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"Liberaltarians":

Sebastian Mallaby's column in today's Washington Post directed me to this article by Cato's Brink Lindsey in the New Republic posing a question that has been posed around here occasionally, whether libertarians should reconsider their traditional affiliation with the conservative movement and move toward the Democratic Party. I know that many libertarians do not consider themselves to be part of the "conservative movement," but I think it is generally true as a descriptive matter.

Both Mallaby and Lindsey focus on the level of specific policies, but I think there is a more fundamental question here about philosophies.

I often have pondered whether in the post-Cold War era a more natural alignment of American political parties are along the general lines of libertarian v. populist, rather than the traditional conservative v. liberal distinctions.

Many have remarked on the tension in the coalition of religious traditionalists and libertarians on social views. But I've never really understood why religious voters would be partial to free market economic policies. There seems to be an obvious distrust of the amorality of the market there, especially as it often produces what religious voters obviously consider to be immoral entertainment and other products. Nor have I ever seen among religious folks a particular appreciation of the invisible hand process of the market, as their worldview seems much more comfortable with a constructivist rationalism than spontaneous order systems. To the extent that there is a coherent economic philosophy here, it seems to me that it is more naturally communitarian than free market. This is consistent with the more specific policy observations that religious voters seem perfectly content with economic policies like farm subsidies, steel tariffs, immigration limits, and distrust of the WTO and other international trade organizations. Note also that during this past election, support for ballot initiatives that increased the minimum wage drew overwhelming support in the red states on which they were proposed. That doesn't seem very consistent with a free-market worldview.

On the flip side, it has never been clear to me why wealthy urban and entrepreneurial people would support heavier taxation and regulation as the baggage for the social policies that they like from liberal movement.

So why have the current "conservative" and "liberal" coalitions proven so sticky? My hunch is that it is captured in the distinction in Thomas Sowell's Conflict of Visions. I suspect that what distinguishes the two groups today are unspoken and unrecognized implicit assumptions about human nature and the way they manifest themselves. So it is not policies, nor is it governing philosophies, so much as it is the differences between the "constrained" and "unconstrained" visions of man, as described by Sowell. If Sowell is correct, and I think a strong case can be made that he is, then the "conservative" v. "liberal" distinction may be sustainable.

I know that many libertarians dislike Sowell's classification because libertarians do not seem to fit well within it. I have heard this criticism, but I think it misses the point of Sowell's analysis. My impression just from hanging around libertarians for the past 20 years is that at root, most libertarians actually bring either a constrained or unconstrained vision to the table. Hayek/Friedman economics libertarians generally have a constrained vision, Rand/Nozick natural rights libertarians have more of an unconstrained vision. Some, like Rothbard, seemingly resist categorization, but having read a lot of his work, it seems to me that he is more likely to fudge his economics to fit his philosophical priors than vice-versa, so I would actually place him in the unconstrained category.

Regular readers of this blog will note these sorts of tensions among the various conspirators here. I suspect that if pushed most of us would generally identify ourselves with the "conservative movement" generally speaking and have been known to frequent Federalist Society gatherings with some regularity, although it may at times be difficult to identify what exactly is the common glue that holds together even our little group.

Which seems to leave us with the ultimate question--on what basis do people, and libertarians specifically, choose their political affiliations? At the level of policy, governing philosophy, or human nature? My sense is that in order to answer the Mallaby/Lindsey question of whether libertarians eventually will migrate out of the conservative movement, or whether the parties will migrate toward different policies and philosophies, depends on the answer to that more basic question.

therut:
There is no way to be libertarian and support a welfare state. It is quite simple. If you are a libertarian because of gay marriage, abortion rights, pornography etc that is a very narrow sliver to base anything on. Not all libertarians agree that abortion should be legal on demand. Or gay marriage is a libertarian goal. But they all agree that a welfare state is apostate. Most would probably be happy if abortion, marriage, porn was based on local or state control or federalism if you like. And most despise gun control and the statist interpretation of the 2nd amendment. Conservative Christians do not think Christianty should be polluted with socialism as a theology. In other words the liberal Christians are guilty of what they say they are not. They do not believe in seperation of church and state in issues of economics. They believe in a made up term called social gospel being implemented by the power or oppression of the State. That a libertarian or conservative can not support.
12.4.2006 3:28pm
Ragerz (mail):
Think of it this way, libertarians and conservatives come together not because they like each other, but because they are faced with tradeoffs. Neither the libertarian nor the conservative wing of the Republican party is big enough to win elections without each other. So, to form a coalition that can implement second-best policies, they make trade-offs. Libertarians care about preventing redistribution more than they care about protecting liberal social policies. The religious right cares more about social policies like abortion than economic issues. Besides, religious types are glad to have smaller government, because they can partially fill in the vacuum. While helping the poor, they can preach to the poor. Also, there is the Protestant work ethic. Many of those who are poor are probably lazy and deserve to be poor. So, it is not a bad fit from a religious conservative perspective. Libertarians probably get a little less from the deal overall, but they are willing to make that trade because they have an almost religious aversion to redistribution.

I don't expect to see a major shift of libertarians from the conservative coalition anytime soon. As a Democrat, I can say your not really wanted over here. Stay there. The nerdy focus on the self and constant focus on maximizing self-interest that is typical of libertarians does not really fit well with us communitarian types.
12.4.2006 3:30pm
egn (mail):
I look at it as a personal trade-off. That is, the issues on which liberals align with my more-or-less libertarian views are simply more important to me than issues where conservatives are closer. I'd give up free market economic policies before I'd give up habeas corpus, stem cell research, violent video games, and porn.

Of course, I could actually vote libertarian. But, I don't really want to.
12.4.2006 3:31pm
Bobbie (mail):
I don't mean this to be a snarky comment or to insult anyone. But I believe that many libertarians support the Republican party more because they're not really concerned with "government power." Instead, libertarians are more concerned about having lower taxes, since that issue affects them. The issues liberals are typically concerned about with respect to the Government's power -- rights of the criminally accused, the right to be left alone in the bed room, etc. -- are issues that typically affect the poor more than the middle class and rich.

I never understood how professed libertarians can be more concerned about the marginal tax rate than the scope of the Government's power to throw people in jail and, in some cases, execute them.
12.4.2006 3:32pm
GMUSL 3L (mail):
Agreed with the above poster.

The leftist project will invariably lead to curtailments of personal rights through the curtailment of economic rights. Witness the calls to ban fattening food, trans-fats, smoking in privately-owned establishments and even houses, Reinhardt ruling that parents can't control what government officials teach their children even by sending them to private school...

Just look at health care. If everybody pays for your medical bills, suddenly your personal habits become everybody's business because everybody pays for them. People will be FORCED to use condoms, because everybody will have to pay to for AIDS; people will be forbidden from smoking, because everybody will have to pay for lung cancer treatments; people will be forced to exercise, take vitamins, refrain from non-moderate amounts of alcohol, all to make the leftist project less expensive.

Expansive positive "rights" that leftists advocate can only hurt what libertarians hold dear; it can never help them. Getting in bed with the Democrats because you're not happy with the Republicans is like trying a shotgun blast to the forehead to cure a migraine.
12.4.2006 3:33pm
Spartacus (www):
Whil I generally agree with GMUSL 3L, I think that to some degree, in my early/formative years, the decision was based as much on individuals as on principles. That is, the Conservatives I met were just more tolerant of my socially deviant views and yes, even practices, than "liberals" (I hate how the left has coppted that term) were with my libertarian economic views. Maybe I just ran into the right/wrong people, but I travelled in pretty wide &diverse circles, and just found those on the right to be more tolerant.
12.4.2006 3:38pm
Spartacus (www):
Also, note that many libertarians, while socially liberal/economically conservative, have views regarding national defense and criminal enforcement that are more harmonious with the right than the left. Finally, the general hatred of guns on much of the left was the real deal killer for me.
12.4.2006 3:41pm
frankcross (mail):
I think it's hard for a real libertarian to feel remotely comfortable in either party. Posters have adequately explained the economic libertarian case against Dems (although Republicans don't really differ so much on the welfare state).

