Editor's note: Freedom Communications newspapers (including the Desert Dispatch) do not endorse candidates for office. However, the editorial board of the Orange County Register analyzed each presidential candidates' platforms as they pertain to our editorial philosophies of civil liberties, limited government, free markets, free trade, and property rights. Here's what they had to say about each candidate:

Hillary Clinton
A Hillary Clinton presidency poses substantive threats to individual freedom. Her statist approach would injuriously intrude into nearly every aspect of life.

Mrs. Clinton would have the government dictate everything from alternative energy choices to tax-funded universal preschool and tax-funded universal health care, retarding market solutions in each area. She would eliminate tax cuts, interfere with the housing market's self-correction by freezing foreclosures and impose arbitrary carbon dioxide cap-and-trade programs to save us from the nonthreat of global warming.

Basically, Mrs. Clinton views government as the default problem solver, even for problems that don't exist. She doesn't recognize that government's intrusion creates problems, while it impinges on personal freedoms.

To justify government intrusion, Mrs. Clinton claims "income inequality has risen to the highest levels since 1929, and wages have stagnated." Her class-warfare approach ignores the fact that family income generally reflects how many and how much family members work. Income is about as widely distributed as any time in U.S. history. It was much more concentrated among top earners before World War II. Indeed, middle- and lower-income families fared best during the Reagan boom years, 1982-89. Today's poor are tomorrow's rich, and vice versa, thanks to economic mobility, not government aid.

These are facts, except to Mrs. Clinton, who sees instead oppression, stagnation and inequality in order to justify the laying on of government's heavy hand with its incentives funded by other peoples' tax money and its disincentives of regulation and penalties.

Rather than recognize that government subsidies and mandates drive up education and health care costs, Mrs. Clinton prescribes more of the same. The hubris of this government-centric, top-down approach leads her campaign to proclaim that: "Hillary would transform our economy," as if government dictates and redistribution of wealth are effective and beneficial.

Her approach is epitomized in Mrs. Clinton's unfortunately resurrected new version of the disastrous health care program from her husband's first term. This one is estimated to cost $110 billion, reason enough to fear another Clinton administration.

Barack Obama
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is in some ways the most intriguing candidate to emerge this year. Born of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, he has offered the promise of moving beyond the confrontational poses that have kept issues dividing baby boomers - abortion, civil rights, war and peace, the scope of government - from being resolved rather than fueling fundraising efforts on all sides. He opposed the Iraq war before the invasion. He has talked about merit pay for teachers. He can inspire people to idealism with his speeches, and he talks about reaching across party lines to find pragmatic solutions.

Until recently, Mr. Obama seldom overtly mentioned race, pointing perhaps toward a day when his being African American is no more significant than Rudy Giuliani seeking to be the first Italian-American elected president.

All that said, Barack Obama has seldom put much policy flesh on his sometimes gauzy idealism. His record, however, suggests a fairly standard-issue, left-liberal Democrat whose first-reach solutions will call for more government - typically the opposite of what should be done, from a freedom perspective. He supported the McCain immigration legislation, has co-sponsored restrictions ostensibly calculated to reduce global warming and promote energy independence, and he sees an active role for the government in managing the economy. Although he has opposed the Iraq war, he seeks a more active role for the U.S. in Darfur and other conflicts. His comments about pursuing al-Qaida in Pakistan whether the Pakistani government likes it or not demonstrated a certain naïveté about foreign affairs.

He seeks universal health care tightly regulated by government, with only slightly fewer mandatory elements than Sen. Hillary Clinton's approach. He also supports a more active role in education for the federal government. He's for repealing the Bush tax cuts and is not shy about wanting to tax "the rich" and corporations more onerously and to restrict the use of offshore tax havens. He supports a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions.

Sen. Obama may be vulnerable on the experience issue, though he has more national-level policy experience than Bill Clinton did when he was elected. Unfortunately, his calls for "change" usually involve more government programs, not private or free-market approaches.

John Edwards
If you listen to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, you might be tempted to look around, pinch yourself and see if this is for real. He describes two Americas, one where the rich live with unalloyed wealth and escape any accountability for their actions, the other a world out of Dickensian England, where the poor wear rags and live in hunger. He refers to "[o]ne America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks."

In Mr. Edwards' view, private corporations such as Wal-Mart, which provides low-priced goods and decent jobs, and pharmaceutical companies, which provide life-saving drugs, are the prime evils, whereas the government, which taxes and regulates, is the savior. It's hard to think of a policy more antithetical to the views on this Editorial Board and those of the nation's founders.

