Plenty of big-government Republicans, starting with John McCain, lost their elections tonight, and libertarians won’t shed too many tears for them. But the voters of New Hampshire, which just might be the most libertarian state, dealt limited government a real blow by defeating John Sununu’s bid for reelection. Sununu is the youngest, probably the smartest, and surely the most libertarian member of the Senate. In 2002 he campaigned on Social Security private accounts. In office he has stood firmly for free markets and fiscal responsibility. He also voted twice against the Federal Marriage Amendment and helped to reform the Patriot Act.
P. J. O’Rourke, Cato’s Mencken Research Fellow who lives in New Hampshire, wrote in the Weekly Standard in June:
Senator Sununu could write his political philosophy on a small piece of paper: “I have a deep-seated belief that America is unique, strong, great because of a commitment to personal freedom–in our economic system and our politics. We are a free people who consented to be governed. Not vice-versa.” (Italics added for the sake of the multitudes in our government’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches who need to fill out that index card and keep it with them at all times. And if the multitudes are confused by “Not vice-versa” they may substitute, We aren’t a government that consents to people being free.)
“It’s important for politicians to understand,” Senator Sununu said, “that the Founders’ writings reflect that point of view. From Jefferson to Hamilton, freedom was the special ingredient in human prospects, moral prospects, political prospects. The argument was over what government mechanism would ensure common good and guarantee freedom. There was no argument about whether we were free people. In most parts of the world there never has been an appreciation for that perspective. Governments have evolved to provide greater freedom, to reduce the power of monarchies, to reduce absolute power.”
New Hampshire may be the most libertarian state in the country; its license plates read “Live Free or Die,” and it demands that its politicians “take the pledge” not to raise taxes. But in 2006, after six years of overspending, war, the marriage amendment and other affronts to limited government, both the state’s Republican congressmen lost, and both houses of the state legislature went Democratic for the first time since 1874. John Sununu was a good senator in sync with the sentiments of New Hampshire, but he couldn’t swim against the riptide of George W. Bush and the Washington Republicans. He will be missed.