Liberaltarianism is dead

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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78 Responses

  1. Michael Drew says:

    Most liberals fully and enthusiastically embrace markets as the best way to distribute goods in a society. They simply differ from libertarians in the extent to which they believe unregulated markets’ extreme outcomes should be redressed by reasonable levels of regulation.Report

    • North in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Amen Michael. Seriously, the actual people who want to abolish Markets deserted the Democrats for the Green and other fringe left parties long long ago. I think it’s very unfair to characterize the Democratic Party, which has moved a long way to the right on the economic front in the last two decades, in that way.

      Otherwise, good post. I wish the liberaltarian alliance could be more lively than it is. Cold blooded neo-liberal that I am I would love to have more libertarians on the left.Report

      • Dave in reply to North says:

        Mark has always been more optimistic about a liberaltarian alliance than I am and I guess from Micheal’s statement I can understand it since I bang my head against a wall every time someone implies I believe in unregulated markets. After what has transpired, I tend to get very hostile to that position. Pure unadulterated bullshit.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Dave says:

          Are you a libertarian? I’m not sure if ou are saying you get hstile to a laissez-faire position, or if you get hostile to the suggestion that libertarians must hold to an absolutist laissez-faire position. I didn’t mean to imply libertarians all support completely unregulated markets (though I kind of fail to see how the doctrine doesn’t point in that direction). But if in fact you are saying that it isn’t the case that all libertarians must support unregulated markets, this goes to a point I have long wanted to make here — that in fact liberals and libertarians merely occupy (sometimes slightly) different positions on the regulation-laissez faire spectrum, and therefore that there is not a distinction in principle between them either side can point to. They merely have somewhat different preferences about how interventionist the government should be in the marketplace, whether because of how they’re personally affected, or because of what they think works best for society so.. But the same thing is true (ie there are differences) among liberals, and indeed, if the absolutist position is not compelled, among libertarians. I think these are still in practice differences that will be very hard to bridge in a liberaltarian enterprise, but it is important to take not if we agree there is not a difference in principle between the positions.Report

          • Dave in reply to Michael Drew says:

            This I can work with. I am most pleased.

            Are you a libertarian?

            Allegedly. 🙂

            Some would probably say that I’m not but I do consider myself one. I hold views that most people will disagree with but my approach as of late has been far from an ideological one. I may hold libertarian views but what pays the bills is the real estate business and I have extensive experience in the capital markets. What I’ve seen as a result of the financial crisis has really colored my views and moved more from defending ideological platitudes and seeing things for what they are. If I conflict with libertarians, so be it. If I piss some off so badly that they’d say I’m not one, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

            I didn’t mean to imply libertarians all support completely unregulated markets (though I kind of fail to see how the doctrine doesn’t point in that direction).

            Given that there are a small subset of libertarians who prefer a virtually pure laissez faire system (regulations to prevent force and fraud are included in that), your suspicions are valid. I don’t run across that many people like that but who knows. I don’t think Mark thinks that way and although E.D. isn’t a libertarian, his views on markets lean in that directions and are in some ways simliar.

            But if in fact you are saying that it isn’t the case that all libertarians must support unregulated markets, this goes to a point I have long wanted to make here — that in fact liberals and libertarians merely occupy (sometimes slightly) different positions on the regulation-laissez faire spectrum, and therefore that there is not a distinction in principle between them either side can point to.

            I think this is right. I’m not sure if I would use the term “slightly” to describe certain disagreements but in many ways we’re a lot closer on some issues than some would make it seem. Then again, viewing the world from my standpoint, I know that I stand apart on libertarians on many things, especially on matters related to finance and economics.

            Furthermore, the generalization of the “liberal as socialist” meme is retarded and makes no sense outside of the idiotic minds that pollute talk radio. If I disagree with a liberal on the necessity of levying a tax on financial transactions, I do so because I think he’s a bad idea not because I think he’s attempt to have the government control the finance industry.

            They merely have somewhat different preferences about how interventionist the government should be in the marketplace, whether because of how they’re personally affected, or because of what they think works best for society so…

            Or whether or not the regulations in question really do achieve the goals that their proponents believe and wonder if the cure is worse than the problem. The perfect example for me is the disagreement I’ve had with liberals is the issue of executive pay.

            I think these are still in practice differences that will be very hard to bridge in a liberaltarian enterprise, but it is important to take not if we agree there is not a difference in principle between the positions.

