Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”     Adlai E. Stevenson

January 27, 2008

Libertarians For Obama ?

by Doug Mataconis

Mark at Publius Endures explains why he could support Barack Obama:

I find myself drawn to supporting him – passionately, even – because his goals are liberal in the classical sense. I repeat – I do not think his means are libertarian in any way, and are arguably not even classically liberal means. But the goals, so far as I can see, ARE classically liberal. His are not goals centered entirely around maximizing his own political power, and thus he is a candidate worthy of my deep respect. These ultimate ends are the same ends as exist for us perjoratively-named cosmo-libertarians (as well as for other derivations of classical liberalism).

(…)

Much of Obama’s appeal to me is in his apparent desire to encourage rather than require moral behavior. If government is necessary, a libertarian should be much happier with a government that relies on encouragement more than mandates. Though this is nothing compared to a lack of any government or a government confined to truly libertarian principles, it is still a vast improvement over most politicians’ views of government.

This, I think, is one reason that many people, regardless of their political ideology support Barack Obama. Rhetorically, he’s a great speaker and he’s basing his campaign on a vision of America that resonates with the electorate. In that respect, Caroline Kennedy is right to compare him to her father. As with Kennedy, we are witnessing in Barack Obama something that has the potential to shift the ground in American politics significantly.

The question is whether there’s anything there that libertarians and classical liberals can admire, or even support.

Politically, the answer has got to be no. Rhetoric aside, Barack Obama is as much of statist as Hillary Clinton. While he seems like he’d be more open to free market ideas, it’s clear from his positions and his rhetoric that he views governments as a force for good, rather than the cause of problems. Yes, he’d be better on civil liberties than George W. Bush, but you can forget about reducing the size of government if Barack Obama is President.

That said, I will admit that I agree with Mark on some level. There is an appeal to Barack Obama. For me, it’s the appeal of watching someone slowly but surely bring the Democratic Party around to realizing just how poisonous the Clinton Machine really is (and for evidence of that, just consider Bill Clinton comparing Obama’s overwhelming win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s win 20 years ago). Every time Obama beats Hillary, I raise a toast and I wouldn’t mind raising a lot more toasts between now and the Democratic Convention.

Right now the Presidential choices for those who believe in liberty are grim indeed. On the Republican side, the race is down to a man who believes the First Amendment is optional and one who changes his positions the way most of us change socks. On the Democratic side, it’s down to Hillary and Obama and, given a choice between those two, I’d rather spend the next four years with the Senator from Illinois than the Senator from New York.

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28 Comments

  1. Let the country have Hillary. Happy to be rid of her here in NY. A vote for the eventual LP nominee in NY is the only choice here for me. Hillary (or Obama)takes the state anyway. Get ready for Hillary folks, it’s fait accompli. Just because Obama can win is no excuse.

    Comment by Eric Sundwall — January 27, 2008 @ 6:07 am
  2. Politically, he’s definitely a statist. But the big thing for me is that I view libertarianism as the best means to achieve classically liberal ends (ie, socio-economic mobility, individualism, and legal equality). My point with Obama is that he seems serious about achieving those same ends, even though he prefers different means.

    I guess what it comes down to is that Obama’s history (which is often overlooked) and rhetoric point to him being willing to consider alternative means to achieving his liberal ends. Similarly, I am a libertarian only because I think it is the best way to achieve liberal ends; if better means for doing so exist, then I will no longer be a libertarian. While I obviously disagree profusely with him on a couple of issues, Brink Lindsey actually expressed this exact sentiment in his response to the Ron Paul newsletter story (available here: http://www.brinklindsey.com/?p=139):

    “I’m a libertarian because I’m a liberal. In other words, I support small-government, free-market policies because I believe they provide the institutional framework best suited to advancing the liberal values of individual autonomy, tolerance, and open-mindedness. Liberalism is my bottom line; libertarianism is a means to promoting that end.”

    Put another way, I see the divide in this country as being primarily between those with liberal ends, and those who at best pay lip service to liberal ends but ultimately care only about implementing their chosen means (ie, their ends and their means are the same thing).

    Comment by Mark — January 27, 2008 @ 6:14 am
  3. More on Why I Can Support Obama…

    I see the divide in this country as being primarily between those with liberal ends, and those who at best pay lip service to liberal ends but ultimately care only about implementing their chosen means (ie, their ends and their means are the same thi…..

