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Liberaltarianism Revisited:

Libertarian blogger Will Wilkinson has kicked off a renewed debate over the potential of "liberaltarianism," the proposed alliance between libertarians and liberals that was much-discussed back in 2006. Will believes that the idea still has merit. Various conservative and libertarian commentators, including Jonah Goldberg, Matt Welch, Ross Douthat, and Virginia Postrel are skeptical.

I. My Reasons for Skepticism.

Back in 2006, I argued that liberals and libertarians have stronger philosophical affinities than libertarians and conservatives. But I also doubted in that same post that a liberaltarian alliance was feasible because most liberal intellectuals are loath to emphasize those parts of their agenda that justify shrinking government and liberal politicians are strongly beholden to interest groups with a vested interest in expanding it.

Although I wish things were different, I think that my 2006 reasons for skepticism are more valid today than they were back then. The financial crisis/recession have persuaded most liberal intellectuals that our current problems are the result of insufficient government and have made it far more difficult to persuade them to take arguments against massive expansions of government seriously (to say nothing of arguments for its radical reduction). I think that claims that the financial crisis discredits libertarianism are seriously flawed. But most liberals clearly believe otherwise.

With the exception of a few economists, virtually all liberal public intellectuals that I know of either support Barack Obama's massive stimulus plan or believe that it should be even larger than it is. Back in November, I made the not very original prediction that President Obama's and the new Democratic Congress' plans for a massive expansion of government would drive libertarians and conservatives together in opposition:

With Barack Obama in the White House and the Democrats enjoying large majorities in Congress at a time of economic crisis, it is highly likely that they will push for a large expansion of government even beyond that which recently occurred under Bush. That prospect may bring libertarians and conservatives back together. Many of the items on the likely Democratic legislative agenda are anathema to both groups: a vast expansion of government control of health care, new legal privileges for labor unions, expanded regulation of a variety of industries, protectionism, increased government spending on infrastructure and a variety of other purposes, and bailouts for additional industries, such as automakers.

Most of the above has either already come to pass, or is on the president's legislative agenda for the near future. And, just as I expected, libertarians and conservatives have reunited in opposition to it.

II. An Intellectual Movement?

In his original post, Will Wilkinson conceded that liberaltarianism is not a likely political alliance for the near future, but argued that the movement still has great potential for bringing together libertarian and liberal intellectuals around common values. As he puts it:

I want to help create the possibility of a popular political identity that takes the value of human liberty, in all its aspects, really seriously. As I see it, this project involves an attempt to reunify the separate strands of the American liberal tradition.... [around] an authentically liberal governing philosophy that understands that limited government, free markets, a culture of tolerance, and a sound social safety net are the best means to better lives.

Will's "authentically liberal governing philosophy" sounds good to me. The problem is that few if any liberal intellectuals are willing to sign on, except by redefinining the terms in ways antithetical to what most libertarians would accept (e.g. - by "a sound safety net," they mean a vastly larger welfare state than even the most moderate libertarians are likely to support; under "culture of tolerance," they include a variety of PC excesses, etc.).

Back in 2006, liberal intellectual interest in "liberaltarianism" was driven largely by electoral calculations; they hoped that wooing libertarians would help the Democrats to finally defeat the Republicans (who had won several elections in a row). This comes through very clearly in Markos Moulitsos' 2006 defense of the concept, which explicitly refuses to concede any ideological ground to libertarians, but merely urges them to vote for the Democrats as a lesser evil relative to the Republicans. A number of prominent libertarian intellectuals - including Wilkinson, Brink Lindsey, and former VC member Jacob Levy - have sought to forge a liberaltarian coalition that goes beyond a temporary political alliance of convenience. It is striking that that not a single prominent liberal joined them.

Today, liberal intellectuals are, if anything, even less willing to make concessions to libertarians than they were in 2006. On an ideological level, the financial crisis has lowered the stock of libertarianism in their eyes. In a strange way, the Bush record of massive expansions of government has also shifted the goalposts for liberal Democrats. They seem to assume that anything Bush and the Republicans did must have been "laissez faire" (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) and that the current Democratic agenda represents a needed course correction relative to failed free market policies rather than a continuation of Bush-era trends of greatly increased government spending and regulation.

From a political viewpoint, liberals they think they have strong enough congressional majorities and public support to be able to get along without libertarians. Moulitsos and his allies no longer see any need to trumpet their "libertarian democrat" credentials.

None of this means that libertarians shouldn't conduct a "conversation" with liberals, as Will urges. For example, we should continue to take their arguments seriously, and to press on on them the libertarian view that government has systematic flaws, and that the poor and disadvantaged - the traditional objects of liberal concern - are often best served by limiting its power. We should also remember the chief lesson of the Bush era: that a federal government under united Republican control is often no better than one controlled by the Democrats. The last eight years have highlighted and exacerbated our serious disagreements with many conservatives. Skepticism about liberaltarianism must be coupled with an appreciation of the shortcomings of the conservative-libertarian "fusionism" that frayed so badly under Bush.

That said, we must be realistic. There is not going to be any viable liberaltarianism in the near future - whether in the form of a political coalition or an intellectual movement. If the Democrats take some political setbacks, and Obama's big government policies come to be perceived as failures, liberals may become more open to liberaltarian ideas - as some were as a result of Democratic setbacks in the 1980s and 90s. Until then, liberals and libertarians can still listen to each other and cooperate on a few selected issues where we happen to agree. But not much more than that.

UPDATE: National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg claims that he was the one who really kicked off this round of liberaltarianism discussion, and that I am denying him his "morsels of glory" by giving the credit to Will Wilkinson. An in-depth investigation by the VC Blogging Glory Accreditation Department reveals that Goldberg's claim of chronological priority is correct. We hereby award him his unjustly denied morsel of glory.

Monty:
"...and a sound social safety net are the best means to better lives."

I think the notion of a strong social safety net is fundementally at odds with libertarianism. If we presume that 'liberals' are intellectually honest, social safety nets are the very reason they support big government.

Social Security
Welfare
Nationalized Healthcare

Can you really support them and be a libertarian? Are most 'liberals' willing to abandon them? While there are things the two camps could agree on, maybe education, or job training, I think the fundemental difference about how big a safetynet should exist will prevent a coalition between libertarians and 'liberals'.
2.17.2009 2:23am
Cardozo'd (www):
This is an excellent discussion that I took the time to post a little something on. I think the current trends will have the capability, conditional on certain things like Republicans remaining stubborn about social aspects of life, could pave the way for either a Libertarian takeover of the Republican party or an emergence of a new Libertarian party that will replace a defunct Republican party. Numbers say it's impossible now, but give it a decade and see where the Christian right gets the Republican party rolls.

It's simply social progression really and as of right now Libertarians align more with what the future of America believes than does the Republican party...possibly even more so than the Democratic party. As a young person I know most of my fellow young people are socially aligned with liberals and libertarians...I don't think I'm dropping any jaws there. What I find surprising now, is that it's "cool" to be an economic libertarian now. I for one am not ::ducks::, but I do understand and respect the theories and realize it's easily possible I am wrong. What I'm trying to say is the libertarians of the world have a brighter future than the Republican party because their viewpoints seem to align with a larger part of the youth and therefore the future, than does the Republican party.
2.17.2009 2:33am
BGates:
Monty, there's more to "liberalism" (better named "progressivism", I think) than having the state take >30% of your income for the safety net. There's also government-imposed restrictions on what you can do with your property to protect the environment, government-imposed restrictions on firearm ownership to protect the children, government-imposed restrictions on monetary support of political speech, and, coming soon, government-imposed restrictions on "unfair" political speech.

I think a libertarian/statist fusion party is a swell idea.
2.17.2009 2:59am
Frater Plotter:
It seems to me that if it's worth noting that liberals are willing to ask for the libertarian vote but not concede one iota to the libertarian viewpoint ... then it is worth noting that this is doubly true of both social conservatives and today's big-business conservatives.

Social conservatives' contempt for libertarianism should be obvious, but let me just quote Dinesh D'souza here:
"Many libertarians are basically conservatives who are either gay or druggies or people who generally find the conservative moral agenda too restrictive. So they flee from the conservative to the libertarian camp where much wider parameters of personal behavior are embraced."
Yeah. We don't actually have any principles about freedom ... we just want our drugs and boysex, that's all.

As for big-business conservatives, I think we have the legacy of the Bush bailout -- and, for that matter, Enron and Halliburton -- to think of. The agenda of the business wing of the Republican Party is simple kleptocracy: government by looting; the transfer of funds from the taxpayer to the C-level executive class, no more, no less.

The Democrats may come around once in a while and ask for the libertarian vote. But the Republicans assume that they deserve it even as they spit upon us.
2.17.2009 3:45am
BGates:
We don't actually have any principles about freedom

Would you say this is a fair statement about libertarian principles?

To the sensible idea of political and economic freedom many libertarians add the more controversial principle of moral freedom, the freedom to live however you want as long as you don't harm others.


I would. Do you feel "spit upon" by that statement? I don't.

I think we have the legacy of the Bush bailout -- and, for that matter, Enron and Halliburton -- to think of.
The legacy of Enron is that Republicans who commit white-collar crimes get prosecuted during Republican administrations. Jeff Skilling is serving 24 years in prison. That's about one year for every $3 million Franklin Delano Raines kept after looting Fannie Mae.

But by all means, stay away from bailouts and kleptocracy, and vote Democrat. A guy from that party said he wanted you to abandon your principles and vote his party once three years ago.
2.17.2009 4:20am
RealToral (mail) (www):
I have a simple thesis: neither Republicans not Democrats will ever satisfy libertarians, or come close to doing so, so libertarians in general will drift away from whichever party holds power, towards the other one. This happened between 2001-2006; the unlibertarian activities of Republicans/conservatives were in full public display so libertarians moved away from Republicans in voting preference and began to fantasize about alliances with liberals.

In the long run libertarians have much more in common with conservatism than any other mainstream political philosophy. They will much more commonly ally with conservatives, the exceptions being people like David Boaz who are heavily attracted to sitars, good grass, the sexual revolution and the "social liberalism of the sixties": Libertarians or Libertines?

However libertarians are difficult for other groups ro ally with politically because whereas social conservatives, say, want very little from government and have few public policy objectives, every single activity that a government might consider must be tested according to libertarian dogma and rejected if it exceeds the very limited set of activities that libertarians would allow government to do.
2.17.2009 5:02am
David Warner:
Will's vision will require the passing of the Boomers to come to fruition, but there is a good chance that then it will, and out of choice (younger liberals chastened by statist experience) rather than need. The question is whether it can win elections against what would be an ugly alternative.
2.17.2009 5:51am
Dan M.:
Why would libertarians ever align themselves with either party long-term? Conservatives will add more laws to "combat terrorism" that will destroy your privacy rights, and then liberals will use the 'no fly' list to deny your gun rights and take your money and your property rights.

You vote against a conservative who doesn't think you have a right to marry and you get a liberal who doesn't think you should be allowed to play Grand Theft Auto until you're 35. And none of them think you have a right to sell or abuse your body as you please.
2.17.2009 6:27am
fishbane (mail):
I'm probably the odd one out here.

I'm a libertarian, but am not conservative in most respects. I see an awful trainwreck of "conservative" policy over the last eight years, including aggressive war, and don't see much economic upside. The nanny state got bigger, by far, the nationalist ranting became much worse, we doubled the debt.

If forced to choose, which we were, I'll take an Obama that has to learn as he goes to a McCain (McSame?), at least this time.

I'm still surprised that so many so-called libertarians only care about economic freedom, and will happily cast lots with godbags who want to restrict a pile of other freedoms. It just doesn't make sense to me.
2.17.2009 6:36am
Dan M.:
Well, of course we don't want "conservative" policies that expand government intervention in our lives, but it would be nice to have conservative policies that leave us the hell alone. McCain isn't just the same as Bush, they're both the same as Obama ultimately.

I find it amusing that you would think liberals only want to restrict your economic freedom, when they want to expand the police state the same as conservatives do, but merely want to protect their buddies more. And they want to take your guns away and regulate your internet and pass laws against 'hate speech' and regulate the music and video games you can buy. It's silly to pretend that the only way in which liberals want to take away your freedom is by raising your taxes.
2.17.2009 7:17am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Maybe the major problem is that any sane "markets are the cure, not the cause" analysis puts the blame mostly on the democrats as the cause.

If the conclusion is unpalatable, people who think themselves intellectual will nonetheless find some justification not to take the train of thought that leads to that conclusion. The "intellectual" part serves only to come up with creative justifications for reaching the goal you already wanted to arrive at... not for arriving at a goal that resembles reality.

Or perhaps more cynically, perhaps the liberal "libertarians" you thought you knew were of the fair-weather variety: Only interested in reducing the power of government when republicans held the figurehead of that government.
2.17.2009 7:46am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Oops, not sure the above makes it clear that I was referring to democrat policies causing the recession.
2.17.2009 7:48am
paul lukasiak (mail):
the problem with libertarians is that they think they can have their cake (enjoy the advantages of being a citizen of the most powerful nation on the planet) and eat it to (small, democratic government.)

Power requires organization, and in a democracy that organization requires a strong social contract that goes both ways.

The big difference between liberals and libertarians is that libertarians are greedheads -- eliminate the personal greed of a libertarian, and you get a liberal.
2.17.2009 8:01am
David Welker (www):

Until then, liberals and libertarians can still listen to each other and cooperate on a few selected issues where we happen to agree. But not much more than that.


