TCS Daily

Dear Libertarian Democrats...

By Arnold Kling - October 5, 2006 12:00 AM

"...there's a whole swath of Americans who are uncomfortable with Republican/conservative efforts to erode our civil liberties while intruding into our bedrooms and churches; they don't like unaccountable corporations invading their privacy, holding undue control over their economic fortunes, and despoiling our natural surroundings; yet they also don't appreciate the nanny state, the over-regulation of small businesses, the knee-jerk distrust of the free market, or the meddlesome intrusions into mundane personal matters."
-- Markos Moulitsas, The Case for the Libertarian Democrat

Dear Libertarian Democrats,

Thank you for your recent overture. Libertarians are not very good at accepting overtures. We tend to be purists, and there is much in your essay that violates my ideas of libertarianism. Nonetheless, I would like to offer a constructive response. What I would propose is that we adopt a pragmatic, experimental approach toward working together.

I am ready to acknowledge that Republicans have not served libertarians well the past six years. In fact, I recently made a controversial Case for Staying Home this November, because I am fed up with Republicans' focus on power politics and "big-government conservatism."

My guess is that the Democratic Party is not going to suddenly convert en masse to libertarianism. But I can see the possibility of at least a temporary alliance between libertarians and Democrats, provided that both are willing to experiment.

Agreeing to an Experiment

What I propose is that Democrats promise to support one major libertarian experiment. In exchange for Democrats agreeing to support this experiment, libertarians would agree to vote for Democrats.

The experiment that I have in mind is school choice. If Democrats would instead prefer an experiment with voluntary investment accounts substituting for Social Security, that is an acceptable alternative. But for now, let us work with school choice.

The experiment that I propose is that in four or five diverse states, all tax revenues that ordinarily would go to schools would for a period of 15 years go to parents as school vouchers. Proponents of school choice will propose specific indicators that will be measured to assess whether the experiment achieves desired goals, such as improved school quality, lower cost, and greater parent satisfaction. Opponents of school choice also will propose specific indicators that will be measured to assess whether the experiment leads to greater inequality in schooling or other adverse results. After fifteen years, voters will have useful information to determine whether the experiment with school choice should be expanded or ended.

Single-Payer Experiment

Traditional Democrats may say, "If we are willing to give libertarians an experiment, what do we get in return? Do we get a chance to experiment with our policies?"

I would welcome experiments with socialist policies, provided that they are only experiments. That is, the policies must be evaluated, and if they are found to have failed, they must be abandoned.

For example, I would welcome an experiment in which four or five diverse states adopt single-payer health care. My guess is that if people were to experience single-payer health care for ten or fifteen years, that would provide powerful evidence that it is a bad idea for the United States.

Suppose that the single-payer experiment started on October 1st of 2007. As of that date, all residents of the single-payer states and all children subsequently born in those states would be enrolled in the single-payer program. All residents of other states would continue in traditional programs. People who change states would stay with their existing health programs -- you could not change health programs after October 1st by changing states.

As with the school-choice experiment, the single-payer experiment would require indicators of success. Proponents and opponents should identify cost, coverage, and quality indicators that will be measured, so that voters can decide how well the experiment fared.


Experimentalism is the philosophy of trying political ideas in clear, finite, measurable experiments. It is an alternative to the futile ideological head-banging that is turning off more and more voters every day.

Experimentalism has the potential to be a new political philosophy that transcends partisanship. My guess is that more Americans could be comfortable with experimentalism than with traditional Democratic or Republican dogma.

In fact, there is good reason to suspect that support for the traditional two parties is at an all-time low. The major parties are leaving huge gaps in the political center as well as other parts of the political spectrum. In this essay, I argued that the future political battle pits incumbent politicians against the "long tail."

As a libertarian, I would prefer that people adopt my ideas right now, based on their clear logic and intuitive appeal. Since that is not likely to happen, the next best thing would be experimentalism, which would allow libertarian ideas to be tried along with other ideas. Perhaps over time the best ideas would win out.