He is adamantly opposed to free trade, preferring instead a government-micromanaged scheme called "fair trade." He is an advocate of mandatory unionization. He wants to massively increase federal spending to "help" the poor. He wants to increase the federal minimum wage and engage in a new version of those disastrous urban-renewal schemes. He wants to dramatically increase federal environmental restrictions. He promotes a socialized health care plan. He doesn't want to do anything significant about the Social Security problem. He promises higher taxes. He advocates a shareholder "bill of rights" that will penalize corporations. He advocates universal, government-funded preschool programs. Even though wealthy people pay the bulk of taxes in progressively taxed America, he wants to shift even more of the tax burden to those who create the jobs and the wealth that keep the economy humming.

Even on issues on which we might expect him to be OK, he's bad. For instance, Mr. Edwards adamantly opposes the decriminalization of marijuana. We agree with him on the need for sentencing reform and he isn't as bad as the other Democratic candidates on the Second Amendment, owing perhaps to his upbringing in the rural South.

So, Mr. Edwards is basically wrong on everything.

Ron Paul
If there is any candidate who in many ways comes closest to libertarian values, it is 10-term Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, who has made more of a splash, drawn more votes and raised more money in the early primaries than almost anybody expected. In the process, this quiet, unassuming medical doctor with little of the personal charisma one often associates with politicians has become the inspiration for what may be the most impressive pro-freedom mass movement in modern times.

Dr. Paul may not be a perfect candidate by our lights. His position on immigration is barely distinguishable from that of other border hawks. We are unaware that he has acknowledged that the fundamental reason there are so many people in this country illegally is that the quotas are too low. The alternatives to fixing the quotas are recession or repression.

Dr. Paul also allowed his name to be used on newsletters in the early 1990s that included questionable rhetoric about blacks and gays. He didn't write them, and he's no bigot, but he could have exercised better control.

He has been right from the beginning, however, on the most important issue of recent times, the ill-advised war in Iraq. Despite considerable abuse from other GOP candidates, he has not backed down on this key issue. He combines it with a thoroughgoing critique of U.S. foreign policy, making the case for a strong defense of the U.S. itself and a policy of nonintervention in the affairs of other countries, combined with free and open trade.

During his time in Congress, Dr. Paul promised not to vote for legislation or spending that, in his view, violated the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution was explicitly written to create a government of strictly limited powers and prerogatives. Dr. Paul has sometimes been alone in the way he voted, opposing boondoggles that might have benefited interests in his district and earning him the nickname, "Dr. No." Yet he has explained himself well enough to the folks back in Texas that he has won reelection each time he has sought it. Politicians with such firm principles don't come around that often.

John McCain
Arizona Sen. John McCain has a few good qualities from an individual freedom perspective, including personal courage and a generally anti-waste, anti-tax record in the U.S. Senate. He has been an untiring opponent of pork-barrel spending accomplished through "earmarks" for special spending projects. He now says he supports making President Bush's tax cuts permanent. And he has advocated immigration reform that is both more compassionate and more realistic than the build-the-fence-and-send-'em-back position.

On a wide range of issues, however, he has actively pushed policies at odds with a genuinely pro-freedom agenda or even a limited-government constitutional position. He voted against the president's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. He has starred in advertisements on behalf of mandatory gun-trigger locks, a requirement of dubious usefulness and constitutionality. He even introduced legislation in 2004 to create a federal boxing commission, a completely unnecessary new agency.

Perhaps most egregiously, he was a principal sponsor of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions law, which sought to outlaw even issue advertisements in the last days of political campaigns. These provisions are restrictions on the very kind of speech - political speech - that the authors of the First Amendment considered most important.

John McCain has worked actively to mandate background checks on gun buyers at gun shows. He has endorsed onerous legislation to deal with climate change, even restrictions on carbon emissions that would do great damage to the economy while having a negligible impact on global warming.

Sen. McCain's famous temper, often displayed in profanity-laden tirades about fellow Republicans, suggests a temperament unsuited to wielding great power. He has, if anything, been more aggressive than President Bush in support of the war in Iraq, and it is more than possible that he would involve the U.S. in more unnecessary military operations if elected.

Sen. McCain now looks like a front-runner (although that's a tenuous title this year), and he just might win the Republican nomination. But his election would be unlikely to lead to greater individual liberty in a country that already restricts it in ways that would appall our forefathers and mothers.

Mitt Romney
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has emerged as the most traditional Republican candidate, who seeks to put back together the Reagan coalition of defense hawks, economic free-marketers and social conservatives. His big problem, for many conservatives, however, has been the lack of credibility he brings as a tried-and-true conservative, given his former pro-choice stance on the abortion issue and his promotion of a government-driven health care system in the Bay State.

Mr. Romney has at least a plausible argument - he governed as conservatively as possible given that he was running the country's most liberal state. From a freedom perspective, probably his most appealing moments came during his successful Michigan primary campaign, when he positioned himself as a can-do executive who can revive the state's economic fortunes. That has become a campaign theme.

