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Trump and the Libertarians

6 May

This was published yesterday at Breitbart.  Since it was published, Mary Matalin joined the Libertarian Party and rumors surfaced that Trump might select Rand Paul as his Veep.

Bill Kristol appeared on WMAL’s morning conservative talk radio show, “Mornings on the Mall,” Thursday morning, breaking news that he is trying to find donors for a conservative third party run against Donald Trump if he is nominated as the Republian candidate for president.

Among the liberal Republicans there is also splintering.
Breitbart broke the story earlier this week that Donald Trump’s impending success in winning the GOP nomination was causing fractures in Republican Party delegations, as one DC GOP delegate, Rina Shah, was decertified as a delegate to the GOP nominating convention for saying publicly that she planned to vote for Hillary if Trump was nominated.
The DC Republican Party is something of an outlier.  It’s national committee man and woman, lawyer Bob Kabel and real estate developer Jill Homan, are both (openly) gay, as is its chairman, financial manager Jose Cunningham.  It’s executive director, Patrick Mara, though a happily married heterosexual and new dad, was the first DC candidate some years back to endorse gay marriage over civil unions, and the DC Republican Party supports gay marriage in its platform, and did so before the DC Democratic party did.  (Only the DC and Delaware GOP affiliates supported gay marriage in their platforms before the Supreme Court enacted it).
Perhaps coincidentally, Homan and Mara both fall into another faction of the current GOP:  Homan, a former campaigner for Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich, the Republican precursor to Larry Hogan, says she describes herself as “trending libertarian,” and Mara has been known to use the “L” word (lower case) to describe his brand of socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republicanism.
The “libertarian wing” of the Republican Party has been having spasms this week over Trump, and google searches for “Libertarian Party” shot up after Trump’s latest win.  Membership applications and donations to the Libertarian Party have doubled since Trump won the Indiana primary, with 100 people joining daily.
Congressman Justin Amash, PACster Matt Kibbe, and former Congressman Ron Paul are libertarian Republicans on the list of those pledged to never support  Trump. Senator Rand Paul doesn’t have any plans to endorse Trump, though Senator Paul has had no difficulty in the past endorsing Mitt Romney or campaigning pointedly for Republican gubernatorial candidates like Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia in 2013, when unusually successful Libertarian Party candidates like Robert Sarvis started polling over 5%.  George Will, who has evolved into a libertarian fellow traveler, blurbing CATO Institute books and speaking to libertarianish groups (as I write this he is introducing transsexual Christian libertarian economic historian Dierdre McCloskey tonight at the American Enterprise Institute), wrote an editorial predicting Trump will cause the GOP to lose both the House and Senate.  Dave Nalle, the former national chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a group of libertarians inside the GOP, has switched parties at least temporarily, and will be a delegate to the Libertarian Party nominating convention in Orlando, May 26-30, where he hopes to help nominate former Republican Governor Gary Johnson, who has been appealing to GOP voters in the #NeverTrump movement.  Asked why he was switching parties, Nalle answered: ““Nominating Johnson gives Republicans who cannot stomach Trump an acceptable option other than Hillary. I blame the party leadership for its failure to support a reasonable alternative to Trump. They would rather let the party die at the hands of bigoted yahoos who do not believe in Republican values than accept the need for serious internal reform and platform changes which would attract new voters to the party. This completes a process of debasement of the party that began when leadership tried to expand the party base by welcoming radical groups which were driven out of the Democratic Party. Trumpism is the price we pay for not realizing that there are principles which are more important than winning elections.”
This week one of the DC GOP’s other 19 delegates (not Ms. Shah), invited me, as a local DC Libertarian, to lunch, to beg me to get Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party to run an aggressive, but ideologically moderate, campaign to appeal to Republicans who can’t vote for Trump.  This Republican delegate – DC’s delegates are all pledged to Rubio or Kasich  – had also tried to meet with Libertarian Party national director Wes Benedict, but had only managed to get a 15 minute phone pitch, where he made the same points.  When I told my lunch partner I actually thought Libertarian candidates for Congress should appeal to Trump voters (he may not have read my previous “Two Libertarian Cheers for Donald Trump”), he was horrified.  Supporting Donald Trump as a wrecking ball aimed at the political class and as someone who was energizing independents and non-voters is, according to my lunchmate, “anti-intellectual,” because Trump doesn’t always articulate the correct policy proposals.
So the libertarians, in the GOP and in the LP, are of two minds.  Some think Trump will drive many Republican voters to vote for Gary Johnson.  As Zuri Davis, an editorial assistant at the Rand Paulish webzine Rare told her friends, “My vote will be going towards the Libertarian Party in November.”  

But other Libertarians are supporting Trump.  Well known libertarian economist and author Walter Block, started a group of Libertarians for Trump., whose website aggregates pro-Trump articles by libertarianish authors like David Stockman.  The Chief Operating Officer for Libertarians for Trump is Martin Moulton, the 2014 Libertarian Party candidate for D.C. Shadow Representative to Congress, the top Libertarian vote getter in DC’s last election.   Moulton explains his support: “Now that Mr. Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee we seek to support the candidate most likely to win the 2016 presidential election and advance Libertarian policies. If a registered LP candidate does not gain the national attention and votes needed to beat Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trumps’s consistent calls to reevaluate NATO’s relevance, question interventionist disasters and financial losses, and his promise to audit the Federal Reserve in his first 100 days, make him the most likely 2016 candidate to successful enact and realize Libertarian solutions for all Americans.” 

At this date there are no known delegates to the Libertarian nominating convention supporting Trump.  So unlike the GOP, the LP may not have to take moves to decertify any delegates.

A note on Libertarian Pragmatism

25 Oct
A continuing tension in the libertarian movement, which isn’t going away, is about whether libertarians, or those libertarians who believe in (at least sometimes) working in electoral politics, should work in the Libertarian Party or in one of the incumbent parties (usually taken to be the Republican Party).

This Week’s Leftover Smear Merchantry – WaPo’s Paul Waldman

15 Aug
That Mr. Bezos is so nice to offer jobs to so many retarded Americans.  A gimp named Paul Waldman complained that Rand Paul had not spoken on the Ferguson, MO killing of an innocent (African American) man. [ Senator Paul did later speak out about it before President Obama did, and also wrote a piece for TIME magazine.]

The presumption is that Rand or Ron Paul are the sum total of libertarian voices, and that the libertarian twittersphere and blogosphere that Waldman and other stalinoids are ignorant of doesn’t exist.  Sean Malone took him to task.
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  • Sean Malone 

    “Dear Mr. Waldman,

    You’re kidding with this, right? You’re just here to troll the Washington Post readership with some satire, yes? 

    You claim that ‘libertarians” aren’t talking about Ferguson… But Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who has spent about 20 years fighting police abuses and who’s work actually contributed directly to freeing Cory Maye from death row (http://reason.com/archives/2006/10/01/the-case-of-cory-maye) and who has absolutely talked about it at length, works for the Washington Post! 

    In case you weren’t aware, that’s the same newspaper that published your stunted excuse for an article.

    Also, Reason, the widely circulated print & online libertarian news magazine (where Balko used to work, by the way) has covered the events as they’ve unfolded in Ferguson extensively. Read this for example:http://reason.com/…/officer-who-shot-mike-brown-might…. Likewise, “The Independents”, a libertarian news show on Fox Business with which you’re obviously unfamiliar, is also covering the story and I believe will have guests on to talk about it tonight.

    As an active libertarian myself, I can say anecdotally that my entire social-media sphere is blowing up with posts about Ferguson, MO as well since Michael Brown was shot. All, by the way, decrying the state of police violence in the country and supporting the feelings and ultimate aims (if not the specific violent/damaging actions) of the rioters and outraged people of the town.

    But I guess doing the 5 minutes of Googling it would have taken to find out any of this was too difficult?

    Perhaps next time you should try and find a shred of journalistic integrity and – oh, I don’t know – actually learn a little bit about your subject matter before posting such idiotic tripe… Not that you will. Better yet, you and your editors should simply never be employed in the news business by anyone.

    Good day, you mentally incompetent hack.”

    reason.com

    A cop is dead, an innocent man may be on death row, and drug warriors keep knocking down doors.

  • Sean Malone Waldman:

    “I’d encourage you to read the actual piece, and to read Balko’s blog. If you do those two things, you’ll find out that I mentioned Reason’s coverage of the Ferguson case, and you’ll also find that Balko hasn’t actually written about the Ferguson case yet, though I’m sure he will eventually.”

