In the United States, the two-party system has been so all-encompassing of American politics as to nearly obliterate all traces of an option. Recent criticism has been directed at how the two parties are actually the same one, with words like "Republocrat" and "Demican" used as derogatory names for the two main parties. However, the system has been on the edge of accepting the Libertarian party into the mainstream. It has teetered tantalizingly close, without going all the way, and it has done so for a long time.
The Libertarian party was only founded in 1971, yet it has been the most successful of the third-parties, with more members in office than the rest of the alternative parties combined. It has mayors, county executives, county-council members, school-board members and other local officials, all filling current seats.
The Libertarian point-of-view encompasses many points left out of the Liberal and Conservative platforms. Basically, it favors taking the concept of government that we know, and shrinking it. Less regulation of markets, less regulation of society, abolishing many laws, and being non-interventionist in foreign policy as well are all typical attitudes of the Libertarian party. If a citizen ever wonders "What is the government doing sticking its nose into so many places where it doesn't belong?", then they might want to give the Libertarian party a try.
Here are the key points of the Libertarian party's policies:
* Reducing the state's role in the economy. This means things like privatizing (or even abolishing) social security and welfare, but also less regulation of business and industry.
* Strong civil liberties. A sweeping "butt out" to the government, leaving the individual with the highest possible freedom of speech, association, and sexual choice.
* Reduction of gun-control laws, and the general freedom to defend oneself and personal property in any permissible fashion. Lumped in with this is protection of property rights.
* Abolition of laws against consensual, victimless crimes. Basically this would make drugs legal, plus other activities such as prostitution, gambling, driving without a seatbelt, and so on. Generally, the idea is that if it's not going to hurt anyone but the people involved and they're willing to take that risk, then it should be theirs to take.
* No military draft.
* No intervention in foreign affairs. This would put a stop to the global occupation of the countries of the world by military bases, no embargoes or other impediments to free trade with other countries. In other words, minding our own business.
While the main tenets of the Libertarian party have a mixture of ideas that appeal to both Liberals and Conservatives, Libertarians assert that they are neither Conservative nor Liberal, but have a unique philosophy that is all their own.
There are certainly pros and cons to the Libertarian way of managing a country, and for this reason many voters shy away from parts of it. Of course, as with the Republicans and Democrats, not every Libertarian politician votes straight down the party line. Variations are present, most commonly in the two areas of abortion rights, with some otherwise Libertarian members staying "pro-life" (or "anti-choice"), and in fiscal policies such as welfare and social security, which is commonly referred to as "having an economic safety net". The variations are often referred to as "Conservative Libertarian" and "Liberal Libertarians". However, critics variously refer to Libertarians as "right of right" or "left of left", representing a meeting of the extremes of both parties.
A more grave accusation from critics is that Libertarians are great at throwing out parts of the government they don't like, but not so good at coming up with alternative solutions. For instance, deregulating industry is all very fine, but what will we do when we have a massive monopoly that dominates our lives, as has been the case with Microsoft corporation? Giving permission to responsible individuals to "party" with all the drugs they want may seem like a great liberty, but what is society to do with all of the overdosing drug addicts putting a burden on the health care system? And replacing welfare with private charities sounds good, but who's going to pay for the charity, and who's going to make sure that they really help those who come to them for aid?
In conclusion, it is not to be said that Libertarianism is perfect or that it solves all problems, and not even it's most vocal partisans claim that this is so. However, increased liberty does sound like at some point, it could be a welcome breath of fresh air into our stodgy two-party system which has gone on virtually unchanged for more than a century. Especially for those who detest having the government be a "nanny state", Libertarianism might be worth a try.