Barack Obama’s Libertarian Support

Barack Obama is a strong civil libertarian, a strong supporter of separation of church and state, and has economic views which are influenced by the University of Chicago. As I discussed last month, Daniel Koffler has even labeled Obama a left-libertarian. I believe that Obama’s beliefs don’t fully fit this label, but there are many reasons for libertarians to support Obama.

Obama has received the support of many libertarians such as Publius. While I would anticipate support for Obama among left libertarians, I was a bit surprised to see a somewhat favorable post about him at Lew Rockwell’s site. As would be expected for a libertarian writer, there are definite objections to many of Obama’s policies, but the author also does acknowledge that “Obama does offer a few market-friendly programs.”

On the other side of the coin, Obama does offer a few market-friendly programs, such as increased child care and education tax credits (which Paul also supports), exempt payroll taxes from the first $6,500 of earned income, exempt seniors making under $50,000 from income taxes, supports clean coal (most democrats despise hydrocarbon energy production in general), supports carbon sequestration (more market-friendly than carbon regulation), limits agricultural subsidies to farms earning under $250,000 a year, will reinstate PAYGO, has pledged to get all troops out of Iraq within 16 months, opposes war with Iran, and supports the Genocide Intervention Network, which uses private money and nonstate social action to stymie genocide.

So, is Obama a left-libertarian? No. Obama’s platform is more akin to “Soft Paternalism“, a gentler, less threatening approach to controlling people’s lives (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Libertarian Paternalism).

In the grand scheme of things, Obama is far less statist than Hillary (socialism at home, hegemony abroad) and McCain (fascism at home, endless warfare abroad). If Obama wins the democratic nomination, I suspect he’ll run with Bill Richardson (who likes market solutions on pragmatic grounds as well), as he can help shore up Obama’s dismal support among Hispanics, which could cost him Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada (19 electoral college votes). Don’t get me wrong: in a hypothetical match up in the fall between Obama and McCain, I’ll either abstain from voting or write in Paul’s name. But for the electorate as a whole, Obama would be the more liberty-minded choice over the statist, warmongering, ill-tempered and possibly unstable John McCain.

This is hardly what one would call an endorsement, but this is still a far more favorable review of Obama’s policies than I would have expected from this site. Choosing Bill Richardson as running mate would also please many libertarians. I have suspected that Obama would not run with Richardson due to his connections to the Clintons and as there might be pressure for more balance than having two minorities on the ticket. However if Richardson could bring in more Hispanic votes this might be a consideration.

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