So that is my response to libertarian Democrats. I will forgive what I see as the flaws in your libertarianism, if you will make a serious commitment to experiment, with something like school choice.

Arnold Kling is an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and the author of Crisis of Abundance: Re-thinking How We Pay for Health Care.



A Democrat-Libertarian Alliance would be mutually beneficial and has huge potential
I do sincerely hope something like this begins to develop soon. While I don't hold out a lot of hope that today's Left would be willing to challenge any component of Modern Democratic Dogma, it is clearly in the best interests of Democrats and Libertarians to find some common ground.

Democrats could use the votes, and libertarians could use the representation. If you're a rigid, doctrinaire liberal or libertarian, this alliance might not be for you and you'll surely find plenty to bellyache about. If you're a liberal or libertarian who is interested in having electoral success, I think this is "The Way".

I could go on at length about how the successful Dems tend to embrace the Free Market and how libertarians are taken for granted by Republicans and no longer would be if Dems were "stealing" them but I don't feel like typing that much.

A Democrat-Libertarian Alliance would be mutually beneficial and has huge potential by McGruv

A Democrat-Libertarian Alliance would be mutually beneficial and has huge potential by McGruv

Typing in all Caps is stupid and annoying.
In my humble opinion.

Back to the subject.
I really think a libertarian-leaning Democratic Party is the one that will endure instead of going the way of the Whigs. I believe that the Democratic Party as a whole in it's present form is on pretty shaky ground.

If Dems are sick of always getting kicked around by Repubs and want to be a force to be reckoned with again, I know many libertarians who would be willing to help. Provided of course that we agree to at least experiment as the article says.

I'd rather fight for control within the GOP than switch back to the Dems
This article captures my personal political dilemma of having strong libertarian political instincts but having nowhere to go with them because (1) the Libertarian Party is too small to make any difference other than giving elections to Democrats, and (2) from the "Great Society" of LBJ to the present Democrats have purged their party of anyone having a libertarian philosophy. The Reagan Democrats were the libertarian wing of the Democratic Party. If there are enough centrists remaining in the Democratic Party to capture it from the party's socialist majority, we libertarians in the GOP might be induced to come back. But I doubt that Mr. Kling's "formal experiments" will work...the process has to be more organic at the grass roots level than 1 or 2 experiments run by political elitists over a 15 year period. It would be easier, I think, for libertarians to capture the GOP and then undertake the various experiments he proposes.

It is called federalism
There were a bunch of white men around 225 years ago that started that experiment.

The experiment was fairly successful until power and greed were institutionalized by the likes of Lincoln and FDR.

School voucher expriments are and have been tried as have charter schools.

MA, with the blessing of a potential future Republican president has already insituted mandetory state health insurance.

The expriment I would like to see is a Supreme Court that returns to the Constitution and voters that throw out the bums every election.

Libertarians that make deals with devils will lose their souls.

Abolish the Constitution and start a parliment.
Let all voices be heard.

The essence of the Democrats is government.
The Republicans who are currently in power are spending like FDR on a crack binge. The GOP has grown the size of government substantially, and such growth is antithetical to the libertarian mind. So what should a libertarian do come election time?

You could vote Democrat. However, this would be totally insane. The Democratic Party's chief goals are socialism and enforced political correctness. The Republican Party, on the other hand, has already proposed the two policies you suggest and is composed, in large part, of people who are committed to smaller government.

While their recent Presidents might not have been able to expand the government as much as the current President, do not forget who brought us disasters like the New Deal, Medicare, Medicaid, HUD, the Department of Education, etc. Today, they have even more plans for expanding the power of government. They plan to socialize medicine, and have done so since Hillarycare. They plan to expand laws like the Endangered Species Act that have eviscerated property rights. They plan to raise taxes yet again. I will not delve in to employment law and all of the other areas of our economic existence that the Democrats tamper with on a regular basis. The list of Democratic attempts to socialize our economy is legion.