    Trackback by Publius Endures — January 27, 2008 @ 6:42 am
  4. Right now there is only one reason to support Obama for libertarians and that’s his commitment to open government, but I’m not convinced yet that thats enough. I’m hoping if he wins the nomination, he’ll get more specific on what he wants to do for America and I’ll know for sure whether I want to vote for him or not.

    Comment by Greg — January 27, 2008 @ 8:20 am
  5. To be honest, Obama’s preference for socialized medicine has been as big a turnoff for me as anything (it’s a huge issue in my opinion), as is the Democratic majority in Congress which opens the floodgates for more partisan looting. But frankly as an individual he scares me a hell of a lot less than McCain and I think Obama would pursue a much more sane foreign policy than any of the other candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul). He seems to be less of a hack and more grounded of an ideologue than the rest of the slate.

    Comment by UCrawford — January 27, 2008 @ 9:23 am
  6. For once, I completely agree with you doug regarding Obama vs. The Cliton Machine. I’d much rather settle for Obama than for choosing between a pseudo-monarchy (Clinton), or the other two GOP candidates & theocrat (huckabee). It would be interesting if indeed Obama won; for if he is really serious about advocating a more “open-source” government, I’d imagine that would help third parties, libertarians., etc. in the long run.

    Comment by Nitroadict — January 27, 2008 @ 10:25 am
  7. I agree, Doug…I have a respect and admiration for the man, but his politics disgust me! I am not too enthused anymore about this race…after Fred dropped out, and Paul to be next, I just don’t know.

    Comment by David Wilson — January 27, 2008 @ 10:32 am
  8. Libertarianism and its irrelevance:

    http://vdare.com/derbyshire/080126_irrelevance.htm

    Comment by getUP! — January 27, 2008 @ 12:12 pm
  9. getUP,

    Yeah, those weak libertarians…what a bunch of fools we are not to support a candidate who published a bunch of racist articles to keep his name out there for future political bids. Who cares if his advisors tried to advance his political career by stirring actual hatred against minorities and poor people? Libertarians should abandon all of our ethics just to make the Paulestinians happy because obviously the only important thing is getting Ron Paul into power.

    You know, 40 years ago you Paulestinian fucks would be happily throwing books onto bonfires and smashing storefront windows because your Fuhrer told you to. While I have some respect for many of Ron Paul’s policy positions, I don’t have much respect for him as a leader, his management skills, or his ability to judge character, and I honestly can’t wait until his fringe supporters finally crawl back under their slimy little rocks and quit wasting everybody’s time with their bullshit.

    Comment by UCrawford — January 27, 2008 @ 3:42 pm
  10. Mark, here’s the thing. Socialized medicine, more than anything else within the sphere of current political debate, interferes with the ideals of individual choice, and socio-economic mobility you support.

    Establishment medicine has a very limited view of the type of medical care provided. If you don’t support that view because you favor alternative medicine, beause of religious beliefs, or because its just plain too expensive, Obamacare not only won’t help you, it will take your money so you can’t help yourself.

    Obamacare easily has the potential to cost more than social security and I can’t think of anything less condusive to socio-economic mobility than a new tax. The extremley wealthy however, can legally self-insure under any of the proposed schemes.

    As I’ve mentioned in my comment at PE, while Obama says plenty of open goverment things, his refusal to debate his Senate opponents shows he doesn’t practice what he preaches. If you were to ask George Bush he would say he is for open government too.

    If I had to pick a leading primary cantidate it would probably be Romney, because he flip-flops so much he almost has to be on our side occasionally. That just goes to show libertarians can’t seem to vote as a block.

    At this point, I think it is in our interest to support the LP nominee and be prepared to endure the eventual winner the same way we endure Bush.

    Comment by lpcowboy — January 27, 2008 @ 4:15 pm
  11. And so to accommodate the newly found obsession with racism, libertarians are now ‘Obama 2008!’ ? Are there different libertarian sects in America, and specifically, which sect does this website represent? East coast/New England? I ask so that in conversation I’ll know who the Obama ’08 libertarians are.

    Comment by paulyFuck — January 27, 2008 @ 7:08 pm
  12. Also, this website and its authors are more racist than any newsletter of any era. Think about that and understand, if you can wrap your shallow heads around it.

