Cultural Revolutions

Insurmountable Obstacles

Ralph Nader faces several insurmountable obstacles in his 2004 bid for the presidency, from overcoming restrictive ballot-access laws used to limit political competition to forging an ad hoc coalition between elements of the political left and right.

Public-choice economics, popularized by Gordon Tullock and 1986 Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan, argues that politicians, like individuals, pursue their own self-interest.  Political competition would benefit voters by giving them a greater choice of candidates.  Competition does not benefit incumbents, however, leading them to pass laws that make it difficult, if not impossible, for third parties and independents like Nader to qualify for a place on the ballot.  Nader will not be on the ballot in all 50 states in 2004.

This does not mean that Nader lacks all leverage.  On the eve of the last presidential election, Chronicles noted that Nader and paleoconservative Pat Buchanan “need not win states to have an impact on the political process.”  That is exactly what happened, with Buchanan holding balance of power in five states and Nader achieving it in eight, including Florida.  Many Western states have modest ballot-access requirements.  Nevada, for example, requires only 5,019 signatures for parties and candidates and also gives voters the choice “None Of These Candidates,” a reform that Nader supports. ...

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