I suppose the thing I find remarkable is how many people of libertarian leaning abandon these principles when it comes to the military. They become big government lovers, supporting more spending and international intervention and compromise of rights in pursuit of war. I think that should be a bigger problem than the social rights issues even, but I often see conservative libertarians not coming to grips with it. Cato, though, is quite principled on this question.
12.4.2006 3:44pm
egn (mail):
<blockquote>
Expansive positive "rights" that leftists advocate can only hurt what libertarians hold dear; it can never help them.
</blockquote>

How can this be right? You list a parade of nanny-state horribles, but even conceding that some Democrats would enact some of them (and I think plenty of reasonable liberals would call a halt somewhere along the slippery slope), that still leaves a litany "positive rights" that conservatives have abandoned but align with the libertarian vision: I mentioned habeas corpus; there's also privacy, and speech (where I disdain the liberal PC police but still prefer it to Gingrich and Ashcroft, not to mention Brownback, Focus on the Family, etc.), and holding back the tide of Evangelo-fascism. The Republican Party is a nightmare.
12.4.2006 3:47pm
egn (mail):
Damn it! That'll teach me not to preview. Sorry about that.
12.4.2006 3:48pm
Dave Griffith (mail):


Libertarians care about preventing redistribution more than they care about protecting liberal social policies.


My read is that most libertarians care about both more-or-less equally, but are responding to perceived risks. Since at least 1960 (if not 1900), there simply hasn't been any significant risk of social liberalization being rolled back. The die has been cast, attitudes at the median have changed, and new technologies (universal communications, cheap transport) make any significant retrenchment basically impossible. This is best seen in the abortion wars, where forty years of vicious fighting have left the right with exactly nothing to show for it. Overall, the left's social agenda has in general been proceeding apace nicely, with or without libertarian dollars and electoral support. Thanks.

On the other hand, calls for increasing redistribution have been happening incessantly during that time frame, often successfully. Give the dems even the slightest inch, and the first thing they talk about doing is nationalizing health care. That's a serious risk, and one worth going into coalition with the right to avoid, if the right could be trusted not to behave just as badly with respect to economic policies. From 1980-2000, that caveat held. It no longer does.
12.4.2006 3:49pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I agree with Bobbie's analysis.

As to the original, interesting post, the problem for the right-wing is that there aren't nearly enough hard-core libertarian types on the economy. Libertarians and a maybe a segment of the very rich oppose the New Deal programs (with a few Great Society ones thrown in), but overwhelming majorities of Americans support almost all of them. Americans want mimimum wage laws, the right to form unions, etc. Privitizing Social Security was dead on arrival when the Repubs had the Presidency and both houses of Congress. Heck, national health insurance polls quite well.

So, in recent decades, Repubs have won when they motivate the religious right and convince enough working class voters that "wedge" social issues are more important than "populist" economic issues. (Repubs took advantage of being the "national security" party in 2002 and 2004, but Bush's mishandling of Iraq lost the party that edge).

Libertarians who want to tear down the New Deal will always be frustrated with both parties. They may choose the Repubs as the lesser of two evils on economic issues, but they are going to have to deal with the social conservative baggage.

As to more moderate libertarians, again, I agree with Bobbie: to the extent they vote Republican, one wonders if they are privileging the rights that have the most impact on their middle to upper middle-class selves.
12.4.2006 4:04pm
UK (mail):
My read is that most libertarians care about both more-or-less equally, but are responding to perceived risks.


Precisely ... at least until the current regime at any rate. Social conservative threats have always been met best by a belly laugh and economic freedom was the key to all else. Currently, Bush gives us libertarians little common ground, but as long as the Democrats refuse to understand the way the world works ... economically, scientifically, ecologically, rationally, genetically, you name it ... there is even less common ground there. Call it "constrained" if you like, but the the conservative view of human nature (or even that such a thing exists) is the more realistic worldview despite its wrongheaded, religious premises.

When the Demos drop the blank slate, the standard social science model, equality of outcomes, and human perfectability in general, only then will they be fit political partners for libertarians.
12.4.2006 4:10pm
Chumund:
The obvious question is why a libertarian would feel a need to affiliate with any party at all. Rather, insofar as party mattered to a libertarian's political activities, the libertarian could favor divided governments, which both theoretically and empirically seem to be the best arrangement for libertarian interests.
12.4.2006 4:15pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"the libertarian could favor divided governments, which both theoretically and empirically seem to be the best arrangement for libertarian interests."

Only if you think everything is perfect right now. Or alternately if you think there is no way for policy changes to improve things.

The alignment of libertarians with conservatives in America comes from the historical preference of conservatives for small government and states' rights.

Today conservatives seem to care as much for legislating morality as for those other causes, but conservative populism is still less socialist than the liberal preference for expanding welfare state and regulation of the economy.

So long as the Democrats keep arguing for more redistriution, higher minimum wage, price caps, "excessive" profits tax, Kyoto-style regulation, universal healthcare, and on and on, libertarians will tend to align with conservatives.
12.4.2006 4:24pm
Spartacus (www):
Along the "perceived threats" line of thought, note that while libertairians are opposed to redistribution, period (not that Repubs are any kind of small govt heroes lately, but we still ahve hope for the return of the party of Reagan), but although we opposed state intervention in the individual social/moral context, that doesn't mean that we are all necessaily against the policy outcomes of the right--e.g., I can be a social liberal libertarian and still think that taking drugs is a bad idea; so while I am opposed to the War on Drugs in principle, and recognize the negative effects it reaps, it's not my highest voting/party affiliation motivator (as if the Dems are repudiating it anyway). There are tons of things that, as a libertarian, I believe in your right to do; I just may not vote to protect that right at the expense of my own benefit (e.g., tax cut). Selfish? You bet!
12.4.2006 4:25pm
John A. Fleming (mail):
Traditional religious types are natural allies of libertarians because, for them, morality trumps economics. Economic cycles come and go, but morality is absolute (or at least changes much more slowly). During leftist periods, religious types find they don't like public morality as defined by the elected majority. Especially since leftist types seek social change (to make a "better" society) by use of coercive government power. And who defines "better"? Those in power. So if you cede that defining and enforcing power to the people you like and agree with, eventually the people you disagree with will come to power, and then they will attempt to force a different morality on you.

Left-liberals are (ir)rational constructivists who seek to remake the future to their preferred vision. (I say irrational because left-liberal ideas are always attempts to force some sort of fairness, but life isn't fair.) Libertarians say let the people in their persons and communities decide for themselves how to live their lives, and the future is emergent (invisible hand, spontaneous order). Moralities and religions are in many ways our time-tested ideas on how to live useful, productive lives in the presence of life's unfairness. To have a temporary, left-liberal, one public morality to bind us all is repellent to religious types. Because the morality we follow should be decided by us alone, and not by our neighbors.