    Comment by paulyFuck — January 27, 2008 @ 7:10 pm
  13. Do you read for comprehension pauly?

    Comment by Adam Selene — January 27, 2008 @ 7:27 pm
  14. Obama is less scary than Edwards or Hillary, and probably less scary than Giuliani or Huckabee.

    Obama vs. McCain? McCain.
    Obama vs. Romney? Undecided.

    Any of the above vs. Paul? Paul.

    All that being said, I believe (note: I don’t want this) that the president elected in 2008 will be a Democrat. If that is true, I would prefer that Obama be that Democrat.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 27, 2008 @ 7:36 pm
  15. I’m a bit shocked at crawford’s response here… perhaps I just haven’t read enough comments or posts, though, I don’t know :\.

    Comment by Nitroadict — January 27, 2008 @ 7:57 pm
  16. Nitroadict,

    There’s a history with my disdain for “Paulestinians”. Most of them are just sycophants, crazy people, or idiots (e.g. “truthers”, racists, anti-Semites) who don’t actually know anything about the pro-freedom aspects of Ron Paul’s platform. They don’t make arguments about policy, they just whine about people who won’t unconditionally support their candidate or blame conspiracies for Paul’s poor showings. Every once in awhile I just get sick of their bitching and feel a need to tell them to go fuck themselves. A bit childish, perhaps, but we’re all human.

    I wasn’t referring to you in particular or all Paul supporters, if that’s what you’re wondering…my comments were addressed at “getUP”. You’ve generally been okay by me and I’ve met quite a few Ron Paul supporters who back him for good reasons. Heck, I used to be a Paul supporter until I got fed up with how incompetent his campaign has been run and his rather disingenuous handling of the newsletter scandal.

    If you were referring to my comments about Obama, I was just saying that he seems to be the least-worst candidate out of all the potential winners. He’s still not least-worst enough for me to vote for him though. I’d rather throw my vote away on a third party.

    Comment by UCrawford — January 27, 2008 @ 8:59 pm
  17. lpcowboy

    At this point, I think it is in our interest to support the LP nominee and be prepared to endure the eventual winner the same way we endure Bush.

    I’d say that’s about right. None of the probable winners out of the GOP or Democrats are going to be very libertarian. Obama’s probably least-worst but socialized medicine’s pretty much a dealbreaker for me. I can’t ever see myself voting for a candidate who supports it.

    Comment by UCrawford — January 27, 2008 @ 9:07 pm
  18. Brad,

    Obama vs. McCain? McCain.

    1) Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform
    2) 2006 Military Commissions Act
    3) Continued involvement in Iraq

    There’s no way in hell I’ll ever cast a vote for McCain. He had a key role in creating two of the worst pieces of legislation during the Bush administration (limiting free speech and allowing the torture of prisoners). Combine that with the fact that he wants to continue this generation’s Vietnam for no other discernable reason than personal political advantage and I don’t really see any difference between him and Bush.

    Comment by UCrawford — January 27, 2008 @ 9:16 pm
  19. UC,

    I’ll never cast a vote for McCain, which is a policy I’ve long adhered to. That being said, I’ll never vote for Obama either. I could come up with a list of anti-Obama points (such as his support for some sort of socialized/mandated health care) that would likely be up there with McCain’s.

    As it stands, I don’t like either of them, but I find both McCain and Obama to be better than Giuliani, Huckabee, Clinton and Edwards. If I had to pick between McCain and Obama, I’d probably pick McCain, since he’s most likely going to be our best shot at stopping whatever the Democrats in Congress try to push through. Gridlock is good.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 27, 2008 @ 10:57 pm
  20. lpcowboy: You make some worthwhile points, and there is a strong likelihood that I’ll support the LP candidate in the general election no matter what. But compared to other major party candidates in my lifetime, I think he is by far one of the best (or least-bad, depending on how you look at it).

    One thing about the socialized medicine point. My understanding of his health care proposal is that it’s the least socialized of just about every major candidate except McCain and (obviously) Paul. Certainly, his health care plan has repeatedly raised the ire of the Krug-Man for being insufficiently socialized. But I could be wrong about the extent to which his proposal is socialized.

    Then again- our current system of employer-based health insurance has major problems, representing a totally screwed up set of incentives, and not really allowing for much individual choice of insurance plans. I’m not in favor of any kind of socialized medicine, but I also think that the current system is much more representative of fascist (in the non-perjorative sense) corporatism than of capitalism.

