A Free-Market Energy Blog

‘The Libertarian Case for Donald Trump’ (vs. Left libertarians with TDS)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- November 2, 2020

“In terms of sunk cost and opportunity cost, Trump is the one for liberty. Job #1, after all, is to defeat Biden/Harris or Harris/Biden.” (Bradley, below)

“But these are extraordinary times, and perhaps ‘all things considered, the other guy’s worse’ is a profound compliment. That’s why this libertarian is voting for Donald J. Trump, and recommending that my fellow opponents of the welfare-warfare state do the same.” (D. Dowd Muska, below)

It is fair to say that Donald Trump has upended politics and the Republican Party in the last five years or more. But he has also fractured the libertarian movement too, with some turning into Never Trumpers, even Trump Haters, namely David Boaz, gatekeeper at Cato, and Tom Palmer of Atlas Network.

In contrast, I appreciate the many openings Trump has provided to free-market groups coast-to-coast, border-to-border. I welcome his fire against the fake media (yes) and unhinged Left academia. And, having a sense of humor perhaps, I enjoy The Donald’s rallies, the Greatest Show on Earth.

Yes, I know Trump’s protectionism is bad (see my op-eds here, here, and here). Yes, the budget is out of control and lots of 11th-hour goodies to get reelected are being dispensed. Yes, [add your own policy mistakes]. But in terms of sunk cost and opportunity cost, Trump is the one for liberty. Job #1, after all, is to defeat Biden/Harris or Harris/Biden.

My case comes with apologies to Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate. I knocked on the doors back in 1980 making a case against Ronald Reagan and for Ed Clark for President (David Boaz’s 90th birthday tribute to Clark is here). But frankly, the LP has gone nowhere in 40 years. It is politically irrelevant at the national level despite the very laudable tag line “the party of principle.” And 133 local officials designated as libertarian, as in Libertarian Party.

In one Facebook exchange, an old libertarian acquaintance said that it was sad that I no longer appreciate free markets. Actually, I have been and remain a classical liberal, while cashing out of the Libertarian Party. And again, I have and will criticize Trump whenever he is out-of-bounds on policy. But in my area, energy and the environment, he has been the most “libertarian” President in history, easily outpacing Ronald Reagan (a story for another day).

And like just about any normal American, I can see right through the grotesque political Left and want fairness, fairness, fairness.

David Boaz: Cato Institute

I must confess to quite a bad spat with David Boaz, to whom I owe much for his patient, past work with me. (He applauded me too at one point!)

For that past work, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude (kudos to Ed Crane too). Briefly, Cato sponsored a rather unproven talent in the late 1970s, and I became their energy voice and platform for the next decades. And I was always amazed about how David could understand energy (as my editor for my books, monographs, and op-ed’s) and just about every other policy issue in such a prolific way. Far beyond my capabilities….

But David over the last four years has bashed Trump at every turn, while going easy on the Left. (Same for Boaz’s TDS-scary soulmate, Tom Palmer–see Appendix below for one exchange I had with him. We no longer communicate.)

Shortly after Trump’s election, David delighted in Greenpeace’s banner over the White House, “Resist.” Odd, I thought. And David seemed to delight when Trump’s then-press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in mid-2018 got tossed from the Red Hen restaurant. I challenged Boaz on hate grounds, to which he took great umbrage. But it was just that– unless we want to have “no [blacks, homosexuals, etc.] allowed” at a variety of establishments for different reasons. (Yes, I know it is private property, but delight in one’s opponents being tossed–and in this case a working mother trying to have a rare evening out?) That’s spite as in hate…. And Maxine Waters soon confirmed it.

More bad stuff: David started criticizing free-market groups for having Trump supporters at their events. Tucker Carlson at the Independent Institute about his new book–and even Donald Trump Jr. at FreedomFest (David embarrassed himself when Mark Skousen patiently explained that FreedomFest wants different voices and opposites to debate).

I suppose Boaz is distressed about libertarianism being politically in the wilderness (fair enough). Perhaps he is frustrated about not getting those speaking engagements himself–or really being a recognizable public voice on the networks and on cable. To which I would say: The Left hates liberty, and the Right hates TDS. Maybe the statist Niskanen Center, which Boaz and Palmer refrain from criticizing, is a secret favorite, along with CNN where one of his favorites, Don Lemon, practices TDS and mocks everyday Trump supporters. It all does not smell very good.

David on Facebook has tried to interest his readers in Jeff Flake and William Weld, two flaky statists. Sorry, but if you are really in the political game representing libertarian CATO, please set the example and go Jorgensen, for starters.

Strangely, I received an email from David asking me if I agreed that Trump was unfit for office. What? I asked David to give me a definition of fitness in a libertarian sense. Never heard back. Bad TDS, absent scholarship.

I have been banned from David’s Facebook page with my complaints about his TDS. That’s his privilege. But it is the sin-of-sins in his high position at Cato to be so politically biased–to trash one side and go light on the other; to criticize and not compliment a person’s record; to let emotion color his judgment. What happened to the old, careful, scholarly David Boaz?