I would say that economic libertarians are constrained only in the sense that they don't focus on the morality underpinnings, they just look at using the power of government to make life more fair. Using government coercive power to pick economic winners and losers is just taking wealth from one group, and giving it to a smaller favored group. Until a regime change occurs, and then a different group is favored. Economic libertarians point out that this creates economic distortions, and hurts more people than it helps.

Economic libertarians seek free markets of things as the most efficient and fairest allocator of scarce resources. That is a constrained subset of the natural-rights libertarians, who seek a free marketplace of ideas, where one measures the success of an idea by not only its mindshare, but also by the success and happiness of those who adhere to the idea. So for natural rights libertarians, the scarce resource is your life.

So to summarize, I don't ever see an alliance between left-liberals and libertarians, because their approach to good governance is so fundamentally different. The left-liberals seek to use coercive government power to force a single chosen future good. The libertarians seek to let the people decide what the future is to be, with government power limited to only those activities that demonstrably benefit all of us equally.
12.4.2006 4:29pm
CrosbyBird:

I think it's hard for a real libertarian to feel remotely comfortable in either party. Posters have adequately explained the economic libertarian case against Dems (although Republicans don't really differ so much on the welfare state).


I am one of those libertarians who shifted from identifying more with republicans to democrats.

Neither party is pro-legalization of drugs and prostitution. Neither party is going to repeal the 1st Amendment either.

And it seems like the main drums beating in each camp are decidedly anti-libertarian... from the imposition of "morality" on private citizens from the right to the "we don't do enough to help the underprivileged" from the left. Seems to me like the vast majority doesn't seriously consider their politics... they will pick one or two critical issues and vote accordingly. Press the "gay marriage" button or the "abortion" button or the "love/hate Bush" button.

And it's an oversimplification to say that libertarians are more concerned about the marginal tax rate than social issues. Lower taxes increase individual power and limit the amount of money the government has to waste on non-critical functions. If you are in favor of small government, one of the quickest ways to mandate it is to reduce the coffers. It would be very nice if the government was in the position of being forced to cut back either the war on drugs or the welfare system because they could only afford one.

As for being pro-military, my impression has always been that at least that's a legitimate government interest. A functional military is an essential part of an independent country. Otherwise, your freedoms exist only due to the protection of the world community, which I for one am not ready to rely upon.
12.4.2006 4:31pm
JB:
I agree with Dave Griffith.

I first started paying attention to politics in 1997. For me, "democrat" means "fuzzy positions, illogical and pandering stances, no real focus," and "republican" means "sex-obsessed hypocrite." The whole "republicans are for small government" thing has never been true in my political lifetime.

Furthermore, for 2/3 of my political lifetime it's been civil liberties under attack more than economic liberties. Yes, things haven't been as good as they could have been for either, but Bush has been an absolute disaster for civil liberties (and heck, I don't even remember life before NAFTA). So I've been a Democrat sympathizer. Once the WoT restrictions go the way of Lincoln's supsension of Habeas Corpus and the Alien and Sedition Acts, I'll care more about economics and swing to the right.

Applying Dave Griffith's analysis retrospectively, I can see how an older person would have gone through a similar, opposite evolution in the '80s and early '90s.
12.4.2006 4:32pm
Ricardo:
For me, my own identification with liberals and Democrats is partly cultural. I feel more at home in Berkeley than the conservative exurb my family lives in. I can go out and party with my liberal friends but definitely not with the conservatives I know.

On foreign policy, I think that is one issue that depends very much on the constrained v. unconstrained view of human nature. Neo-cons are more like Napoleon's supporters seeking to use military force to dethrone every monarch in Europe than genuine conservatives. If freedom is an inherent good or God's gift to mankind or whatever, why not use the government to ensure as many people as possible can enjoy it, whether or not they are citizens of your country? On the other hand, the constrained view recognizes that transplanting a legal and political system to a foreign country where one does not have an adequate understanding of the culture or current institutional setup is very risky business.

Finally, I see political affiliation as a question of what can be realistically achieved rather than perception of risk. The welfare state is here to stay. Trimming back some of the excesses and making sure that the minimum wage is not raised to the point where there are significant unemployment effects is the best libertarians can hope for. There are a lot of economic issues libertarians can make progress on but the Republicans have shown themselves to be pretty hostile to free market principles. On social issues there is no way the Republican party will take the lead unless drastic changes happen within the party soon.
12.4.2006 4:35pm
CrosbyBird:

I am one of those libertarians who shifted from identifying more with republicans to democrats.


Missing in this is my personal impression that the republicans have abandoned conservatism and therefore provide no benefit to putting up with the morality legislation. Also, I do not believe the Republican party will stop catering to the religious right in this country until it is proven to be a losing strategy. Voting Democrat, will hopefully, in own way, force reform onto the Republicans to return to their more economically conservative base and back off a tad on the god stuff.
12.4.2006 4:37pm
Chumund:
liberty,

I don't think a libertarian preference for divided governments requires believing things are as good as they can be now or that improvement is otherwise impossible. To give one simple example, a libertarian could think that government spending as a percentage of the economy is too high now, and prefer it trend lower in the future. Divided governments could further such an end. In general, divided governments can do things, but they are less likely to do things that increase government power, since that power will have to be shared with another party.

By the way, I notice that you (and Todd, to be fair) are treating Democrats and conservatives as contrast classes. I think the precise problem is that Democrats should be contrasted with Republicans, and there is no guarantee that Republicans will be, or will remain, conservative in every relevant sense. Indeed, you give two examples of conservative views--a preference for smaller government and states' rights--and yet I think it is clear that the Republican Party has shifted away from these views as it has consolidated power at the federal level. Which is only logical: when the Republican Party was the minority party at the federal level, it served their interests to be in favor of a smaller federal government and states' rights. When they decisively took control of the federal government, it served their interests to increase the size and relative power of the federal government, which they did.

In general, I think a smart libertarian will recognize the truism that political parties tend to serve the purpose of maximizing the political power (and sometimes wealth) of the political professionals in the party. In that sense, it seems clear to me that a libertarian is making a mistake by supporting a particular political party, as opposed to trying to play the parties off against each other.

And libertarians pursuing such a strategy may well remain conservatives by many definitions, including yours. But that does not mean that they should remain Republicans, since the conservative result may not be achieved by exclusively supporting the Republican Party.
12.4.2006 4:54pm
Ramza:
Having read both articles the Brink Lindsey article is much better. Pretty much Lindsey doesn't argue anything about the current poltical parties, Republican and Democrats he sees these things as temporary coalitions which unite to form a majority similar to parliment. He proposes a new coalition of liberals and libertarians. (The vehicle of which would probally be born out of the Democratic Party,
but the vehicle doesn't really matter, he is just talking what such a party would look like)

The new coalition wouldn't create a welfare state or new entitlement programs instead it would create a safety net that is means tested. Additionally the coaltion would probally advocate new ideas for a safety net, things such as education/retraining credits so people can get better jobs after losing dieing industries or a medical insurance credit instead of medicare. Finally Lindsay believes its inevitable for things such as entitlement reform due to things such as growing old is inevitable, while the things such as being poor are not. Thus effectively change our entitlement programs into insurance programs.

Additionally such a coalition would far reduce regulation and do things such as cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption.

Finally the coalition would be socially liberal in things such as Gay Marriage, end of life decisions, and govermental research in things such as stem cells (he didn't mean it but probally also decent sex ed).

