A recent (October, 2020) newspaper column by a Libertarian is an example of what can go wrong with Libertarians when they ignorantly transition into political charlatans.
To be charitable, it's possible to be a charlatan and not know it. The belief that your political agenda actually delivers a utopian future can be so strong that you easily conflate political option with political direction to justify (and convey enthusiasm for) your selling of the option. Such charlatans can graduate to being dangerous by default. Innocently enough, an option they're selling can certainly express a direction. But you can--through the typical slight-of-hand of charlatans--paint a bogus option with a wonderful but misleading coating of direction. In such a way, selling an option AS a direction can be dangerously misleading. Here's how--at best, deluded but "well-meaning"--charlatans can lead victims off of a cliff by being actually toxic to pro-Liberty while masquerading under a Libertarian banner.
The particular column is tellingly titled "The Libertarian Option". Of course the article ends with promoting voting for Libertarians in the national 2020 elections. The article goes through some of the valid virtues of libertarianism and the Libertarian Party as a valuable cultural influence. In many previous elections fostering that influence has been a reasonable, pro-Liberty approach. Thus, the article rightly points out the many ways as advocates of a pro-Liberty DIRECTION for our nation, that the Libertarian Party election OPTION has evidenced a cultural value when the other options offer no clear increment in a pro-Liberty direction. This is especially the case when the next-best two political choices (by pro-Liberty standards) offer essentially the same level (or lack) of a pro-Liberty policy vector. In that case, despite having a next-to-zero chance at securing office, the Libertarian option presents the nation with an educational contrast to the other two options and can help direct the national conversation in a pro-Liberty direction.
But the situation changes ethically when the next-best two choices diverge to offer a radically different spectrum of choice. In that case, on a pro-Liberty scale, one of those two options is far superior to the other which is toxically far worse. For both promoters and choosers, that ethical context changes drastically if the following unfortunate reality also manifests in that situation (of radical pro-Liberty divergence).
All the available social-science based evidence--over 48 years of accumulated evidence--reveals that the Libertarian Party is guaranteed to lose elections at the national level. The reasons would make a deep, very interesting, and sad study of cultural analysis--but it's not necessary to delve into that here. Suffice it to say that over the last almost 50 years Libertarians have gained next to zero traction in office at the national level with next to zero prospects now. Of registered voters in the nation Libertarians tally at less than 1% compared to roughly 42% Democrats, 30% Republicans, and 25% Independents.
As an examplar that applies going forward, in the political situation of the 2020 elections just such a radical divergence occurred among the top three political choices. All the evidence shows that the Democrat party option was--and continues to be--hijacked by a "new" far more radical leadership driving a far more radical, explicitly Socialist direction with a set of policies coupled with murderously violent Communist-inspired "revolution" riots in the major cities funded by billionaire Socialist/globalists and widely backed by extreme, uncivil intimidation of any opposition. In contrast to that, the Republicans recoiled somewhat more in a pro-Liberty policy direction. So the next-best two options to the Libertarian option have significantly diverged on a pro-Liberty scale. Because the Libertarian option will not win, it means that the actual, plausible choices that will control our future in office are: one explicitly bringing Socialism-that-leads-to-Communism and one explicitly (and demonstrably) against that policy direction. So, regardless of misguided fixations on such minor issues as Abortion, in that election the most essential choice dwarfing all others was the extreme toxicity of the Democrat mandate toward Radical Socialism.
In an election of such large pro-Liberty divergence, a Libertarian choice that claims to be a pro-Liberty choice becomes a sham of false advertising because--as should be the case for any such product--a prominent disclaimer should accompany the product stating that such a purported pro-Liberty option has--based on over 48 years of trials--zero chance of achieveing its claimed offering (ie, plausible election to a position that promotes pro-Liberty policy in office). Not always, but in elections like the 2020 national-level election, the Libertarian choice is like many scam drugs now being offered as a remedy for Covid19: at best such scam products have been made to taste good but at worst they are grossly misleading and can lead victims to--in their acceptance of the claims for the drug as a remedy--avoid seeking more seriously needed medical attention. Victims conned into the Libertarian option were seduced by the direction painted on that option by the sellers. The sellers have conflated an election option with a political direction and are selling an election option that is proven not to deliver the promised political direction in office. The option is being sold under false pretenses. Why is this bad? As is the case with scam drugs, victims are led to avoid getting proper medical attention. By analogy in such elections, the "proper medical attention" is choosing the next best political option that is proven to deliver some pro-Liberty (or much less anti-liberty) results rather than choosing the option guaranteed NOT to deliver any pro-Liberty results in elected office.
