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by Brett Chandrasekhar

One of the major flaws of the Gary Johnson campaign in 2016 was that it split the party. Because the delegates nominated Johnson, and especially because they nominated Bill Weld, they lost a huge portion of the libertarian base.

Why was this important? Because Johnson was being hit from two sides. From the outside, he was being attacked by Clinton and Trump supporters. From the inside, he was being attacked by his own party. Losing that large fraction of his base also meant he lost many of the people that would have most passionately supported him.

In 2020, the party should nominate someone who the majority of the movement can coalesce around.

Why A Minarchist?

The liberty movement is split into factions beyond factions, but one broad way to look at it is to split it into three categories: anarchists, minarchists, and moderates.

Moderate candidates easily lose some minarchist and most anarchist support. Anarchist candidates easily lose some minarchist and most moderate support. Minarchist candidates, meanwhile, are the ideal middle ground; the compromise, if you will.

Minarchists also retain the best of libertarianism, while losing some of the baggage that anarchists carry with them. I’m not talking about what is true philosophically (more on that below); I’m talking about it from a marketing perspective. The A-word is a bad word for the mass majority of Americans, used as a near synonym for ‘chaos’ (again, not a truth claim, talking about marketing). Anarchists will be dismissed out of hand just for their identifier, while minarchists will not.

Moving on to moderates: an additional problem Gary Johnson had was that he lost the conservative vote. The conservative #NeverTrump movement should have been Johnson’s primary target market in 2016, but he lost it precisely because he wasn’t libertarian on certain issues, such as #BaketheCake and funding Planned Parenthood. Principled libertarianism is liberty for all and has the potential to bring wide-spanning coalitions together.


It’s not that I don’t think the right moderate or anarchist couldn’t unite the movement and turn our combined forces into a success. It’s that I don’t think it’s likely. They’d have to bring a consistent and principled message of liberty to America. The right moderate or anarchist is like a mythical unicorn. Perhaps they exist, but even then they’re unlikely or unwilling to run.

A minarchist, in contrast, will (nearly) automatically have good messaging by virtue of their positions. Good messaging means explaining libertarian basics and how they would help people with their problems and goals. Good messaging is not pretending libertarians are somewhere in between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, i.e. centrists.

Anarchy-Minarchy Squabbles Need to End

One idiotic ritual that libertarians seem to love is the anarchy vs. minarchy debate. These debates, promoted as a search for the truth, are often nothing more than foolish quarrels that create hostility and divide those of like-mind.

Let me taper my point of view just a bit: anarchy-minarchy debates need to happen far less often. Yes, we should discuss the topic occasionally, but anarchists and minarchists need to realize they’re fellow travelers. They’re both going down in an elevator from Floor 100. The minarchists want to get off at Floor 2, and the anarchists want to get off at Floor 1. The ideal candidate will not spend too much time on fruitless debates and will speak in a way that unites the different factions, as the elevator analogy above does.

I’m promoting a minarchist as a candidate, so I must be a minarchist that’s biased right? Nope. I’m neutral between anarchy and minarchy. I was an anarchist for four years, found some good arguments against it, and haven’t settled those arguments. And I honestly don’t care. The debate holds little practical relevance. One day when the state is small, I’ll think about it again.

For the time being, a minarchist would be the best representative for the movement. He or she would be able to coalesce the entire party. He or she would be able to form coalitions with those outside the movement. And he or she would be able to persuade people into actually adopting the libertarian ideology.

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  • sparkey

    The LP has run:
    0 anarchists
    8 minarchists: Hospers, MacBride, Bergland, Paul, Marrou, Browne, Browne, Badnarik: 2,393,630 votes between all of them
    4 moderates: Clark, Barr, Johnson, Johnson: 7,097,504 votes between all of them

    Johnson’s latest run got about 2 million more votes than all the minarchist runs combined. How is “minarchists are better strategically than moderates” even a thing?

  • Libertarian Heretic

    Gary gets way too much flack about being something he isn’t. I just want to give you a list of names I remember him being called and a list of his positions and tell me if you can square the circle by making a match.
    1) Pro pot Trump by the Guardian.
    2) Republican Classic by Bill Maher
    3) Left wing candidate by The Federalist
    4) Radical right winger by Alternet
    5) Let it burn rape the earth capitalist by Nancy Pelosi
    6) Tax and spend big government type by National Review
    Ok so besides the fact I have no idea what universe all that is possible in imagine someone fitting any one of those categories holding all these positions:
    1) Pro LGBTQIA+
    2) Pro marijuana legalization, hard drug decriminalization.
    3) Pro Black Lives Matter
    4) Pro immigration
    5) Pro Free Trade
    6) Abolish corporate tax, income tax and IRS
    7) Across the board 20% budget reduction
    8) Anti-war and immediate 50% reduction of foreign military footprint
    9) Move toward free market healthcare system.

    I think the problem isn’t Gary so much as that right wing sympathizers and anarchist seem to be the loudest and most uncompromising wings of the party.