Sunday, June 1, 2008

Five Reasons This Libertarian Prefers Barack Obama Over Bob Barr

1. Obama is consistent. I believe Barr when he says that he's against the war, but Barr voted for the war in 2002, and continued to support it for several years, even when it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraqis didn't consider the war a "liberation." As far as I can tell, Barr didn't start denouncing the war until earlier this year (if there's an earlier citation of him speaking out against the war, please let me know). He's also switched positions on the Patriot Act, war on drugs, gay marriage and several other issues. This change of heart would be easier to accept if it hadn't come less than two years before Barr launched his presidential campaign. Obama has always been against the war and the Patriot Act.

2. Federalism isn't always enough. In a perfect libertarian world, Bob Barr's discomfort with gay marriage and illegal drugs wouldn't matter because he wants these issues delegated to the states. But today's political reality, issues like these manifest themselves in small ways at the federal level. Would a president Barr allow a man married to another man to get on his husband's federal employee health care plan? Would he work to repeal the law that denies federal student loans to people with drug convictions? What about the current ban on performing abortions on overseas military bases - would Barr work to repeal it? Better to have a president who actually believes in liberty on these social issues than one who wants to try to pass them off to the states.

3. It's not just your positions on the issues, it's the issues you highlight. Barr has made taxes and spending his signature issues. Don't get me wrong, these are important issues. But I believe that for anyone concerned about the size and scope of the federal government, the most important things a president can do is end this disastrous war and reverse the damage George Bush has done to our civil liberties. These are issues Obama talks about at every opportunity. I know that Barr says he's against the war, but if it's important to him, why do I never hear him mention the subject? The contrast between Barr and Ron Paul on the war issue is glaring.

4. Obama is a genuinely decent person. He gave up his chance at a big payday to work as a community organizer. He came clean about his youthful drug use even though it could have cost him his political career. He only recently paid off his student loans. Contrast this to the way Barr has lived his life: Thrice-married, his second wife accused him of cheating on her with the woman who later became his third wife. He also encouraged his second wife to have an abortion, while publicly working to restrict the rights of other women to get abortions. According to second wife Gail Barr: "In September of 1985, I was helping out as a secretary in Bob' s law office. He had me call to make luncheon arrangements with the woman he later married." Classy.

5. Obama can win. I know that voting for someone because they are electable is heresy among many libertarians. "Voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil," this crowd will say. But Obama isn't evil. If he's elected, I predict that he'll move in a non-libertarian direction on some issues, and a libertarian direction on others. And I believe that the net effect will be more liberty. That's something I can be proud to vote for.

Bonus reason: Barr is hardly the perfect libertarian. He's against all immigration (legal and illegal), against a woman's right to choose and in favor of a national sales tax.


Anonymous said...

But Barr is no racist. We can't say the same about obama and his horde of followers from his church, and that single reason is enough for this voter to say NO to obama.

Mark said...

I agree with you that Barr is no racist. His strong words against Stormfront today back that point. But if you're going to accuse Obama of racism - a pretty serious charge - let's see some evidence. Having a friend who made some not-racist-but-pretty-intemperate remarks wouldn't seem to be enough.

Jake Featherston said...

I think its pretty fair to claim that Reverend Wright has distinct, racist tendencies, and if any White man had spent 20 years as a parishioner in the church of a vocal, White racist minister, he'd be considered a racist too. So either the standards are too strict for White men, or Obama isn't a racist. But the idea that Obama should get a pass for something Bob Barr, Ron Paul, or Pat Buchanan would never get a pass for, is grossly unjust.

Of people who actively support Senator Obama's Presidential campaign, I would suggest it behooves them to be a little open-minded the next time some Southern politico claims the fact he spoke before the Council of Conservative Citizens doesn't mean he's some sort of racist. If Senator Obama isn't guilty by association, then no White man (or anyone else) should be either. That is where I become skeptical. I don't believe Barack Obama is a racist, but as a White man, if I did the exact same thing he did, I pretty much know I'd be denounced as a racist. Hopefully, a President Obama will extend to others the same benefit of the doubt that is being shown to him this year.

Mark said...

I'm not sure that I agree with you that Wright is a racist, Jake. I agree that he's said some pretty stupid things (the government created AIDS), some pretty un-PC things (God damn America) and some pretty controversial things (the U.S. goes to war in part for racist reasons). But I don't think any of this stuff should be beyond the pale in the political discussion. Would a white man have been criticized more if he had said the same things? I'm not sure - Wright has taken quite a bit of criticism, so it's tough to say that he's getting a pass because he's black (the same goes for Obama). Click the "Jeremiah Wright" tag on the right side of the main page to read all my thoughts about the good reverend.

