Perhaps it was just a coincidence.
George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died at his home on Saturday, November 30, age 94. Just three days later, on Monday, December 3, Joseph “Joe” R. Biden, the nation’s 47th vice president, said he believed that he was the “most qualified person” to be the president of the United States.
Bush’s life was lived in service to the state: president, vice president, CIA director, chairman of the Republican National Committee, ambassador to the United Nations, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing, U.S. representative. His legacy is horrendous. Not only did he infamously raise taxes and invade Panama for no good reason, Bush, as journalist James Bovard recently wrote, “implemented restrictive trade quotas,” “was the most protectionist president since Herbert Hoover,” “turned federal drug policy into a holy war,” “converted low-income Americans into third-class citizens,” and “turbocharged asset forfeiture, spurring seizures of private property on the slightest pretexts from individuals who were never convicted of crimes.” And of course, the repercussions of his 1991 invasion of Iraq are still being felt.
Biden’s life has likewise been lived in service to the state. He was a U.S. senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009 and served for eight years as vice president under Barack Obama. Biden has been on a book tour to promote his new book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose (Flatiron Books, 2017). During a stop in Missoula, Montana, at the University of Montana, he discussed the prospects of his running for president in 2020:
I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president. The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life. No one should run for the job unless they believe that they would be qualified doing the job. I’ve been doing this my whole adult life, and the issues that are the most consequential relating to the plight of the middle class and our foreign policy are things that I have — even my critics would acknowledge, I may not be right but I know a great deal about it.
Biden says that he is going to make a decision to run for president in the next six weeks to two months. But whether he runs or some other Democrat runs, he has promised, “I’m going to break my neck to make sure they win. We can’t have four more years.” Obviously he means four more years of Donald Trump.
Bush’s death and Biden’s comments bring up an interesting and important question: Who is the most qualified to be president? I don’t mean between Bush and Biden. From a government perspective, both of them are as qualified to be president as anyone who has held the nation’s highest office. But from a libertarian perspective, who is the most qualified to be president?
Libertarianism is the philosophy that says that people should be free from individual, societal, or government interference to live their lives any way they desire, pursue their own happiness, accumulate as much wealth as they can, assess their own risks, make their own choices, engage in commerce with anyone who is willing to reciprocate, participate in any economic activity for their profit, and spend the fruits of their labor as they see fit, as long as their actions are peaceful, their associations are voluntary, their interactions are consensual, and they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others. Libertarians believe that the only possible legitimate functions of government are defense, and judicial and policing activities, and that the federal government should be strictly limited to its constitutional functions. As long as a person doesn’t infringe the liberty of others by committing, or threatening to commit, acts of fraud, theft, aggression, or violence against the person or property of another, the government should just leave him alone.
So, from a libertarian perspective, who is the most qualified to be president? Here are seven characteristics of those who are most qualified.
The person most qualified to be president believes that the Constitution should be strictly followed. He knows that his powers under Article II of the Constitution are very limited. Qualified persons know that the president of the United States should “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” not make the laws.
The person most qualified to be president believes that only Congress can declare war. The United States hasn’t declared war on another country since World War II. Yet it has fought major wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Qualified persons don’t ask Congress for an open-ended authorization for use of military force in lieu of a congressional declaration of war.
The person most qualified to be president believes in exercising restraint in foreign policy. U.S. presidents generally have free reign when it comes to foreign policy. But like Thomas Jefferson, qualified persons follow the aphorism, “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” And like John Quincy Adams, they don’t think the United States should go abroad seeking “monsters to destroy.” Qualified persons follow a strict foreign policy of neutrality and nonintervention.
The person most qualified to be president recognizes that under our federal system of government, most laws should be state laws. Qualified persons believe, as James Madison — the Father of the Constitution — said: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite.” They know that it is not the job of the federal government to fund education, make gun-control laws, issue CAFE standards, wage war on drugs, subsidize art or culture, pay for anyone’s health care or health insurance, issue nutrition guidelines, or have a Social Security program.
The person most qualified to be president believes that it is morally wrong for the federal government to take money from some Americans and give it to other Americans. That is true whether it is in the form of cash payments, refundable tax credits, WIC, student breakfast and lunch programs, housing vouchers, food stamps, energy assistance, research grants, or student loans.
The person most qualified to be president believes in vetoing bills passed by Congress that violate the Constitution. President Trump has vetoed zero bills. Presidents Obama and Bush each vetoed only twelve bills. Yet, the vast majority of bills passed by Congress are in gross violation of the Constitution.
The person most qualified to be president believes in putting the welfare of the American people first. Qualified persons don’t believe in taking money from Americans against their will and giving it to governments, NGOs, or individuals in other countries, whether in the form of foreign aid or disaster relief. And that means putting first the welfare of the American people as a whole. Qualified persons don’t impose tariffs that favor one group of Americans while harming other groups.
Of all the candidates for the U.S. president in my lifetime, there is one person above all who has been the most qualified: former congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. It should come as no surprise that he is a libertarian.