Andrew Cohen – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com Free Markets and Social Justice Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:00:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.3 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-site-icon-BHL-32x32.png Andrew Cohen – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 Toleration and Freedom From Harm http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2018/02/toleration-freedom-harm/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2018/02/toleration-freedom-harm/#comments Wed, 14 Feb 2018 18:00:15 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12161 My new book, Toleration and Freedom From Harm: Liberalism Reconceived, is now available from Routledge and on Amazon. Regular readers of this blog will recognize some of the views I...

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My new book, Toleration and Freedom From Harm: Liberalism Reconceived, is now available from Routledge and on Amazon.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize some of the views I defend in it, including my defense of parental licensing.  I also offer a refinement of my previous conceptual analysis of toleration and a detailed explanation of my (Feinbergian) account of harm as well as explanation as to how I think we ought to understand the harm principle.  That provides a basis for my view regarding the moral limits of toleration of cultural differences and toleration internationally as well as (of course) the limits of toleration of individual behavior.  Those limits, I think, are generally limits any libertarian should be happy with.

Here’s the advertisement:

Toleration matters to us all. It contributes both to individuals leading good lives and to societies that are simultaneously efficient and just. There are personal and social matters that would be improved by taking toleration to be a fundamental value. This book develops and defends a full account of toleration—what it is, why and when it matters, and how it should be manifested in a just society. Cohen defends a normative principle of toleration grounded in a new conception of freedom as freedom from harm. He goes on to argue that the moral limits of toleration have been reached only when freedom from harm is impinged. These arguments provide support for extensive toleration of a wide range of individual, familial, religious, cultural, and market activities. Toleration Matters will be of interest to political philosophers and theorists, legal scholars, and those interested in matters of social justice.  [I had toyed with calling the book Toleration Matters.]

 

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A Seasonal Nod to Identity Politics http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/12/seasonal-nod-identity-politics/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/12/seasonal-nod-identity-politics/#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 01:45:58 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12107 Something different from what I have been working on (more on that soon enough)…. Maybe December is the month for identity politics talk.  Last year, it was it was Jacob...

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Something different from what I have been working on (more on that soon enough)….

Maybe December is the month for identity politics talk.  Last year, it was it was Jacob (see here).  This year,  Akiva Malamet (see here).  I don’t think there is anything necessary or inherently laudable about identity politics, but I suspect Jacob is right that it can help enliven the quest for justice.  I suppose this is because of what Akiva discusses as “the thickly embedded nature of social interaction within communities, such that social cooperation is in part determined by the role that people play for who they are.”  Perhaps in contrast to Akiva, though, I am uncomfortable with the idea that “to pay respect to a person’s selfhood means to treat them with regard to the variety of components that make up who they are.”  At the end of the day, this depends on what is meant by claiming that those components “make up” who we are.  In my view, this cannot correctly be taken to be anything other than a matter of the contingent state of affairs of our lives.  I’ll try to briefly make this clear.

As a fortunate happenstance, I went to a universalist (not Unitarian) church service this past weekend to see a friend’s son in a performance.  I then found myself enjoying the minister’s talk, which emphasized—as part of the church’s inclusionist theology—a clear statement that we were each spirit, not black or white, not gay person or straight, not Christian, Jew or Muslim, and not republican or democrat.  Those are all contingent factors about the way we live our lives, but under (or beyond) those descriptive factors, we are each spirit.  I would prefer to use the word “agent,” but the point is the same.  It is a form of universalism I think all liberals (in the broad sense, so including contemporary libertarianism) should accept.  It’s also why I am ambivalent (at best) about so-called identity politics.  It involves taking those contingent factors and treating them as essential to our selfhood when they are not.

