Are Social Issues Economic Issues?

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Koz
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    This whole business that the association with the Right has corrupted libertarianism is horrible. In fact it’s just about the exact opposite of the truth. Historically speaking, the association with the Right is the only thing that has given libertarians any credibility at all. Without that association they would be a slightly different sect of Scientologists or LaRouchies.

    Compare and contrast Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek vs. Lew Rockwell and Justin Raimondo.Report

  2. Avatar Trumwill
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    I would point the needle the other way. Economic issues are social issues. We all have our theories and “proof” our theories are correct, but fairness is a subjective concept and nobody knows which economic system is really the most efficient. So how do we make our determination? Some of it is by what is most “fair” to us, but yet a whole lot of people support economic policies that are immediately unfavorable to them.

    I would argue that economic policy preferences are more likely to be determined by who (we think) they benefit and whether the beneficiaries are people in a subculture and lifestyles we are sympathetic to or not. So social conservatives that would stand to benefit from more government assistance look at things like food stamps as supporting lifestyles they don’t approve of (single mothers, for instance) and arguably people (minorities) they don’t approve of. Wealthy liberals, on the other hand, tend to be supportive of higher levels of taxation because it sticks it to people that they are unsympathetic to (they’re greedy, they’re money-obsessed).

    It’s extremely difficult to look at the debate over the capital gains tax, for instance, as anything but cultural in nature. It’s all a proxy for which lifestyles should be subsidizing which and it’s so symbolic of the larger debate that it’s one of those issues that’s really had to nail down compromise.Report

    • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Trumwill
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      @Trumwill,

      This is absolutely right.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Trumwill
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      @Trumwill, “Wealthy liberals, on the other hand, tend to be supportive of higher levels of taxation because it sticks it to people that they are unsympathetic to (they’re greedy, they’re money-obsessed).”

      Even taking your formation as true, you have missed a glaring point. Wealthy libs are supporting higher taxation on themselves. So is not just about hating the other guy, since they are wacking themselves and likely people they know.

      Why is it not possible to take the capital gains debate as only cultural? Can’t we actually have ideas and thoughts and such? We’re big kids now.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to gregiank
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        @gregiank, yeah, they’ll take the hit. They’re not money-obsessed. It’s the other people this is killing cause all they care about is money. The money comes out of everyone’s pocketbook, but it’s only the greedy that suffer from it.

        Why is it not possible to take the capital gains debate as only cultural?

        I have to confess that I misspoke here. I meant to say the estate tax, which is a better example. The capital gains tax, as differentiated from the income tax, is the revenue portion of the tax-code hockey that on the deduction portion determines that some transactions should be considered different than others. Given that different transactions are more or less likely to be made by different segments of the population, it makes tax-code hockey an easy forum for axing grinds against disfavored portions of the population. Capital gains is an unremarkable extension of that.

        It also ties into concepts of fairness. Fairness is inherently subjective and thus subject to cultural favoritism. And given that cultural battles are something far easier to grasp for the general population than complex economic efficiency argument, it means that the entire debate is infused with culture.

        Does this mean that it can’t be argued on economic grounds? Actually, I think it can. But rarely is it so. You can’t form a majority with just those that actually know what they’re talking about (if anyone really does – I’m not entirely convinced). So it becomes cultural.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to gregiank
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        @gregiank, reading over my comment, I think I took it a couple steps further than I intended. Ultimately, I think that politics (both social and economic) are derived primarily by two factors: tribalism and morality.

        My comment focuses exclusively on the former because that’s closer to the subject under discussion, but morality is not irrelevant here as it strongly influences both economic and social policy discussion and is part of the reason that there is so much overlap (in my view).Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Trumwill
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      @Trumwill, I agree with most of this – within electoral politics economic issues mostly act as a polite way of presenting inter-interest-group one-up-man-ship.

