The economic hurdles of a left-libertarian alliance

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91 Responses

  1. I agree with this completely. If/when the economy is on surer footing, there’s no reason for the liberaltarian movement not to pick up where it left off, or even further developed, by focusing on war (real and figurative). But a bad economy—especially one due to Wall St.—makes glossing over different perspectives vis-a-vis class conflict nearly impossible.

    Aside: the “chains first then crutches” thing is brilliant, ED. I hope it becomes a catch-phrase or short-hand of sorts.Report

  2. Chris says:

    What I find interesting about your description of how a liberal-libertarian alliance would work, in your paragraph beginning “First, a philosophical alliance,” is that it essentially says liberals should become libertarians. Liberals get to keep their social views, which libertarians already share, but have to give up their economic/policy views, which are inconsistent with libertarian economics. What to libertarians give up or compromise on in the alliance? Their alliance with conservatives.
    That isn’t so much an alliance as a conversion.Report

    • Chris in reply to Chris says:

      Sorry, I just saw the rest of that. Ignore my comment.

      I reacted too quickly because this is the sort of alliance I’ve heard proposed by libertarians. I don’t find it interesting or productive. I think it’d be nice if libertarians and liberals partnered more on social issues, but on economic issues, I would be upset if liberals conceded much to libertarians.Report

    • b-psycho in reply to Chris says:

      Shawn actually gave that first part as an example of an alliance that wouldn’t work.Report

    • Mike in reply to Chris says:

      I’m in agreement that this doesn’t seem too fair for progressives to give up on the idea that government can do things better than the market can while all libertarians give up is a long-standing alliance with conservatives. That sounds a lot like the Republican stance that simply considering raising the debt ceiling was a compromise. I’d say a better compromise would be for libertarians to admit that government has a legitimate role to play in the market.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Mike says:

        Mike, what do you see as the legitimate role for government in the market?Report

        • Mike in reply to MFarmer says:

          There are a few general philosophical things where I see government having a legitimate role. One major area is ensuring fair competition in the market; I see policies like antitrust regulations, codetermination regulations, truth-in-advertising regulations, rules for how people selling products and services must compete in the market, an unbiased and comprehensive justice system, and equal tax treatment of all manners of earning money (sales, wages, bonds, stocks, foreign exchange transfers, gifts, inheritances, etc.) as examples of this philosophy in action. I also see government having a legitimate claim to establish baselines in certain aspects of the market when the market’s private players still show signs of failure; I would say a Medicare for All health insurance option, a universal TSP (federal government 401k), and a public financing system for elections as examples of this philosophy. Finally, I also believe government has a legitimate role in building the infrastructure necessary to fuel the market, like the transportation and energy networks.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to Mike says:

            Thanks for the honest answer.

            Can you expound on this?

            “rules for how people selling products and services must compete in the marketReport

            • Mike in reply to MFarmer says:

              One example I can think of would be a hypothetical rule that required health care providers to be paid using bundled payments for a single episode of an illness. Another example would be a rule requiring all businesses to spell out a worker’s total compensation through the combined value of benefits and wages. Basically, any kind of regulation that would streamline how the market performs so that consumers can more easily focus on what makes certain products or services better than others could fall into this category.Report

  3. Jason Kuznicki says:

    First, a philosophical alliance based on congruent principles and common telos. People in this camp—liberaltarians— argue that progressive ends are best realized by libertarian means…. This is a deeply condescending—and unworkable—type of fusionism, in my view. Progressives’ intelligence is implicitly oppugned (“If only you understood…”), and legitimate, intractable ideological differences are omitted.

