David Boaz discusses his Newsweek op-ed on Rand Paul’s campaign on Sirius XM’s Stand Up! With Pete Dominick

Posted on April 8, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses Rand Paul’s campaign on Newsmax’s MidPoint with Ed Berliner

Posted on April 7, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses Rand Paul’s campaign on EWTN’s News Nightly

Posted on April 7, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Can Libertarian-Leaning Rand Paul Really Win the GOP Nomination?

Sen. Rand Paul has officially announced he’s running for president. But can a libertarian-leaning candidate win the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency?

In a political world dominated by the liberal-conservative divide, there are many doubters. But there’s growing evidence that Paul can broaden the Republican base and appeal to the broad center of the electorate.

The Republican base may be divided into establishment, tea party, Christian right, and libertarian wings. Paul starts out with a strong base in the libertarian wing, which gave his father, Rep. Ron Paul, 21 percent of the Iowa caucus vote and 23 percent of the New Hampshire primary in 2012. With his strong opposition to taxes and spending and his book “The Tea Party Goes to Washington,” he’s also well positioned for the tea party vote. His pro-life views will make him acceptable to religious conservatives as the field narrows.

Rand Paul is trying something different in a Republican presidential race.”

The wild card may be who can attract voters who don’t usually vote in Republican primaries. Paul’s stands on military intervention, marijuana, criminal justice reform, and the surveillance state give him a good shot at getting independents and young people to come out for him.

The race could come down to former Florida governor Jeb Bush as the establishment candidate against the last standing insurgent candidate, and Paul is, as pundit Peter Beinart wrote recently, “as bold as any reformist in the race.”

Political observers usually talk about liberals, conservatives, and moderates. But not all voters fit into those boxes. Every year Gallup divides the public into liberal, conservative, libertarian, and populist. In the 2014 survey the firm classified 27 percent of respondents as conservative and 24 percent as libertarian. Paul has the libertarian field all to himself.

Indeed, a 2006 Zogby poll for the Cato Institute asked respondents, “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?” Fully 59 percent said yes, and only 27 percent said no. That’s a huge untapped market for a candidate who can cut across red-blue barriers.

Events of the past few years have pushed voters in a libertarian direction, causing some observers to talk about a “libertarian moment” in American politics. The financial crisis, the Wall Street bailouts, the $18 trillion national debt, and Obamacare created the tea party. The revelations about spying and surveillance since 2013 have caused grave concerns about privacy. Less traumatically, growing support for gay marriage and marijuana legalization shows the strength of libertarian attitudes in a country founded on the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The small band of neoconservatives who dominate conservative punditry have tried to ignore or dismiss Paul’s chances on the grounds that his mildly non-interventionist foreign policy will make him unacceptable to Republican voters. They need to read more polls. Last June 75 percent of Americans, and 63 percent of Republicans, told CBS News/New York Times pollsters that the Iraq war wasn’t worth the costs. Seventy percent of Republicans opposed military action in Syria. A massive Pew Research Center survey in December 2013 found that 52 percent of respondents, the highest number ever, said the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.”

The brutal rise of the Islamic State has made many Americans, including more Republicans, more hawkish. But nine months from now, when Republicans start voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, they’re likely to be tired of endless wars and to notice that 15 years of military intervention under President Bush, President Obama, and Secretary of State Clinton have left the Middle East in chaos. As the only skeptic about promiscuous intervention running in the GOP primaries, Paul has a chance to gain support from the war-weary.

Rand Paul is trying something different in a Republican presidential race. He yields to no other candidate in his opposition to taxes, spending, debt, regulation, and Obamacare. But he also talks to Silicon Valley about government spying, and African-American audiences about racial bias in the drug war, and college students about both.

After the 2012 election Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey wrote that the country is mildly “left on social issues and right on economics…. a center-libertarian nation.”

No other candidate is trying to appeal directly to that center-libertarian vote. That’s the big new idea that Rand Paul will test.

Posted on April 7, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses Rand Paul’s campaign on NPR’s Morning Edition

Posted on April 7, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Rand Paul’s Challenge: Can a Libertarianish Candidate Succeed?