Actually, I think this is much too optimistic. Exactly what does it mean for liberal Democrats to "cooperate" with libertarians in the sphere of politics? Does that mean convincing Ron Paul to vote our way? Amusing thought, that.

Realistically, libertarians are not in a position to "cooperate" on a few selected issues, because we have a two party system that basically eliminates any libertarians from elected office. Without votes in Congress, it is hard to see what libertarians have to offer in such a coalition.

At the end of the day, libertarians are stuck either voting Republican or Democrat. Neither party fits them that well, nor will they in the future. Libertarians will just have to choose what they believe the lesser evil is on a case-by-case basis. (It appears that the lesser evil is usually Republican for most libertarians.) In the meantime, talk about "cooperation" with either side is mostly nonsense talk. When you do vote for the lesser evil, the lesser evil is what you get. When that lesser evil decides to "cooperate" with the other side, it may not be on your behalf at all. In fact, it may very well be your ox that gets gored. It is the lesser evil that is in a position to "cooperate" not you. You don't have the power to "cooperate" until you have some actual voting members of Congress.

I think the idea of "liberaltarianism" is a fantasy for a much more fundamental reason than that mentioned by Somin. Libertarians do not have any serious representation in Congress: Something + Nothing does not equal Political Coalition.

Maybe I am not being broad enough in my definition of libertarian. Do socially liberal Blue Dog Democrats count as libertarians? For most of them, I don't think so. There are a few people who might be classified as libertarian in the Republican party, but not that many.

Until libertarians actually get more representation in Congress, either as Blue Dog Democrats or Republicans, they simply are not going to be in a position to form coalitions.
2.17.2009 8:33am
David Welker (www):

The big difference between liberals and libertarians is that libertarians are greedheads -- eliminate the personal greed of a libertarian, and you get a liberal.


As a liberal Democrat, all I have to say is that this a completely ridiculous statement. Most libertarians believe what they do not because of greed (does being libertarian somehow lead to automatic increases in wealth -- well, at least for public interest lawyers who work for libertarian causes for little pay, I would suggest the opposite is true) but because the mistakenly and foolishly overgeneralize from a basic position of mistrust in government combined with excessive blind faith in markets. Also, they like the idea of being able to generate policy solutions to a wide and diverse range of problems from a few basic principles.

Are dogmatic libertarians irritating? Yes. But not because they are necessarily especially greedy. (By the way, it isn't hard to think of greedy liberal Democrats: the name Rod Blagojevich comes to mind as an example.)
2.17.2009 8:41am
Curt Fischer:
David Welker: You seem to abhor dogmatism more than libertarianism per se. Don't you think dogmatic progressives are just as annoying?
2.17.2009 8:47am
Al Maviva:
I agree with 2/3ds of what Lukasiak says above, which is possibly a record.

Doctrinaire libertarianism is a free rider. You can only be free to do your own thing, to enjoy your liberty to the fullest, when others are constrained from interfering with you. People only tame their appetites as a result of internal, or external restraints. Both sides of the current political spectrum seem to agree that checks on man's appetites are necessary. Liberals and big government conservatives - statist paleos if you will, and maybe some hopey changey neocons - believe the heavy hand of state is a fine tool for keeping people in line, or helping them, as a lot of them tend to characterize it. Small government conservatives, some religious conservatives and some religious liberals believe the proper source of restraint is internal in a set of values or morals, or in the conservatives' case, from strong intermediary formal and informal social institutions. Either approach can be a valid answer to the question of how to create an ordered liberty, albeit with differing degrees of order and liberty.

Doctrinaire, practicing libertarians (e.g. the porno &pot libertarians, or Wilkinson's Liberaltarians) are the free riders on everybody else's good behavior. Wilkinson is right that liberaltarianism isn't a practice political possibility right now (Hey, how's that US Govt paying for foreign abortions thing working out for ya, Will?) but he's wrong about the intellectual viability of it - the thing is only worthwhile as a curiosity. Imposing liberty through increased state involvement is an oxymoron. You might as well talk about pacifist defense hawks or circumspect senators.
2.17.2009 8:49am
jim47:
The problem with Liberaltarianism is that it is an alliance only. Fusionism, on the other hand is more than an alliance, it is also a political philosophy, the joining of beliefs in evolved order (conservatism) and spontaneous order (libertarianism). I see conservatism in America as also belonging to the larger liberal tradition, perhaps even more so than progressivism-liberalism, so it doesn't fit to me that liberaltarianism is somehow more genuinely a reunification of the liberal tradition than is fusionism.
2.17.2009 8:54am
PersonFromPorlock:
paul lukasiak:

So, Chris Dodd is a libertarian?

You're saying you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs; true enough, but you can make a mess on the kitchen floor and end up with no omelet, too.

I think you're really overestimating libertarians' appetite for omelet, anyway.
2.17.2009 8:58am
Andrew MacDonald (mail):
Ryan: There are ways to achieve most Democratic objectives that utilize market(s). Goals like limited income redistribution, social safety nets, environmental protection, and progressive social values can be implemented in ways that use markets or minimize economically-destructive moral hazards and incentive changes.

That is to say, if your main beef with the Democrats is that they don't use the market, that won't always be true. At the most basic point, conservatives tend to favor the interests of the upper class while Democrats tend to favor the interests of the lower class. To the extent that the upper class has traditionally encompassed the business elites, there has been a pro-market ideology in conservative circles. However, if the Republican party shrinks to a party of social conservatives, I see no reason why the party would any longer be deeply interested in pro-market reforms. Likewise, there are a new breed of Democratic economists (mostly from the behavioral economics school) and Democratic thinkers that espouse market-friendly solutions to their underlying ideological preferences.
2.17.2009 9:08am
Oren:

Doctrinaire libertarianism is a free rider. You can only be free to do your own thing, to enjoy your liberty to the fullest, when others are constrained from interfering with you.

Isn't that the case for everyone else as well? My right to life can only exist if others are constrained from murdering me. My right to enjoy my property can only exist if others are constrained from expropriating it. In general, every individual right is isomorphic to a constraint on others.
2.17.2009 9:13am
Oren:

At the most basic point, conservatives tend to favor the interests of the upper class while Democrats tend to favor the interests of the lower class.

The economic-conservative claim is (a) that the interests of the classes are aligned and that (b) free market policies are the best as furthering those interests. That may or may not be true, but it belies your assertion that e-conservatives favor anyone's interest over anyone else's.
2.17.2009 9:16am
byomtov (mail):
Ilya is right. As a liberal, I just don't see it.

There are simply too many issues on which there is fundamental disagreement, and the quote from Wilkinson that Ilya provides doesn't help. It could do, among other things, without the phrase "authentically liberal."

Besides, what is this massive power base libertarians bring? It sounds to me like what Wilkinson wants is an alliance where the libertarian tail wags the liberal dog.

The libertarian viewpoint is an important one. The effectiveness of government and restrictions on individual behavior should be challenged, of course. But I don't see a place in either party as currently constituted where that really fits.
2.17.2009 9:24am
Oren:

Besides, what is this massive power base libertarians bring?

The idea being that as a new generation matures in a socially-tolerant environment, there will be economic conservatives that cannot stomach the GOP's dedication to waging cultural war.

I certainly count myself in both of those categories.
2.17.2009 9:44am
Alchemist:
Piling on with byomtov:

As a liberal, I have a lot of libertarian friends, and I voted for a number of local libertarians. I wish we [the D party] hedged more in the libertarian direction. Not completely, but more so. Still, as democrats are revisiting big government, and conservatives are pursuing 'patriot act' infringements, I just don't see libertarians having a place at the table.

Which is unfortunate. I would like to see a libertarian 3rd option in elections that adequately argues against the regulation of viewpoints seen on both the left and right.
2.17.2009 9:45am
MarkField (mail):

They seem to assume that anything Bush and the Republicans did must have been "laissez faire" (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) and that the current Democratic agenda represents a needed course relative to failed free market policies rather than a continuation of Bush-era trends of greatly increased government spending and regulation.


I think this is dead wrong. What liberals concluded from the Bush years was that Republican commitment to laissez faire was all talk. Libertarians had sold their souls to the Republican party and -- as generally happens to those who make deals with the Devil -- been cheated in return. The only real question remaining is whether they're fools enough to fall for it again.
2.17.2009 9:52am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I think this is dead wrong. What liberals concluded from the Bush years was that Republican commitment to laissez faire was all talk.
Since liberals have argued for the bailout and the stimulus package based on the notion that "laissez faire has failed," that's obviously not true.
2.17.2009 9:55am
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
John Derbyshire, paleocon extraodinaire, once opined that there is no such animal as the "social liberal/fiscal conservative" ("SLFC" or "Andrew Sullivan"). Fiscal conservatives (as opposed to libertarians) are not fundamentally philosophically opposed to using the state's purse to correct social ills (it's really just a matter of degree), so when a SLFC sees a social problem that he has sympathy for he's not strongly opposed to spending money on it. Additionally, when socially liberal policies lead to additional social costs, SLFC feel obligated to spend money to correct them.

SLFCs have sympathy for gays, so they want to spend the state's money on HIV/AIDS research. No-fault divorce results in children growing up in poorer households, so SLFCs are willing to expand S-CHIP to pay for their healthcare. Abortions aren't morally problematic, so why not pay for them (or for contraceptives) to keep the social costs of raising poor children down?

Fiscal conservatism will almost always yield to social liberalism because fiscal conservatism isn't strong enough to say "no, absolutely not, we are not spending money on that." Much of the time, "fiscal conservative" just ends up meaning someone who wants the books to balance, rather than someone who wants to tax and/or spend as little as possible.

I'm a conservative, so I'm not opposed to using the state to constrain behavior. However, conservatives tend to be skeptical of government's ability to do things correctly, including administer the laws we favor. (For example, the primary reason that I oppose the War on Drugs is that it has been a waste of money, not because I believe there's a right to introduce any chemicals that you desire into your body.) When push comes to shove, conservatives are willing to compromise on certain social issues provided that we don't have to pay for the consequences. Want sodomy to be legal? Okay, but I'm not paying for your AIDS drugs. Want abortion on demand? Okay, but don't expect me to pay for public school for the kid that you could have aborted. Want no-fault divorce? I'm not paying for humane conditions in the prisons where the children of poor single-family homes will end up.

This is why libertarians will be more naturally at home with conservatives than with liberals. Conservatives will compromise with libertarians on the front end, especially where we're not directly affected. How does it affect me, really, if you want to rent a hooker? But liberals won't give an inch on the back end, when it's time to pay the costs created by permissive social policy.

So libertarians have a choice: go with conservatives, who they can probably get to bend on social issues, or go with liberals, who will take their money. The choice becomes even easier when you consider that libertarians, like everyone else, prioritize policy preferences based on what affects them personally. Most libertarians will never smoke crack, even if it's legal, so it's probably not that important that it's legal. But every libertarian will have to pay for drug treatment programs that liberals put in place when crack is legalized.
2.17.2009 9:55am
anomdebus (mail):
I have wondered why it seems libertarians are skewed towards economic conservative alliances. So far the best I have come up with is that it is easy to see when economical policies affect you as it is itemized on your paycheck, special/more taxes show up on bills/receipts, etc.. On the other hand, for the average person, it is hard to see civil liberties eroding.

To put it a different way, when acting properly, for the average person paying taxes is unavoidable and civil rights abuses unlikely (at least at a personal level, eg being singled out). It seems as if economic issues are center case (everybody needs to) and civil liberty issues are edge case (make sure the exceptions are properly handled).

I am not saying this is how it should be, just how it can be seen.
2.17.2009 9:57am
Calderon:
Libertarianism as any sort of political force is dead for the foreseeable future. Those of us who are or were Libertarians might as well get used to that. Liberals control the presidency, House, and Senate (and by definition will control the judiciary if they hang on to the presidency and Congress long enough), so there's really no reason for them to try to forge alliances that could aggravate other constituencies in their party.

This is especially true if one believes that the Republican Party may try to go the populist route as a comeback to power. If they do, then if the Democratic Party were to adopt more libertarian economic principles, it could be sacrificing more votes from the lower and middle classes.

Instead of trying to defend principles without political significance, we should just give up and try to take advantage of government programs that are in our own interests. For me, my interests have always been low-cost, such as reading, hanging out around Lake Michigan and so forth. I save the substantial majority of money I earn and had been planning to retire early someday. Instead, now I'm just hoping for the change to a European style welfare state so I can blow all my savings on coke and hookers and then live on the dole.
2.17.2009 10:27am
Oren:

Fiscal conservatism will almost always yield to social liberalism because fiscal conservatism isn't strong enough to say "no, absolutely not, we are not spending money on that." Much of the time, "fiscal conservative" just ends up meaning someone who wants the books to balance, rather than someone who wants to tax and/or spend as little as possible.

On some level, I feel like this is the first step towards a political discourse in which we actually discuss the costs of each proposed policy in addition to its benefits. In other words, I have no problem with voters allocating money for X, so long as they are cognizant of how much money exactly that is.

Social conservatism, in my mind, is among the worst offenders in this area because often-times the costs of its policies are opaque. For instance, CA now has a huge number of older inmates in prison due to draconian sentencing laws -- the cost of imprisoning them is astronomical. If, at the time that voters enact "3-strikes", the direct costs (let alone the indirect costs!) of implementing it were known, it might have been much less popular. I don't begrudge the right of Californians to set criminal penalties how they see fit, so long as they accept the concomitant obligation to pay for the implementation.

Such an obligation can really only have teeth if the government operates on a "pay-as-you-go" basis -- every bill that spends money must either allocate tax revenue or cut other spending. Balanced budgets, properly seen, are a tool for making libertarian arguments.
2.17.2009 10:27am
Mike& (mail):
SO 8 years of a Republican Congress and White House gave us libertarians.... What?

