Congressman, announced on May 12 that he would seek the nomination.[9] The final election was made at the 2008 national convention in Denver, Colorado, in late May 2008. Ron Paul, who was the party’s 1988 nominee, had been mentioned as a possible nominee as well, but has officially denied any intent to run under any third-party banner. Paul received several write-in votes during the nomination process. On December 12, 2007, the Party adopted a resolution requesting Paul to run on the Libertarian ticket if he did not win the Republican Party nomination.[10] On May 25, the Libertarian Party chose Bob Barr as their official candidate for president with Wayne Allyn Root as his running mate.


The Libertarian Party was formed in Colorado Springs in the home of David Nolan on December 11, 1971, after several months of debate among members of the Committee to Form a Libertarian Party, founded July 17.[11] This group included John Hospers, Edward Crane, Manuel Klausner, Murray Rothbard, R.A. Childs, Theodora (Tonie) Nathan, and Jim Dean. Prompted in part by price controls and the end of the Gold Standard 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.

A press conference announcing the new party was held on January 31 at the party’s headquarters in Westminster, Colorado. The first national convention, attracting 89 delegates from 23 states, was held in June in Denver, Colorado. According to Ron Crickenberger, former Political Director of the LP, a search of LP records showed that the LP had elected Miguel Gilson-De Lemos in a partisan local board race in New York even before the adoption of its first platform. Several others were also elected or appointed that year. LP leaders initially doubted they would even see 6 people elected or appointed by 2001, so this led to early optimism among some. However, in subsequent years the number of people in office seemed to be about 1% of its donor base: approximately 30 officeholders with 3,000 donors in 1981; 100 in office and 10,000 donors in 1991; and 600 and 60,000 in 2001.[citation needed]

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 A. 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
397,265 popular votes (0.34%)
2008: Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root

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 presidential ticket, from Roger MacBride of Virginia, who was pledged to Richard Nixon. His was also 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 1978 Dick Randolph became the first Libertarian to win state-level office with his election to the Alaska House of Representatives.

In the 1980 presidential contest, the Libertarian Party gained ballot access in all 50 states, the District of Columbia (DC), and Guam, the first time a third party accomplished this since the Socialist Party in 1916. The ticket of Ed Clark and David H. Koch spent several million dollars on this political campaign and earned more than one percent of the popular vote, the most successful Libertarian presidential campaign to date.

On December 29, 1981, the first widely reported successful election in the continental United States of a Libertarian Party candidate in a partisan race occurred as Richard P. Siano, a Boeing 707 pilot for Trans World Airlines, running against both a Republican and a Democrat, was elected to the office of Kingwood Township Committeeman in western Hunterdon County, New Jersey. His election resulted from the special election held on December 29, 1981 to break a tie vote in the general election between him and the Democratic candidate. He received 63% of the votes cast in the special election. 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, taking a number of their supporters with them. In 1984, the party’s presidential nominee, David Bergland, gained access to the ballot in 36 states and earned one-quarter of one percent of the popular vote. In 1987, Doug Anderson became the first Libertarian elected to office in a major city, elected to the Denver Election Commission (later, in 2005, Anderson was elected to the Lakewood, Colorado city council).[12]

In 1988, former Republican Congressman Ron Paul won the Libertarian nomination for president and was on the ballot in 46 states. Paul later successfully ran for United States House of Representatives from Texas, once again as a Republican, an office in which he still serves. In 1992, Andre Marrou, a Libertarian elected to the Alaska state legislature and Ron Paul’s running mate in 1988, led the ticket, with attorney Nancy Lord as his Vice Presidential (VP) running mate. For the first time since the Clark campaign in 1980, the Libertarian Party made the ballot in all 50 states, DC, and Guam. In 1994, radio personality Howard Stern embarked on a political campaign for Governor of New York, formally announcing his candidacy under the Libertarian Party ticket. Although he legally qualified for the office and campaigned for a time after his nomination, many viewed the run for office as nothing more than a publicity stunt. He subsequently withdrew his candidacy because he did not want to comply with the financial disclosure requirements for candidates.

