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The libertarian moment for the GOP?

Looking at liberal blogger Ezra Klein’s “laundry list of Republican Party flip-flops”, the Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll finds a pattern:

In every policy area mentioned above, the Republican party has become more libertarian. Some Republicans used to like Keynesian stimulus, now they don’t. Libertarians never did. Some Republicans used to like individual mandates, now they don’t. Libertarians never did. Some Republicans used to like cap and trade, now they don’t. Libertarians never did. You get the idea. There is a reason Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has been speaking so highly of Ron Paul.

This shift, Carroll contends, corresponds with polling data showing that “Americas are just becoming more libertarian“, with “Republican leaders” merely “responding to those changing beliefs.”  The growing distrust of government solutions (to social and economic problems) has become particularly pronounced since Obama took office.

In a piece on former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s speech this past weekend to the California Republican Party Convention, Reason magazine’s Tim Cavanaugh contends the the Golden State GOP has floundered largely because its leaders have failed to embrace libertarian ideals:

The party is marginal and becoming more so, but the leadership is deathly afraid of the one proven source of Republican energy and enthusiasm – because that source is considered too marginal. If the California Republicans continue distancing themselves from the libertarian movement, they will continue to suffer, and so will everybody else who has to live in a state where one party has absolute power and the other refuses to compete.

He’s onto something.  Talk to small businessmen and -women here in Southern California, even to Democratic City Council candidates in West Hollywood, and you’ll hear these entrepreneurs grumbling about the amount of bureaucratic hoops they have to jump through before they can open up a new enterprise.  People across the political spectrum fault the state’s overspending and its overgenerous benefits to public employee unions.

In short, people here would welcome a government which scales back its intrusion into the marketplace — and reduces its expenditures.

To that end, we in California might more readily embrace a more libertarian Republican Party.   As would the nation as a whole.

A libertarian shift within the GOP, like those recent votes in Congress, would show Republican leaders embracing the emerging American consensus on the size of government.

NB:  Tweaked the post after its initial publication to make my point clearer.



  1. It’s too bad this libertarian shift isn’t reflected in the current crop of presidential contenders.

    Comment by Brian Garst — February 28, 2012 @ 5:14 pm - February 28, 2012

  2. The Republican Party is by far the more fiscally libertarian of the two parties; but it doesn’t make any difference because social liberals vote their social agenda over their economic interests. Liberal values are a status symbol, a way of fitting in with the elites, a way of saying “I have enough money that I don’t have to worry about the consequences of bad social policy.”

    Comment by V the K — February 28, 2012 @ 5:18 pm - February 28, 2012

  3. Brian, you have just succinctly summarized the dissatisfaction with the current crop.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — February 28, 2012 @ 5:19 pm - February 28, 2012

  4. well said, V.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — February 28, 2012 @ 5:21 pm - February 28, 2012

  5. Hmm, I am a Native New Mexican and always thought of myself as a Republican. About 10 years ago, I could no longer think that way, an MBA from University of Chicago and life have made me very “small government” and fiscally conservative. My mixed heritage and growing up in NM have made me very socially liberal, classic case of Libertarian, now my favorite Governor is one and still running for President.
    Yes, I will be voting 3rd party as none of the people challenging The President speak even close to how I feel

    Comment by Burninghiram (Piper) — February 28, 2012 @ 5:24 pm - February 28, 2012

  6. To paraphrase a famous phrase: it’s the economy, not the sissy smooching.

    Alas, current Republican candidates seem to be blaming the latter for the former. This is exactly what Barry Goldwater warned against decades ago — “if the Evangelicals get ahold of the Republican Party, it will be doomed.” And well, the Evangelicals have seized the party, and it’s doomed. I’d urge Gays to vote Libertarian. And us to urge everyone to vote Libertarian too. Maybe it’s one reason “independent” is the fastest growing “party.” And alas, I see one or two more presidential terms of the mishmash before the majority of the nation realizes the peril of both parties at this time.

    Comment by Jim Hlavac — February 28, 2012 @ 11:18 pm - February 28, 2012

  7. People love the idea of libertarianism, then they learn what it would actually mean for them, and then they suddenly go off the idea. But people have very short memories it seems and end up back at square one a lot.

    Still, keep on dreaming.

    Comment by Serenity — February 29, 2012 @ 1:20 am - February 29, 2012

  8. People love the idea of libertarianism, then they learn what it would actually mean for them, and then they suddenly go off the idea

    Speaking of yourself, Pomposity? Because you’re sure not speaking of me. Terrified to have full responsibility for yourself, much?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 29, 2012 @ 9:50 am - February 29, 2012

  9. Speaking of yourself, Pomposity?

    Somewhat, yes. Once being a teenager myself, I can see why many support Ron Paul. But since getting into more serious political debates, such libertarianism has lost its appeal. I’ve since gone back and forth on economic issues, now leaning more towards the left. Though if I ever need driving away from the right on economic issues, I just come back here. You’re geniuses at that.

    Comment by Serenity — February 29, 2012 @ 11:14 pm - February 29, 2012

  10. Libertarianism has been ill explained, by our detractors more than our proponents. It’s like being gay — there’s a lot more negative info, for there are so many more negative people, then there is positive info, for there are few positive for Libertarianism. Meanwhile, it is the only other party on all 50 state ballots, and former GOP NM Governor Gary Johnson might well be their candidate — and well, if you keep shooting yourself in the foot, and change the gun from left hand to right hand, maybe it’s time to put down the gun.

    Comment by Jim Hlavac — March 1, 2012 @ 5:56 pm - March 1, 2012

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