    I can’t agree. While libertarians are definitely asking liberals to give up a lot on the economic front, we’re also asking ourselves to admit a lot of serious mistakes in our own camp. Starting with right-libertarian fusionism and the compromises it entailed in the areas of foreign policy and social conservatism.Report

    • Ryan B in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      But those were compromises of preexisting ideology. There’s nothing being given up. That’s like saying, “Hey liberals, come join our party, but you’ll have to give up your support of Obama’s war in Libya!” Where do I sign?Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Ryan B says:

        Are you saying libertarians have to add to their ideology then give some of it up?Report

        • Ryan B in reply to MFarmer says:

          No, I’m saying that the liberaltarian philosophical approach isn’t asking libertarians to give up anything. Jason says they have to give up the compromises they made with the right. Giving up giving up isn’t giving up.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Ryan B says:

            I am gratified that you have identified this feature of the proposal, Ryan. In my view, the real sales problem for advocates of this fusion (as distinct from the fundamental ideological problem, which you are also right to identify) comes when, in the context of a proposed compact in which one side essentially capitulates on all the questions on which it differs from the other, the argumentation from libertarians (including at the BHL blog, which I find as condescending toward liberals as you do others) for such a thing is then that liberals really ought to join such an alliance because standard libertarian argumentation on rights and economics is, ya know, *still right*. Always has been. So what’s the hold up?Report

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

              Agree with Michael/Ryan/etc. on this point. I think liberals should definitely move toward libertarianism, but I think libertarians need to give up more than just old bonds that are largely severed with the right already. The welfare state can be done better, and libertarian ideas can help in that regard I suspect, but if libertarians maintain an essentially hostile attitude toward redistribution and the value of public services I think the whole thing founders.Report

            • 62across in reply to Michael Drew says:

              Michael –

              I think another big sales problem for BHL types is who is selling what to whom.

              The liberals have a Party – one that has elected the current President and that controls one chamber of Congress. Is there anyone prominent in a statehouse or holding federal office that has an L behind their name? BHL types are asking liberals to compromise their ideology and they can’t deliver a voting bloc of any significance. What’s in it for them?

              If anything should the sale be working the other way around.

              As a liberal, I think the pitch should go like this: Hey, libertarians. Come join our party. Through your fusion with the right, you’ve had some remarkable success over the last 30 years on the economic freedom part of your agenda. Overall taxation is at historical lows and the regulatory regime is down from its apex. You’ve gotten all you can get for now from partnering with those guys. How about focusing on the civil liberties portion for awhile? We can help.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to 62across says:

                Do the Liberals care about civil liberties, though?

                The Liberals in power seem to care about civil liberties about as much as the Republicans in power care about divorce rates.Report

              • 62across in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird –

                Perhaps not a majority of “liberals in power”, but certainly a sizable number of liberals do. The opportunity to shift the balance would be the selling point of the coalition, to my mind.

                Granted this is grossly generalized, but if you consider the Republican Party having a socially conservative wing and a fiscally conservative wing and the Democratic Party having a socially liberal wing and fiscally liberal wing, the reason libertarians have the opportunity to partner with both parties is that they seem to be a combination of the fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Any success from the right/libertarian fusion has come from managing a de-emphasis of the socially conservative elements of the coalition to an extent that fiscal conservatism has been the dominant force in Republican politics for the last couple of decades. I’m suggesting a left/libertarian fusion could make civil liberties a dominant force in Democratic politics in a similar way, but only if a de-emphasis of fiscal conservatism among libertarians could be managed in the same way.

                Only libertarians will be able to decide if progress on civil liberties is worth that to them.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to 62across says:

                There are a handful of Republicans in power making hypocritical noises about limited government.

                Do the Democrats have anyone similar?

                (No, Obama in 2008 doesn’t count.)Report

              • 62across in reply to Jaybird says:

                Can you rephrase? I don’t know what you are asking.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Are there any Democrats who are as noisy about Civil Liberties (even if hypocritical about them) as the Freshmen Teabagger Republicans are about Fiscal Conservativism?Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                A handful?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Dennis Kucinich?Report

              • 62across in reply to Jaybird says:

                That I can’t think of one without digging around would seem to damn my proposal.

