The Libertarian Party (LP) is a United States political party that promotes non-interventionism in foreign policy, civil liberties, and laissez faire capitalism. The Libertarian Party is the third-largest party in the United States, with over 500,000 voters registered as members of the party in 27 states.
The party was conceived of by David Nolan in Colorado in 1971, largely in response to the Vietnam War, the Nixon administration, and the end of the federal gold standard. Libertarianism advocates a platform based on classical liberalism, borrowing ideas from free market economists.
Economically, the Libertarian Party supports the lowering of taxes, decreasing the national debt, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and ending mandatory participation in Social Security, arguing that citizens should be able to opt out of the program. The LP also supports open immigration and free trade.
Culturally, the LP supports the liberalization of drug laws, lowering the drinking age to 18, same-sex marriage, the abolition of capital punishment, separation of church and state, and ending gun control.
While the official stance of the Libertarian Party on abortion is that the government should have no involvement, it also recognizes that several “good faith” members have differing opinions. For example, former Republican Congressman Ron Paul, who was the LP’s presidential nominee in 1988, is firmly pro-life. Conversely, former Governor of New Mexico and LP presidential nominee in 2012 and 2016, Gary Johnson, is pro-choice.
The Libertarian Party was the first party under which an electoral vote was cast for a woman, with LP Vice Presidential nominee Tonie Nathan receiving a vote from a faithless elector in the 1972 presidential election.
The first Libertarian Party legislator was elected in 1972 in Alaska. In 1994, the LP broke a party record when over 40 members were elected or appointed to offices across the nation. In 1996, the LP became the first third party in the history of the United States to earn ballot access in all fifty states for two presidential elections in a row. In 2009, 146 LP members held elected offices.
The Libertarian Party became more prominent in the 21st Century, with former Republican and Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson gaining a large amount of attention—and votes—in 2012. Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee that year, received 1.2 million votes, the highest number of votes ever received by a LP presidential candidate.
Johnson was nominated again in 2016, choosing former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld as his running mate, with Johnson again shattering LP records by receiving 4.4 million votes nationwide. The party has become increasingly popular with young adults seeking an alternative to the two-party system. From 2016-2017, a number of state legislators left the Republican or Democratic Party for the Libertarian Party after dissatisfaction with the major party presidential nominees, Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The Libertarian Party has had a few official slogans since it’s founding in 1971, such as “there ain’t no such thing as free lunch,” and “the Party of Principle,” the current slogan. Mascots for the party have included the Liberty Penguin and the Libertarian porcupine. The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) is a 27-member body with 17 voting members. Additionally, the LP has chapters in all fifty states as well as the District of Columbia.
Current membership fees are $25 per year, with Lifetime membership being granted with a $1500 donation in one year. Members who pay their yearly dues receive a subscription to the LP’s national newspaper, LP News.
While the LP currently has no members in Congress or in state governorships, the party does have members in state legislative seats.