Enforcing their view of the politically correct world is also a critical aspect of their agenda. By politically correct, I am not only referring to laws like Title IX and affirmative action programs. I am also referring to laws like that banning foie gras in Chicago and laws banning soft drinks in schools. I am referring to legislation attacking "hate speech" and "hate crimes." I am referring to anti-Wal-Mart zoning ordinances and state laws. Perhaps most prominently, I will refer to New York's anti-smoking laws. The left will take away those freedoms they find offensive when exercised. Today, you might be concerned about marijuana legalization, but where will you smoke that marijuana when the Democrats are in charge?

The Democratic Party exists as a gigantic patronage machine, doling out cash and favortism to selected groups. The Republicans have done their fair share of this as well, but for them it is not the one unifying principle that keeps their Party together. For the Democrats, the expansion of government is their solution to every problem, their one and only solution.

The chief areas of disagreement between libertarians and conservatives seems to be centered on four issues: Drugs, prostitution, gay marriage and abortion. There is little prospect of movement from either side on these issues.

Despite this fact, the question that libertarians need to ask themselves is: Which party reflects more of my values and preferences? Is it the Democrats, and their rush to socialize everything they can get their hands on and to regulate every minor aspect of our lives? Or, is it the Republicans, with whom we agree on everything except drugs, prostitution, gay marriage and abortion? Is it worth socialism to have gay marriage instead of civil unions? Is it worth being told what you can and cannot eat so that you can smoke marijuana? Is it worth paying all of those extra taxes to have the right to abort a fetus?

The Republican Party is not doing a horrible job controlling the size of government right now, but it is important to remember that this is largely because of the allegiance that these Republicans owe to the President, one man. This is not a dysfunction of the Party, but a dysfunction of one man without the will to shrink government and the people who have to follow him if they want to have a career in politics. The small-government faction is gaining strength within the Republican Party, and will likely choose the next presidential candidate. This problem will correct itself, and it will do so more quickly if libertarians do the sensible thing and start backing conservatives.

At this point the democrats are a terrible choice
Some Democrats may be willing to try the school choice idea - I have spoken to liberal Democrats who like the idea -- but, they will go directly against 90% of the other economic points of libertarianism because at their heart they still believe in socialism.

The republicans understand the value of free markets - at least some of them - and federalism and state's rights, inalienable property rights, etc. Some Republicans are not like that - they are of fascist mentality in that they beleive in government guiding business; similar to the Democrats socialist mentality whereby government runs business "for the people". But many Republicans do believe in the classical liberal ideas -- there are very few Democrats that do.

Sadly, the Democrats believe in the social libertarianism and the socialist economics still, very much like the old USSR party line. They may agree to one experiment like school choice, but once in power they would try to raise the minimum wage to $8/hr, expand healthcare as a government program, raise taxes, reinstitute welfare programs that had been cut and generally expand the size and scope of government in every way possible (except defense and other constitutional roles of government).

very well said
now how do we (re)-capture the GOP?

However, Libertarians who don't make deals with devils...
...lose elections. Therefore, pick the devil that agrees with you more, and try to change his mind.

The Republican Party is obviously that devil. The Democrats endless socialism and nitpicking at things like fatty food, Wal-Mart, the environment, etc. are totally antithetical to the Libertarian worldview.

The Republicans, with the notable and unfortunate exception of George W. Bush, tend to believe in limited government and federalism. The only areas of disagreement I have seen between Libertarians and Republicans are on abortion, gay marriage, drugs and prostitition. Given that neither side backs legalizing drugs or hookers, the only real differences are on abortion and gay marriage.

So the real question is: Is the right to kill a potential child worth more to you than having a health care system that is not socialized? Is the right for homosexuals to marry rather than have civil unions so important that you are willing to have your taxes raised?

Re: Abolish the Constitution and start a parliment
The US constitution is one of the finest documents ever written! Clear and simple with a division of power intended to prevent the accrual of dictatorial power, which has worked pretty well for more than 200 years!

How would your parliament work - how would it be different from Congress (as is today) and so-called parliaments around the world?