                So where does that leave those of us who want to see civil liberties championed? Do we sit outside pissing and moaning that they all suck or do we choose a group we think we have a chance of influencing from within and give it a try? If you think the Republicans are the ones who are more likely to support the cause, I’m open to hearing that argument.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, I mean you contend that it’s just a handful of Republicans who ride the rhetoric of limited government?Report

              • MFarmer in reply to Jaybird says:


                Exactly — liberals are getting worse in that they’re calling for more and more government power — the problem is that once you give government the power to do some things, they’ll do other things — you can’t pick the liberties you want when you want them. Liberals are into ad hoc expediency and they are breaking down the wall, a flimsy wall it’s been, to more government power.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Do the Liberals care about civil liberties, though?

                Do conservatives? Do libertarians? Does the average American voter? The average American non-voter? Do liberals care about civil liberties more than most? Do they care about them less than others?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                We can say, for example, that “Democrats care about Health Care Reform”.

                We can say, for example, that “Republicans care about low taxes.”

                These statements are more or less completely uncontroversial. One can find exceptions where this or that politician is in disagreement with the party, of course… but they are exceptions.

                When it comes to Libertarians in power, sadly, there’s a vanishingly small number to sample from. Jeff Flake. If you open the category up to Paleocons as well you might get Ron Paul. Are Flake and Paul representative of Libertarian/Paleo thought?

                Who is representative of Democratic thought?

                What does this representative think about Civil Liberties?

                (Is it Obama in 2008?)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Ahh, but you shifted from ‘liberal’ to ‘Democratic’ as if those were synonyms. And you know they aren’t.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Are there any Liberals in Power (in the US, of course) who are not Democrats?

                Jeff Flake?
                Ron Paul?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                No. But what does Representation have to do with voter’s support of civil liberties? Isn’t social welfare based on myriad values? Isn’t politics the art of compromise when presented with conflicting values? Isn’t a unipolar view of politics childish and naive?

                And remember, you’re the guy who’s guy is never The Guy.Report

              • Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

                There are democrats in power who are not liberals. That’s going to skew our image of what we think liberals in power will do.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                what does Representation have to do with voter’s support of civil liberties?


                It seems to me that we are stuck with one of two exceptionally disagreeable options.

                1) Our Representatives do not accurately represent us, as a society.

                2) Our Representatives accurately represent us, as a society.Report

              • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                liberal != democrat.
                Bernie sanders.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to 62across says:

                Yeah, I was going to say I’d really take anything at this point that would get more liberals to care about civil liberties again. I’m not sure if an issue-based alliance with libertarians has much to do with that really.

                In fact, in my experience, even these issue-based coalitions can be difficult to make work in parctice, because there isnt any one view of what it is to “care about civil liberties.” People who see themselves as caring about civil liberties can and do have disparate understandings of what that means in terms of policy specifics. And where there are pre-existing philosophical differences in the basic motivations for protecting civil liberties (and, don’t kid yourself, there are those between progressives and libertarians), those specific differences, again in my experience, can lead more quickly back to the basic philosophical disputes between the groups than to sustainable coalition. (“So wait, if you can countenance a very limited form of preventive detention, what is your basis for protesting a more expansive form, and while we’re at it, why is it again that you think that depriving people of the right to a speedy trial is so bad but you have no problem depriving people of their property?” etc. etc. We all know that happens.)

                I can’t speak for libertarians to Mike Farmer’s question as to why they might want to seek a broader alliance with liberals. But I can’t help bu have some sympathy for his point when it comes to issue-specific coalitions. What is so important about these low-cohesive groups that we identify with that make them so important to specific issue advocacy. Civil liberties in the face of terrorism is a cause that anyone can, and everyone should, be involved in. Groups dedicated to it exlusively are out there advocating to help more people tune into the problem all the time. I’m not sure I see the importance of people saying, “As a liberal, I care” or “As a libertarian, I care,” or “As an alliance of liberals and libertarians, we care” about civil liberties. We can all care about civil liberties as ourselves. I need to be shown what the importance of doing so as groups or alliances is. At first blush it seems to me all that is more important to proper maintenance of one’s political identity than it is to the actual issue around which groups are coalescing.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to 62across says:

                The other problem is that salient questions that are still ive issues between the two groups outside of the proposed issue-coaltion are always looming only as far in the distance as the next election. I don’t think it shows that someone doesn’t care about civil liberties if they ultimately vote for apresident who was bad on them because economic issues in that election trump civil liberties ones. But I certainly wouldn’t expect someone who takes the opposing view on those economic issues but who entered into coalition on civil liberties to take kindly to that behavior. And that problem will always be there.

