Effective third party?

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In the latest issue of the Cato Policy Report, William Niskanen calls for a different kind of Libertarian Party in America. He calls for a more effective LP that would trade it’s vote for influence on the candidate who is most closely aligned to the Libertarian Party's ideals, rather than trying to fight elections on its own. This would only work if certain criteria were met in each district: (1) there must be no separate LP candidate; (2) the size of the party must be larger than the expected vote difference between the major party candidates; (3) after the major party candidates are selected the LP must have bargaining power with them; (4) the LP's members must act in concert to support their preferred candidate.

This call is perfectly rational in light of the evidence, whereby around 20 percent of people have libertarian leanings, but then come election time only 1 percent vote for the Libertarian candidate. David Boaz and David Kirby investigated this in depth in the Policy Analysis paper, The Libertarian Vote and found that there are in many districts a key 10-20 percent of voters that can swing an election. William Niskanen’s idea is a way of utilising this and then building influence into it. The Libertarian Party of the US (and indeed of the UK) should look at how this can be developed to become effective in shaping the policy ideas and pronouncements of politicians.

There is of course one drawback, the large amount of risk involved, in that you have to trust a politician. Somewhat easier in the US, with it’s looser party system, distinctly harder here in the UK. But worth a shot nonetheless.