"Now that Rand [Paul] is out of the race, the libertarian voice is gone," says Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky). "The one argument for libertarians to vote Republican that still remains is the Supreme Court. Other than that, I really can't see very much endearing for a libertarian in these Republican candidate."
Nick Gillespie sat down with the three-term congressman during the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss the 2016 election, Apple vs. surveillance state, and why "engineers, not politicians" keep him optimistic about the future.
About 7 minutes.
Produced by Meredith Bragg. Cameras by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. PLEASE CHECK ALL QUOTES AGAINST VIDEO FOR ACCURACY.
Reason: Hi, I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason TV and today we're talking with Congressman Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky. Congressman Massie, thanks for talking with us.
Massie: Thanks for having me, Nick.
Reason: We are at the International Students for Liberty Conference. What are the most important votes coming up for a libertarian-leaning Republican between now and the 2016 election?
Massie: I think we can force some votes on the privacy issue. I've been able to force about four votes and in fact, last year and the year before, I forced a vote on the appropriations bill to shut down the back doors, to shut down government forcing companies to install back doors in their products.
That amendment was attached to an appropriations bill that got thrown away and then an omnibus was later done, but it's important to get the votes, because then you can see where the congressmen stand.
Reason: In a recent Republican-candidate debate, all of the existing candidates basically said, "Apple should unlock that iPhone and just be done with it." How do you feel about that?
Massie: Well, I'm sad. I mean, now that Rand [Paul]'s out of the race, the libertarian voice is gone. And I think it's also untethered some of those candidates to be more neocon-ish.
Reason: What are the prospects in the 2016 election for growing the number of congressmen and senators who, like yourself, are serious about shrinking the size, scope and spending of government?
Massie: I think the prospects are good. There's a guy in Indiana, Jim Banks, who's been good on the food freedom issue in his state senate so I've decided to back him. And you know, there are other candidates out there. The real question for me–or my goal now or my mission in life—is when the good guys get elected, is trying to keep them from becoming zombies when they get to D.C.
Because you know, we get probably 12 to 20 guys every cycle that you know, they run on what they believe and they believe what they run on and then they get there and they sell out within six months.
Reason: What are the ways that you either keep them from selling out our becoming zombiefied? Is it education, is it support, what is it to keep them strong?
Massie: Congressmen get led to a place they never want to go. And then they find themselves there and they find themselves trying to argue that that's the right position.
[I'd like to] explain to them how they're going to get lead in those directions, how they're going to get whipped into voting for things they never intended to vote for. It's almost sort of like a dating manual for adolescents: Like, "When this happens, and you feel uncomfortable, there's a reason you feel uncomfortable…." Just you know, say this. You sort of need that dating manual when they get there so they don't end up in places they don't want to be.
Reason: In terms of the presidential race, what is the best outcome that you're hoping for in 2016?
Massie: I'm really pessimistic. I don't think there is a good outcome in 2016. I would say the one argument for libertarians to vote Republican that still remains is the Supreme Court nominees. Other than that, I really can't see very much endearing for a libertarian in these Republican candidates.
Reason: You're not going to support or endorse anybody before the election. Will you vote for the eventual Republican nominee?
Massie: I'm not going to endorse any of the remaining candidates. In Kentucky, I'm going to vote for Rand [Paul] because he's still on the ballot. You know, we'll just wait and see what happens in November.
Reason: We're at the Students For Liberty Conference. What was the most important issue for you in your student days and is it still a big deal for you? And if not, what has replaced it?
Massie: My gateway issue into liberty was gun rights because I grew up in a rural area where everybody had guns. And then I went to college and realized people in college wanted to ban these things. I went to college in Massachusetts [Editor's note: Massie graduated from M.I.T.] That was sort of my gateway issue into the liberty movement and as I thought through that, I was able to think through these other issues.
Reason: Over the past 20 or 30 years, Second Amendment rights have really seen an enormous increase in their legal standing as well as their popularity in many ways.
Massie: The gun rights movement is probably something everyone should study because they're fighting above their weight class. When I was young, if you wanted to carry a concealed weapon, you had to be a sheriff's deputy. I mean, it was virtually unheard of to be able to do that. And now you can do that in most states, with minimal hoops to jump through. In 1994 they banned so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and we all thought we'd never see those again. And here we are, they're the most popular firearm in the United States.
Reason: Gun-related crime and violence are down.
Massie: That's important, yeah. Every state or municipality that has made these changes to be more liberal in terms of letting people own guns, they've seen a reduction in crime.
Reason: What makes you pessimistic these days and what makes you optimistic?
Massie: I'm most pessimistic about the national debt and the fact that when interest rates return to normal levels, 5 percent interest on $20 trillion $1 trillion a year. That's bigger than our military budget. It's actually our entire discretionary spending combined.
Reason: We're spending about $4 trillion a year, so if [debt payments go] up to that, that's 25 percent off the the top of the budget that will just go to pay for money we've already spent.
Massie: Of the $4 trillion, $3 trillion of that is for entitlements. There's $1 trillion that funds the things that people think about, like roads and bridges, NASA, and the military. That trillion [in debt payments] will wipe out all of the things that Congress actually votes on. Because I don't see any will to change the entitlement programs right now.
Reason: What makes you optimistic?
Massie: What makes me optimistic is technology, invention, and the human spirit to improve our own lives. My background is as an engineer and I have 29 patents; I've invented things. When people say, "Will our children be better off than we were," I say, "Absolutely they will." Society doesn't forget the things it invented and we invent more things. You know, we've got smart phones now, we've got eBay, and things that have really made life better thanks to technology. So when people say, "Are we going to be better off," I say, "Yes, but it's going to be due to the engineers, not the politicians."
Reason: We will leave it there. Thank you so much. We've been talking with Congressman Thomas Massie from Kentucky. For Reason TV, I'm Nick Gillespie at the International Students For Liberty Conference.