  • Sean Malone Me again:

    “Thanks. I did read the actual piece. Balko hasn’t written a piece for WaPo yet, but he’s written several things on social media (where he has a sizeable following) about it. That doesn’t count? 

    Your article slanders a massive group of people whose actual work in this area has far outpaced that of basically any major progressive/liberal group in this country, and instead of focusing on the libertarian community’s lengthy history of excellent work on police militarization, police abuse, and specifically the way in which police power is used more aggressively against minority communities, you try to paint us all as hypocrites and insinuate a disdain for the poor and possibly minority communities instead. And all because two politicians wouldn’t immediately get back to you with a public statement about something that is extremely politically sensitive. 

    Surely you realize how utterly disingenuous your article is. It’s some of the shittiest, most underhanded journalism I’ve ever read and as a libertarian, I’m pretty used to smear-campaigns from ignorant partisan blowhards at this point.”

House Liberty Caucus at Young Americans for Liberty national convention

31 Jul


Justin Amash campaign

18 Dec
Bruce, 

Like many in our community, I’ve been left scratching my head at the bizarre smear campaign that was launched against me a few weeks ago – nearly a year before the Republican primary.
One day, my opponent says I’m too conservative because I stood firmly against Obamacare and voted against an earmark. The next day, he runs attack ads claiming I’m too liberal, even though I’m the top conservative in the House according to conservative scorekeepers FreedomWorks and The Club for Growth.
Bizarre, I thought — until I read up on who’s behind his campaign.
The Washington Post reported that my challenger’s backers think he will do things “the old-fashioned way—by working the inside game and playing nice.
“Wall Street donors” clamored for his campaign, according to a liberal former congressman who supports my challenger and pledged to raise $8 million this cycle.
I don’t think Justin Amash cares if Bank of America gives to him or not,” one dismayed bank lobbyist told Politico.
They’re right. Crony capitalists have found their guy—and it’s not me.
• My opponent supports earmarks to give special benefits to people with connections. I don’t.
• He doled out taxpayer dollars to corporations as Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s appointee to the MEDC. I oppose corporate welfare.
• He lobbied for higher taxes and more spending—even publicly attacking Gov. Snyder for cutting too much government. I am the leading fiscal conservative in the House.
• He favors “Common Core.” I oppose a federal takeover of our children’s education.
• He recently told a radio interviewer, “Everybody has their own special interests, right?” Enough said.
West Michigan knows who I am: a principled, consistent conservative who follows the Constitution. What throws off the Washington political class is that I’m also nonpartisan, effective, and persistent in my belief that government should treat everyone equally.
I’ve led a broad, bipartisan coalition to rein in the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance of innocent Americans. Now, comprehensive NSA reform that I’ve coauthored likely will pass the House next year.
I’ve written the most bipartisan balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which would end Washington’s unsustainable spending. I built support for my legislation by doing something ordinary for West Michigan but extraordinary for Washington: I sat down with my Democratic colleagues and talked to them about our ideas.
My opponent attacks me for voting against a bill to give special regulatory preferences to TransCanada, the Canadian corporation that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline. I strongly support domestic energy production and construction of the pipeline. But I cannot support an earmark that exempts one Canadian corporation from the law, while denying a similar break to all other companies.
My opponent says I should have voted for a tax package that The Wall Street Journal opposed and that would have increased the federal deficit by nearly $50 billion (about equal to the annual budget of the State of Michigan). He even dings me for having voted against a federal budget that wouldn’t balance for nearly 30 years. (I’ve voted each year for the more conservative Republican Study Committee budget that actually would balance in the short run.)
As I said, it’s bizarre.
West Michigan supports me because I reject business as usual: I never miss a vote, publicly explain every vote, and get the job done for all my constituents, not just the elite insiders my opponent seeks to represent. My approach to representation appears to confuse the political class. Over the next eight months, I look forward to helping Washington, Wall Street, and their yes-men understand.
Will you please donate to help combat these smears?  Your donation of $50, $100, $500, or more could make the difference.
 
In Liberty,


Justin Amash

 

Wednesday’s top libertarian Internet updates

4 Sep
1) Drudge Report on FaceBook

It’s now Authoritarian vs. Libertarian. Since Democrats vs. Republicans has been obliterated, no real difference between parties…

Why would anyone vote Republican? Please give reason. Raised taxes; marching us off to war again; approved more NSA snooping. WHO ARE THEY?!

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2) Mike Flynn on Facebook

weird. When I was against US wars in the Middle East, I had lots of liberal allies. They are strangely silent now. Did I miss a pamphlet?

     2a). Bruce Majors – Syrians are white Arabs, unlike Iraqis who are Arabs of color.  The New 
             York Times  explained it in an op Ed.

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3)  Justin Amash on FaceBook

What an amazing day. I made six stops across the district to hear from the people I represent on the potential use of U.S. military force in #Syria. I heard from concerned citizens, from veterans of our Armed Forces, from military spouses—I heard from hundreds of people—and almost unanimously, the people of #MI03said they do not support military action.

Nobody condones the crimes that are being committed in Syria by any of the sides, but I can’t ask you to put your loved ones potentially in harm’s way—and to expend more American resources—with such unclear objectives, an incoherent strategy, and no compelling U.S. interest. I look forward to hearing from more of you as I make five more stops across #MI03 on Wednesday.

America’s Libertarian Moment

19 Aug

A longtime libertarian policy wonk talks about whether the philosophy can save the GOP — and why he still doesn’t think Rand Paul can win the presidency.
randpaulfilibuster.banner.AP.jpg.jpg
Associated Press
Libertarianism is on the march. From the rapid rise to prominence of first-term Senator Rand Paul to the state-level movements to legalize gay marriage and marijuana, the philosophy of fiscal conservatism, social liberalism, and restrained foreign policy seems to be gaining currency in American politics. But it’s nothing new, of course. (New York Times Magazine, 1971: “The New Right Credo: Libertarianism.”) A lonely band of libertarian thinkers have been propounding this philosophy since the 1960s, when the late thinker Murray Rothbard published his first book, Reason magazine was founded, and, in 1974, Rothbard teamed up with Charles Koch and Ed Crane to found the Cato Institute, one of Washington’s most influential think tanks.
David Boaz, Cato’s executive vice president, has been with the organization since 1981, giving him a good perch to put the current libertarian vogue in perspective. In an interview this week, we talked about the political currents propelling libertarianism into the political mainstream, the Supreme Court’s libertarian turn, whether Paul will be our next president, and much more. This is an edited transcript of our conversation.


Is there a libertarian moment happening in America?

Libertarian ideas — and I’m never using a capital L [i.e., referring to the Libertarian Party] when I say that; in this case I don’t even mean consciously libertarian, so not just the people who read Reasonmagazine and Murray Rothbard and call themselves libertarians — libertarian ideas are very deeply rooted in America. Skepticism about power and about government, individualism, the idea that we’re all equal under the law, free enterprise, getting ahead in the world through your own hard work — all of those ideas are very fundamentally American. Obviously, from a libertarian point of view, America nonetheless has done a whole lot of things, from slavery to Obamacare, that offend some number of those libertarian values, but the core libertarian attitude is still there. And a lot of times when the government suddenly surges in size, scope, or power, those libertarian attitudes come back to the fore.
I think that’s what you’re seeing. I think you’re seeing a growth of self-conscious libertarianism. The end of the Bush years and the beginning of the Obama years really lit a fire under the always-simmering small-government attitudes in America. The TARP, the bailouts, the stimulus, Obamacare, all of that sort of inspired the Tea Party. Meanwhile, you’ve simultaneously got libertarian movements going on in regard to gay marriage and marijuana. And I’ll tell you something else that I think is always there. The national media were convinced that we would be getting a gun-control bill this year, that surely the Newtown shooting would overcome the general American belief in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. And then they pushed on the string and it didn’t go anywhere. Support for gun control is lower today than it was 10 or 15 years ago. I think that’s another sign of America’s innate libertarianism.
This year you have a whole series of scandals that at least call into question the efficacy, competence, and trustworthiness of government. The IRS, maybe theBenghazi cover-up, and the revelations about surveillance. All of those things together, I think, have lit a fire to the smoldering libertarianism of the American electorate.
None of which necessarily means that there’s a libertarian majority that will sweep Rand Paul to the White House or anything like that. But there are a lot of people who care a lot, and a lot more people who care some, about these things, and a majority of Americans think our taxes are too high, a majority of Americans think the federal government spends too much, a majority of Americans think it was a mistake to get into Iraq. A bare majority of Americans now favor gay marriage, a bare majority favor marijuana legalization, a huge majority think there should be a requirement to balance the federal budget. So if you’re a presidential candidate you don’t call yourself a libertarian and run on Murray Rothbard’s book, you run on those issues. And on those issues, you find a lot that a majority agrees with.
What is the significance of Rand Paul to this discussion?