Investment adviser Harry Browne headed the 1996 and 2000 presidential tickets. The VP candidate in 1996 was South Carolina entrepreneur Jo Jorgensen; in 2000, Art Olivier of California was Browne’s running mate. In 1996 the Party again made the ballot in all 50 states, DC and Guam. The party’s presidential ticket made the ballot in 49 states, DC and Guam in 2000.

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, the Arizona Libertarian Party, which had been disaffiliated from the national organization in late 1999, but which controlled the Libertarian ballot line in that state, nominated science fiction author L. Neil Smith and newspaperman Vin Suprynowicz, rather than Browne and Olivier, as its presidential slate. Smith and Suprynowicz polled 5,775 votes (0.38%) in Arizona.

In the 2004 election cycle, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination race was the closest to date. Three candidates — gun-rights activist and software engineer Michael Badnarik, talk radio host Gary Nolan, and Hollywood producer Aaron Russo — 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 — many delegates were won over during the convention itself, due to Badnarik’s perceived strong performance in a formal candidate debate.

The Badnarik campaign secured ballot status in 48 states (plus DC and Guam) and earned 397,265 votes. Despite less name recognition and a much smaller campaign checkbook, Badnarik polled nearly as well as independent candidate Ralph Nader. The Libertarian party also garnered more votes than the Green Party that year. His running mate was Richard Campagna who secured the vice presidential nod at the party’s Atlanta convention with a landslide victory.

Symbols and name

In 1972, “Libertarian Party” is chosen as the party’s name, narrowly beating out “New Liberty Party.”[13]

Also in 1972, the “Libersign”—an arrow angling upward through the acronym “TANSTAAFL”—is selected as the party’s emblem.[14] Some time after, this was replaced with the Lady Liberty, which has, ever since, served as the party’s symbol or mascot.

For many years, there has been a small movement to adopt “LP” the Liberty Penguin as the official mascot. The Libertarian parties of Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, Hawaii, Delaware and Iowa have all adopted “LP” as their mascot.[15]

The first official slogan of the Libertarian Party was “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” (often seen as “TANSTAAFL” for short). The current slogan of the party is “The Party of Principle”.

Relationship to major parties

At the local level, the Libertarian Party often joins, and sometimes leads, trans-partisan and non-partisan issues coalitions. It emphasizes, in the words of its co-founder, David Nolan, “consensus and coalition building” on issues important to its members. It also engages in lobbying at the state, local and national levels. The Libertarian International Organization estimates that Libertarians around the country are involved in more than 500 initiatives a year.

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. On the other hand, there is strong Libertarian influence on some Democrats, too; the Democratic Freedom Caucus is a group of libertarian-minded members of the Democratic Party. It could be said that libertarianism is more “liberal” on social beliefs and more “conservative” on economic beliefs.

Libertarian candidates have occasionally thrown their support behind Republican contenders. In a 2002 South Dakota election for Senate, for example, Libertarian candidate Kurt Evans suspended his campaign three weeks 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. Interestingly, Barr subsequently spoke at numerous Libertarian Party functions, expressed agreement with many of the party’s positions, and, perhaps ironically, in late 2006 became a Life Member of the LP[16] and joined the Libertarian National Committee.

Libertarians oppose Republicans on various issues of civil liberties, and government spending and national debt. For example, the Libertarian Party has sharply attacked the USA PATRIOT Act for its potential for infringement of civil rights. The party has also made the repeal of drug prohibition laws one of its priorities, a position that puts it at odds with the “mainstream” of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Ronald Reagan said in a 1975 interview that the core of conservatism in the United States was in fact libertarianism, and since the Republican Party generally follows a conservative stance, this also implies a stronger link between the two parties. David Stockman, Reagan’s OMB director, also expressed his firm belief in libertarian values when creating the economic reform.