                If Ryan or another person who holds out hope for issue-based liberaltariansim has an answer for this problem (which I may not have expressed clearly – I have time constraints), I’d be interested in hearing it.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …Or Shawn, who I momentarily forgot was the author of the post. Is this problem related to the one you describe below as ‘partisanship’?Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to 62across says:

                I think another big sales problem for BHL types is who is selling what to whom.

                Okay, here’s a different sales pitch.

                Dear Liberals,

                We’re sitting on a pile of ideas, and yeah, that’s about all we have. The Republicans don’t want these ideas right now. They’re riding high on religious conservatism and war-fueled nationalism, and neither of these sit well with libertarianism.

                But the GOP tank is running empty. You know it and so do we. In the next generation, your adversaries going to wish they still had libertarian ideas to fall back on.

                If you’re crafty, you’ll take the best of those ideas right now, own them, and leave the generation of Republicans with nothing.




              • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Yeah, I’d hope your pitch would do more than encourage the politics of screwing the other side.

                Anyway, if I were a liberal, I’d be saying, “Seriously, dude, you’ve got to give me more than, ‘Here are my ideas: once you adopt them, we can have an alliance’ to make me interested in an alliance.”

                I see no reason why liberals, if they actually decide to vote based on civil liberties, can’t get what they want accomplished without libertarians. So I’m a.) not sure what an alliance brings liberals, and b.) certainly not convinced that libertarians would be willing to compromise on economics to any degree that would make an alliance worthwhile.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris says:

                Yeah, I’d hope your pitch would do more than encourage the politics of screwing the other side.

                I happen to think that my pitch does involve something more than screwing the other side, because these ideas have nontrivial real-world applications that will help millions of the least well-off both in America and the rest of the world.

                I’m not just talking about civil liberties, either. Liberals could get serious about ending the War on Drugs. About bringing the troops home. About eminent domain reform. About making it easier to start a small business. About ending farm subsidies.

                All kinds of things that would definitely help people who are simply struggling to make an honest living. That’s what liberals say they support, anyway, and I’d like very much to call them on it.

                In light of the above program, libertarians can afford all kinds of compromises on the welfare state too, and we probably should.

                But in a sense, you are still right. What matters is that sweet, sweet political power, which you’ve already got, and which requires no change whatsoever on your part to keep.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Well, I’m not a liberal, so my side has about as much political power as yours (none). But I’d rather have liberals move to the left, economically, than the right, so I definitely take notice of talk of a libertarian-liberal alliance, since it would move liberals in the wrong direction, from my perspective.

                Here is what I wonder: liberals on the street, at least the politically conscious ones, will tend to agree with libertarians on most non-economic issues. I say most because the war on drugs is a tricky one. A lot of liberals, it seems to me at least, have bought the Cambronne about the war on drugs being about getting tough on crime and preventing scary addicts and dealers from robbing you for a rock or whatever. Still, let’s assume that liberals and libertarians ally with each other, and that changes. What do liberals get out of it besides being right on the war on drugs (and do you remember the 2008 Democratic primary debates? One Democratic candidate answered every question with, “It’s because of the war on drugs.” Not even Paul does that on the Republican side. So they could just accomplish this by paying attention to the left wing of their own party for once.)? They already have infinitely more political power than libertarians. Libertarians bring some intellectual respectability to conservatives, perhaps, but that’s less of a problem for liberals, so they don’t need libertarians for that. What are they getting? Subscriptions to Reason? I can’t think of anything.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                What’s in it for them? That’s where I’d re-refer you to my original pitch.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I mean the chance leave the Republicans still more a rump revanchist party than they already are.