I mean, there are 300m people in the US today - who'd want to hear *all* their voices?????

"...but you know it don't come easy" (1971 rock song by Richard Starkey, BMI)
I wish I knew the answer. Ed Koch said a few days ago that in politics it is always better to win than to lose and recommended that no libertarian GOPers stay home in protest in November. On the other hand, maybe the GOP would listen and be more responsive to its libertarian and neocon wings between now and 2008 if it lost control of Congress. Because success in Iraq is so important and because a Democratic Congress will surely result in a Vietnam-style withdrawal and another 3,500 names on a new Wall of Failure on the Mall (to say nothing of the Iraqis that are already dead and will die after we leave), I've decided to stick with the GOP and try to work from within.

Good points
and I agree.

Yeah, agreed
Both that it don't come easy and also that its too important.

For security, for the war (and not making the same mistake of Vietnam) I will stay with the GOP too. And also because I am quite afraid of seeing this country become France. France invented beaurocracy, you know.

Anyway, I would like to figure out how one takes over a party without just withholding votes - how does one get a libertarian candidate to the forefront of a party? How does one convince the base to support a more libertarian and less social candidate? How does one influence both the leads and the people - or influence one enough to influence the other?

Indeed there are no "Libertarian Dems" today. But someday?
I most definitely can't relate enough to any Dem candidate currently running or already in office enough to vote for them. I must agree that I have to vote mostly Republican THIS November. To vote for a Dem just to "punish" the big spending Repubs is pretty weak.

I see this article and what it advocates as more of a thought experiment or something some brave avant-garde political candidate of the future might try rather than an attempt to persuade libertarians to vote for Democrats.

As a libertarian, I think it would be nice (and fitting) if even a few Democrats running for office leaned libertarian enough so that I had a CHOICE. Why should the GOP have a monopoly on the libertarian vote?

In a given election, if such a Dem candidate were up against a big gov Republican, I would we very enthusiastic about voting for him/her and I sense that I wouldn't be alone. My vote and I await this libertarian democrat to emerge. No, I'm not holding my breath.

See Marjon's comments for a promising method...
Marjon's comment on Kling's article is to use federalism as the instrument and method to make libertarian ideas a force in politics. I think he's right...this is probably the most promising approach. The real fight in the trenches is at the state and local levels. Support state and local GOP candidates who are libertarians. If there aren't any, run yourself. The rational arguments are all on the libertarian side. Both the liberal Dems and the paleocons in the GOP are brain-dead.

Perhaps Someday
Perhaps someday but first the Democrats have to peel themselves from their socialist ideology.

The question is whether the true heart of the Democratic Party is the socially liberal (and potentially libertarian) part or the socialist part. If it is the latter then there is no point in even hoping. If its the former - if they are interested in outcomes and willing to recognize that the method of socialism to achieve those outcomes is a failure - then there may be hope.

But after 75 years they are still trying and hoping and growing government and seem to have learned nothing. So, yeah, I'm not holding my breath either.

There are two different kinds of parliament
In a pure parliamentary system, the people elect the parliament, and the parliament then elects the executive.

There are other kinds, Israel for example, has a system in which the people elect the parliament, and the executive directly.

In Great Britain, the parliament selects the executive, but seats in congress are choosen on a district by district basis, with each party deciding who will stand for each seat. (No primaries.)

Changing how the people vote for congress would not change how our govt works, and as long as you keep the voting by state, rather than having all congress criters elected on a national basis, there shouldn't even be a need to change the constitution. There's nothing in the US constitution that requires each representative to be elected by a single district. The constitution just stipulates how many representatives each state gets.

Some parliamentary systems put in a floor. Any party that fails to get a certain percentage of the vote (usually 3 to 5%) is discounted, and their votes are not used in calculating which party gets how many seats.

The only backroom dealing that might be necessary would be to determine who gets to be Speaker of the House, if no party has strict majority of the seats.

There are two ways to increase libertarian influence within the party.
The first is to convince enough libertarian leaning voters to move to a single area, so that the concentration of our voices can't be ignored.