My first academic work (my dissertation and a series of papers that came from it; see, e.g., this and this) was an attempt to defend liberal individualism—basically, the view that each of us is essentially an individual agent, not a mere member of a community and that, as such, it is the individual that is of primary normative import.  Any moral weight given to communities on my view (then and now) is derivative of the moral import of the individuals within the community.  If a community does not help the individuals in its midst lead good lives, there is no reason to want it to continue.  The view I argued against was a form of communitarianism most forcefully defended by Alastair McIntyre, Charles Taylor, and Michael Sandel.  While they were not clear about their own positive view—the work I looked at was focused on arguing against liberal individualism—the core of it, I think, came down to the view that we are each essentially who we are because of our communities and so it is the community, not the individual, that is primary.  (Metaphysically as well as normatively.)

My main problem with identity politics should now be clear. Those favoring identity politics don’t talk about identity as something individuals choose, but as something individuals are born with. Individuals are born into groups, whether they be ethnic, racial, religious, or other.  Whichever group they are in, then, is meant to be their identity.  The group, that is, is primary.  There is no concern with whether or not people can choose to reject the group and the identity it (supposedly) imposes.  Instead, there is an implicit assumption that our group makes us what we essentially are—and that what it makes us into is what we must be.

I don’t know if any serious political philosophers accept that view now.  I hope not.  But that sort of communitarian view has a way of coming back every now and then—and must be repeatedly refuted.  And so, perhaps, must identity politics.  We ought to remind people that they can choose their own identity.  While the identities that we create for ourselves usually include elements from our group affiliations, many of us can and do choose away from those.  Some people choose against their religions, nationalities, etc.  (Rachel Dolezal might have been an extreme example.)  We each choose who we will be.  We ought not accept that we are who we are merely by virtue of the group we belong to.  (Communitarians never really come to grips with the fact that we usually belong to multiple, sometimes competing, groups.)  We ought also tolerate people’s choices in this regard and others—subject to the same limited restrictions to toleration we ought accept more generally.

To be fair, identity politics may just be an empirical-phenomenological view about how people seem to be, to themselves or others.  So, Joe is a black homosexual and identifies more as the latter than the former and votes accordingly.  But here’s the thing: if the metaphysical view is false—if people can choose away from the groups they are born to—its not clear why the phenomenological view matters.  I don’t mean to deny that identity politics—how individuals identify themselves or are identified by others—matters in politics.  That is a simple empirical claim.  But if our identities are only contingently made by our group membership, we can work to limit the extent to which this matters politically.  We can, that is, work to encourage a culture wherein all people see themselves as agents (or spirits) first and members of groups second.  If successful, people may become more able and willing to make political choices based on the recognition that we are each individuals first and group members second.  Group membership would then be less important.  Identity politics could fade away.  (And with it, concerns about cultural appropriation, but that’s a tale for another day.)  Then again, I’ve always had something of a utopian streak.

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Psychological Harm and Free Speech on Campus http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/psychological-harm-free-speech-campus/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/psychological-harm-free-speech-campus/#comments Thu, 06 Jul 2017 05:09:47 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11915 Psychological Harm and Free Speech on Campus The short piece I wrote about free speech on college campuses is now available to read online (but not downloadable) here.   I...

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Psychological Harm and Free Speech on Campus
The short piece I wrote about free speech on college campuses is now available to read online (but not downloadable) here.   I like this piece alot, but I know many will disagree with various parts.  Even blogmates will find things to disagree with. I know Daniel Shapiro disagrees with what I say about the Skokie case and I predict Jacob Levy will disapprove of a big part of what I say about college campuses.
The basic idea: we should recognize that psychological harm is real and that like physical harm, it may make interference permissible, even with speech, but that this is highly unlikely to occur on college campuses because college essentially requires extensive speech and thus are places where all present should expect to hear views they disagree with and even disapprove of.

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Overcriminalization and Indigent Legal Care Conference http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/04/overcriminalization-indigent-legal-care-conference/ Sun, 02 Apr 2017 16:09:50 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11693 Reminder for folks in the Atlanta area. This coming Thursday and Friday (April 6 & 7), we will be having a conference on Overcriminalization and Indigent Legal Care. This includes...

