Dr. Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute is one of the most popular of public intellectuals among libertarians today. Furthermore, he is one of the more popular guests I have on my program. He never disappoints as he brings unique perspectives to every public policy and even political discussion. Recently on my radio show, we talked about the 2016 elections. He warned me quickly "I'm not known for my insight on political campaigns," however, he wasn't at all shy in providing his thoughts. His views had to be surprising to anyone who share his libertarian bent.
Although Charles Murray is a self-described libertarian, he is more of a classical liberal that believes government should do as little as possible and that its political subdivisions that weaken it actually make it more effective in how it serves the people. He has an entrepreneurial view of government, in which it should constantly be moved towards decentralization and a strong commitment to what simply works.
I was shocked by whom he referred to on how to choose a presidential candidate. He quoted the conservative intellectual, William F. Buckley, who essentially argued that those with conservative values should choose the candidate who best reflects those values, yet also has a chance to win. The general idea being that conservatives will have a bigger say in that selection process if they quickly get behind a winning candidate who has views close enough to their own, even if not the best representation of that philosophy. Coming from Buckley, this does not surprise me. Buckley was an intellectual giant, but his conservatism pales against the bold views expected today.
Murray, on the other hand, is still very much a libertarian. So when he said that his choices were either Marco Rubio or Scott Walker, I was quite surprised.
Senator Rubio (R-FL) has been in government office since he was 28 years old. Essentially his entire adult life. He is the epitome of a career politician. Furthermore, he has been frequently described as a "big government conservative." This expression has always seemed like an oxymoron to me, but it has grown on me over time. Essentially it means individuals who talk a great deal about the horrors of big and expensive government, but they usher it in anyway. It may not be in typical liberal programs, but they are government programs nevertheless. It is hard to not be a fan of government and serve as Speaker of any legislative body, which he did in the state of Florida. The Speaker of any house is about compromises and deals being made, and that is a pretty solid reflection of his career in that state.
Governor Walker (R-WI) on the other hand, has a solid track record as a champion of limited government, but he has seemed to go to lengths to distance himself from libertarians, even implying he was not that group's natural choice. Yet I know many libertarians, like Murray, that seem to be very attracted to him in spite of the push back. Libertarians are attracted to candidates who not only say they will fight big, institutional, power, but actually do it. Walker's willingness to tackle the teacher salaries and pensions in his home state made him a national conservative darling and certainly one that would make libertarians look at twice.
What is most surprising to me was the total lack of mentioning of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) until after I prompted that conversation. He did say that, on paper, he related to Paul more than any other candidate. He just completely doubted the Senator's ability to catch on. Paul certainly has struggled, but so has every candidate other than Donald Trump. I think Trump is a phenomenon beyond every other candidates' control and something never seen in modern political history. The obvious assault on civil liberties (with concerns about the NSA on the left and gun control on the right), I know very few libertarians who don't agree that the Bill of Rights is certainly one of the most important issues of our time and Paul is the only one who consistently discusses them.
On Trump, Murray said that the surge of the billionaire was a reflection of the "dysfunction" in the electorate. The fact Trump has never held office, "cannot be bought" because he is rich, and has incredible candor, many Americans ignore the obvious which is a history of taking liberal and extreme positions on a number of issue. Trump supported a single payer system for Obamacare (which is even more extreme than what we have) and his proposed trade policies would create a situation like we had with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which contributed significantly to the Great Depression.
In Murray's defense, he's a policy guy and not a political pundit. He said, he brought nothing more to the conversation than most radio listeners. But he is also highly intelligent and intuitive. It will be interesting to see how his choices will perform in this most unusual election cycle.