Despite this, former Libertarian candidate Harry Browne noted that he drew approximately an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to his campaign. 2004 candidate Michael Badnarik made a similar claim. Surveys by Libertarian Citizen, an activist education group, in 2002 showed Libertarians drew equally from the left, right, and independents—with more than 30% saying they would not have voted at all in the absence of a Libertarian candidate.

Media such as the St. Petersburg Times have speculated that even one Libertarian could affect public bodies to look at different ideas. They are often strong in local appointed office, and sometimes lead the boards to which they belong. In 2005, local Florida Democrats joined a coalition with Libertarians that, after a voter forum, is calling for a reduction in ballot access restrictions.

Size and influence

Defining measures

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

November 2006 elections

The November 7, 2006 elections might provide one reasonable measure of minor-party strength. In that election, the median vote percentage for Libertarians who ran for US House (excluding races with only one major party nominee) was 2.04%; while the median percentage for Greens who ran for that office (again excluding races with only one major party nominee) was 1.41%.[17] Over 13,400,000 votes were cast for Libertarian Party candidates in 2006. [18]

Presidential candidate performance

Libertarians point to the performance of their presidential candidates, who have often finished above most other permanently-organized third parties. In the 2004 election, Libertarian Michael Badnarik received more votes (397,265[19]) than all non-major party candidates except for Ralph Nader, who ran as an independent but accepted the endorsement and ballot lines of the nearly defunct Reform Party; received more votes than all the other third party candidates combined, more than twice as many as the Constitution Party candidate (Michael Peroutka 143,630 votes) and three times as many as Green Party candidate (David Cobb 119,859 votes). 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 Anderson in 1980). No other currently active third party has finished third in a presidential election more than once, or received an electoral college vote, as the Libertarian candidate did in 1972 from a “faithless elector” pledged to Nixon and the Republican Party[20].

Earning ballot status

Ballot access can be considered as a measure of a political party’s level of motivation, size, and financial and volunteer-base strength. Despite internal bickering over whether to pursue ballot access or not, in 2004, the Libertarians earned a space on more ballots than the Greens (48+DC vs 27+DC). Historically, Libertarians have also achieved 50-state ballot access for their presidential candidate three times, in 1980, 1992, and 1996 (in 2000 L. Neil Smith was on Arizona ballot instead of nominee [21]), a feat no other third party has achieved more than once.

Funding candidates

The ability to fund a candidate is another measure of a party’s size and strength. The following are the amounts spent on 2004 campaign activities for the presidential candidates, as reported by the FEC:

  • George W. Bush (R) $367,228,801
  • John Kerry (D) $326,236,288
  • Ralph Nader (Ref./indep./Populist) $4,566,037
  • Michael Badnarik (L) $1,093,013
  • Michael Peroutka (Const.) $709,087
  • David Cobb (Green) $496,658

While these reflect only the funds raised by candidate committees directly, it is indicative of the relative fundraising strengths of the respective political parties. For additional information about Libertarian Party finances, see the FEC references.

Party supporters

One measure of size is the number of donors a group attracts. In the Libertarian Party, some donors are not necessarily “members”, because the Party since its founding in 1972 has defined a “member” as being someone who agrees with the Party’s membership statement. The precise language of this statement is found in the Party Bylaws[22]. There were 115,401 Americans who were on record as having signed the membership statement as of the most recent report[23].

There is another measure the Party uses internally as well. Since its founding, the Party has apportioned delegate seats to its national convention based on the number of members in each state who have paid minimum dues (with additional delegates given to state affiliates for good performance in winning more votes than normal for the Party’s presidential candidate). This is the most-used number by Party activists. As of December 31, 2006, Libertarian Party reported that there were 15,505 donating members.