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Reminder for folks in the Atlanta area. This coming Thursday and Friday (April 6 & 7), we will be having a conference on Overcriminalization and Indigent Legal Care. This includes a Public Symposium on the topic Thursday at 5 pm. Details regarding the Public Symposium, are available here.  We have three Plenary speakers: Doug Husak (Rutgers Philosophy), Jelani Jefferson Exum (University of Toledo School of Law), and David Boonin (Colorado Philosophy) as well as a dozen speakers in concurrent sessions.  More info here or contact me.

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A last reminder: GSU Philosophy MA Program Scholarship http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/01/last-reminder-gsu-philosophy-ma-program-scholarship/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/01/last-reminder-gsu-philosophy-ma-program-scholarship/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2017 18:03:18 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11507 Georgia State University’s highly ranked terminal MA program in Philosophy offers a graduate “Scholarship in Liberalism.”  This is a competitively awarded scholarship for an outstanding student with a demonstrated interest in...

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Georgia State University’s highly ranked terminal MA program in Philosophy offers a graduate “Scholarship in Liberalism.”  This is a competitively awarded scholarship for an outstanding student with a demonstrated interest in the arguments of historical or contemporary philosophical liberals (in the tradition of figures such as Locke, Smith, Hume, and Mill) about issues such as freedom, justice, political authority, social order, toleration and related themes.  The 2017-2018 academic year will be the third year we offer this scholarship; it provides a $15,000 stipend for each year in the two-year program plus a full tuition waiver (the second year, of course, is contingent on satisfactory performance the first year).  Our Department has several funding packages available.) Some further details about funding are located here.  See our excellent faculty here.  Our Department has long had a strength in Social and Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law and we place many of our graduates into excellent PhD programs.  Our website has fairly comprehensive information about the program. We also have a flyer available here.  Also see our Ethics Center website!

The most important deadline is February 1, which ensures that students will be considered in the initial round of consideration and must be met for a candidate to be considered for the scholarship (though we also have rolling admissions for applicants between February 1 and our final deadline of April 15).  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or our Director of Graduate Studies, Tim O’Keefe (tokeefe@gsu.edu).

I would love some applications from some BHLs!

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Reminder: Philosophy MA Fellowship http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/12/reminder-philosophy-ma-fellowship/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/12/reminder-philosophy-ma-fellowship/#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2016 19:23:08 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11485 Georgia State University’s highly ranked terminal MA program in Philosophy offers a graduate “Scholarship in Liberalism.”  This is a competitively awarded scholarship for an outstanding student with a demonstrated interest in...

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Georgia State University’s highly ranked terminal MA program in Philosophy offers a graduate “Scholarship in Liberalism.”  This is a competitively awarded scholarship for an outstanding student with a demonstrated interest in the arguments of historical or contemporary philosophical liberals (in the tradition of figures such as Locke, Smith, Hume, and Mill) about issues such as freedom, justice, political authority, social order, toleration and related themes.  The 2017-2018 academic year will be the third year we offer this scholarship; it provides a $15,000 stipend for each year in the two-year program plus a full tuition waiver (the second year, of course, is contingent on satisfactory performance the first year).  Our Department has several funding packages available.) Some further details about funding are located here.  See our excellent faculty here.  Our Department has long had a strength in Social and Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law and we place many of our graduates into excellent PhD programs.  Take a look at the rest of the Department’s website! and also that of our Ethics Center!

I would love some applications from some BHLs!

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Call for Papers: Overcriminalization & Indigent Legal Care http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/call-papers-overcriminalization-indigent-legal-care/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 15:16:46 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11440 “Overcriminalization and Indigent Legal Care” April 6 & 7, 2017 – Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, The Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics Georgia State University Keynote speakers:  David Boonin (Philosophy,...