Record spending; infringement of civil rights; destruction of federalism (Gonzales v. Raich, everyone).... Shall I go on? Is it even necessary?

The Republicans have shown that they can out spend and out pork the Democrats.

At least Democrats are tolerant on social issues.
2.17.2009 10:43am
Andrew MacDonald (mail):

The economic-conservative claim is (a) that the interests of the classes are aligned and that (b) free market policies are the best as furthering those interests. That may or may not be true, but it belies your assertion that e-conservatives favor anyone's interest over anyone else's.


I was only speaking toward the general Republican party policies. Economic conservative's interest in the Republican party and vice versa are at times orthogonal.

For example, Republicans tend to favor a strong dollar policy while Democrats tend to favor a weak dollar policy due to their constituent bases. Economic conservatives would not favor any dollar policy. And any economic conservative argument I've seen for spending 5% of GDP on defense has been, at best, fairly tortured, as compared to the straightforward arguments Republicans typically make.

Similarly, there has beens significant economic research about pigovian taxes (for pollution, etc.), the optimal type of tax structure (turns out a wide tax base underwritten by the consumption tax has a large number of proponents), and the collective action problems that government is actually good at solving that never seem to make it into the platforms of either party.

So I'd say that Republicans tend to favor economically sensible policies to the extent that it benefits their constituent bases and not much further. Claiming that their ideology is pure economic conservative is silly.
2.17.2009 10:44am
Anon1111:

Mike&said:

SO 8 years of a Republican Congress and White House gave us libertarians........

Record spending .............

The Republicans have shown that they can out spend and out pork the Democrats.


Really? Seems like took only a little over three weeks for the Democrats to surpass anything the Republicans ever did, with more still to come...
2.17.2009 10:55am
David M. Nieporent (www):
SO 8 years of a Republican Congress and White House gave us libertarians.... What?
Nothing. But that's unfortunately probably still better than we can expect from Democrats.
Record spending; infringement of civil rights; destruction of federalism (Gonzales v. Raich, everyone).... Shall I go on? Is it even necessary?
All of that is true, except that Raich didn't "destroy" anything; federalism was destroyed 70 years ago in Wickard. Raich merely upheld the status quo. (A status quo, I remind you, which was created by the patron saint of the modern Democratic party, FDR.)

But why do you expect better from Democrats?
The Republicans have shown that they can out spend and out pork the Democrats.
I can see how 8 years of Bush would lead one to believe that... if one ignored the fact that Obama managed to trump them in less than one month in office.
At least Democrats are tolerant on social issues.
If by "social issues" one solely means gays and abortion, I'll buy that. But here's the thing: (some) Republicans talk a big game there, but don't do much. The courts prevent them from doing anything except nibbling at the margins. The only gay issue even left on the table is gay marriage, and the courts are moving towards declaring that a right too.

What other "issues" are there? Maybe a few Democrats want to medicalize the war on drugs, but they don't want to stop fighting it.


I don't want this to sound like a brief for Republicans; as I said, they offer virtually nothing to libertarians. But let's not let disgust at Bush deflect us from seeing that Democrats are not the answer.
2.17.2009 10:55am
MarkField (mail):

Since liberals have argued for the bailout and the stimulus package based on the notion that "laissez faire has failed," that's obviously not true.


I've seen no such argument. That's not to say it hasn't been made -- it's a big country and people can be found to say almost anything -- but I don't believe this is true.

What they HAVE said is that eliminating regulation has failed. That's different from the massive increases in government and spending which I was referring to.


Much of the time, "fiscal conservative" just ends up meaning someone who wants the books to balance, rather than someone who wants to tax and/or spend as little as possible.


I think we need a new category: fiscally responsible. I'm socially liberal but fiscally responsible. I may support new or expanded government programs, but I want them paid for.

If "fiscally conservative" means a devotee of Austrian economics, count me out. That's insanity.
2.17.2009 10:56am
Anon1111:

Andrew MacDonald said:

So I'd say that Republicans tend to favor economically sensible policies to the extent that it benefits their constituent bases and not much further. Claiming that their ideology is pure economic conservative is silly.


The difference between the two parties is like the difference between the McDonalds Big Mac Value meal (hah!) and the Supersized Big Mack Value Meal. Both are huge, neither is good for you, both are tasty to most people, both keep growing over time, but at least one is less worse for you than the other.

Aide: did you ever notice how the most important aspect of a McDonalds cheeseburger is the ketchup/mustard ratio? I think that is the key to their quality. Maybe Nate Silver can do a statistical model...sort of a Cheesburger PECOTA.

Sincerely,

The king of non-sequiturs
2.17.2009 11:04am
David Drake:
At last a post that generated an intelligent and non-belligerent (at least to this point) discussion of some important issues. Al Maviva's and JBG's. . .YouTube video's contributions are outstanding.

I am much more at home in the GOP than with the Democrats. The Democratic party has become statist, not "liberal" in the classic sense of that term.

While the GOP can certainly have statist results--(See "GW Bush administration" for some examples) at least its rhetoric--and I believe the overall tendency-- is for smaller government and more economic freedom.

I think the GOP has experimented with big government/earmarks and gotten drubbed for it in the last two elections. They are now starting to "talk the talk" again. Now is a good time for libertarians to start to make the arguments within the party and trying to make sure they "walk the walk". We'll at least be listened to in the GOP.
2.17.2009 11:13am
Mike& (mail):
I can see how 8 years of Bush would lead one to believe that... if one ignored the fact that Obama managed to trump them in less than one month in office.

How much was the Iraq war + the TARP started under Bush? Let's not forget the increased entitlements - which are mandatory.

Let's run the numbers. Is the stimulus [sic] package less than what Bush spent and obligated us to spend? I'm betting (literally, I would bet you or anyone else) not.

What other "issues" are there? Maybe a few Democrats want to medicalize the war on drugs, but they don't want to stop fighting it.

Barack Obama has already taken an important first step - after being in office for less than one month. Namely, he's ordered the DOJ to leave medical marijuana providers that operate within the confines of state law, alone.

Let's be fair. If y'all want to mention the spending that's taken place in less than one month, less also mention the efforts at downscaling the War on Drugs that has taken place in less than one month.
2.17.2009 11:13am
Mike& (mail):
While the GOP can certainly have statist results--(See "GW Bush administration" for some examples) at least its rhetoric--and I believe the overall tendency-- is for smaller government and more economic freedom.

How are no-bid contracts (which Republicans give a lot of) consistent with "economic freedom"?

Think about it.

A no-bid contract means one company is enriches, and all others are just kept from even competing.

Again, think.
2.17.2009 11:15am
David M. Nieporent (www):
What they HAVE said is that eliminating regulation has failed. That's different from the massive increases in government and spending which I was referring to.
But you're doing exactly what you claim that you haven't seen anybody doing: (mistakenly) claiming that Bush pursued laissez faire policies (e.g., "eliminating regulation.")
2.17.2009 11:15am
Rational Economist:
anomdebus: I think one of the reasons why libertarians tend to create "economic conservative alliances", rather than civil liberties alliances, is because libertarians tend to view economic freedom as a more fundamental building block to a free society. Economic freedom generally precludes civil liberties; once we've lost the former, there's little chance in keeping/gaining the latter.
2.17.2009 11:17am
Oren:

If by "social issues" one solely means gays and abortion, I'll buy that. But here's the thing: (some) Republicans talk a big game there, but don't do much. The courts prevent them from doing anything except nibbling at the margins.

Replace Kennedy with Bork and that nibbling suddenly sounds a lot more threatening.

Even on those issues, there is a lot of room for play. Abortion remains very hard to obtain in rural America, not for lack of demand but through pressure at the State and Local government level. Gay adoption bans persist, conflicts about on how to teach homosexuality in public schools. The list goes on and on.

Some other important issues: sex-education, religious pluralism, media censorship*, internet filtering.

* I give the Dems a slight edge here because they tend to appoint Justices that interpret the 1A more expansively, not for lack of trying harebrained schemes (Tipper Gore!). If there an attempt to bring something like the Fairness Doctrine into play, it will swing decisively back to the GOP.
2.17.2009 11:22am
geokstr:

MarkField:

What they HAVE said is that eliminating regulation has failed.

That's only because the left has engaged in a massive propaganda campaign, abetted by their sycophants in the media, that it was "de-regulation" or "lack of proper enforcement" that caused the financial meltdown, when it was in fact exactly the heavy hand of decades of their own policies and "regulations" that was at fault. This has successfully convinced enough of the swing voters and the economic/political illiterates in their own party that more government control must be the answer.

How is forcing lenders to make bad loans through the CRA and FDIC audit practices "de-regulation"? It's just regulation in their preferred direction, that's all. Toss in the mandate to Freddie/Fannie to make massive increases in purchases of the sub-primes to add fuel to the fire by telling the lenders and Wall Street that these are risk-free investments, and you get where we've gotten.

Now when the catastrophic unintended consequences of this folly start to hit home, they blame everyone and everything but themselves and their own policies.
2.17.2009 11:24am
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
How much was the Iraq war + the TARP started under Bush? Let's not forget the increased entitlements - which are mandatory.

Careful. I know what you're trying to do here, but I don't think you're going about it the right way.

You're attempting to show that the GOP is no better than the Dems when it comes to spending. If you're going to do that, you can't put TARP in the GOP column. It properly goes in a third column, the "Bipartisan" column. The Democrats and Republicans were equally bad on TARP, so it can't be counted against the GOP if you want to show how the GOP stacks up on spending compared to the Dems.
2.17.2009 11:30am
Anon1111:

Mike&

How much was the Iraq war + the TARP started under Bush? Let's not forget the increased entitlements - which are mandatory.

Let's run the numbers. Is the stimulus [sic] package less than what Bush spent and obligated us to spend? I'm betting (literally, I would bet you or anyone else) not.



TARP was opposed by Congressional Republicans, so counting that as money that they wanted to spend is, odd, don't you think? I'll leave out assigning TARP to the Democrats, and frankly, the cost is entirely unclear - when you're buying preferred equity that will be redeemed/sold/converted into common in a BK proceeding, the actual cost is a bit murky. But, in any event, assigning it to the Democrats in congress is more accurate than assigning it to Republicans.

The Iraq war has cost in the $630ish billion neighborhood, and that spent over 6 years. The stimulus [sic]* package, has cost $800 billion, at least, but dynamic factors and regulatory cost could push it much higher.

Here are the numbers:

Iraq War: $635,000,000,000 / 5.9 years = $107,627,118,645 spent per year

The stimulus [sic] package: $800,000,000,000 / 28 days =

$2,191,780,822 / day or
$10,428,571,428,571 / year

Of course, you could say that one expenditure is better than the other, but if you're a libertarian, neither expenditure is particularly good, so we're left comparing which is the worst of two bad choices.


*yes, I agree, it is sick
2.17.2009 11:49am
anomdebus (mail):
Rational Economist,
I agree with the preclusion suggestion, though it is unclear to me what the threshold is. I don't think we are at a stage where the loss of some economic freedom is going to make a significant difference in civil rights towards the negative, so for me the only argument for economic freedom needs to be on its own merits.

Thanks for the reply.
2.17.2009 11:54am
TN (mail) (www):
Certainly there are places where agreements can be struck, but of course, the libertarians don't enter with clean hands either. Sure the libertarian party was all for gay marriage, but where was that libertarian wing of the Republicans? Awfully silent...

The real feeling Dems have is that the libertarian wing of the Republican party is an ineffectual but loud group that really has small numbers. Of course their ideology has been misappropriated by the rest of the party to clothe their naked grab of power in academic terms.

And as for a knee-jerk opposition to deficit spending and government intervention, being blind to the reality on the ground is hardly going to endear yourself to liberals or the working classes. There are times for fiscal restraint, like the Bush years, and then there are times to wholly abandon such restraint such as now... MarkField is right, libertarians got buggered like everyone else the past 8 years...
2.17.2009 11:54am
MarkField (mail):

But you're doing exactly what you claim that you haven't seen anybody doing: (mistakenly) claiming that Bush pursued laissez faire policies (e.g., "eliminating regulation.")


Huh? You're the one who brought up "laissez faire". I never said a word about it. My original post referred to increases in government spending and the overall size of government as ways in which libertarians got taken by the Bush Administration.

Now, it happens that I do think the absence of regulation was a contributing factor to the current economic crisis. That's because my basic view is that the amount of regulation is less important than the quality of it (who, after all, wants bad regulations?). If you're saying that the libertarian position demands less regulation regardless of its merits, that's crazy talk.
2.17.2009 12:10pm
Talkosaurous:
What puzzles me in the 'liberaltarian' talk is the way that the Conservative position often seems to have attributed to it it's most negative aspects, but on the other hand the Liberal position seems to be given it's most positive.

Or in other words I tend to think libertarians often are speaking toward unity with a 'Classic Liberalism', which, in parts, both Democrats and Republicans can claim in varying degrees of overreach. Yet Conservatives seem to be assigned as 'Social Conservatives or statist Traditionalists' as their primary mode, while liberals are assigned 'Classic Liberal values' as their base position. While Republicans have done little to claim small government/fiscal balance territory as their own recently, I see no evidence why the left-leaning Democrat core is somehow held to a better standard on that score.