LibertyRepublican said...


come on, man. Firstly, you could do without the personal attacks. Given the vicious personal attacks Obama has faced, and that he himself has at least said that we should stop doing this as a country, I would have thought you would appreciate this point. What Barr did in his past in his personal life is exactly that: in the past. We're not all perfect people, and not all of us have had

Secondly, on the point of consistency, I disagree with you on several counts. Firstly, on the Patriot Act, you are presenting his position on it in very simplistic terms. As this Reason article points out, he didn't just all of the sudden convert on the Patriot Act two years before he started running for President. He's had serious problems with this legislation for years. ( Furthermore, according to a former Paul staffer, Bob Barr opposed the Patriot Act thoroughly at the time and only voted for it as part of a deal to be on a Conference Committee to influence the final version of the legislation should changes have been made in the Senate. (

On the issue of drugs, he went to lobby for the Marijuana Policy Project. He attended the Libertarian Party convention in 2004 and supported Michael Badnarik that year. He has changed his positions on gay marriage and Iraq recently, but given how hard he has worked on Bill of Rights issues in recent years (definitely a lot harder and more focused than Obama has) and his lobbying effort the MPP, he's given every indication that his conversion is genuine. people can change their mind on things, and Barr is one of them.

As for his overall record in Congress, according to the Republican Liberty Caucus' Liberty Index scoring, his voting record is rated as "libertarian" over his career, and his annual record got more and more so as years went on. (

As for your golden boy, Obama, if he's so opposed to the Patriot Act, why did he vote for its re-authorization? Why did he vote for the Real ID? You can disagree with the choice of Barr over Obama, but the least you can do while presenting it is to at least present an even-handed, intellectually honest critique with all of the facts presented. (I will be happy to cite those votes for you, if you so desire.)

Thirdly, I can't believe you're criticizing him for highlighting taxes and spending as the top issue. This is THE top issue. The amount of debt this country is in and is building every day is going to wreck our economy and society. The issue of the War in Iraq is a part of this, given how much we are spending on it. He's criticized the war a number of times and has made clear his opposition to it now. Your criticism of him on this ground is specious and a political cheap shot.

Fourthly, how in the world is Obama not evil from a libertarian perspective? As I said, he voted for both the Patriot Act reauthorization and the Real ID. He is clearly in the pocket of corporate America, with his recent support of the $300 billion Farm Bill that is full of subsidies for the largest corporate farmers in America. He's calling for nearly $270 in new spending, according to one study, and his proposed tax increases won't come anywhere near funding it. ( All of this while proclaiming he will do whatever it takes to protect Israel, which is code for maintaining a large military presence in the Middle East and getting aggressive with Iran, and he has refused to commit to a swift pullout from Iraq. His proposals for regulating insurance premiums, an oil windfall profits tax, a freaking $60 billion new green energy venture capital fund, etc. are all by-the-book socialist policies. (Not that McCain's are any better.) There's plenty of reason to consider Obama "evil" from a libertarian perspective. Furthermore, the fact that you are basically browbeating libertarians for choosing to vote on principle in voting for the Libertarian candidate who is running on a solidly libertarian platform is quite illibertarian.

On the issue of federalism, what is wrong with this from a libertarian perspective? If you believe that the Constitution is written to limit government and protect liberty, and the Constitution dictates that issues like contracts, abortion, and intrastate drug distribution fall under the purview states by the 10th Amendment, then why should we just ignore the Constitution? Ignoring the Constitution to defend liberty opens the door to ignoring it to assault it, and that's where we've gotten to today.

Regarding issues like allowing partnership benefits for federal employees, he has come out and said he would repeal the provision of DOMA that defines marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. And instead of presuming that he would end the law that denies federal student loans to people with drug convictions, why not just try to get an answer from the campaign on it instead of just taking a partisan cheap shot at him? Furthermore, as a libertarian, you could surely understand if someone were to advocate for screening people who get loans for the government, if it is done for the purpose of being fiscally conservative.

Furthermore, I don't really hear Obama calling for a full end to the War on Drugs.

Bonus: How is calling for a repeal of the income tax with a substitute tax as a temporary step toward reducing the size of government to the point where we need no equivalent tax such a bad thing from a libertarian perspective? I don't favor the Fair Tax, but I know tons of libertarians who do. This is another specious, politically-motivated cheap shot on your part.

Regarding immigration, I have seen no evidence of him being against ALL immigration. However, again, there are many libertarians who want a stricter immigration policy. If the role of the federal government is to provide national defense, and this is a world in which stateless enemies want to come here to do harm, then there is a legitimate libertarian argument for having a stringent immigration policy to vet people.

On the issue of abortion, Ron Paul is pro-life, too, and yet you acknowledge him as a solid libertarian. Lots of libertarians are pro-life, and there's a good libertarian argument for it, if you believe that life begins at conception and that the role of government is to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property. This is a more substantive beef from a libertarian perspective, but you could at least put it in a full and proper context.

Mark said...

