Giuliani Is Not A Libertarian

On this blog, a lot of typing has gone on attacking Rudy Giuliani, and some (but a lot less) has been spent defending him. Some, such as commentor Eric Dondero, suggest that Rudy Giuliani is a Libertarian Republican. As evidence of this, he refers to OnTheIssues.org, who rates Rudy as a “moderate libertarian”.

The question, then, falls down to whether Rudy is a candidate that libertarians should support. On the surface, one might think so. He’s appears to be a fan of fiscal liberty, with his constant attempts to cut taxes and balance spending in New York. As for social liberty, he’s a long way ahead of his rivals on the conservative wing of the Republican party.

But all of these platforms are balanced by a twinge of authoritarianism. If you read through his quotes that are the basis for the ontheissues.org characterization, you start to see an underlying problem: Rudy Giuliani does not believe in a libertarian relationship between individual and state.

From an external examination, libertarians look like pot-smoking Republicans. After all, the mainstream characterization of us is as a group of people who want low taxes, small-government, but without some of the social restrictions the Republicans would enact. Watching as folks like Eric Dondero (and another acquaintance) support Rudy while claiming to be Libertarians, I believe that those folks are nothing more than the caricature of libertarian.

But there’s a much deeper basis for libertarianism. I’ve pointed out before that libertarianism, at its core, is a moral system, not just a political party. Doctrinaire libertarians believe in a very limited relationship between the individual and his government, and that relationship does not find individual liberty subservient to collective security.

So when you look at Rudy “on the issues”, you see that he supports some libertarian policies, but his overall attitude is one that suggests the state should “maintain” our economic growth, that the government should use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a method to smooth gasoline prices, and– while he claims to support school vouchers– pumped city dollars even further into government education. On the social side, he appears to be a serious drug warrior, a staunch supporter of the Patriot Act, has no compunction about government DNA databases, and supports forcing people to take written tests before allowing gun ownership (and presumably supports registration).

Rudy Giuliani appears to hold some libertarian stances on issues, but at the same time, I don’t see how he can be called a libertarian. Rudy’s libertarian stances on certain issues may give him allure to some libertarians, but he is reflexively pro-government on other issues. If he were elected to the highest office in the land, I’m simply not sure that he would advance individual liberty.

It’s still early in the campaign, and if Rudy holds his lead, I think we might get to find out quite a bit more how much of his ontheissues.org profile was a relic of his tenure as the Mayor of New York, and how much coincides with his core beliefs. But at the moment, I don’t see Rudy as having the same understanding of the relationship between an individual and the state as I do.

Until I see some major changes in his rhetoric and stated positions, I am not ready to support his candidacy. Although his general libertarian stances make me somewhat willing to keep an open mind, he’s got a long way to go before I’d actually consider voting for him.