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“Overcriminalization and Indigent Legal Care”

April 6 & 7, 2017 – Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, The Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics
Georgia State University

Keynote speakers: 
David Boonin (Philosophy, University of Colorado)
Jelani Jefferson Exum (Law, University of Toledo)
Doug Husak (Philosophy, Rutgers University)

There has been growing lay and scholarly concern with the access to legal services available to poorer persons in our society. Many commentators note that moral and policy difficulties of related trends are compounded by what some see as overcriminalization. This interdisciplinary conference will bring together leading scholars in philosophy, legal theory, and related fields to present original scholarship on these issues.

  • Possible topic areas include:
  • justice and criminalization
  • distributive justice and access to legal services
  • the scope of criminal law
  • political legitimacy and retributive justice
  • the administrative state and the indigent
  • reasons and causes for overcriminalization
  • the effect of overcriminalization on society, especially the indigent
  • how to reduce the effects of criminalization, especially on the indigent
  • and related themes

The conference will include one public symposium, including presentations by:
Michael Leo Owens (Political Science, Emory University)
Bernadette Rabuy (The Prison Policy Initiative)

To submit a proposal, see here.

Proposals due by 9:00 am (ET) of Thursday, December 15, 2016.

For more information, see ethics.gsu.edu.

Portions of the programming for this conference will be made possible by the Institute for Humane Studies through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Reposting

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Philosophy MA Scholarship http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/philosophy-ma-scholarship/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/philosophy-ma-scholarship/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2016 15:00:12 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11409 Georgia State University’s highly ranked terminal MA program in Philosophy offers a graduate “Scholarship in Liberalism.”  This is a competitively awarded scholarship for an outstanding student with a demonstrated interest in...

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Georgia State University’s highly ranked terminal MA program in Philosophy offers a graduate “Scholarship in Liberalism.”  This is a competitively awarded scholarship for an outstanding student with a demonstrated interest in the arguments of historical or contemporary philosophical liberals (in the tradition of figures such as Locke, Smith, Hume, and Mill) about issues such as freedom, justice, political authority, social order, toleration and related themes.  The 2017-2018 academic year will be the third year we offer this scholarship; it provides a $15,000 stipend for each year in the two-year program plus a full tuition waiver (the second year, of course, is contingent on satisfactory performance the first year).  Our Department has several funding packages available.) Some further details about funding are located here.  See our excellent faculty here.  Our Department has long had a strength in Social and Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law and we place many of our graduates into excellent PhD programs.  Take a look at the rest of the Department’s website! and also that of our Ethics Center!

I would love some applications from some BHLs!

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Post-Election Post http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/post-election-post/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/post-election-post/#comments Wed, 09 Nov 2016 15:03:06 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11370 Johnson, Mcmullin, and Castle all presumably took votes from Trump. But what would those voters have done if those candidates were not available? We can’t know. (If you think we...

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Johnson, Mcmullin, and Castle all presumably took votes from Trump. But what would those voters have done if those candidates were not available? We can’t know. (If you think we can, ask yourself how the polls were so far off.) In some places, the third party candidates did not matter. (I.e., even adding their votes to those for Clinton would not have given her a win.  E.g., GA, OH!) Of course, in other places (FL, UT), they *might* have. But they might not have. (Would UT conservatives voted for Clinton if McMullin was not on the ballot?)

Today is a sad day for America and the world.  There are lessons to be learned from this (in no particular order):
1. Third party voters have to be careful.
2. The duopoly has to be reformed so that we get better major party candidates.
3. A less powerful government is less scary in the wrong hands than a more powerful government. Maybe you like the power big government has when your party is in the White House (or the White House and Congress), but what about when the other party is? One hope now: Congress reigns in presidential powers. But a Republican Legislature can probably do a lot with a Republican White House.
4. Racism, sexism, anti-otherism is alive and well in the US. Pretending they are not pushes them underground, where they fester and boil up. People say they won’t vote for a sexist or a racist if they fear public ridicule, but in the private voting booth, they go ahead and vote with those festering views. We need a cultural shift that makes honest conversation about difficult topics more prevalent. People like those that write for this blog and those in The Heterodox Academy can help here.  More generally, those of us who honestly believe all people are of equal moral worth must stand firm against bigotry.
5. Markets tend to do a better job of seeing through BS then polls. There is a reason markets, both at home and across the world, are in the toilet. Lack of stability is a bad bad bad thing.  And we just elected instability. Hopefully, things will calm down. Perhaps Pence will be the de facto President.

