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The Libertarian Vote: How Big Is It?

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Now that Rand Paul has officially announced he is seeking the presidency, attention is being focused on the libertarian voting bloc. Just how big is it? How many libertarian-minded voters are out there?

The answer may surprise you.

First, it’s important to note that “libertarian voter” doesn’t necessarily mean a voter who meets the stricter definition of a libertarian, i.e., someone who consistently opposes the initiation of force. Rather, it refers to someone who would be inclined to vote for a libertarian candidate in an election. Someone who is more supportive of libertarian ideas than liberal, conservative, statist or centrist ideas.

Different organizations have used different methods to determine the size of this libertarian bloc. And they’ve come up with some pretty consistent estimates.

* For 20 years Gallup’s annual Governance Survey has divided voters into liberal, conservative, libertarian, or populist, based on their answers to two questions:

  1. “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?”
  2. “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”


In their 2014 survey Gallup classified 24% of respondents as libertarian (with 27% conservative, 21% liberal, and 18% populist). This is hardly a rigorous political litmus test, but it may well help single out voters who might be sympathetic to libertarianism.

  • The Cato Institute’s David Boaz has done a lot of work on this over the years, including an important 2012 book (with David Kirby Emily Ekins) that summarizes numerous polls by Cato and others on the topic: The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center.
    They conclude that, depending on the criteria used, roughly 15-18% of voters can be classified as “libertarian voters.”
  • A 2006 Zogby poll, commissioned by Cato, found surprising results. Zogby asked half of a group of 1,012 people who had voted in the 2006 election: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?” Fully 59% of the respondents said “yes.”
    Zogby asked the other half a more challenging question: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian?” A surprising 44% of respondents — representing 100 million Americans — answered “yes” to that question, thus self-identifying as libertarians. This is obviously higher than the number of true libertarians in America, but certainly it at least indicates that millions of people are open to these ideas and this label.
  • Finally, here’s an often-overlooked but remarkable finding — based on the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz. In August 2000 Rasmussen gave the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. The Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” or other looser definitions used by polling firms. Yet fully 16% scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure closely matching to the other estimates we’ve cited.

What can we conclude? While the numbers and the criteria in these studies vary, at the very least there is broad agreement on a figure between 15% to 20%. That’s 30 to 40 million voters — a huge, and growing, voting bloc that could easily swing an election.

Add to this the additional millions on the left, right, and center who may vote for a libertarian-leaning candidate who stresses issues of great importance to them — such as a more peaceful foreign policy, marijuana re-legalization, slashing taxes, and reforming the out-of-control surveillance state.

Which brings us back to Rand Paul’s presidential run announcement. Rand Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian. He has described himself as “libertarian-ish” and in 2013 told Sean Hannity “I use the term constitutional conservative, but I also use the term libertarian conservative. … I accept all of those terms if they mean they believe in limited government and more individual liberty.”

But he is certainly the most libertarian-inclined presidential candidate — outside the Libertarian Party — in memory. Cato’s Boaz notes in TIME what may well be the most important thing to come out of a Rand Paul campaign:

“One result of his campaign will be to help those tens of millions of libertarian-leaning Americans to discover that their political attitudes have a name, which will make for a stronger and more influential political faction. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.”

The Greatest Libertarian Accomplishment in History?

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What is the most important libertarian accomplishment in history?

Not long ago David Boaz of the Cato Institute was asked that question.

His response? “The abolition of slavery.”

“The greatest libertarian crusade in history was the effort to abolish chattel slavery, culminating in the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the heroic Underground Railroad,” Boaz wrote recently at Huffington Post. “It’s no accident that abolitionism emerged out of the ferment of the Industrial Revolution and the American Revolution.

“How could Americans proclaim that ‘all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,’ without noticing that they themselves were holding other men and women in bondage? They could not, of course. The ideas of the American Revolution — individualism, natural rights and free markets — led logically to agitation for the extension of civil and political rights to those who had been excluded from liberty, as they were from power — notably slaves, serfs and women. …

“In the United States, the abolitionist movement was naturally led by libertarians. Leading abolitionists called slavery ‘man stealing,’ in that it sought to deny self-ownership and steal a man’s very self. Their arguments paralleled those of John Locke and the libertarian agitators known as the Levellers. William Lloyd Garrison wrote that his goal was not just the abolition of slavery but ‘the emancipation of our whole race from the dominion of man, from the thraldom of self, from the government of brute force.’”

