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Libertarianism Is on the Verge of a Political Breakout

February 5, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Rand Paul’s leadership in the Senate — on the budget, regulation, privacy, criminal justice, and foreign policy — and his likely presidential campaign are generating new attention for libertarian ideas.

The growth of the libertarian movement is a product of two factors: the spread of libertarian ideas and sentiments, and the expansion of government during the Bush and Obama administrations, particularly the civil liberties abuses after 9/11 and the bailouts and out-of-control spending after the financial crisis. As one journalist noted in 2009, “The Obama administration brought with it ambitions of a resurgence of FDR and LBJ’s active-state liberalism. And with it, Obama has revived the enduring American challenge to the state.”

That libertarian revival manifested itself in several ways. Sales of books like Atlas Shrugged and The Road to Serfdom soared. “Tea party” rallies against taxes, debt, bailouts, and Obamacare drew a million or more people to hundreds of protests. “Crony capitalism” became a target for people across the political spectrum. Marijuana legalization and marriage equality made rapid progress. More people than ever told Gallup in 2013 that the federal government has too much power.

Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.”

In studies that David Kirby and I have published at the Cato Institute on “the libertarian vote,” we have found that only 2 to 4 percent of Americans say that they’re libertarian when asked. But 15 to 20 percent — 30 to 40 million Americans — hold libertarian views on a range of questions. The latest Gallup Governance Survey finds 24 percent of respondents falling into the libertarian quadrant, matching the number of conservatives and liberals and up from 17 percent in 2004 and 23 percent in 2008. And when asked in a Zogby poll if they would define themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian,” fully 44 percent of respondents — 100 million Americans — accept the label. Those voters are not locked into either party, and politicians trying to attract the elusive “swing vote” should take a look at those who lean libertarian.

In two presidential campaigns, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) attracted hundreds of thousands of followers to his combination of antiwar, anti-spending, and sound-money (“End the Fed”) ideas, and showed them that these views were “libertarian.” Two national student organizations Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty now …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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