Some of this 'Liberaltarinism' stuff majoratively strikes me as individuals with left-leaning social tendencies trying to put a somewhat (dubious) academic veneer on trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. There nothing wrong with that (finding your individual social outlook clashed with your economic/political outlook), I just think it's disingenuous to overlook a clear liberal-Democrat 'Big-Government' focus while playing off all conservatives as statist traditionalists or bible-thumpers.
2.17.2009 12:14pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Huh? You're the one who brought up "laissez faire". I never said a word about it. My original post referred to increases in government spending and the overall size of government as ways in which libertarians got taken by the Bush Administration.
Could have fooled me:
I think this is dead wrong. What liberals concluded from the Bush years was that Republican commitment to laissez faire was all talk.
Let's start over:

Ilya's statement: Democrats mistakenly believe that Bush pursued laissez faire policies, and therefore mistakenly conclude that laissez faire policies are discredited.

Your claim: No, Democrats actually conclude that Bush's commitment to laissez faire was all talk.

My rebuttal: No, if that were the case, then Democrats wouldn't be saying that the current situation proves that laissez faire policies don't work. But Democrats are saying that.

Your response: I haven't seen any saying that.

My reply: But you yourself said it: "eliminating regulation has failed." That's a claim that Bush has pursued laissez faire policies ("eliminating regulation") and that these policies have failed.
2.17.2009 12:19pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Now, it happens that I do think the absence of regulation was a contributing factor to the current economic crisis. That's because my basic view is that the amount of regulation is less important than the quality of it (who, after all, wants bad regulations?). If you're saying that the libertarian position demands less regulation regardless of its merits, that's crazy talk.
But the problem is that there was no "absence of regulation." Now, based upon your second sentence, perhaps what you mean, even though you say "absence of regulation," is "absence of high-quality regulation."

The problem with that is that, as a liberal, you start by assuming that there is such a thing, and that if we don't have them, we just haven't tried hard enough. Libertarians don't start with that assumption, but with the opposite. (Now, there may be situations where one can overcome the libertarian that presumption, but libertarians don't presume that these represent all or the majority of situations.)

In other words, you beg the question in trying to discus the libertarian position when you say "regardless of its merits" by assuming that there are usually or always regulations that have merits.

Libertarians start from the position that government is ill-equipped to regulate the economy, and that most regulations are "bad," both because of substance (the knowledge problem) and procedure (politics). (Keep in mind that I'm just discussing the effectiveness of regulation here; libertarians also start from the position that most regulations infringe on economic freedom, and that there thus needs to be an exceedingly persuasive justification for implementing them.)
2.17.2009 12:32pm
Oren:


The Iraq war has cost in the $630ish billion neighborhood, and that spent over 6 years. The stimulus [sic]* package, has cost $800 billion, at least, but dynamic factors and regulatory cost could push it much higher.

This is an underestimation by a large factor. The real figure is probably closer to $1T and might balloon even higher in the future, depending on our commitment to the veterans' healthcare (e.g. we'll see how much "support the troops" translates into dollars for expensive treatment).

My guess is in the $1.5T vicinity, due to the healthcare issue and the massive write-down of damaged/missing/left-behind equipment when we withdraw.
2.17.2009 12:54pm
Ben P:

Some of this 'Liberaltarinism' stuff majoratively strikes me as individuals with left-leaning social tendencies trying to put a somewhat (dubious) academic veneer on trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. There nothing wrong with that (finding your individual social outlook clashed with your economic/political outlook), I just think it's disingenuous to overlook a clear liberal-Democrat 'Big-Government' focus while playing off all conservatives as statist traditionalists or bible-thumpers.




This triggered an interesting thought.

How much of this "Liberaltarian" notion is based on an individuals overestimation of his own persuasive powers?

Economic policy is (at least theoretically) a matter of rational thought. We put together the policies that get the best results. The desired results also don't typically differ that much.

I have a lot of liberal friends and while I don't exactly win arguments with them, I can generally get them to admit that if a particular market-driven solution will work better than a particular government centered solution, that they would accept it.


On the other hand, there's really no arguing with social conservative positions. You can argue religion and philosophy, but in the end for the vast majority of people who are "pro-life" there's simply no convincing them that "live and let live" is a valid governmental policy. Same with gay marriage. I won't go so far as to say their policies aren't based in rational thought, but the harms they perceive are simply based on different foundations, and one cannot convince them to change the policy without changing the foundation itself.
2.17.2009 1:13pm
Thales (mail) (www):
One area of potential contemporary liberal-libertarian fusion is in focused and creative skepticism of the government prop-up of the banking sector (i.e. corporate welfare), as opposed to simply direct aid to struggling individuals (which at least would help restore liquidity and break the back of onerous and currently inflexible debt). Clearly the second phase of the money will be spent, but how it is spent matters a great deal. TARP I seems to have plugged a finger in the dike to put off the inevitable collapse of functionally insolvent banks, but it was all premised on Paulson's "just trust me" attitude. TARP II, in its admittedly vague so far pronouncement of stress tests and transparency, shows some promise toward making gazillions of taxpayer dollars go toward stability and better practices going forward, which may mean temporary nationalization, orderly bank workout of debts, wipeout of contemporary share and bondholders and recapitalization, ideally with private money and clarity of where the investors' risks lie. If Geithner proves to be less of an industry tool than Paulson, that's an enormous improvement right there.
2.17.2009 1:16pm
Jeff the Baptist (mail) (www):
SO 8 years of a Republican Congress and White House gave us libertarians.... What?
The death of the Assault Weapons Ban. The 2nd amendment as an individual right in Heller. Over all, Bush was a very pro-2nd administration.
I have wondered why it seems libertarians are skewed towards economic conservative alliances. So far the best I have come up with is that it is easy to see when economical policies affect you as it is itemized on your paycheck, special/more taxes show up on bills/receipts, etc.. On the other hand, for the average person, it is hard to see civil liberties eroding
They may also reject the idea that Republican administrations are more anti-civil liberties than Democratic administrations. Or more accurately conclude that neither are pro-civil liberties.
2.17.2009 1:17pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
You can argue religion and philosophy, but in the end for the vast majority of people who are "pro-life" there's simply no convincing them that "live and let live" is a valid governmental policy.

Actually, what you're asking pro-lifers do to is to accept "live and let die" as a valid governmental policy.

Good song, bad Bond movie, bad government policy.
2.17.2009 1:28pm
MarkField (mail):

Let's start over:

Ilya's statement: Democrats mistakenly believe that Bush pursued laissez faire policies, and therefore mistakenly conclude that laissez faire policies are discredited.

Your claim: No, Democrats actually conclude that Bush's commitment to laissez faire was all talk.

My rebuttal: No, if that were the case, then Democrats wouldn't be saying that the current situation proves that laissez faire policies don't work. But Democrats are saying that.

Your response: I haven't seen any saying that.

My reply: But you yourself said it: "eliminating regulation has failed." That's a claim that Bush has pursued laissez faire policies ("eliminating regulation") and that these policies have failed.


Ok, this is partly my fault for failing to clarify, but...

I wasn't "mentioning" laissez faire in the sense of making it my point. I was quoting Prof. Somin's use of the term and disagreeing regarding the way in which I thought Democrats reacted to the Bush Administration. I do NOT believe Bush pursued "laissez faire" policies when it comes to spending or the overall size of government, and that was precisely my point: that most liberals don't believe he did either.

In response to you, I then brought up the issue of regulation, which I assume we can agree does NOT equate to laissez faire. They may be related, but they aren't identical. Bush's regulatory policies weren't "laissez faire", but they were harmful. Stating this isn't the same as stating "laissez faire" has failed (though I happen to believe that it has; my only point is that I haven't seen that as a criticism of Bush).


Libertarians start from the position that government is ill-equipped to regulate the economy, and that most regulations are "bad," both because of substance (the knowledge problem) and procedure (politics). (Keep in mind that I'm just discussing the effectiveness of regulation here; libertarians also start from the position that most regulations infringe on economic freedom, and that there thus needs to be an exceedingly persuasive justification for implementing them.)


I see how this differs from my position in terms of emphasis, but not in terms of substance. You would place the burden of proof on me to justify a regulation. Fine; I agree that those who propose regulations should bear that burden. Nobody I know of supports regulation for the sake of regulation. They only support regulations which they think provide a net benefit. If a regulation DID provide a net benefit, then I assume libertarians would accept it regardless of their initial presumption against it.
2.17.2009 1:31pm
Ben P:

Actually, what you're asking pro-lifers do to is to accept "live and let die" as a valid governmental policy.

Good song, bad Bond movie, bad government policy


Only from their particular point of view.

As a policy matter (as opposed to a legal matter) I think Roe had it just about right. Prior to viability (and or the third trimester) there's very little governmental interest in forcing women to stay pregnant should they decide otherwise.

The point is that they're taking a policy view derived from personal beliefs that are based in something that is substantially not objective fact, and arguing that it should be enforced on everyone.
2.17.2009 1:33pm
LoopFiasco:
Don't forget these two words: Green Libertarianism.

The college kid/20somethings today might just eat this up.

Economic and social freedom AND a concern for sustainable environment?? Ya, they will dig it.
2.17.2009 1:35pm
anomdebus (mail):
Ben P,
While you might get your friends to accept the 'if', it is the 'what' that is the problem: universal cheap effective health care, reduced income inequality, etc. In the same way that social conservatives have already chosen which is best, you could say similar things about your liberal friends positions. If you wanted an apples/apples comparison, you would have to say "even if it could be shown that if their beliefs could be fulfilled without government policy, they still wouldn't go for it".

Note that I believe one avenue with regard to social conservatives is to say that if the "right" policy is mandated, then there is no virtue in doing it. It is only when you have the choice to do right or wrong that it is virtuous to choose the right (no pun).
2.17.2009 1:53pm
Oren:

On the other hand, there's really no arguing with social conservative positions. You can argue religion and philosophy, but in the end for the vast majority of people who are "pro-life" there's simply no convincing them that "live and let live" is a valid governmental policy.

If one phrases the premise of social libertarianism as: 'State power should not be used to interfere with the free choices of individual citizens', then there's obviously nothing to offer the social conservative, since he believes that interference with those free choices is the best possible policy.

On the other hand, one can phrase it as a matter of mutual disarmament (or, conversely, for the libertarian, as one of conditional cooperation). We won't support the multitude of liberal policies curtailing individual choice (speech codes &related PC-nonsense, liberal censorship schemes, Fairness Doctrine, gun control, ...) if you won't support the traditional conservative ones (abortion, gays, pornography, conservative censorship schemes, drug control). Game-theoretically, such a tit-for-tat strategy ought to work, provided that conservatives and liberals prefer no regulation to "the other guy's regulation".

Of course, for this to be convincing, conservatives have to believe that there is a credible chance that liberals might actually impose such restrictions on their liberty through state power and vice versa. In other words, both sides need to be convinced that they cannot win the culture war for this strategy to be effective. Certainly we are starting to see that happen*, but, ironically, the response is not to bash the idea of government intervention but to bash the individuals involved.

* See, e.g. Harper v. Poway
2.17.2009 1:56pm
Oren:

Note that I believe one avenue with regard to social conservatives is to say that if the "right" policy is mandated, then there is no virtue in doing it.

That usually doesn't work, many would prefer coercion to the correct result

I find very little alternative to blackmailing (sounds so nasty when you don't couch it in game-theoretic terms) conservatives with the prospect of supporting the liberal encroachments that they despise. Likewise with the positions reversed.
2.17.2009 1:59pm
Ak Mike (mail):
My two cents in this interesting and intelligent discussion: Any coalition between liberals and libertarians is doomed from the start, because (contrary to a number of comments above) liberals do not have any commitment to personal freedom.

The frequently heard contrast between conservatives as being in favor of economic liberty but not personal liberty, and liberals as being the reverse, is false. Liberals have even less interest in individual, non-property rights than do conservatives. Liberals reject any notion, for example, that you (and, in this case, your doctor) have the right to decide what medicine you can take, whether you wear your seatbelt, whether you can build a shed in your backyard without a permit, whether you can decide who is allowed to join your club, etc.

The so-called liberal "civil rights" are, in most cases (not all), expressed in terms of compulsion against non-state actors: discrimination laws, anti-smoking laws, etc. Liberal support for gay rights is based on egalitarian and not libertarian ideals.

I agree with a comment above that this "liberaltarian" interest derives from the fact that socially a number of (especially academic) libertarians feel much more comfortable with liberals than with conservatives. I feel that way myself, and most people to whom I have not expressed my views believe me to be a liberal based on social factors, background, etc. - something that I bet is true about Mr. Wilkenson and others commenting here.
2.17.2009 2:00pm
Oren:

Liberals reject any notion, for example, that you (and, in this case, your doctor) have the right to decide what medicine you can take, whether you wear your seatbelt, whether you can build a shed in your backyard without a permit, whether you can decide who is allowed to join your club, etc.

* I, for one, support default-legalization of all drugs.
* I approve of BSA v. Dale (any other big-ticket freedom of association cases?).
* I would support your right not to wear a seatbelt contingent on paying the insurance premium to cover the negative externality (similarly for motorcycle helmets).
* I support your right to have zoning policies "frozen in" at the time of purchase such that subsequent changes in the law do not change your rights (that should satisfy the economists, as it essentially becomes contractual).

Now, why don't you throw me a few bones in return? Oh wait, compromise is only for the liberals, not for the conservatives.
2.17.2009 2:08pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
The point is that they're taking a policy view derived from personal beliefs that are based in something that is substantially not objective fact, and arguing that it should be enforced on everyone.

Please identify a policy view that isn't "derived from personal beliefs that are based in something that is substantially not objective fact."