That’s a great answer, just the kind you might expect from the editor of The Libertarian Reader, an The Libertarian Mindessential and delightful anthology of libertarian thought throughout history — 68 choice selections from the Bible and Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, including selections from abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas, Lysander Spooner, Angelina Grimke, Sarah Grimke and William Ellery Channing.

Boaz is also the author of a new book, The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom, which has just been released. It’s an updated version of his classic book Libertarianism: A Primer, one of the best examinations of libertarianism available, which gathered worldwide praise. I highly recommend it.

I also highly recommend the rest of Boaz’s article, “Black History Is American History.” Next year, when Black History Month comes around, I expect it will be high on my list of suggested resources for libertarians to read and share.

They Said It… With John Stossel, David Boaz, and More

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE FIRST AND ONLY: “BREAKING: Brian Williams becomes first person in human history to suffer professional consequences for lying about the Iraq War.” — tweet from Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress, February 10, 2015.

GOP VS. MEDICAL FREEDOM: “House Republicans have voted yet again to repeal Obamacare. … Of course, there is a greater chance that the sun will not rise tomorrow than that Obama would sign the bill to repeal the healthcare law that bears his name. But if the Republicans are so interested in a free market in health care, why don’t they vote to repeal Medicaid, Medicare, and Bushcare (the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003)? The answer is that Republicans and conservatives don’t believe in medical freedom at all.” — Laurence M. Vance, “The Stupid Party Strikes Again,” LewRockwell.com blog, February 4, 2015.

RAND PAUL SLAMS NSA: “It’s none of their damn business what you do on your phone.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), criticizing the National Security Agency (NSA) during a rally in Ames, Iowa, February 6, 2015.

JOHN STOSSEL ON POLITICIANS, TAPEWORMS AND OTHER PARASITES:
John Stossel“Compare politicians and politicians’ cronies to tapeworms and ticks. Like parasites in nature, the ticks on the body politic don’t want to kill the host organism — meaning us. It’s in politicians’ and regulators’ interest to keep the host alive so they can keep eating our food and sucking our blood. After watching members of Congress applaud President Obama during his last State of the Union address, I came to think that politicians were worse than tapeworms and ticks. … At least tapeworms and ticks don’t expect us to clap.” — award-winning libertarian journalist John Stossel, “Parasites,” syndicated column, February 4, 2015.

LIBERTARIANISM, AMERICA’S CORE PHILOSOPHY: “Libertarianism, a belief in what Adam Smith David Boazcalled ‘the obvious and simple system of natural liberty,’ is the core philosophy of America. The first colonists fled aristocratic Europe to find religious liberty, individualism, and economic opportunity. They declared their belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American history has been a struggle between liberty and power, between those who wanted to defend and extend the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution and those who wanted to make the United States more like the countries our ancestors left, with powerful and paternalistic government. Throughout our history, libertarian sentiments have been rekindled when the federal government has grown beyond what Americans will tolerate — such as the past few years. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.” — Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz, “Libertarianism Is on the Verge of a Political Breakout,” TIME, Feb. 5, 2015. Check out Boaz’s great new book The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.

See You at the World’s Largest Gathering of Libertarian Students!

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Mark your calendar!

ISFLC 2015The 8th Annual International Students For Liberty Conference will be held in Washington, DC, Friday, February 13 through Sunday, February 15.

And it’s going to be an event to remember.

Students For Liberty describes the conference as “the premiere event of the year for students dedicated to liberty and advancing freedom on campus.” Last year’s conference featured over 1,200 attendees from 26 countries — and SFL expects this year’s to be bigger and better than ever before.

The Advocates will have a booth there, and we’re looking forward to meeting friends new and old and sharing Advocates tools and programs like Operation Politically Homeless (now FREE for campus groups) with students and other attendees.

The conference is opening with a bang — a Friday night conversation between Ron Paul and Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, moderated by Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

And that’s just the start. The conference has lined up a stellar list of speakers. Among them: John Stossel, Congressman Justin Amash, Cato’s David Boaz and Tom G. Palmer, Jeffrey Tucker of Liberty.me, Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Libertarian Party executive director Wes Benedict, The Freeman editor Max Borders, the Marijuana Policy Project’s Rob Kampia… and that’s just a few of the outstanding speakers you’ll have a chance to hear. See the whole list of speakers here.

