Dave Barry

Dave Barry

No, we are not making this up! Humorist Dave Barry is a libertarian, and has been for years. In a 1994 interview with Reason magazine, Barry credited writer Sheldon Richman with convincing him to embrace libertarianism, back in the 1970s.

“Sheldon and I would argue,” Barry told Reason. “I mean, really argue…. Then in the late ’70s, I begin to see. I think the gas crisis had something to do with it. I began to realize, this is all happening because of the government. And I began to think about all the government people I knew … who were theoretically for the common good. Then I realized not one of them was [for the common good].” That led Barry to his ultimate insight about government: “It’s stupid.”

Barry was even more explicit about his political beliefs in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (April 23, 2005). “I’m a libertarian,” Barry said. “But that’s kind of an easy stance to be if you’re a humor columnist, because you’re tending to make fun of the government and the powerful…. I’m sort of a soft-core libertarian in that my compass is generally pointing away from ‘Let’s let the government do this’… Does it matter to me that it’s Democrats who think we need more elaborate programs that involve shifting money from one group to another group or it’s Republicans saying we need to take a harder look at what kinds of things people are watching on cable TV? Neither one of those things strikes me as a good idea.”

Those doubts about government stayed with Barry over the decades that followed, as he worked his way from unknown reporter to “the funniest man in America” (according to the New York Times). Along the way, he also became the country’s best-known and most popular humorist. By 2004, Barry’s weekly column — which offered a laugh-out-loud everyman’s look at topics ranging from raising children to exploding Pop-Tarts — was syndicated in over 500 newspapers. His life was also made into a popular television comedy (Dave’s World, which ran on CBS from 1993 to 1997).

Over the years, Barry also found time to write more than 30 books, including Dave Barry Does Japan (1992); Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up (1994); Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996); Dave Barry Is from Mars and Venus (1997); Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need (1998); Dave Barry Turns 50 (1998); Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys (1999); Dave Barry’s Guide to Marriage And/or Sex (1999); Big Trouble (2000); Boogers Are My Beat (2003); and I’ll Mature When I’m Dead (2010).

In 1988, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, making him the only humor writer ever to win journalism’s premier award.

Barry’s success did not change his libertarian beliefs. Cynicism about government — hidden amidst the jokes — permeated his work. Barbed shots at politicians, government-mandated low-flush toilets, the IRS tax code and federal pork projects became a regular feature in his writing. In a January 2004 interview with Scholastic magazine, Barry said that it was never difficult for him to find humor in political news. In fact, he said, “I don’t understand how anybody finds anything serious in politics.”

Some examples of Barry’s libertarian commentary:

On tax cuts: “Most of the presidential candidates’ economic packages involve ‘tax breaks,’ which is when the government, amid great fanfare, generously decides not to take quite so much of your income. In other words, these candidates are trying to buy your votes with your own money.” — Column, February 9, 1992

On the growth of government: “Whatever the needs of the public are, the government responds to those needs by getting larger.” — Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway (Random House, 2001)

On government’s one useful function: “My only concern is that, if we ever do wise up and dump the federal government, I’ll lose my biggest source of comic material.” — Review of David Boaz’s book Libertarianism: A Primer, 1997

On the tax code: “Why can’t Americans do their own taxes? Because the federal Tax Code is out of control, that’s why. It’s gigantic and insanely complex, and it gets worse all the time. Nobody has ever read the whole thing. IRS workers are afraid to go into the same ROOM with it.” — Column, April 6, 2003

On the War on Drugs: “The way this country deals with drugs is just not funny. What a waste of everyone’s time and effort. What a waste of a lot of people’s lives.” — Reason, December 1994

On government “job-creation” programs: “See, when the government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs.” — Column, February 23, 1992

Despite the steady drumbeat of pro-liberty themes, Barry said most readers probably haven’t figured out that he’s a libertarian. “Because I don’t write an overly political column, people just assume I’m not,” he told Reason. “I guess nobody assumes anybody is a libertarian. It’s a more complex political discussion than most people are used to, to explain why you think the way you do about public education or drug laws, and why it’s not as simple as being for or against something.”

In late 2004, Barry announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from writing his weekly column, effective January 2005, to spend more time with his family.

Quotable

“I’m a libertarian… Does it matter to me that it’s Democrats who think we need more elaborate programs that involve shifting money from one group to another group, or it’s Republicans saying we need to take a harder look at what kinds of things people are watching on cable TV? Neither one of those things strikes me as a good idea.” — Dave Barry in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (April 23, 2005)