Rand Paul is clearly the most significant libertarian-leaning American political figure in a long time. There are a couple of issues I disagree with him on, but when you look at issues that cut across left-right boundaries, like his interest in reduced spending, less regulation, reining in our adventurous foreign policy, protecting America’s rights against surveillance — that’s a combination of issues that libertarians have waited a long time to find together in one candidate. I think he can have a lot of appeal. A lot of libertarians, including those who came out of the Ron Paul movement but also others, are very interested in seeing how far his political ambitions might take him.
How does libertarianism figure into the war of ideas that’s going on in the Republican Party? Is the GOP poised to embrace libertarianism?
I think they’re poised to debate it. Rand Paul is going to be in the middle of the people debating the future of the Republican Party. Rand Paul has said he doesn’t call himself a libertarian; he calls himself a libertarian Republican, small L-capital R, and he does sometimes say that the party needs to move in a more libertarian direction to broaden its appeal to young people and independent voters.
One of the things Ron Paul’s campaign showed was that a lot of young people who were not Republicans were interested in these ideas. But [as a Republican politician] you either have to get those people into Republican primaries or you have to get the nomination for that to do you any good.
Rand Paul’s supporters believe as soon as he starts to look like a contender, the establishment is going to see him as a threat and try to destroy him.
There are all sorts of Washington establishments who are going to want to take down Rand Paul. The spending establishment is certainly not going to like what he’s talking about. The Republican political establishment doesn’t particularly want to change. And certainly the national security establishment is extremely eager not to debate our policy of global interventionism. They have always sought to rule out of bounds any challenge to it.
They tried it in the Republican primary in Kentucky [in 2010]. The neocons organized one of their emergency committees to stop Rand Paul in the primary. I think they will continue to do that.
And yet some libertarians have started to criticize Rand Paul for going squishy as he tries to appeal more to the GOP mainstream.
If you want a pure libertarian to run for president, you’ve got the Libertarian Party. If you think the Libertarian Party’s candidates aren’t pure enough, you can write in Murray Rothbard. When we talk about a U.S. senator running for president, you are talking about the real world of politics. Nobody is going to be a doctrinaire Ayn Rand libertarian. Rand Paul has rounder edges than his father. He has a number of other advantages over his father: He’s not 77 years old; he’s a not a House member, he’s a senator; and he has rounder edges in the way he presents libertarian ideas. There may even be issues on which they actually disagree, though I’m not sure I can think of one.
Well, Rand Paul says he would audit the Federal Reserve, not end it as his father promised to do.
Does he, in his heart, believe in ending the Fed? I believe he does. But the next president is not going to get rid of the Fed. If we can audit the Fed — and, more important to me, we can rein in the incredible powers the Fed seized in 2008 and put some governor in control of the creation of new money — we will have accomplished a lot.
Rand Paul is also strongly against abortion rights, which many libertarians disagree with. What is the libertarian position on abortion?
I don’t think there is a libertarian position on abortion. There was a study done by a graduate student at UCLA that found that about two-thirds of people you would identify as libertarian are pro-choice. From a philosophical perspective, libertarians generally believe the appropriate role of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. The question is, is forbidding abortion a way of protecting life, or should it be viewed as a restriction of liberty? There’s a plausible libertarian case on both sides. People who are consciously libertarian are more respectful of the other position on abortion, in my experience, than most pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I do not think there is an official position.
The Supreme Court had a remarkably libertarian term, and Cato had a very successful year at the Court, isn’t that right?