Now to Mr. Muska’s plea below. I understand a person voting Libertarian in the election. That person, if sophisticated, will fight Biden/Harris all the way. But I also respect a libertarian (or classical liberal) for voting for Trump and against Biden. Easily.

D. Dowd Muska

Fair warning: A man is about to be damned with faint praise.

But these are extraordinary times, and perhaps “all things considered, the other guy’s worse” is a profound compliment. That’s why this libertarian is voting for Donald J. Trump, and recommending that my fellow opponents of the welfare-warfare state do the same.

Stay with me on this. We’re going to focus on three areas of vital importance to the limited-government cause where the president is unquestionably preferable to Joe Biden: foreign policy, regulation and judges. Taken together, they make a convincing case for reelection.

In August, at the Republican National Convention, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who as a competitor for his party’s presidential nod in 2016 derided Trump as “a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag” — touted their shared belief that America “must not continue to leave our blood and treasure in Middle East quagmires.”

The commander in chief “is the first president in a generation to seek to end war rather than start one,” while Biden “voted for the Iraq War, which President Trump has long called the worst geopolitical mistake of our generation.”

With most GOP pols and “defense intellectuals” still mired in silly neoconservative nostrums about “national greatness” and America’s “unipolar moment,” it’s a wonder the president hasn’t been brainwashed into launching disastrous military adventures in dozens of countries.

But 45 months into office, Trump’s body count is remarkably low. And in at least once instance, his bad-boy bravado gave way to remarkable restraint.

In June 2019, Reuters reported that Trump “aborted a military strike to retaliate for Iran’s downing of an unmanned U.S. drone because it could have killed 150 people.” Presidents aren’t supposed to weigh considerations such as proportionality. Think Hillary Clinton would have?

From the start of his quest for the Oval Office, Trump roared that as a killer of job- and wealth-creation, regulation can be as lethal as taxation.

And in power, he’s backed up his rhetoric with an imperfect, but nonetheless strong, assault on red tape. His administration has proposed a “new rule under the National Environmental Policy Act to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created … massive obstructions,” gutted the Obama administration’s expensive and unnecessary “Clean Power Plan,” and established “much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners and businesses” regarding whether “water on their land may or may not fall under federal regulations.”

The White House’s crusade against eco-alarmism is so broad, The New York Times, “based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources,” has documented “nearly 70 environmental rules and regulations officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back under Mr. Trump.”

The sound of junk-science peddlers wailing is sweet music to economists, policy analysts, writers, and activists who understand that the war against pollution was fought, and won, long ago.

The battles to destroy identity politics and disastrously counterproductive “public health”? Their victors are yet to be determined. And that’s why another four years of Trump picking federal judges is desirable.

Exhibit A: William S. Stickman IV. Last month, the federal jurist ruled that the draconian COVID-19 measures imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) violated the First and 14th Amendments, writing that “[b]road population-wide lockdowns are such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional.”

Think any of President Harris’s — er, President Biden’s — potential choices for the national judiciary think Stickman ruled the right way?

Look, if you’re a liberty lover in South Dakota or Connecticut or Kentucky or Hawaii, and can’t get past “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” and/or the creation of the U.S. Space Force, and/or zero progress on entitlement reform, go right ahead and not vote — the default for many of us — or throw a little pity on Jo Jorgensen.

But fighters for freedom in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada? Hold your nose, and vote for The Donald.

Make America Libertarian Again isn’t on the ballot this year. Even if Jorgensen were to pull off a presidential upset that would make 2016 appear boring, she would not have anywhere near the votes needed in Congress to cut the federal government to the size it was in 1895.

Like it or not, it’s Biden or Trump. This libertarian’s going with the latter, and won’t lose any sleep over the decision.


D. Dowd Muska is a researcher, writer, editor, and commentator. His focus is the nexus of fiscal policy, economic development, and technology. Raised on an orchard in the Connecticut River Valley, Dowd loved liberty from an early age. Growing up in the Era of Reagan, Dowd was heavily influenced by both the Gipper and a bureaucrat-hating father who seldom had praise for “public servants.”

At 18, Dowd went off to D.C. to study government at The George Washington University. A career with the national Republican Party was the goal, but the more he saw of it, the less Dowd wanted to do with the GOP. Besides, his neoconnish weltanschauung was giving way to old-school libertarianism, and by graduation time, Potomac Fever had given way to Potomac Disgust.

Dowd can be reached at dowd@dowdmuska.com. Follow him on Twitter @DowdMuska.


