Libertarians, Small Business, and the 2016 Election: A Good or Bad Mix?

Date: May 27, 2016

From free trade to taxes, here are five things business owners should know about the minor party’s platform.

Time for another party?

Lost amid coverage of the brewing battle royal between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: Another U.S. political party will soon nominate its own ticket ahead of November’s general election.

As many Americans are picking which cut of meat to toss on the grill over Memorial Day weekend, the Libertarian Party will huddle at their convention in Orlando, Florida, to pick their presidential and vice presidential nominees. In the running are two former governors and businessmen: New Mexico’s Gary Johnson and Massachusetts’ Bill Weld. 


The Libertarian Party nomination comes on the heels of two new polls that show Republicans and Democrats are ceding voters to a third-party run. In late May, a Schoen Consulting firm poll showed that 20 percent of Americans would support an independent candidate—Trump and Clinton, meanwhile, each earned 33 percent of the support.

Doug Schoen, a former pollster for Pres. Bill Clinton and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said the results indicate “broad and popular support among the American public for a credible independent alternative to the two major presidential candidates … driven by deep anger about the state of American politics generally, and the Clinton and Trump candidacies specifically.” Another recent nationwide Fox News poll pegged Johnson’s support at 10 percent, compared to 42 percent for Trump and 39 percent for Clinton.

“Another poll showing one of our presidential candidates in double digits affirms the likelihood that the Libertarian Party will have a sizable influence in the 2016 election,” said Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee, in a statement.

If that’s the case, it’s worth asking: What do Libertarians believe about issues that matter to small business owners? As the party gathers to nominate their candidate, here’s a look at what their most recent platform, adopted at their 2014 convention in Columbus, Ohio, has to say about everything from eminent domain to trade to the free market.

Economic Liberty

The 2,674-word Libertarian platform only mentions “business” twice, but there’s a lot for entrepreneurs to consider. The document is divided into three key planks: “personal liberty,” “economic liberty,” and “securing liberty.”

For small business owners, the “economic liberty” plank is the most relevant: “A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner,” according to the platform. “Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.”

Energy Subsidies

When it comes to energy and resources, Libertarians also oppose government energy subsidies, according to their platform.

Property Rights

Libertarians oppose “eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services.”

Free Trade

The party is pro-free trade, making exceptions only in cases in which “entry into our country of foreign nationals … pose[s] a credible threat to security, health or property.”


Perhaps of most interest to small business owners, the Libertarian platform features a strong rebuke of the current U.S. tax and fiscal system.

The platform calls for the abolishment or repeal of the income tax, IRS and “all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.” In addition, the platform argues, “Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the 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.”

What’s Next for the Libertarians

On May 28, the party will decide among Austin Petersen, a party operative; businessman John McAfee; and the aforementioned Johnson, the odds-on favorite. The latter is, according to Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason magazine, the “#NeverTrump movement’s last hope”—or the #NeverHillary movement’s, for that matter.

“With nearly six more months of Trump vs. Hillary in front of us, many Americans will be grasping for anything that looks and talks different,” Welch writes.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

*Note: This news coverage does not equate to an endorsement of any candidate by NFIB.

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