Personal attacks? Do you mean me pointing out the awful ways in which Barr has treated his former wife? I don't think this meets the common definition of a personal attack (an ad hominem attack), though I suppose it is a criticism of a personal nature. If you don't like personal attacks, please stop throwing around words like "asinine," "specious" and, especially, "evil." I don't think you really mean these things literally, so you should not say them.

I agree with you that Barr was not as bad on the Patriot Act as some of his fellow members of Congress who supported it. But I think you will agree with me that Barr has been far from consistent over the past few years, reversing course on issue after issue.

I think we can also agree that there are libertarians of good conscience who disagree on abortion and immigration - among other issues. But Barr's opposition to both puts him at odds with the majority of libertarians (myself included), so I think it's perfectly acceptable for me to call him out on these issues.

"Thirdly, I can't believe you're criticizing him for highlighting taxes and spending as the top issue. This is THE top issue." I disagree. The war in Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. A war with Iran would kill many more, and throw the world economy into turmoil to boot. War is the health of the state, and I will be voting for the candidate who speaks out most forcefully for peace.

Obama "is clearly in the pocket of corporate America." How is this clear? I don't like the farm bill either, but if you have evidence that Obama supported it because he was somehow paid off I would like to see it. He takes no money from lobbyists or their PACs.

"On the issue of federalism, what is wrong with this from a libertarian perspective?" Nothing is wrong with federalism. Federalism is great. My point - and I am sorry if I did not make this clear enough - is that in the modern American political environment, the federalism argument is not enough. There are many areas where the president will not be able to pass decisions off to the states, even if he wants to. He will have to make a decision. So saying something like "I don't like gay marriage but I think it's an issue for the states" isn't good enough.

"Furthermore, as a libertarian, you could surely understand if someone were to advocate for screening people who get loans for the government, if it is done for the purpose of being fiscally conservative." If the government is going to give out a benefit, it should give it out. I disagree with those libertarians who think that it's alright for the government to discriminate against certain groups (like taking federal loans away from drug users) just because it would save a bit of money. I'm sure you don't support the Agriculture Department's well-documented discrimination against black farmers in its distribution of farm subsidies, even if you want to get rid of all farm subsidies.

On the issue of the so-called Fair Tax: I disagree with Barr on this issue because the tax would not, by itself, reduce the size of government one iota. Our economic system has, over the years, learned to deal with the income tax, unpleasant as it is. The Fair Tax would be horribly disruptive to the economy and would make a lot of peoples' lives worse - though I'm sure America would eventually learn to live with it the way we've learned to live with the income tax. The Fair Tax is neither libertarian nor un-libertarian. It's just a bad idea.

Here is a record of all of Barr's votes on immigration:
Here's a bill Barr co-sponsored to halve the number of H1B visas (for highly skilled workers):
Unlike other issues, I am not aware of him reversing himself on this one. Barr's web site says nothing about legal immigration and I haven't heard him speak on the subject. As recently as 2006, Barr wrote an anti-immigration column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The fundamental problem [is] a complete breakdown of respect for immigration laws in this country prompted by an utter failure to enforce those laws against illegal aliens and those who hire them." For the record, I disagree with Ron Paul on the immigration issue as well.

Whew. That's a lot of responding I just did. If I missed any of your points, I apologize. I'm going to be maintaining this blog until at least November, so we'll have plenty of time to argue out any issue you choose.

Arthur Torrey said...

I am an elected Libertarian, an officer in the Mass. LP, was head of the Mass Delegation in Denver, and if the LP carries Mass (IMHO "unlikely" is putting it mildly) will be a Presidential Elector...

I have publicly stated that barring solidly enforceable and extreme changes in Barr's current stands (and he's been going the wrong way of late with things like his immigration bigotry) - I will NOT cast an electoral vote for Barr... First LP pres. candidate in my many years as a Libertarian that I can't support in ANY way..

However, Obama is even worse - He looses me right off the bat for his lengthy record of opposition to the fundamental HUMAN RIGHT acknowledged by the 2nd Amendment... His support for higher taxes, increased government intervention, etc. are just icing on the crap-cake...

If Phillies doesn't get replaced on the Mass. ballot, I'll probably vote for him, but otherwise I'll cast my general election vote for NOTA, or write in a real Libertarian candidate like Dr. Ruwart, or possibly L. Neil Smith.

LPMA Operations Facilitator,
Elected Officeholder
LPMA Pres. Elector, not voting for Barr

The Mudslinger said...

Six reasons NOTA is better than EVERYBODY:

1. John McCain
2. Barack Obama
3. Ralph Nader
4. Cynthia McKinney
5. Bob Barr
6. Chuck Baldwin

Matt said...

I'm sorry, but anyone who supports Barack Obama cannot be a true libertarian. That's like saying you are a communist who supports Joseph McCarthy. What's next, Republicans who support Obama? Oh wait, these people actually do exist.

And if I hear one more person say they are going to vote for a candidate simply because they can win I am going to puke all over my shoes. Whatever happened to principals? Values?

James Gimbi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.