Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: What you should know about the Libertarian Party platform

Note: This is the second in a series examining the positions of several minor party and independent presidential candidates on issues covered by the Acton Institute. A previous series covered the Democratic Party platform (see here and here) and the Republican Party Platform (see here and here).

lplogoAlthough minor parties — often called “third parties” to distinguish them from the dominant two — have always been a part of American politics, the dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic parties in the current election season has led some Christians to give them more consideration. The intention of this series is to provide some basic information on where some of these parties stand on issues covered by the Acton Institute.

A couple of caveats are thus in order.

1. Because there are roughly 50 minor political parties in America this series will not be able to cover them all. The choice of what will be included is undeniably arbitrary and subjective. My intention is to highlight the four or five parties (or individual presidential candidacies) that would be of most interest to our readers. Currently, the plan is to include Evan McMullin (a conservative independent candidate), the Libertarian Party, the American Solidarity Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. (Others will be added if there is sufficient interest/demand.)

2. In general, the PowerBlog covers issues related to economics and individual liberty, particularly religious freedom. For this reason some social issues of concern to Christians are not included. This is not because they are unimportant or because those of us at Acton do not care about the issues. It’s merely because they are outside the focus of this blog.

3. For the sake of simplicity, this series will highlight the position listed in a party’s platform or, if they are a non-aligned independent candidate, the positions listed on their website. Unlike with the two major parties, the nominees of the minor parties often have no direct control over their party’s platform. For this reason, the positions held by the particular presidential candidates may differ radically from the positions held by the party. For example, Libertarian Party candidates, Gary Johnson and William Weld, differ with their party’s platform on a number of issues.*

4. Minor parties tend to focus more on broad principles than specific policy prescriptions. Wherever possible, I’ll try to highlight the direct policy positions. Otherwise I’ll attempt to summarize their underlying philosophy on a public policy area.

Here are the positions of the Libertarian Party as outlined in their 2016 Platform:

General Principles

• Believe that all individuals have the right to “exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

• Supports a general “the right to life” and the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others by government.**

• Supports a broad-based “right to liberty of speech and action.”

• Opposes all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press.

• Opposes government censorship in any form.

• Supports a broad-based “right to property” and opposes all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain.

• Supports laws that prohibit robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.

• Opposes any government interference in areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals.

• Opposes any requirement that forces individuals to “sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others.”

• Opposes any initiation of force by any individual, group, or government against any other individual, group, or government.

• Supports the concept of “self-ownership” — that individuals “own their bodies” and have rights over them that other individuals, groups, and governments may not violate.



• Supports allowing members of private organizations to retain their rights to set whatever standards of association they deem appropriate, and “individuals are free to respond with ostracism, boycotts and other free-market solutions.”

• Opposes the government allowing sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity to have any “impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws.”



• Supports allowing parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government.

• Supports allowing parents to have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.
Economic Liberty

• Supports the individual’s right to offer goods and services to others on the free market.

• Supports limiting government involvement in economics to protecting property rights, adjudicating disputes, and providing a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected.

• Opposes any governmental efforts to redistribute wealth or manage trade.

• Opposes any government restrictions on the individual’s rights to control and enjoy their property, as long as their choices do not harm or infringe on the rights of others.

• Opposes eminent domain.

• Opposes civil asset forfeiture.

• Opposes governmental limits on profits.

• Opposes governmental production mandates.

• Opposes governmental controls on prices of goods and services (including wages, rents, and interest).

• Opposes any anti-discrimination laws that hinder private entities freedom to choose who they will trade with.



• Supports clear definition and enforcement of individual rights and responsibilities regarding resources like land, water, air, and wildlife.

• Supports restitution to injured parties when environmental damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law.


Governance and Regulation

• Opposes any government regulations that affect individuals right to sole dominion, except when given with the individual’s consent.

• Supports the abolishment of all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.


Individual Liberty

• Supports interpreting the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure to include records held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records.

• Opposes any governmental regulations to define, license or restrict personal relationships.


Justice Issues

• Supports limiting criminal laws to violations of the rights of others through force or fraud, or to deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm.

• Opposes all laws that prohibit the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.

• Supports the “common-law right of juries” to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law (i.e., jury nullification).



• Supports the right of private employers and employees to choose whether or not to bargain with each other through a labor union.

• Opposes government interference in labor disputes, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.

• Supports repealing any requirement that one must join or pay dues to a union as a condition of government employment.


Money and Financial Markets

• Supports “free-market banking,” with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.

• Opposes government guarantees and bailouts.

• Supports allowing individuals engaged in voluntary exchange to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item.

• Opposes inflationary monetary policies.

• Opposes legal tender laws.


Parental Rights

• Supports allowing parents, or other guardians, to have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs. (Their position adds the caveat, “This statement shall not be construed to condone child abuse or neglect.”)


Religious Freedom

• Supports the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others.

• Opposes government actions which either aid or attack any religion.



• Supports repeal of the 16 Amendment, which allows government to collect an income tax.

• Supports the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service.

• Opposes any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors.

• Opposes deficit spending.

• Opposes all forms of national debt.

• Supports passage of a “Balanced Budget Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution, provided that “the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.”



• Supports the removal of governmental impediments to free trade.


* A few examples of where Johnson differs from the platform: He supports anti-discrimination laws that require businesses to serve anyone and everyone (even forcing Jewish baker to bake cakes for Nazis), supports government subsidization of private organizations (such as Planned Parenthood), supports some gun control, etc. A few examples of where Weld differs from the platform: He supports some gun control (including a ban on “assault weapons”), redistribution of wealth, ect.

**Although the LP uses the phrase “right to life” they do not mean it to have the same denotation and connotation as that given by anti-abortion groups. The LP opposes any government involvement in the regulation of abortion.

Next in the series: The American Solidarity Party

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).