----

Now I like the idea of such a party on paper, but I seriously doubt it will come to pass, at least anytime soon. It is a pretty academic exercise/dream though, but just a dream currently and probally in the future.
12.4.2006 4:59pm
Icarus (www):
I think you're interpretation of religious conservatives is vastly over-generalized and profoundly underappreciative of the effects of John Paul II's economic thought in his social encyclicals throughout the 80s and early 90s. There was a clear embracing of the market, of the invisible hand, and of freedom. But even so-called economic principles cannot be above the dignity of the human person. But the market itself provides the best expression for the gift of human freedom. Not all religious conservatives are backwards thinking, communitarian ideologues.
12.4.2006 5:03pm
Ramza:
Oh it appears the original Lindsay Article is now on Cato and no longer just in the New Republic

Enjoy

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6800
12.4.2006 5:06pm
Nat Echols (mail):
I'd give up free market economic policies before I'd give up habeas corpus, stem cell research, violent video games, and porn.


Um, yeah, what he said.

But there's a subtler argument for why I continue to lean slightly to the left, which is an extension of Hayek's justification for (mild) economic regulation in "The Road to Serfdom" (my personal Bible). Sensible welfare policies help keep the free market functional and insulate individuals against massive shifts or reorganizations that they have no control over but may leave them destitute anyway. When a failing industry fires 20,000 blue-collar workers at once, it's probably good for the market in the long run, but it sucks to be one of those 20,000, and I'd argue that in the short term this displacement can cause chaos. If nothing else, it creates a demand for much more interventionist/redistributionist policies which if implemented would be far worse than anything we have today. (Which is why some on the far left hate the New Deal, because it prevented a slide into communism.)

The Randian position seems to be "not my problem, not my money, and back off, I'm armed." And many conservatives have an unreasonable (in my opinion) expectation that we can force people to plan for these eventualities and that personal responsibility will replace welfare. I don't believe any of this, and I think the health of an economy is dependent on the ability and well-being of its workers. So I support public education, unemployment insurance, and other mushy liberal programs. I'm just a lot more cautious before voting to give the government more money and power, and I'm strongly opposed to any government-imposed attempt to make us a "better" society.

In practice, I vote for split government. The proper function of the Democrats is to brainstorm new economic/welfare/education programs, and the proper function of the Republicans is to shoot down anything that doesn't work or wastes money. And ideally, with a split government they'll both be too busy quarrelling to do any damage. (Although the Democrats can sometimes pull this off on their own.)

As a side point, my parents did well enough to have a fairly high tax rate and it never seemed like a huge burden. I'm far more concerned about the lower taxes on the middle-class. But in general, I don't care one whit about taxes as long as they a) don't go up, b) don't get wasted, and c) aren't used to make government more intrusive.

I feel more at home in Berkeley than the conservative exurb my family lives in. I can go out and party with my liberal friends but definitely not with the conservatives I know.


I live in Berkeley, and I only know one or two conservatives anyway, so ditto. But my experience was that the conservatives I knew in college (Yale) were far more interested in discussing politics rationally and with an open mind than most of the liberals I've known. Neither population is representative, as I've been in higher education the entire time, but it does disturb me somewhat. I've never been worried about offending a conservative, and I'm an amoral atheist Bush-hater.
12.4.2006 5:08pm
Ramza:
As for the divided goverment bit, not all divided goverment is the same. For example if we had a very spend happy Democratic Congress who wants to increase both taxes and spending and a Republican President who won't use his veto you will see an increase size of goverment. Now compare this to the 2004 Republican Congress and a Republican President who won't veto and we will see an increase in the size of goverment and every increasing deficit spending (thankfully the economony is currently growing but when its not...)
12.4.2006 5:12pm
Nat Echols (mail):
Two more quick comments:

1) Lindsay's article describes my views almost perfectly. Markos Moulitsas's "libertarian Democrats" article comes close.

2) I will sometimes vote for the Green Party if a Libertarian isn't available, because despite their ridiculous economic views I agree with them on civil liberties (except guns, probably) and on the need for clean, transparent government. I'd trust them over the Democrats any day.
12.4.2006 5:15pm
Ragerz (mail):
Spartacus writes:

"Selfish? You bet!"

If only all libertarians were so honest. Of course, many libertarians are smart enough to hide this fundamental truth about themselves, recognizing that it hurts them politically.

I wonder if there is room for a coalition between the left and libertarians on the issue of school vouchers. It seems to me that those on the left, like myself, might be interested in vouchers as a mechanism to ensure equal per capita educational funding within states. Would libertarians be open to a deal on vouchers, if having vouchers means that students received the same amount, regardless of property tax base??
12.4.2006 5:17pm
Ramza:
Personally I would like to echo some of what Nat Echols said, if you lose your job you are going to be alot more revolutionary and angry, you will demand more for you are currently hurting and you want the pain to stop. Besides the New Deal caused by the Great Depression, you can see another similar pattern with the populist movement with William Jennings Bryan and the "Cross of Gold," this movement almost created the New Deal 40 years earlier.

Instead it would be smarter to add a "safety net" that is controlled by the market, and choose "welfare programs" that have positive externalities. Public Education is a "welfare program," now the goverment has two options to run there own schools or to give a voucher so people choose there own schools and there is some market force. You can make the same arguement for College Education and manufacturing jobs. Even health care (after you remove some of the idiotic health care regulations.)
12.4.2006 5:18pm
Chumund:
Ramza,

You are right about divided governments offering no guarantees, and in fact I think the best setup is likely a Democratic President and Republican House (again, for both theoretical and empirical reasons).

Still, even in the scenario you gave, the Republicans in the Senate might serve a moderating role when it comes to spending (particularly if they were numerous enough to filibuster), and even the Republicans in the House could serve a useful role insofar as the President might credibly threaten to veto spending legislation without broad bipartisan support.

In any event, we are about to get another data point. Personally, I suspect that the real increase in federal spending over the remainder of Bush's term will be lower than the average of his first six years, but we shall see.
12.4.2006 5:32pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Chumund: "when the Republican Party was the minority party at the federal level, it served their interests to be in favor of a smaller federal government and states' rights. When they decisively took control of the federal government, it served their interests to increase the size and relative power of the federal government, which they did."

You make some good points, but there have been individual administrations that had decisive power and that still chose to follow ideology toward more or less government, more or less states' rights, more or less regulation, more or less expansion of welfare programs, etc.

Contrast Carter and Reagan; contrast Hoover and JFK; contrast the US with Sweden.

I certainly agree that power corrupts and that talk is one thing and action another -- but I disagree that what amounts to a comprimise between the Democrats and the Republicans (a stale-mate or divided government) is necessarily going to be better than one or the other. It will be better than having Democrats in power, most likely, given that Democrats have an ideology of expanding the welfare state - but so long as the libertarian wing of the Republican party can have its voice heard, having the Republicans in control might be much better than divided government and compromise with Democrats.

For example, in the next two years this divided government might end up passing a hiked minimum wage, further environmental regulation of a bad sort and an increase in taxes -- things that would not likely happen if Republicans controlled both houses still. If libertarians stood up to the Republican party and took more control we could pass a flat tax and privatize social security. If we walk away to the democrats or give up, we can't do either of those, and we certainly wouldn't get those passed with a divided government.
12.4.2006 5:34pm
GMUSL 3L (mail):
I'd give up free market economic policies before I'd give up habeas corpus, stem cell research, violent video games, and porn.

EGN and Nat, the situation doesn't present the dichotomy that you are proposing. From where I'm sitting, the Democrats' record on civil liberties is just as bad, if not worse.

Which senators proposed the legislation banning violent videogames? Hmmm... was it Rick Santorum? Nope, Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman.

