Michael F. Cannon and Tom Clougherty pay tribute to David Boaz at a recent IEA London event

Posted on June 12, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz’s passing is mentioned on WCBM’s The Sean Casey & Bruce Elliott Show

Posted on June 11, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz’s passing is mentioned on Today We Remember

Posted on June 10, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz: “Now, It’s Your Turn”

David Boaz, Caleb O. Brown

David Boaz, longtime executive vice president of the Cato Institute, has passed away at the age of 70. His contributions to the advance of libertarian ideas in the public sphere are hard to overestimate. These are his remarks at the Students for Liberty LibertyCon in February.

David Boaz Memorial Page

Posted on June 7, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

What’s Donald Trump Doing at the Libertarian Party Convention?

David Boaz

The Libertarian Party presidential nominating convention is coming up this weekend, with Donald Trump as a featured speaker. This is apparently the first time in US history that a political party has had another party’s nominee at its own nominating convention. And what a choice!

The Libertarian Party was founded to “challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual” and to specifically run candidates for office on a platform of personal liberty, economic liberty, and a peaceful foreign policy.

Needless to say, that’s not Donald Trump’s platform, nor does it describe his actions as president. Which is why most libertarians, except the LP faction that won control of the party in 2022, are mystified and appalled about why a self‐​proclaimed libertarian party would invite a would‐​be autocrat to dominate media coverage of its convention.

Cato libertarians have always operated outside of the political system. We do not support politicians or political parties. However, we stand ready as always to work with Republican or Democrats when we share common ground and objectives and oppose them when we disagree.

Just posted at the Washington Post is a column by Cato president and CEO Peter Goettler exploring this mystery. Goettler explains what libertarianism is:

Libertarianism, at its core, is the modern manifestation of classical liberalism, the transformative movement that, beginning in the 18th century, challenged monarchs, autocrats, mercantilism, caste society, slavery and religious persecution. As heirs to that tradition, libertarians believe in individual freedom, equality under the law, pluralism, toleration, free speech, freedom of religion, government by consent of the governed, the rule of law, private property, free markets and limited constitutional government.

And how Trump differs (as if it wasn’t obvious):

He allowed government spending and debt to continue to spiral upward, increasing the national debt by $8.4 trillion. Federal outlays soared from $4 trillion his first year (2017) to $6.8 trillion in his last year. He persists in railing against immigration and free trade, supports further expansion of presidential power and seeks to crack down on political enemies.

He also points out how sadly un‐​libertarian the LP’s current leadership and its messaging are.

Read the whole thing.

Posted on May 23, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his professional journey within the liberty movement, the critical policy areas for nonprofits today, and his predictions for the future of the movement on the New Intellectuals Network

Posted on April 18, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Who You Calling Far Right?

David Boaz

Ideological labels are challenging. They change over time. They often originate as terms of abuse for one’s opponents. The proto‐​liberal Levellers in the mid‐​1600s got their name from critics who accused them of wanting to “level” society, rather than simply to establish equal rights. Both “Whig” and “Tory” were originally used to criticize their opponents in the late 17th century. These days, what do conservatives want to conserve? Are liberals still liberal?

Still, labels are a way of making sense of the political world. And we should use them as carefully and accurately as we can. One linguistic confusion that’s been bothering me lately is the increasing use of “far right” in the mainstream media to refer to people with very different views. In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, I urged journalists to recognize the stark differences between libertarians and the “far right”:

Post reporters frequently use the term “far right.” But I wonder whether they might be more discriminating.

Take the Nov. 26 news article “Dutch vote shows far right rising, transforming Europe.” It called both Argentine President‐​elect Javier Milei and Dutch Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders “far right.” But Milei is a free‐​trader who wants to downsize a bloated Peronist government that has brought Argentina 80 years of economic decline. He wants to legalize organ markets and supports same‐​sex marriage. True, he’s antiabortion, but it’s not exactly extreme to hold a position that almost half of Americans hold (if you include both no abortions and some restrictions). Meanwhile, Wilders’s party says this: “The Netherlands is not an Islamic country: no Islamic schools, Qurans or mosques.” He has shown no interest in smaller government. In fact, given what I can see, I might call Milei liberal and Wilders illiberal. Are those candidates and parties really the same movement?

The Post has sophisticated readers. They can make distinctions if reporters will lay them out. It seems facile to lump every challenge to the social democratic establishment as “far right.”

