This is the final article of my discussion with Dave Nalle. The first, second, and third pieces are available.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
“Long on the fringes of American politics, small-government conservatives were closer than ever to mainstream acceptance,” Politico Magazine’s Tim Alberta wrote in a recent story. “Then two things happened: Donald Trump and Jihadi John.”
Alberta went on to mention that “(t)here are areas, certainly, in which Trumpism and libertarianism will peacefully co-exist; school choice …. is one example. Deregulation is another. But by and large, they cannot be reconciled. Where libertarians champion the flow of people and capital across international borders, Trump aims to slow, or even stop, both. Where libertarians advocate drug legalization and criminal justice reform, Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, seek a return to law-and-order policies. Where libertarians push to protect the First and Fourth Amendments, Trump pushes back with threats of banning Muslims and expanding the surveillance state.”
Is our new president really so adverse to libertarian ideals? If this is the case, he is in marked disagreement with one fellow he has spoken highly of on several occasions.
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism,” President-to-be Ronald Reagan told Reason’s Manuel Klausner in 1975. “I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals—if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”
Within the Republican ranks, one group stands unabashedly to oppose not only the Donald, but any other politico who discards libertarianism.
“The Republican Liberty Caucus is a 527 voluntary grassroots membership organization dedicated to working within the Republican Party to advance the principles of individual rights, limited government and free markets,” the RLC declares on its website. “Founded in 1991, it is the oldest continuously-operating organization within the Liberty Republican movement.”
Dave Nalle is the former vice chairman of this caucus. He stepped down to be a regional director late last year because of the RLC’s internal disputes over public support for Trump -- or lack thereof. Nalle, who backed Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, the former two-term New Mexico governor, has always had a strong independent streak. I saw this firsthand when he was my section co-editor at Blogcritics Magazine several years ago.
Nalle has also built a career in the business world. The founder and owner of Scriptorium Fonts, he might be to thank for the style of text you often see in advertisements or use in a word processing program.
I recently spoke with Nalle about many issues relative to libertarian Republican politics. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: The Donald Trump Administration promises many changes to federal politics. Do you believe that his economic proposals, generally speaking, will bring typical Americans higher wages?
Dave Nalle: Absolutely not. Protectionism was a major factor in prolonging the Great Depression. If we are still in a recession now, tariffs are the worst thing we could do in response. Tariffs will increase prices for consumers and cause job loss. I am very concerned that our economy is in the hands of leaders who are ignorant of both history and economics and will make major mistakes as a result.
Cotto: A few years ago, certain political forecasters claimed that the future of America's center-right belongs to libertarians. Since the 2012 presidential election, protectionism has surged in both major parties. Now, in the age of Trump, libertarianism's once-ascendant nature seems a distant memory. Would you say that libertarian Republican politics have any serious potential under Trump?
Nalle: More people are self-identifying as libertarians or libertarian Republicans than ever before and more people voted for Libertarian Party candidates than ever before. To me the most positive thing is that the alt-right libertarians have moved away from the Libertarian Party and towards Trump and this may result in them being discredited. With them on the Trump team instead of making libertarians seem like loonies it will be much easier to attract moderate Democrats and Liberal Republicans into a coalition against Trump and his twisted version of the GOP.
Cotto: During the years ahead, do you see America playing a larger or smaller role in the global economy?
Nalle: Is it better to play a smaller role in a bigger world economy or to play a bigger role in a shrunken world economy? I think it is inevitable that the United States will play a smaller role in the future because of the growth of second world economies, but we can ride that wave to prosperity by partnering with those emerging economies. Cutting ourselves off from them as Trump seems to want to do will make them grow more slowly, but at greater expense to us. We need to accept the reality that we are part of a world economy and adjust our strategy to that reality. Lift barriers to trade and let the free market show the way to prosperity.