      From a libertarian point of view, large parts of the liberal coalition in the US are extremely confused and naive about who benefits from many of the economic policies they advocate and support. Libertarians have done an equally terrible job of explaining this point in language that gets through to liberals rather than merely making libertarians feel superior. This is where I see potential for liberaltarian coalition building and where I think Mark’s point about the right-wing lense that libertarians see liberals through is absolutely right.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Simon K
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        @Simon K, I would argue that it’s large parts of the conservative coalition that is misguided about what their economic policies actually accomplish, but that’s neither here nor there and the two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

        Ultimately, I think Mark and I are merely looking at different sides of the same coin. The point is that they overlap a great deal. The haggle (to the extent to which there is one) is over which is driving which.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Trumwill
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          @Trumwill, I also agree with this: “…large parts of the conservative coalition that is misguided about what their economic policies actually accomplish”. As you say, its not inconsistent to believe both many conservatives and many liberals are misguided in their economics.Report

          • Avatar gregiank in reply to Simon K
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            @Simon K, its not inconsistent to believe that economics is a crude mushy “science.” There are very few “truths” and we are all likely way off base on some things in econ if we only knew how things really worked.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to gregiank
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              @gregiank, There is no mystery to “how things really work” in economics – people buy and sell stuff, that’s it. Economic models are not “true” in the sense physical models are true, because people can always choose not to do things or to do different things. An economic model is just a mathematical (usually) rigorous way of presenting a way that people might behave.

              But its still perfectly coherent to say that a political program has misguided economics at its foundation because it implies belief in a model that – if it was formalized – would be downright contradictory or at least highly implausible.

              For example, many conservatives appear to believe that the ability to socialize the costs of their toxic waste dumping, excessively risky lending etc. will not cause businesses to do more of these things than if they couldn’t. This is implausible.

              Similarly, many liberals appear to believe that reforming the healthcare system to cover more people without imposing at least some costs on the people already covered will not increase costs overall. This is in fact contradictory.Report

            • Avatar Bo in reply to gregiank
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              many liberals appear to believe that reforming the healthcare system to cover more people without imposing at least some costs on the people already covered will not increase costs overall. This is in fact contradictory.

              I’m just waiting for the 2nd half of that proof: France provides better care at lower cost, to a greater proportion of its population. This makes France contradictory. Therefore, France does not exist. QEDReport

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to gregiank
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              @Bo, By “the healthcare system” I was referring specifically to the US system. The structure of the French system is radically different. To transform the US system into the French one you would need to impose substantial costs on some of the people already covered – Medicare would need to become substantially less generous, you would need to take away the tax exemption for employer-provided insurance, everyone would need to accept a very substantial tax increase (the French equivalent of FICA is 20%), and the state would have to start regulating in detail the prices, reimbursement rates and coverage of medical treatments for everyone.

              Which is not to say that the French system isn’t better. It is better for almost everyone, except for the sick and either old or rich. Its to say that you cannot have your cake and eat it – the US has chosen to subsidise the over-consumption (and mis-classification) of healthcare by people who already quite well off, and to fund extravagant levels of care for people suffering from terminal aging. These things cost money and above and beyond that they increase the cost of any further healthcare subsidy you might choose to provide.Report

            • Avatar Bo in reply to gregiank
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              Well, if we can only ever compare the American system to itself, we end up with nothing but glib tautologies. ‘Hey the system is spending exactly what it has to. Don’t spend more unless you want to spend more.’ I don’t know of any liberals who just believe that you can add a subsidy for free, but many believe that you can re-architect the system to be far more efficient. On that score, there’s actually a ton of evidence that liberals are correct. For example, when Taiwan moved from an almost completely free market system to a national system in 1995, they found that providing universal coverage did not measurably raise costs. A study of that can be found here. And despite your talk of subsidizing terminal aging in the US, people in France actually live longer. Which is to say in libertarian-ese, they age more terminally.