We both think it's wrong to steal, murder, and litter, but these beliefs aren't "based in... objective fact," and I defy you to demonstrate that they are.
2.17.2009 2:10pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

It sounds to me like what Wilkinson wants is an alliance where the libertarian tail wags the liberal dog.


That has been the libertarian view of the GOP for years so welcome to the club.

The GOP is (was?) a mix of Social Conservative, Big Business, Main Street, National Security and Libertarian factions. (Some people of course have feet in several)

Libertarians have been the smallest and weakest of the 5 factions. Yet, they always complain about not controling the party.
2.17.2009 2:11pm
Oren:

Liberal support for gay rights is based on egalitarian and not libertarian ideals.

If Lawrence was egalitarian then a State could prohibit all consensual adult sodomy without issue, as such a restriction does not offend any notion of equality.

Again, maybe I'm substituting my own views for that of the generic liberal, but I start from the position that the State ought not to interfere with anyone -- straight, gay or otherwise.
2.17.2009 2:13pm
ShelbyC:

but because the mistakenly and foolishly overgeneralize from a basic position of mistrust in government combined with excessive blind faith in markets.

Which makes so much less sense than mistrust of markets and blind faith in government
2.17.2009 2:13pm
Ben P:

While you might get your friends to accept the 'if', it is the 'what' that is the problem: universal cheap effective health care, reduced income inequality, etc.



Are you actually suggesting that the objective of having a society where the most amount of people are provided with the highest quality of healthcare for the least amount of money possible is a bad thing?

In the same vein are you suggesting that having an extremely pronounced income inequality is objectively a good thing? (I'm not sure it's objectively a bad thing, but that's a different matter).

If you actually believe either of those I'm obviously far more of a utilitarian than you are, and I'd argue you're putting the cart before the horse.

I see nothing more intrinsically wrong with having government subsidized health care (to the point of universality) than with having government subsidized education or government subsidized road building. Yes, all of them remove something that could otherwise possibly be accomplished by the private sector, but the difficulty in rent seeking in those areas leads me to the conclusion that the government subsidies have produced far more benefits to society as a whole than is wasted by removing the incentive for competition.

Further, there are many ways we can tailor a government program to use competition incentives and free market ideas to achieve the same policy end.

The problem is entirely one of cost, quality and efficiency. Unless I can convince myself from the evidence that this is pretty true I don't support it because it won't make things better.
2.17.2009 2:13pm
Oren:

We both think it's wrong to steal, murder, and litter, but these beliefs aren't "based in... objective fact," and I defy you to demonstrate that they are.

A society in which people are free to steal and murder is demonstrably less efficient at producing utility for its citizens than one in which they are prohibited.

Now, if you want to say that maximization of utility is not the right metric and one should instead, say, maximize righteousness, then there is no dispute. In other words, what is subjective is the ultimate goals of society, not the means by which we achieve them. If we all agree that our goals then we can objectively rate which policy options maximize those goals.
2.17.2009 2:16pm
ShelbyC:

The point is that they're taking a policy view derived from personal beliefs that are based in something that is substantially not objective fact, and arguing that it should be enforced on everyone.



How's their position less objective then limiting abortion to, say, third trimester, birth, or one year old? There might be different policy considerations, but it's hard to see how one's less "objective" than the other.
2.17.2009 2:17pm
Ben P:

Please identify a policy view that isn't "derived from personal beliefs that are based in something that is substantially not objective fact."

We both think it's wrong to steal, murder, and litter, but these beliefs aren't "based in... objective fact," and I defy you to demonstrate that they are.


Economic policy, fiscal policy, healthcare policy

These are the things I'm talking about and to a lot of people they're academic areas? Are you suggesting there are serious moral concerns that are seriously bound up in my decision as to whether or not I think the net effect of deficit spending in an attempt to stimulate the economy will be good or bad?
2.17.2009 2:19pm
Oren:

Are you actually suggesting that the objective of having a society where the most amount of people are provided with the highest quality of healthcare for the least amount of money possible is a bad thing?

Actually, I would, in the sense that such a system is likely to grossly over-allocate resources towards healthcare that makes no economic sense.

As an aside, healthcare and money are not commensurable so you can't simply say I want to divide the former by the latter and maximize the ratio, but that's more of a semantic problem with your phrasing and not quite relevant to the discussion.
2.17.2009 2:20pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
More libertarians feel welcome in conservative circles than in liberal circles. The reasons for that are debatable, but it's objectively true. This "Liberaltarian" project amounts to liberals doing what they do best: telling people who don't agree with them that the reason they don't is that suffering from a false consciousness. A majority of libertarians who have picked one side or the other didn't do so because they honestly believe that their views more clearly match the conservatives'. No, it's because liberals haven't explained how libertarianish liberalism is. If you stupid libertarians would see that, you'd want to ally with liberals!
2.17.2009 2:21pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
Economic policy, fiscal policy, healthcare policy

How are these policies "based in... objective fact"?
2.17.2009 2:23pm
Oren:
JFYTV, you've got to relax.

Ultimately, it comes down to priorities. For instance, I strongly support both Lawrence and Heller, so my most preferred option is to keep both of them and my least preferred option is to nix both of them. That leaves two possible orderings of preference (where ! is logical negation).

1. H &L 1. H &L
2. H &!L 2. !H &L
3. !H &L 3. H &!L
4. !H &!L 4. !H &!L

Since politics is the art of the possible, sometimes option #1 is not available and I have to chose between candidates that will nix Heller and candidates that will nix Lawrence. By what principle do you think I should make that decision?
2.17.2009 2:27pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
In other words, what is subjective is the ultimate goals of society, not the means by which we achieve them

Then you agree: no policy is "based in... objective fact." All of it is "based on" irrationally selecting our desired outcome. Piling math on top of it doesn't change the fact that it's irrational at its bottom.
2.17.2009 2:27pm
Oren:

How are these policies "based in... objective fact"?

Because they are concerned with maximizing quantities that can be observed and measured objectively.
2.17.2009 2:28pm
Oren:

Then you agree: no policy is "based in... objective fact." All of it is "based on" irrationally selecting our desired outcome. Piling math on top of it doesn't change the fact that it's irrational at its bottom.

Yes, but I distinguish between policy and goals.
2.17.2009 2:29pm
Ben P:

How's their position less objective then limiting abortion to, say, third trimester, birth, or one year old? There might be different policy considerations, but it's hard to see how one's less "objective" than the other.


To retract slightly, perhaps objective isn't quite the word I was seeking.

By "objective" I meant a fact people are actually capable of agreeing on to some degree.

To the extent that concrete facts ever exist, they're easier to determine in fiscal matters.

If we were to ask a bunch of different doctors, we'd come up with a relatively consistent point in a pregnancy beyond which a majority of babies born prematurely would survive. (the idea of Viability)

That is basically a fact.

In my own opinion, making a policy based on that fact, is much more sound than a policy based on beliefs that are based on something that cannot be agreed upon or worse, something that cannot be proven at all.
2.17.2009 2:30pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
paul lukasiak-

the problem with libertarians is that they think they can have their cake (enjoy the advantages of being a citizen of the most powerful nation on the planet) and eat it to (small, democratic government.)

Power requires organization, and in a democracy that organization requires a strong social contract that goes both ways.


I'm not sure that you're talking about "power". The wealthiest societies tend to have lower taxes, lower regulation, and freer trade. This fosters the natural, fairly decentralized organization of markets, and doesn't require all that much forced organization by government.

Ironically, it is the opposite end of the spectrum - socialism/communism/etc. - that requires all the top-down control of a police state. That's because high taxes, high amounts of regulation, price controls, wage controls, etc. basically require a police state to begin with and cause gray and black markets to form.

And libertarians tend to have a strong "social contract" in their belief in a bundle of fundamental rights. A libertarian (if they're a true libertarian and actually walk the walk) believes in the right to be free from force and fraud, non-aggression, self-ownership, etc. So that doesn't seem to be an issue, unless you can provide some examples to the contrary.

The big difference between liberals and libertarians is that libertarians are greedheads -- eliminate the personal greed of a libertarian, and you get a liberal.

Some are, just like there are greedy conservatives and (irony of ironies) greedy liberals. But mainly they just understand that big government and redistributionalism actually make society poorer and less free overall. The private economy - the private capital stock, the capital in the hands of those who earned it - is the only thing that creates societal wealth sustainably over the long term. Reduce it through high taxation and you eventually weaken and slow the economy and make everyone poorer. Increase it with lower taxes and lower spending and you eventually strengthen and speed up the economy making society wealthier. (And reducing unemployment, poverty, etc.)

And besides that there are other differences. Many liberals are collectivists and a collectivist outlook tends to weaken and cheapen individual rights. For example take the countries with socialized medicine. Once the government controls the market for healthcare it starts forcing choices in the name of "cutting costs", "promoting health", etc. - trying to dictate what you can eat, smoke, do with your free time, etc. Another collectivist drive is that for "safety". For example reducing the individual's ability to defend themselves by outlawing guns when things like swimming pools are more dangerous to children, and things like bicycles are as dangerous to children.
2.17.2009 2:32pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
under "culture of tolerance," they include a variety of PC excesses,
Excesses aren't the real reason liberals differ from libertarians on tolerance. Libertarian tolerance is a tolerance of individualism. To liberals, tolerance is a group process. They embrace Blacks, for instance. But they also use, as a four-letter word, "Oreo." If a person of African heritage and slave ancestry with dark skin doesn't "act black," then he isn't Black. One excellent example is Pink Pistols, who regularly report being much more welcome at gun rights conferences than gay rights conferences. Another is the liberal pillorying Sarah Palin received.
My right to life can only exist if others are constrained from murdering me. My right to enjoy my property can only exist if others are constrained from expropriating it. In general, every individual right is isomorphic to a constraint on others.
Half right.

As a libertarian I understand that the only way I can protect my right to live my life the way I want to is to support your right to live your life the way you want to. The best way to accomplish that is to limit government.

Today's liberals and conservatives each think they have the One Correct Way To Live, and that government should force everyone to live that way. More and more of us are being caught between them, as in the case of the aforementioned Pink Pistols who have to choose between a party that's homophobic and a party that's hoplophobic.
On the other hand, there's really no arguing with social conservative positions. You can argue religion and philosophy, but in the end for the vast majority of people who are "pro-life" there's simply no convincing them that "live and let live" is a valid governmental policy. Same with gay marriage. I won't go so far as to say their policies aren't based in rational thought, but the harms they perceive are simply based on different foundations, and one cannot convince them to change the policy without changing the foundation itself.
Change subjects to gun control and right to work (without unions) and you've described liberals.
2.17.2009 2:41pm
Angry Liberaltarian (mail):
I've been blogging for several years under the monikor Angry Liberaltarian. I am socially liberal/progressive/anarcho and fiscally conservative. I believe in socially progressive policies shouldered by limited life corporations and businesses. If you want to play to make a profit, you have to pay (see the failures of GM and Ford)...while keeping government spending balanced so as not to burden future generations.

They are sometimes divergent philosophies, but we have a schizophrenic society, so why not have inconsistent philosophical philosophies to make sense of it all?
2.17.2009 3:18pm
Oren:

As a libertarian I understand that the only way I can protect my right to live my life the way I want to is to support your right to live your life the way you want to. The best way to accomplish that is to limit government.

Today's liberals and conservatives each think they have the One Correct Way To Live, and that government should force everyone to live that way. More and more of us are being caught between them, as in the case of the aforementioned Pink Pistols who have to choose between a party that's homophobic and a party that's hoplophobic.

Yes, but can we scare them into limiting government so that the other can't get his "correct way".
2.17.2009 3:33pm
Ak Mike (mail):
Oren - I appreciate your spirit of compromise although not your gratuitous slap at conservatives, who have proven unfortunately more willing to compromise their principles than liberals seem to have.

I have to say, though, that your willingness to dispense with the FDA's control of legal drugs puts you in a small minority of liberals, as does your position on helmet laws, zoning, and Heller.

How about if in return I support (1) banning creationism in public schools and (2) using dead babies for genetic research?
2.17.2009 3:33pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
we'd come up with a relatively consistent point in a pregnancy beyond which a majority of babies born prematurely would survive. (the idea of Viability) That is basically a fact. In my own opinion, making a policy based on that fact, is much more sound than a policy based on beliefs that are based on something that cannot be agreed upon or worse, something that cannot be proven at all.

Science and math are great, but your underlying principles will never be testable by science.

"The greatest good for the greatest number" isn't science; it's Utilitarianism. It's just a preference. Science (maybe) can tell us the best way to achieve that, but science can't prove that we should be seeking Utilitarian goals.
2.17.2009 3:33pm
ShelbyC:

To liberals, tolerance is a group process.


To conservatives, too. One group decides what to tolerate and what not to.
2.17.2009 3:49pm
anomdebus (mail):

Are you actually suggesting...


I picked those examples since they are fairly stereotypically liberal policies and not libertarian policies. I wrongly assumed since you were talking about persuading liberals that you were closer to a standard libertarian. It seems like you agree with the policy goals of your liberal friends, but just disagree with the means. I don't see how you can directly compare your discussions on topics where you essentially agree versus when you don't necessarily agree.

Just to try to be extra clear (since sometimes I am obscure by design), I am not saying "hand in your libertarian card if you want to clothe the homeless". I am saying both sides have their assumptions, you just happen to agree more with one side. That doesn't necessarily make them more reasonable.
2.17.2009 3:57pm
anomdebus (mail):
Oren,

Note I was not trying to come up with a silver bullet that will work every time, just an approach that can work to counter a rather absolute statement. I have met more than a few Christians that agree with what I stated, though most are probably already inclined towards libertarianism.
2.17.2009 4:02pm
LN (mail):

To liberals, tolerance is a group process. They embrace Blacks, for instance.


