Billionaire reality TV star Mark Cuban was asked last Sunday if he would run for president as a Libertarian. And like a majority of Americans, he admitted he didn't really know where the party stands on issues.
Thanks to how unpopular the likely Democratic and Republican nominees are, top Libertarians hope that the increased focus on their party as an alternative will help shed light on the Libertarian message.
But many Americans remain in the dark—a 2014 Pew Research survey also showed that 44 percent of Americans didn't know the correct definition of the party. So the challenge the party faces as it holds its national convention this weekend is familiarizing Americans with its platform.
Here are five major pieces of the Libertarian Party platform, as well as some issues its platform committee on Saturday is looking to change for this year:
The idea of individual freedom defines the libertarian movement—it’s the party of limited government, in all forms.
“We are the only political party that stands for your right to pursue happiness in any way you choose as long as you don’t hurt anyone else and as long as you don’t take their stuff,” party chairman Nicholas Sarwark told The Hill.
This year, the party’s platform committee is looking to highlight how that differs with the two main parties with a new addition to the platform preamble: “Our aim is to keep the Republicans out of your bedroom and the Democrats out of your pockets, so that you can make your own choices and live your life as you choose.”
That push for individual freedom colors the views of the party on just about every issue—including drug legalization, free trade, and free-market health care, as well as the elimination of campaign finance and gun control laws.
The push for individual freedom puts libertarians toward the left side of the political spectrum on many of the major social issues.
The 2014 platform argues that “government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships,” adding that “consenting adults” should have freedom to chose what makes them happy.
The same goes for drug legalization—the party considers drug use and possession as victimless crimes that should be fair game unless the user hurts someone else in the process.
The platform does not currently address the death penalty, but the platform committee has proposed an indefinite suspension of the practice, noting the number of exonerations since 1973 and the disproportional use of the death penalty based on race.
Libertarians have faith in the free market and believe that there’s little the government can do to pressure businesses or individuals that would be better than the power of the “Invisible Hand.”
That means unrestricted competition among financial institutions as well as the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security and income taxes.
The main argument is that social pressure and the free market will convince individuals and companies to donate to charity to help the less fortunate -- replacing the need for the government-run social safety-net -- or make business decisions to protect the environment in the hopes of being rewarded by the market for those efforts.
And in the free market, companies live and die without the help of the government, so no bailouts.
But that doesn’t mean taking the government entirely out of the equation—the platform committee has proposed clarifying that victims of a company’s disregard for the environment should be given restitution when "damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law.”
Despite the socially liberal bent, this is an issue where libertarians disagree.
The 2014 platform echoed an effectively pro-abortion rights position, arguing “government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”
But this year, a potentially contentious change recommended by the party’s platform committee includes a complete retool of that platform, shifting the rhetoric back toward the center.
If adopted, the plank will declare that Libertarians believe that taxpayers should not "forced to pay for other peoples' abortions." That's a dramatic shift from the previous assertion that the issue should be left solely to the individual.
A proposal would add to that new wording that Libertarians “respectfully disagree” on abortion and where life begins, while another proposal would simply note that "Libertarians along the spectrum present logical arguments in support of their principled positions on abortion."
A fourth proposal by the platform committee calls to eliminate regulations on “over-the-counter” contraceptives to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Non-interventionist foreign policy
Libertarians want America to “abandon its attempts to act as a policeman for a world,” and its platform on defense reads like a criticism of America’s foreign policy direction. The party’s goal is to maintain a military devoted only to national defense, while shutting down foreign military and economic aid.
Along with that de-emphasis on the offensive, the platform repudiates the tradeoff between liberty and security by declaring that national defense “must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens.”
That means vigilant oversight on national security programs to ensure no rights are infringed upon as well as getting rid of any security classification that could keep information out of the hands of the public.