Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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24 Responses

  1. I’m a neo-liberal, but I have no clue what a liberaltarian is?Report

    • It started with this. Then just google the term and read the first couple pages of links.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Justin_Anderson says:

      The “liberaltarian” movement was one that started in the second term of Bush’s presidency. It was an attempt by certain groups of democrats to get libertarians to say “okay, I have nothing in common with the Republican Party anymore… at least the Democrats agree with me on gay marriage and ending the drug war.”

      This lasted about as long as it took libertarians to realize that democrats agree with republicans on such issues as gay marriage and ending the drug war.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        That’s not quite accurate. To the extent it was a movement at all (and though I self-identify as such, it’s better characterized as a project than a movement), it originated with the Brink Lindsey piece E.D. links to above. At one point, Markos Moulitsas made something of a push to persuade libertarians to line up with liberals, but I view that as a different project from what I presume ED to be referring to here. For me, it’s more of a project based on the recognition that libertarianism and liberalism share common intellectual roots, trying to examine where and why the differences lie, and create something of a new political philosophy that is truer than either to their classically liberal roots.

        For me, personally, this means understanding how libertarianism has been distorted through its decades-long association with the political Right. I would submit that ideally it also means examining the way in which liberalism has become corrupted by its own coalition politics.

        So, as I view it, it’s an attempt to create a more intellectually consistent version of both libertarianism and liberalism. But that’s just me.Report

        • So Mark – is there really a difference between the two – liberaltarianism and neoliberalism? Or is it merely a difference in the origins of each project?Report

          • I’m mulling that over right now. I think Nob’s got the most important distinction about right below. But someone like me is not entirely unconcerned about efficiency, and someone like our pal North is usually pretty heavily concerned with rights, so even that’s not a cut-and-dry distinction. It’s possible that neo-liberalism and liberaltarianism are working towards the same end at different angles, but I’m not at all sure about that.Report

            • I think my first reply was a little too flippant so let me clarify.

              Neoliberalism in so far as it exists as a coherent political philosophy is primarily a form of political economy. It doesn’t really say a lot about things like rights and distribution, simply that free trade is the desirable ends for national economic policy. (For example neoliberalism doesn’t really say anything about social safety nets, so long as they’re not a form of trade barrier)

              Liberaltarianism (if such a term actually exists) is more of a fully fledged political philosophy rather than just a subset of political economy. It’s possible I think for a liberaltarian to hold neoliberal views in economics but still believe in say localism for example for certain concepts, or on the other hand for a liberaltarian to be fundamentally opposed to neoliberalism because they’d prefer localized economies with some subsidies to make localism possible.Report

            • North in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              Yeah they’re close I’d say. I love you too Mark.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          My experience with liberaltarianism has not been a “classical liberal/libertarian” fusionism that you describe but that Kos thing: an attempt by the democrats to get libertarians to vote (D) rather than whatever third party has their imagination this week.

          My experience with “classical liberal” tends to be (and this is probably all on me) among former Republicans.Report

  2. Nob Akimoto says:

    We’re talking about neoliberal economic theory and libertarianism? If so I’d imagine the main difference is where the concern lies. One’s concerned about economic efficiency and the other is concerned about rights. There’s a big gulf in what the actual objectives are.Report

  3. greginak says:

    their both just a bunch of splitters.Report

  4. Bo says:

    Neoliberal : free trade :: Liberaltarian : smoking weedReport

  5. Katherine says:

    I actually like liberaltarians?

    More seriously, I think the issue is one of objectives. Neoliberalism is directed towards the goal of maximizing efficiency/wealth, without particular concern for distribution or equity. Liberaltarianism is directed towards maximizing individual freedom while attempting to find ways to retain/increase quality of life that don’t hard said freedom.

    Also, neoliberalism is very much a one-size-fits-all ideology: every nation has to do the same thing (cut taxes, deregulate, reduce government, make trade agreements, cut subsidies) in order to prosper. Liberaltarianism is I think much more open to a wide variety of solutions based on the culture and preferences of different places, but all aimed towards the basic goal of more individual freedom.

    I see liberaltarianism as libertarianism with an increased realization that there are powers other than government that limit freedom. Neoliberalism is the goal of running government in the interests of those powers.Report

  6. I hate that neo-liberalism has been tarred with the broad bush of Clinton-style centrism, which was really just political triangulation. Folks really ought to read Charles Peters’ original Neoliberal Manifesto to get a better picture of what neoliberalism is all about.
    (Yes, I know that neoliberalism predates Charles Peters! )Report

    • The whole mess was a self-aggrandizing exercise by Charles Peters . You would be hard put to find the term used in political literature prior to 1981. It was a criticism of certain policy tools. Arthur Schlesinger complained at the time that these criticisms had (within the discourse around the Democratic Party) come and gone at intervals throughout the course of his adult life and that the whole debate was ‘sterile’ and should be ‘adjourned’.