                Maybe you don’t care for “screwing the other side” — must respect those Republicans, for some reason! — but I do think libertarian ideas could offer a long-term strategic advantage to Democrats, and in the process, I think the American people could benefit.

                Seems like win-win-win to me.Report

              • 62across in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I’m not just talking about civil liberties, either. Liberals could get serious about ending the War on Drugs. About bringing the troops home. About eminent domain reform. About making it easier to start a small business. About ending farm subsidies.

                All kinds of things that would definitely help people who are simply struggling to make an honest living. That’s what liberals say they support, anyway, and I’d like very much to call them on it…

                …I do think libertarian ideas could offer a long-term strategic advantage to Democrats, and in the process, I think the American people could benefit.

                Seems like win-win-win to me.

                Jason, I can’t argue with any of this, but I see a sort of chicken/egg dilemma here.

                You seem to me to be saying that if the Democrats (that is liberals in power rather than liberals in general) were to own these libertarians ideas, libertarians would come over and leave the Republicans a revanchist rump.

                I’d say, Democrats won’t (maybe even can’t) get serious about these libertarian ideas without more libertarians in the party influencing them in that direction. Without a libertarian voting bloc engaged, the balance will not tip away from the more establishment blocs in the party.

                As long as libertarians are more interested in calling liberals on their failure to live up to their ideals than in partnering with them to achieve those ideals, I don’t see how progress is made. Too bad, because win-win-win would be sweet.Report

    • That and we’re also forced to mea culpa and renounce corporatism.Report

  4. David Cheatham says:

    It sure is a bit strange that the issues the libertarians seem to be most vocal about (At least, the politicians calling themselves libertarians.) are issues that the right cares about, and issues the left opposes.

    People actually concerned about liberty should be, for example, a little more worried about the apparent ability of the executive to imprison people without charge and torture them than the ability of the executive and legislative, together, to order people to pay for health insurance. The latter may also be a violation of rights, but it’s the difference between someone stabbing me with a knife vs. someone stealing a nickel from me. And you can always vote those people out and change the law, unlike the whole ‘torture’ thing, which no one gave anyone any permission to start in the first place, and was in fact illegal.

    Likewise, it sure is a coincidence that most things the ‘balance the budget’ people worry about are things the right cares about. $10 billion in education? Slash it. $300 billion for war? Keep it. $200 billion in tax cuts? Keep them.

    And it sure is interesting how many pro-life people have some sort of opposition to government health care, even after you point out that the majority of abortions are due to financial costs and you could cut abortions by at least 25% by providing free pre-natal care and an easy way to give the baby up for adoption.

    Seriously, I hate to actually say this here, because I know I’m talking to people for whom it is not true. You people here are honest.

    But 90% of the people who claim to have a philosophical position on the right just appear to have picked some things they already wish to happen, found a philosophical position that can be used to argue those things, and done so. They do not actually seem to hold that philosophical position. They do not actually seem to want to balance the budget, or stop abortion, or stop government abuses of freedom…they wish to do something specific, and have decided claiming that they have a ‘philosophy’ is the best way to do it.

    The funniest example of this is opposition to gay marriage, where the philosophical objections, uh, fell utterly apart and very sound stupid now, so there’s just a bunch of people with an unjustifiable belief that gay people shouldn’t marry and they’re just randomly fishing for reasons, and randomly spouting nonsense.

    ‘Children need mothers and fathers.’ ‘So single parents suck? And children should stay in the foster care system instead of being adopted?’
    ‘People should only marry to have children.’ ‘So infertile people shouldn’t marry?’
    ‘It will hurt marriage.’ ‘You do realize that half of all straight marriages end in divorce, right? And what do you mean, ‘hurt’? Marriage is legal status, it is not an actual object that can be damaged.’

    They are literally flailing around trying to find some sort of philosophical justification, no matter how nonsensical, or how little those supposed problems have bothered us before. The anti-gay marriage crowd is, at this point, starting to sound deranged, and probably should switch to the actual reason they oppose it: ‘We think gay sex is icky and/or we don’t like people outside traditional gender roles.’