              As for my personal experience with liberals and libertarians, I generally find neither liberals nor libertarians understand economics. The difference is that liberals generally realize when they don’t understand economics, while libertarians invariably are completely oblivious to how little they understand economics.Report

            • Avatar Bo in reply to gregiank
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              I should add that that impression is purely at the man-on-the-street level. On the policy level, the liberal policymakers are just way, way more economically savvy than the libertarian think-tankers. While the liberals are embracing economic principles to solve actual problems, like cap-and-trade for pollution and catch shares for overfishing (or for that matter using an individual mandate + guaranteed issue + subsidies to create a health system that functions similarly to a single payer system), the libertarian think-tankers are still off playing in their Coasian sandbox where transaction costs and information asymmetries don’t exist, coming to the foregone conclusion that government must be mucking it up. It’s like the difference between trained engineers and first-year physics students who still need to assume everything happens in a frictionless vacuum.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to gregiank
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              @Bo, I think you want to argue with Megan McArdle and not with me. My point wasn’t to start a fight about the economic viability of healthcare reform – as it stands I think tenability and usefulness of the bill as passed depends on things that haven’t happened yet, but I don’t think its the worst (or best) thing ever. I was just picking a topical example of a failure to understand that marginal costs rise with demand, which is a characteristic liberal failing. In retrospect it was probably too topical.Report

            • Avatar Bo in reply to gregiank
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              I think the essential problem is that it forms a perfect example of the preference for simplistic mental modeling to empirical observations among libertarians. If you say a belief is contradictory and I point out that this supposed contradictory result has actually happened in basically every country that moved to a government-supported universal health care system, does that really demonstrate a characteristic liberal failing? Or a classic libertarian failing? I’m pretty sure it demonstrates the latter.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to gregiank
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              @Bo, you still seem to be trying to argue with someone who isn’t here. I have no problem with the idea that you can have public universal healthcare – I was born into it, lived under it for 30 years and understand its feasibility very well. Please stop attributing things to me that I did not say.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to gregiank
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              @Bo, the life expectancy of a population is a particularly unsuitable measure of the quality of its health care system. Sure, the average Frenchman lives longer than the average American, but that’s because the French have healthier lifestyles, in general (cars, guns, and junk food are the big culprits here). Once you are diagnosed with cancer, however, you can expect to live longer if you are in America, rather than France.Report

            • Avatar Bo in reply to gregiank
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              Read it again, lukas. You’ll see that I’m making a much narrower point about France’s health care system there. The French health care system, incidentally, is actually superior to the US’s because it costs 2/3 as much, provides care to everyone, and provides generally better health outcomes. I do understand that costing less and covering more people is an obvious contradiction, and therefore France proves that liberals don’t understand economics.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to gregiank
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              @Bo, France proves, that, if you are willing to make cuts in incredibly expensive end-of-life/geriatric/terminal disease care, you can use the savings to provide care to everyone for most of their lives and still only spend 2/3 of what is spent on health care in the US, which should be unsurprising to both liberals and conservatives.

              But there is no political will in the US to skimp on the old, the dying and the terminally ill, so those savings will never materialize there.

              And as I said, overall health outcomes are as much, or even more of a function of lifestyle than of health care: When you look at health outcomes that are more intimately linked to health care itself, such as cancer survival rates, the US does indeed come out better.Report

            • Avatar Bo in reply to gregiank
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              In general, I get suspicious when someone claims that one specific form of illness shows the superiority of one system to another, since it doesn’t really matter if you die of heart disease or cancer or something no one’s ever heard of.

              However, there’s no need to go into that in this case, since neither of the floated claims about France are true: France’s cancer survival rates are comparable to the US’s (as found in, say, the CONCORD study), and France does not actively ration end-of-life care.

              France pays less for terminal care than the because it pays less for tests and drugs and surgery and primary care than the US, not because it’s pulling the plug on grandma.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to gregiank
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              @Bo, I do not claim that the French system is inherently inferior (or superior) to the US. I’m just trying to point out that there are many differences between the two, they both have strengths and weaknesses, and what works in one country doesn’t necessarily work in the other.