      What confounds matters is that the term was later adopted by leftoid academics as a cuss word to condemn public policies which provided for fairly free movement of goods, services, and capital across international frontiers; the disposition of state owned industries; an end to certain mercantilist controls on intramural commerce; and a stable monetary policy.Report

  7. North says:

    Wow great question E.D. I hadn’t put a huge amount of thought into the distinctions. My knee jerk reaction was that Neo-liberals are sort of a governing philosophy whereas liberaltarians are essentially a political marketing program that was initiated in an attempt to lure the libertarians into the Democratic coalition.

    I’m with Justin in that I don’t like neo-liberals to be considered synonymous with the politically expedient triangulation of the Clinton years, though in fairness the Clinton policies often achieved neo-liberal ends.

    My own understanding for neo-liberalism is that it is focused, as Katherine pointed out, mainly on economics. Neo-libs think less government interference is better in general not necessarily on principles of rights like libertarians but more I’d think based on a gimlet eyed view of history that has shown that centralized command economies just don’t function properly. Personally and I think for neo-liberals in general they do believe is a lot more government intervention where they don’t see a private markets working. Roads, infrastructure, laws, military etc… I think that varies from person to person.

    Socially I don’t know that there is very much daylight between neo-libs and libertarians though I’d suspect that neo-libs again don’t want to rock the boat as much so they aren’t very strong advocates when the environment isn’t friendly. Sad as I am to admit it I suspect that Obama was behaving rather neo-liberally when he decided to punt the SSM/DADT down the road. It just wasn’t convenient for him. As a gay man I’m sad about that but as a neo-lib I can’t say the decision was a senseless one; just cold-blooded. In general neo-liberals don’t like positive social engineering like affirmative action and government social not necessarily because they oppose the end goals but because they think (rightly I’d say) that the programs fail to advance their purported goals and in many cases cause more problems with the distortions that they create than they fix.

    As for liberaltarians… I don’t know. My view is that Kos and some others essentially went to the libertarians and said “Look, the Republicans are lying, they are barely even paying lip service to economic libertarianism. You have more in common with Democrats and their socially permissive positions than you do with the Republicans and their faux small government positions. Plus the Democrats are better economically than they were.” It was clever but the libertarians pointed out, fairly or unfairly, that the Dems are about as faux socially libertarian as the republicans are faux economically libertarian. So they decided to stay with the devil they knew. Or more likely they sat out the election or went independent. As far as I’m concerned that’s the extent of liberaltarianism; it was a marketing program. Neo-liberalism on the other hand is an actual governing philosophy.Report

  8. Micah says:

    Neo-liberal: Belief that international economics (pro-free trade) dictate the world (rather than realism, strategic choice, individualism, etc.)

    Liberaltarian: Belief that social life (whether domestic or international) should be out of the gov’t’s hands.

    This basically could mean that as a Neo-Liberal Liberaltarian (say that three times fast). You can believe that international economics should be the governing factor in the globalized world but with domestic policies, a more regulated approach is needed for economics.Report

  9. Cascadian says:

    A bit off topic but there’s a suggestion that the progressives may want to hop in bed with the teabaggers over at Firedoglake that caught my eye.

  10. JosephFM says:

    I’m not really either anymore (if there’s one thing my time on this site has made me realize, it’s that I don’t really have a cohesive ideological viewpoint) but I do want to chime in and say that as far as I know there are essentially two different philosophies that are both labeled “neoliberalism”, which overlap but are not exactly the same. The first is the political economy one – essentially, it’s the idea that trade should always be freer, because that leads to greater overall wealth. My big problem with it tends to be that it’s generally only been that in practice it tends to run roughshod over local economies and is too easily coopted into being globalized corporatism, particularly given that the West tends to preach it and coerce poorer nations into adopting neoliberal policies while simultaneously erecting and preserving their own trade barriers (ag subsidies being the worst offender).

    There’s also a broader neoliberalism, which as North says is basically a critique of state-driven liberalism-as-practiced, which arose parallel to and somewhat allied with neoconservatism but without the latter’s historicism and militarism. This is the sort of Mike Kinsley neoliberalism often criticized (for example, by Freddie) as amounting to little more than defensive anti-leftism from the nominal center-left.

    Both of these are of course generalizations that may be a bit off, again seeing as I’m not really either.Report