    The right comes up with ‘philosophies’ like this (when it can) because all too often, what the right wants actually does sound deranged on its own, so it has to carefully crouched in some sort of system where it’s ‘required’. This is because what the right wants often is deranged, I am sorry to say.

    Perhaps I biased, and the left is just as dishonest. But somehow I really don’t think so.Report

    • Kim in reply to David Cheatham says:

      harumph. i thought the reason the right opposed gay marriage is that they’re running out of people to demonize.
      But I remember what NINA means.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to David Cheatham says:

      “At least, the politicians calling themselves libertarians”

      This is as noted a small set, (Paul, Flake, Bob Barr, ?), but let’s look again at what they are saying.

      “worried about the apparent ability of the executive to imprison people without charge and torture them”
      I think all three guys above are against this, I know Ron Paul is.

      ” $300 billion for war? Keep it.”
      Again I know Ron Paul is against this as I think the others are
      But really, most people that call themselves libertarian don’t like eternal war and the commensurate abuses. I’m not sure which liberatarians you’re talking about. And the talk radio types are always either dissing on Paul for his ‘blame America first’ views or simply calling him naive.

      Ron Paul does have an opinion on abortion that aligns with the conservative right (and disagrees with mine). The abortion debate is an intractable irresolvable difference of opinion on competing rights. There is no libertarian litmus test on this issue.

      “The funniest example of this is opposition to gay marriage,”
      I think Paul being the crusty ol sort he is doesn’t personally approve of gay marriage, but is at least not willing to make a federal case out of it. And has the (not practical, but wholly reasonable) position of getting government out of the marriage business all together. But once again, what sort of libertarians are you listening to that are against gay marriage? (or Scotsmen?)Report

      • David Cheatham in reply to Kolohe says:

        I’m not sure which liberatarians you’re talking about.

        I think you’ve misunderstood my post. I’m not talking about the actual 10% who do have a philosophical position. I know Paul is one of those, and Barr, after he retired, had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment about both marijuana and SSM. (He’s doing work for the ACLU right now!) I don’t know anything about Flake, but I’ll take his web page at its word and assume he’s one also.

        I’m talking about people like Glenn Beck, whose described himself as ‘conservative with a libertarian leaning’. I’m talking about a guy I talk politics with in real life, whose a ‘libertarian’ as long as we’re talking about social services and thinks ‘Obamacare’ is unconstitutional, but has no problem with waging war forever.

        And then they rant about ‘big government’ when it’s talking about government regulation, and rant about being ‘pro-family’ when they’re talking about forcing women to give birth, etc, etc.

        The entire right seems have a series of random positions, and half a dozen philosophies that gets pulled out whenever needed to justify each individual position.

        I can respect people who _actually have a position_, even if I don’t agree with it. I can even respect people who mostly have a position but sometimes have exceptions to it, or at least what looks sorta like exceptions. (For example, a libertarian who thinks that drugs should be restricted, because everyone should be free to do whatever they want, and once people take addictive drugs, they are no longer free. I.e., people should be free, but not free to enslave themselves.)

        But I can’t respect people who can yank out a ‘pro-family’ position to demonize abortion, and then in their next breath yank out a ‘small government’ position to justify reducing WIC.Report

  5. Ryan B says:

    The fundamental problem with the liberaltarian alliance remains, as it always has been, that it represents an even smaller sliver of the population than the traditional right-libertarian/Tea Party coalition. The number of people who are fundamentally opposed to the War on Drugs and the imperial presidency is… what? The membership of this blog?Report

    • Kim in reply to Ryan B says:

      … plus about half of dailykos, and a good smattering of the liberals on other sites. The thing is? You need to persuade the “non-liberal” democrats. The ones who don’t have TIME to read blogs. The ones who tend to vote based on gut and “I like D!” They tend to be more moderate, and lower-c conservative. Also more minority and lower-class unions.Report