Historically, dues were $15 throughout the eighties; in 1991, they were increased to $25. Between February 1, 2006 and the close of the 2006 Libertarian party convention on May 31, 2006, dues were set to $0[24]. However, the change to $0 dues was controversial and was de facto reversed by the 2006 national convention in Portland, Oregon; at which the members re-established a basic $25 dues category (now called Sustaining membership), and further added a requirement that all National Committee officers must henceforth be at least Sustaining members (this was not required prior to the convention).

Number of candidates

In recent elections, Libertarians have run far more candidates for office, at all levels, than all other third parties combined. In the 2004 elections, 377 Libertarian candidates vied 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.

Election victories

Libertarians have had mixed success in electing candidates at the state and local level. Following the 2002 elections, more than 300 Libertarians held elected or appointed state and local offices. Most of these Libertarians held nonpartisan appointed positions or were elected in nonpartisan races; by comparison, in June 2005 at least 222 Greens hold elected office.[25] Though twelve Libertarians have previously been elected to state legislatures, none hold that office currently, unlike the Constitution Party (one in Montana), the Progressive Party (six in Vermont), and the Republican Moderate Party (one in Alaska). 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 such seat for a third party in the U.S.

Registration by party

Ballot access expert Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, periodically compiles and analyzes voter registration statistics as reported by state voter agencies, and he reports that as of July 2006, the Libertarians ranked fifth in voter registration nationally[26]. The Constitution Party ranked third with 366,937 registrants, next to the Greens’ 289,177 and the Libertarians’ 235,500.

However, Winger says, nearly all of the 315,151 California voters affiliated with the Constitution Party are actually registrants of California’s American Independent Party — and they so registered in the belief that they were registering as independents (i.e., not associating with any political party). The American Independent Party is a remnant of the segregationist party George Wallace founded for his race in 1972; within the last decade, the AIP has de facto merged with the Constitution Party [27].

The Libertarians ranked third in thirteen states, the Greens ranked third in five states, the Constitution Party ranked third in three states, and the Reform Party ranked third in one state (27 states allow voters to affiliate with a party; others prohibit voters from registering with third parties).

If New York (where Libertarians only recently won the right to register) and California (where the American Independent Party skews the results) are excluded, Libertarians rank fourth in voter registration nationwide.[28]

Other measures

Another possible measure of support for each party is the relative popularity of the organization’s web site. According to Alexa Internet Traffic Reports, the Libertarian Party Website is currently the highest ranked official political party website in the United States.

Ballot access

As of May 3, 2008, the Libertarian Party is on the ballot in the following 28 states for 2008. It has also obtained ballot access only for its presidential candidate (as opposed to full party status) in Arkansas, giving it 29 total ballots for the 2008 presidential race. The Party has more ballot lines than any other third-party by comparison to the Green Party (on 24 ballots) and the Constitution Party (on 14 ballots).

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Colorado
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Hawaii
  9. Idaho
  10. Indiana
  11. Kansas
  12. Louisiana
  13. Maryland[29]
  14. Michigan
  15. Mississippi
  16. Missouri
  17. Montana
  18. Nevada
  19. New Mexico
  20. North Carolina1
  21. North Dakota[30]
  22. Oregon
  23. South Carolina
  24. Texas
  25. Utah
  26. Vermont
  27. Wisconsin
  28. Wyoming[31]
  • Note 1: Enough signatures have been collected, but North Carolina is still on deck for officially gaining ballot access.

Ballot access only for presidential candidate

Working on ballot access

There are a number of states currently in the process of gaining Libertarian ballot access (in court or by petition) either for the party as a whole or just for the parties 2008 presidential nominee[32].

  1. North Carolina – 86,400 signatures collected over last two years for 2008 ballot petition. The requirement is 69,734 but the party estimates they will need 95,000 raw signatures [33].
  2. Oklahoma – lawsuit against Oklahoma’s ban on out-of-state circulators is currently pending in the 10th circuit [34]
  3. Pennsylvania – In Court, but U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear original lawsuit; a new lawsuit has been subsequently filed. [35]

Failed to get ballot access

  1. South Dakota – First time since before 1992, the Party failed to qualify. The Libertarian presidential nominee may still be able to acquire ballot access as an independent. [1]

Libertarian identity

A libertarian (lower-case l) is a person who believes in libertarian goals; he may or may not also be an LP member.