The second is to educate.

Neither is easy, and neither will be quick.

Libertarianism is an Ideological Extreme
There's a reason Libertarians rarely get elected to anything. Quite simply, they don't believe in creating an organization big enough to get them elected. It goes against the basic premise of their beliefs. Sadly, getting your message heard takes money - lots of it. Trying to persuade people to give you lots of money, so you can reduce the size of government to save them money is a tough sell.

Assuming for that Libertarianism is ideologically pure and immune corruption by money. How is ever going to translate into elected positions? If a stronger Libertarian Party won a lot of seats, how would it remain pure in the city that pork built?

Small government is a tough sell anywhere, especially if you are intending to hold some government office. The Libertarian Argument must hinge entirely on the freedoms we're losing, if you want to package it in a saleable way. Which party has deprived you of more freedoms lately? Which party sabotages the free market with regulation and wealth-redistribution more? Which party leads in selective censorship? If racism is defined as favoring one race over another in policy, which party is more guilty?

It's true that many Republicans run for office on fiscal conservatism and then fail to live up to that ideal. Some Republican candidates have even lied about their fiscal intents. However, no Democrat even holds any ideal of fiscal conservatism, or even pretends there will be any effort to stem the tide of regulation. It's always going to be a lesser of two evils, but at least it's possible to be a fiscally restrained Republican. Strong Libertarian leaning candidates could find a home there, and run a successful freedoms-based campaign for office.

To refute the article more directly: No Democrat would agree to either concession of the proposed deal - it's a moot point. They intend to win AND keep the Education and Social Security rackets intact. What's the point of winning if there are no spoils?

Constitution "Clear and Simple"
The Supremes and the Congress apparently do not accept this position.

I would have thought that the words: "Congress shall make no law ..." in the First Amendment were clear and simple. McCain/Feingold suggests that Congress did not understand that and neither did the Supremes.

Kelo would suggest that the "Takings Clause" of the Fifth Amendment is also not clear and simple.

How can the meaning of a clear, simple document be overwhelmed by "eminations and penumbras"?

The Libertarian Case Against Abortion
"Is holding a pro-life position inherently inconsistent with libertarian philosophy? Many libertarians seem to think so. Abortion, according to them, is forced and legislated morality defended by big-government conservatives who want to impose their faith and morals on the rest of an unwilling society. Not only that, it is statist in that it invalidates a mother’s right to terminate a pregnancy. The State now trumps parental rights and decides for the mother against her will that she must bring a child into the world.

Is this, however, the full story? I argue that it is absolutely not. Rather than being a liberating, pro-freedom expression of personal choice against government intrusion, the "right" to abortion is itself a statist measure completely consistent with left-wing ideology of how society and government should function. It does nothing to advance the cause of freedom. It instead drastically sets the principles of freedom and personal responsibility light-years back. Therefore, the pro-life position is not only completely consistent with libertarian philosophy, but it is much more consistently libertarian than the alternative position outlined above. "

Let't make a deal
Kling argues for Liberatian support of the Democrats to form a government, just like parlimentary systems.

Vote party, not a person.

Stack the court like FDR
That's the only way to ensure the Constitution is followed, or maybe if everyone VOTED in every election.

Why use TCS to talk to Democrats?
Why is Arnold King, a registered Democrat, using TCS to 'talk' to Democrats. Is TCS's profile changing?

Upper right of screen
Ya gotta wonder even though the "Hayek Series" is promoted on the top of the site.

While I am liberatarian, I have not ventured into liberatarian blogs before, so forgive me if I am more than just a bit confused by the suggestion that the top federal policy item on the liberatarian wish list would be to take socialist local programs (public schools), and have the Congress do some kind of federal takeover of these socialist programs under the banner of a "school choice" slogan? Am I in the wrong place? Now I am not against all forms of socialism -- public schools and national defense, for example. But no thanks to even more pervasive federal entanglement. Instead we ought to abolish the wasteful federal Dept of Ed and return control to where it belongs. All the public schools around me are good so I don't see any need for choice here; if people who live in different places feel differently by all means do whatever you want.

