The GOP needs them, after two decades of dissing them, to rebuild.
The Dems want them, because if they can get them focused on social and foreign policy issues instead of economic issues, they can cement their (they'd like to believe) permanent political majority.
Meanwhile, as usual, Libertarians waste more and more of their time conducting internal purges over miniscule differences that would have befuddled Stalin and Trotsky.
Nobody, however, really wants Libertarians as Libertarians, any more than the Dems really want queers as queers or the GOPers really want real fiscal conservatives as real fiscal conservatives.
So what they do, as Bruce Bartlett does today at Forbes, is use the term Libertarian as a crude caricature to make those who use it appear to be idiotic bumpkins who need handlers:
On the surface, there would appear to be potential for an alliance. Libertarians tend to be liberal on social issues, favoring such things as gay marriage and drug legalization; and also liberal on defense and foreign policy, opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and opposing torture and restrictions on civil liberties in the name of national security.
But libertarians are conservative on economic policy--favoring a free market with virtually no government intervention except the enforcement of contracts, and no government spending or taxes except those to pay for a very minimal police force and military.
Libertarians' views on social policy and national defense make them sympathetic to the Democrats, while their views on economic policy tend to align them with the Republicans. If one views social, defense and economic policy as having roughly equal weight, it would seem, therefore, that most libertarians should be Democrats. In fact, almost none are. Those that don't belong to the dysfunctional Libertarian Party are, by and large, Republicans.
The reason for this is that most self-described libertarians are primarily motivated by economics. In particular, they don't like paying taxes. They also tend to have an obsession with gold and a distrust of paper money. As a philosophy, their libertarianism doesn't extent much beyond not wanting to pay taxes, being paid in gold and being able to keep all the guns they want. Many are survivalists at heart and would be perfectly content to live in complete isolation on a mountain somewhere, neither taking anything from society nor giving anything.
Neat pseudo-intellectual trick there, Bruce. You--a non-Libertarian--label what you decide are the three foundations of Libertarian belief, assign equal value to each, and then declare that if Libertarians weren't so selfish, anti-social, and prone to violence, they'd all be Democrats.
Let's leave aside the fact that both the Democratic Party and the current Democratic presidential administration are far more interventionist than I'd call Libertarian....
Or that both the Democratic Party and the current Democratic presidential administration are far more socially intrusive than any Libertarian would be comfortable with....
Meanwhile, Bartlett conflates a specific sub-group of Libertarians [minarchists] with all Libertarians on fiscal issues, favoring a free market with virtually no government intervention except the enforcement of contracts, and no government spending or taxes except those to pay for a very minimal police force and military.
This argument is a little more sophisticated than ascribing a love of watermelons, fried chicken, and dancing to all African-Americans, but not by much.
On the other hand, Libertarians have generally failed to prove that (a) they really understand the nuts and bolts of public policy; or that (b) they would take seriously the idea of governing rather than immediately and blindly setting about dismantling the government. [Monday, we'll eliminate the Fed, Tuesday, the IRS, Wednesday, the FBI....]
But I could also argue that neither the Dems or the GOPers have actually used that understanding of public policy to make any real difference in the exponential growth of government, the increasing pace of American wars abroad, or the persistent cancerous penetration of the nanny state into my daily life....
So maybe the benefit of winning elections is, ah, overrated.