My friend David Brunori announced this week that he is no longer a “liberal” but a libertarian, although he says of the “bleeding heart” variety.
This is interesting because David has long been one of the nation’s top state fiscal experts. He is currently an editor of the Tax Notes family of periodicals (which are subscription only).
What made David see the light about government?
I’ve been calling myself a liberal in the pages of State Tax Notes since I began this column in 1996. I’ve been introduced at conferences and bars as a liberal tax pundit, a liberal professor, and a card-carrying liberal. In my line of business, it was expected that one would either be liberal or, if you were a pawn of the 1 percent, a conservative. Decent tax policy folks weren’t libertarians. Libertarians had no tax policy. But I’m too old to hide my feelings.
I came to realize my true identity by taking a survey on the Libertarian Party website. I scored a perfect 100 percent on the personal freedom meter, but only an 80 percent on the economic freedom meter. Still, those scores make me a libertarian. Some of my liberal friends will hate me for coming out. But I’ll remind them that hate is not a tax policy value. Besides, by definition, I still care for the poor and dispossessed. I’m no anarchist. I’m no isolationist. I still believe that government has a positive role to play in society. I want good roads and teachers and appreciate that someone will answer the phone when I dial 911. But I think we should look at government more skeptically.
I’m weary of corporate welfare. I’m weary of tax incentives. I’m weary of government economic policy that’s largely intended to enrich politicians’ cronies. For example, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has been hellbent on spending $93 billion on a train that apparently no one wants and few will ride. But a small number of connected men would make a fortune building it.
Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, and editor of www.DownsizingGovernment.org. Before joining Cato, Edwards was a senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and an economist with the Tax Foundation.
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