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Libertarianish Law Professors on Why They Support Their Presidential Candidates:

My coblogger Ilya Somin had an excellent idea — invite libertarianish law/history/economics/public policy professors we know and trust to tell us (and you) why they support the Presidential candidate they've chosen to support. Today, we'll post several responses from these professors, unedited by us (except insofar as our choices of whom to invite necessarily involved a form of editing).

We limited this to "libertarianish" because we wanted feedback that would be helpful to fellow pro-limited-government folks; the adjective is designed to cover a fairly big tent, but still focus on those who are generally not far from our views. We limited this to professors in law/history/etc. because we wanted someone who is more likely to have thought through the matter the way we're professionally inclined to, and to explain the matter the way we would. And we limited this to professors at least one of us knows and trusts because we are more confident we'll get candid and thoughtful feedback from them. We also deliberately sought feedback from people outside our little Conspiracy. These are all rough proxies, we realize, but our sense is that they are generally useful ones.

As a result, we're happy to say that we have short essays in hand from law professor John McGinnis, supporting Giuliani; from history professor David Beito, supporting Paul; law professor Brad Smith, supporting Romney; and from law professor Rick Garnett, supporting Thompson. We realize the choices of supporter for each candidate are idiosyncratic, and others may well have chosen other people. But we had to make some choices, and these reflect people whom we knew, who we thought would fit the criteria we mentioned, and who could respond on rather short notice.

We tried contacting someone we know who supports McCain, but didn't hear back from him, nor did we hear back from the campaign when we e-mailed them to ask whether they could recommend someone (though we'd then have to figure out whether that someone matches our criteria). We don't know anyone who fits our criteria who supports Huckabee, and we didn't hear back from the campaign when we e-mailed them to ask whether they could recommend someone. Our judgment was that Duncan Hunter and Alan Keyes were too marginal (nor did we know anyone who fits our criteria who supports them). And we didn't know of anyone who fits our criteria who supports the leading Democratic candidates.

Nonetheless, if we do discover some such people, whether they support McCain, Huckabee, Hunter, Keyes, or the Democratic candidates, we'd be glad to have them post similar essays. If you, for instance, are one such person, please do get in touch with me about this (though please keep in mind the criteria we've set forth). I feel no obligation to give equal time to everyone; our criteria are designedly focused in a way that we think would be helpful to people of a particular political stripe. Nonetheless, I would like to be as inclusive as possible given those criteria.

We also tried to gather the material in time for the Iowa caucus — naturally, not because we think we could affect it, but because we expect that post-caucus media coverage will be dominated by horse-race stories (even more so than the pre-caucus coverage), and we wanted to get things out when the climate of conversation is a little more substantive. Nonetheless, we're sure that post-caucus posts would be helpful for our readers as well.

In any case, that's a pretty long metholodogical introduction. The actual posts are coming forthwith.

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Prof. John McGinnis on Why He Supports Rudy Giuliani for President:

From Prof. John McGinnis -- please see here for more on this feature:

While I am now a resident of Chicago, I lived in New York City for the duration of Rudy Giuliani's mayoralty. My support for his presidential candidacy stems from watching him transform a derelict, sclerotic and dangerous city into the vibrant urban center it is today. He did so by promoting the classical liberal virtues of public order, private accountability and entrepreneurial freedom that are sorely needed at the federal level. His triumph in the face of entrenched ideological, partisan and special interest opposition suggests he can succeed in Washington, making good the old adage that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

At the time Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor, New York was in danger of falling apart and becoming an urban shell. Crime was out of control, with more than 2000 murders a year. There were large areas of the city where I was afraid to venture. A growing proportion of the city was on welfare. The Crown Heights riots had revealed the costs of treating people as members of ethnic groups rather than as individuals linked by civic bonds. Because of the low quality of life and high taxes, middle-class citizens were fleeing the city.

Rudy Giuliani turned this all around. He understood that civil order is the foundation of a prosperous and flourishing society and thus focused on policies that radically reduced crime of all kinds. One cannot say of many politicians that there are people alive because of their policies, but without Rudy Giuliani's leadership many walking the streets of New York today would have faced an early death.

Giuliani also understood that personal accountability provided the best opportunities for escaping poverty. He substituted workfare for welfare. Just as there are people were alive today as a result of Giuliani's policies, there are many more who are earning a decent living and self-respect.