            I think this is more or less right. I think differences in economic policy are still pretty glaring. Even if liberals and libertarians have at their core a respect for markets, very few libertarians find any value in Keynsian economic theory and/or sustaining budget deficits to help pull us out of a recovery. There are other issues with deficits, taxes, etc. as well but I think you hit all the points and wrote a particularly good response to what I intended to be a throwaway comment on my part. Nicely done.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Dave says:

              I thank you for the opportunity to hone my view and state it pointedly. Your responses in turn were extremely forthright and illuminating.

              My main response would just be that, while the simple matter of my personal reaction to your overall views would be something close to gleeful personal assent, nevertheless for the purposes of this discussion the fact that you acknowledge that your views qua libertarian views are indeed at least somewhat heterodox, and that indeed you anticipate that some libertarians may actually find them sufficiently so to want to excommunicate you (not that that makes them right with regard to the doctrine, but it does illustrate a certain reality about an ideological persuasion that, as Mark has suggested, at least points unmistakably in a particular direction even if it doesn’t compel one to seek the polar position in which direction the ideology points) — is perhaps the more germane point.

              But I as well very very much appreciate this discussion; it is exactly the one I have wished for a while now to have. Thanks, Dave!Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I state pretty clearly that I don’t think the distinction lies between pro and anti market types but between decentralists and centralists. That may not always boil down to people who believe in overt central planning vs. those who don’t, but if you pare it back far enough that’s what it pretty much boils down to (though it’s likely more of a sliding scale, not simply two polar beliefs).Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    There were two and a half things that Obama might have done to keep a fragile liberaltarian alliance alive:

    1) Quit busting dispensaries. Keep busting people who sell heroin, cocaine, acid, meth, and whathaveyou! Sure, bust the hell out of them! But leave medicinal weed alone. This isn’t even a positive action. It’s a “not doing something” rather than a “doing something” (e.g., Executive order making weed a schedule 2 drug… which would have caused Libertarians’ heads to explode).

    2) Declared victory and went home in one or two police actions currently going on. Or, at least, pulled out of one without dumping the soldiers into the other. Maybe even close Guantanamo! And that’s without even getting into stuff like “investigate the previous administration for ‘excesses'”.

    1/2) Talked about the culture war and, specifically, why gay marriage is nothing to be frightened of. (“Gay marriage should be safe, legal, and rare.”)

    The liberaltarian alliance broke not because the Democrats are being bad at the things that Republicans are supposed to be good at, but because they are being bad at the things Democrats are supposed to be good at.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

      If there was going to be a liberaltarian alliance, it needed to be built between groups of citizens with particular ideological affiliations making common cause with others based on certain beliefs held in common, not on accepting the actions of elected officials with particular capital-letter political party affiliations as legitimate proxies for the true values of those groups who might do the allying. If there ever could have been a liberl-libertarian alliance, there still can be. Nothing about what Obama has done or not done means that doesn’t remain a possibility. Maybe Obama is just a poor representative of any ideologically consistent viewpoint (pragmatism!). I have always been among the doubters as to how large or cohesive such a force could ever be because the views simply are quite far afield. To me it always simply looked like a phenomenon unique to a particular leader’s ability to unite disparate ideological groups in opposition. But if the compromises can be made, it remains possible — the areas you mention remain fertile common ground for grass-roots political cooperation, regardless of what Obama has done in those areas. One disappointing presidency should be dispositive of the fate of a movement if it actually aspires to be that and not simply a means to leverage an opposing group’s center of ideological gravity towards one’s own. But if it was always more about getting like-minded folks into political office, then any sense that it is a real alliance will certainly be short-lived.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      What Freddie said Jay. Obama has walked the federal behavior on pot back a lot since he took office. I agree he could do more but you don’t seem to have been paying attention on this issue.

      Now with the wars Obama went in clearly intent on winding them down but also intent on avoiding a Vietnam spectacle. He’s been trying to get out in some ways but events haven’t been co-operating. Clearly he’s too much of a triangulator to simply ship out, it looks like Gates pretty much convinced him that if he provides support short term that he can pull out long term. Guantanamo was of course a clusterfck with the GOP screaming bloody murder about “Terrists on sacred American soil!” and then the Dems in congress running away screaming.