- Which party wants to restrict the First Amendment and increase the incumbency advantage through vastly restrictive campaign finance laws?
- The people who propose and enforce campus speech codes and try to punish "offensive" speech or speech that "hurts minorities" typically vote for which party?
- The D.A. and professors attempting to deny due process to the Duke Lacrosse players are affiliated with and identify more closely with, respectively, which party?
- The recently-elected governor who compared protests against low-income housing to physical violence belonged to which party?
- The people attacking the sex, religion, and racially-identifying roommate ads and suing Craigslist are associated which party?
- The attack against non-funded associational rights like the Boy Scouts is supported by which party?
- Elian Gonzales and Ruby Ridge happened under which presidency? As arguble as some of Bush's assertions on executive privilege have been, he's not targeting American citizens or those seeking to flee a communist dictatorship.

Furthermore, I don't see many democrats advocating drug legalization or decriminalization. In fact, not a single democrat appointee voted in favor of the California medical marijuana program.

If the Democrats had a non-trivial portion of left-libertarians, I'd actually consider voting for them. But even the "conservative" Democrats tend to be economically ignorant protectionist populists, like Jim Webb, rather than libertarian-leaning free-speech advocates.

Show me politically viable Democrats with the politics of Nat Hentoff or Christopher Hitchens and I'll concede the point. At least the Republicans had and have Gary Johnson and Ron Paul.

Ragerz, the Democrats are too captive to the teacher's unions to ever actually support vouchers on a national level.
12.4.2006 5:37pm
liberty (mail) (www):
compromise, excuse me.
12.4.2006 5:38pm
Spartacus (www):
CrosbyBird wrote: "I am one of those libertarians who shifted from identifying more with republicans to democrats.

Neither party is pro-legalization of drugs and prostitution. Neither party is going to repeal the 1st Amendment either."

I guess you're not one of those particularly concerned about the 2d Amend. Notwithstanding that the Dems recently electyed tend to be pro-2d amend. (see DK's post election post), the party leadership is definitely not.

Nat Echols wrote (responding to Ricardo): "I feel more at home in Berkeley than the conservative exurb my family lives in. I can go out and party with my liberal friends but definitely not with the conservatives I know.


I live in Berkeley, and I only know one or two conservatives anyway, so ditto. But my experience was that the conservatives I knew in college (Yale) were far more interested in discussing politics rationally and with an open mind than most of the liberals I've known. Neither population is representative, as I've been in higher education the entire time, but it does disturb me somewhat. I've never been worried about offending a conservative, and I'm an amoral atheist Bush-hater."

Yes, as I noted, conservatives are more tolerant than liberals. So it seems to depend on whether you value partying or intellectual discussion; or perhpas which one is more of a priority in lecting leadership. But I think you were partying with the wrong conservatives at Berkeley. When I was there in '95-2000, there were plenty of partying conservatives--or were those libertarians? Some of both.

Ragerz wrote: "Would libertarians be open to a deal on vouchers, if having vouchers means that students received the same amount, regardless of property tax base??"

Granting vouchers to individuals who never paid the tax in the forst place is just disguised redistributionism, i.e., socialism. Tax credits are the way to go with school choice (although politically dead), until we return to the pre-Bush Republican (and I might add, libertarian) platform of abolishing the DOE.

By the way, I haven't noticed my civil liberties missing lately. Other than when I fly and have to take my shoes off, I still excersise all of my 1st, 2d, 4th, 5th, etc. rights without restriction. By my pocketbook hurts annually due to taxes. Those who claim that they miss their freedoms more than their money have been lulled into complacency by withholding, and have bought into the idea that their civil liberties have been shredded, when most of them haven't even been touched.
12.4.2006 5:40pm
Ramza:
GMUSL 3L pointing out what non congressional DAs did doesn't really help your case of what a Democratic Congress would do. Talk about what a Democratic Congress will do, not what occurs at the state and local level.
12.4.2006 5:46pm
Chumund:
liberty,

You say: "It will be better than having Democrats in power, most likely, given that Democrats have an ideology of expanding the welfare state - but so long as the libertarian wing of the Republican party can have its voice heard, having the Republicans in control might be much better than divided government and compromise with Democrats."

On this point, I'd turn your contrast technique around: contrast Bush II with Reagan and Bush I. For that matter, contrast Bush II with Carter.

In general, I'm not arguing that Republicans cannot be a powerful force for libertarian goals, and indeed I think they are generally better suited to that task than Democrats. But I think both logic and the available evidence indicates that they are only willing to play that role when they have to share governmental power with the Democrats. And indeed, the fact that Democrats are worse than Republicans at opposing spending is probably why Bush II has the worst spending record since Johnson.
12.4.2006 5:51pm
Chumund:
liberty,

By the way, to make something a bit more explicit: I think logic and the available evidence indicates that it is precisely when the Republicans control the entire government that the "libertarian wing" of the party likely will no longer have its voice heard. Hence, your precondition will tend not to apply in cases where there is a unified Republican government.
12.4.2006 5:56pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
I think libertarians are very diverse but are mostly conservative in means, liberal in ends. But, when the two conflict, most have placed more importance on the former. I think the libertarian philosophy primarily deals with preventing an "ends justifies the means" philosophy from dominating government. And so, when liberals were succeeding in implementing their ends-justify-the-means social utopia strategies, the libertarians were conservatives. Even though Republicans were bigoted, traditional, and big-business, they didn't have an ends-justifies-the-means mentality when it came to government. So libertarians aligned with them against the liberals.

In the last 60 years, liberals mostly succeeded in their utopian ends, but then saw a lot of those bad ideas rolled back because they were disasters. Now, the up and coming "liberal" generation realizes the error of its earlier ways, and is actually becoming increasingly libertarian. In a sense, the important issues for liberals were neutralized and a large share of liberals no longer believe in a bigger government going forward. Bill Clinton cut deficits, implemented free-trade policies, passed the EITC. Socially, Democrats got what they wanted and can now turn to being the "conservative" party and preserving the status quo.

But the Republicans have now become the new ends-justifies-the-means party. They are happy with big government, as long as it gets them votes. They are happy with using fearmongering about terrorism to get people behind them. They don't care about restrictions on power as long as it serves the moment. And legislating morality is what they are all about. Economically, they are now no better than the liberals ever were. Forcing us to borrow is the same as taxing us. They are the reactionary ends-justifies-the-means party.

I don't see the Republicans changing anytime soon. It took Democrats a long time to realize the error of their ways. "Liberals" in the traditional sense are dying out, but the Christian right is growing and have been happily voting Republican despite the excesses of the current administration. They will only ask for more if they regain power.

I think Libertarians, me included, are by no means instrinsically in alliance with the Republican party, or even conservatives for that matter. Instead, they just want the party that shares their ends AND their means. Now that the liberals have changed, and are coming to agree that means are extremely important and that free markets are not automatically evil, more and more libertarians will side with the Democratic party. It will take a while for the old dinosaurs to die out, but I read recently (can't remember where), that a surprisingly large number of young Democrats would be considered libertarian. Until those people take over, the Democrats may still lean the way of the old-timers, but the new ranks are actually very libertarian, even if they don't walk the walk and talk the talk.
12.4.2006 6:00pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

But I've never really understood why religious voters would be partial to free market economic policies.
From reading this entire post, I would guess it is because you haven't talked to very many of them.


There seems to be an obvious distrust of the amorality of the market there, especially as it often produces what religious voters obviously consider to be immoral entertainment and other products.
Even libertarians recognize the potential for market failure, and usually because of short-term thinking. Most libertarians recognize the legitimacy of laws against libel, slander, and treason. You can consider these to also be examples of "market failure."