              France exists, but it doesn’t exist in America.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to gregiank
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              @Bo, and while I was at it I’ve dug up the CONCORD-1 numbers on the US and France: France does significantly (at the 95% level) worse for all of the types of cancer examined in that study, except for colorectal cancer in women. The difference is especially striking for prostate cancer: less than 10% of American patients die of prostate cancer within 5 years of the initial diagnosis, as opposed to over 1/4 of French patients. That of course is not a good measure of health care quality either, but it is certainly better than life expectancy, which is much more sensitive to factors external to the health care system.Report

  3. Avatar Aaron
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    I like the way Simon K put this:

    ‘The interesting thing about this disagreement is that it isn’t really one of principle for liberals. If libertarians could present a credible argument for how, say, drug safety or labor standards could be enforced without the state there’s no particular reason liberals would not go for it. As it is libertarian responses to these questions generally have an Underpants Gnomes quality to them: “Abolish government” ???? “Self enforcing labor standards”.’

    I think this is something that often gets forgotten in our arguments about politics. We have a basic framework where one end of the political spectrum has a solid, immovable investment in a certain ideology (“taxes = bad”) and the other has a much more pragmatic approach to issues (“taxes can be useful, but so can tax breaks”). This has had a dramatic effect on our society. While one side has, in the last fifty years or so, turned into a rigid, ossified enforcer of orthodoxy, the other has been willing to compromise and try and seek the greatest good for the most people by the most effective means politically feasible.

    So, what do we get from this dynamic? We get a steady rightward drift. Conservatives stand firm and refuse to make any concessions, and since liberals are more interested in good governance than ideological purity, they keep slowly compromising with conservatives in the name of that elusive goal.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Aaron
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      @Aaron, I disagree somewhat. Pragmatism is not always virtue and the “greatest good the greatest number” is quite a poor principle to guide detailed policy decisions. There has been a rightward drift over the last 30 years, but its explained by two things – firstly, over the prior 30 years politics generally drifted leftward and the right spent those years figuring out what was in fact a pretty coherent and intelligent programme and ideology that corrected many of the errors committed in that leftward drift. Secondly, that prior ideology demonstrated itself pretty conclusively to be wrong on a number of important points, mostly in economics (which explains the focus on economics in the fusionist alliance).

      We now find ourselves at a crossroads where that right-wing alliance has in fact exhausted the useful, agreed parts of its reform program. All that is left is a bunch of disagreements hidden behind a facade of part of discipline and ideological misrepresentation of opponents – Jonah Goldberg’s observation that more statist conservatives shouldn’t give any ground to libertarians on sexual privacy because it might alienate the Christianists, and belief that libertarians should find this to be a good argument, is a one sentence summary of precisely how messed up the “Movement” currently really is.

      The problem is that there is no present-day equivalent of the conservative movement waiting to take the reins. What we have is a reformed, more market-friendly liberal coalition that doesn’t really have anything new to offer and a dogmatic, fracture conservative one that doesn’t actually have a program at all. Neither side has the kind of unifying narrative that was presented in 1980.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Simon K
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        @Simon K, it kind of seems to me that with each passing election, identity is beginning to trump all else. I wonder if that ties in to what you’re talking about. Absent a coherent narrative, the best pitch that each of the parties can make is that “You want to be (or already are) more like us so you should vote for us” and people kind of fill in the blanks and assume the people they are voting for are doing the right thing.

        That’s not to say that there aren’t ideologues as their clearly are. But in terms of elections, how important are they anymore? I mean, they’re useful as partisan cheerleaders. But even if they are genuinely independent-minded from their party (as in they are liberal and not just Democratic or conservative and not just Republican), their arguments are absorbed in terms of cheerleading or ignored/condemned (when they are improper cheerleaders).

