Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Progressives and Libertarians go together like peanut butter and jelly

For decades I've vaguely had the idea that the libertarians and the left should get together. Libertarianism, after all, is officially at the zero-point of the left-right axis, although in practice it veers strongly to the right. For years, libertarians have been the useful idiots of the Republican party, providing their small-government rhetoric as they plunder the treasury and wreak havoc on civil liberties and build up an enormously powerful national security state. But the root ideas of libertarianism -- freedom, limited government, individualism -- are not innately horrible, and it always seemed that a real libertarian should have more in common with the left than the right. Well, a new group is coalescing to explore that idea, and unearthing all sorts of interesting weird stuff, like the the history of Samuel Konkin III and the Alliance for the Libertarian Left. Unlike most libertarian discussions, they seem to be capable of grappling with real issues: they are anti-corporation, for the most part, they will point out the obvious fact that roads are just as much if not more a case of government-subsidized travel as mass transportation, and they talk about the tension between health regulation and tasty street food.

On the other hand, here's libertarian-flavored Arnold Kling (Ph.D. economist and Cato adjunct, no less) making a perfect ass of himself and getting roundly and deservedly mocked. Sorry, I couldn't make a post about libertarianism without making fun of somebody.


Anonymous said...

Left-libertarianism is not a new idea. It faltered before, and will founder this time, on the left's preference for equality over liberty whenever the two come into conflict. This leads to the characteristic left-wing distrust of markets as a means of allocating resources (political intervention is preferred) and consequent disdain for the institution of private property.

If right-wing libertarians conceive of liberty as freedom from constraint by the state (the view taken by the framers of the Bill of Rights), left-wing libertarianism seems to be conceived of as freedom from the consequences of one's own actions. Absent market constraints, libertarianism devolves into mere libertinism, a sort of adolescent dream of being able to fornicate and take drugs and generally to behave in a fashion transgressive of bourgeois convention. It is society as perpetual Woodstock, in which (to quote Kipling's great poem) "all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins."

Sorry, it won't work. Rexford G. Tugwell and Ayn Rand can't be happily married.

mnuez said...

Anon, you're an idiot. The evil government that you hide from under the sheets is no more and no less a result of "market forces" than are the massive corporations who shreik their inane "BUY THIS!" into our ears and eyes at every turn. The government's power, if anything, was come to more honestly. We vote, remember? The wealthy intrude upon and impede your own freedoms (not to mention views) far more than does the invisible beast of ooooohhh... "government".

I can't stand idiots who think they're smart.

Anonymous said...

Mnuez, the difference between big corporations and government is that I don't have to buy the products of services sold by big corporations (or any other participants in the private sector). They may "shreik [sic] their inane BUY THIS" all they want, but I am perfectly free to ignore their blandishments. I am, however, compelled under threat of punishment to 'buy' government whether I want it or not - and what better day to be reminded of this than April 15?

I do not know where I characterized government as 'evil' - it is more often just reflexive and unthinking, its evils the byproducts of actions justified by or intended with ostensibly good purposes. Nor do I see any of the rest of your comment as really addressing any of the points I have made.

Anonymous said...

P.S. - and as for voting, remember what Franklin was supposed to have said about democracy - it was two wolves and a lamb deciding by majority vote what to have for dinner.

Our Founders not only objected to taxation without representation, but also believed the right to representation flowed from the responsibility for paying government's bills. Voting was to be a public trust reserved for taxpayers, and remained so for many years after the Constitution's ratification.

"One man, one vote" democracy has created a system that enables clever and unscrupulous politicians to buy the votes of the indigent with taxpayer money. Representation without taxation is the root of all the political evils our society now faces.