Dr. Robert Lawson is the Jerome M. Fullinwider Chair in Economic Freedom in the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. Also, Lawson is co-author of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World annual report, which provides a widely-cited economic freedom index for over 140 countries. The CATO Institute has been partners in its publication since 1996.
As my former academic advisor, Dr. Lawson is a mentor and friend who introduced me to libertarian philosophy. A happy warrior with a dry sense of humor, his love of economics and freedom is inspiring.
Lawson is a member of the prestigious Mont Pelerin Society. He also writes at the popular economics blog, Division of Labour, which you should subscribe to.
Matt Naugle: How did you become a libertarian?
Robert Lawson: I actually wrote about this in a little book that Walter Block edited titled, I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. As with most people, I can trace this to a couple of influential teachers. First, Mr. Eaton at Princeton High School (Cincinnati) who gave me my first copy of The Freeman. Second, Richard Vedder at Ohio University.
Stephen Green, PJMedia’s Vodkapundit, came out this morning with a post putting forward a libertarian case for Mitt Romney. I’ve seen several other people try to attempt to make this argument in the last several weeks, but they’ve all been conservatives trying to convince libertarians why they absolutely must vote for Mitt Romney rather than Gary Johnson on November 6th. Inevitably, those arguments, whether in the form of a blog post or a conversation on Twitter or Facebook end up devolving into the same ridicule and condescension one typically hears from conservatives directed at libertarians. A vote for Gary Johnson, they say, is a vote for Barack Obama, for example. Another common theme is to point out that the Libertarian Party doesn’t exactly have a record of electoral success, a fact which I concede but which I find completely irrelevant to the question of who I should consider voting for and why. They call you a Paulbot too, even though I was an enthusiastic backer of Governor Johnson’s bid for the Republican nomination and had pretty much had my fill of the Ron Paul movement way back in 2007. On the whole, the conservative argument to libertarians regarding the 2012 election has been dismissive, insulting, and based more on the false assumption that we want to be loyal Republicans. I’ve really grown quick sick of it, to be honest.
A bit of controversy has been going around lately with the so-called “Poll Denialists.” These are Republicans and conservatives who believe that Romney’s current poll numbers, lagging Obama’s, are somehow false, a scheme by pollsters to deliberately skew the election towards an Obama victory, and are trying to explain it away with…well, I’m not sure what.
Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard mostly sums it up with “the polls are oversampling Democrats.” Robert Stacy McCain of The American Spectator just thinks it’s beyond any reason to believe that Obama is leading. And there is an entire website called “unskewedpolls.com” dedicated to finding the “true numbers” behind the polls.
This is pretty much balderdash, based on bad assumptions of how polling works and just plain fantasy. Stephen L. Taylor of Outside the Beltway focuses on the latter when he says:
Jason Pye has written a great blog post about libertarians and the Romney campaign already. He asked me my opinion about it, perhaps even with the possibility of a “point-counterpoint” sort of thing. I pretty much agree with what he’s saying, particularly about Ron Paul and the Libertarian Party. We are not a monolithic group; we are a very wide and very diverse range of individuals who just want to increase individual liberty.
What I want to add is that, while Republicans and conservatives complain about us, and want us to support them in elections, they have done nothing to earn such support. Let me show you a few examples:
A Romney administration would listen much more closely to a libertarian movement that supported him.
— Brandon Kiser (@Kiser) September 24, 2012
To which I responded with:
@BrandonKiser Then maybe he should do more to support the libertarian movement.
— Jeremy Kolassa (@jdkolassa) September 24, 2012
And to which I got this response:
@jdkolassa I didn’t say it wasn’t a two way street. But I’m pretty sure I know which side burned their bridge first.
— Brandon Kiser (@Kiser) September 24, 2012
Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, Utah is running for Congress in her state’s newly created 4th District. A graduate of the University of Hartford with a degree in fine arts, Mayor Love also spent two terms in city council.
As a staunch defender of the Constitution and supporter of limited government, Mayor Love’s principled message was heard throughout the country during her speech to the Republican Convention in Tampa, FL.
Matt Naugle: How did you become a conservative?
Mia Love: Our country was founded on the conservative principles of fiscal discipline and small government. I watched as my parents achieved the American dream through the power of those founding principles. I observed as these conservative practices played out in the lives of my parents and came to believe in them and to trust them.