Appendix A: EXCHANGE WITH TOM PALMER (July 3, 2019 Facebook)

  • Rob Bradley Trump derangement syndrome … Many good things are happening under Trump too. Ask CEI, IER, Heartland, Heritage, etc. Be fair and not so holistic.
    • Tom G. Palmer Rob Bradley Yes, concern about big government is Trump Derangement Syndrome. Next time, try to read the article.
    • Rob Bradley I did … its your intro that disturbed me. “Trump vulgarizes everything“ is where your emotions trump scholarship. Lots of free market groups a lot closer to the action than you are are happy and lucky to have Trump
    • Tom G. Palmer Ok. “He is a fine gentleman whom I would gladly introduce to my wife and daughters for private conversations. He is knowledgeable and informed about world events, notably Western Liberalism and busing, and he exercises self-control on all occasions. He is ever the gentleman.”
    • Tom G. Palmer His pussy-grabbing and his personal attacks, as well as his public insinuations of homosexual affairs among his critics and his sophisticated repartee are without parallel. I will always be impressed by his casual threat of civil war and murder, as when he said, “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. But the left plays it cuter and tougher.” No vulgarian, he!
    • Rob Bradley I’m focused on public policy–you are obsessed on cultural things. Are you a saint in your personal life? Said or done some wild things? You are an outlier (think eating meat is gross or immoral, etc.). Hey, relax and smell the coffee. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord is one of the greatest free market moments in US history, for example. Talk to Wayne Crews at CEI about Trump versus Reagan on deregulation. Loosen up…..
    • Tom G. Palmer Rob Bradley Were you impressed by his so very unvulgar threats to destroy the republic through mobilization of the police, the military, and bikers? No doubt he meant as doorbell ringers in their off duty time, amirite? That’s what you would say, no? God forbid that anyone would get the idea that he was threatening to use armed violence by usurping state institutions (and enlisting peaceful moped and Vespa riders) for anything else!
    •  Tom G. Palmer Yes, threatening to use the police and military and bikers to attack political critics….”cultural things.” And he is not at all vulgar, amirite? You said it’s “Trump Derangement Syndrome” to refer to him as vulgar.
    • Rob Bradley Be happy to have Trump in my home. It would be a blast. I’d cook him a steak well done and let him put all the Ketchup on it he wants. And looking forward to the Heartland Climate Conference at the Trump Hotel on July 25th. You should come and hear about all the great things Trump had done on climate/energy
    • Tom G. Palmer And have a laugh over threatening publicly to kill your opponents. Oh, what a fine and non vulgar man. And if he corners your wife and grabs her…hey!, he’s an Alpha! They’re fun! And never vulgar. Never. (Face it, you cannot seriously say that he is not vulgar, nor that he does not casually threaten people with violence. And the second point isn’t something to laugh off. I have never threatened as commander in chief to deploy the military for political purposes.)
    • Rob Bradley You exaggerate so much as to scare me. Are you a Priest or something? Is eating meat or telling dirty jokes or smoking weed vulgar? Loosen up, perfect one. Focus on public policy–I really don’t care to judge you or Trump or anyone else on the wild side. (Trump has a great, an outstanding, family, as far as I can tell.)
    • Tom G. Palmer Threatening publicly in an interview to use the military to suppress your opponents *is* public
    • Rob Bradley I don’t know of what you are referring to–but please criticize that bluster and also praise Trump for all the great things he has done and is doing. I have written four op-ed’s against his trade policy–but I applaud him for
    • Tom G. Palmer What’s a little military coup among friends? You became incensed — actually, deranged — by a reference to the sickening creature as “vulgar,” in the context of a piece on the need to reduce powers that have been accumulated over many years. Who is deranged? Rob Bradley.
    • Rob Bradley Just trying to get you to be more scholarly and applaud the good Trump has done, as well as criticize. Your cultural stuff gets weird. I guess I’m a deplorable, and if America reelects Trump the country is deplorable too.
    • And you are so relatively silent on climate policy and the Green New Deal and the crazy Democrats–and think eating meat is immoral. You are the outlier, not me. Peace and free enterprise, fellow classical liberal.
    • Tom G. Palmer As odious and slavish as Pence can be, he would be better than this creature. Moreover, the credit for whatever good this administration is doing (or harm reduction, to be more accurate) is largely attributable
    • Rob Bradley Tom G. Palmer On Pence, wrong: Trump had led on climate and other dereg areas, not Pence. Wish you could spend time with the free market C4’s to see what is really going on.

I report, you decide on Tom Palmer, an angry fellow with a authoritarian personality. But those representing themselves as scholars working for important free-market institutions should follow the rules: check your emotions, and be fair by praising what needs to be praised and criticizing what needs to be criticized. Don’t get holistic to feed the Left, as much as you might privately identify with the Left. And go easy on the cultural stuff when the pot might be calling the kettle black.

Trump has earned his right to be treated fairly. Banish Trump Hate from scholarly institutions such as Cato and Atlas Network. It is poor scholarship and offends many good people who are at ground-zero in the US policy fight, conservatives and libertarians alike.


  1. Roger Donway  

    Libertarian talk-show host Ross Kaminsky has written an article for The American Spectator explaining why he is voting for Trump: “What’s Unacceptable in 2020.” https://spectator.org/whats-unacceptable-in-2020/


  2. John Leask  

    Just a quick note that the awful Don Lemon is from CNN, not CNBC.

    Really enjoyed this post! And as you know, we are very much aware of this very strange spat between the beltway libertarians and those of us who did not get sucked into “TDS.”

    May we continue to analyze this slow and steady collapse from afar…


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