Poor Choices In 2008 For Those Leaning Libertarian

The choice of presidential candidates for those of us who want to move the country in a more libertarian direction is pretty disappointing. After siding with the liberal blogosophere out of agreement with the opposition to the authoritarian tendencies developing on the right, I’m disappointed to see so many liberal bloggers fall for John Edwards, previously a major backer of both the war and the Patiot Act. There had been some hope that Bill Richardson might present a more libertarian alternative for Democrats, but he has failed to live up to the potential first seen in him, and the best thing that could be said about his appearance on Meet the Press is that few probably watched on a holiday weekend. There was a time in which I thought that Rudy Giuliani might present an alternative worth considering should the Democrats nominate Clinton or Edwards, but as is apparent in my posts on him, the more I see of him the less I like him.

There is some benefit in having a Republican support some liberal positions such as abortion rights and toleration towards gays, but this is hardly sufficient to make him acceptable as President. While faux libertarians like Eric Dondero push Giuliani as a libertarian alternative, there are many of reasons for both liberals and libertarians to oppose him. David Boaz of the Cato Institute has an op-ed in today’s New York Daily News warning, Libertarians, beware the rigid reign of Rudy (emphasis mine):

Behind Rudy Giuliani’s impressive lead in the polls is one fact that puzzles the pundits: Many cultural conservatives are backing a pro-choice, pro-gun control candidate. But what should be equally surprising is the strong support Giuliani is finding among libertarian-leaning Republicans, who also make up a big slice of the GOP base.

Here’s why: Throughout his career, Giuliani has displayed an authoritarian streak that would be all the more problematic in a man who would assume executive powers vastly expanded by President Bush.

As a U.S. attorney in the 1980s, Giuliani conducted what University of Chicago Law Prof. Daniel Fischel called a “reign of terror” against Wall Street. He pioneered the use of the midday, televised “perp walk” for white-collar defendants who posed no threat to the community – precisely the sort of power play for which conservatives reviled former state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. And Giuliani’s use of federal racketeering statutes was so disturbing that the Justice Department changed its guidelines on the law.

As mayor, Giuliani had many successes. Crime came down. He cut taxes and held down spending. But his prosecutorial personality sometimes threatened personal freedoms. He cracked down on jaywalkers and street vendors. His street crime unit used aggressive tactics to confiscate guns from city residents, resulting in wholesale searches and detentions of citizens, especially young minority males, and occasional tragedies like the shooting of the unarmed Amadou Diallo.

When a police officer fatally shot another unarmed black man, Patrick Dorismond, Giuliani had police release Dorismond’s sealed juvenile arrest record. The city later settled with Dorismond’s family for $2.25 million.

And it should distress many conservatives that Giuliani took umbrage at affronts to his dignity, perhaps most notoriously when he tried to stop city buses from carrying a New York magazine ad saying the publication was “possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn’t taken credit for.” The First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams notes in his book, “Speaking Freely,” that “over 35 separate successful lawsuits were brought against the city under Giuliani’s stewardship arising out of his insistence on doing the one thing that the First Amendment most clearly forbids: using the power of government to restrict or punish speech critical of government itself.”

As a presidential hopeful, Giuliani’s authoritarian streak is as strong as ever. He defends the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. He endorses the President’s power to arrest American citizens, declare them enemy combatants and hold them without access to a lawyer or a judge. He thinks the President has “the inherent authority to support the troops” even if Congress were to cut off war funding, a claim of presidential authority so sweeping that even Bush and his supporters have not tried to make it.

Giuliani’s view of power would be dangerous at any time, but especially after two terms of relentless Bush efforts to weaken the constitutional checks and balances that safeguard our liberty.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater declared it “the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power.” George W. Bush has forgotten that; Rudy Giuliani rejects it.

While Giuliani is a poor candidate for those with libertarian leanings, he is gaining support among the right, where it appears Giuliani’s authoritarian views are outweighing his social views among many Republican voters.


  1. 1
    Robert Standard says:

    I always thought libertarian meant Pro-Choice Conservative or Fiscally Conservative/Socially Tolerant.

    Giuliani is Pro-Tax Cuts, Pro-Privatization, Pro-Cutting back on Welfare, and he’s Pro-Choice.

    That’s certainly libertarian enough for me.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    That’s a pretty superficial look at Giuliani considering his poor record on civil liberties. his authoritarian tendencies, and his support for the massive increase in government under the so-called war on terror. Giuliani, while much better than other Republicans on choice, is overall on the opposite side of the spectrum from libertarianism, with even the Cato Instutitue warning against the view being spread that he is libertarian.

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