I suppose I assumed (begrudgingly) we’d have a Clinton Presidency and hoped the Libertarian Party would have at least 5% of the vote and thereby be invigorated for the future. That would mean that for the next couple of years, libertarians could have worked to find a candidate for 2020 that could be a contender. Someone with (most of) Johnson’s views (bleeding heart libertarianism) but without his awkwardness. That’s still a consideration, but all of the structural factors that worked against Johnson remain as they were before this election.

The Democratic Party elite must do some deep thinking and figure out (a) how not to piss off large portions of the American population and (b) what candidate(s) both represent the basic views of the party but are also better at attracting voters. One optimistic friend on the left thinks 4 years of a Trump presidency can get a Warren presidency. I’d caution against that sort of thinking.

The Republican Party elite will hopefully also do some deep thinking. They lost their party this year. Perhaps they can get it back. I would guess that working with Pence is the best hope for that. If they don’t succeed, the realignment of American politics is straightforward: the Democrats represent the establishment elite and the Republicans represent populism.

A final note: one positive about Trump, in my view, is that he actually responds to those he dialogues with.  The presidential debates in particular, but really much of political discourse in the US for the last few decades, have not been genuine dialogues.  They have been more about sound bites and talking points.  One candidate says P and her opponent says not-P and neither says anything about why the other thinks as they do, or is wrong.  We need genuine and honest dialogue.  We need to actually listen to what others say and try to see things from their point of view.  Only then can we really analyze their views and hope to have them really analyze ours.  And only with that sort of open, honest, genuine dialogue can we hope to do better.

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Time for Political Disruption http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/time-for-political-disruption/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/time-for-political-disruption/#comments Fri, 04 Nov 2016 19:53:42 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11340 The election is only a few days away.  The most bizarre election in my lifetime, I think.  The two major candidates are the most disliked pair of major party candidates we’ve ever...

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The election is only a few days away.  The most bizarre election in my lifetime, I think.  The two major candidates are the most disliked pair of major party candidates we’ve ever seen.  If Democrats had nominated someone else, that person would likely have an easy time winning against the Republican nominee. If Republicans had nominated someone else, that person would likely have an easy time winning against the Democratic nominee.  But the parties saddled the country with these two and the media has done what the media does.  And lets be clear: the fault is with the parties.  President Obama is right that the way the Republican party operated in the 2012 and 2008 (and 2004, and 2000, and…) elections made Donald Trump’s rise possible.  But similarly, the way the Democratic party has operated made Hillary Clinton’s nomination possible.

But we live in the age of disruption.  Uber has disrupted taxi services and, to a lesser extent, public transportation and even car sales.  Warby-Parker has disrupted the eyeglass industry.  And the list goes on.  Perhaps its time for a political disruption.  Perhaps its time to put the duopoly parties out to pasture.  Or perhaps they can survive the disruption in some modified form.  In any case, I think we now have an opportunity for a major disruption of American politics–for the better.  (I would not insist that all disruptions are positive or that all attempted disruptions succeed.)

McMullin

How can that be accomplished?  Evan McMullin was, for a few days if I recall, running neck and neck with Donald Trump in Utah.  He’s now fallen behind, but that can change.  If you’re in Utah, vote for McMullin.  He can’t win the national electoral college vote, but he can get the 6 electors from Utah and make it harder for either of the duopoly candidates to get the needed 270 votes.  I don’t think that’s the case in any other state, but I may be wrong.  If you think he has a chance to take your state, help him.