Rand Paul and David Boaz with book Libertarian MindAs Sen. Rand Paul announces his presidential candidacy, I’ve been talking about it in the media. At the Daily Beast, I write about his chances:

The Republican base may be divided into establishment, tea party, Christian right, and libertarian wings. Paul starts out with a strong base in the libertarian wing, which gave his father, Rep. Ron Paul, 21 percent of the Iowa caucus vote and 23 percent of the New Hampshire primary in 2012. With his strong opposition to taxes and spending and his book “The Tea Party Goes to Washington,” he’s also well positioned for the tea party vote. His pro-life views will make him acceptable to religious conservatives as the field narrows.

The wild card may be who can attract voters who don’t usually vote in Republican primaries. Paul’s stands on military intervention, marijuana, criminal justice reform, and the surveillance state give him a good shot at getting independents and young people to come out for him….

After the 2012 election Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey wrote that the country is mildly “left on social issues and right on economics…. a center-libertarian nation.”

No other candidate is trying to appeal directly to that center-libertarian vote. That’s the big new idea that Rand Paul will test.

At Newsweek (no longer part of the same company as the Daily Beast!) I write about Paul’s libertarianish views:

He told a Harvard audience that he’s “libertarian-ish” and wants “a libertarian influence in the Republican Party.” He told Sean Hannity on Fox that he’s happy to be called “either libertarian conservative or constitutional conservative.”…

His recent comments on gay marriage—“personally offended” and “moral crisis”—created a libertarian backlash. Unlike Paul, most libertarians support abortion rights. But voters for whom abortion and gay marriage are deal-breakers aren’t likely to be voting in Republican primaries.

Many libertarian activists have vociferously objected to Paul’s foreign policy moves. His endorsement of U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS), his signing Senator Tom Cotton’s letter aimed at derailing negotiations with Iran and his endorsement of a $190 billion increase in Pentagon spending (with cuts in other spending to pay for it) reinforced his libertarian opposition.

But conservative writer Michael Brendan Dougherty says libertarians should understand that Paul is “inching” the GOP in his direction: “Paul often offers rhetorical hostility instead of sanctions, sanctions instead of conflict and limited constitutionally authorized conflict instead of open-ended war.” Sort of a Fabian approach to non-interventionism….

Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian, and he takes positions that many libertarians disagree with. But on a broad range of issues, from spending and regulation to government spying, drug wars and military intervention, he has a more libertarian policy agenda than any major candidate in memory.

I told Mara Liasson at NPR something similar:

“I think Rand Paul is the most libertarian major presidential candidate that I can remember seeing,” said Boaz, whose new book is called The Libertarian Mind, “so it tells you that there is a constituency that wants this more libertarian approach.”

Al-Jazeera did a nice summary of a point I made:

Boaz too said that Rand Paul’s candidacy represents an inflection point for the libertarian movement, with an increasing number of voters attracted to a political philosophy that is skeptical of Big Government in the wake of Wall Street bailouts, the Iraq War and the abuses of the NSA. Paul’s campaign will test how far libertarian ideas can go in the Republican Party.

 

Posted on April 7, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book ‘The Libertarian Mind’ on KGO’s The Ronn Owens Show

Posted on April 6, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Is Rand Paul a Real Libertarian?

Senator Rand Paul’s now official presidential campaign is bringing new attention to libertarian ideas. At least to some libertarians, the first question is whether Rand Paul is in fact a libertarian.

I know a lot of libertarians declaring that although they supported Representative Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, they can’t back his son in his more plausible 2016 campaign.

They say Rand isn’t really a libertarian. Sometimes they point out that he has never described himself as a libertarian. He told a Harvard audience that he’s “libertarian-ish” and wants “a libertarian influence in the Republican Party.” He told Sean Hannity on Fox that he’s happy to be called “either libertarian conservative or constitutional conservative.”

On a broad range of issues, from spending and regulation to government spying, drug wars and military intervention, he has a more libertarian policy agenda than any major candidate in memory.”

The question of whether Rand Paul is a libertarian is irrelevant. As someone who has been deeply involved in the libertarian movement for decades, I know libertarians disagree on the question. We have good reason, given his father and his background, to believe that deep down he is a libertarian who modifies his public positions to remain politically viable in the Republican Party.

Alternatively, he could be entirely sincere in his public positions, both the libertarian ones and the not so libertarian ones. The reason this is irrelevant is because he is operating in the Senate and in his campaign on a particular set of issues, and in all likelihood that’s how he would govern if elected president.