      On the culture wars front of course hopey-Mcchangepants talked about rising above it so he shoved the issues under the bed and ignored them. You can be sure the left was none to thrilled about being shoved in a back room but I don’t think anyone on the right appreciated the backing down. Ever since HCR got on the skids the base has been rumbling so Obama rolled out the DADT repeal to throw some meat to his base. Pretty sweet deal for all us sodomites.

      So anyhow, it was always ambiguous what Obama was going to do once he secured HCR. Was he going to actually tack right and try and deal with the finance issues? Whatever he planned to do he hasn’t been able to get to it because HCR is still sticking on his plate. Again it pretty much hinges on that legislation. If Obama, Pelosi et all manage to work the bill over the finish line then he can tell his base to shut the hell up and tack to the middle and try and woo libertarians. If HCR croaks Obama won’t have any ability to woo libertarians because he’ll be too busy trying to convince his base to keep him in office in 2012.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        “I agree he could do more but you don’t seem to have been paying attention on this issue. ”

        Call me crazy but if busts are still going on and if the DEA is still involved, I don’t see “hey, he’s a lot better than Bush” as a reason to give him the equivalent of the Libertarian Peace Prize.

        Again: I’m not asking him to move the drug to schedule 2. I’m just asking him to stop busting dispensaries in states that have legalized dispensaries.

        And, no, “better than Bush” is an insufficient hurdle to have to cross here.

        How many busted dispensaries would be appropriate, in your view? Let’s say that Bush busted 20.

        Would 5 be enough for you to say that Obama should be good enough for Libertarians?



        Hey, Obama’s base is not my problem. If they are thrilled with him or not, they do so for reasons that are mostly opaque to me.

        If you want to know, from the libertarian viewpoint, how Obama could have kept the liberaltarian coalition together… I’ve said how.

        Explaining how, no, libertarians ought to be thrilled with Obama… well, I love you too much to compare you to Koz.

        But… dude. No. I ought not be thrilled with Obama.Report

        • North in reply to Jaybird says:

          Far be it for me to be the left wing version of that particular attitude Jay. If I implied otherwise I want to peddle it back. Democrats in general and Obama in particular have screwed the pooch, big. Hell, I don’t like his performance domestically so why the hell would I even think that Libertarians should like his positions? On the pot issue specifically I would suggest a touch of patience; Obama has been signalling that he’s going to defer to the states on it but lets face it the DAE is a pretty big boat to just stop on a dime.

          But anyhow, no I have no illusions about why libertarians are not enamored with the Dems, I just don’t get why they’re so forgiving to the right. (Not necessarily you, mind you)Report

          • Jaybird in reply to North says:

            There have been recent busts in Denver that are probably bigger deals in my circle than in the circles of others.

            “Obama has been signalling that he’s going to defer to the states on it but lets face it the DAE is a pretty big boat to just stop on a dime.”

            From my perspective, he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth. Look at who he appointed to head the DEA:

            Michele Leonhart.

            That ought tell you where he *REALLY* stands on the issue.Report

  3. Bob Cheeks says:

    Tensions are obvious as the leftist coalition collapses under the lack of leadership provided by the state rep from the south side of Chicago. It all looked so good a year ago! What happened? I mean it’s so bad it’s just a question of how many seats will be lost and how long will the commie-dems be in the wilderness? What if the Stoopid Party learned its lesson? What if they work to reduce Dear Leader’s daffycets and SUCCEED?
    What if they purge their leftist component under the watchful eye of the TPers and become a true rightist party?
    Well, all things are possible…but is my vision apocalyptic?Report

    • Freddie in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      All things are possible, except getting non-white voters, urban voters, and college educated voters to vote for the GOP. All three of those groups are growing, and while demographic trends change, there is every reason to believe that the three groups will at least maintain parity. The USA is slowly switching from a country dominated by the white and rural to one that is majority nonwhite and majority urban, and this is very, very scary for the people who have controlled the country for so long they think it is their birthright. That’s the real source of the teaparty phenomenon, the rage of people who have had political power their whole lives, watching people who don’t look, act, or talk like them taking power. It’s just democracy, but it is frightening.

