Chatting with David Boaz of the Cato Institute
“I don’t think libertarians should subsume themselves in a conservative movement or even just in a fiscally conservative movement. [A]bsolutely libertarians can work with conservatives on fiscal issues.” — David Boaz
Editor’s note: The audio came out a little weird. We tried to work out the kinks, but didn’t have much success. Apologies.
On Friday, I sat down with David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer and The Politics of Freedom: Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to Our Liberties, to discuss the sequester, CPAC, and fusionism between libertarians and conservatives.
Since we did the interview on “Sequester Day,” I asked Boaz about some of the silliness and scare tactics that have been used in recent weeks as we counted down the days until the spending cuts took effect.
“A lot of the silliness, of course, is a dedicated campaign by the Obama Administration. They want people to believe that if you cut anything out of the federal budget the country will fall apart,” Boaz explained. “And we know that if they actually do the things they’re talking about — you know, we’re gonna lift the border patrol and let illegals flood into America and we’re gonna take TSA officers off and slow down all the airplanes — it’s a deliberate strategy.”
Pointing out the federal government is so big that it wouldn’t be hard to find areas to reduce spending, Boaz noted, “I could clip something out of the newspaper every day about some wasteful program or waste in a program and you cut that when you have to cut a little bit. So, this is clearly a dedicated campaign.”
Republicans joined in on some of the doom-and-gloom talk over the sequester, which ultimately hurt their messaging. Boaz explained, “One of the things that confused Republican messaging was that they did spend months saying that they would be devastating to the military, and so they couldn’t have a forthright message.”
“Look, the sequester isn’t the smartest way to cut federal spending, but it’s better than not cutting,” added Boaz. “So, the military issue and the enormous dominance in the conservative media of neo-cons and hawks, made it difficult for conservatives and Republicans to arrive at a consistant message, though one the Cato Institute has been saying for a year or so, which is this isn’t the smartest way to cut spending, but a spending cut is better than not a spending cut.”
When it came to the current discussion about fusionism with conservatives, Boaz implied that libertarians should remain autonomous, resisting the idea of including the two philosophies in context of a “broader liberty movement.”
Boaz said, “On issue by issue, absolutely libertarians can work with conservatives on fiscal issues. Nobody’s done more on fiscal issues than the Cato Institute, with its Downsizing Government website and its full-page newspaper ads back in 2009 rallying the limited-government team against the stimulus.”
”’[W]e can all work together on those fiscal issues,” he added. “I’m just uncomfortable using the term ‘broader liberty movement’ and things like that when a lot people in that movement are not actually for liberty. They’re for fiscal conservatism. I’m with them on that.”
But Boaz also stressed some positives about the skepticism he’s seeing towards government, specifically from some Republicans in the Senate, including Rand Paul. He also noted that Republicans seem to be coming around on restraining the executive branch from overreach.
“There’s been a little movement, not nearly enough on the part of Republicans, to appreciate the dangers of the imperial presidency, now that there’s a Democratic president,” said Boaz with a hint of sarcasm. “But It’s bad enough they didn’t see it with a Republican president.”