Doug Mataconis is right that the argument for libertarians to support Mitt Romney is not persuasive. I say this as one who, unlike most libertarians, supported the Iraq War and remains hawkish on most things Middle East. For someone like myself, the subject of foreign policy is probably the one most likely to draw me to support Romney—but I know of no reason to think that a Romney Administration would be significantly better on foreign policy even from my perspective.
On domestic policy, however, there is absolutely no reason to believe he would be better. The best argument I’ve heard is that a win for Romney might open the way to repealing Obamacare. But does anyone really believe that? Romney invented Obamacare. And not only does the Republican Party in general lack the belief in free market principle necessary to support repeal, but a Romney victory, by signaling the fatal weakness of the Tea Party element within the Republican Party, would encourage the Establishment GOP to do what they’ve always done: mouth free market principles while betraying them in practice. Indeed, a Republican victory would likely increase the chances that the GOP would “improve” Obamacare with something even more insidious and long-lasting.
That is even more true of repealing Dodd-Frank. The left’s envy-mongering class-warfare style of politics simply will not permit the current Republican Party to significantly alter a law that the media has hypnotized people into believing protects them from Evil Greedy Capitalists. If there is to be change on that front, it must come from dedicated idealists—or from the Democratic party. It will not happen under a moderate’s moderate’s moderate.
What about the Supreme Court? Romney’s appointees are just as likely to be bad as good. Indeed, they’re more likely to be bad than good, since the closest thing conservatives have to principle is the vacuous concept of “judicial minimalism” or “restraint,” whereby Congress gets to do to us practically anything it wants. Republican presidents gave us the Scalia who voted to uphold the Controlled Substances Act; the Thomas who supported the constitutionality of midnight raids on homosexuals; the Roberts who upheld Obamacare; the Alito who would strangle the First Amendment; the Souter and Stevens who retired from the farthest left of the bench; and the Kennedy who was the swing vote for the government in Kelo v. New London. And Romney has promised more of the same, having asked Robert Bork of all people to advise him on judicial nominations. Libertarians might benefit from a Republican president choosing judges, sure—in just the same way as they might benefit from a Democrat. It’s a coin toss…at best.
Worst of all, in my mind: a Romney victory would spell the end of the Tea Party movement. The Republican Party would then be able to discipline libertarian-leaning Republicans to support the Administration in just the same way that they’re trying to yoke libertarians to support the ticket. Free-market libertarians could have said no when George W. supported expanding Medicare. They could have said no when George W. proposed bailouts. Now, once again, they have a chance to say no. And they better do it while they still can—and insist that the 2016 nomination go to someone who actually believes in limited government and individual freedom.
Most of all, we are all safer with a government divided between a Congress and President of different parties than we are under a government dominated by either. Checks and balances—use them or lose them!
Update: Ted Frank is wrong that I am “making the best the enemy of the good,” since there is no reason to believe that Romney is good. If it were a matter of him being “imperfect,” that would be one thing. The problem here is that there is no reason to believe Romney is even a conservative, let alone merely imperfect.
However, Frank does make one good point re. the Supreme Court: that if the campaign speech regulators get their way, minority points of view like libertarianism will be squeezed out entirely. I don’t find this a convincing reason to vote for Romney, but it’s an interesting observation. Of course, one could just as easily come up with a list of 5-4 rulings that are bad for freedom that could change for the better if the conservative majority on the Court switched over.