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2a. Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who do you think would be worse regarding economic freedom, including things such as industrial policy, free trade, regulation, and taxes? The only scenario under which I can imagine Romney being any worse than Obama on economic freedom is if we were in multiple costly new wars on the day that borrowing costs spiked up. Though Romney has campaigned against Medicare cuts and for boosting military spending, he is still rhetorically in a much different place than the Keynesian in Chief, and most importantly so is his political party. I have at least some hope that the limited-government grassroots will apply much more pressure to keep their man in line than the anti-war/pro-civil liberties left has placed on Obama.
2b. Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who do you think would be worse regarding social freedom issues such as gay marriage, free speech, school choice, and reproductive rights? An edge to the incumbent, with caveats. Obama wins big on legal abortion rights (though it's unclear to me how much practical difference on that issue there would end up being). Romney is better on school choice, but I'm not sure how much difference that will make. Obama has been lousy on free speech and drug enforcement, but is there much to suggest that Romney is better? Dems are better with gays, Repubs are better with guns. Both disrespect individuals once in power. It's a big, messy category.
2c. Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who do you think would be worse regarding foreign policy, military interventions, and the global war on terror (including domestic restrictions on civil liberties)? Romney has sketched out a more interventionist, more chest-thumping posture than Obama's already significant buttinskyism. He has shown zero interest that I've seen in curtailing any of Obama's civil liberties abuses. Neither party seems capable of rallying around the concept of imperial pruning, let alone pullback, and as long as that's the case, I'm afraid we're creating the conditions for an eventual unplanned, chaotic retreat. While Obama deserves to be punished for his interventionism and civil liberties degradations, Romney has done nothing to earn that particular protest vote.
3. Who did you vote for in 2000, 2004, and 2008? Ralph Nader, largely because of my support for campaign finance restrictions, a subject on which I have since totally changed my mind, but also as a protest against bipartisan civil liberties abuse; John Kerry (to fire George W. Bush); and no one (would have been Bob Barr if I had completed the paperwork in time).
4. Apart from the presidency, what do you think is the most important race or ballot initiative being decided this fall? By far, the marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. Getting the first state into full and open defiance of federal drug laws is the essential first step in finally ending drug prohibition, which has been one of the single most ruinous and murderous policies in American history.
5. Reason's libertarian motto is "Free Minds and Free Markets." In contemporary America, is that notion a real possibility or a pipe dream? To paraphrase the individualist-anarchist (and gold-seller!) Louis Carabini, there's no need to wait for government - we can all become our own gold standard. Not that I'm interested in precious metals (yet!) but rather that the most crucial work of freedom happens between the ears. On that front, I am optimistic that the conditions for personal freedom are better now than ever, both here and abroad. But this happy fact is in conflict with a teetering yet ever-expanding state. The tension between the two is arguably the fundamental conflict of our times.
Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason magazine and co-author with Nick Gillespie of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America.