      Now, that is the truth, but it is considered impolite to point it out, for some reason, so I’m sure to be swiftly scolded. But this fundamental fact will remain. Hispanic voters, despite constant claims that they are going to switch allegiances, are in great majorities moderate liberals and committed Democrats. As are urban voters, a growing portion of the electorate, and accelerating. All of this talk about the conservative “core” or “heart” or “real America” or however you want to frame it coming back to take control can’t account for that demographic movement. That’s the reality that everyone has to start to become comfortable with.Report

      • North in reply to Freddie says:

        No scolding from me Freddie. The demographics don’t lie and you’ve described them pretty succinctly.Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to Freddie says:

        Freddie, relax, breathe deeply…rest!
        For a moment, I thought I was reading the vivacious Matoko Chan.
        If what you say is true..and, quite frankly, I think you’re right, (although a considerable number of Hispanics have a problem with the systematic slaughter of the innocents) America will soon enough devolve to Romania West.
        Somehow Freddie, I don’t think you’re going to be all that happy.But maybe I’m wrong.

        One request: Could one of youns blog on Why we’re not having congressional hearings on the “Global Warming” fraud? Rush just suggested it and I thought it a good idea!Report

  4. Matthew Schmitz says:

    While opposition to Obama has taken on a libertarian tone, it’s not clear to me that libertarians have any more reason to be disappointed in him than do liberals. He’s given them less, sure, but he also promised them less.Report

  5. Koz says:

    “I know Mark has hopes that a populist left-right alliance could rise from the ashes of the current establishment, but I see the fundamental divide between Tea Partiers and progressives as too wide a gap for anything but a similarly tenuous & oppositional alliance.”

    Is that really supposed to be a good thing? Is there any plausible circumstance where progressives have something useful to contribute to American politics? I know my answer but I’d like to see Mark take a crack at this.Report

  6. RTod says:

    “Those same attendees even booed speaker Ryan Sorba for condemning gay Republicans”

    I said this in Scott’s post yesterday, but want to say it again because what you are saying, E.D., seems to be the new meme popping up everywhere. But there were, from what I understand, a lot of folks at CPAC using gays (especially on the marriage issue) as a touch stone, but were not booed.

    I would like to propose that the reason he was booed was not because he went after gays and gay culture, and conservatives just couldn’t stand for that kind of thing. They booed because he was dissing the room and the attendees, with part o the insults being a CPAC version of the playground “You guys are a bunch of fags!”Report

    • Rufus in reply to RTod says:

      Yeah, I don’t get how he could have been asked to speak on one topic and, instead, begun his time at the mic by announcing he was changing the subject and condemning the organization hosting the event, and not have been booed.Report

  7. Francis says:

    What do libertarians actually want? The big items in the federal budget are: (1) interest on debt, (2) Soc.Sec., (3) Medicare/Medicaid, and (4) defense.

    Now, I hope we can agree that defaulting on our debt is a bad idea. SS has for years run a massive surplus. Minor changes may be possible (in Obama’s second term), but major changes are both grossly unfair and politically impossible. (Note that Bush II never submitted an actual proposal to Congress; he just kept floating trial balloons that got shut down.) Reducing defense spending is something that left and right agree is a great idea, so long as it hits someone else’s Congressional district. And Obama, not the Republican Party, is the one actually trying to tackle the growth rate in Medicare spending.

    The party out of power in DC inevitably re-discovers its commitment to federalism, but when returned to power somehow forgets that commitment. But what does federalism mean, any more? Most California politicians (I don’t know about other states) would love to see the end of Medicaid, because its rolls grow just when the state tax receipts are falling. Only the national government is in a position to manage this countercyclical spending. So just what decisions should be devolved to the states?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Francis says:

      There are a handful of things, but many can be summed up with a variant of “QUIT BEING SUCH A DAMNED BUTTINSKY”.

      Socially liberal (end the drug war, allow gay marriage, new mandates regarding calorie content of mayonnaise at Burger King will not, in fact, help anybody so quit passing laws forcing Burger King to post the calorie content of mayonnaise, etc) and fiscally conservative (end Farm Subsidies, cut spending with regards to the military, quit creating new entitlements, means-test the current entitlements, if you raise taxes, use the taxes to pay off debt/interest rather than say ‘golly, imagine how many pokemon vitamins we could buy for malnourished Native Americans with these funds’).

      I do not (and cannot) speak for all Libertarians but, I reckon, those are the high notes.Report

      • JosephFM in reply to Jaybird says:

        That actually sounds rather moderate. If that’s all it takes to be a libertarian, then I’m one too (and so I suspect is North).

