Give Jared Polis credit. Our governor has been successful getting some in the media to describe him as a “libertarian.”
This is only true if the definition of libertarian has recently turned upside down.
The Denver Post featured a front-page, top-of-the-fold headline, “Polis picture taking shape,” with the sub-head “‘Boulder liberal’ is instead a libertarian who is cool under pressure and knows how to impose his will.”
The Economist magazine didn’t do its economic due diligence with its headline, “Jared Polis, Colorado’s governor, is an unusual breed: a libertarian Democrat.” In this piece they report Polis identifies as a libertarian.
Maybe he does identify as libertarian, but let’s be clear, he governs as a Boulder liberal.
Gov. Polis has presided over the greatest lurch to the progressive left our state has ever witnessed. He is signing into law progressive bills championed by his fellow Boulder liberals like the speaker of the house and senate majority leader.
Sure, Polis embraces pot, bitcoin and gay rights. But the underpinning of libertarian philosophy is free-market economics. A lot of progressives also dislike the drug war and embrace technology and LGBT rights. The difference is libertarians strive for government to have a smaller economic footprint so that individuals can have a larger one.
What major legislation has Polis signed that reduces government’s economic footprint?
Just like our governor, I identify as libertarian. I see the world on a spectrum of liberty versus coercion. I hate bullies and have dedicated my professional life to stop them from using the coercive power of government to take from others and force their values on those who don’t share them.
Libertarianism is political philosophy based on voluntary relationships being the gold-standard. In this belief structure to maximize individual rights, both economic and personal, we want to minimize governmental compulsion. We want government to take less and control less, so that people can be more empowered to better reach our human potential.
Some use the shorthand that the libertarian means socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Socially liberal and fiscally liberal, well that’s progressive. Which best describes our governor?
That doesn’t mean that Polis on occasion hasn’t taken a more liberty-leaning stance. As a congressman, he was good on issues like crypto-currency and sometimes, flat-rate taxes. And when on the state Board of Education, Polis would sometimes support school choice and charter schools. But given his actions as governor, no sober person can call him libertarian.
Some cite his support for the new regulations restricting oil and gas development as proof of Polis’s libertarianism. Why? because it increases local control? The truth about Senate Bill 181 is that if local governments don’t clamp down on oil and gas, the newly “reformed” state commission will.
Ripping away property rights, be it by local or state government, is the exact opposite of libertarian. Signing a bill to chill due process and reverse the presumption of innocence in our new red flag law is the opposite of libertarian. Signing a bill to forever take away our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights excess tax refunds is a massive tax increase and the opposite of libertarian.
Championing a tax hike on tobacco is not libertarian on multiple levels.
Changing the Public Utilities Commission’s mission as part of the plan to mandate renewable energy isn’t libertarian (the Texas model of letting consumers choose their own power provider would be libertarian).
Limiting the choice of what cars we can buy is the opposite of libertarian. Continuing to give cash to rich white guys to buy Teslas is the opposite of libertarian. We can go on like this all day.
Shortly after his election, I wrote a column suggesting that Polis had the potential to be a different type of leader for Colorado, one that embraced at least some limited-government, libertarian principles. I suggested we’d know if he was that bold leader if he stood up against his own party’s plans to cripple our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. By that measure and so many others, we now have a clear answer. He failed miserably.
Let us put to death this media spin that our pro-tax, pro-government-control governor is libertarian.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.