Unlike his son Warren, Old Right Congressman Howard Buffett was a committed defender of liberty. According to this article by Philip Klein, Howard’s wife noted that Buffett “considered only one issue when deciding whether or not to vote for a bill ‘Will this add to, or subtract from, human liberty?'” This sounds like a much better “Buffett Rule” than the one offered by his wayward son.
Howard Buffett was also a staunch anti-interventionist. He once argued, as Klein relates, that “Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns.”
Buffett was even a “fan” of anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard and wrote an article in the New Individualist Review that equated the draft with slavery and called for its abolition.*
Here is how Joseph Stromborg (research fellow at the Independent Institute) described the less famous Buffett way back in April 2001:
In his four terms as Republican Congressman from Nebraska’s second district, 1943-1949 and 1951-1953, Buffett emerged as a trenchant critic of the domestic statism and foreign interventionism of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Truman’s Fair Deal. A committed “isolationist,” he served as Midwestern campaign director for Senator Robert Taft’s ill-fated run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1952. At the end of his second congressional term, Buffett returned to Nebraska and worked in banking. Even in that occupation he was a bit out of step, as a consistent advocate of gold-based sound money.
Buffett’s consistent defense of classical liberal, free-market, republican, and anti-interventionist positions makes him an interesting, if little remembered, forerunner of today’s libertarianism and anti-Establishment conservatism. He was, as Murray Rothbard later pointed out, the most hard-core of the dwindling handful of Old Right politicians in the early Cold War period.
Young libertarians and conservatives would be well-advised to learn more about Old Right figures like Howard Buffett since so few contemporary conservatives and Republicans offer a serious choice to or argument against big and broad government.
* See Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, pg. 259 and pg. 306.