Here's the problem of using a single word to describe an entire class of people. Black people can be liberal too, you know.
2.17.2009 4:10pm
Ben P:

I wrongly assumed since you were talking about persuading liberals that you were closer to a standard libertarian. It seems like you agree with the policy goals of your liberal friends, but just disagree with the means. I don't see how you can directly compare your discussions on topics where you essentially agree versus when you don't necessarily agree.


So you're going to argue in favor of letting people die as an end in and of itself? Seriously?

I'm perfectly willing to argue we shouldn't have a government sponsored health care system because the number of lives saved isn't worth the extra cost that such a system would impose. (both in pure healthcare terms and costs to society as a whole)

You seem to be working under the assumption that the "goal" of a better public health is a bad thing. Hence my initial extreme comment of "letting people die."
2.17.2009 4:18pm
anomdebus (mail):
Ben,
Did you read the rest of my comment? I don't see much evidence that you are reading all of what I write. It looks to me as if you are replying as soon as you see something objectionable that you think I am saying.
2.17.2009 4:25pm
David Drake:
Ben P said:


I see nothing more intrinsically wrong with having government subsidized health care (to the point of universality) than with having government subsidized education or government subsidized road building. Yes, all of them remove something that could otherwise possibly be accomplished by the private sector, but the difficulty in rent seeking in those areas leads me to the conclusion that the government subsidies have produced far more benefits to society as a whole than is wasted by removing the incentive for competition.


I think this sort of quote is at the heart of my discomfort with "liberals."

There are assumptions in this statement that (a) rent seeking only occurs in the private sector,(b) government subsidies need not entail detailed government control of the activity subsidized, and (c) government controlled programs are more beneficial to society than programs provided through the private sector.

I reject each of those assumptions. And not "intrinsically" but because government controlled programs simply have worked in the past and there is no reason whatsoever to think they will work in new areas such as health care. Based on my experiences with both the public and private sectors, and what I read the papers, the reverse is true. E.g. U.S. public elementary and secondary schools, the U.S. Postal Service.


And, because the government has the power to compel me at gun point to do its bidding and to choke out all competition, while business has only the power to refuse toprovide me goods or services unless I pay for them, that I fear government much more than I fear the private sector.

What is at stake with these policies is so much more important to me than whether two people of the same sex are entitled to have the state bless their relationship as a "marriage" or whether women have the right to abort their unborn children. (And I admit I am neither homosexual or a woman, although I also have to admit that at one time abortion would have been to my benefit.)

That's why I am a libertarian and cannot be a "liberaltarian."
2.17.2009 4:36pm
Ben P:
I did read the rest of your comment and maybe I came across a little more harsh than I intended. I just didn't think the rest of your post particularly changed my argument that in certain fields the debate is entirely about means and not ends.

One can think the cost isn't worth it, one can think it's not a high priority, but is anyone actually going to say better public health is a bad thing?

I deliberately constrained it to health care because that's an easy case. I'd say the same thing with education. Would the vast majority of people actually say that a better educated policy is a bad thing? The only question is whether we're achieving the best benefit we can for the money we're spending and are willing to spend.

Where we're talking about different kinds of policy, (Gun Control for instance, or social policies for another) the end is much closer to the means. I almost always argue about gun control in the context of crime (in that it doesn't help reduce crime) because liberals generally scoff at the individual rights arguments. But in many cases the arguments for it aren't even necessary about reducing crime, but focused on reducing guns themselves.

Where the end isn't the same as the policy I'll concede you have a point, but my posts were generally tailored to arguments where the policy goal is something that is generally acceptable and the dispute is over the means.
2.17.2009 4:41pm
David Drake:
Ben P--

Having just read your latest post, I apologize for the implication that you favored government control of medicine or anything else. However, I still think your quote accurately sums up the "liberal" point of view.

Obviously the goal of better health--and better schools and better roads are or should be the goals of all of us, regardless of political viewpoint. As you point out, it's whether any particular approach to getting there (a) works and (b) is worth the cost both in dollars and in impacts on society and the vast majority individuals in it.

We as a society are not going to eliminate every bad thing; as the twentieth century taught or should have taught us, the effort to do so too quickly ends in tragedy.
2.17.2009 4:44pm
Oren:


How about if in return I support (1) banning creationism in public schools and (2) using dead babies for genetic research?

Can we lay off the obscenity prosecutions for internet pornographers too? Of all the possible pointless government ideas ....
2.17.2009 4:54pm
Oren:


One can think the cost isn't worth it, one can think it's not a high priority, but is anyone actually going to say better public health is a bad thing?


Just like any other good, it can be over or under allocated. Better health beyond the point of optimal allocation is a "bad thing" because it means we have sacrificed some other possible good with greater utility.
2.17.2009 4:56pm
Federal Dog:
"in the end for the vast majority of people who are "pro-life" there's simply no convincing them that "live and let live" is a valid governmental policy."

You are rather missing the point: People who oppose abortion on demand argue that taking a defenseless life in utero is diametrically opposed to a "live and let live" government policy. On the contrary: It is killing in the name of personal facility, convenience -- and, often, profit (refusal to financially support the child in question).

Choice that women are not only entitled, but ethically required, to make occurs before that point. The fact that many women can't or won't make responsible and ethical choices in no way means that they properly have the right to kill children that their own intentional conduct brought into existence.
2.17.2009 5:14pm
Oren:

The fact that many women can't or won't make responsible and ethical choices in no way means that they properly have the right to kill children that their own intentional conduct brought into existence.

What about all those unintended pregnancies?
2.17.2009 5:38pm
Ak Mike (mail):

Can we lay off the obscenity prosecutions for internet pornographers too? Of all the possible pointless government ideas

I think we have a deal, Oren.
2.17.2009 5:42pm
Federal Dog:
"What about all those unintended pregnancies?"

I said intentional conduct. Women are not morons. They understand potential consequences of sex and engage in that conduct both knowingly and intentionally. The fact that they may not want certain consequences does not mean that they have any right to kill a completely defenseless child that they knew could potentially result from their own intentional and knowing conduct.

Which is not to say thay they are obliged to keep and raise the child. They merely have no moral right to kill it. And killing a defenseless life is the exact opposite of any "live and let live" government policy (which was the original contention to which I was responding).
2.17.2009 5:58pm
Lily:
I was perplexed at the libertarian support of Obama. Were the listening to him, I wondered?

They I think these Obama supporters were like so many who projected what they wanted to see in him - fooling themselves. Either that or they don't really understand the principals of libertarianism.
2.17.2009 6:20pm
Oren:


I said intentional conduct. Women are not morons. They understand potential consequences of sex and engage in that conduct both knowingly and intentionally.

OK, you use the word "intentionally" to mean something very different from what I mean (your meaning is closer to "foreseeable", IMO). By your definition, all deaths from car crashes are intentional because drivers understand the potential consequences of driving and engage in that conduct knowingly and intentionally (never mind for now the fact that many drivers make a conscious effort to avoid crashing).


Which is not to say thay they are obliged to keep and raise the child. They merely have no moral right to kill it.

Where does the obligation to let it suck your blood from the inside come into this?
2.17.2009 6:37pm
FWB (mail):
Washington warned that the parties would destroy the system and teh Constitution. They have. End of story.
2.17.2009 6:37pm
Oren:

I was perplexed at the libertarian support of Obama.

Neither candidate in the election was particularly libertarian. Which you think deviates further from the "One True Libertarianism" is a matter of priorities, not principles.
2.17.2009 6:39pm
Charlie (Texas) (mail):
Can't see liberaltarianism.

Liberals believe the locus of control should be vested in right-minded (whatever they mean by that) elites. Libertarians and conservatives are much closer together in believing it lies with the individual. That's a bedrock difference.

Liberals are beyond redemption on questions of government powers, taxes, economics...

Superficially, my stance on social/moral questions is much more similar to liberals. Only, they believe they are on the side of angels in all their opinions. I believe, along with a goodly number of conservatives, that these discussions belong in civil society to be kicked around, sampled, tried cautiously and adopted prudently where warranted.
2.17.2009 6:52pm
...Max... (mail):
I am still not seeing conservative philosophy being much different from the left liberal one on the collectivism/individualism axis. If anything, conservatives may be somewhat less likely to resort to the state enforcement of collectivist interests. Which is good, as far as it goes.
2.17.2009 6:56pm
Oren:

I believe, along with a goodly number of conservatives, that these discussions belong in civil society to be kicked around, sampled, tried cautiously and adopted prudently where warranted.

Conservatives that are willing to set aside their preferred answer to social/moral questions are a somewhat rare breed. More often than not, they confuse the question of whether something is a good idea with whether it should be allowed as a matter of policy.
2.17.2009 6:56pm
LN (mail):

The fact that they may not want certain consequences does not mean that they have any right to kill a completely defenseless child that they knew could potentially result from their own intentional and knowing conduct.


In other words, the rights of an innocent defenseless child depend entirely on the intentions of its mother. If she had sex willingly, then the child has rights; if she didn't, then it doesn't.

(I presume you are aware that your equation of fetuses and children is somewhat contentious, to say the least.)
2.17.2009 6:57pm
Federal Dog:
"By your definition, all deaths from car crashes are intentional because drivers understand the potential consequences of driving and engage in that conduct knowingly and intentionally (never mind for now the fact that many drivers make a conscious effort to avoid crashing)."

No, all car crashes result from the intentional and knowing conduct of driving. They are not all intentional. Those are very different logical propositions.


"Where does the obligation to let it suck your blood from the inside come into this?"

From the voluntary and intentional decision to engage in conduct that created that life, knowing full well that creation of that life was entirely possible. Once the original decision is freely and knowingly made, ethics oblige refraining from unwarranted murder of a defenseless child.
2.17.2009 7:02pm
Charlie (Texas) (mail):

Conservatives that are willing to set aside their preferred answer to social/moral questions are a somewhat rare breed.



Folks of any stripe willing to rearrange mental furniture are rare. But I've had far more luck discussing, say, the reasons for gay marriage, with conservatives than reasons against with liberals. When you see a "Minds are like parachutes: They only work when they are open" bumper sticker on a Volvo station wagon, you can be pretty certain you are dealing with someone whose mind is made up.

Another point against liberaltarianism while I'm at it. The opposite of libertarian is statist. I have known liberals who were not thoroughgoing statists, but not many. Much higher percentage of non-statists among conservatives.
2.17.2009 7:12pm
EricH (mail):
The left loves equality; the right loves liberty (broad, crude brush strokes, okay?).

Where do libertarians fall?

No way can libertarians - lovers of freedom - unite for long stretches with those who place equality over liberty.

Simply can't be done.
2.17.2009 7:47pm
rrr:
"happily cast lots with godbags who want to restrict a pile of other freedoms"

Why, among other things, I refuse to align with libertarians even though I'd see eye to eye with you on most issues. You all are as hypocritical, obnoxious, condescending and intolerant as all those you so smugly stand against. Enjoy your partnership with Obama. You naively fear the religious right, criticized conservatives not because of their conservatism, as you claim, but because they acted like liberals, and walked, smiling blindly, into your worst nightmare. Too late for buyers remorse. But at least I learned one thing: don't trust a libertarian. Either to be anything approaching a true ally or to be consistent with their own beliefs.
2.17.2009 7:57pm
PubliusFL:
LN: In other words, the rights of an innocent defenseless child depend entirely on the intentions of its mother. If she had sex willingly, then the child has rights; if she didn't, then it doesn't.

This is not so strange considering other similar legal principles. In tort law, you generally have no duty to rescue a third party who is in danger. But you may have a duty to rescue the third party if you are responsible for the hazardous situation he or she finds himself or herself in. It's not the *rights* of the innocent defenseless person that depend on your intentions (or voluntary actions), it's your *duties* with respect to those rights.
2.17.2009 8:15pm
Han Solo:

Face it... America is no longer a FREE country as it was founded.


It has become a Socialist Totalitarian Federalist country like most of Europe.


In fact, at this point you have wonder:

"Why did we even want independence from England???!"

We could have just stayed part of the British Empire, and had the EXACT same form of oppressive government regulation, bureaucracy, and massive taxation that we now enjoy. The only difference is we would still have pretty Princess to fawn over.


Seems like it was a huge mistake to leave the empire looking back at it.

All we got was less than a century of freedom and then a huge downward spiral into oppressive totalitarian government thanks to that piece of CRAP constitution which everyone seems to think was great but has really been proven to be worth nothing do to the holes in it large enough to sail a clipper ship through.


Hopefully, next Revolution, we can write the constitution without so many damn wholes the socialists can use against us.
2.17.2009 8:53pm
Useless Dissident (mail) (www):

godbags who want to restrict a pile of other freedoms


This is always the argument, but in reality, the godbags don't really seem interested in restricting freedoms. Sarah Palin, for instance, was cast by the left in these terms. However, her actual record shows almost a total lack of interest in reform along social conservative lines. Her career is mostly one of economic and political reform. She cut taxes and spending, maneuvered for some favorable deals with the economic benefit redounding to the taxpayer, and otherwise played the part of genial head of state. Sounds like an ideal libertarian leader to me.

And yet, the leftists imagine her believing she is on a mission from God to bring about the End Times. Give me a break.