Unfortunately, as Michigan went down to the wire, his free-market principles morphed into a cross between corporatism and pandering. He promised that he would bring jobs back to Michigan and promised to sit down with corporate and union leaders to fix things. Old industries that have been the foundation of the Michigan economy have moved to less-costly areas of the country and the world, places less burdened by high taxes and union work rules. That's the market at work, and there's nothing even the best government manager can do about it.

Mr. Romney has taken welcome shots at Democratic big-government liberalism: "I think they [Democratic candidates] take their inspiration from the Europe of old, big government, Big Brother, big taxes."

But he has pledged to increase the size of the military, an irresponsible promise given economic realities. We believe instead the problem is America's overcommitment in military endeavors. We're also troubled by his refusal to allow even the slightest reduction in the "war on drugs" and his heavy-handed approach in immigration policy. But Mr. Romney's traditional Republican appeal - if he can shed the image of flip-flopping - could win him the nomination if John McCain's strategy of winning over independent and moderate voters falls short.

Mike Huckabee
Although former Arkansas Gov. (and ordained Baptist minister) Mike Huckabee's candidacy is now on the ropes, he rose from relative obscurity following his victory in the Iowa Republican caucuses.

The Iowa Republican grass-roots is dominated by evangelical Christians, and Mr. Huckabee played up his religious views, arguing, "My faith is my life - it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them." His critics have rightly wondered where such faith would be taking him. Christianity doesn't lay out a set of principles of government, so policy issues become a matter of interpretation; even Christians of various beliefs come to wildly different conclusions.

Mr. Huckabee is conservative on the social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, characteristic of the religious right. But his economic policies would more aptly be termed religious left. The religious right wants Christian-based moral standards, while the religious left wants to use government to redistribute wealth. As governor, Mr. Huckabee was zealous for tax increases of all sorts. He has embraced elements of the Nanny State agenda, such as his past support for a federal ban on smoking in public places. Having lost 105 pounds, he has promoted policies to crack down on fatty foods.

We've described him in the past as a cross between Hillary Clinton and Pat Robertson, someone who embraces the Left's zeal for big, meddlesome government with support for conservative moral positions. He seems to want government to be involved in all aspects of people's lives, personal and economic. That makes him as close to a polar opposite of the libertarian position as we'll find in a candidate.

And yet Mr. Huckabee does take some surprising positions. He is altogether too pro-war for our tastes, yet he is one of only two GOP candidates to call for a shutdown of Guantanamo. Although he has taken a tougher anti-immigration stance to woo GOP base voters, his previous immigration position was less Draconian than most Republicans. He has criticized "three strikes" legislation and has been more reasonable on some crime issues.

We are fascinated by Mr. Huckabee's attempt to create a "Christian" political approach, but we'd be far more interested if he promoted a constitutional one instead.

Rudy Giuliani
Considering what's most agreeable and most egregious about Rudy Giuliani's candidacy, we find some of his positions would advance freedom while others give us considerable pause.
Most agreeable are his promises to "restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending," cut taxes and reform the tax code. Washington's most concerted assaults on freedom are overtaxation and free spending.

We give Mr. Giuliani high marks on these issues, though it remains to be seen whether he merely is playing to the Republican base. But as mayor of New York City, Mr. Giuliani lowered taxes, grew the economy and created jobs.

Likewise, Mr. Giuliani's preference for giving individuals more control over health care with "portable free-market solutions" is appealing. We also applaud his support of vouchers to provide "real school choice to parents." But he falls short of reviving the Reagan mission of the early 1980s to abolish the federal Department of Education, whose existence makes quality education and real choice difficult to achieve.

But when Mr. Giuliani vows to "keep America on offense in the terrorists' war on us," we are considerably less enthused. Does his law enforcement background indicate a short-sighted predilection for security over liberty? When balancing the two, we are not persuaded Mr. Giuliani would give preference to individuals' freedom. When liberties are curbed in the name of security, rarely are they willingly restored by those who took them away.

Similarly, on illegal immigration Mr. Giuliani speaks first about securing borders and identifying every noncitizen. Enforcement rhetoric sells with a sizable Republican constituency, but it doesn't address underlying causes of illegal immigration. It guarantees only a continuous loop of "round them up, send them home, and do it all over again when they return."

We prefer illegal immigration be addressed by raising legal quotas so foreigners can contribute to the U.S. economy above board, rather than clandestinely. Nevertheless, as long as the nation continues its welfare-state mentality of handing out education, health care, housing, food stamps and other tax-subsidized freebies, even raising quotas won't completely stem the tide of illegal immigration. Mr. Giuliani doesn't seem to address these underlying causes.