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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)? In 2008 we clearly thought Obama would be better on military intervention and civil liberties. So much for predictions. The welfare-warfare state gets its clutches into everybody. All we can say is, Obama has been bad, and Romney criticizes him for not being interventionist and threatening enough.
3. Who did you vote for in 2000, 2004, and 2008? See (1).
4. Apart from the presidency, what do you think is the most important race or ballot initiative being decided this fall? I would very much like to see some victories for marijuana freedom and equal marriage rights in the various initiatives around the country. Both issues seem to be at a tipping point, and a couple of electoral wins would really help to accelerate the process.
5. Reason's libertarian motto is "Free Minds and Free Markets." In contemporary America, is that notion a real possibility or a pipe dream? In the history of the world, we have experienced few periods that saw freer minds and freer markets than we enjoy today. I believe that an ever larger part of the world will continue to move fitfully and haltingly toward greater respect for individualism, markets, toleration, and personal autonomy, if we can avoid wars and fiscal disaster. But this requires that in the United States and elsewhere, citizens make the case for freedom and free markets, and resist intrusions into economic and civil liberties. The state and its beneficiaries are always pushing, always alert to opportunities for expansion. The challenge is for citizens, who have lives and families and jobs, to push back.
1. Which presidential candidate are you voting for and why? Gary Johnson. He is a pragmatic libertarian who offers a principled alternative to the statism of the right (that would outlaw same-sex marriage and abortion; criminalize drugs; erect barriers to keep willing foreign workers away from willing Americans, etc.) and the statism of the left (that would enact crade-to-grave entitlements; confiscate wealth rather than curb spending to avoid going off the fiscal cliff etc.). Johnson is one of those rare libertarians who could operationalize his ideological vision into something resembling a governing philosophy. He cut spending in New Mexico, no small feat in a predominantly Democratic state. He won’t engage in politically futile fights on idiosyncratic libertarian causes such as moving to a gold standard or abolishing the fed (laudable though those goals might be). He seems to regard liberty not necessarily as a goal or a cause, but a tool to advance sound public policy whether it is to prevent overseas entanglements or economy-busting regulations at home.
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? Obama would be slightly worse. Romney is perhaps the most rabidly protectionist candidate to run in living memory – with the possible exception of Ross Perot. His saber-rattling against Chinese “cheating” might have been par for the course if it were not accompanied by his very specific pledge that he would declare China a currency manipulator on the day he assumed office. That said, Obama is a creature of government who seems to have no understanding of how crippling Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and EPA regulations are for private industry. He genuinely does not seem to understand that such initiatives – along with mounting debt and deficit -- might have something to do with the lackluster economic recovery.
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? I would say “by far Romney” if I were judging solely by his statements during the presidential campaign. But given his record of flip-floppery on many of these issues, it is hard to say which way he’ll blow once he assumes office. He could turn out to be really bad or not-so-bad but I think he’ll be worse than Obama under any circumstances. And that’s not necessarily because Obama is any less prone to flip-floppery (witness his handling of the gay-marriage issue), but because his progressive base is somewhat more freedom-oriented on these issues (with the exception of school choice) at the moment.
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)? The left is prone to humanitarian wars and the right to wars from (alleged) national interest. That said, I think Romney will be infinitely worse on this issue. He has remained alarmingly consistent in his calls to peg defense spending to 4 percent of GDP so that “no one would ever dare to mess with the America” or words to that effect. His constant sabre-rattling against Iran to distinguish himself from Obama and court the GOP’s hawkish faithful is truly alarming.
3. Who did you vote for in 2000, 2004, and 2008? I wasn’t a citizen in 2000. I voted for Bush against Kerry in 2004 and didn’t vote for either Obama or McCain (or the Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr) in 2008.
4. Apart from the presidency, what do you think is the most important race or ballot initiative being decided this fall? The union-backed constitutional amendment in Michigan called Proposition 2 or the “Protect Our Jobs” ballot initiative. Not only will it turn public unions into something of a super-legislature when it comes to collective bargaining issues in Michigan, it will also permanently stop Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state. What’s more, if successful in Michigan, it could become labor’s blueprint to pre-emptively ban or scrap right-to-work laws in the 22 other states that allow legislative action through referendums and ballot initiatives.
5. Reason's libertarian motto is "Free Minds and Free Markets." In contemporary America, is that notion a real possibility or a pipe dream? It is a question of moving incrementally toward a progressively freer society – not establishing some final utopia. I am not a Hegelian who believes that history will ever culminate in one rational moment; I am a Hayekian who believes history will move human societies toward greater freedom, prosperity and happiness as they discover existing injustices and irrationalities and correct them without ever reaching some final state of perfection. History is a discovery process no less than markets.