Port: Many Republicans have stopped paying even lip service to the concept of individual liberty


MINOT, N.D. — I came to believe in conservatism because of its emphasis on individualism. I am in love with the idea that Americans should be able to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in the ways that suit them best.

My path led through famed economist Milt Friedman’s work. In particular, his book “Free to Choose,” co-authored with his wife Rose, and bolstered by a 10-part series on public television, informed my ideology. I believe that societies work best when individuals have as much freedom as possible to chart their course through matters both economic and cultural.

To the extent that Republicans have, at least in my lifetime, established themselves as the most consistent advocates of these ideas — Friedman himself was an adviser to former President Ronald Reagan — I have generally supported Republicans for elected office.

But, increasingly, Republicans, in the name of culture war, have come to define themselves not so much by the philosophies of thinkers like Friedman but by merely being in opposition to whatever liberal Democrats are for. Which has led them to some positions that are incongruous with individual liberty.

Book bans, for example. Our Legislature in Bismarck has at least two Republican-backed proposals — one introduced by the House Majority Leader, no less — which seek draconian new content restrictions on books and art displayed in public areas.

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