Libertarians and Tanking


July 2, 2014 12:55PM

As I watched my Utah Jazz dominate the NBA Draft the other night, most of the talk in the draft and on Twitter was about how the Philadelphia 76ers were clearly “tanking” again this year in hopes of rigging the draft to ensure a top pick in 2015. Their selections—injured Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, who won’t even come to America for at least two years—certainly lend gravitas to these suspicions. For those who are unfamiliar, “tanking” is the strategy of purposefully losing games to produce a bad record and consequently guaranteeing higher draft picks for the subsequent year or years. The goal of tanking is that hopefully the future of that team will be bettered by intentionally sacrificing wins in the short-run. As with many sports, there is potentially an analogy to be drawn between “tanking” and the political aspirations of the libertarian movement. As a previous communications strategist for libertarian non-profits in Washington, D.C, I can attest to the impulse amongst many to “tank”—in other words, sit back and let the worst case scenarios unfold under the least tolerable leaderships of Republican and Democratic administrations so that the American people will be driven to hopefully produce a better outcome (a libertarian outcome) next time around. Unfortunately, tanking in the real world has a much greater consequences than those that NBA fans are dealt when their teams adopt this calculated approach. Certain “tanking” strategies that are popular among many libertarian circles include abstaining from the voting booth, which removes their influence from battleground areas where contribution could be a game-changer. For example, even though they agree substantially more with candidate A, let’s call him Ken, than they do with candidate B, we’ll call him Terry, they still won’t vote for candidate A. In short, there is a contingency within libertarian circles that believes that any participation in the current political system is a vote of confidence in a process they believe is inherently flawed. Instead, they wager that non-participation and the consequences of bad results under other leadership will earn them the base necessary for a libertarian revolution. This form of political tanking reduces libertarian influence to the sidelines until they finally encounter that perfect storm. The problem is that even the best libertarian candidate will be flawed—as all humans are—so when the libertarians finally get that #1 pick in the draft after biding their time under undesirable conditions, I expect that there will be many that will forego their #1 draft pick for the impulse to tank again for the non-existent perfect candidate. -Mark Cunningham Enjoy the Beacon blog? Help us keep it going with a tax-deductible gift.