For a long time, libertarians have asked themselves, “why don’t libertarians wins more elections?”. Many dynamics are at play, however it starts with understanding how the Libertarian Party is perceived from the outside by the average man. Even though classical liberal philosophy is deeply rooted in the founding of the United States, it seems that if the average man has heard of the Libertarian Party, he often assigns the prejudicial stigma that we are either a joke, or as the title says, “The Weed Party”.
While our belief that the government has no right to interfere in the consumption practices of the individual renders our support for the legalization of marijuana, this problem goes far beyond weed. What it shows is an inability to communicate the philosophy behind the platform of the Libertarian Party. Our strive to relate to the topic of the day often hinders the rationale behind our positions, and is exploited when an inconsistency is exposed. In order for us to communicate the “message” clearly, we must first rewire our train of thought from positive action, and start understanding the position of negative action, or inaction. In other words, it’s not what the government should do, it’s what the government should refrain from doing.
When taking positions, it is incumbent upon the libertarian thinker to understand the context and consequence of the issue. It is easy for us to conform to a movement in hopes that it will conform to us and attract a following of the seemingly like-minded. The libertarian approaches issues by first asking “should government play a role?“. Words like ‘legalization‘, ‘choice‘, and ‘freedom‘ can be used as euphemisms to hide either an ugly truth or government involvement. The government will distribute money, administer licenses, and restrict behaviors under the guise of liberty for particular collectives. The libertarian should have the advantage; he or she can come to the same conclusion whilst contending that the government should refrain from taking any action, as compared to supporting the status quo. It is better to use words such as ‘anti-prohibition‘, ‘abolition‘, and ‘liberty‘ to specifically denote restraint rather than becoming more involved. However, libertarians falter religiously when faced with these issues, because it is the common belief that doing nothing is bad.
The libertarian must then ask the question “how can the free market do it better?“. Capitalism is geared towards playing to the natural tendencies of man, rather than trying to change his or her behavior. Capitalism rewards rational behavior, and punishes irrational behavior. The libertarian should explain that the free market is another way of solving the problem, allowing competition among specialized industry to create quality products for an affordable price. While capitalism seems like a scapegoat to those who misunderstand, it is important to articulate the impact of capitalism on sensitive social problems such as drugs, healthcare, and cost of living. Destitution, hunger, and addiction are not “solvable” issues; they will always exist. Therefore, we need to better explain how capitalism creates better conditions by allowing competition to create affordable and safer alternatives.
In order to crush the stigma that the general public now has on libertarians, we must be clear in explaining the differences between our philosophy and the mainstream. Though libertarians can find themselves relevant in popular discussion, we must be careful not to promote bandwagon politics. There are already very many pro-weed, pro-gay marriage, pro-equality politicians who have much more ground than the libertarians. In addition, these words turn off the conservative base, and essentially pushes them away from our party. We want people to understand that libertarianism is the idea that people should have the ability to make personal choices. It is the idea that people who need help can be open and go to the market to get what they need. It is the idea that it is incumbent upon the individual to help those in need, not the collective. This DOES appeal to conservatives and is a much more substantial approach to the issues. If we approach each and every single issue this way, we will be taken seriously, and remove the stigma. We will be the weed party no longer.