So there are election contexts where election options are not one and the same with the political directions they might be painted with in order to sell them. In such elections, the Libertarian election option is painted with a pro-Liberty direction that will not be delivered in office. The pro-Liberty votes of those victims who are conned with this conflation are run off a cliff. They voted on a direction conveyed by an option that cannot deliver it in office. They are conned into wasting their pro-Liberty vote. And they are conned by--of all people--"Libertarians" who claim to be promoting pro-Liberty policy in elected offices.
There are venues for promoting political DIRECTION in the culture. In some cases--as in the 2020 election--elections are not such a proper venue because they can inherently mislead voters into avoiding proper medical attention--into wasting their pro-Liberty votes. And this doesn't just effect their own political health. This scam predicament when scaled up nationally can effect the health of the nation if enough pro-Liberty votes are run off a cliff to decide an election in favor of the worst of the other two choices. The absence of pro-Liberty votes for the next-best option contributes to the victory of the worst of the other two options. When the options sufficiently diverge on a pro-Liberty scale, that changes the ethical context to one where the far more toxic option should be voted AGAINST by voting for the best of the other plausible options. For too many Libertarians the logic of this situation presents an insurmountable intellectual challenge.
Maybe another analogy using grade-school arithmetic will help. Let the number line represent in-office pro-Liberty policy: Negative numbers on the left, zero in the middle, positive numbers on the right. In the 2020 election by number analogy on a pro-Liberty scale, the Republicans measured at say something like minus 500 while the new Radical Socialist Democrats have shifted far more anti-individual liberty measuring at say something like minus 5000. If you remember grade school arithmetic, while both are negative, minus 500 is far more positive than minus 5000. On this rough scale, as a pro-Liberty measure being executed in office, minus 500 scales as far better than minus 5000. The scale of choice in the imbalanced election is rigged such that the minus 500 becomes the ethical choice while the Libertarian option is not even on this scale because it will not deliver its promised direction in office. Why? Because the Libertarian drug is proven in 48 years of drug trials to not yield its promised results.
What this means by analogy in the circumstances of that and future such imbalanced elections is that any choice other than the minus 500 choice is a de facto choice for the worst of the other two choices: minus 5000. The lack of a vote for the next-best minus 500 choice--on a pro-Liberty scale--is ONE LESS VOTE tallied against the minus 5000 choice. By analogy, in such elections any vote other than Republican is a vote for Radical Socialism--and that includes not voting at all. This situation has long been called spoiler voting (or splitting the vote). It is most often done by dunces that can't see the meaning of what they are actually doing. The drug might taste good to them but it actually won't work to further their personal health or the nation's health via in-office pro-Liberty policy.
The problem with far too many Libertarians in that 2020 election (and going forward) is that, in a grossly ignorant stupor of Fakenews propaganda absorbtion, they have been blinded to major pro-Liberty divergence in the other options. They cannot see that the Left/Right spectrum has shifted radically toward the Socialist Left in American culture. They are fixated on an obsolete decades-old Left/Right spectrum and can't see that the Democrat leadership which is violently demanding draconian Radical Socialist policies will impose a future that is at least an order of magnitude more toxic than the other plausible option. For evidence of that toxicity and the gross levels of perfidy in recent Democrat history that was deployed in the service of Radical Socialist policy (and for an exposure of their other episodes of monumental corruption) see:https://hierweb.com/politics/TrumpTest.htm#SwampCreatures
Bottom line: For several decades, the national elections have been--and continue to be--rigged against the most pro-Liberty options. When the options are significantly divergent on a pro-Liberty basis, the ethics of that reality forces a selection of the best of the other choices. As exposed at the link above, there is now an immense body of evidence to NOT trust the Democrat Party with any involvement in our government whatsoever. With their leadership beholding to an explicit Radical Socialist agenda, they are now proven-corrupt perpetrators backed by their accomplices in the discredited Fakenews media. In the 2020 elections there was ample evidence to trust the Republican Trump team with the reforms they were doing at the federal level of our bloated anti-liberty government. For the overall evidence for that see:www.hierweb.com/Politics/TrumpTest.htm
At the national level, the worst choice of all in such imbalanced election contexts is to vote Democrat or to vote its de facto equivalent: Libertarian. In such an election a Libertarian vote (ie, taking the Libertarian drug) may feel like you are voting for a pro-Liberty direction while, sadly, it is actually a dumb gesture with a "libertarian" meaning that is--by far--cancelled out by the choice's nature as a de facto vote for Radical Socialism.
A choice forced by circumstances says it all...