        No abolishing all entitlements and fully privatizing education? No objecting-to-all-taxes-no-matter-what on purely theoretical grounds? Really?Report

        • North in reply to JosephFM says:

          Indeed I am Joseph, Christ on a pogo stick Jay, that list could come right out of a neolib wish-list, maybe even on a liberal wish list. Well except the mayonnaise thing, I thought libertarians were all about clear disclosure of info to allow markets to make informed choices? But shouldn’t re-instating the gold standard be on the list?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to North says:

            The name “Burger King” gives clear disclosure, I’d reckon. The problem is not with the “mayo is full of stuff” issue but with the government forcing companies to post signs on the wall that explain that mayo is full of stuff. Additionally, there’s the whole “the government did it for the following outcomes: A and B” and, it turns out, neither A nor B were touched at all by the posting of the sign.

            “shouldn’t re-instating the gold standard be on the list?”

            Gold is for optimists. Buy ammo.

            I’m not a goldbug or money guy, myself. I do think that it’s bad for the government to be able to print as much money as it wants. I think it’s bad for the government to be able to raise its own debt ceiling.

            But goldbuggery (no pun intended, seriously) is more of a paleo thing than a libertarian thing. Mises was into it. Uncle Milty wasn’t.Report

      • Francis in reply to Jaybird says:

        Sounds good to me. (well, means-testing Soc.Sec. is both impossible and unfair.) but as to the rest, which party do you think is more likely to do any of these? DADT/DOMA repeal — Dems. Drug war rollback — Dems. Restraining FDA –Reps. Farm subsidy repeal — neither. Military spending — Dems. [yes really. SecDef Gates actually looks to be serious about restraining the growth of DOD spending. actual cuts appear to be too much to hope for.] Debt reduction — Dems.

        The leave-me-alone faction of the Republican party has lost its power to the evangelicals. The only way to drive them out is for libertarians and moderates to come over to the Dems for a while, or at least sit out.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Francis says:

          “which party do you think is more likely to do any of these?”

          Neither. Quite honestly: Neither.

          “or at least sit out.”

          I’ll be over here, voting for spoilers.Report

      • 62across in reply to Jaybird says:

        Hey, I’m a libertarian, too.

        As I commented on another thread, I think libertarians would be better served on the fiscal constraint side by teaming with liberals to reduce military spending. It’s nearly two thirds of the discretionary budget.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to 62across says:

          Yeah. Let me know how that works out.

          Look at the F-22 funding issue. Who was in the White House? Who was in the House? Who was in the Senate?

          And we’re talking about a program that the military said that it didn’t need anymore.Report

          • North in reply to Jaybird says:

            Err, didn’t the F-22 get killed in this years session? Maybe I’m thinking of something else.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to North says:

              Yeah, it did. We managed to stop funding for a plane that has never seen combat that the military has said it didn’t want and, even so, it was like pulling teeth.

              I don’t hold much hope for cutting military funding for real.

              I mean, sure. You want me to call my guy and yell for 5 minutes, I can do that. But I see the F-22 as notable for what it took to get rid of that tiny piece of spending and under what circumstances.Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well in fairness the Air Force wanted it badly and fought like crazy to keep it. The rest of the military thought it was useless.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                Sure. Fair enough.

                I’d say that this particular military cut was as close to “low hanging fruit” as we’re going to find.

                Agree? Disagree?

                And look at what it required to pluck the low-hanging fruit.

                There are too many folks with too many fingers in too many pies. The democrats found ways to argue for the need for a plane that had never seen combat based on the jobs provided to constituents. The republicans talked about defense… for a plane that has never seen combat.

                This is the low-hanging fruit.

                I don’t see either party helping, particularly, with the tougher stuff to get.

                Like… let’s say we close a base in West Germany. Who signs onto it?Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                I agree, it’s hard. Both the military and their contractors have spent decades figuring out the exact way to make their projects as politically unpalatable to cancel as possible.
                Me, I’d close all the bases in Germany. What exact good do they do?Report

          • North in reply to Jaybird says:

            A little searching confirmed my memory: “Defense Secretary Robert Gates said no, and President Obama announced he would veto the entire defense budget if it contained money for even one more F-22. The project was killed, story over.”
            So the answer to your question, who killed unnecessary military spending on the F-22 against the strident opposition of the Air Force? A Democratic President (and his chosen defense secretary), A Democratic Congress and a Democratic Senate.