In addition to main-stage speakers, the weekend will feature over 80 breakout sessions on topics such as the militarization of police, the War on Drugs, free speech, and Bitcoin. The conference will also have an ongoing liberty fair with over 60 sponsor organizations. Plus there are networking opportunities with potential employers, and socials where you’ll have a great chance to meet with fellow lovers of liberty.

PS: You don’t have to be a student to attend. SFL says that, while the conference (as with other SFL programs) is focused on students, everyone is welcome to attend no matter what your age or status as a student might be.

Learn more and register at the conference website.

Hope to see you there!

Polls Show Growing Support for Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy

in Communicating Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, National Defense by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

David Boaz of the Cato Institute points out at the Huffington Post that support for a non-David Boazinterventionist, or at least far less interventionist, foreign policy is growing rapidly in America.

Refuting pundits who charge that such ideas have little popular support, Boaz cites some recent major polls.

“Perhaps most broadly,” writes Boaz, “a massive Pew Research Center survey in December 2013 found that 52% of respondents said the United States ‘should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.’ That was the most lopsided balance in favor of the U.S. ‘minding its own business’ in the nearly 50-year history of the measure.”

Boaz also cites a CBS News/New York Times poll  from June 2014 showing that fully 75% of Americans believe the result of the war in Iraq was not worth the loss of American lives and other costs of the invasion. Only 18% thought it worthwhile. The percentages were about the same whether those surveyed were Republicans, Democrats and independents. It’s hard to imagine a more thorough repudiation.

A YouGov poll in March found, Boaz writes, that “the American public has little appetite for any involvement in Ukraine… Only 18% say that the U.S. has any responsibility to protect Ukraine.” Boaz further notes that “Republicans were barely more supportive: 28 percent yes, 46 percent no.”

In April, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found strong and deep support for less intervention, and almost no desire for further involvement in the internal affairs of foreign nations.

The Wall Street Journal summarized its poll’s findings: “Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs… In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement — an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines. …

“The poll findings, combined with the results of prior Journal/NBC surveys this year, portray a public weary of foreign entanglements and disenchanted with a U.S. economic system that many believe is stacked against them. The 47% of respondents who called for a less-active role in world affairs marked a larger share than in similar polling in 2001, 1997 and 1995.

Concludes Boaz:

“Americans, including Republicans, are getting tired of policing the world with endless wars. Support for the Iraq war is almost as low as approval of Congress. Interventionist sentiment ticked up in the summer of 2014 as Americans saw ISIS beheading journalists and aid workers on video. But even then most voters wanted air strikes, not more troops.

“Here’s a prediction: 13 months from now, when the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire begin voting for presidential candidates, Americans will be even more weary of nearly 15 years of war, and U.S. intervention will be even less popular than it is now.”

Boaz notes that only one potential major party presidential candidate thus far has rejected interventionism in favor of a far less interventionist policy: libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul (R-KY).

They Said It… With George Will, David Boaz, Judge Napolitano and More

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

FEDS ATTACK PILGRIMS AS “ILLEGAL ALIENS”
George Will“The Agriculture Department . . . stresses sensitivity. A video of its ‘cultural sensitivity training’ shows employees being instructed to call the Pilgrims who created Thanksgiving ‘illegal aliens.’ Of course there were no immigration laws to make any one of the first Thanksgivings illegal — for which fact, give thanks. Someday, if there is no Agriculture Department, more thanks to be given.” — George Will, “Pardon These Turkeys,” Washington Post, November 27, 2013.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO ASKS WHAT IF: “What if Thanksgiving exposes the government?

“What if another Thanksgiving Day is upon us and because of the governmentJudge Andrew Napolitano we have less to be thankful for than we did at the last one? What if at every Thanksgiving liberty is weakened and the government is strengthened?

“What if Thanksgiving’s warm and breezy seduction of gratitude is just the government’s way of inducing us to think we should be grateful for it?

“What if we don’t owe the government any thanks for anything? What if the government owes us back all the freedom and property it has stolen from us? What if the government has produced nothing and owns nothing, save what it has coerced us to give it?” — opening of Judge Andrew P. Napolitano column, “What if Thanksgiving exposes the government?” November 28, 2013.