But Giuliani did not simply restore order, he recognized that the conditions for enterprise and freedom required substantial tax cuts and deregulation. It is a tribute to the sum of his policy choices that today most New Yorkers want to stay New Yorkers, and that city has once again a claim to being the greatest city in the world.

To be sure, Giuliani is not solely responsible for the revival of New York. Impersonal forces, like the stock market boom and the decline of the crack epidemic, played important contributing roles. But huge forces militated against regeneration as well. Every day New York's leading newspaper delivered a wide range of bad ideas to the doorsteps of its most influential citizens. Its public sector sustained powerful unions with a vested interest in preserving the status quo.

Giuliani personally held these reactionary forces in check with his relentless stress on the sound political principles of civic order, personal accountability and freedom. Like Margaret Thatcher, he forced the opposition to change so that for the foreseeable future no viable politician in the city will advocate a return to the culture of dependency and the toleration of low standards of social conduct.

The values that were at the heart of the Rudy Giuliani's mayoralty would serve him well as President. Just as there needs to be respect for civic order in city for it to thrive there needs to be respect for global order, particularly in an age of weapons of mass destruction, for the United States to be secure.

The mayor's insistence on personal accountability unites social conservatives and libertarians and would help him secure the breadth of the conservative coalition necessary to govern as President. He is also a strong supporter of federalism — the constitutional structure most amenable to that coalition. Federalism simultaneously allows states to choose social norms that serve their citizens and citizens to choose states that serve them the best.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani successfully acted on his understanding that the greatness of America has been that its institutions foster both respect for the rule of law and a love of freedom, including entrepreneurship. A President Giuliani would have both the vision and determination to maintain, renew, and improve these institutions.

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Prof. David Beito and Scott Horton on Why They Support Ron Paul for President:

From Prof. David Beito, cowritten with Scott Horton — please see here for more on this feature:

Voters who want more liberty and smaller government have only one realistic choice in the upcoming presidential race: Dr. Ron Paul. No other candidate comes close to matching his record. For more than three decades, he has consistently opposed spending, tax increases and burdensome regulation.

Paul is perhaps the most dedicated defender of free trade in the history of American politics. For this reason, he votes against agreements such as NAFTA, the WTO, and CAFTA, which advance managed trade more than they do free trade; empowering unelected bureaucracies and pitting one country against another. Instead, Paul wants the United States to follow Milton Friedman's call to lead by example, reducing trade barriers, regardless of what other countries do.

"Free trade is not complicated," Paul argues, "yet NAFTA and CAFTA are comprised of thousands of pages of complicated legal jargon. All free trade really needs is two words: Low tariffs." Paul is the best hope to breathe life into the largely moribund unilateral free trade tradition championed by Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Richard Cobden, and Frederic Bastiat. By contrast, Fred Thompson, who is probably the best of the other candidates on this issue, has voted to impose sanctions on Japan for failing to reduce tariffs.

Paul's unilateral approach combined with his calls for a foreign policy of humility, prudence, and diplomacy stands in stark contrast to other candidates who vow to meddle in the foreign affairs of other countries through sanctions and military force. Paul, of course, is the only Republican to call for ending the embargo on Cuba. He insists that private property rights and free markets are the only answers for Latin America, but knows that by trying to force these principles, we only drive their people toward socialism.

Paul breaks completely from the others in monetary policy. His long-term goal is to phase out the Federal Reserve, which he compares to a price fixing agency. As recent events, such as the lending crisis, devaluation of the dollar and roller coaster on Wall Street have shown, the Fed is incapable of managing the money supply in a world of uncertainty and constant flux. Paul would follow the course recommended by Nobel prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek, fully legalizing competition in currencies as well as eliminating legal tender laws and capital gains taxes on gold coinage.

Paul is the most consistent champion of civil liberties in the presidential race. He voted against the PATRIOT Act and has fought against the Real ID, personal income tax and attacks on habeas corpus.

Among the Republicans, Paul stands alone in calling for an end to the ruinous federal war on drugs. By contrast, none of the other Republican candidates will even endorse the moderate reform of letting states legalize medical marijuana. He is also unique in calling attention to the racism inherent in the drug war and the death penalty.

Only Paul has a realistic plan for Social Security. He will allow young Americans to opt out. To pay for the transition costs, and ensure that no one is thrown out on the street, he will close the foreign bases and reorient the military to national defense rather than world policing. Such a policy will foster peace and stability in the world. As examples such as Iraq, Iran, and now Pakistan show, foreign adventurism only leads to blowback and stokes anti-Americanism.