A Libertarian (upper-case l) is a libertarian who believes the existing political system is a proper and effective means of implementing those principles; specifically, one who is a Libertarian in the United States is a member of the U.S. Libertarian Party.

Some of the small-l libertarians eschew the political process as a matter of principle, and often identify themselves as Voluntaryists. They may view democracy as “the tyranny of the majority.”[36]

Other followers of the libertarian philosophy may consider the Libertarian Party tactically ineffective; or wish to distance themselves from the “big-l” Libertarian Party, which sometimes suffers from unwanted headlines generated by some members. For example, Stan Jones, a 2002 Libertarian senatorial candidate in Montana, turned his skin permanently blue from consuming colloidal silver in anticipation of medicine shortages stemming from the Year 2000 problem.[37] Irwin Schiff, who ran for the 1996 Libertarian presidential nomination (but lost the Libertarian nomination to Harry Browne), maintains that the federal income tax is optional and voluntary for most people, in spite of a Department of Justice ruling that he owes more than $2 million (US) in taxes and penalties.[38] (he is no longer a member of the Libertarian Party, having allied himself with the Constitution Party). Hence, a significant number of “small-l” libertarians either belong to other parties or consider themselves independents.

Similarly, not all Libertarians are libertarians. Political candidates with roots in other parties (referred to by some as Fibbertarians) have been known to register and run as Libertarians in order to take advantage of automatic ballot access or lower petition signature requirements.[39]

Internal debates

Anarchist/minarchist debate

The debate that has survived the longest is referred to by libertarians as the anarchist/minarchist debate. In 1974, anarchists and minarchists within the Party agreed to “cease fire” about the specific question of whether governments should exist at all, and focus on promoting voluntary solutions to the problems caused by government instead.[40] A related internal discussion concerns the philosophical divide over whether the Party should aim to be mainstream and pragmatic, or whether it should focus on being consistent and principled.

In the opinion of some, members who identify themselves as principled have dominated the party since the early 1980s. The departure of Ed Crane and David H. Koch (of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank) is held up as an example. Crane, who in the 1970s had been the party’s first Executive Director, and some of his allies resigned from the Party in 1983 when their preferred candidates for national committee seats lost in the elections at the national convention.

The debate quieted for a time, then arose again in the mid-1990s, when a “Committee for a Libertarian Majority” (CLM) was formed and met in Atlanta, Georgia, and worked up several proposals to alter many aspects of the Libertarian Party’s operations. Two of their proposals (substantially altering the platform and abolishing the membership pledge) attracted a lot of attention and opposition sprang up in the form of another committee called PLEDGE. In the long run, CLM’s proposals attracted some support at the national convention but did not prevail.

Beginning in roughly 2004, the debate arose anew, with the formation of several reform groups, such as the Libertarian Reform Caucus, the Libertarian Party Reform Caucus (now defunct), and the Real World Libertarian Caucus (now defunct). These groups generally advocate(d) revising the party’s platform, eliminating or altering the membership statement, and focusing on a politics-oriented approach aimed at presenting libertarianism to voters in what they deemed a less threatening manner. As in the past, groups promoting a more pure interpretation of libertarian principles, such as the LPRadicals and the Rothbard Caucus, have emerged in response. These groups advocate an unwavering, more robust interpretation of libertarianism with a focus on a consistent message marketed by candidates and the Party leadership.


