Liberalism, Centrism, and Libertarianism


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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110 Responses

  1. Avatar wardsmith says:

    @Kain, My friend, you need a pick-me-up, so I recommend this to get the ball rolling.

    Something for everyone, liberal tree hugging (literally about certain trees), Libertarianism (open and shut case of abuse of power), conservatism (how DARE they do that_) and so on.

    And not a word about mansplaining in the bunch.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Anybody know where I can get a Travis Bean?Report

    • Avatar trizzlor says:

      I don’t get it. Gibson allegedly purchased an illegal shipment of an endangered species and concealed (perhaps unwittingly) the final destination; Fish & Wildlife Service is now investigating their materials. What’s in this for anyone unless you’re broadly against regulating endangered species?Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        “What’s in this for anyone unless you’re broadly against regulating endangered species?”

        You got it in one.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The story, as I understand it, is whether the US ought to be enforcing the laws of other countries.

        There is another minor story about whether the US ought to be selectively enforcing the laws against other countries against corporations headed by people with particular political views (but not against corporations headed by people with others).Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          Jaybird, as usual you are 100% correct. Scary how often you do that.Report

        • Avatar trizzlor says:

          There’s a lot of speculation over what violation the FWS is investigating, but we do know from the affidavit that “The paperwork accompanying the shipment identified it fraudulently as Indian ebony fingerboards for guitars and it did not say it was going to Gibson” If you don’t think that’s grounds for an investigation then we’re just going to talk past each other.

          The idea that the FWS is enforcing this law against Gibson because their owner donated to Huckabee (as well as a Dem rep) and not because of this shipment still has a ways to go before it’s even considered a story. I’ve seen too many anecdotes of party-based reprisals that fall apart under actual statistical analysis to bite at that hook.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Trizz, why don’t you mansplain to me about the post directly below? Mansplain please why 2 DOZEN federal agents need to invade a piano seller? I presume they were armed too no? I mean let’s face it, just sending ONE armed agent into the store where Americans might shop for such dangerous merchandize as this! would have no doubt caused that one agent to fear for his life. Er maybe his ears? In case some schoolchild were playing Clair de Lune?Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Quote from the article: Consider the recent experience of Pascal Vieillard, whose Atlanta-area company, A-440 Pianos, imported several antique Bösendorfers. Mr. Vieillard asked officials at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species how to fill out the correct paperwork—which simply encouraged them to alert U.S. Customs to give his shipment added scrutiny.

        There was never any question that the instruments were old enough to have grandfathered ivory keys. But Mr. Vieillard didn’t have his paperwork straight when two-dozen federal agents came calling. Facing criminal charges that might have put him in prison for years, Mr. Vieillard pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act, and was handed a $17,500 fine and three years probation.

        This is fair on what planet? Gibson says, “The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier,” but that isn’t good enough for this administration. But of course you’re in favor of MORE regulation because as we all know regulation is WONDERFUL.Report

  2. It seems to me like your philosophy is closest to classical liberalism (with the exception of your views on welfare and universal healthcare). Liberals and libertarians need to form more issues-based coalitions. However, liberals should consider joining the libertarian movement, instead of the other way around. Libertarians are not beholden to any political party, and there is a divergence of opinion within the movement. Most liberals seem to blindly vote Democratic, while conservatives are also guilty of blindly propping up Republicans. A prominent issues-based coalition is a much better way to attack the political duopoly. Until then, both parties will continue to take everyone’s vote for granted.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      game theory, my dear. game theory. there will be two parties because it is a more stable system. Since the professionals have defaulted to the Democrats, we do everyone more good by voting Democrat. Because if the republicans get a bad enough defeat, they might split into two parties. And the middle party MIGHT be libertarian.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        Huh…that’s an interesting way to put it. I like this – it’s basically why I vote Democrat, too.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          … what’s hilarious is that I believe most of the republican establishment in my state is doing the same damn thing (friend talked with a couple of them). They want their fucking party back (and I’m not in Massachusetts. Pennsylvania is pretty damn centrist). It’s been taken over by the South (and yes, there are plenty of nice things to say about the south — I disagree strongly with their politics, however).Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

            Well I’m very socially liberal, and very much a supporter of safety nets, environmental causes, etc. so I’m probably still a damn hippie compared to a lot of moderate Republicans. But I take your point.Report

            • But this is exactly what I’m talking about. Classical liberals (hi) want to splinter both parties. If the Republicans are vulnerable to such a split, so are the Democrats. To say one party takes their constituency for granted and not the other is just false. How’s the restoration of our civil liberties going under President Obama? What about the Drug War? How about foreign militarism? Real actual libertarians are interested in policy, not politics. Just because we may disagree in good faith on some economic policies shouldn’t ruin the whole notion of forming issues-based coalitions and holding elected officials accountable. E.D., you might actually be a Bleeding Heart Libertarian.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I don’t mind issue based coalitions. those are FINE. I mind the idea that a 3-party system is FEASIBLE and STABLE in America, with current elections.

                It’s just NOT.

                So either you change the elections (your perog, but hard), or you forge coalitions within a two-party system.Report

              • I guess I’m just more of an eternal optimist about human nature. The reality is more and more registered voters self-identify as independent or un-affiliated, and the trend continues to move in that direction. And since there is no third party right now, I think liberals should take a serious look at Gary Johnson. If anything, it just might help splinter that Republican Party you so loathe.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Or far more likely, we’d give the GOP the win in a splintered election. We’ve learned the lessons of Ralph Nader.

                Optimism is great, but it doesn’t overcome math.Report

              • It’s time to do that math again. A recent poll conducted by Reason-Rupe found 24% of Americans to be libertarian and 28% each for liberals and conservatives.

                24 + 28 = 52!

                Libertarians plus any meaningful combination of liberals and conservatives could elect a candidate like Gary Johnson. The math is there, we just have to abandon this cynicism.

                The poll can be found here:

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I’m shocked a poll done by Reason found a lot of American’s are libertarians!

                By the way, there is the small matter of the simple fact I’m opposed to 90% of Gary Johnson’s policies?

                But, I’ll compromise. How about we elect Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders in 2016 instead. They’re just as a good as Ron Paul on the wars and the War on Drugs after all.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG says:

                @Spatial Orientation: Your comments seem to assume a homogeneity among self-identified libertarians that I don’t think exists.

                Reading the (utterly ridiculously designed) questions from the Reason poll, I would probably fall into their “libertarian” category myself, yet I vehemently disagree with a big chunk of Reason’s policy agenda, think Ron Paul is a total nutbar, and that Ayn Rand is bad fiction for disaffected teens, not a viable social/economic model for a nation.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Darren – that would require teenagers to read!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                We’ve learned the lessons of Ralph Nader.

                And forgotten the lessons of H. Ross Perot.Report

              • Avatar 62across says:

                Jaybird –

                Aren’t the Nader and Perot lessons the same? Sure, they demonstrate that the sword can cut both ways, but didn’t most anyone voting for either of these guys as their favored candidate end up having their least favored candidate elected?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Perot’s own polling showed that he’d win. But he didn’t want that, so he dropped out. Then circus!

                This puts the burden of proof on any indie to say “yes, I really want the job”Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Spatial orientation,
                those “independents” are issue-democrats. lotta research on that (538 has it, just like “moderate” means democrat).Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                What you say is generally correct, though there arguably is a place for certain kinds of third parties if they focused less on the executive and more on the legislative (specifically, districts where there is only one competitive party). Even then, of course, they would almost certainly need to caucus with one party or the other in a predictable fashion.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                That’s still a two party system. It occurs in San Francisco (Green vs Dem) and in large swaths of Texas (Libertarian vs Republican).
                I don’t argue that there can be minor parties, just that a two party system is the only stable one for our electoral system.

                If you wanted “Real” third parties, you should look up the curious case of Bernie Sanders, and how the policeman’s union elected a Democratic Socialist.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                This ties in to an aside I had with Tom the other day, on Tim’s post about the overly-fuzzy nature of scope of government.

                If we really did have *any* sort of reasonable demarcation of authority, wherein the polis made their rules, the state made their rules, and the feds made their rules, but everyone actually made a real attempt to keep the scope of work limited to the appropriate sphere, then we’d probably have better regulations, and we’d probably have more efficient government without having to go all top-down on this mofo, *and* we’d have the case where people could vote for regional parties in regional elections; party N for the polis-level positions, party N+1 for the state, etc.

                This wouldn’t get rid the two party system, of course, because typically the parties would gravitate towards aligning and associating with each other anyway.

                The Los Angeles Libs would have a large amount of overlap with the California Blue party and again with the national Democratic party.

                But they would still be not quite the same. If nothing else, it would change the way caucusing was done in the House.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Oh, I agree with all of this. I was merely pointing out a way that you can implement third parties into a two-party system without distorting things. Namely, through permanent coalitions like Liberal/National in Australia.Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            They want their fucking party back

            Even if the people who took it away from them are their own constituency?Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              … Midwestern republicans are not the same thing as Southern republicans. Trust me, I’ve known both. Ike, with his 90% marginal tax rate, would blow a fuse at the modern republican party (he was the guy that black folks voted for, if you remember… because he was good on their issues).Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            What is the south’s politics?Report

            • Avatar Katherine says:

              Take actual Christianity as described in the Bible, then find the complete reverse of everything it says (blessed are the rich; hate, murder and torture not only your enemies, but the innocent; oppress the weak; be hostile to the stranger, the alien, to anyone different from you). That’s southern fundamentalist politics in a nutshell.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Don’t forget the part about all white southerners being racist. I mean if you are going to lie about those you don’t agree with don’t forget to leave anything out and go for the “big” lie.Report

              • Avatar Katherine says:

                I believe I included that implication in the last clause of my parenthesed phrase. And I’m just going from what the Southern Baptists, Bush, and their ilk genuinely say and promote as policies, and the descriptions by people who have escaped from that culture. Fundamentalist Christians are the most likely people in the US to support torture and wars of aggression. I don’t make the facts.

                If you believe good Muslims should denounce al-Qaeda, I reserve the right to denounce and attack those who pervert my religion to their own evil ends.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                If this is representative of your “religion” then I say we have a bad case of irony here.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                because debtors prisons are a great way to get more jobs in America! Yay free labor! …oh, wait, don’t we call that slavery?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … how about South Carolina’s Beggar Thy Neighbor strategy of taxation?Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                And the south is made up of “fundmentalists”, therefore that is the politics of the south? This is interesting.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                …MFarmer, more and more the south is becoming a haven for “fundamentalists” and “dominionists.” That, and the scientists are actively fleeing entire states.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                I didn’t know that.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                the south used to be a much better place (particularly places like Tennessee, which for about forty years had attracted good scientists, with Oak Ridge and the TVA, and a general policy to “live and let live”)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Really? Where are scientists fleeing from and to? Last I checked, there were still some pretty big tier 1 research institutions in the south, and I haven’t heard about scientiests fleeing them (I picture them in Model T’s with all of their belongings strapped, and their children, strapped to the top).Report

              • Avatar Ryan B says:

                Indeed. The dynamics are not as simple as made out here. One of the reasons that North Carolina is trending blue in presidential elections is the rise of the Research Triangle. Virginia is experiencing the same effect as white-collar professionals agglomerate in Arlington, Alexandria, and the neighboring suburbs.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Tennessee, as I mentioned in another post. This is mostly anecdotal (how many scientists are in the state? It’s possible to know a good deal of them), but my friend mentioned that most physicists have left, and at least one frosh bio professor. Getting shot at in church tends to make you want to leave the state. Let alone being shunned simply for teaching biology. (the bio guy headed out to France.)

                The brain drain is drying up, and you can find evidence of that in all walks of life in America, mostly by looking at (repatriation?) of graduate students… Or, if you’d rather, look at the sheer number of modelers/engineers that are fleeing to New Zealand, Australia, or Europe.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Ryan B,
                northern virginia is now not the South, as ethnically/socially/economically/politically constructed, I believe.
                I wasn’t referencing the research triangle, and I do agree that it does provide a countervailing force, so long as NC doesn’t pass any laws forcing the teaching of creationism.

                It’s worth mentioning that one still sees discrimination against scientists nearby the research triangle (not inside). kinda like how Atlanta’s kinda diverse, but going outside city limits too far and you hit a whole different crowd, who don’t take too kindly to certain folks.Report

              • Avatar Ryan B says:

                This smacks of No True Scotsman.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Even in Texas, which is a very red state, the big cities (Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso) are increasingly blue (all voted for Obama), in part because Texas has been importing brain power on a massive level (with the Texas education system, it’s not like they’re growing it at home).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Ryan B,
                What in particular? I don’t think anyone’s considered Maryland part of The South for fifty years… I see the border between The North and The South as drifting southward. [and you’ll note that I’m not making that claim on the research triangle, which seems to be trying to integrate more than displace]
                Then again, I don’t count WV as being The South either, despite the stars and bars on people’s pickups.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                to chris and ryan b,
                most of texas is not the south either. 😉 [east texas, maybe].Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Kim, you’re bullshitting again. You’d do well to stick to facts, because you’re clearly smart, but you have this habit of just pullsing shit out of your ass.