According to Michael Scheuer, the man whose bin Laden Unit at CIA gave Bill Clinton ten chances to capture or kill bin Laden before September 11th, Dr. Paul is the only candidate running who truly understands the terrorist threat and what should be done about it. Paul is determined to finally get those al Qaeda members who attacked and continue to threaten our country, while at the same time reversing the policies that drive their recruitment efforts.

No candidate, of course, is perfect. We differ with Paul on immigration and abortion. Even in these cases, however, he compares favorably with his opponents. While Paul, like Thompson, has spoken in favor of ending birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, he believes that a Constitutional amendment is necessary to make the change. And although Paul, an obstetrician, favors abortion restriction, he will allow the states to choose. Given the plurality of views on abortion, this is a sensible compromise.

Paul has shown time and again that he will act according to his conscience regardless of the personal consequences. When a draft resister named Paul Jacob went on trial in the early 1980s, Ron Paul did not hesitate to help. At considerable political risk in a time of Cold War, he traveled to the trial at his own expense and spoke on behalf of a powerless young man. This is the kind of courage we need in a president.

Ron Paul, the champion of the Constitution, the Air Force veteran for peace, the doctor for free market medicine, is by far the strongest candidate to face Hillary Clinton in the general election. He is the only member of the Congress to win three times as non-incumbent and has repeatedly won reelection by overwhelming majorities despite attempts of Republican leaders, including George Bush and Tom Delay, to defeat him.

Voters of all political descriptions, including anti-war and Reagan Democrats, independents, moderates, and conservatives have rallied around this man, in large part because they know he means exactly what he says and will stand up for what he believes in. If he wins the Republican nomination, most of the rest of the 68 percent of Americans who say that we're "on the wrong track" so far in this new century will be on board the Revolution by fall.

Ron Paul is hands-down the best hope for real change; for liberty, economic freedom, and limited government in this presidential race. His efforts to spread the message of individualism and constitutional government have already changed America. With your help, Dr. Paul can win and restore the republic.

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Prof. Brad Smith on Why He Supports Mitt Romney for President:

From Prof. Brad Smith -- please see here for more on this feature:

For politically oriented libertarians, politics is the art of picking the most libertarian candidate who has a chance of winning.

Bill Richardson has no chance of winning, and the other Democratic hopefuls offer nothing to supporters of limited government. On the Republican side, we can safely skip the Ron Paul debate -- he is not going to be the next president of the United States. John McCain sometimes blunders into support of limited government, but his usual reaction to his personal whim of the day is that government should do something about it. And, his honorable service to his country notwithstanding, his unstable personality and temper make him uniquely unqualified for the presidency.

That leaves three electable candidates who can offer some legitimate claim to libertarian sympathies -- Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson. Romney is an easy choice.

Governor Romney's tax policy should make a libertarian's mouth water. It begins with the no-brainers -- make the Bush tax cuts permanent, eliminate the estate tax, and nix any increase in social security taxes. In addition, Romney has proposed substantial reductions in the corporate tax rate, where the United States rate is now one of the highest among the Western democracies, and in individual income tax rates, across the board. He has proposed eliminating all taxes on dividends and interest for those earning less than $200,000. One of Governor Romney's most important yet overlooked proposals is to make all spending on health care premiums and medical expenses tax deductible, an initiative that will do much to rationalize health care markets by putting individual coverage on the same plane as employer-provided health plans.

Romney is a talented businessman with an understanding of how start-up enterprises and a dynamic, growth oriented economy work. He understands how Sarbanes-Oxley is costing the U.S. is predominant place in world capital markets, and will take an ax to the Washington regulatory machine. As the Club for Growth says, Governor Romney has “an intuitive appreciation for free markets.” It's in his blood.

Romney is a strong supporter of free trade, as befits his background helping companies compete in the global economy. On immigration, Romney has exactly the right position -- opposition to illegal immigration (which libertarians should oppose if only because it undercuts support for legal immigration) while acting, “to encourage legal immigration and streamline the system.”

At one time, Romney, Rudy and Thompson all supported the egregious McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. Rudy and Fred have since trimmed their sails, but only Romney has forthrightly admitted that his prior support was in error, and come out four-square in favor of the law's repeal.

Romney supports school choice and home schooling. And Mitt will appoint good judges.

