The Libertarian Case Against John McCain

It would seem to be axiomatic, but Reason’s Matt Welch makes the case for why libertarians shouldn’t cozy up to John McCain:

BEHIND any successful politician lies a usable contradiction, and John McCain’s is this: We love him (and occasionally hate him) for his stubborn individualism, yet his politics are best understood as a decade-long attack on the individual.

The presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party has seduced the press and the public with frank confessions of his failings, from his hard-living flyboy days to his adulterous first marriage to the Keating Five scandal. But in both legislation and rhetoric, Mr. McCain has consistently sought to restrict the very freedoms he once exercised, in the common national enterprise of “serving a cause greater than self-interest.”

Such sentiment can sound stirring coming from a lone citizen freely choosing public service. But from a potential president, Mr. McCain’s exaltation of sacrifice over the private pursuit of happiness — “I did it out of patriotism, not for profit,” he snarled to Mitt Romney during the final Republican presidential debate — reflects a worryingly militaristic view of citizenship.

As Welch notes, McCain’s disdain for individual rights over claims of “national greatness” can be seen in what is possibly the most significant piece of legislation that his name is attached to, McCain-Feingold:

When people raised First Amendment objections to the law, which prohibits citizen advertisements that so much as mention a federal candidate’s name within 60 days of an election, Mr. McCain responded, “I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected that has become corrupt.” When the Supreme Court questioned the law’s constitutionality, he complained in a legal brief that ads were targeting “candidates in close contests — and almost invariably in a partisan manner.”

A competitive political system ? How shocking.

For some libertarians, though I am not one of them, there may be a reason to vote for John McCain in November. On economic issues, he is better than either Hillary or Obama but, after eight years of George W. Bush and twelve years of Republican control of Congress, there’s no reason to believe anything that any Republican says when it comes to taxes and spending.

One of Glenn Reynolds readers makes this point:

I can see a libertarian case against McCain, but you go to an election with the candidates you’ve got. Does Matt really think McCain would be *more* of a libertarian disaster than “It takes a village”/”We’re doing it for your own good” Clinton or the “it would be a mandate, but it’s a *voluntary* mandate” Messiah of Change?

The argument, of course, is that they’re all equally bad for someone who believes in free minds and free markets, and there’s no need to vote for any of them.

  • Jeff Molby

    The argument, of course, is that they’re all equally bad for someone who believes in free minds and free markets, and there’s no need to vote for any of them.

    It is impossible to spread this message too often.

  • How Insane Is John McCain?

    I think McCain thinks he knows best. No matter how his position changes.