Opinion

KLEIN: In Kentucky, The Libertarian Party Wins Another Election For Bigger Government

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Daniel Klein George Mason University

The Libertarian Party is plausibly responsible for a Democratic victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial election. It’s not final, but Democrat Andy Beshear is set to unseat Gov. Matt Bevin pending a possible recount.

Results show Beshear received 5,150 more votes than Bevin, the Republican, while 2 percent of the vote went to Libertarian John Hicks — or 28,426 votes.

What would those 28,426 voters have done if the Libertarian Party had not fielded a candidate? Let’s do a numerical example based on reasonable assumptions. Say half would not have voted at all. The other half votes for one of the two major parties. If at least 68.2 percent pulled for the Republican, Bevin would come out on top.

In the U.S., elections are winner-take-all. That means we have a two-party system. In a two-party system, third parties are damaging to their own cause. Libertarians who take responsibility for the consequences of their conduct need to face up to that. There is more to political virtue than flashing one’s supposed allegiance to liberty. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

In its Fiscal Report Card on America’s Governors, the libertarian Cato Institute ranked Bevin right in the middle of the pack of the governors that they were able to score. Above Bevin was just one Democratic governor, while below him were 13 Democratic governors.

In U.S. history, third-party candidates have changed the outcome of many important elections. In the 2000 election, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader plausibly changed the result of the presidential election. It could happen again in 2020, if the Libertarian Party plays the stooge. (RELATED: The Libertarian Party Reduces Liberty)

What is it that libertarians aim to achieve by fielding Libertarian Party candidates? There is no question that in almost all contests they siphon more votes away from the Republicans than from the Democrats.

Practical politics is always a matter of the lesser evil. Nowadays, the Democratic Party doubles down on leftism and big government. Their modus operandi grows more astonishing. Now more than ever, Republicans are the lesser evil.

If you lean libertarian and believe that Kentucky will be less free with a Democratic governor than with a Republican governor, then this election provides a plausible instance of the Libertarian Party reducing liberty. Let’s take a lesson from it.

Daniel Klein is a professor of economics at George Mason University and JIN chair at the Mercatus Center.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.