Of course, it is one thing to have an agenda, and another to deliver. Both Romney and Rudy have shown an impressive ability to make headway on tax and spending issues in the face of overwhelmingly liberal legislatures and political cultures deeply attached to high levels of regulation and taxation. Despite a generally admirable voting record, Senator Thompson lacks the executive experience of Governor Romney and Mayor Giuliani, and it is difficult to name any issue, during his eight years in the Senate, on which he took the lead in promoting smaller government. The one bill which he played a critical role in passing was the odious McCain-Feingold legislation.

On its 2006 Governors Fiscal Policy Report Card, the Cato Institute rated Romney 12th overall and 7th of 26 Republicans. In 2004, Cato put Romney 11th overall, and 8th among Republicans. The Club for Growth has praised his “support for broad based tax cuts in liberal Massachusetts.” It is true that in addition to cutting spending in order to balance the budget deficit he inherited, Governor Romney supported a variety of fee hikes and the closing of “loopholes” in the tax code. Given the overwhelming Democratic majorities in the state legislature (137-23 in the House, 33-7 in the Senate), it is not realistic to think that the budget could have been balanced by spending cuts alone. Politics is the art of the possible --as it is, many of Governor Romney's spending vetoes were overridden by the legislature. In Washington, Romney will not face Democratic legislative majorities of such magnitude. Meanwhile, Governor Romney was victorious in what the Club for Growth calls a “bloody fight” with the legislature over the state capital gains tax, winning a rebate of $275 million for state taxpayers. He proposed reductions in the state income tax. During his tenure, state spending rose by an average of just 2.22% per year, versus annualized inflation and population growth of 3.0%. By comparison, under Mayor Giuliani spending in New York City rose at an average rate of 2.84%, versus population growth and inflation of 2.9%. Over a four year presidency, those differences would add up to nearly $80 billion in reduced government spending.

As Governor, Romney actually vetoed an increase in the state's minimum wage. He also successfully vetoed a legislative effort to put a moratorium on the opening of charter schools.

Governor Romney is a man who knows how to get things done, from his success in business, to turning around the Salt Lake Olympic Games, to running a remarkable campaign for President that most observers thought was totally improbable just two years ago. Halting and reversing the growth of government requires more than just the right views -- it requires the right abilities. Governor Romney has those abilities.

In foreign policy, libertarians were among the staunchest foes of communism during the Cold War. We should be equally in the forefront in the battle against the current threat to Western liberal values, Islamic extremism. The Cold war lasted over 40 years, and although it sometimes involved significant military action (most notably in Korea and Vietnam for the U.S., and in Afghanistan for the USSR), the principle antagonists avoided direct conflict on the battlefield. It was a series of small proxy wars, intelligence battles, and economic and diplomatic pressure. The United States must begin to think of the fight with Islamic extremism in similar terms -- as a long commitment in which conventional armies are of limited use. Romney is a candidate who is serious about the threats presented: resolute, but not bellicose; prepared to use force when necessary, but mindful of the limits of conventional warfare; aware of the need to win hearts and minds but not naïve about the nature of our enemies. Trade, commerce, and appropriate restraint will mark a Romney foreign policy.

Libertarians must understand that the Democratic nominee is going to be committed to a substantial growth in government, will probably be working with an even more statist Democratic Congress, and will appoint judges who see the Constitution's restraints on government power as obstacles to overcome rather than limits to heed. Governor Romney has demonstrated the ability to plan and run a first rate campaign, and to reassemble the elements of the Reagan coalition (including its non-libertarian elements) that resulted in the most libertarian Presidency of the last 80 years. He has a proven record of executive experience that Senator Thompson cannot match. While Governor Romney and Mayor Giuliani offer similar economic prescriptions and have each demonstrated ability to see them through In hostile circumstances, the Governor's opposition to McCain-Feingold, support for free trade (the Mayor has opposed NAFTA), and more restrained attitude toward the use of U.S. power abroad make him the preferred choice. His pro-growth tax proposals, proven record of controlling and even rolling back government spending and regulation, support for basic individual freedoms such as home schooling and the right to bear arms, and ultimately his ability to defeat the whichever unrepentant statist wins the Democratic nomination, make him the place where libertarians should be in 2008.

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Prof. Rick Garnett on Why He Supports Fred Thompson for President:

From Prof. Rick Garnett — please see here for more on this feature:

A candidate for President should present to the voters a reasonably attractive personality, experience and evidence of sound judgment, a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges and opportunities our Nation faces, and an array of plausible, sound policy proposals. (Fundraising prowess and skeleton-free closets are nice, too.) He or she should also — and this is crucial — understand and appreciate the close, rich connection between the enjoyment of human liberty and the structural features of the limited government for which our Constitution is a blueprint.

