The Libertarian party was founded in Colorado in 1971 and held its first convention in Denver in 1972. In 1972 it fielded John Hospers for president and Theodora Nathan for vice president in the U.S. general election. It appeared on two state ballots, receiving a total of 2,648 votes in Colorado and Washington. In the 1976 elections, the party's 176 candidates garnered 1.2 million votes across the United States.
The Libertarian party believes that people have certain natural, individual rights and that deprivation of those rights is unjust. Two basic rights—the right to personal autonomy and the right to utilize previously unused resources—form the foundation of the party's ideals.
The Libertarian party views government as both the cause and the effect of societal ills. Government causes crime and prejudice because excessive laws divide society, rob people of their independence, and frustrate initiative and creativity. It then attempts to eradicate crime and prejudice by exercising more control over individual rights.
The Libertarian party promotes the ABOLITION of compulsory military service, government control of television and other media, laws regarding sexual activity between consenting adults, laws against the use of mood-altering substances, and government control of migration and immigration. Under its leadership farming quotas and subsidies would be eliminated, there would be no mandatory schooling and no MINIMUM WAGE, and defense spending would be drastically reduced. According to the party, the form of government it promotes would be less expensive than the current system of federal, state, and local governance.
The Libertarian party has achieved a small measure of electoral success. In 1980 Ed Clark received over 1 million votes in his bid for the presidency. Having failed to win the popular vote in any state, however, Clark received no electoral votes. Andre Marrou garnered slightly less support as the party's presidential candidate in 1984, 1988, and 1992. In 1992 Marrou and his running mate Nancy Lord received approximately 291,000 votes. Although the party has yet to be a factor in national politics, it has had some success locally. In 1994 it had state representatives in New Hampshire and Alaska, mayors in California, and over 30 city council members in cities across the country.
In 1996 the party held its national convention in Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July holiday. At the convention it nominated economist and author Harry Browne as its presidential candidate. In his acceptance speech, Browne presented a number of controversial ideas, including making a sizable reduction in the federal government, abolishing the federal INCOME TAX, abolishing federal drug and seizure laws, and increasing recognition of individual rights. Browne and running mate Jo Jorgensen appeared on the election ballot in all 50 states, along with approximately 1,000 Libertarian party candidates for various public offices. Browne and Jorgensen won 485,759 votes, 0.5 percent of the national vote.
Browne ran again for president in 2000, this time with Art Oliver as a running mate. Although the Libertarian party was on the ballot in all 50 states, the Browne ticket received only 382,982 votes, over 100,000 fewer than in the 1996 election. During the 2000 elections the party also entered candidates for more than half of the seats in Congress up for election. In the elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, Libertarian party candidates received a total of 1.7 million votes, the first time in history a third party received more than a million votes for the House.