What matters for his campaign is whether he can find a winning coalition for that combination of issues. Is there support for a candidate who is more libertarian than his opponents?

Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010 on the momentum of his father’s very libertarian campaign. Unlike his father, he’s not running for president to educate and mobilize. He is running to win.

He has decided to work within the system and nudge the GOP in a libertarian direction on the issues where progress is (politically) possible. He pushes for a real commitment to smaller government and less spending, introducing a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Along with a growing number of conservatives, he’s trying to move our criminal justice system away from mandatory minimums and mass incarceration. He’s campaigning against indiscriminate surveillance and the growing use of drone strikes.

But on several issues this balancing act risks alienating his libertarian base. His recent comments on gay marriage—“personally offended” and “moral crisis”—created a libertarian backlash. Unlike Paul, most libertarians support abortion rights. But voters for whom abortion and gay marriage are deal-breakers aren’t likely to be voting in Republican primaries.

Many libertarian activists have vociferously objected to Paul’s foreign policy moves. His endorsement of U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS), his signing Senator Tom Cotton’s letter aimed at derailing negotiations with Iran and his endorsement of a $190 billion increase in Pentagon spending (with cuts in other spending to pay for it) reinforced his libertarian opposition.

But conservative writer Michael Brendan Dougherty says libertarians should understand that Paul is “inching” the GOP in his direction: “Paul often offers rhetorical hostility instead of sanctions, sanctions instead of conflict and limited constitutionally authorized conflict instead of open-ended war.” Sort of a Fabian approach to non-interventionism.

No candidate seeking to put together a nationwide majority is a perfect ideologue. President Obama was certainly considered a liberal, with a 100 percent liberal voting record from Americans for Democratic Action in his first year in the Senate. Yet he opposed gay marriage throughout his first term, mocked the idea of legalizing marijuana and escalated President George W. Bush’s claims of executive power.

President Ronald Reagan was a conservative hero, yet he raised taxes, failed to eliminate any Cabinet department (indeed he added one) and negotiated a major arms-control treaty with the Soviet Union.

Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian, and he takes positions that many libertarians disagree with. But on a broad range of issues, from spending and regulation to government spying, drug wars and military intervention, he has a more libertarian policy agenda than any major candidate in memory.

That will garner him the lion’s share of his father’s supporters, who among other things donated $40 million in small contributions to the 2012 campaign. And if he can present himself as a plausible president, he has the potential to rally a much larger group of libertarian-leaning voters who have never been appealed to so directly before, voters who are skeptical about tax-and-spend government, mass surveillance and unnecessary wars.

Posted on April 6, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Rand Paul and the Libertarian Vote

In a series of studies and an ebook, David Kirby and I have been examining the libertarian segment of the American electorate. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is about to test that analysis.

Paul has been arguing that he’s the Republican who can expand the Republican base to include more young people, independents, and even minorities. That was part of the message in the advance video he posted on the web Sunday night. And he argues that a more libertarian approach to such issues as marijuana, criminal justice, mass surveillance, and overseas wars could help do that.

In our studies, we’ve found that a large portion of Americans give libertarian answers to broad values questions. In their 2014 Governance Survey the Gallup Poll found that 24 percent of respondents could be characterized as libertarians (as compared to 27 percent conservative, 21 percent liberal, and 18 percent populist). The percentage has been rising over the past decade:

Gallup Poll libertarians in the electorate

Other studies show different numbers. Our own original study, “The Libertarian Vote,” using stricter criteria, classified 13 to 15 percent of voters as libertarian. A Zogby poll found that when asked if they would define themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian,” fully 44 percent – 100 million Americans – accepted the description. That’s a large segment of the electorate not in either party’s camp.

Rand Paul has as strong a record on fiscal conservatism as any Republican candidate, stronger than most. And he seems to be the only one who could make a claim for the “socially liberal” element among libertarian-leaning voters. He’s urged that we stop putting young people in jail for drug use, and he’s shown that he’s willing to use that issue against Jeb Bush and other competitors. He tells young people that “the phone records of United States citizens are none of [the government’s] damn business.”