            Or maybe I’m missing your point?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to North says:

              The point has more to do with the amount of effort, discussion, horse trading, and whatnot that had to do with killing a project that the military did not want funding for.

              The president even had to threaten a veto.Report

              • 62across in reply to Jaybird says:

                The further point is a Republican President, a Republican Congress or a Republican Senate would not have given this amount of effort to kill this project.

                Frankly, I’m not any more hopeful of deep defense cuts than you are, since the Republicans hold all military spending sacred and the Democrats want to keep defense contractor jobs in their districts and they tend to crumble when they’re called weak on defense. I’m just saying that without including significant cuts to the military/national security spending, any call for fiscal restraint rings mighty hollow. The math is pretty obvious.Report

  8. JosephFM says:

    I think this is more temporary than you might imagine – you’re neglecting that there’s a whole generation of us whose formative political experiences were in that very “fragile oppositional alliance to the big-spenders masquerading as conservatives during the Bush years, united by a common antipathy over the wars and the infringements upon civil liberties.”

    Given that I find so little to object to in any of what Jaybird says libertarians want, that in fact my main objections to libertarianism are, based on a skepticism of the public’s awareness of their actual interests, whether we are speaking of politics or economics, and indeed of a conservative concern for social order…but I am still a liberal, still a leftist, whatever you want to call it – and I don’t think I’m particularly atypical for my generation, it’s entirely possible for liberaltarianism to make a revival, as long as the libertarians don’t tie themselves too closely to the conservatives again.

    And speaking for myself only now, it’s not that I trust the government’s capability for “central planning” or any such nonsense. It’s that I trust almost no one, and especially not “the people” in the aggregate.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to JosephFM says:

      Something I want you to really look into:

      Look at both parties.

      What have they done with regards to:

      The drug war
      Gay marriage
      Burger King
      Ending farm subsidies
      Cutting military spending
      Quitting creating new entitlements
      Means-testing current entitlements
      Raising taxes and then spending that new revenue on paying down the debt rather than on creating new ways to provide free false teeth

      Do you see much of a difference between the two parties?Report

      • Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

        “Quitting creating new entitlements
        Do you see much of a difference between the two parties?”


      • JosephFM in reply to Jaybird says:

        Not currently, no.

        But, you know, I have other preferences that you’d disagree with. Even some principles you’d think were flat out wrong. And I imagine once it got down to the details of working out some of those policies, we’d disagree pretty strongly (What does “ending the drug war” entail, exactly? What counts as a “new” entitlement vs a reform of existing ones?) etc.

        But I’d love to get to the point where that’s even worth considering.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to JosephFM says:

          I have two views on these things.

          One is the pragmatic (we should do this because it works) view.
          The other is the idealistic (we should do this because it’s Right) view.

          Do all of them agree with each other on what we ought to do?

          No. Heck no! HELL NO!!!!

          But, interestingly enough, they all agree when it comes to what we ought to stop doing.

          At this point, that’s good enough for me.Report

  9. Freddie says:

    Jaybird, I really think this comments thread could be instructive for you. Look, you are the classic “man from nowhere”; you stand for nothing, or at least nothing that has any chance to ever gain electoral traction, so it frees you to go around pissing on everyone elses preferred policies. That’s fun, but it’s not productive.Report

  10. Bob Cheeks says:

    Jaybird and Freddie, I’d paid to read that thread! NOW THAT’S WHY I COME HERE!Report

  11. WhatAmI says:

    ” libertarians are more concerned with liberty-as-ends (and thus a little Utopian), whereas conservatives are more concerned with social stability, and are more cynical (and thus almost always liberty-as-means in their thinking). Both may believe in”

    So what am I if I don’t give a crap about rights, liberty, or even stability per-se but believe the first and last test of a proposed policy is that it improves the standard of living for the population? All I care about is human flourishing. I want everyone to be well fed, well housed, well educated, and with enough spare cash and time to be happy.

    Am I just some kind of utilitarian? Is there a humanist party? Could I be considered a conservative if I believed that the best way to achieve this is through decentralized and market ends? And vice versa if i believed the best way was central planning?

    I realize it’s a bit off-topic but just curious.Report

    • North in reply to WhatAmI says:

      Insufficient information to make a determination I think. Your third paragraph raises too many variables that you haven’t defined. Nor have you weighed in on morality and the governments role/non-role in promoting it.Report

      • WhatAmI in reply to North says:

        My whole point is that I don’t care about means.