Social conservatism is at the root of economic and political conservatism because a moral, upright and God-fearing people are necessary for the defense of liberty. We can't all be ephemeral libertines and expect our precious republic to last. And furthermore, when religion ceases to be influential in the private sphere-- that is, family, church, community, and business-- then people will look for all of the value, meaning and fulfillment of religion somewhere else: the state.
2.17.2009 9:01pm
RPT (mail):
"Anomdebus:

I have met more than a few Christians that agree with what I stated, though most are probably already inclined towards libertarianism."

I can't see how you can reconcile libertarianism with orthodox biblical Christianity (which is not synonymous with the ideology of the "Christian Right").
2.17.2009 9:03pm
Lily:
a matter of priorities, not principles

Well, I think my priorities have been more fiscal than social. I shuddered when Obama promised to 'spread' my wealth, and his wife promised I'd have to give up more of my 'pie'. And then I read libertarians were supporting him. Again, I wondered if they were listening to the same speeches and interviews I was hearing. I thought we all valued small government.

It appears we have gotten to the point that the government believes that I exist to work to support their initiatives and programs. And there is nothing I can do about it apparently. - is this not a form of slavery?

This bothers me more than the social / religious initiatives of the Republicans.

Recently, the Republicans have only been slightly better than the Democrats fiscally - but to out and out support what appears to me to be a marxist? I just don't get it.
2.17.2009 9:13pm
Ricardo (mail):
Sarah Palin... [s]ounds like an ideal libertarian leader to me.

As governor of Alaska -- a very large state geographically with a population smaller than some mid-sized cities and also a state that seems to naturally attract libertarian-leaning people -- I'm sure her record was fairly libertarian. National politics is a very different animal from local politics though. Once on the national stage, it's not enough for her to appeal to the rugged individualist types living in places like Alaska, Colorado and Montana. As a Republican, she also has to connect with exurban megachurch members and conservatives living in places like Alabama and Mississippi. The fact that her approval ratings in Alaska sank after the election shows that many people in Alaska were disillusioned -- the Sarah Palin they saw on campaign was different from the one they knew as governor.

Social conservatism is at the root of economic and political conservatism because a moral, upright and God-fearing people are necessary for the defense of liberty.

Libertarians can never be the natural allies of people who say things like this. First of all, it's incorrect. Secularist and atheist Hirsi Ali has done more for the cause of liberal democracy and freedom of thought than most on the religious right ever will. Second, the recent past shows that those who talk like this will turn out to be fair-weather friends when it comes to the actual business of "the defense of liberty." This is especially so when the liberties under threat belong to politically unpopular groups.
2.17.2009 10:03pm
SaultoPaul:
I can't see how you can reconcile libertarianism with orthodox biblical Christianity.


Well, I am a Christian, and I don't see anything that precludes one from being both.

The Bible tells us: God gave us free will - and so everyone chooses for themselves whether to follow him and his rules. There is no compulsion, except from your own conscience. We believe there is ultimate consequence for rejecting God, but it is still your choice. (and his consequences - not man's)

God, in the form of Jesus, abhorred legalism and strict "rule following". He spoke out strongly against religious leaders and followers passing harsh judgment on others for failure to 'follow the rules'.

As for criticizing people who sin: In the Bible (Psalms), it tells you to go to your brother if he is in the wrong, and speak to him about it (to help him, not to feel superior) - if he rejects you, walk away - not punish him and send him to jail or beat him or whatever.

And, nowhere in the Bible does it tell Christians to form large governments to lord over people (no pun intended).

Being libertarian doesn't mean you can't think someone's lifestyle or choices are wrong. It just means you want everyone to have the freedom to choose how to live for themselves. And to take the consequences of bad choices upon themselves. Although a good Christian would have mercy and try to help you through these consequences.

Therefore, I don't see how being a libertarian precludes one also being a good Christian ("orthodox biblical" or otherwise). A libertarian Christian would just be adamant that 'mercy' came from private groups / individuals, and not from government largess.

Most Christians you meet today are good people. Some are not. Its that way in every group. Christians do not have the corner on the hypocrisy market. To have any standards or beliefs exposes oneself to the danger of being hypocritical.
2.17.2009 10:12pm
Desiderius:
MarkField,

"If "fiscally conservative" means a devotee of Austrian economics, count me out. That's insanity."

I think that if you'll examine where each cent out of a dollar of government spending actually (as opposed to ideally) goes, you'll find that there is a method to the madness. Any liberal/libertarian (don't kid yourself that libertarian ideas are not influential - whether in the corridors of non-academic power or among average joes, they do hold great sway, just not in a way that is tied directly to party identification) alliance I'd think would be premised on limiting government via reigning in the two great areas of expenditure: the military/industrial welfare state (libertarians would have to give some ground, though not as much as one might think - check Cato) and entitlements (liberals would finally need to grow up here).

I appreciate your efforts to find common ground on the question of regulation, burden of proof, etc. I think there is great potential to clear up many misconceptions that stand in the way of a liberal/libertarian alliance on just such issues. There is a distinction to be drawn between proper regulation (speed limits and the like) and unwonted intervention. I'm unconvinced that liberal hearts are so much in the latter as libertarians seem to think.

What the above commenters seem to miss is that for people under thirty many of the things that made those of us a bit older libertarians in the first place - concern about irresponsible spending, the heavy-handed state, etc. - have now been, fairly or not (I lean toward the former), branded Republican. A good chunk of young people today are actually exceptionally libertarian, and voted for Obama for exactly that reason.

Of course the Democratic Party is chock full of old bulls who are anything but, but for a awhile at least the new blood will offer them battle. If they prevail, the Democratic Party may offer a welcoming home for libertarians for a generation or two, as the Goldwater/Reagan Republican Party did from 1964 through the end of the Gingrich/Kasich/Armey congress.

Obama himself seems more technocratic than libertarian per se, but at least he doesn't dismiss libertarian ideas out of hand. Pragmatism seems a more promising approach for finding common ground than doctrinaire utopian state worship.
2.17.2009 10:18pm
Desiderius:
SaultoPaul,

Very well said. Would that there were more like you both within the church(es) and among libertarians. There is much work to do.
2.17.2009 10:20pm
LN (mail):

Face it... America is no longer a FREE country as it was founded.


I wonder if Han Solo is black.
2.17.2009 10:22pm
anomdebus (mail):
RPT,
Don't ask me, I am not self-reporting. I am not particularly interested in religious discussions, however those sort of comments come up in political discussions touching on libertarianism.

I can't say for certain what they are thinking. However, Christianity does have a somewhat apolitical beginning (even if only propaganda).
2.17.2009 10:25pm
Desiderius:
"Minds are like parachutes: They only work when they are open"

Minds are like parachutes: If they're open all the time, they're a real drag.
2.17.2009 10:26pm
anomdebus (mail):
SaultoPaul,
I must have just missed your comment and I wish I hadn't. My comment is worthless compared to yours. Thanks.
2.17.2009 10:33pm
BGates:
the recent past shows that those who talk like this will turn out to be fair-weather friends when it comes to the actual business of "the defense of liberty."

A point so obvious no evidence is necessary. In fact, it's so obvious no evidence even exists.
2.17.2009 11:28pm
TomT:
Just a few points:

John Stossel is given standing ovations at conservative events. He is despised by the liberals.

If you want to compromise on the gay marriage issue, give me back my freedom of association. Let me hire and fire who I want. Let me rent to anybody I want. Let me send my kids to the school of my choice and and I will gladly support gay rights. Live and let live goes both ways. Libertarians always forget that the state greatly restricts my right of association. Right of association is probably one of the most basic civil rights we have. It probably is the reason most Conservatives are so strongly opposed to lifting restrictions against gays. I do not want their morality shoved down my throat and be forced to support it.

On abortion, I drifted away from the pro-choice side of the argument years ago because of the subjectiveness of the arguments. First trimester? Second trimester? Why not allow abortion up to the time of delivery? Why can a fetus be aborted one day, and protected the next? I could never satisfactory reconcile these questions.

People should remember that one of the most liberal Presidents in our history interned Japanese, executed spies, and severely curtailed civil rights. These actions are not inconsistent with the beliefs that instituted the New Deal. Once you believe that you have a right to people's property, anything is possible. Look at the Soviet Union.

Some questions for the supporters of Nationalizing health Care. Why are the cancer survivor rates better in the US than most socialized countries? Why do people who can afford it, routinely come to this country for our health care from these countries including Canada? What makes you think that this system can be maitained once it gets in the hands of the government?

In conclusion, the only reason I am a Republican is because it is Democrats and their policies which has restricted my rights to live and let live.
2.17.2009 11:43pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
paul lukasiak:
I don't want to be a citizen of such a powerful nation. I don't want any nation to be so powerful. I want it broken up into much smaller pieces, a pluralist panarchy.

Al Maviva: Actually, paleoconservatives (even ones distrustful of libertarianism) endorse internal moral restraint under the belief that it is necessary in order to avoid external restraint on the part of the State.
2.17.2009 11:53pm
trad and anon (mail):
It seems to me that there's no point in talking about a libertarian/conservative or libertarian/liberal alliance. There simply aren't enough libertarians for them to occupy anything other than a tiny corner of a very big tent. Tiny groups can sometimes affect party policy, but that's by being very focused on a tiny set of issues. Libertarianism is exactly the opposite: it's a radical political philosophy that calls for completely restructuring everything the government does at every level, from building inspections to national defense.

Libertarians simply cannot expect to be political players in such an environment, and they are not, and are not about to become so.
2.17.2009 11:55pm
trad and anon (mail):
If you want to compromise on the gay marriage issue, give me back my freedom of association. Let me hire and fire who I want. Let me rent to anybody I want. Let me send my kids to the school of my choice and and I will gladly support gay rights. Live and let live goes both ways. Libertarians always forget that the state greatly restricts my right of association. Right of association is probably one of the most basic civil rights we have. It probably is the reason most Conservatives are so strongly opposed to lifting restrictions against gays. I do not want their morality shoved down my throat and be forced to support it.
What you want in exchange for your support for gay marriage is for us to repeal the '64 Act? No thanks.
2.18.2009 12:02am
Ricardo (mail):

the recent past shows that those who talk like this will turn out to be fair-weather friends when it comes to the actual business of "the defense of liberty."


A point so obvious no evidence is necessary. In fact, it's so obvious no evidence even exists.

BGates, the Republican party held both the executive and legislative branches for six years from 2001 through 2006. Can you please point to the developments that should be celebrated by libertarians as advancing the cause of liberty over the course of these six years? Or can you point to courageous political stances taken by individual Republicans that resulted in successful policy changes that advanced the cause of liberty?
2.18.2009 12:23am
Desiderius:
trad,

You're either defining libertarianism too narrowly or are mistaking the composition of your immediate group (Academia or public service, perhaps? Some corners of the law would of course also apply) for the general population.
2.18.2009 12:43am
Ricardo (mail):
People should remember that one of the most liberal Presidents in our history interned Japanese, executed spies, and severely curtailed civil rights. These actions are not inconsistent with the beliefs that instituted the New Deal.

All true. It's not clear these actions are inconsistent with beliefs that stand in opposition to the New Deal either. Michelle Malkin published a book arguing these war-time policies were actually pretty good and received a positive reception from fellow mainstream conservatives. And you can see similar views espoused by people who style themselves conservatives in the comments threads here.

Of course, you could take the Andrew Sullivan line and say that these war-time policies are inconsistent with conservatism. In that case, you must be led to the conclusion that there is large-scale hypocrisy at the core of the conservative movement and within the Republican Party.

If you want to vocally denounce both the New Deal and FDR's war-time curtailments of civil rights and without qualification allow that these denouncements also apply to our own war-time policies right now, please go ahead. Don't expect many of your "conservative" or Republican friends to cheer you on, though.
2.18.2009 12:47am
BGates:
Ricardo, remember to lift with your legs. Those goalposts are heavy.

Off the top of my head, I'd say Bush's attempt to return Social Security money to individual control, the Court's affirmation of RKBA, Congress' refusal to put American industry under Kyoto control, and the resistance of Tom Coburn, John McCain, and no Democrats I know of to out of control federal spending are indications that Republicans are better than fair-weather friends of liberty.

Since you brought it up, would you care to offer any evidence for your assertion?
2.18.2009 1:01am
Federal Dog:
"If she had sex willingly, then the child has rights; if she didn't, then it doesn't."

Illogical strawman reasoning that has nothing to do with my comments.

In instances of rape, the balancing of rights (i.e., the mother's and the child's) is quite different because there are two victims involved (again, the mother and the child). In the case of abortion on demand as birth control after the fact, the child is the only victim. That victim deserves protection for the simple reason that the mother has no right to commit murder on demand.
2.18.2009 9:22am
MarkField (mail):

Any liberal/libertarian (don't kid yourself that libertarian ideas are not influential - whether in the corridors of non-academic power or among average joes, they do hold great sway, just not in a way that is tied directly to party identification) alliance I'd think would be premised on limiting government via reigning in the two great areas of expenditure: the military/industrial welfare state (libertarians would have to give some ground, though not as much as one might think - check Cato) and entitlements (liberals would finally need to grow up here).


There may very well be the starting point of a deal here. Right now, Ds and Rs hold each other hostage at either end of this MAD. I'm not sure how libertarians could find a way out of the dilemma, but that might be the biggest contribution they could make.
2.18.2009 11:06am
trad and anon (mail):
You're either defining libertarianism too narrowly or are mistaking the composition of your immediate group (Academia or public service, perhaps? Some corners of the law would of course also apply) for the general population.
I'm nowhere near any of those areas, though you are quite wrong about academia, where libertarians are vastly overrepresented. Not in the English and Sociology departments, I will grant, but in the other social sciences and the schools of law there are way more libertarians than there are in the general population. This is an artifact of (a) libertarians being overrepresented among the elite generally and (b) academia disproportionately drawing people with radical views of one sort or another. Government work is of course a different matter, since people tend not to want to work for groups whose mandate is something they oppose. You won't find many libertarians at the FTC or ONDCP.

