David Boaz, a libertarian author and television commentator, discussed the need to prevent the U.S. government from encroaching on freedoms in a lecture held in Kemeny Hall on Thursday. The event, “Freedom in Crisis,” was sponsored by the Dartmouth College Libertarians.
“Freedom is under assault again,” he said. “It is easy to let the immensity stop us. But it didn’t stop Thomas Paine, it didn’t stop Frederick Douglass and it didn’t stop us.”
Boaz, who is also the executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian, Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said that former President George W. Bush’s administration took several steps that limited freedom, including the institution of the Patriot Act and the implementation of laws restricting political speech.
While President Barack Obama’s administration “is continuing to pull more money and power to Washington,” the shift in administrations presents an opportunity for libertarians to regroup, Boaz said.
“Too many advocates of small government still have this lingering attachment to the Republican party,” Boaz said. “It’s like being a battered wife — how long do you wait to leave?”
Boaz described the recent Republican tea parties in protest of tax day as “the revival of a freedom movement.” He also referenced a recent advertisement run by the Cato Institute in several major U.S. newspapers, including The New York Times. The advertisement discussed perceived flaws in the economic stimulus package.
“Someday, this ad is going to be remembered as the revival of the free market movement,” Boaz said.
Boaz drew historical parallels between the current struggle for freedom and events like the Revolutionary War, the abolitionist movement and the fight against the New Deal.
World War II was a low point for libertarians, Boaz said, when Europe was ruled by dictators and the New Deal was the leading domestic policy in the United States.
“Governments have discovered that if they cause enough problems to really characterize the situation as a crisis, then they can really grab power,” Boaz said. “Liberals could not have enacted the New Deal without the Great Depression.”
Students at the lecture asked Boaz for his opinion about detainees and prisoners of war in U.S. custody.
“If it’s a foreign citizen found in this country under suspicion, well then that’s a complicated issue,” he said. “I work in Washington. I was six blocks from the White House on 9/11. I’m really aware and concerned about the threat of terrorism and what you do when you capture a terrorist.”
Another student asked Boaz about the Free State Project, a group that aims to recruit 20,000 “liberty loving people” to move to New Hampshire and direct the New Hampshire government in a libertarian direction.
“My own attitude towards the Free State Project is that the federal government should move to New Hampshire and leave the rest of us free,” Boaz joked.
When asked about the current economic crisis, Boaz said he believes the recession was not caused by deregulation, but by the low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve, as well as federal regulations that pressured banks and mortgage lenders to make loans to people who could not afford to repay their debts.
“There are so many things that the government is doing to our freedom that it shouldn’t be,” he said. “I don’t think that giving up our political and economic freedom is a way to solve social problems.”