        If you brought me incontrovertible proof that humans would be happiest and most successful being ruled over by a vicious robot overlord then I would gladly join his mechanical ranks.

        If I was thoroughly convinced that following the philosophy of Rothbard or Marx brought about the best of all possible scenarios for the human race and individuals in it then I would take up their banner.

        And so on and so forth. I care only about human well-being (in aggregate rather than just average, preferably ).Report

        • Jaybird in reply to WhatAmI says:

          The problem is the whole “incontrovertible” thing.

          Historically, there were folks who had incontrovertible proof that Communism would bring in a golden, utopian age. (If only Trotsky had been able to avoid that accident with the ice axe!)

          And, they tried, then they tried again, then again, and they kept shooting people and they kept shooting people.

          If someone shows up with incontrovertible proof that they can make you (and everybody else) happy, put one hand on your wallet and your other hand on your gun.

          The Epic of Gilgamesh talks about this.Report

          • WhatAmI in reply to Jaybird says:

            I only use “incontrovertible proof” to make a point. I don’t think there is such proof. I realize that it’s always going to be an open question, possibly unanswerable.

            As for shooting people, I’m on the fence. Any change will cause discomfort and temporary unhapiness. But generally the only time I’ve seen where armed revolution helps is when there is already a large movement behind it like in colonial America or imperial Ireland. So generally it doesn’t seem like a good strategy. Would I be willing to do wet work for a cause? Probably not, but that’s because I’m a wuss.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to WhatAmI says:

              Part of the problem is that everyone is an individual.

              This guy may flourish in a situation where he can eat a grapefruit every day. That guy may hate grapefruit but love, oh, apples. That other guy may be enamored with frozen blueberries sprinkled over plain yogurt.

              What policy would best result in flourishing of these three folks?

              It seems to me that the best policy is to get out of the way. The guy who likes X will buy X, the guy who likes Y will buy Y, and the guy who likes Z will buy Z.

              Creation of a policy to cause the most people, in aggregate, to flourish strikes me as a policy that will result in a frozen lemon slice ration.

              Get out of the way and allow people to flourish.Report

              • WhatAmI in reply to Jaybird says:

                The policy that would help all of them flourish would be one that gives them the means and opportunity to buy fruit. Obviously this devolves into a trade vs. subsidies, business growth versus guaranteed income of some sort, etc. But my point is that from my perspective that becomes an empirical question to be answered rather than a question of values. Since I only care that they can get their fruit then it doesn’t matter if they get it through libertarian means, or central planning means, or what have you.

                Also I don’t believe that individuals are so different as to not share a majority of the same prerequisites for flourishing. One man may like apples and another grapefruit but they all enjoy not lying awake at night wondering where their next serving of fruit is going to come from…

                I think we’ve stretched this metaphor a bit far.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to WhatAmI says:

                Well, it’s easy enough to rein it in.

                Do you want other people making decisions on your behalf?Report

              • WhatAmI in reply to Jaybird says:

                As I’ve said again and again, if it means greater flourishing I’m for it. If that means surrendering my political power to a a robot overlord or just subjecting myself to the foibles of bureaucracy then I’ll take it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to WhatAmI says:

                How many definitions of “flourishing” are we allowed to have?

                Reading that paragraph, I can’t help but think of an acquaintance who still lives with his parents. He is not, in fact, flourishing despite his needs being met (well, the ones in the bottom half of Maslow’s hierarchy, anyway).Report

              • WhatAmI in reply to WhatAmI says:

                I like Amarty Sen’s definition, the capabilities approach. of course it’s entirely natural and logical that some will not flourish due to defects of character or even genetics. That does not mean they shouldn’t be given the ability (and perhaps incentive) to flourish.Report

  12. SumGi says:

    many on the left nevertheless understand and believe in markets up to a point

    And the rest understand markets and don’t believe in their power to serve the public good. Just because a person disagrees with market solutions doesn’t mean he that they don’t understand markets. It’s not a self-evident truth.Report

  13. SumGi says:

    Nor do I trust that a society without some roots in tradition can survive even its own prosperity, but that it will instead become self-obsessed, overly individualistic & detached, and essentially spoiled.

    I’m very familiar with my meager roots back through bootleggers, protestant holy rollers, and irish immigrants. yet I’m still overly individualistic, detached, and spoiled rotten.

    Explain that!Report