“I have this crazy notion that there is a point where Red Toryism and the kind of libertarian ideas E.D. is promoting could work together.” ~ Chris Dierkes
I suppose I’m either hopelessly conflicted about my own political and social views and values (“beloved but somewhat confused” as Bob Cheeks would have it), or else I’m working slowly toward a sort of synthesis that I don’t think is properly represented in the modern American political spectrum. That is, I envision something that embraces limited government, free markets, and so forth, but without the unhealthy emphasis on individualism, corporatism, and consumerism so infused to our modern conservative and libertarian movements. I’m not saying we should demonize these things, but they should be cast in their proper roles – as byproducts of liberty and prosperity, rather than as the be-all-end-all of our lives and politics. Along with this, I’d like to see a politics that emphasizes limited, efficient government but does not demonize all government and all actions of the state (save military, of course) and works to govern, regulate, and so forth in the least intrusive, most effective way possible. This would almost certainly require a severing of ties between big government and big business – as well as big government and big labor, for that matter.
And of course, culturally, I’d like some sort of progressive traditionalism that at once embraced the need for progress (social, economic, technological, etc.) as well as the irreplacable value of tradition. Cultivating tradition and traditional values while at the same time embracing progress often seems a hopeless task, but I think that under the surface, it’s also the modus operandi of the ages. This give and take is always with us. I’m fairly traditional in many ways – with a strong belief in the nuclear family, in the importance of one parent staying home with the kids, and so forth, yet for those same reasons I support gay marriage, I support womens’ rights, etc. (A stay at home parent can almost as easily be a dad, after all). It’s why I believe in social equality and include the rights of the unborn as part of that social equality. Indeed, I think a pro-life movement that embraced cultural diversity, sexual equality, and homosexual gay rights would be a far more successful movement in the long run, though in the short term….
So Chris mentions this potential fusion of Red Toryism and Libertarianism, and I think that’s the right trajectory for a political movement to reshape America – a more “progressive” conservatism, to be sure, and one that places emphasis on the small, the local, the communal and decentralized, but also on economic freedom and human rights. I see a number of good ideas which could spawn from such a hybrid:
1) Better Safety Nets
- Universal health care.
- Universal, local education.
- Strong unemployment benefits.
- Help for young families.
2) Economic Liberty
- Free markets.
- Low taxes in a progressive framework.
- Limited government intervention into markets.
- Free(r) movement of capital and labor.
- Freedom from monopoly in both the private and public sphere.
3) Community rather than individualism; or rather individualism properly understood.
- Emphasis on local economies and politics, rather than all New York/D.C. all the time.
- Emphasis on small businesses.
- Local culture and arts, rather than all Hollywood all the time.
- New urbanism and walkable communities; “neighborhood-ism.”
- Competitive Federalism
- Embrace tradition and progress as one force for stability and change.
- Support for two-parent families.
- Support for racial and sexual equality, gay rights, etc.
- Conservation and environmentalism.
- Support for religious freedom, and a belief in the importance of religious traditions.
5) Non-interventionism and humility in foreign affairs.
- America is exceptional, but nothing justifies such an arrogant foreign policy
- Smart realism and strong diplomatic efforts
- Non-interventionism when possible, but not isolationism
Other possible ideas for this fusion include Chris’s personal favorite, the “commons” which could manifest in such things as land grants, sovereign wealth funds, pipes and cables, and so forth. Done properly, the commons could be the missing piece in all of this. I think it’s a way to limit both the influence and power of the state as well as the influence and power of the major private players. Then again, I worry that it could become a monopoly all its own, a market-killer, and an extension of state power.
So this is my attempt to start to break out all these ideas into something somewhat more tangible.
I suppose that’s the whole point of this blog, as well, to work through these contradictory ideas and to discover how to plot them out. I think there are plenty of idiosyncratic thinkers out there – Bill Kauffman for instance – who hold many seemingly contradictory ideas, but once you begin to pan out the pieces begin to fall together. This is just a sketch, in any case, to help me rein in a few of the more disparate threads of thought on all of this.