As for an alliance with Democrats, sure, absolutely, for now. Divided federal government is usually the best, all the more so with that silver-fork-in-his-nose in the White House and a GOP Congress that has demonstrated repeatedly that the Republican Party was only really in favor of small government when they weren't the ones who were running it. But when it comes to divided government I sure wish I could have back the Gingrich-Clinton of '95 instead of the Pelosi-Bush we seem to have coming for '07.

I'd support an anti-Iraq war Democrat who was pro-gun and low tax.
I'm sick of the Iraq war. It was and is a stupid idea. I'd vote for an anti-Iraq-war, pro-gun, low-tax Democrat.

If Kerry wasn't so anti-gun, I'd have voted for him instead of the Libertarian, Michael Badnarik. Besides, Kerry would be better commander with respect to the Iraq war. Kerry at least served some time on the ground in a conflict not too different than Iraq. Whereas Bush spent his time stateside in the Air National Guard. It doesn't take too long on the ground after being ambushed to know the name of the game. Bush was never on the ground in a guerilla war. Kerry was. Kerry would have made a far better commander. Bush is all style and image, no real substance.

So, if the Democrats could dump the anti-gun nonsense, and not just change rhetoric but actually vote against gun control and actually repeal (or at least loosen) some gun control, like the NYC Sullivan law, and not block shall-issue CCW laws, and support pro-gun judicial appointments, then I'd likely vote for Democrats.

Logic and feelings
Being 'sick' of the Iraq war leads me to suspect you naturally fit into a liberal camp and would be swayed by arguments for gun control 'for the children'.

Now if you could proposs a cogent alternative to what was initiated in Iraq instead of being 'sick' of the war (how much more sick of the war do you think the Bush administration is compared to you?)

For socialism
How can you support socialist schools if you are a libertarian?

vote the person not the party
vote the person not the party

Free State Project: NH
"What the Free State Project is... The Free State Project is an effort to recruit 20,000 liberty-loving people to move to New Hampshire. We are looking for neighborly, productive, tolerant folks from all walks of life, of all ages, creeds, and colors who agree to the political philosophy expressed in our Statement of Intent, that government exists at most to protect people's rights, and should neither provide for people nor punish them for activities that interfere with no one else."

Because as a libertarian I think people should have the liberty to decide when acting collectively makes sense. Having an army is socialism. Public roads are socialism. When I give my kids breakfast in the morning that is socialism. Having a Constitution is socialism. It isn't all bad. Anyway, I assumed that the original post was talking about greater federal management of public schools, not the elimination of public schools.

Iraq, since you mention it elsewhere, is to me just an illustration of what the Republican party has become and why it is, at best, no better than the Democrats even on government spending issues (and obviously far worse on social policy). We are in Iraq because certain well-connected interests thought they could make money from it. In my book, a $300 billion elective war that is doing nothing for me but increase the odds of being killed by a terrorist is just another big-government boondoggle, and one that is a lot worse than most of the domestic big government programs libertarians rightly are execised over.

RE: Abortion and RE: Free State Project
The Libertarians are more ani-abortion than the Republicans. Look at the presidential candidates:

1988: Ron Paul, pro-life. Geo. Bush the Elder, pro-choice.

1992: Andre Marrou, pro-choice. Geo. Bush the Elder, pro-choice.

1996: Harry Browne, pro-life. Bob Dole, pro-choice.

2000: Harry Browne, pro-life. Geo. Bush the Younger, pro-choice.

2000: Michael Badnarik, pro-choice. Geo. Bush the Younger, pro-choice.

Bush the Younger claims to be pro-life, Planned Parenthood's subsidies have gone up each year of his Presidency.

The second point goes to Marjon concerning the Free State Project. That will be a failure because they chose the wrong state. They didn't consider NH's "Masshole" problem. The FSP wants 20,000 people to move to NH. But 10,000 "Massholes" move to NH each year. The libertarians who move to NH will be cancelled out in 2 years, and NH will become another MA.

