Jon Sanders

The GOP's leading presidential contenders (per Real Clear Politics, they are John McCain and Mike Huckabee) both have strong nanny inclinations. No advocate for free speech is unaware of what the execrable McCain/Feingold bill did to political speech. McCain has opposed tax cuts and thrown his lot in with the puritanical global-warming zealots seeking to use the power of government to force wrenching changes in American businesses and families according to the alarmists' assumptions. He has also opposed gun rights throughout his career, although for this campaign he is posing as a friend of the Second Amendment. One could go on; suffice it to say that to McCain sees government as the first and best place for solutions.

As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee oversaw massive increases in Arkansans' tax burdens and the size of their state government. He pushed for greater state or federal intervention (or both) in wages, economic development projects, prices, consumption, trade, etc. He has, however, pushed for a flat tax and opposed McCain/Feingold. He not only favors using government to fight global warming, but he justifies it as "a biblical duty." Huckabee also sees government as the solution and has had no qualms citing biblical principles to justify it.

Michigan primary winner Mitt Romney's history on economic freedom issues is a mixed bag, but his recent defense of religious freedom was sterling, and to a degree greater than Huckabee and McCain, he has shown inclination to individual freedom from government interference. Rudy Giuliani has favored McCain/Feingold, protectionism, corporate welfare and rent control, but as mayor of New York City he cut taxes significantly, held government growth below inflation and population growth, and favored school choice and privatization. Of all of them, Fred Thompson has the strongest record of favoring limited government and economic freedom, but he also lags all of them, and he supported McCain/Feingold.

And then there is Ron Paul, who is no doubt the most committed to the limited-government philosophy. He has a devoted following, but he has never had a Sistah Souljah moment with the 9/11 conspiracy kooks who drive off potential supporters and, I fear, damage by association the case for freedom. My hope is that the Ron Paul phenomenon will push the GOP back toward more limited-government positions.

My point, Jerry, is maybe we need to use this bet to promote liberty in general, not just works of liberty associated with our respective states. I think we should still keep it to Barack Obama vs. John Edwards, but change the stakes.

If you agree, then I'd like to wager Henry Grady Weaver's The Mainspring of Human Progress and Aleksander I. Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago on my nanny-stater beating yours.

Mainspring shows the world-changing power of humanity living in freedom, not just in the United States but throughout history, and Gulag shows the humanity-crushing horrors of a government given absolute control over every human decision. One illuminates the potentials of free societies, while the other shows the logical end of the nanny-stater's journey away from freedom.

What do you think?

Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.