Well, Rand Paul says he would audit the Federal Reserve, not end it as his father promised to do.
Does he, in his heart, believe in ending the Fed? I believe he does. But the next president is not going to get rid of the Fed. If we can audit the Fed -- and, more important to me, we can rein in the incredible powers the Fed seized in 2008 and put some governor in control of the creation of new money -- we will have accomplished a lot.
Rand Paul is also strongly against abortion rights, which many libertarians disagree with. What is the libertarian position on abortion?
I don't think there is a libertarian position on abortion. There was a study done by a graduate student at UCLA that found that about two-thirds of people you would identify as libertarian are pro-choice. From a philosophical perspective, libertarians generally believe the appropriate role of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. The question is, is forbidding abortion a way of protecting life, or should it be viewed as a restriction of liberty? There's a plausible libertarian case on both sides. People who are consciously libertarian are more respectful of the other position on abortion, in my experience, than most pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I do not think there is an official position.
The Supreme Court had a remarkably libertarian term, and Cato had a very successful year at the Court, isn't that right?
Yes, we filed briefs in 18 cases and were on the winning side in 15 of them. [Cato was also the only organization to file briefs on the winning side of the four highest-profile cases: affirmative action, voting rights, the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.]
That's maybe less a sign of the zeitgeist and more a sign that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, is a bit of a libertarian.
Of the 15 cases we won, Justice Kennedy was with us 14 times. If you look at his record over his 25 years on the court, you could argue he's the most libertarian member of the Court. He's made some egregious errors in that time. He was wrong on the Kelo case [in which the Court ruled that the state has the right to take private property for private development]. However, on a lot of civil liberties, personal freedom, and gay-rights issues, he's been on the liberal side, and on a lot of business regulation, size of government, and federalism cases he's been on the conservative side. And that means we often agree with him.
There was a lot of whiplash among partisans over the big Court decisions -- progressives anguished about voting rights one day and thrilled about gay rights the next, and vice versa for conservatives. But from your point of view, a libertarian point of view, there was a consistency to be seen.
Yes, and not just the broad consistency of individual freedom versus the power of government, but on the narrower issue of treating people equally under the law. We would say that the issue of race in college admissions and the issue of equal marriage rights in the DOMA case are both applications of equal protection of the law. We actually had a similar experience 10 years ago, in 2003, when we were the only organization to have filed amicus briefs in support of Lawrence in Lawrence v. Texas [the case that struck down sodomy laws] and Jennifer Gratz in her lawsuit against the University of Michigan [for its affirmative-action policy]. There were a lot of gay-rights and liberal groups on our side in the Lawrence case, and a lot of conservatives on our side with Jennifer Gratz. We felt that we were asking for equal freedom under law for both Gratz and Lawrence.