        One would think that the recent crisis may have clarified things, but it doesn’t seem that way. The origins of the economic collapse are such that everyone can blame the entities that they already detested before the crisis ever happened and the whole thing traces back to something (increasing home ownership) that few (in any position of real authority or influence) really opposed on grounds that didn’t seem baldly partisan.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Simon K
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        @Simon K, This says pretty much exactly what I’ve been trying to say ever since I started blogging three years ago.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Drew
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    Sorry, but it just isn’t true that nationalists believe in restricting free trade. Nationalists believe in real differences among people as they divided are divided into nations, and tend to privilege and defend their own particular nation for various qualities and values, often in a way that they acknowledge is arbitrary, but for which they nevertheless mount objective defenses (cf the soccer debates). Nationalists do not necessarily reject free trade and related policies, though they may have a higher propensity to do so than others. It depends on what they believe to be the result of such policies for their country.

    Also, while I appreciate Simon’s distinguishing liberals from “central planners” and socialists (a point I have made here before), nevertheless in the time I have spent here, I have been convinced that in fact even with this taxonomy clearly in mind, the fact is the the gap between liberals and libertarians really is quite close to unbridgeable at this time. Despite the case I have seen that the two groups share some higher-order values and goals, I think the basic identifying self-definition that has developed among libertarians – anti-government animus – is simply too well-established, and the contempt or at least alienation from those who don’t share it too fully embraced, for any real coalition to work at this time. You can say this is a question of means as both groups fundamentally want to promote human freedom, economic flourishing, etc. etc. But that difference seems to be a far more defining division between the groups at this time than any commonalities. This doesn’t mean that where positions do converge that the groups can’t work side-by-side — why wouldn’t they? But there always will be this question of fundamental outlook. Mark’s clarification about what he’s trying to do in the liberaltarian discussion in another thread just confirms this – even he understands that coalition isn’t a real possibility (has anyone made any offers, by the way?). Rather he says the discussion is really just an effort to reevaluate libertarianism’s priorities. That’s wonderful, and I’d be all for the reordering he proposes if I had any standing to be, but movements reevaluating priorities is about the most commonplace activity in ideological politics short of recruiting and organizing. It’s got nothing to do with considering coalitions and alliances that I can see.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Michael Drew
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      @Michael Drew, “I have been convinced that in fact even with this taxonomy clearly in mind, the fact is the the gap between liberals and libertarians really is quite close to unbridgeable at this time. Despite the case I have seen that the two groups share some higher-order values and goals, I think the basic identifying self-definition that has developed among libertarians – anti-government animus – is simply too well-established, and the contempt or at least alienation from those who don’t share it too fully embraced, for any real coalition to work at this time.”

      A few things – although I don’t view (and really have never viewed) a short-term coalition as being likely or viable, I have a hard time seeing why the above could not be just as true of conservatives vis-a-vis libertarians but for the fact that libertarians have a history of buying into right-wing frames and, as importantly, coordinating efforts on areas of agreement with the Right without really doing so on areas of agreement with the Left. Indeed, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I, personally, am far more hostile to conservatives’ views of government than I am to liberals’. But let’s be honest, as well: liberals and conservatives are every bit as hostile to those who don’t share their basic worldview – there is, after all, a reason why the “glibertarian,” “Wing Nut,” “libtard,” etc. slurs get thrown around so easily. It’s a fairly typical human tendency that, once one considers themselves part of a group/team/faction/whatever, one becomes increasingly hostile to those who are not part of that group/team/faction/whatever.