For more on these issues, see “A New, Old Challenge: Global Anti‐​Libertarianism” and “Rejecting Equality Means Rejecting Libertarianism.”

Posted on March 28, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses the success of liberalism on Reason TV

Posted on March 20, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his article, “To Save the World, Fight for Liberalism,” on The Great Antidote podcast

Posted on March 8, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Rating the Presidents

David Boaz


Sigh. Another year, another ranking of presidents. And as usual the academics who vote in such surveys especially like presidents who conducted wars and significant expansions of the federal government. Also they like Democrats, more so than in previous years.

This time it’s the Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey, surveying 154 academic social science experts in presidential politics.

Presidential scholars love presidents who expand the size, scope and power of the federal government. Thus they put the Roosevelts at the top of the list. And for a long time (in a different poll, from Siena College) they rated Woodrow Wilson—the anti‐​Madisonian president who gave us the entirely unnecessary World War I, which led to communism, National Socialism, World War II, and the Cold War—6th. Recently he’s fallen to 13th, presumably because of the increased publicity about his racism. In this survey he fell from 10th in 2015 to 15th this year. Not far enough, by a long shot.

Ronald Reagan, who did not resegregate the federal workforce or turn a European war into World War I, fell from 7th in 2018 to 16th this year. President Biden, after three years of vastly expanding the scope and cost of the federal government, is rated 14th. John F. Kennedy, a charismatic guy whose greatest substantive accomplishment was the launch of the Vietnam War, climbed into 10th place. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who never relinquished his claim on power, moved to no. 2, passing George Washington, who twice gave up power, ensuring that the new United States would be a republic. Lincoln is ranked first.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey directors write,

this survey has seen a pronounced partisan dynamic emerge, arguably in response to the Trump presidency and the Trumpification of presidential politics.

Proponents of the Biden presidency have strong arguments in their arsenal, but his high placement within the top 15 suggests a powerful anti‐​Trump factor at work. So far, Biden’s record does not include the military victories or institutional expansion [!] that have typically driven higher rankings

Self‐​described liberal and conservative scholars didn’t diverge much in their rankings of most presidents until Reagan. Our most recent presidents are more visible to the participants, and it’s hard to resist one’s personal preferences. Reagan, both Bushes, Obama, and Biden show sharp partisan divides. But not Trump, rated the worst president by liberals (really? worse than Wilson?) and 3rd worst by conservatives.

In his 2009 book Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, Ivan Eland gives high grades to presidents who left the American people alone to enjoy peace and prosperity, such as Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, and Rutherford B. Hayes. The fact that you can’t remember what any of those presidents did is a plus. At the bottom he places Wilson, Truman, McKinley, Polk, and George W. Bush. If you’ve ever wondered whether a particular president deserves the respect he seems to get, you might take a look at Libertarianism.org’s “Everything Wrong with the Presidents.”

Lately we’ve had a string of presidents who thought their office was invested with kingly powers. Both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama used executive orders to grant themselves extraordinary powers to deal with terrorism. Lawmaking by the president, through executive orders, is a clear usurpation of both the legislative powers granted to Congress and the powers reserved to the states. The president’s principal duty under the Constitution is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”—not to make laws, as presidents have increasingly done.

Clinton aide Paul Begala boasted: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kind of cool.” President Barack Obama declared: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation.… I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward.” President Donald Trump upped the ante: “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

President Biden has presumed to use executive power to forgive student debt, support “clean energy,” impose an eviction moratorium, and more. But that’s not enough for his “progressive” supporters, who have urged him to impose a comprehensive legislative agenda by executive order, acting once again as if Congress’s unwillingness to pass the president’s agenda is justification for executive fiat.

Thus have presidents openly dismissed the legislative process. They should take a look at the White House’s own website, where they would read: “Under Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress.” Exactly. Not to make the laws, but to execute and enforce them. No matter what agenda the president seeks to impose by executive order, Congress should stop him. The body to which the Constitution delegates “all legislative powers herein granted” must assert its authority.

On this Presidents’ Day—which is officially Washington’s Birthday—think of the example set by George Washington. Twice he gave up power, setting a standard for future presidents. And, to quote White​House​.gov again, as president “He did not infringe upon the policy making powers that he felt the Constitution gave Congress.”


Posted on February 20, 2024  Posted to Cato@Liberty

About David Boaz

Click here to learn more.