Of course you can always water down "libertarian" to include people with vaguely libertarianish sympathies on many issues. I'll grant that there are a lot of those.
2.18.2009 12:06pm
Oren:

Libertarians always forget that the state greatly restricts my right of association. Right of association is probably one of the most basic civil rights we have.

Given that the SCOTUS has approved a pretty unlimited right of private association in BSA v. Dale, how much more do you want? You already have the right to send your child to whatever school you want (Piece v. Society of Sisters).

Renting and hiring, however, are not private association. By definition, those are things that are offered to the general public and, insofar and you chose to offer those services to the general public, I think the general public has the right to put conditions on those offerings.

Of course, some of the PC-bullshit that goes on in hiring/housing is beyond the pale, and I'm more than willing to reform it to be more sensible but I can't see giving up the principle of the matter that, one one voluntarily puts something into the public sphere there is necessarily a diminished personal association right.

Just to see if you are on board, do you disapprove on principle (leave along for the time being whatever manifest flaws there are in implementation), restrictions on the sorts of things private shopowners can sell. I'm thinking of things like expired milk, tainted peanut-butter, booze to minors, meat products that haven't been refrigerated, etc....

Naive libertarianism suggests that we should allow these things as a matter of personal contract between the shopkeeper and the customer but information asymmetries (and the high cost for the customer to independently generate that information) are enough to convince me that such an arrangement is not socially optimal.
2.18.2009 12:13pm
trad and anon (mail):
People should remember that one of the most liberal Presidents in our history interned Japanese, executed spies, and severely curtailed civil rights. These actions are not inconsistent with the beliefs that instituted the New Deal.
I agree. I'm a liberal, but I am no fan of FDR for exactly those reasons. There's no necessary relationship between gutting wartime civil liberties and Keynesian economic policy—you can support one without the other, or oppose both, or support both. Nothing is inconsistent about any of those positions.
2.18.2009 12:16pm
Ak Mike (mail):
Oren:

Renting and hiring, however, are not private association. By definition, those are things that are offered to the general public and, insofar and you chose to offer those services to the general public, I think the general public has the right to put conditions on those offerings.


Liberal rubbish - assuming what you are trying to prove. Suppose I say that I am not hiring from the general public, but only from the Armenian community. Suppose I offer rental housing only to members of my church. There is nothing in the definition of hiring or renting that says that they are "offered to the general public." The wide-net antidiscrimination laws affecting these activities are simply restrictions on freedom of association.
2.18.2009 1:43pm
whit:

Given that the SCOTUS has approved a pretty unlimited right of private association in BSA v. Dale,


as long as judges can and do issue no contact orders w/o victim request, and often against their wishes, and the standard of evidence required is a mere preponderance, there is hardly a "pretty unlimited" right of private association.

if a married couple are legally prohibited from even talking on the phone by a third party (judge), that pretty much eliminates any right of private association.
2.18.2009 1:43pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Anon111:

Your estimate of the cost of the Iraq war is only counting present appropriations and spending. It's not counting, e.g., the cost of veteran's health care attributable to injuries in the war. The true cost, by conservative estimates, is more than three trillion dollars. For a war of choice. In addition, in terms of relative net benefits compared to the stimulus package (which admittedly will not be assessable for some time, but most economists estimate them to be less than zero), the Iraq War may well have net costs. In fact, I can't think of a single benefit that doesn't rely on rose colored glasses poetry about bringing democracy to a benighted people. It clearly has had a negative net effect on our national security.

http://threetrilliondollarwar.org/about/
2.18.2009 2:27pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Er, make that "more than zero"
2.18.2009 2:27pm
Bob Goodman (mail) (www):

The so-called liberal "civil rights" are, in most cases (not all), expressed in terms of compulsion against non-state actors: discrimination laws, anti-smoking laws, etc. Liberal support for gay rights is based on egalitarian and not libertarian ideals.

*****************************************

To liberals, tolerance is a group process. They embrace Blacks, for instance. But they also use, as a four-letter word, "Oreo." If a person of African heritage and slave ancestry with dark skin doesn't "act black," then he isn't Black.

I'm afraid the situation with "liberals" is even worse than the above quotes indicate. I think leading "liberals" view tolerance and choice as mere compromises, way stations on the way to making certain lifestyles or activities mandatory or subject to quotas. The reason is that they take the egalitarianism and group concern more broadly than we usually realize.

So, for instance, they favor freedom of choice in sexual behavior only because for now they can't think of a better and politically acceptable way to reduce the prevalence and prominence of conventional sexuality, which (conventional sexuality) tends to set up & perpetuate distinctions between classes of humans. Their ideal would be equal attraction of every individual to every other individual, without regard to sex, age, looks, or other distinguishing characteristics or temporary properties.

Meanwhile the problem for libertarians in gaining influence is with our lack of class consciousness, or perhaps I should write (to get away from certain connotations of "class") "category consciousness". Radical libertians are probably more conscious of their ideas as a category than are people who hold most other -isms, but there it actually hurts rather than helping, because radical libertarians tend to moralize their concerns, thus making it against their religion to roll logs and make the compromises necessary for any tendency to have influence in society. Meanwhile the far greater number of moderate libertians, who exist as a substantial fraction of all concerned citizens with moderate views (which is the majority), unfortunately don't have anywhere near the degree of category consciousness as do moderate "conservatives" and moderate "liberals", so they have trouble uniting even momentarily.

Fortunately, however, what's true above of libertarians is even more true of authoritarians, so we are spared the influence of authoritarians as a self-conscious tendency.
2.18.2009 3:58pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm afraid the situation with "liberals" is even worse than the above quotes indicate. I think leading "liberals" view tolerance and choice as mere compromises, way stations on the way to making certain lifestyles or activities mandatory or subject to quotas.


I know that I personally am looking forward to the day when I can celebrate the shotgun nuptials of Bob Goodman and Clayton Cramer.

Then we'll just wait a short while before Oren compels them to abort the hellish spawn of their Satanic coupling.
2.18.2009 7:17pm
Desiderius:
MarkField and trad,

With apologies to my good friend and long-time colleague Bill Ayers, I'm of course speaking of small "l" libertarianism, although if you got big L Libertarians Nick Gillespie, David Boaz, Will Wilkinson, and Rick Warren(!) in a room with some savvy liberals, I think that significant common ground could be hammered out.

By small "l" libertarianism, I'm speaking merely of a preference for limited government and a commitment to Negative Rights rather than Positive ones, which I think, in both cases, entails considering economic liberties on par with civil ones. That is ultimately the price of admission for liberaltarianism, but I'm unconvinced that such a stance is ultimately at odds with liberal, or even progressive goals.

As a posthumous Isaiah Berlin disciple, I'm fascinated by the extent to which he is considered a liberal philosopher (check the blurb on this - you'll have to buy it! highly recommended), and yet to read him as if he were speaking today, one hears a libertarian, or even a Libertarian, speaking. Yet in the extent to which he dabbled in American politics, he regularly came down on the Democratic side of the fence, and was a great admirer of FDR. The same was true of Churchill, who was a liberal all his life, yet consistently anti-left, without being nasty about it, and able to work with leftists when circumstances demanded it. Indeed, the Left demanded his leadership in the time of crisis.

I think the same could fairly be said about Berlin, and any Liberaltarian alliance would need to contain strong safeguards against leftist authority-worship, nihilism, and utopianism in all its guises. Such alliances have existed before, here and abroad, but I also suspect that the genius of the American tradition is in making sure that both sides of the political aisle contain their share of liberals (those on the R side called libertarians), and so I'm wary of advocating that that arrangement be tampered with to too great an extent.

I mention Warren above because it seems as if the evangelical movement has moved in a distinctly libertarian or even liberal direction as their pursuit of political power has proven so fruitless. Their efforts going forward will focus more on the culture and thus necessarily less on winning elections and "imposing their morality", such as it is.
2.18.2009 10:24pm
Oren:

Suppose I say that I am not hiring from the general public, but only from the Armenian community.

My understanding is that this is perfectly acceptable. If it's not, it should be. I know large numbers of ethnic establishments that are staffed mostly be like-ethniced folks and I have no problem with that.


Suppose I offer rental housing only to members of my church.

Also OK by me. I have no desire to compel you to post rental advertisements.

There is nothing in the definition of hiring or renting that says that they are "offered to the general public."

"Offered to the general public" was the antecedent phrase. My point is that if something is offered to the general public (for instance, by having a storefront with an "open" sign on it), then the general public is justified in imposing some conditions.

If you advertise your job opening privately (e.g. by word of mouth in the Armenian community) or rental (e.g. by posting it on you church bulletin board), then it's not offered to the general public.

I'm not saying what you think I'm saying!
2.19.2009 9:48am
MarkField (mail):

With apologies to my good friend and long-time colleague Bill Ayers, I'm of course speaking of small "l" libertarianism


I did understand your usage that way. What puzzles me about the small "l's" is that for some 30 years now they've been played by the Republican party. That party has not reduced the size of government; to the contrary. The party has supported restrictions on rights like abortion and pandered to the religious right in other areas as well. At what point do you decide that you're getting nothing in return for your support?
2.19.2009 11:49am
PubliusFL:
Oren: My understanding is that this is perfectly acceptable.

I don't think that's correct. Many anti-discrimination laws (California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, for example) are written in such a way that the scope does not seem to be limited to employment and housing opportunities that are advertised publicly.
2.19.2009 12:09pm
Oren:
Well, it's acceptable under my normative analysis, for whatever that's worth.

Plus, don't judge liberals by the shitstorm that is California and we promise not to think that all conservatives are like Mississippians.
2.19.2009 6:22pm
Desiderius:
MarkField,

"At what point do you decide that you're getting nothing in return for your support?"

Never. "Nothing" is too strong. On the relative merits, however, I've voted recently for Obama, Ted Strickland, Joe Manchin, and two Democratic county commissioners, and in each case, I'm at least satisfied with the character and the quality of the leadership offered, if not always the policies.

I would contend that in general Republicans have limited government more effectively than the comparable Democrats on offer post-Clinton, thanks to Clinton's revival of the brain-dead Left to save him from impeachment. I was and am a Clinton supporter, but of course he's human like the rest of us.

The "religious right" is not the monolith you imagine, and has become even less monolithic in the past twenty years - I do not share your hostility there, and would say that as a clear outgroup in our culture, that they could serve as a resource of support for various minority rights.

If you do not realize that abortion can be understood as a rights issue from either side, you need to think harder. Also, you might wish to investigate Feminists for Life and similar organizations. The most committed abortion critics under 40 are often enough quite liberal and/or progressive on other issues. It's the Boomers for which abortion is the litmus test of the old categories.
2.19.2009 8:43pm
Desiderius:
Oren,

"we promise not to think that all conservatives are like Mississippians."

Top to bottom, they handled Katrina better than the GOP Feds or the largely Dem affected Louisianans. Might want to check your clock to make sure its not stuck on 1963.
2.19.2009 8:46pm
MarkField (mail):

If you do not realize that abortion can be understood as a rights issue from either side, you need to think harder.


Sure, it can be understood that way. In my experience, though, most libertarians profess themselves to be pro-choice.
2.19.2009 10:19pm
b-psycho (mail) (www):

the problem with libertarians is that they think they can have their cake (enjoy the advantages of being a citizen of the most powerful nation on the planet) and eat it to (small, democratic government.)


...anyone else find this statement of unqualified support for the U.S.'s global dominance from someone who sees themself as of the Left ironic? I mean seriously, I'm a libertarian and I think the mere concept of such overwhelming force existing, let alone cheerleading it, is terrible.

IMO the real problem with "liberaltarianism" is that it gives liberals too much credit. Not in the "liberal = socialist" sense that conservatives spew, but in the sense that the few diehard-on-civil-liberties capital-L LIBERAL types have as much political pull as libertarians -- zero.

Power is for the petty &shameless. If you have a coherent philosophy don't bother with government, you're screwed already.
2.20.2009 2:39am
Oren:



...anyone else find this statement of unqualified support for the U.S.'s global dominance from someone who sees themself as of the Left ironic? I mean seriously, I'm a libertarian and I think the mere concept of such overwhelming force existing, let alone cheerleading it, is terrible.

I have no qualms saying that US military force has, on the balance, been a positive force for humanity. Even considering the horrors of Vietnam and Iraq, I still think we come out ahead.
2.20.2009 11:45am
Desiderius:
MarkField,

"Sure, it can be understood that way. In my experience, though, most libertarians profess themselves to be pro-choice."

Of course we are, We're so crazy about choice that we even believe that parents should have choices after the child is born as well as before, about the school the child attends for instance. More madness, I know.

It's just that a lot of us under 40 think that the little proto-feminist in the ultrasound might could have some rights to some choices too. I blame technology.
2.20.2009 5:09pm
Oren:


It's just that a lot of us under 40 think that the little proto-feminist in the ultrasound might could have some rights to some choices too. I blame technology.


Sure, so long as it comes out with its hands up first.
2.20.2009 5:44pm
Desiderius:
Oren,

"Sure, so long as it comes out with its hands up first."

"It"?

Ever been in a delivery room? That's not the typical third person pronoun of use. Part of the problem with old-line NARAL thought.

Then again, our little proto-feminist rarely has difficulty exercising his first amendment rights first thing out.
2.20.2009 7:36pm

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