Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why Santorum's anti-libertarianism is a problem

Nobody expects the Republican presidential nominee to be a libertarian

purist, but it helps if he or she at least has a libertarian streak. In Rick Santorum's case, he's actively hostile toward libertarianism, and that's an obstacle not only to him winning the nomination, but also to having a chance in a general election against President Obama.

With Santorum emerging as a true contender for the Republican nomination, he's been coming under fire for his many votes to expand government. He took earmarks, voted for the Medicare prescription drug plan and backed No Child Left Behind. He pushed dairy subsidies, steel tariffs and sided with unions over workers.

On the other hand, should he win the Republican nomination, he'll come under fire for his views on social issues. To be clear, it's one thing to make a moral case for protecting the right to life of the unborn, which Santorum does passionately. But it's another thing to argue, as he did in an interview last October, "One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea." Well, there's a reason why no president has talked about these things -- because the president has absolutely no business lecturing Americans about their sex lives. If there's a discussion to be had about sexual promiscuity in society, it should be left to churches and other private institutions.

As Cato's Gene Healy noted in his Washington Examiner column on the topic this week, Santorum explicitly declared, "I am not a libertarian, and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

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