It is unnecessary to say that this presidential election is important. True, it is said every four years that the elction is important, but this election is different. Even though the United States has gone through many periods of unconstitutional and Progressive policies, none have been as rapid or dangerous as the last four years. With this in mind, we approach November.
That being said, this election should be very gloomy for anyone who believes in liberty. The reason for this is that there are no candidates who completely represent the ideas of the Constitution, the free market, or liberty. Barack Obama clearly doesn’t represent any of these—neither in rhetoric, nor in record. Mitt Romney represents the supposed “opposite” of Barack Obama, though this is questionable. The Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, apart from not having a chance, is by no means a pure libertarian—with his philosophy, apart from other things, appearing to focus on marijuana laws (rather than a focus on free market economics). Unfortunately, there is but one choice that the lover of liberty is left with. Yet, Romney is by no means could be called a conservative, libertarian, minarchist, or classical liberal.
This support for Romney, at least on my part, is very begrudging, and one will understand why.
Take, for example, his policy on trade. Yes, Romney is a capitalist, but he does not approach this area in a truly “free market” manner. A major part of Romney’s trade policy is “… create a level playing field for competition [in the way of ensuring the US has an “equal chance” against other nations].” One could argue that he is on the right track, but he is still very far from a complete and utter free market outlook. The policies Romney advocate equate to an economic belief called protectionism. This philosophy may be summed up in the idea that the economy of one’s nation must be “protected” through various means—including taxation, tarriffs, and certain regulations. Now, this may all sound good in theory, to some, but it has been shown to fail.
Protectionism has never worked, and it is rife with problems. Writing for Ludwig von Mises Institute, Gary Galles notes the massive potential for corruption (in areas such as pet projects or similar matters) thaty comes with protectionism. Art Caden also points out that protectionism eats away at what the markets alone have achieved.
There are also numerous philosophical problems that arise from protectionism. Does the government have the authority to “level the playing field”?—if so, where does this come from? In a sense of utility, can the government even do this (as they are the government and not the markets)?
The believer in liberty must also look at Romney’s positions on foreign policy. While I realize foreign policy is quite a point of contention amongst the right—even serving, some times, as a dividing issue—Romney is also a moderate in this area. Though he does make a good point about addressing the waste, fraud, and abuse in the military and the Defense Department—but, in reality, who wouldn’t say that?—Romney advocates increased intervention in the world. And, by intervention, I do not speak of the War on Terror. Let it be noted as well that Romney does not address the numerous military bases found around the world (from South Korea and Japan, to Germany and Italy), that many have questioned a “need” for.
In regards to Latin American policy, Romney would “extol the virtues of democracy and free trade.” Promoting free trade is one issue (depending upon how it is defined), but democracy is another—as it is a system that always brings about the despotism of the mob and loss of liberty.
Also, his policy on the Arab Spring is particularly disturbing. According to Romney’s official website, his administration would “support those individuals and groups that are seeking to instill lasting democratic values and build sturdy democratic institutions that will sustain open societies …. make available technical assistance to governments and transitional bodies to promote democracy, good governance, and sound financial management.” This is especially disturbing, considering that the Arab Spring fans the flams of jihad and promotes democracy—rather than constitutional republics.
There is a prhase in the statement from the Romney website that is rather chilling and is necessary to be pointed out—“open society.” This phrase was a key part in the thought of the thinker Karl Popper. In short, this a utopian society—where all “rights” are respected and citizens may “peacefully” overthrow their government. Even more important in this is the relation of the “open society” concept to the actions of George Soros. With this concept as a cornerstone, Soros has used his huge personal wealth to further a myraid of projects, programs, entities, and ideas that are contrary to both freedom and free markets.
There is one more areas that Romney is quite “off” in—the Federal Reserve. While even mentioning this issue garners a title of “conspiracy theorist” from some, this is an important issue. The Federal Reserve, apart from other things, is in complete control of the American dollar—which should be enough by itself to earn importance. In this area, Mitt is silent. Perhaps this silence represents an absence of a policy, akin to the lack of action Edmund Burke spoke of?
With all of the downsides of Romney, I think we as supporters of liberty and free markets must ponder the matter. Obviously, there is no other candidate who both has a chance of winning and supports something close to the philosophy of the Founders.
It is then absolutely necessary to keep in mind that Romney is not a solution. He is a necessary evil, in avoiding a greater evil. We must remember to figuratively show up at the gathering, but never drink the Kool-Aid. We must keep the same pressure on the government to maintain true the philosophy of Constitution, no matter who the president is. We must set ourselves to work, educate, and change both the citizenry and political climate. In this, there is never a guarantee of success, but there often isn’t in life. All that matters is that we continue to press on. If not, then it is certain that the liberty America once enjoyed may be forever lost.
Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac