A majority of Americans believe taxes and government spending are too high, and a majority now supports marriage equality. Unfortunately, one party tends to favors greater economic but not personal freedom (with exceptions, such as gun-ownership rights), and the other tends to favor greater personal freedom (with exceptions, such as speech deemed to be offensive) but not economic freedom. Is there an opening for libertarianism?
In an answer to this question, David Boaz, the Cato Institute’s executive vice president, engages in a discussion with The Atlantic on “America’s Libertarian Moment.” Among his observations of particular interest to this forum:
I think you’re seeing a growth of self-conscious libertarianism…. [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….
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 in Lawrence 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….
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….
If somebody’s Catholic values inform what they believe, on welfare or marriage or whatever, that’s their business…. 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….
There will be more libertarian-leaning politicians in Congress, but we’re a long way from being a caucus at this point. What’s more important is what do the Republicans and Democrats who actually get elected want to do. I hope they will recognize that the country wants to move in a more tolerant direction on marriage and marijuana, and that we are overextended financially and need to restrain spending and the entitlement state.
It’s worth reading the whole thing.
More. This benighted Washington Post piece on “libertarian Democrats” reduces libertarianism to opposition toward NSA spying on Americans. No mention of supporting smaller government and lower taxes, or even issues such as school choice. The Post, of course, is the house organ of the Washington establishment, so no wonder our political elite is clueless.