Bush, Dole, W., McCain, and Romney: Libertarians?
Libertarians already face an uphill battle. The last thing we need is to be linked to a bunch of big-government Republicans
Even though I’m a staunch libertarian, I’m not under any illusion that everyone is open to our ideas. Particularly since, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we get falsely stereotyped as being heartless, hedonistic, anti-social, and naively isolationist.
That’s why I’m willing to accept incremental reforms. Compared to my libertarian dream world, for instance, the entitlement reforms in the Ryan budget are very modest. But they may be the most we can achieve in the short run, so I don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.
But I do make the bad the enemy of the good. Politicians who expand the size and scope of government get on my wrong side, regardless of whether they are Republicans or Democrats.
Which explains why I haven’t approved of any Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan.
With this in mind, you can imagine my shock when I read Robert Patterson’s recent column that blames recent GOP presidential woes on…you guessed it, “far-right libertarians.”
…in the political big leagues, …the GOP strikes out with the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections… That familiar lineup shares one big liability: libertarian economics, which has been undermining the Republican brand… That message represents the heart and soul of a party that started sleeping with far-right libertarians in 1990. …In the libertarian universe, “economic freedom” trumps everything: civilization, nation, statecraft, patriotism, industry, culture and family. This “economic freedom,” however, diverges greatly from the liberty that transformed the United States into an industrial, financial and military colossus.
What the [expletive deleted]!
Let’s go down the list of recent GOP presidential candidates and assess whether they were captured by “far-right libertarians” and their dangerous philosophy of “economic freedom.”
George H.W. Bush – He increased spending, raised tax rates, and imposed costly new regulations. If that’s libertarian, I’d hate to see how Patterson defines statism.
Robert Dole – All you need to know is that he described his three proudest accomplishments as the creation of the food stamp program, the imposition of the costly Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Social Security bailout. I don’t see anything on that list that’s remotely libertarian.
George W. Bush – I’ve written several times about Bush’s depressing record of statism. Yes, we got some lower tax rates, but that policy was easily offset by new spending, new intervention, new regulation, and bailouts. No wonder economic freedom declined significantly during his tenure. Not exactly a libertarian track record.
John McCain – His track record on spending is somewhat admirable, but he was far from libertarian on key issues such as tax rates, global warming, bailouts, and healthcare.
Mitt Romney – He was sympathetic to a VAT. He criticized personal retirement accounts. He supported corrupt ethanol subsidies. And he said nice things about the TARP bailout. And I don’t need to remind anybody about Obamacare’s evil twin. Is that a libertarian agenda?
I also disagree with several of the policies that Patterson advocates, such as protectionism and industrial subsidies.
But that’s not the purpose of this post. Libertarians already face an uphill battle. The last thing we need is to be linked to a bunch of big-government Republicans when we share almost nothing in common on economic policy.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, the free-market, Washington D.C. think tank
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