    Again, though, my support of Obama has less to do with his positions on specific issues than it has to do with what I perceive to be a fairly liberal (in the classical sense) vision, combined with a more considered, less hasty approach to that vision. By which I mean that he seems less susceptible (though by no means immune) to the “somebody do something” state of mind that causes so many problems of government intervention.

    I also think that a President’s agenda on domestic policy is overrated in terms of importance except for when his party is in lockstep with him and has big majorities in both houses of Congress, or when the President wants to make sure he has built an overwhelming coalition in support of his policy before he implements it (which Obama seems to practice by most accounts). After all, we’re electing a President not a dictator; as long as that President understands separation of powers and the limits of executive authority (which Obama does far more than anyone else except for Paul), then his views on foreign policy are more important than his views on domestic policy.

    I guess the thing with Obama is that he seems (emphasize “seems”) willing to give just about every group a seat at the table on a given policy as long as they share ends that could be deemed roughly “liberal” in the classical sense. I could very well be wrong about that, but I don’t get that impression from any other candidate in either party (except maybe the now-departed Richardson).

    …If the above was relatively incoherent, I apologize, as I’m home sick today.

    Comment by Mark — January 28, 2008 @ 7:54 am
  21. A quick addendum:
    I’ve been hinting at this for awhile, but I’ve come to the conclusion that libertarians at this point can have more influence on the Democrats than on the Republicans. (Insert legenday Milton Friedman quote here). The way in which the Republican Party has changed in the last few years has left them with almost nothing in common with libertarians.

    That said, I can’t imagine Hillary or Edwards giving libertarians the time of day. I can imagine Obama doing that, though.

    Of course, it’s always possible that I’m lying to myself, and that I just like Obama because he has a chance to stop Satan….err, Hillary.

    Comment by Mark — January 28, 2008 @ 8:00 am
  22. It is hard not to like Obama after you hear him speak. His ability to get you pumped up is extremely good. But as others have said his policy stances stink. One of my biggest worries is if he becomes President, the republicans are goign to have a hard time standing up to him, especially if his momentum continues through the general election. With Hillary the republcians will try everything they can to stop her from getting anything she wants, because they hate her so much. I don’t think there will be that same fire when they are up against Obama, and to be quite honest it will be tougher because once Obama gets up and speaks in front of the nation his feel good message it will be hard to attack him. Hillary just cannot do that. Just the sound of her voice can give you chills in a bad way. I guess if we can’t get a libertarian leaning candidate elected I want as much gridlock as possible. I think we would get more gridlock with Hillary then we would with Obama. The past year has probably been the best in the past seven years because we have had some gridlock.

    Comment by TerryP — January 28, 2008 @ 5:26 pm
  23. Nice, I like how you guys aren’t above swearing at people who even mention Ron Paul, but take everyone who isn’t in lockstep with you to task for saying anything contrary. Before you swear at me too, I am NOT supporting ANY candidate on either side of this dog and pony show.

    Obama is a vacuous empty suit, how any of you can respect him is beyond the pale, but then I have had to live in Illinois with him for a long time. He is just another lying politician, I have no respect for any of them.

    Comment by Bill — January 29, 2008 @ 10:09 am
  24. Bill,

    Nice, I like how you guys aren’t above swearing at people who even mention Ron Paul

    There are actually a lot of Paul supporters we don’t swear at for sharing their views on the candidate. They’re the ones who bring up good arguments, debate policy, etc. and we can come to rational and civil agreements or disagreements. If Paul supporters bring up issues first instead of starting out with ad hominem attacks, conspiracy theories, or comments that are completely unintelligible they’re generally treated with the same respect as anyone else. There are, however, a good number of trolls who support Ron Paul and frankly I don’t think trolls deserve much respect.

    Obama is a vacuous empty suit, how any of you can respect him is beyond the pale, but then I have had to live in Illinois with him for a long time. He is just another lying politician, I have no respect for any of them.

    I don’t personally so much respect him as think he might be the least-worst of all the likely winners in the race (or maybe not). That said I’m still not voting for the guy…he’s just too far apart from me on key issues (health care being the prime example). I can’t speak for anyone else here on this, of course, and they each have their own opinions.

    If you’ve got specific instances where you think Obama falls short would you mind sharing them? You say you’re from Illinois, so I’m curious what the perspective is there and why…it would probably be useful to the discussion.

