As Matt Welch noted earlier today, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is leaving his post in the (self-proclaimed!) World's Greatest Deliberative Body to become the head of the very influential, very conservative D.C. think tank, The Heritage Foundation.
Earlier this year, Matt and I interviewed DeMint and got him to say something that was nothing short of remarkable for a conservative politician from South Carolina who would later sign on to head up Heritage:
The primary function of the federal government is to defend our country. We need to make sure that we have the technology, the intelligence, the equipment to defend America from a lot of new threats. And if that is not doable with bases all over the world, we need to rethink how spread out we actually are. We have to demand that our allies actually pay a greater proportion of their defense. We're still in Germany; we were there after World War II. We're in South Korea. We're in a lot of places. We may need to be in some of those places for deployment and protection. But I think it's fair to say let's rethink that and make sure we're spending money in the right places.
DeMint is a social con's social con, but he told us that he was ready to put all spending on the table and negotiate with anyone who agrees that the government needs to balance its budget. Even more amazingly, he praised Rep. Ron Paul's libertarian influence on the GOP base and told us:
I think the new debate in the Republican Party needs to be between conservatives and libertarians. We have a common foundation of individual liberty and constitutionally limited government, and we can rationally debate some of the things we disagree on. I don’t think the government should impose my morals or anyone else’s on someone else, but at the same time I don’t want the government purging morals and religious values from our society. We can find a balance there. It really gets back to decentralization. The tolerance is going to come from decentralization and letting people make their own decisions, but we have to be able to put up with societal stigma of things we don’t like.
Watch the interview above and read it here.
I hope that DeMint brings his understanding of decentralization of power and appreciation for a live-and-let-live ethos. In recent years, Heritage Foundation has been a huge supporter of growing defense spending as a fixed percentage of the economy, hostile to immigration and immigrants, and a reliable enemy of decentralizing decisions on things such as gay marriage and marijuana legalization to the state and local levels.
It'll be interesting to watch, for sure.
And let me put in a plug for Reason's annual webathon, which runs through next Tuesday. We're looking for 800 new donors to help us do what we do. The DeMint interview is a great example of how we talk not just with dyed-in-the-wool libertarians but reach across ideological divides to have meaningful conversations in search of common ground while acknowledging differences all the while.
If you find the DeMint interview interesting - it's one of over 150 we conducted in the last 12 months - please think about making a tax-deductible donation to Reason now.