Nor have I ever seen among religious folks a particular appreciation of the invisible hand process of the market, as their worldview seems much more comfortable with a constructivist rationalism than spontaneous order systems.
Do you know why Adam Smith capitalized "Invisible Hand"? He explained it in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)—that God has implanted in every human soul the desire to look out for their own interests because it operates a mechanism for the benefit of all. See here for some discussion of this idea.
12.4.2006 6:05pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Chumund writes:


By the way, to make something a bit more explicit: I think logic and the available evidence indicates that it is precisely when the Republicans control the entire government that the "libertarian wing" of the party likely will no longer have its voice heard.
It would appear that the social conservative wing wasn't being listened to, either. That's part of why "values voters" ended up voting Democrat in a number of these close races, especially where the Democrat was a Blue Dog. I think the corrupt wing of the party was the only one getting attention from the leadership.
12.4.2006 6:08pm
Chumund:
By the way, for all my criticism of libertarians joining parties, I would completely swoon for Lindsey's proposed party. Which is a pretty sure sign it will never happen, but I do think an agenda somewhat like that could be the result of a coalition between "moderate" (more properly, broadly libertarian-minded) Democrats and Republicans.
12.4.2006 6:11pm
TJIT (mail):
egn and Nat Echols,

egn said
I'd give up free market economic policies before I'd give up habeas corpus, stem cell research, violent video games, and porn.
and Nat Echols agreed with the sentiment. That makes you serfs, porn watching, video game playing serfs, but still serfs. Even worse the democrats are not going to provide the freedom you think they will. The democrats offer all of the nanny statism of the worst republicans.

For example we have, music labeleling (Al and tipper gore), policy opposition to violent video games (lieberman and hilary clinton), opposition to gay rights (defense of marriage act, don't ask, don't tell, bill clinton), mandated national service / draft (rangel), reduction in habeus corpus protections (effective death penalty act, bill clinton), imperial presidency ("stroke of the pen, law of the land, pretty cool" bill clinton spokesman) prosecution of medical marijuana (bill clinton), and strong support for the drug war (vast majority of the democrats).

As a bonus to the above lunacy the democrats add in a reflexive desire to tax and regulate almost anything that moves. The democrat fiscal and regulatory tendencies, if implemented, have a very real chance of making it less likely stem cell research will result in anything medically useful being available to medical consumers.

The democrats have not stood for what you think they do.
12.4.2006 6:12pm
Chumund:
Clayton,

Which makes perfect sense, of course. As I said above, it is a truism "that political parties tend to serve the purpose of maximizing the political power (and sometimes wealth) of the political professionals in the party." I am concerned about libertarians recognizing that fact, but it holds equally well for social conservatives.
12.4.2006 6:14pm
GOP-voting libertarian:
I echo those who said it's not about what issues are "more important," it's about what issues are really at risk. To me, this is not just a matter of the current climate, but of a fundamental structural difference between most "boardroom" issues and most "bedroom" issues. The boardroom is inherently public, so you can't escape the statist regulations on the economy, other than in a limited black-market way (e.g., drugs). You're stuck with the high taxes.

But many "personal" issues involve enforcement measures that most Americans are just never going to support. Sodomy? Looking at porn? Whatever. True, there are personal issues with a public component, like gay marriage and abortion clinics. But for those, even if there isn't a fundamental structural leaning, the American atmosphere is already there or headed that way.

So unless you can hide your income and construct a parallel economy, you should vote GOP, at least in regard to the social/economic split.

Now, on the other hand, if the concern is that the GOP is not a whit better on economic freedom, that's another discussion. I'd say they stink, but are still much less stinky than the other crew.
12.4.2006 6:33pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
A libertarian who thinks politics is useful should be running candidates in both the GOP and Dem parties. That's where the money is. That's what the anti-libertarians do.
The Libertarian Party is a fun peer group, and can help to set the agenda, and can occasionally swing a race one way or the other. The GOP and Dems are mass parties, not ideological parties. They might as well be the Coke and Pepse parties. Mass parties are patronage coalitions to divide up loot and power. They do not differ meaningfully in principle - to do so would cost votes. For branding reasons, they profess to minor differences, but both are essentially amoral conduits for those in the game of getting and holding power. It's a fun game.
The anti-libertarians will be running Hillary and McCain for president. It would be helpful for voters to have a libertarian alternative in both sets of primaries.
The same applies at the local level.
12.4.2006 6:33pm
Nat Echols (mail):
Yes, as I noted, conservatives are more tolerant than liberals. So it seems to depend on whether you value partying or intellectual discussion; or perhpas which one is more of a priority in lecting leadership. But I think you were partying with the wrong conservatives at Berkeley.

You confused what I said (and probably what Ricardo meant as well). In the rarified academic circles in which I've wasted my 20s, the conservatives tend to be the most tolerant and most interesting to discuss ideology with. In no way do I think this is representative of the national population as a whole. And furthermore, the conservatives I knew in college generally had plenty of liberal friends (like me, at the time) who didn't agree with any of their political views. The only real intolerance was either from a small but vocal crowd of full-time activists, or stemmed from boneheaded arguments made by fringe rightists like "curing AIDS would be bad because it would lead to more homosexual intercourse." I'm not joking.

Furthermore, based on reading the Cal Patriot (the local college GOP rag), the most vocal conservative students in Berkeley are neither particularly intellectual or open-minded.

Allow me to generalize here: very few liberals that I've known really want the government to have a lot of control over individuals. They really just want the government to help people, and they're naive about the consequences of big government. The only exceptions are on the radical left, and they dislike the Democrats as much as you do. Of the conservatives I've known, proportionally more of them genuinely supported more government power over social matters. That they happened to be more tolerant and open-minded when talking to me does not make them any less wrong.

Concerning civil liberties, I largely agree that the effect of the Bush administration has been less than claimed. However, much of the modern right has made eroding many of these rights a central part of its governing ideology. I refer you to the 2000 Texas GOP platform. Sorry, but I'll trust the redistributionist big-spenders over anyone who thinks the government needs to outlaw certain types of consensual sex. And the anti-gay initiative that recently passed in Virginia not only attempts to exert social control over "undesirables," but destroys individual contract rights. Both parties are to blame for the War on Drugs (which trashes the entire Bill of Rights), but the Democrats generally have a slightly more progressive stance favoring treatment over imprisonment, and the Greens even more so. I'll take confiscatory income taxes over the continued imprisonment and brutalization of lower-income petty drug offenders.

Elian Gonzales and Ruby Ridge happened under which presidency?

Ruby Ridge was George H.W. Bush. I viewed Elian's case as a custody dispute, and the father's rights seemed pretty clear-cut to me. (I don't like Castro either, but our Cuba policies are absurd.)
12.4.2006 6:34pm
GMUSL 3L (mail):
Sorry, I didn't mean Ruby Ridge — temporary brain fart. I meant Waco, the same day as which Janet Reno's Dance Party played "The Roof is on Fire"
12.4.2006 6:48pm
liberty (mail) (www):
contrast Bush II with Reagan and Bush I. For that matter, contrast Bush II with Carter.

I am not sure what you're getting at. The Bush II presidency has been mostly about the war, has expanded government somewhat but also attempted (and to a very small degree succeeded) is beginning privatization of certain public sectors (private health accounts, discussion of soc sec, school reform with push to charter/voucher etc) and has cut taxes several times. Bush I raised taxes and did little or nothing to reduce government. Carter was a disaster - with massive taxation, regulation, waste and expanding government boondoggles.