  6. MFarmer says:

    I’m not sure why there’s a need for an alliance — to accomplish what?Report

  7. Shawn Gude says:

    So Ryan B is doing a pretty nice job defending my points here.
    I’ll just add one more thing: Another enormous hurdle is partisanship. This obviously applies more to the left than libertarians, but it deserves its own post.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Shawn Gude says:

      Shawn, could you expand on this? Does it relate to the problem I describe here:

      Is it partisan for a Democrat to support President Obama because she vastly prefers his economic policies to that of the alternative, even while that person prfesses to care about civil liberties?

      At some level, won’t the libertarian with whom she perhaps entered into an alliance with on civil liberties say that, beyond failing to live up to a (perhaps implied) agreement that such an alliance would put civil liberties in deal-breaking/vote-deciding position among a person’s priorities, also think that preferring an Obama-like figure on economic matters does imply partisanship, because the principles that led the person to share their views on civil liberties ought to at least moderate her views on economics as well (i.e. pursuing the blessings of liberty)?

      Aren’t all of these efforts ultimately headed back to square one in the liberal-libertarian feud, because that’s just what liberals and libertarians do when they are in extended proximity to one another?Report

      • Michael,
        That’s another quandary, but I’d describe it as one of priorities and not partisanship. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—if liberal Democrat X stridently opposes Libertarian Candidate Y’s economic policies and thinks the Libertarian will be only moderately better on civil liberties, he or she might opt to vote for the Democrat. Different people vote on different issues. That’s just electoral politics. This can make coalitions more difficult, but it’s not necessarily odious.

        The partisanship problem that plagues our body politic is voting for someone simply because he or she is a Democrat or Republican or rationalizing an elected official’s otherwise repugnant actions because he or she is on your team. Inveterate allegiances can be difficult to sever, and that complicates unorthodox alliances.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Shawn Gude says:

          I’d be interested, based on this, in your take on the discussion I’ve been extending beyond all proportion in this thread: about the extent of the arbitrariness versus of the substance of people’s political affiliations. But that’s neither here nor there, I think, not least because I think that people who are that deep into partisanship really aren’t candidates for inter-ideological coalition building in any case.

          However, clearly I think you are right that the issue of priorities and their effect on voting poses a problem for coalitions of the predominantly not-like-minded. It’s just that I think it’s a BIG problem. Have you reckoned with it as such?Report

          • So the point you’re making is that the vast majority of liberals care way more about economic issues than civil liberties?Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Shawn Gude says:

              I certainly think that is a true fact, but no, that is not the point I am making.Report

              • Sorry for my tardy reply.

                I guess I was reading a little too much into your comment. Your prioritization point is a good one, though; I would say a few things in response. First, I think it *could* be a big problem, but I don’t think it’s the biggest one. Second, the prioritization problem is rendered less significant when the differences are so stark. If Democrats are increasingly bad on civil liberties and a libertarian is way, way better, I think a liberal/ leftist would be more apt to support the latter candidate. Finally, I think that in the type of left-libertarian alliance I’m proposing, the left would be more devoted to these issues (civil liberties, the drug war, foreign interventionism, etc.) than those located in the center-left. Of course, moving further to the left opens up a wider chasm vis-a-vis economic issues. But that’s where the bracketing of differences should come in. Shift the civil liberties/ corporatism/ militarism paradigm. Then think about summarily eschewing the other camp.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Shawn Gude says:

                I suppose an alliance could be proposed where everyone agrees to not disclose whom they vote for or write anything supportive of any political candidates. I’m not sure how big it’d be.Report

              • The goal shouldn’t be obfuscation, but openness and acceptance of differing normative values. Again, coalitions are *pragmatic* endeavors in which partners have a set of generally agreed-upon goals. They can have enormous disagreements on a panoply of issues as long as the goals they unite around are of significant import.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Shawn Gude says:

                I agree, but that makes me pessimistic. Everyone votes on various issues, not just ones they are engaged in a coalition with someone on. And in my experience, these type of coalition tend to break down along political lines when one side sees the other as broadly having not lived up to what it sees as something that ought to be a defining action for the viability of the coalition, such as voting against a candidate who is seen as unacceptable on the issue.

