The Republican and Democratic parties are coalitions of various interest groups and ideologies that shift over time. Rather than having fixed principles, their positions change to meet the needs of partisan competition. For example, as one party becomes more protectionist, the other reacts and becomes more free trade. Libertarians are different. We are a party of principles. We focus on those principles and build our party by attracting the people who believe in those principles. It isn’t that libertarians don’t have internal debates on issues or that there aren’t coalitions built around some ideas. We have spirited discussions over what libertarianism means and how it should be applied, but in the end, we are all committed to society based on libertarian principles. It is the core libertarian principles that unite us in a common approach to politics, public policy, and life.
The video touches on a few issues that demonstrate the different Libertarian perspective, including issues which have come to the forefront of national policy debates in recent years.
Marriage Equality. Who you can marry shouldn’t be a decision of government. You are free to choose who and how you marry. The national debate over marriage equality for gays has finally caught up to the Libertarian position. While the Democrats are now generally supportive of marriage equality, they only came to that position recently (their platform wasn’t changed until 2012). It has been a part of the Libertarian Party’s platform since its inception 40 years ago! Some Republicans are trying to catch up and not be on the wrong side of history. To understand the Libertarian approach, consider marriage equality in a broader context of themisuse of government to regulate many aspects of our personal relationships. The national Libertarian Party’s platform sets forth a broad liberty principle on this issue:
“1.4 Personal Relationships
Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”
The Libertarian Party of Maryland worked with Marylanders for Marriage Equality and other groups to help sustain Maryland’s marriage equality law in 2012. The party’s 2012 Presidential candidate, Governor Gary Johnson, came to an event in Washington and specifically endorsed Maryland’s Civil Marriage Protection Act and the effort to sustain it through the referendum process.
What you can put in your body; marijuana legalization. Again, it is the country and Maryland that is starting to catch up with the Libertarian position on marijuana legalization. The Libertarian Party was formed, in part, in response to the beginning of Nixon’s drug war and we’ve always supported the individual’s right to decide for themselves what drugs, if any, they choose to consume. Prohibition doesn’t work–has never worked–can never work. It is the Libertarians who have been fighting to end the drug war and its pernicious consequences on society for generations and we continue that effort here in Maryland. The Libertarian Party of Maryland is part of the coalition that lead the effort to pass Maryland’s 2013 decriminalization bill and the bill to fix the medical marijuana law (to make it work!). We’ll continue that effort in 2015, seeking a full legalization bill similar to the Colorado and Washington State laws.
Police Brutality and the Militarization of Police Forces. The tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri are but the latest example of a long history of government using its police forces inappropriately. Libertarians have long been the only ones arguing against the militarization of our police forces. We even had one write a book on the subject. While we are glad others are now beginning to see the problem, it is part of a larger context in which the government tramples individual rights in the name of security. Even topics as arcane as the drug war’s asset forfeiture programs, a subject libertarians have long been talking about, are becoming more familiar in the popular press. Think these issues don’t affect us here in Maryland? They do. From rural Wicomico County (chilling to hear someone say that law enforcement is a “… quasi-military structure anyway…” to justify the police ownership of an MRAP) to semi-urban College Park, these issues are not just big city problems.
Over-regulation. Though they sometimes disagree on the ends, both Republicans and Democrats favor a government that regulates conduct. Some prefer regulations for paternalistic reasons, implying that the general public isn’t smart enough to make their own decisions or evaluate products and services for themselves. Others seek to use regulations to protect existing companies and exclude competition. Both approaches are wrong. Take the case of Uber and Lyft, two new services that facilitate private ride-sharing as an alternative to high-priced taxis. In Maryland, they are targets of a government, politicians and entrenched interests that want to limit your alternatives to narrowly prescribed choices. The same can be said of the response to E-cigarettes, as shown in this article.
Obviously there is much more to politics than just these issues and libertarians have a perspective on all the issues. If you’d like to learn more, head over to ‘learning more about libertarianism‘ which also has links to our program for Maryland and the national Libertarian Party’s statement of principles and platform.