I think logic and the available evidence indicates that it is precisely when the Republicans control the entire government that the "libertarian wing" of the party likely will no longer have its voice heard.

I disagree. I think a slightly more Republican House &Senate would have passed Social Security reform; the tax cuts went through because of the Republicans in House &Senate not the Democrats; it will be the Democrats coming into government in 2006 that will push the minimum wage hike; if it weren't for Democrats in the 1980s, Reagan would have pushed through more reform, not less. etc etc.

I think the evidence is that we need more libertarians, not more "mixed government."

I understand the thinking - that Republicans won't listen if they are in power and will give in to the desire to control things and expand their power. I don't disagree that this can happen. But still, adding a bunch of power-hungry Democrats into the mix, who cater to unions and socialist voters doesn't necessarily help.

There are better ways to get the libertarian voice heard.
12.4.2006 6:50pm
Mark at UofC:
I would refer to Frank Meyer on this one. In particular, see his "Twisted Tree" essay in the January 1962 issue of National Review.
12.4.2006 6:50pm
GMUSL 3L (mail):
Mark, or more recently, to Ryan Sager in "The Elephant in the Room".
12.4.2006 7:02pm
Serenity Now (mail) (www):
egn: ... the issues on which liberals align with my more-or-less libertarian views are simply more important to me than issues where conservatives are closer. I'd give up free market economic policies before I'd give up habeas corpus, stem cell research ...

Government-funded embryonic stem cell research may be a good thing, but it's hard to see how it follows from libertarian principles.
12.4.2006 7:08pm
John Kindley (mail) (www):
"Libertarians care about preventing redistribution more than they care about protecting liberal social policies."

I generally hold libertarian economic and political views. On the other hand, I'm sensitive to the injustice inherent in a society of haves and have-nots, and am actively open to ways to remedy or ameliorate such inequities that do not involve further injustice. I'm sympathetic to the libertarian view that taxes are inherently a violation of natural rights, in that they involve taking a person's property and forcibly using it for purposes other than those of the owner, but that taxes are justifiable to the extent that they prevent greater violations of natural rights (e.g. to pay for police and reasonable military defense).

It seems to me, however, that a person does not necessarily have any natural rights to his property after he has died, and does not naturally have a right to control the disposition of his property after death, though ancient custom and common law have given him that right. It seems to me, therefore, that taxes tread least on natural rights when they are inheritance or estate taxes (or "use" taxes) rather than income or sales taxes. Such taxes also seem far more preferable to the extent that we as a society are interested in a just redistribution of property that does not unfairly penalize and discourage industrious work by taking away the fruits of such work (through income taxes, etc.). Such inheritance and estate taxes mitigate the unfairness respecting those from wealthy families who start life with a "silver spoon" in their mouth, so to speak, as compared to others who start life with no such advantages.

So why not dramatically increase inheritance and estate taxes, even to 50% or more on all estates, if by doing so we can dramatically decrease other less justifiable (i.e. income) taxes? (Somewhat odd that I would say this, as I am an attorney who specializes in estate planning.)
12.4.2006 7:22pm
Eliza (mail):
Cheer up, libertarians. Our politicians are foolish and short-sighted almost to a man, but not they are not unteachable. Eventually the welfare state will discredit itself--even Bill Clinton was able to see that ("the era of Big Government is over").

In a few years when the bill for Social Security and Medicare (not to mention the war on terror) comes due, well, let's just say that most of the children being born in our hospitals right now will grow up to have a healthy dislike for government spending programs.
12.4.2006 7:29pm
egn (mail):
GMU3L:


Show me politically viable Democrats with the politics of Nat Hentoff or Christopher Hitchens and I'll concede the point.


and TJIT:


Even worse the democrats are not going to provide the freedom you think they will.


You're both right, of course -- there are plenty of paternalistic blowhards in the Democratic party. Hilary and Holy Joe are just awful (though the latter is now a pariah). But I am still more comfortable with them than the religious right. Maybe I feel better about this sort of crap in a nanny-state context than a Puritan one. And there are folks like Feingold who, campaign finance notwithstanding, give me some hope on this front.

Serenity:


Government-funded embryonic stem cell research may be a good thing, but it's hard to see how it follows from libertarian principles.


Touche -- though I would say it follows more than attempting to veto science.
12.4.2006 7:31pm
therut:
There is no veto on science whatever that means. It is strickly an argument for or aganist federal government funding of a scientific research. I would not fund any scientific research by Federal Funds. It is not a function of the Federal Government and like anything the .GOV touches it corrupts including "HOLY SCIENCE". Stem cells research is totally legal and much less regulated than the shotgun in my closet. So please. Get off the Veto of Science propaganda.
12.4.2006 8:07pm
egn (mail):

There is no veto on science whatever that means. It is strickly an argument for or aganist federal government funding of a scientific research.


This is getting far afield, but quickly: maybe that's what you'd like it to be, but it belies the arguments that are actually being made.


"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said Wednesday afternoon. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it." (Watch as Bush says the bill 'crosses a moral boundary' -- 2:04)

Attending the White House event were a group of families with children who were born from "adopted" frozen embryos that had been left unused at fertility clinics.

"These boys and girls are not spare parts," he said of the children in the audience. "They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells." CNN


It's fine to say that you'd rather the federal government not fund scientific research, but to hold up the stem cell veto as some sort of affirmation of libertarian values is ridiculous.
12.4.2006 8:34pm
Jeff S.:
Does anybody have a link to the 1962 Frank Meyer article "The Twisted Tree of Liberty". I can't find it via either Google or Yahoo. Thanks.
12.4.2006 8:50pm
therut:
You miss the point. If the government would stay out of funding such endevors like Liberterians would do then the Religious people who you obviously dislike would have no problem with stem cell research if done privately. If the government would shrink itself the Religous people of the right would not be griping. Now the Religious left would be furious. You seem like you would give up a Libertarian position just to win a score aganist a group of people you dislike because of their religion when they agree with the policy a Liberterian would want. I guess you would cut off your nose to spite your face. No wonder Lliberterians will never win an election. They are way to pure to the point of political think crimes. You must not only agree with the policy but agree with it only based on pure Liberterian thought. Just goes to show conservatives are right about human nature.
12.4.2006 9:14pm
egn (mail):

If the government would stay out of funding such endevors like Liberterians would do then the Religious people who you obviously dislike would have no problem with stem cell research if done privately. If the government would shrink itself the Religous people of the right would not be griping.


You can't honestly believe this...?

I don't know if I need to respond to the charge that I "dislike" the religious -- some of my best friends, etc. -- but you don't seriously think that if the government suddenly exits stage right, the Moral Majority types will just pack it in.
12.4.2006 9:26pm
Chumund:
liberty,

I think you are dramatically understating how much Bush II has expanded the size and power of the federal government. Spending has consistently increased faster under Bush than it has under any other President since Johnson (and tax "cuts" without spending cuts are just tax deferrals). And those spending increases are across the board, including in discretionary areas like education, which has been coupled with new regulatory structures like No Child Left Behind, and in entitlements.

And there is no doubt in my mind that a split government would have been better. Indeed, consider just the Medicare expansion. Originally, there was in fact principled Republican opposition to the bill. But the White House pulled out all the political stops and pushed it through. Do you really think a Democratic President could have pulled that off? Of course not.

But I don't know how to convince you if this evidence isn't enough. Again, I just urge you to reflect on the fact that Bush has a worse spending record than any President since Johnson. And the President with the best spending record in that time? Bill Clinton.
12.4.2006 9:43pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):

you don't seriously think that if the government suddenly exits stage right, the Moral Majority types will just pack it in.




