Over at the Wall Street Journal, Walter E. Block asks the eternal question: Did the Libertarians Spoil the Election?
Did the Libertarian Party throw the election to Joe Biden? Maybe.
I previously addressed this issue with respect to the Democrats during the run-up to the 2016 election, and some of the arguments there apply to the Republicans as well: Every year, you folks force the Libertarian party to expend money and time jumping through hoops to qualify for the ballots in every state, and then you still exclude the Libertarian candidate from federal funding, briefings, and all the debates. You also ignore most of our key issues.
Since you obviously don’t give a damn about us, why the fuck should we give a damn about you? You want our vote? Start by apologizing for that shit you’ve been pulling all these years.
That argument doesn’t fully work in this case, however, because Block himself is a member of the Libertarian party. But he’s a different kind of Libertarian than me, as his analysis makes clear:
Yes, the Donald is a protectionist, and free trade is the preferred policy of those who favor economic and personal liberty. But when it comes to lowering taxes and easing regulations on business, the party of the elephant is far more closely aligned to the libertarian philosophy than that of the donkey.
If he’s going to gloss over free trade with a “yes-but,” then it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that he fails to mention international trade’s counterpart: International migration. Trump has been terrible on immigration.
I’ll grant that Trump has reduced some business regulation, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to make up for the long-term damage caused by his idiotic trade policy. There’s also the matter of Trump attacking American businesses, such as Amazon, Starbucks, Harley-Davidson, and several media companies. That may not technically be regulation, but it’s an implicit threat of government action, which has a similar effect. (I.e. it’s the equivalent of a regulation reading “Don’t piss off Donald Trump.”) Meanwhile, trump is giving out money to favored groups like farmers, who were hurt when our trading partners predictably retaliated for our trade war. And on top of everything else, Trump’s volatility adds to uncertainty in the investment environment. It’s hard to make a business plan when Trump could trash talk your business and drive away investors at any moment.
It’s also true that Trump has lowered some taxes, but I that’s been offset by his awful spending record. For every dollar the government spends, it’s going to have to eventually tax a dollar from someone, and Trump has been spending a lot of dollars. I don’t think putting taxes off into the future counts as reducing taxes. It’s like buying something expensive and claiming you saved money by putting it on your credit card.
Finally, damn but that man has an authoritarian streak. His losing power doesn’t strike me as a big loss for libertarians.
But even if I thought President Trump was great for libertarians, Block’s argument still doesn’t hold water.
At this writing nominee Jo Jorgensen’s vote total exceeds Mr. Biden’s margin over President Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, enough to change the outcome.
Lets take a look at the numbers he’s talking about. This table shows the number of votes for Biden and Trump, the size of the spread between them, and the number of votes for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen (according to Decision Desk HQ at the time I wrote this.)
Votes are still being counted, and these numbers are still changing, as you can see by the fact that Jorgensen’s vote is no longer larger than the spread between Biden and Trump in Nevada. But that still makes Block right for the 3 out of 4 swing states where getting Jorgensen’s votes would have put Trump ahead, right?
Block’s analysis is missing one very important set of numbers. Let’s add them:
The fifth row, “Didn’t Vote,” is the number of people who didn’t vote for either Biden, Trump, or Jorgensen (calculated by subtracting the sum of votes for all three candidates from the number of registered voters.) As you can see, non-voters totally swamped the libertarian vote. Votes for Jorgensen make up no more than 5% of of the total number of people who didn’t vote for either major party candidate. Put another way, Jo Jorgensen and the 203,000 people who voted for her aren’t the ones who kept 6 million other people from voting for Trump.
Trump and the Republicans did that to themselves.