Of course, like all candidates Paul has a balancing act to put together a winning coalition. He wants to hold on to the libertarian base that gave his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), 23 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote and $40 million in small contributions. But he’ll need more that, and he’ll look for more votes among both the conservative Republican base and non-traditional Republican voters.

His recent statements that gay marriage “offends myself and a lot of other people” and represents a “moral crisis” have disappointed a lot of libertarians (as well as a lot of gay voters, who probably weren’t likely to be in his camp anyway). The bigger question is whether such nods to the religious right will drive away voters he needs, especially the young people and Silicon Valley techies he’s been aggressively courting.

Many people have suggested that Paul’s somewhat non-interventionist foreign policy views won’t sit well with Republican voters. They should read fewer neoconservative pundits and more polls. According to a CBS/New York Times poll last June, 63 percent of Republicans thought the Iraq war wasn’t worth the costs. Paul is likely to be the only one of 10 or so Republican candidates to take that position. As neoconservatives and John McCain beat the drums for military action in Syria in 2013, Paul opposed it. Republicans turned sharply against the idea —  70 percent against in September 2013. Americans, including Republicans, are getting tired of policing the world with endless wars. Interventionist sentiment has ticked up in the past few months as Americans saw ISIS beheading journalists and aid workers on video. But I would predict that 9 months from now, when the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire begin voting for presidential candidates, Americans will be even more weary of nearly 15 years of war, and U.S. intervention will be even less popular than it is now. 

One advantage Paul starts with: political scientist Jason Sorens rates New Hampshire and Nevada, two of the four early primary states, among the six most libertarian states in the union. Iowa and South Carolina, not so much. But a libertarian-leaning Republican can count himself fortunate that early headlines will come out of frugal New Hampshire and fun-loving Nevada.

Despite his views on gay marriage and abortion rights, on a broad range of issues – from taxes and spending to spying, criminal justice, marijuana, and a skeptical approach to unnecessary wars – Rand Paul is going to present Republican voters with the most libertarian platform of any major presidential candidate in memory. If we’re in a libertarian moment, perhaps generated by government overreach in the Bush and Obama years, Paul should benefit. Win or lose, he’s going to give Republicans a clear “more freedom, less government” alternative to both the party establishment and the religious right.

Posted on April 6, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Venezuela Reaches the Final Stage of Socialism: No Toilet Paper

In 1990 I went to a Cato Institute conference in what was then still the Soviet Union. We were told to bring our own toilet paper, which was in fact useful advice. Now, after only 16 years of Chavista rule, Venezuela has demonstrated that “Socialism of the 21st Century” is pretty much like socialism in the 20th century. Fusion reports:

Venezuela’s product shortages have become so severe that some hotels in that country are asking guests to bring their own toilet paper and soap, a local tourism industry spokesman said on Wednesday….

“It’s an extreme situation,” says Xinia Camacho, owner of a 20-room boutique hotel in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada national park. “For over a year we haven’t had toilet paper, soap, any kind of milk, coffee or sugar. So we have to tell our guests to come prepared.”…

Montilla says bigger hotels can circumvent product shortages by buying toilet paper and other basic supplies from black market smugglers who charge up to 6-times the regular price. But smaller, family-run hotels can’t always afford to pay such steep prices, which means that sometimes they have to make do without.

Camacho says she refuses to buy toilet paper from the black market on principle.

“In the black market you have to pay 110 bolivares [$0.50] for a roll of toilet paper that usually costs 17 bolivares [$ 0.08] in the supermarket,” Camacho told Fusion. “We don’t want to participate in the corruption of the black market, and I don’t have four hours a day to line up for toilet paper” at a supermarket….

Recently, Venezuelan officials have been stopping people from transporting essential goods across the country in an effort to stem the flow of contraband. So now Camacho’s guests could potentially have their toilet paper confiscated before they even make it to the hotel.

Shortages, queues, black markets, and official theft. And blaming the CIA. Yes, Venezuela has truly achieved socialism.

But what I never understood is this: Why toilet paper? How hard is it to make toilet paper? I can understand a socialist economy having trouble producing decent cars or computers. But toilet paper? And soap? And matches?

Sure, it’s been said that if you tried communism in the Sahara, you’d get a shortage of sand. Still, a shortage of paper seems like a real achievement.

Posted on April 5, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

About David Boaz

Click here to learn more.

Follow

Commentator

Search