These beliefs and conservative principles were reaffirmed as I married an incredibly self-sufficient, hard-working husband who took responsibility for himself and his family. I have continued to believe in those conservative principles and believe that they are what can bring us back to a strong America.
MN: Your parents were Haitian immigrants. What did you learn from your parents?
In Federalist No. 51, a Virginia farmer named James Madison mused:
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
Today — September 17 — is the day we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution by the U.S. Constitutional Convention. This document, which sought to protect man from himself by placing limits on the powers that a representative government would try to wield, is a watershed triumph in the history of human freedom movements, despite some of the gross violations of human rights that have been perpetrated against African-Americans, women, Asian-Americans and other groups since the founding. As written constitutions go, the United States is something of an anomaly: since 1789, constitutions have lasted an average of only seventeen years. That statistic makes the U.S. Constitution a pretty special document.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating by taking the Bill of Rights Institute’s Constitution quiz to see how well you know the document that framed the United States government!
Expect to see that tagline more than once associated with a forthcoming documentary, The House I Live In, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2012 Sundance Flim Festival. Written and directed by Eugene Jarecki, whose credits also include, among others, Why We Fight and Freakonomics, the film will have a limited theatrical release beginning with New York on October 5, just three weeks from today. The release will expand into other major metropolitan areas in the ensuing weeks.
The film’s official website describes it thus:
Filmed in more than twenty states, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN tells the stories of individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs. From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.
For a scholarly examination of the impacts of the War on Drugs on state and federal budgets, see the September 2010 Cato Institute study “The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition” by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron and Katherine Waldock.
Conventions aren’t just about the present, conventions are also about the future. As the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa draws to a close, one of the most important questions for the party going forward is what role – if any – will libertarians play in the direction of the GOP in the years ahead.
Congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination helped to launch the modern day liberty movement and gave voice to libertarians within the Republican Party.
The rise of the Tea Party and a second Paul Republican Presidential run gave the libertarian wing of the party hope for the future and increased visibility.
As Paul’s popularity grew in the party, so did the tension between the libertarian wing of the GOP and the party’s establishment. Many in the establishment would have you believe that the tension was more about the behavior of Ron Paul’s supporters than about policy. While there is no doubt that Ron Paul has an intensely loyal and fervent following, the truth is the tension wasn’t about behavior – it was about policy.
Libertarians want an end to foreign adventurism, they want deep cuts in spending across the board (including the military), they want government out of the boardrooms and the bedrooms, they want dramatic tax reform (starting with throwing out the current tax code), they want to privatize social security and Medicare, and they want a return to sound money.
The policy differences between libertarians and the current GOP are real and they are significant. The question going forward is whether this marriage can be saved?
House Republicans have recently put forward a new bill, H.R. 6213, otherwise known as the “No More Solyndras Act.” It was passed by the House Energy & Commerce Committee on August 1st, and sounds quite promising when you consider the colossal mistake that Solyndra, supported by federal loans, was. It’s estimated that taxpayers will lose over half a billion dollars on Solyndra, which went bankrupt last year. Preventing that from happening again is a great idea.
Unfortunately, the Republicans backing this bill are not really saving you from another Solyndra, or Beacon Power, or Abound. For the “No More Solyndras Act” leaves a gaping hole—as in, everything before December 2011 is still totally cool.
See, it’s “No More Solyndras,” not “No Solyndras.” As the text of the bill makes plain, the Act only prevents new applications from new companies, not applications from ones “grandfathered” in:
There are dumb ideas…and then there are really dumb ideas. And then there are, so to say, Congressional politicians. We’re not quite at that level yet, but it seems like it. I am of course, referring to a rather silly piece in Slate magazine titled “Let’s Nationalize Facebook,” written by one Phillip N. Howard, a professor of communications and information technology from the University of Washington. His reasons for doing so are:
Over the last several years, Facebook has become a public good and an important social resource. But as a company, it is behaving badly, and long term, that may cost it: A spring survey found that almost half of Americans believe that Facebook will eventually fade away. Even the business side has been a bit of a disaster lately, with earnings lower than expected and the news that a significant portion of Facebook profiles are fake. If neither users nor investors can be confident in the company, it’s time we start discussing an idea that might seem crazy: nationalizing Facebook.