Just How Libertarian Is Bob Barr ?
Sullum points specifically, to this part of the inteview:
reason: In 2002, the Libertarian Party called you the worst drug warrior in Congress. No hard feelings?
Barr: To be honest with you that’s never come up in our discussions. I’m not going to let minor disagreements come between us.
reason: But you haven’t changed your mind on the drug war, or on gay marriage? [Barr sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.]
Barr: There are going to be differences with my colleagues in the Libertarian Party. I can’t imagine there is ever going to be a party I agree with 100 percent of time. What I’m interested in is a party honestly committed to liberty and true checks and balances on government power. That’s something lacking in our current party system. With regard to gay marriage and the Federal Marriage Amendment, in my view the FMA does nothing except to protect liberty of citizens of each state on what basis they want to recognize marriage. Are there some libertarians who believe differently? I’m sure there are, and I’m sure we’ll engage in some debates down the road. I’m not going to let nuanced differences on aspects of particular policies stand in the way of the most important mission. That’s ensuring our liberties and protecting the Constitution.
To which Sullum responds:
[I]t’s hard for me to see how a libertarian (or Libertarian) can support drug prohibition. Contrary to what he says in the interview, this is no “minor disagreement.” Not only does the war on drugs directly violate the basic right to control one’s body and mind; it leads to exactly the sort of wide-ranging civil liberties violations, especially in connection with Fourth Amendment rights, that so concern Barr when it comes to the war on terrorism and at least protecting us from hijackers and suicide bombers, unlike maintaining the purity of our bodily fluids, is a legitimate function of government. Barr’s stance is especially puzzling given that a number of prominent conservatives, including the National Review crowd, have turned against the war on drugs even without switching their party registrations.
To be fair to Barr, it’s hard to tell from the interview if this “minor differences” and “nuanced differences on aspects of particular policies” he refers to are about the War on Drugs or same-sex marriage. I agree with Sullum, though, it’s hard to see how somebody could call themselves a small-l or Big-L libertarian and support the War on Drugs. For that matter, I think it would be hard to reconcile opposition to marriage equality with a libertarian philosophy.
Barr’s decision to join the Libertarian Party is intriguing, and may signal to the GOP that it needs to move in a more libertarian direction, but, as for Barr himself, I am reserving judgment.