                Tennessee, particularly Middle Tennessee, has seen a massive influx of tech companies and tech jobs over the last 10-15 years (Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, etc.). I doubt you could name a tiny fraction of the scientists in the Cool Springs area, much less in the entire state. In East Tennessee, ORNL is thriving, with thousands of scientists (none of whom, I suspect, you’ve ever met). Jackson, in West Tennessee, is also home to tech companies and scientists in increasing numbers.

                So, again, I wish you wouldn’t make shit up. It serves no purpose.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Kim, also, have you ever been to Huntsville? And if you tell me Alabama isn’t really the south, my head will probably explode.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                never been to huntsville. can’t be as bad as the florida panhandle, I figure, but what the hell do I know?
                … you can either assume that I’m bullshitting or that your frame of reference (or sample set) is different from mine. Does it say something to you that you assume the former? [me, I’m trying to learn to be more charitable myself… ;0]Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Kim, the difference is that my frame of reference is facts, and yours is… what? A few people you knew? Shit you made up? I’m inclined to think the latter. The fact is, Middle Tennessee has seen a massive influx of high tech, which includes scientists. An influx, if you don’t know, goes in the opposite direction of an exodus. ORNL is thriving, as evidenced by the number of people who work there and the research it’s putting out. Jackson is getting more high tech industry. That covers pretty much the entire area of Tennessee.

                And Huntsville has tech, including NASA. That’s why I mentioned it. If you don’t know about Huntsville, you don’t know about science in the south.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Kim, let me just add that the reason I think it’s more likely that you just made shit up is that you have a history, here, of just making shit up: Sony tanks, apple scab is carcinogenic, etc.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s always helpful to describe people in groups that dissent from or are different from our own in such a hostile manner and with such a large brush. Who wants to call dibs on urban black politics? Southern California Latino politics? Oh, what a productive conversation it will be…Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                ya, it actually is helpful. Because when Limbaugh does it, it’s mostly just projection.
                1) Muslims want to take over the country and install sharia law — instead, Christians(dominionists, actually) want to take over the country and install biblical law.

                2) Feminazis want to emasculate men! — instead, Limbaugh-esque conservatives believe that women ought to act “feminine,” herein defined as “needing protection and guidance” (aka Sarah Palin, last election. South ate it up when people started saying “but you can’t backtalk her because she’s a Lady”)Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        There are two parties because of particular structural features of the american electoral system. Particularly, is the fact that the head of government is elected directly through a series of runoff votes. Multiparty systems are far more common in parliamentary democracies. Since coalition governments are in principle impossible under a presidential system, this automatically suppresses third parties because voting for a third party splits the vote whereas it need not do so in parliamentary systems.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Which is why I think that third parties ought to look more at legislature rather than executive.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          There’s also the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get on the presidential ballot in many states unless you’re a member of one of the two big parties.

          The legislature would indeed be a good bet, except that the incumbency bias in congress is too strong.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I think you’re pretty close on liberalism, E.D. It’s about pursuing a multi-definitional concept of freedom that balances meritorious understandings of freedom according to value (how’s that for vague?). Rensikoff is confused about republicanism, however. That’s a totally different thing.Report

  4. Avatar Maxwell James says:

    Lately I’ve been contemplating the notion that the government should be very deeply involved in the insurance industry, but completely out of all others.Report

    • Avatar DarrenG says:

      Unless you are expanding the definition of “the insurance industry” to include the military, police, courts, monetary policy, diplomacy, and perhaps a few other things, I don’t see a very large coalition supporting this idea.Report

      • Avatar Maxwell James says:

        Well, you’re right: I’m limiting my field to those industries that are already perceived as such. And certainly a long way from seeking a coalition, just rolling the notion around in my head.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Insurance is a poor fit for the “for profit” model, as there’s not much way to innovate that doesn’t involve ripping people off by virtue of power differentials.
      You write a program that IDs people who have AIDS (not HIV) and put them on the “slow train” to getting money from your corporation. Voila! You get money — by cheating the most vulnerable members of the population.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        Insurance is amortization of risk. Pretty much by definition, it works best when the population is covered, less well as you start to cover fewer people, and practically not at all when you reach the inflection point.