On this, I don't think that there is any way the "Christianists," as Andrew Sullivan would put it, are leaving any time soon, even if the government were to pack up its bags. They are a function of our time, just as much as the Islamists are. In my opinion, both have actually been the unintended Frankensteins of attempts to engineer American and world society. Both are reactionary, having felt oppressed by an overreaching government/empire/culture that sought to impose its own mark on America/the world in general.

But while the Christianists were given strength and power as a result of the liberal agenda, now that they have organized they will not just dissolve on their own. They are organized, and organizations are self-sustaining, until they lose their purpose. As long as they dominate the Republican party, the Republican party will be a party of big government.
12.4.2006 9:50pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
I agree with Chumund.

liberty doesn't know what he's talking about. You can pick and choose your policies all you want, but the only measure of size of government is spending. And citing tax cuts as a reduction in government size is nonsense. The privatization he mentions is nonexistent. Private health accounts suddenly count as a big privatization success? When weighed against everything else he did to bring government into our lives? Social security reform would have been great, but it didn't happen and instead we got massive spending in every other line of the budget. Gimme a break. To spend is to tax is to increase government size. And on top of that our civil liberties.
12.4.2006 10:00pm
Toby:

I suppose the thing I find remarkable is how many people of libertarian leaning abandon these principles when it comes to the military. They become big government lovers, supporting more spending and international intervention and compromise of rights in pursuit of war. I think that should be a bigger problem than the social rights issues even, but I often see conservative libertarians not coming to grips with it. Cato, though, is quite principled on this question.

Possibly because there is a strong elemt of classical Hobbesianism in many libertarians. It is very mainstream to consider that all international relations are based upon Hobbes. Many strict Lockeans have accepted this, and even many quite far left. This makes the stron defense Libertarian basically arguing that we want Freedoms here, but even as we fear the Leviathan at home, we want to keep the war of all against all off-shore.
12.4.2006 10:19pm
whit:
i'm pretty darn libertarian, and there is NO way i can side with the democratic party (except in rare circ's of great candidates). having lived in coservative run (repub) and the lefty states like WA and Mass, i can state unequivocally that the states run by democrats are FAR less protective of libertarian ideals.

WA state is a perfect example

i also agree with toby, in regards to the libertarians and the military thingg
12.5.2006 10:47am
wirro:
As a Small Government, Civil Libertarian that actual enjoys having a functioning society, I realize that compromises in my idealogy must be made. Since it's much easier to pay a little tax than regain a little lost freedom, I see no problem supporting Democrats.

I do try to:

1) Support government programs where the government can be more efficient/equitable in providing the service than the free market. i.e. Defense, Roads, Public Safety, Education, and yes, Health Care.

2). Support free markets where they more efficiently supply services i.e. almost everything else.

3). Oppose the anti-libertarian aspects of liberalism i.e. Nanny State initiatives, Speech Crimes, criminalization of voluntary behavior.

Within these general guidelines, I have no problem being a Liberaltarian.
12.5.2006 1:53pm
Zywicki (mail):
Jeff S,:
I went looking for that Frank Meyer piece also, but couldn't find it either. If anyone has a link for it, please pass it along!
12.5.2006 3:32pm
Everything is a Drum (mail):
Maybe this isn't the time or place for this, but I think that Christianity (the only religion in this country that I can speak with any real knowledge about) is a complex thing that cannot simply be reduced to a crusade for Morality as some have alledged here. True Christianity (i.e. when Christianity is being true to itself) will also be uncomfortable with any political party. I tend to vote Republican, but not for the same reasons that Pat Robertson and company do. I hold many of the same views on specific moral issues like abortion, homosexuality, etc., but we differ on a key question that to my mind, trumps the others. That question is, what is the role of the Church in the world?
The primary role of the Church MUST be to promote the spread of the Gospel message in the world through personal contact and the witness of each individual church. The state cannot advance that process one iota through laws seeking to criminalize various sinful behaviors. If abortion were outlawed tomorrow, the FMA passed into law, and American society became "Puritan" [note: <i>I doubt seriously that the poster using that term has a real understanding of Puritanism beyond the Salem witch trials and Ann Hutchinson</i>], the Gospel is not advanced an inch because Jesus seeks those with penitant <i>hearts</i>. To the extent that people like Robertson believe otherwise, they are straining a gnat while swallowing a camel and their efforts will come to nothing.
I say all this because I've noticed in my own development a tendancy to lean libertarian even on social questions because I think the history of the Christian church has shown what happens when well-meaing people try and convert a nation. Nations are not converted, people are. Christians would do well (IMHO) to pursue policies and politicians that will preserve our ability to manage our own households better (e.g. home-schooling protection, low taxes or no taxes - especially those that fund things Christians find abhorent like the Nat'l Endowment for the Arts, abortion clinics etc.) and focus our time and energy on the spiritual tasks at hand.
12.5.2006 4:38pm
Russ (mail) (www):
The difference will be neither Volokh's nor Lindsey's... but in the end, as cultural conservatives embrace the notion of using government as a means to achieve their ends, and continue the process of slandering libertarians as libertines (aka, ignoring the entirety of libertarian thought per Reagan/Goldwater), small-l libertarians are increasingly going to be forced to vote defensively against both parties.

Thus raprochement is going to be issue-based, with libertarians effectively defining the "new moderates."
12.5.2006 4:51pm
Friedrich Foresight:
As a non-American, my 0.2 Euros is that...

a. From the 1930s onwards, US governments (espec federal) began to redistribute money (New Deal, Great Society) and to regulate conduct that was traditionally considered private and non-criminal (anti-discrimination laws, Roscoe Fillburn's over-quota wheat).

b. Initially this was viewed as justified by necessity (Depression, War), even though many refused to acccept "charity" (Walter Cunningham in To Kill A Mockingbird being an example).

c. After the 1960s, this spending and regulation broadened and was perceived by many as rewarding the non-virtuous (criminals, "welfare queens", African-Americans who blamed White racism rather than their own anti-social cconduct for their failures).

d. Because from 1933 to the 1980s, the US federal government was largely controlled by welfare-state liberals (of whatever party), conservatives and libertarians could make a negative common cause. Libertarians objected to all spending and regulating (especially when federal in origin) because it redistributed property and impinged on basic liberty. Whereas conservatives objected to this particular spending and regulating because, as they saw it, not only did it fail to reward what they saw as virtues and what to penalise they saw as vices, but if anything did the opposite (eg, laws allowing gays with HIV or unwed mothers to sue Christian employers for refusing to employ them, etc).

e. Now that, since 1981-1994, the US federal government has been largely under conservative control, conservatives want to use federal power to reward virtue and penalise vice (amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage and (possibly) abortion, to de-fund embryo-harvesting, to lock up dangerous radicals), while libertarians generally remain as suspicious as they did before of redistribution and regulation, in whatever direction.

How on the money is this?
12.5.2006 7:04pm
Friedrich Foresight:
Come to think of it, wouldn't a Pragmatist/ Law &Econ type like Judge Posner be a good working model of a Liberaltarian? ("Rational property owners are deemed to voluntarily cede just enough of their property rights to create just enough of a welfare state to stave off a Communist revolution - but otherwise, most of the time the market works fine").
12.6.2006 12:25am
Chumund:
Friedrich,

Sounds pretty accurate to me, although I would be more explicit about the fact that Republicans have recently sought to use federal spending to enhance the wealth of their supporters.
12.6.2006 11:18am