I don't see that there is any time for the Democrats to pass legislation needed to being the experiments before the election. I certainly wouldn't trust the Democrats to do the experiments after the fact so I wouldn't vote their party in return for a future promise to perform the experiments. After all politicians are not known for following up on election promises. There for whether are not this is a good deal it is moot as the timing is poor for any deal.

If A Pig Had Wings . .
. . . it would be a libertarian-leaning Democrat.

The Problem With Expecting Democrats to Support
Libertarian policies and objectives, is that libertarians believe, for the most part, that government should leave the people alone, so the people can get on with the business of taking care of themselves, whereas Democrats believe that the government's business is to take care of the people in order to perpetuate the people's dependency on the welfare state which in turn provides the Democrats their reason for being. Libertarians and Democrats do have this in common, however: each group is a hothouse flower, whose illusions of fundamental human goodness fuel delusions that it's preferred policies would actually work in the real world. Libertarians underestimate the value of the security and stability provided by strong government, and Democrats overestimate the capabilities of government, somehow having faith that ordinary human failings cease to exist if humans act through government instrumentalities rather than as private citizens.

On the contrary,
Libertarians have no illusions about the goodness of their fellow man. That's why we don't want govt to have much influence over our lives.

The True Heart of the Democratic Party
Is Socialism, enforced by authoritarianism, if necessary. It's been socialism since FDR, but at that time, it was a determinedly anti-communist, pro-democratic socialism, perhaps something that you might call libertarian-leaning Democrat, an animal which is now all but extinct.

In 1972, when the Dems decided that it was no longer important to have grown-ups in charge, they abandoned their anti-communist heritage and principles, choosing instead to embrace the "enemy of my enemy" philosophy, eventually leading to the party's abandonment of the Liberal principles of the Founders. Social Liberalism is important to Democrats only insofar as it maintains their influence -- they support it on an ad hoc basis only, usually in circumstances where they can make a showy dissent from the decision of grown-ups actually trying to solve a problem (such as their irresponsible position on NSA surveillance of cross-border communications and their criticism of monitoring certain electronic funds transfers), and would abandon it altogether in a heartbeat if doing so would put them in power.

You can count on the fingers of a single hand the number of Dems having the political courage to face down their party's ideological purists: Lieberman, Clinton (sometimes, but less frequently lately), Boxer (hard to believe, but yes, her against the tide support of Lieberman gets her in this small group), Hoyer (who should be in Pelosi's spot), and that's about it. The people the Dems put in leadership positions tells us everything we need to know about their commitment to principles we might recognize in our foundational documents -- Reid, Pelosi et al. represent the "free speech for me but not for thee" wing of the Democrat party.

Suppression of free speech is not only tolerated, but actively encouraged among left-leaning academia (you know, most of it), giving us the spectacle we saw at Columbia University recently. That is the future, under an America governed by the Democrats -- you know, an America in which the right of a non-American to freely cross the US border is more fundamental the rights of Americans to assemble, criticize the government, support candidates for public office, etc. Free speech is ok as long as it doesn't offend the Democrats or one of their special "victim" constituencies.

Test Your Beliefs
Against Libertarian philosophy, Mark. From what I've read of your comments here, my guess is that you're probably closer to Alexander Hamilton than to JSMill. If that's true, then you're not a Libertarian, even though you value the balance of liberty and responsibility embodied in Libertarianism (it's also in Liberalism -- the classic kind, not the post-modern kind).

For Libertarianism to work as a philosophy that drives policy, human beings either have to be separated by great distances, or those human beings have to be trusted to respect the boundaries established by the social contract, without much government enforcement of those boundaries. The latter implies a fair amount of confidence in humanity's innate goodness, a confidence I believe to be foolhardy, but not as foolhardy as that of the Democrat/socialists, who have so much faith in human goodness and wisdom that they're willing to entrust control of their lives to institutions run by other humans.

