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Libertarian heading for the Senate

September 14, 2013

In the 2012 American Presidential election, one of the side stories was the unlikely campaign of the libertarian-Republican Ron Paul, who brought a new brand of politics to the country by advocating significantly smaller government, personal freedoms, and peace. He was ultimately unsuccessful, but his brand of politics is having an ongoing impact on political debate. In America, his son is now a leading Senator and contender for 2016 President. And in Australia on the weekend the people of NSW elected a libertarian to the Australian Senate in the form of David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats.

A lot has been written and said about this unlikely outcome, and one or two things were even true. Pretty good for the mainstream media.

The discussion about the Liberal Democrats on ABC’s “the drum” TV show was particularly hilarious. Beyond the words “hello” it was hard to find any comment that wasn’t laughably, embarrassingly wrong. One commentator said that Leyonhjelm chose the name of the party because it sounded serious, but the party was started in 2001 and Leyonhjelm  joined in 2006. The reason for the name has been repeatedly explained — the Liberal Democrats believe in liberal democracy and wanted to portray that in the name. The AEC and all reasonable people don’t think that the Liberals should be able to claim a monopoly on a generic political word, especially when it isn’t even true in their case. If somebody wants to vote for liberalism, then the Liberal Democrats offers them that choice.

Another witless commentator said that Glenn Druery arranged front parties to funnel preferences to the Liberal Democrats in 1999… two years before the Liberal Democrats was even started. Fail. In fact, the Liberal Democrats were one of the only small parties that were excluded from the Druery coalition this year. Are facts even vaguely relevant for the ABC chatterati?

All drum commentators agreed that clearly the Liberal Democrats benefited from name confusion. That might be true for some people, but it is only part of the story. The Liberal Democrats ran an above-the-line ticket in five states with very different results. It is striking to note that when Palmer did well then the Liberal Democrats did relatively worse (note QLD and TAS) and when Palmer got a lower vote then the Liberal Democrats did relatively well. This suggests that those two parties were competing for a similar voting block, which might be described as “liberal but not Liberal”. Also, there was a swing away from the majors in all states which suggests that voters really were looking for other options.

The commentators also forgot to complain about the Democratic Labour Party, Progressive Labor Party, Progressive Alliance, Christian Democrats, Australian Democrats, Ethnic Democrats, Democratic Socialists, liberals for forests, and plenty of other parties that also used generic words in their name.

The most vacuous of the commentators insisted that small parties didn’t really exist in any real sense and were just empty shopfronts with a handful of people with no real political passion. The Liberal Democrats have over 4000 members across the country, a history spanning over 12 years, already have three elected local councillors including the Mayor of Campbeltown, a complex and detailed set of policies and principles formed over many years, they host professional annual conferences with high profile speakers, and they have the support of many people in Australia’s small but vocal libertarian community. That’s a hell of a conspiracy theory. After the 2010 election the Liberal Democrats were the 6th biggest party, measured by Senate vote. If a political commentator has managed to remain ignorant of the LDP then perhaps that says more about them than it does about the party.

Instead of complaining about the success of a dedicated principled and hard-working party, perhaps the sore losers and faux experts could try and address the ideas that the Liberal Democrats bring to the table. Unlike many other minor parties and most people in the major parties, the Liberal Democrats have a coherent philosophy and a comprehensive reform agenda. It is a party dedicated to the principle that each person owns their own life and should be able to live freely so long as their actions are peaceful and voluntary. That means economic liberalism with low tax, low regulation and free trade… and it also means social liberalism with legalised marijuana, assisted suicide, and same-sex marriage. The Liberal Democrats will vote to repeal the carbon tax, but will vote against Abbott’s unaffordable Paid Parental Leave scheme. They will never support an internet filter or restrictions on the freedom of the media. Most politicians and commentators want to spread gossip, but it’s time to talk policy.

While most parties are dominated by populist hacks, the Liberal Democrats bring consistency and principles to the public debate, and their arguments for human freedom demand a response. The haters and statists will need to justify their push for an ever growing nanny state, welfare state, regulatory state, and police state… because finally there will be a voice of sanity that stands up against the rule of bureaucrats, and reminds people that they should be free to control their own lives. This could be a game changer.

  1. September 14, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Individual liberty is assisted by wealth redistribution since society is more cohesive, less envious and less violent. Poor people have just as many decisions to make as the rich, but less buying power to actualise them. Polarisation leads to corruption and dictatorship. This is both logical and evident.

    What of the carbon tax? What’s the libertarian response to climate change? I’d argue an ETS is open to abuse since its not a true market since there is no end consumer able to police quality.

    Apart from that, excellent article. May I however suggest that the candidate not refer to themselves as the donkey vote representative.

  2. John Mc
    September 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    The odds might be low, but the notion that we’ve entered a new era in Australian political history with the emergence of a ‘libertarian right’ (as the media will probably call it) is not untenable by any means.

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