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Amash: Yeah, sure. And Rand’s philosophy is very different from Hayek’s. They come to many of the same conclusions about what kind of government you should have and what kind of social order you ultimately would get, but they think about it in very different ways. And I find that interesting. Bastiat is another person who appeals emotionally. He’s very different from Hayek but adds something to the conversation.
reason: What’s the spice that this Frenchman adds?
Amash: It’s a nice French spice. It’s short stories—almost parables—about folly, the folly of government and interventionism. And the folly of restricting free trade. I think that’s beautiful to read. When you read Bastiat’s work, people are really compelled to agree with him. It’s hard to refute. I actually give away The Law when people stop by my office.
reason: You come from a part of the country, though, that is very steeped in protectionism. Not all parts of Michigan, but certainly the auto industry got fat off of protectionism. The industrial Midwest had a lot of tariffs against steel and various other things. Is it a hard sell in contemporary Michigan to say, “Look, guys, your economy has been tanking here for a long time and the answer is free trade,” as opposed to “The answer is more protectionism”?
Amash: Well, it’s always going to be a hard sell with some people, there’s no doubt about that. If you’re in a particular industry that’s getting benefits from protectionism, then yeah, it’s going to be a hard sell to you. But protectionism doesn’t help people. It helps the people in those companies. And those people in those companies are a small percentage of the population. I’m concerned about the entire population in my district, the entire population in the state of Michigan, and the entire population in the United States. Everyone is a consumer. Only some people work in a particular industry. It doesn’t make sense to have laws in place to protect a particular industry and then hurt 100 percent of the people.
reason: You also have a picture of Murray Rothbard. Rothbard is a big time anarcho-capitalist bomb-thrower. What do you find particularly compelling in his work?
Amash: He gives an interesting, more anarchist perspective. I’m not there; I fall more in the Hayek camp. I think it’s important to understand his work, to understand his way of thinking. Because when you have discussions with those who are on the anarcho-capitalist side of things, it’s important to understand where he’s coming from and where they’re coming from so you can make your arguments to persuade.
I ultimately think there’s got to be some government. I believe in a minimal state, and you’re going to have different amounts of government at different levels. At the federal level, it should be very small in how it affects your daily life; it should just deal with things of national scope. And at closer levels—local government, or your neighborhood association—well, it might have a huge impact on your daily life, but it’s certainly not going to protect you from an invasion.
reason: Should there be federal recognition of same-sex marriages?
Amash: I don’t think there should be a federal definition of marriage. I think the federal government should just stay out of this. Really, marriage is a private contract that has nothing to do with government.
reason: How does that play into things like the tax cut? Should we get rid of any sort of “married” status in the filing of taxes?
Amash: Ultimately, yeah, I think so. We’re not even close to that situation now, and it may be the case that marriage is so tied into the tax code and other benefits that what will ultimately happen is that gay people will be allowed to marry under some federalized version of marriage. But my preference would be that the federal government just stay out of it. And government just stay out of it in general. It’s a private issue. It shouldn’t be something that government deals with.
reason: What about abortion?
Amash: I’m pro-life. One hundred percent pro-life.
reason: Should the federal government ban all abortions? Or should that be left to localities or states?