    Comment by UCrawford — January 29, 2008 @ 10:29 am
  25. Well, it is a long list, but here are some examples:

    1) Favors the Daly – Blagojavich gun control policies.

    2) Favors some kind of national “Hillary” care program.

    3) Is an eloquent speaker, but when you analyze his speeches, he isn’t really saying anything of substance.

    4) Claims to believes in tax reform, but voted for tax increases in Illinois and still believes everyone should pay a substantial part of their incomes in various taxes.

    5)Is another true believer in the global warming hoax, the cause that is.

    6) Kept close ties with Jesse Jackson as still does for all I know.

    If you read his platform, he says he wants to change a lot of things, but any specific plan or even an outline is suspiciously missing.

    While he was a minor league State Senator, he did as he was told by Daly and the Democratic machine, which means he voted for socialism and any anti – gun measure that came down the pike. We are all wondering how he became such a national media star in such a short time as his record here as a State senator is really quite abysmal. He was hardly known outside of the democratic machine political circles and most people here never heard of him until he ran for US Senator. I only knew of him and his agenda because of my activity in the Illinois pro gun movement. Also, he claims to have mistakenly voted on several issues, saying he thought he voted yes when he actually voted no or vise versa. How can anyone trust this mental dufus with the office of president?

    Comment by Bill — January 29, 2008 @ 12:41 pm
  26. Bill,

    You made your case as far as I’m concerned. As for his media star I suspect it’s because he’s an eloquent speaker and an attractive guy (and a minority who doesn’t scare the hell out of voters) so that may have something to do with it. He’s also a new face without an obvious track record in the Senate so that probably helps (nobody’s more popular on the football team than the backup QB). Obama’s definitely led a charmed life considering what a walk in the park his campaign was (with Jack Ryan pulling out to be replaced by Alan Keyes).

    I hadn’t really looked at his gun control record but he’s voted the wrong way on that everything that’s been presented to him as far as I can see:

    http://www.ontheissues.org/states/IL_Gun_Control.htm

    Combine that with his health care position (I’ll never vote for a candidate that’s for socialized medicine)…well, so much for him being least-worst.

    I will disagree somewhat and say that although Jesse Jackson’s an absolute con artist, I’m not so sure that should be held against Obama for having ties to him. Jackson’s a big name in the area so it’s unlikely that any prominent black politician isn’t going to have connections to him somehow. The real question is, how do those ties affect his vote? If there isn’t really any effect and Obama isn’t involved with the other crap Jackson pulls (like the shakedowns of white-owned businesses), then I’d say it’s not all that damning…it’s almost impossible to be a politician and not occasionally rub elbows with shady people. Is their involvement anything more than communication?

    Comment by UCrawford — January 29, 2008 @ 1:22 pm
  27. I admit to being completely subjective when it comes to that idiot Jesse Jackson. Your points are taken, all I can say is birds of a feather. . .

    Comment by Bill — January 30, 2008 @ 9:28 am
  28. I am for Obama, passionately. Look, I would love to have a candidate with libertarian views – the type of ideal consistency on economic AND political and social freedoms. It is ridiculous the amount of power the two parties have and terrible trade-offs we have to make when we go into vote for presidential candidates. Let me also state that there is not much difference in my view between the dems and the republicans on economic policy, in the end.

    True that Obama and Hillary would raise taxes and propose national healthcare (a disaster waiting to happen), but the republicans do so much other damage to the economy – through fiscal deficit irresponsibility and pork barrel projects and corporate welfare, the next effect is the same. I really cannot distinguish among the candidates or parties on ultimate economic results of their policies, whatever they may be. Hopefully, congress with reign them in.

    So, I choose basically on social issues/political rights and on leadership. Obama was right on Iraq, worked tirelessly on Ethics reform, has run a grassroots – non-establishment campaign, does not take lobbyist money, wants a more transparent government, preserves an element of choice in his healthcare plan, and appears to be smart and open minded, i.e., not ideological. If someone showed him a better way to achieve a particular end, I think he would listen. Also, he really does not like negative campaigning, though he has to do some just to deal with the Clinton-spin machine.

    I really wish we had someone with a more consistent freedom philosophy who had a chance at winning. In the meantime, I’m for Obama.

    Comment by Independent in NJ — February 7, 2008 @ 8:55 am

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