OPEN ON THANKSGIVING: “Some 200 retailers nationally opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day, and a lot of others did so at midnight. Shoes, jewelry, sporting goods, flat-screen TVs, fancy chocolate — if you wanted it, you could buy it before the football games were finished.

“This development provokes all sorts of laments. Family togetherness is getting short shrift. Commercialism has become an epidemic. The urge to buy has trampled more wholesome traditions.

“The critics may be right. But what is most obvious in the expanding store hours is an item of good news: In America, the consumer is king. …

“It’s all proof that a free-market economy serves the interests of ordinary people. Stores don’t open on Thanksgiving because they want to; they open because shoppers reward those that do, at the expense of those that don’t. For consumers, it may be a reason to abbreviate the holiday festivities, but it’s also grounds for gratitude.” — syndicated columnist Steve Chapman, “How the Consumer Became King: Capitalism Empowers Ordinary People” November 29, 2012.

SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR: “A Kenyan boy who managed to get to the United States told a reporter for Woman’s World magazine that America is ‘heaven.’ Compared to countries that lack the rule of law, equality, property rights, free markets, and freedom of speech and worship, it certainly is. A good point to keep in mind this Thanksgiving Day.” — Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz, “What to Be Thankful For,” Washington Times, November 25, 2004.

FREE Libertarian E-Book: The Morality of Capitalism

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In recent issues we’ve reviewed and recommended two outstanding free e-books available through Students For Liberty (SFL): After the Welfare State and Why Liberty.

Now we’re pleased to suggest one more great SFL title to add to your ebook library.

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You combines the writings of renowned economists, philosophers, historians, policy experts, and entrepreneurs from around the world to make the case that not only do free markets “deliver the goods,” but that true free market capitalism is a just and moral system.

It is clear and highly readable, suitable for students and non-students alike, for newcomers to free enterprise and libertarianism as well as longtime libertarians.

As SFL notes:

“As students for liberty, we are well-versed in defending the free market. Our opponents on campus constantly claim that markets are unfair, that capitalism is exploitative, that competition is inhumane, and that government control and redistribution are the solution to society’s problems. Every day we struggle to explain that a free society that embraces free exchange is the only way to create wealth, peace, and prosperity for all.

“Most people acknowledge, if only begrudgingly, that capitalism does produce considerable wealth and material well-being. But many feel torn between material prosperity on the one hand and living a moral life on the other. The self-interested pursuit of profit that is characteristic of a capitalistic system just doesn’t feel right to them.

“The task before us, then — if we wish to actualize the truly free social system that is laissez-faire capitalism — is to provide and defend its moral justification. We must convince fellow students that capitalism is not just the most efficient system, but a virtuous one as well.”

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You makes that case, powerfully and convincingly.

Students For Liberty has distributed over 100,000 copies to students around the world since it was first made available.

You can learn more about The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell here.

Download it as a FREE PDF ebook here.

Here’s the table of contents: 

Introduction: The Morality of Capitalism by Tom G. Palmer
The History of a Word
Free-Market Capitalism vs. Crony Capitalism

Section I: The Virtues of Entrepreneurial Capitalism

  • Interview with an Entrepreneur featuring John Mackey (Whole Foods CEO)
  • Liberty and Dignity Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey
  • Competition and Cooperation by David Boaz
  • For-Profit Medicine and the Compassion Motive by Tom G. Palmer

Section II: Voluntary Interaction and Self-Interest

  • The Paradox of Morality by Mao Yushi (Translated by Jude Blanchette)
  • The Moral Logic of Equality and Inequality in Market Society by Leonid V. Nikonov
  • Adam Smith and the Myth of Greed by Tom G. Palmer
  • Ayn Rand and Capitalism: The Moral Revolution by David Kelley

Section III: The Production and Distribution of Wealth

  • The Market Economy and the Distribution of Wealth by Ludwig Lachmann
  • Political and Economic Freedoms Together Spawn Humanity’s Miracles by Temba A. Nolutshungu

Section IV: Globalizing Capitalism

  • Global Capitalism and Justice by June Arunga
  • Human Betterment through Globalization by Vernon Smith
  • The Culture of Liberty by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • A Little Further Reading for Fun and Profit (and Better School Papers) by Tom G. Palmer

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You is published by SFL and the Atlas Network. We highly recommend it.

Student groups note: SFL offers a limited number of hard copies at no cost to student groups. You can learn more about that here.