Yes, we filed briefs in 18 cases and were on the winning side in 15 of them. [Cato was also the only organization to file briefs on the winning side of the four highest-profile cases: affirmative action, voting rights, the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.]
That’s maybe less a sign of the zeitgeist and more a sign that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, is a bit of a libertarian.
Of the 15 cases we won, Justice Kennedy was with us 14 times. If you look at his record over his 25 years on the court, you could argue he’s the most libertarian member of the Court. He’s made some egregious errors in that time. He was wrong on the Kelo case [in which the Court ruled that the state has the right to take private property for private development]. However, on a lot of civil liberties, personal freedom, and gay-rights issues, he’s been on the liberal side, and on a lot of business regulation, size of government, and federalism cases he’s been on the conservative side. And that means we often agree with him.
There was a lot of whiplash among partisans over the big Court decisions — progressives anguished about voting rights one day and thrilled about gay rights the next, and vice versa for conservatives. But from your point of view, a libertarian point of view, there was a consistency to be seen.
Yes, and not just the broad consistency of individual freedom versus the power of government, but on the narrower issue of treating people equally under the law. We would say that the issue of race in college admissions and the issue of equal marriage rights in the DOMA case are both applications of equal protection of the law. We actually had a similar experience 10 years ago, in 2003, when we were the only organization to have filed amicus briefs in support of Lawrence inLawrence v. Texas [the case that struck down sodomy laws] and Jennifer Gratz in her lawsuit against the University of Michigan [for its affirmative-action policy]. There were a lot of gay-rights and liberal groups on our side in the Lawrence case, and a lot of conservatives on our side with Jennifer Gratz. We felt that we were asking for equal freedom under law for both Gratz and Lawrence.
Is this part of the attraction of young people to libertarianism — that it seems to stand outside partisanship, in a pure, consistent way?
I think that’s true. I think having a consistent principle that organizes all these issues was very helpful for Marxism, and I think it’s also an attraction of libertarianism. It may also be that on a gut level, there are a lot of people who like not being a Democrat or a Republican. Millions of Americans — 59 percent, according to one poll — would tell you they are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and that’s a real loose definition of libertarian. We consider those people to be a large constituency that libertarians should be able to access. Especially for young people, saying, “Nobody tells me what to say, I’m not a partisan Democrat or Republican,” is attractive. To see Ron Paul, in the Republican primary debates, clearly challenging the things the rest of the Republicans were saying, but also clearly not a Democrat.

You mention Marxism. Some would extend the parallel and say libertarianism is another ideology that works in theory but not in practice.
I’ll tell you the difference. We’ve tried stunted and cramped versions of libertarianism in the world, and we’ve tried versions of Marxism that were less stunted and cramped because they had all the levers of power. I am willing to match England, the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong, which are all approximately libertarian societies, against the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba any day.
In my view, the farther you go toward actual, existing libertarianism, the closer you get to a society with prosperity, economic growth, social dynamism, and social harmony. More and more countries in the world are moving toward broadly libertarian principles. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of travel, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation. Sometimes we forget how different these things are than what went before. Economic and personal freedom, and the extension of the promise of the Declaration of Independence to more and more people — to black people, to women, to gay people — all of those things are trying libertarianism in real life, and I think it works pretty well.
Can someone like Rand Paul win a national election? Won’t he get painted as weak on national defense by his political opponents?
It’s not clear that a strongly libertarian, noninterventionist program could command a majority. But I think a mildly noninterventionist retrenchment, and [proposing to] do a better job of protecting people’s privacy, could be a viable political alternative. I do think the reaction to the NSA spying and Americans’ weariness with the wars in the Mideast is changing that game.
You say people want more freedom, but the counterargument is that people really want the welfare state. They don’t want Social Security and Medicare taken away or cut. Doesn’t that limit the political viability of libertarianism?
Certainly people on Social Security and people who anticipate being on Social Security are supportive of it.
Isn’t that everyone?
Well, I’m not sure people your age think of themselves as future Social Security recipients. You might be thinking, “I want someone taking care of my parents.” But people want economic growth. They want low taxes. They also like people to give them stuff. So part of the political argument is which side wins those battles. It changes. Reagan did say we have to rein in spending and government is the problem right now, and he won a big victory twice. It’s also true that he didn’t really touch Social Security or Medicare.
He tried to change Social Security, and he paid a big price for it politically and changed his tune.
That’s right. So those things are tough. For a libertarian policy wonk, that is a very frustrating thing. We actually have a plan that would work to put Social Security on a sound footing and eventually liberate people from being reliant on government, and we couldn’t even get a hearing in Congress for it. And Social Security is so much easier a topic than Medicare.
You mean in policy terms it’s an easier fix, not that it’s easier to attack politically.
Right, it’s a much easier problem to solve. With Medicare, the unfunded liabilities are far greater, transforming it into a privately funded system of accounts is much more difficult. So absolutely the entitlement state is a huge challenge for libertarians in any modern welfare state. But it’s also true that people don’t like paying what it takes to pay for these programs in Europe, and it’s getting to be that way here.

