Home/Daniel Larison/Does the GOP Have a “Libertarian Problem”? Not Really

Does the GOP Have a “Libertarian Problem”? Not Really

Jonathan Bernstein makes a good observation in response to the claim that the GOP has a “libertarian problem”:

But I think it’s unfair to libertarians to stick them with Ayn Rand. I agree with Chait that Rand is electoral poison, but it’s easy to be a very conservative libertarian without even a hint of Rand.

It isn’t entirely fair to Randians to stick them with Romney. Romney described people as entitled, irresponsible victims because they didn’t pay income tax. That didn’t mean that most of these Americans don’t pay taxes, but as far as Romney was concerned they might as well not bother with their other payments. Whatever it was, Romney’s view was not really a Randian or libertarian view. Romney ended up treating the payment of income tax as evidence of some sort of civic virtue that elevated the people who paid it above those who did not. At one point, he said, “I think people would like to be paying taxes.” I submit that this is not a view that libertarians share.

A Republican ticket that pursued an economically libertarian agenda might not be very popular, but it’s important to distinguish between what Romney and Ryan ran on from libertarian policies. It is extremely difficult to look at the campaign that Romney and Ryan ran and conclude that their failing was an excess of libertarianism. Some libertarian policies are unpopular, and others aren’t, but one thing that we can say with some certainty is that Romney and Ryan advocated for none of them during their campaign. Before the GOP can have a “libertarian problem,” it needs to have more than a handful of libertarians among Republican candidates on the national stage.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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