Why vote for McMullin?  Well, some of you may like him.  He’s not my favorite candidate in this election, but I would put him ahead of the duopoly candidates.  For those of you that don’t like him, just remember that what matters is getting 270 electoral college votes.  If no candidate gets that, the next president is determined by a vote in the house of representatives with each state getting a single vote.  That could leave us with a better president then the duopoly nominated.  The vote would be limited to the top 3 electoral vote getters, meaning McMullin would have a chance.  Some speculate that he would ask his electors to vote for Romney (or Ryan, but Romney seems more likely to me).  That would mean Romney would have a chance.  Indeed, given that 1 vote per state favors Republicans, that seems entirely likely.  The Republicans could finally cast off the candidate that has caused them so much difficulty without having to go with a Democrat.  (For more on this, see this.  For the same strategy for Johnson, see this.)

In case you’re interested: the Senate would then choose the Vice President, from among the top two vote getters (assuming that the lack of an electoral college majority is present for the VP).  Conceivably, that means a Republican President and a Democratic Vice-President.  That could be cool.  Of course, the V-P might resign.

Johnson

But this is not the end of the story.  Any political party winning 5% of the popular vote is automatically on every ballot in the country in the next election and automatically has access to federal funds for the next campaign.  Imagine a 2018 election in which the Libertarian Party can suddenly compete for congressional seats–33 in the Senate.  Imagine a 2020 election where the Libertarian Party can really compete for the White House.  Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, for all their flaws, have done a world of good for the Party.  Had they been in the debates, I believe they would have had a real shot at the White House.  But that didn’t happen.  Still, despite tremendous forces against them, they are polling at close to 5% (all of the polls seem to have the pair at between 3% and 8%).  Hitting that 5% is clearly do-able this time around.  And its hard to underestimate how big of a deal it is not to have to work to get ballot access everywhere and to have access to the federal funding.  So, even if you don’t like Johnson, consider voting for him if you are (rightly) unhappy with your party’s nominee.

That 5% means that the Republicans and the Democrats won’t be the only major players.  It means that a third-party–the Libertarian Party–can really run a contender and fight on (almost) equal footing.  That would amount to a major disruption in American politics.  That means that things change.  Granted, in the long run, we’d likely be back to two parties. But which? One could be the Libertarian Party.  Even if that doesn’t happen, the duopoly parties would have been forced to take notice–and change to get back the voters they lost.  That would matter.

Conclusion

I realize, of course, that there are many difficulties to be overcome.  Of course, if Clinton or Trump do get 270 electors, the game is over for this election.  (If that happens, I hope its Clinton.  But I really hope it doesn’t happen.  We deserve better.)  But if the LP gets 5%, the next election will be really interesting–and not, I think, in the “holy moly, that is a terrible train wreck, I can’t stop looking at the carnage” sort of way.  Rather, we’ll have a party with better values being competitive with the duopoly, probably getting the Democrats and Republicans to improve, possibly winning congressional seats.  (And if neither Clinton nor Trump gets the 270, we have a shot at a better president in January.)

Also, some worry that the LP would not take the federal funds.  I realize that is a possibility, but I have hope that saner minds would prevail.  Indeed, I hope that Johnson and Weld stick around to help, though I would not suggest they run again in 2020.  Who the candidates should be is an interesting question, but I think we should leave that for after the current election is complete.

I end with a plea.  Some people–I expect record numbers–are planning to go and vote on Tuesday but not vote for President.  Please don’t do that.  If you are going to vote but feeling (rightly) fed up with the presidential election, vote for Johnson (or, if you’re in Utah, for McMullin).  Really, I encourage everyone to vote for Johnson and Weld.  I unequivocally endorse them.  But its now also clearly also worth looking past this election.

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