The political battle is to get people to recognize that the cost in taxes and lost economic growth is more than they are willing to pay for an expanded welfare state. The current welfare state is a tougher argument. In Europe, they are running into walls. They’re going to have to do something, and some of them have. Sweden has significantly reined in their welfare state. They figured out that they can’t afford it.
Are there other libertarian-leaning politicians you’re interested in besides Rand Paul?
One of the problems for libertarians is they aren’t much interested in politics. The three most libertarian governors of past decade — the brilliant lawyer William Weld, the true citizen-politician Gary Johnson, and the eccentric entertainer Jesse Ventura — all walked away from politics. In the House you have Justin Amash [of Michigan] and Thomas Massie [of Kentucky] — I once did a study that determined that Kentucky was the least libertarian state in the country by several criteria. Then they elected Rand Paul and Thomas Massie, so maybe I have to reconsider.
There are a few other members of Congress who say they are inspired by Ron Paul. Then there are people on the conservative side like [Pennsylvania Senator] Pat Toomey, who is a strong fiscal conservative, even though he would probably vote wrongly in my view on things like gay marriage and the Iraq war. Jeff Flake is a very good fiscal conservative. Mike Lee has interesting ideas on the Constitution and the role of the federal government.
I keep hearing about libertarian Democrats out West, like [Senator Jon] Tester and [former Governor Brian] Schweitzer in Montana — they’re good on privacy issues and gun rights. [Oregon Senator] Ron Wyden is doing a great job on privacy even though I disagree with him about other things. [Texas Rep.] Beto O’Rourke spoke at a conference of ours on drug policy in Latin America. I assume on other issues he’s a standard big-government Democrat, but he does want to change the drug war. [Colorado Rep.] Jared Polis is a guy who I think is very interested in personal freedom and civil liberties issues.
Is Ted Cruz a libertarian?
No, Ted Cruz is a two-fisted Goldwater conservative. He’s very strong on national sovereignty issues in a way libertarians tend not to be, aggressively so. He defended the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas state Capitol, which to me smacks of entangling government and religion. He is very strongly against gay marriage. I am glad to see him standing up against Obamacare and showing up on filibuster night to spell Rand Paul for a little while. He’s a smart guy. But I wouldn’t call him a libertarian.

What should a libertarian candidate be running on? I would say fiscal conservatism and social tolerance. Get the government out of people’s lives. Why do you care who marries someone else? But that’s one thing that Rand Paul can’t run on in a Republican primary. He’s not in favor of marriage equality.
He says he would leave it up to the states to define marriage.
That was a defensively softer-edges libertarian position until the Supreme Court cases. Six years ago, that was a libertarian position because it meant you were not in favor of a federal amendment [banning gay marriage nationally]. These days, it’s pretty clear there’s not going to be a federal amendment banning marriage equality. What there may be is a Supreme Court decision striking down marriage bans [in the states] on equal protection grounds. So Rand Paul is still behind the curve on that issue. He’s where President Obama was about a year ago, so it’s not like he’s stuck in the 1950s.
And the social conservatives see his position as opening the door to gay marriage in the states.

From their point of view, they’re still pushing for a federal marriage amendment, but that’s not going to happen. And didn’t Rand Paul do a radio interview after the Supreme Court decision where he talked about people marrying dogs? [Ed. note: Paul later said he had been joking.] He’s trying to do a balancing act. He doesn’t think you can win the Republican presidential nomination without the religious right, or at least not with them united against him, You don’t have to get all of them. And he probably believes, along with Karl Rove, that you can’t put together a 51 percent Republican majority without making sure Christian conservatives show up and vote.
What about the many religious voters there are in America? What does libertarianism have to say to them?
If somebody’s Catholic values inform what they believe, on welfare or marriage or whatever, that’s their business. They can say in public, “God says we should take care of our neighbors” — that’s fine, that’s legitimate. What’s not legitimate to me, and goes against the American Constitution, the American tradition, is to entangle government policy with religion. We don’t have an established church. We don’t have a religious test for public office. That’s why I am against things like school prayer — that is an establishment of religion. And if your best arguments for banning gay marriage are, in fact, religious, then I think you can expect a limited reception in the courts, because the courts want to know what does the Constitution say. They’re not going to care what your religion says.

read the rest at The Atlantic Wire