Paul Jacob

Electing the lesser of two evils won’t result in anything worth celebration. The truth is, Mitt Romney will almost certainly expand government. Like Richard Nixon did, as did George W. Bush. Look at Romney’s proposals, and you see scant hope for truly shrinking government. At best he’ll merely slow the rate of government growth (and even that’s unlikely). That may be better than Obama’s plan of increasing the size and scope of government (which Bill “the era of Big Government is over” Clinton says is what made the ’90s so great), but it’s not much better. Indeed, at a time of increased financial instability and a dangerous, looming debt load, any increase in the size and scope of government would be disastrous and irresponsible. If Romney inflicts that on us with my vote, my help, I’ve accomplished the opposite of my purpose. I would have helped expand government, when I think our oversized, overspending empire is the number one threat to our posterity.

I certainly don’t want to do that! I’m just trying to defend my freedom.

Moreover, if in people’s minds Romney becomes the candidate of limited government and free markets only to implement big government policies, his failure will be trumpeted by the statist echo chamber as a failure for our ideas.

To the degree we voters accept limited choices of bad and worse, we disarm ourselves, facilitating a system where we don’t just waste our vote, but have it used against it — even when our candidate wins!

So what to do?

Long term, we should consider helpful reforms to our election system such as instant runoff voting, wherein by ranking our choices we can vote for the person we honestly most support without ending up electing the person we least support.

But our election process won’t be overhauled — or even timidly tweaked — in the next six weeks. So, how best to navigate the present voting trap to best cast a ballot for freedom, for less government?

Freedom voters who live in the 40-plus states that are obviously uncompetitive — whose outcomes we know in advance, either as pro-Obama or pro-Romney — have it easy. They can vote for Gary Johnson without fear of risking adding practical weight to the re-election of a very bad president. They can send their stronger, clearer message for freedom and against omni-oppressive government without effecting the outcome of the contest.

Those who favor Johnson but live in swing states, however, require a more novel course of action. In those states, where a single vote might approach making a difference, voting for the best could (just possibly) help defeat the better and elect the bad. The best would become the enemy of the good, as Milton Friedman liked to warn us.

In this situation, there must be a way for these freedom voters to send their message without inadvertently boosting Obama over Romney.

There is, but it requires an alliance between Libertarians in swing states and libertarian-leaning Republicans in uncompetitive states. Libertarians want Johnson to get as many votes as possible even if he can’t win. Republicans need every vote possible for Romney in swing states. The solution? Swing-state libertarians can trade their vote with one or more uncompetitive-state Romney supporters. And like in all honest exchanges, both gain. In this case, Johnson gets more votes (because smart libertarians can trade their one vote for numerous others) and Romney wins more states.

Maybe free trade and free markets are even better than we thought. Let’s apply the benefits of trade to elections. If you’re a Republican in, say, hopelessly blue California or in deep-red Oklahoma, call a libertarian friend in a swing state. Or log in and comment at, and let the swapping begin!

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.