Reacting to an e-mail from a reader that reports an increased influence of the Glenn Reynolds-Stephen Green-Neil Boortz types in the party, Stephen Green remarks,

That’s heartening to hear, especially from an insider. I’m curious to see if the capital-L Libertarian movement can be captured by the small-l newcomers.

Honestly, I don’t see how that happens. The Libertarian Party is by its nature an ideological party, built around a theory of government subscribed to by many in rhetoric but few in action. The number of Americans who truly want small government–which means giving up their own pet programs, not just calling for cutting of those that benefit others–is small indeed.

The only way to matter–other than as a spoiler–in a winner-take-all system such as ours is to build a plurality coaltion, which requires compromise. The big-L Libertarians seem content to be a fringe party by remaining “pure.” Those willing to compromise do what everyone else does: pick one of the two major parties and try to influence them from within. Indeed, there are small-l libertarians in both parties, with those concerned mainly with laissez faire economics (low taxes, few regulations) allied with the Republicans and those concerned mainly with personal freedom (abortion, marijuana, and reining in the police) mostly Democrats.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. hln says:

    My husband and I actually went to a big-L Libertarian rally thingee just because we know Michael Badnarik’s running mate. She called, and we said, eh, sure, why not.

    So, we went with our blogless friend Andy. And we had a chance to spend 20 minutes grilling Badnarik. Yeah, I’m not ready, no do I think I will ever be, to go big-L.


  2. “our blogless friend Andy.” It says something not-quite-nice about the online world that this apparent anomaly has to be spelled out…