        Competition in the insurance industry is built on a profit model where revenues are the only metric. Well, duh, now every player in the insurance market has a massive incentive to game the system such that the most expensive members (claimants) are ejected and the least expensive members (predominantly young, healthy people) are recruited heavily.

        Our employer-based system is ludicrous, taken in that light.

        You could make a set of market incentives that would encourage a workable insurance private market, but it would pretty much immediately lead to a monopoly. Rather than have a nice cushy government-subsidized existence to some private company (which has its own ugly failure modes), it makes more sense to have a single-payer system for the large glut of productivity-killing medical expenses, and have a private market for those people who want additional coverage.

        The trick there is that drug companies will have a huge incentive to get Cialis labeled as “productivity-killing”, and insurance companies in the private market will have a huge incentive to get things that are covered by their additional coverage plans suddenly added to the list, too… so that they can take all that cheddar that they’ve pocketed to cover future expenses and blow it on a company party.

        Anywhere you move these guidelines, you’re going to have problems at the edge cases, admittedly.Report

  5. Kucinich and Sanders would be better than Obama, and so would Russ Feingold – at least on civil liberties, the drug war, and foreign wars. We may part ways on economics, but without free speech to advocate free market policies, we’d have nothing. Libertarians aren’t unreasonable. However, I’m perplexed that you disagree with Johnson to such an extent. He is much more liberal than Ron Paul. Even though you probably won’t vote for him, visit his site and check out his stances on the issues (if you haven’t already done so). You may be pleasantly surprised… or at least you might walk that 90% opposition number back just a bit. Either way, feel free to comment over at so we can find some more common ground wherever it may lie. Thanks for the great post, E.D. – I always enjoy reading your work! And thanks to all who engaged in this thread…Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Thanks! And thanks for commenting. I like the Bleeding Heart Libertarians. I do think there’s lots of wiggle room for alliances between liberals and libertarians, but it’s a steep uphill climb.Report

    • Avatar DarrenG says:

      I don’ t know about 90%, but it’d be a tough, uphill climb to get many liberals on board with some of Johnson’s signature policy preferences, such as:

      – Immediately cutting Medicare & Medicaid by 43% and converting both to block grant programs.
      – Actively opposed to universal health care of any sort.
      – School vouchers as silver bullet for all ills in the schools (sigh).
      – Opposed to all federal-level spending or regulations on education, transportation, and energy.
      – Endless tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations.
      – Opposed to regulations on food safety, environmental protection, net neutrality, and pretty much everything else.Report

  6. Views like yours (which are quite close to mine) are what I like to describe as ‘market socialist’, the key features being:

    1) Market mechanisms as effective allocation calculators, _if_ distortions and failures are removed. (Pigouvian neoliberalism when taken alone.)

    2) Social/collective preferences as the highest goal of policy, _given_ that individual ‘revealed’ preferences are often incompatible with collective preferences. (ie, many of us would prefer not to have health insurance, but we are collectively better off if we all do – so a reduction in freedom on one hand increases freedom greatly on the other). This point also means that questions of distribution are at least equal to questions of total output; that employment is at least equal to profit, and other social preferences that are not reflected in market mechanisms are often more important than those that are.

    Altogether the philosophical flow is the opposite of neoliberalism. There, what the market produces is proper _because it is said to reveal our preferences_; here, we reject that assumption, state our preferences first, and use markets to acquire the necessary information and enact those preferences.

    Personally I have found that Post-Keynesian economics makes good use of these foundations – it has built a number of models where the key outputs are distribution and employment (instead of output and profit), and so illustrates how we can make the market mechanism produce the outputs we truly desire.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      “and so illustrates how we can make the market mechanism produce the outputs we truly desire.”