      I think Julian Sanchez is absolutely right on this front when he writes(http://www.juliansanchez.com/2010/07/14/libertarian-coalitions/): “Yeah, there doesn’t seem to be much interest on the left in any kind of broad self-conscious “Liberaltarian Alliance”—but practical political coalitions don’t actually spring from New Republic essays, any more than real-world friendships arise from a formal declaration of an intent to be friends.. They’re a function of actually getting out there and doing the work, issue by issue, bill by bill, election by election. ”

      The question I’m trying to answer is why there isn’t a lot of cooperation with the Left “issue by issue, bill by bill, election by election.” I think the answer to that question is that libertarians are simply too susceptible, thanks to decades of affiliations, to right-wing frames to frequently look to develop single or limited issue coalitions with the Left.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson
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        @Mark Thompson, People throw names around, sure, but in my experience with liberals and conservatives that doesn’t from ideological certainty of the sort that leads libertarians to have so little time for the ideas of either liberals or conservatives. And this is appropriate, since neither liberal/progressivism nor conservativism are really coherent ideologies as much as emotional orientations. It’s just that liberals and conservatives simply don’t like each other much at all. Libertarians’ alienation from either camp in my experience stems from being unable to square a well-defined ideological system with the (necessarily) more ideologically formless major political bodies. The only difference that I can see is that one of the camps have a venerated leader whose most famous line was, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” This obviously doesn’t undo all the substantive failures of that party to hew to libertarianism’s needs, but I certainly think it provides a prima-facie reason to think a coalition is more natural with the one than the other.

        If the issue is simply one of promoting single-issue convergences, though, then I guess I really don’t see how that’s not just an intra-libertarian discussion. If a libertarian and a liberal write on the same topic with the same position, then there you have your single-issue coalition – what more need be said? Or what else are you proposing – that’s where I think you’re vague. You’re not calling for formal coalitions, but are you saying something more conscious need be pusued than simply refocusing what libertarians focus on? Because if not, then how does that involve liberals at all? Libertarians can write about what they want to write about – they don’t need anyones permission or to coordinate with anyone else on it. If libertarians aren’t addressing the issues you want them to, then that’s just a matter of the reform of libertarianism, and one that need not even invoke the “liberal” label that I can. These are public issues, not “liberal” ones, and anyone can work on them. If you’re proposing something more defined than that but less defined than something else, then I guess I at least need you to describe it more specifically in order to understand what it could be, and how it would affect liberals. If that’s not the case and we’re (you’re) just talking about what libertarians should focus on, then I propose we should just jettison the liberaltarian label and talk of coalitions etc. altogether that I can see at least for these purposes- they carry too many possibilities that seem at first exciting or interesting but turn out to be undefined, impractical, or just completely empty sets.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Michael Drew
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          @Michael Drew, Read the Tim Lee post I linked to in the first post on this subject. That should give an idea of what I’m trying to get at. There’s also an issue of audience here, too – to whom are libertarians trying to speak? The answer, all too often, is “just Republicans,” much as the answer to the question of to whom are liberals trying to speak is – appropriately often – “just Democrats.” Actually coordinated efforts to reach out to/lobby Democrats on social and foreign policy issues would at least have the potential to help liberals get Democrats to be more liberal on those issues.

          As for your Reagan quote, I’d remind you that it was Bill Clinton who declared “The era of big government is over.” It was also Bill Clinton who presided over more on the “limiting government” front than any other President. Also, too: Jimmy Carter started the whole deregulation thing.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Michael Drew
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      @Michael Drew, I don’t think we actually disagree about nationalism – I just wasn’t very cautious in my writing (I didn’t in fact think very highly of that comment – it could have been much shorter and made its points better). There are two distinct nationalist trends in the US (and in most English speaking countries) – one is pro-free trade, and the other is anti-, for precisely the reasons you outline. The current conservative movement seems to be dominated by the latter, whereas the former is associated with a now-almost-extinct moderate Republicanism.

