Jared Polis: The Most Libertarian Governor in America?

The Colorado Democrat supports abortion rights, school choice, letting kids play unsupervised, an end to COVID-19 overreach, and an income tax rate of "zero."


Colorado's Jared Polis might be the most libertarian governor in America, at a time when his big-state Democratic colleagues are getting exposed as hypocrites while presiding over historic population declines or getting kicked out of office for sexual harassment and sending COVID infected patients back to nursing homes and then lying about it. I'm not sure that Polis' 2014 claim in the pages of Reason that "libertarians should vote for Democratic candidates" because they're "more supportive of individual liberty and freedom" has held up, but he's certainly leading by example.

The 46-year-old governor is presiding over one of the fastest-growing states in the country and a place that has one of the lowest death rates during the pandemic. He pushed back against members of his own party to remove mask mandates, and he consistently argued that public health decisions should be made at as local a level as possible. Last fall, at a conference held by the conservative Steamboat Institute, he declared that the state income tax rate "should be zero" and has supported ballot initiatives that reduced the rate. Polis has embraced occupational licensing reform and was an outspoken defender of bitcoin back in 2014 when Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) called on then-head of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen to ban it.

The openly gay, married father of two recently signed a free-range parenting bill that effectively relegalizes the sort of Colorado childhood he recalls as the son of two ex-hippie parents: "Just because a kid is playing alone outside, it doesn't mean they're in danger," Polis said at the signing ceremony. "It will help decrease false reports so…we can focus on the serious and the real instances of child abuse."

As conservative states pass laws strictly limiting abortions, he signed legislation guaranteeing a woman's right to choose. The founder of two charter schools, he is an outspoken advocate for school choice, saying earlier this year that "public school choice is an asset to improve all public schools." A former tech entrepreneur and five-term congressman, Polis is steadfast against limiting speech rights or treating social media platforms as utilities that can't moderate content or bounce users for transgressing terms of service.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Reason, Polis talks about trying to govern from the middle, takes shots at President Joe Biden's moves on free trade and immigration, and repeats his argument that libertarians should vote for Democrats. Up for re-election in the fall and a heavy favorite to win a second term, Polis also discusses his political ambitions as a rising star in a party that is expected to get blown out in the midterm elections.