Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Economics of Politics: Libertarians Helped Republicans Lose A Few Elections

Or at least that's the gist of an article at The Economist.

"Hope springs eternal among third party afficionadoes, but the nature of the American electoral system, which directly elects representatives in a first-past-the-post system, makes it nearly impossible for third parties to gain traction."

[Thanks to and for this photo.]

It's true that our system discourages third parties. It's the economics of "incentives matter," i.e. if there's no point to voting for third party candidates because they can't possibly win, most third-party enthusiasts put their party loyalty aside to see that their second choice doesn't lose. Only occasionally is a vote so close that a few third-party incurably-hopefuls can take away just enough support to sway the election.

On the other hand, sometimes good things can result from third party tenacity. For example, the Ohio Libertarian Party's candidate for Governor, Bill Peirce (running as an Independent) had enough clout to accuse Ohio's election process of being unconstitutional. And guess what? They won. The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

That's no small victory.

Also, the fear of letting a few third-party votes affect an election forces the major parties to sit up and listen. Perhaps this is better than the European model where third parties are legion and minority candidates can get very close to winning, like Presidential candidate Monsieur LePen of France's "Front National" Party, who is known for his fascist leanings and who almost won in 2002 and may again in 2007.


Blogger statusquobuster said...

You would surely appreciate my new book Delusional Democracy; check it out on

9:03 AM  
Blogger Katy said...

Thank you for the reference. I have only looked briefly at the description of your book, but I hesitate to endorse it because it seems to want to increase government and impose, rather than decrease and liberate. I think this combination is lethal (see my comments after my post about Democrats coming to power on 11/9/06) and a recipe for worse, not better. This combo is the cause of our problems, not the solution.

I am also skeptical of remedies that want to change the Constitution (electoral college, although I might be open to tweeking) and to impose voting (I'd rather most of them stayed home.)

Thank you, and I do respect your right to your opinion.

12:35 PM  

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