Libertarian Socialism?
There is no such thing. Yes, many early supporters of socialism thought that it could be done sans authoritarianism but it cannot. There is no way to redistribute the wealth of the people without coercion; there is no way to share the means of production without a central owner that then distributes the wealth, which in turn requires coercion. There is no way to plan an economy without a central government strong enough to put those plans into action. The "anarchy" of the free market is freedom; when you replace "anarchy" with socialism, you replace freedom with totalitarianism. Any concept of socialism without planning is naive idealism without fully thinking out the problem. This hard lesson was learned from 1917-1921 by Russia, after Lenin attempted to bring socialism without planning to the people.

In any case the founding fathers knew all this and the Democrats turned their backs on the ideals of the founding father when they embraced the ideals of socialism - not years later when they fully owned up to their willingness to use authoritarian force. They used the rhetoric of the early socialists (including the bolsheviks) until it was obvious to anyone paying attention that the socialist interest in freedom was linguistic only, and equality was the real goal -- eg under Stalin. At that point socialists had to make a choice: admit authoritarian leanings or move to the "right", to classical liberalism. The Democrats chose the former.

Socialism Defined
"Ownership is power of disposal, and when this power of disposal is divorced from its traditional name and handed over to a legal institution which bears a new name, the old terminology is essentially unimportant in the matter. Not the word but the thing must be considered. Limitation of the rights of owners as well as formal transference is a means of socialization. If the State takes the power of disposal from the owner piecemeal, by extending its influence over production; if its power to determine what direction production shall take and what kind of production there shall be, is increased, then the owner is left at last with nothing except the empty name of ownership, and property has passed into the hands of the State."

"When I give my kids breakfast in the morning that is socialism. "

Feeding your children is socialism?

" We are in Iraq because certain well-connected interests thought they could make money from it."

Who is making money and how much?

Remember the Pilgrims in MA tried communism and nearly starved.
When free enterprise was promoted, they and MA flourished, until the commies took over.

I think many are heading south to NC or SC or FL.

If a Dem is elected governor in MA, I am sure more will follow.

'YET US STUDENTS ARE NOT PREPARED FOR THE WORKPLACE' nor much more impartantly for life.

Not all libertarians are anarchists
Even the anarchists believe in enforcement agencies.

You really need to study a philosophy before you go around proclaiming problems with it.

There's a big difference between saying govt should only have the power to punish people who hurt others, which is what the vast majority of Libertarians believe in, and saying govt should have no power.

enough with the labels
One of my main points was that I'm not one for labels so I'm not going to go there. Let's just say that if you want to oppose public funding of secondary schools, there are also some windmills in Spain you could take a swing at.

Who is making money in Iraq? Wow, what a list that must be, just from the ones we are allowed to know about. Bechtel, Halliburton/KBR, Parsons Corp, Titan, defense contractors, private security companies, and on and on and on. How much are they making? Millions, some of them hundreds of millions. And if they ever get the oil fields going at full tilt, much more. We all know enough to know how badly federal domestic programs are run and how much money seeps out; it surely must be worse, probably much worse, in Iraq. The opportunity for war, occupation and oil profits is a big reason, if not the reason, we are there. I am a shareholder in one of these companies so have at least gotten some of my taxes back from their rocketing share price. I guess for other Americans it is one big inefficient wealth transfer to people who don't need or deserve it. And that is before we even talk about the far graver human and geopolitical implications of the war. Anyway, my point is that the Bush Administration runs the government for the personal profit of select allies, not the values of the libertarian party. We are stuck with it for 2 more years regardless, so at least for the remainder I'd prefer a Democratic House watching over it. It isn't like they can enact single-payer or anything like that anyway, with a GOP President.

socialism is good, so long as you believe you are benefitting from it?
Socialism, in the sense that you mean collective action, is only appropriate in those areas where individuals are unable to provide something on their own.

Defense probably falls into this area. Roads are close to the border. Schools definitely do not.

You seem to think that whenever the majority votes to limit the rights of individuals, that this must be alright.

TCS Daily Archives