      • Well, if you want to target an income distribution that is different from what a lassez-faire market would produce, for example, you need a model that tells you the distribution given certain inputs (for example differential savings rates, as in Kalecki’s model described in his critique of the General Theory). Or if you want to limit carbon or sulfur emissions, you can choose the level you want and let markets price and allocate emissions. Or whatever.Report

      • Practical example: China makes its income distribution more egalitarian than it would otherwise be by maintaining a high level of public investment, which causes a high level of private savings by workers, which causes an increase in their real income.

        For contrast, see Russia, which did not plan its privatization carefully and has since been stuck in a primitive-accumulation trap.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          So, we should follow the economic practices of China, or is this just an example of how to produce outputs truly desired? When you say “we” above, do you outputs the government desires, or we as a collective desire, or should desire?Report

          • Just an example. I do think it’s a good idea for us too though, given that we have poor infrastructure, low savings, and high inequality.

            And ‘we’ means citizens collectively. Of course this is its own problem, since Arrow showed that there is no consistent system for setting collective preferences. So in practice it means the preferences of a generally accepted legitimate government, simply because that’s the best tool we have for setting these preferences.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Benjamin – thanks for the in-depth comment. I don’t have time now, but I want to pick it apart and go into more depth on it soon!Report

    • Avatar Ryan B says:

      I’ve often described myself as a libertarian socialist (like E.D., I have label difficulties), and this seems right up my alley. Maybe we’re on to something!Report

  7. Avatar MFarmer says:

    “Social/collective preferences as the highest goal of policy, _given_ that individual ‘revealed’ preferences are often incompatible with collective preferences. (ie, many of us would prefer not to have health insurance, but we are collectively better off if we all do – so a reduction in freedom on one hand increases freedom greatly on the other).”

    Oh my. Is this what E.D. believes? So long individual rights, we hardly knew ye.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      No I’m still an individual rights guy, Mike. Just with a somewhat different make-up than you.Report

    • I think you misunderstand. The whole point is protection and expansion of individual rights. So if we say there is a right to health and a right to financial security, then it follows that we want to provide acceptable healthcare to everyone at least total cost. In this case, the economics works out that you either need a single payer or you need mandatory coverage – otherwise adverse selection sets in and we get many people who have neither good health _nor_ financial security. So the policy is only a restriction in that it reduces your absolute right to do whatever the hell you want with your money (which we already know is not sacrosanct: see ‘taxes’) for a much greater gain in rights that we believe are of a higher priority. This sort of argument should be explicit for any liberal policy, and on any such policy I’m happy to make it.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        Oh, so people have to be forced to enjoy rights they don’t understand they need?Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Benjamin — So, given that we’re taxed, the government then has the authority to tell us how to spend our money on anything they think will benefit us as a collective?Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            They have the right to tax income at whatever percentage a legislature elected democratically decides to tax income at.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            Of course, the liberals think the gov’t has the right to force us to buy health care now and who knows what else in the future. Health food, hybrid cars, the possibilities are endless.Report

            • Avatar Ryan B says:

              That is the next step. Hybrid mandate!Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              But, only because we’re too stupid to know what we need, so it’s really our fault.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … do you got a bitch, when Rockefeller pays for hoovervilles, so that he doesn’t die from typhoid?

                It may be that the people he’s helping are that stupid, or they may really be that poor…

                How can we say that it’s okay for a private citizen to do something, and then say that it’s not okay for the government? (serious question. may have easy answer).Report

              • Avatar Ryan B says:

                I really don’t understand this frame. Using the state to help solve collective action problems doesn’t imply that anyone thinks anyone is stupid. These problems are hard, and the individual and social utility functions point in all kinds of different directions.

                I mean, I get it as a rhetorical device, but it’s just not helpful at all.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          *nods* without vaccination, you kill ME. and that is an infringement on my rights.Report

  8. Avatar 62across says:

    EDK –

    This is the most cogent and meaningful description of your political philosophy I’ve ever seen from you. (Admittedly, I’d missed the First Principles post to which you link.)

    Avoid the temptation you show at the end to reduce all this to a simple label. The labels are the problem, as they all apply inadequately. Just link to this post (with the First Principles link embedded, of course) whenever anyone asks you to self-identify. It will save you a lot of effort.Report

  9. I think you’re conflating centrism with bipartisanship.Report

    • I don’t know Chris – his description sounds about right to me. Centrism usually ends up being a kind of triangulation between Right and Left (often for the sake of political leverage). I have no doubt that some people come down in the middle on some issues but as a political ideology I find it improbable.Report