See also: Libertarian perspectives on abortion

In the early eighties, Libertarians for Life was formed to support a change in the Party’s pro-choice stance. To some extent, those efforts succeeded as the platform was eventually altered to acknowledge that many Libertarians consider themselves to be pro-life. Conversely, in 1987, another group of Party members were concerned that Dr. Ron Paul (at the time a seeking the Party’s presidential nomination) might promote his belief that all abortion (from the time of conception) should be outlawed by the states, and thereby confuse voters about the Party’s actual platform stance. This group formed Pro-Choice Libertarians to support Paul’s opponent, Russell Means, and, once the nomination went to Paul, they continued their efforts to dissuade him from making an issue of abortion.

Intervention in Afghanistan

On September 13, 2001, just two days after the September 11, 2001 attacks and in response to what they saw as ambiguous statements about U.S. intervention in Afghanistan by the Libertarian National Committee, Todd Andrew Barnett and other Party members formed Libertarians for Peace.


Prior to the 2006 convention, there was a push to repeal or substantially rewrite the Platform, at the center of which were groups such as the Libertarian Reform Caucus.[41]. While those efforts were in some measure successful in that the current platform was much shortened (going from 61 to 15 planks – 11 new planks and 4 retained from the old platform) over the previous one, the overriding theme of the platform remains largely the same[3].

Members differ as to the reasons why the changes were relatively more drastic than any platform actions at previous conventions. For instance, some delegates voted for changes so the Party could appeal to a wider audience; while others simply thought the entire document needed an overhaul. It was also pointed out that the text of the existing platform was not provided to the delegates, making many reluctant to vote to retain the planks when the existing language wasn’t provided for review.[42]

Naturally, not all Party members approved of the changes; believing them to be a setback to libertarianism[43] and an abandonment of what they see as the most important purpose of the Libertarian Party. Various elements within the Party are currently organizing to assure their input in the future course of the organization.

Membership dues

In mid-2005, the Libertarian National Committee voted on a motion by George Sqyures to eliminate all dues for membership in the national Libertarian Party, effective January 1, 2006.[44] However, this change was extremely controversial. Opponents pointed out to LNC members that there was already a “free” membership category — under the party’s bylaws, one needed only sign the membership statement. They argued the Sqyures proposal merely changed delegate apportionment and nothing else; and thus was basically “window dressing”. Ultimately, the members at the 2006 national convention overturned the decision in Portland, Oregon. The members re-established a basic $25 dues category (now called Sustaining membership), and further added a requirement that all National Committee officers must henceforth be at least Sustaining members (this was not required prior to the convention).


Some Libertarians concluded that libertarianism itself could not be effectively promoted through political means, and left to form a specifically non-political arm of the libertarian movement, the voluntaryists.[45]

Media misidentification

Occasionally, media outlets incorrectly label Lyndon LaRouche as a Libertarian in articles about the controversy he generates.[46] Mistakes such as this are problematic for any political party, but have a heavier impact on a smaller party which generally gets less press coverage overall. However, LaRouche has never sought the Libertarian nomination for President. He has either run for office as a Democrat or with the now-defunct U.S. Labor Party.

Internal caucuses

  • LPRadicals Website
  • Rothbard Caucus Website
  • Libertarian Reform Caucus Website
  • Libertarian Defense Caucus Website
  • Libertarians for Peace Website
  • Libertarian Women’s Caucus
  • Libertarian Student Caucus
  • Libertarian Youth Caucus

See also

  • List of state Libertarian Parties in the U.S.
  • List of political parties in the United States
  • List of libertarian political parties internationally
  • Libertarian National Congressional Committee
  • Libertarian perspectives on gay rights
  • Free State Project
  • Voluntarism
  • Category:Members of the Libertarian Party (United States)

Other Libertarian/classical liberal political parties in U.S. history

  • National Democratic Party (United States) — A U.S. political party from 1896–1900 that shared much of the modern Libertarian Party’s basic ideology.

Previous presidential candidates campaign sites

  • Archive of 2004 LP presidential candidate web site
  • Archive of 2000 LP presidential candidate web site
  • Archive of 1996 LP presidential candidate web site
  • Archive of 1996 LP vice presidential candidate web site
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