An eminent scholar of constitutional law, echoing James Madison and many other luminaries, has observed that "[t]he genius of the American Constitution lies in its use of structural devices to preserve individual liberty." I agree. And, in my view, the candidate who seems most inclined, and best prepared, to honor this "genius" is Sen. Fred Thompson.

Every candidate has a stump speech and each has floated, endorsed, and promised — ideally, without contradiction or inconsistency — a dizzying array of programs, initiatives, and — of course — "changes." Informed voters realize, though, that so much of what presidential candidates propose and embrace is, to a great extent, beyond the practical capacity of Presidents to get done. A candidate can say — and they all do — that he or she will "reform health-care" or "restore traditional family values" or "defend our borders", but sophisticated citizens understand that a President's ability to deliver these goodies is constrained by Senate rules, powerful House Committee chairpersons, the stock market's performance, and the like.

We need to ask, then, not only about a candidate's grab-bag of wonkery and litany of bullet-points, but also about his or her animating commitments. Sen. Thompson has staked out what I think are realistic and responsible positions on a wide range of important issues. More important, though, he has developed and shared, in a way that goes well beyond candidates' usual sound-bite sloganeering, the "first principles", which arise "out of the documents of Nation's founding and the wisdom of the ages", and that "guide [his] approach to the issues that are crucial to our Nation's future." (Go to the campaign web site, and see for yourself.) This exposition is one that, in my view, commends Sen. Thompson's candidacy to all of us who value the rule of law and cherish our Constitution's particular "genius."

Sen. Thompson understands — as did the Framers — that (in his words) "[g]overnment must be strong enough to protect us, competent enough to provide basic government services, but limited by the delineated powers in the Constitution." To achieve and maintain such a government — in a way that protects and respects human freedom — is, of course, no small challenge. Our constitutional response to this challenge reflects the considered belief that, as the Supreme Court has put it, "liberty of the person inheres in [constitutional] structure." Put differently, and as Chief Justice Rehnquist observed, this "constitutionally mandated division of authority was adopted by the Framers to ensure protection of our fundamental liberties."

These are not airy abstractions, far removed from real-world, "kitchen table" concerns. Our President must understand — and I believe Sen. Thompson does — the Constitution's end (human freedom) and means (federalism, separation of powers, and limited government). This matters more, all things considered, than the extent to which his canned debate answers please dial-turning focus-group members. "Our Constitution," he recognizes, "innovatively guarantees our liberties by spreading power among the three branches of the federal government, and between the federal government and the states."

(For more from Sen. Thompson on this point, go here.)

Now, among the President's most important responsibilities — second only, perhaps, to his national-security duties and his obligations as Commander in Chief — is the identification, nomination, and support of Executive officials and federal judges who understand the Constitution's "innovative" design and their own role in its service. They must be willing to enforce the Constitution's limited-government and separation-of-powers features and, at the same time, respect the limits on their own powers. Federal judges must appreciate — they must really believe — that the Constitution protects freedom not so much by authorizing them to resolve divisive moral and policy questions as by structuring government in a way that facilitates the enjoyment of ordered liberty.

No doubt, the valuable assistance Sen. Thompson provided during the confirmation of our new, excellent Chief Justice both confirmed and deepened his understanding of the importance of good judges. And, once again, Sen. Thompson's clear statement of "principles" justifies our confidence: "A free and independent judiciary that interprets the law by adhering strictly to legal text and respects its limited role in our system of government is essential to our security and freedom, and we need judges who understand that role if we are to preserve our republic and freedom."

Finally, this last statement adds texture to Sen. Thompson's firm, consistent, multi-faceted commitment to the dignity of human life, which has earned the respect and endorsement of a wide range of pro-life groups and individuals. Some might wonder whether Sen. Thompson's pro-life views are in tension with his limited-government principles. They are not. Quite the contrary, in fact. At the end of the day, no political community can be what ours aspires to be if it excludes children in the womb entirely from the law's protection. Even a limited government limits private violence. Putting aside the merits of the moral question, though, there exist few greater insults to the freedom-protecting structural features of our Constitution than the Supreme Court's gross and arrogant overreaches in the Roe and Casey decisions. Only a presidential candidate who sees — as Sen. Thompson does — these rulings for what they are can, at the end of the day, be taken seriously as a friend of ordered liberty through limited government.

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