      Regarding whether the lib-lib gap is unbridgeable – I think it depends on which libertarians and liberals you’re thinking about. I don’t think Mark or Will Wilkinson or Brink Lindsey are primarily motivated by “anti-government animus”, any more than most liberals are motivated by a desire to introduce a five year plan to increase tractor production. There are libertarians who are so motivated, just as there are liberals who really do hold ideas antithetical to libertarianism, but these obvious wouldn’t be the target market for any new fusionist alliance or libertarian shift to the centre.Report

  5. Avatar MadRocketScientist
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    Quick & Dirty Political Test:

    To gauge how far to the right or left a person is, just say something like this: “There needs to be more laws against Gay Sex / Gun Ownership.” See if they agree or explode in anger. However, if they get upset at “There needs to be more laws…”, you have a libertarian. If you aren’t certain, just tack on “It’ll be worth it if it saves just one life, it’s for the children!”, by then, a libertarian will be just about apoplectic.

    To my thinking, that is where the break lies. Most on the right & left seem more than content to use the force of government to force their worldview down everyone else’s throat. It’s a rare day that I find those on the left or right advocating for expanding things like gay rights & repealing useless gun/tax/corporate/health care laws.

    If liberals and other left groups want my support, they gotta be more pro-active against expanding government. I don’t care if they want to pass new laws to deal with new issues, but how about before we pass some new ones, we repeal some useless ones?

    And just in case you were wondering, the right lost me the day they put GWB on the ticket.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to MadRocketScientist
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      @MadRocketScientist, wait you haven’t seen people on the left pushing for gay rights?????? huh

      My quick and dirty test to test if a person is a libertarian is if they think they don’t have a world view they want forced on everybody else. If they say no then i assume they don’t get that limiting what government can do is also limiting what people can do. Saying citizens can’t petition their government for relief or action or that there is nothing that might be defined as a public good, is just as a much a world view that i don’t want pointy headed, think tank elitists pushing on me.

      FWIW repealing useless laws is one of those things everybody agrees on in theory, but is difficult in practice. Some of those useless laws are of the “no shooting sperm whales from your conastoga in Nebraska on Sundays.” Yeah lets get rid of it, but then how much of a problem is it. In other cases getting rid of useless laws is just a back door way to re-argue issues people didn’t like of the resolution of .Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to greginak
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        @greginak, You know some really weird libertarians. I pretty sure petitioning the government for redress is one of those rights people go on about, and as for no such thing as a public good – of course there’s such a thing as a public good. The question is what you do about it. I mean I’m only very tenuously a libertarian, but I think your’re mischaracterizing a very diverse group based on some loony you once met. And I most definitely want my world-view forced on everyone else, although I would hope they would find it a fairly congenial experience.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Simon K
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          says:

          @Simon K, I know plenty of weird people of all sorts. It seems that many libertarians operate from a view that their ideas are somehow neutral and not a view to be “forced” on others. The small government beliefs of libertarians would seriously limit my and others ability to hire the government to do various tasks we think should be done. Limiting government limits my ability to have it do things i want. I don’t have a problem with holding that idea, but it certainly pushes the libertarian view onto me. In a democracy everybody is in someway “forcing” their view of government on the other by electing their representatives.

          Of course their are public goods. One of the tics of libertarians is to yack about everybody else wanting all sorts of government without admitting that. Then somebody like me points out that public goods exist which is usually admitted, then we can have discussion about whatever particular issue. Its more about vague sweeping statements about the evil gubmint which some people are prone to.Report

          • Avatar Simon K in reply to greginak
            Ignored
            says:

            @greginak, The sense in which libertarians are not “forcing” their views on others where the others are does have some basis – the just take the basic Enlightenment idea we all share of rights to life, liberty and property to an extreme and makes those rights near-absolute even against the state. They would say that the sense in which views are “forced” on you when they violate those rights is much more important that the sense in which they are forced on you by refraining from doing so. I’m not that kind of libertarian if I am one at all but there is some basis for it – outside of constitutional law or some other recognised practical framework I don’t think talking about rights is terribly useful.

            Its the same mindset that produces the broad sweeping statements about the evils of gummint – excessive focus on theory and absolutes, lack of thinking about practical realities.Report

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