                Can you give me an actual example of a cross-ideological coalition of the kind you are talking about that has had the kind of effect on policy that you have in mind?Report

  8. Jesse Ewiak says:

    As been pointed out, the truth of the matter is that most libertarians don’t really care about civil liberties all that much, especially when it comes rubbing against their desire for low taxes.

    My numero uno example of this – Russ Feingold. Here was a United States Senator who was the only vote against the Patriot Act in the Senate and reguarly took on his own party when it came to executive power and civil liberties. Now, he’s in a tough reelection fight.

    What do the libertarian organs say about this? Not much. I don’t remember a great drive from Reason/CATO or any of the other big libertarian think tanks to save Feingold. So, in the feud of taxes versus civil liberties, the libertarian power structure made it known what side they’re playing for. Which is their right. But makes me care about them less when they rail against the War on Drugs when they didn’t defend one of the few true civil libertarians in the US Congress.Report

  9. MFarmer says:

    This liberaltarian project would have the same results as the turn of the century when many formerly classical liberals were influenced by modern liberalism which was basically a statist shift influenced by European socialism. It was also, ironically, a conservative reaction to a relatively free market — the power elite became afraid of losing control to the “chaos” of free enterprise. Hell, anyone could succeed and knock off the big guys, and they couldn’t have this, so they used an interventionist government to control the economy, especially with creation of the Fed — the facade was that government would help the little guy and maintain orderly economic progress, but it was the little guy they wanted to corral and control. Those classical liberals who didn’t buy the new statist direction became the libertarian movement. Why would we now fall for the same control and management?Report

  10. DensityDuck says:

    The only difference between what contemporary politics terms “conservatives” and “liberals” is which particular parts of the Bill of Rights they want to ignore.Report

  11. James K says:

    The left is correct on social issues, but they need to jettison their antediluvian, fiscally unsustainable commitment to Social Security and Medicare and embrace markets. In addition, libertarians should rethink their historical alliance with the conservative movement, and center-left Clintonites should lock arms with libertarians. This is a deeply condescending—and unworkable—type of fusionism, in my view. Progressives’ intelligence is implicitly oppugned (“If only you understood…”), and legitimate, intractable ideological differences are omitted. Matt Zwolinski’s Bleeding Heart Libertarians project is in a similar vein (yet less condescending), as his goal is to make liberals more libertarian.

    This is a good point, any kind of philosophical rapprochement, must go both ways. Now as it happens I think libertarians are more right than liberals (that’s why I call myself a libertarians, and not a liberal), and I do think I know more about economics than the vast majority of liberals (mind you, that probably has something to do with the Master’s Degree on my wall), but still there are points (even economic ones – I know more about economics than the vast majority of libertarians too) that libertarians need to brush up on too.

    1) Market failure theory: economics is rich with discussions of how market forces can go awry. Asymmetric information, externalities, public goods, open access problems and those are just the highlights. Market failure doesn’t automatically justify government intervention, but it certainly raises the possibility.

    2) The “chains before crutches” attitude (this definitely deserves to be a catchphrase). There’s a lot to fix, let’s start with the stuff that’s hurting the weakest people. We know the state spends a lot of time screwing over poor people, let’s prove it to everyone else. Even from a strictly moustache-twirling Machiavellian standpoint, it makes sense to start there because it makes it easier to build a coalition for all the really fun stuff we want to do later. After all Machiavelli said it was better to have the support of the commons than the nobles when you took over a country – nobles can be replaced.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to James K says:

      There is no doubt that if systemic changes are made, choices of priority must be made, and, to me, the important aspect of picking a priority, say like ending all corporate welfare first, is that the direction changes, so that we’re saying what else about this interventionist government needs to be limited, until we get to the bare minimum regarding government’s role in society.Report