Monday, December 11, 2006

Thoughts on liberal-libertarian alliance

I've been dubious of the whole "liberaltarian" idea from the get-go. (Despite my sympathy for left-libertarianism, which I consider a quite different thing.) I think reaching out to leftists is potentially quite fruitful, as I've written in the past, but mostly with leftists who already have at least some anti-statist instincts, or who can be turned in that direction; liberaltarianism, on the other hand, seems to be about allying with the Democratic Party and other more-or-less "respectable," mainstream liberals- in other words, people likely to be the most committed statists. (See my post here.)

So, I was reading the comments thread for this post at Unqualified Offerings, and it nicely illustrated why I'm dubious of the idea. The liberals in the comments bemoan the fact that some libertarians, citing liberal support for nanny statism and other attacks on personal freedom, are reluctant to become auxiliaries of the Democratic Party. The basic thrust of pretty much every liberal in the comments section is, "Yeah, we don't think there's anything objectionable about the state micromanaging your life, but who cares? At least we won't have you tortured to death without a trial. Now shut up, stop whining about this childish 'freedom' nonsense, and tell me how grateful you are."

In other words, they're pretty much a perfect mirror image of conservatives who would always tell their libertarian junior partners, "Hey, stop complaining about the theocratic tendencies, the crony capitalism, and the warmongering, and just be grateful we're not the Democrats." You know, the people libertarians are finally breaking away from?

These are the sort of people the advocates of the whole "liberaltarian" thing are contemplating crawling into bed with. It's possible that they're wildly unrepresentative of liberals, but the thread certainly fits my previous experiences quite well. I understood why many libertarians cheered for, even voted for, the Democrats in the last election. (I didn't care either way, frankly.) If you think the Democrats will slow or stop Bush's rampage through American law, temporarily turning to them as the lesser evil makes sense. I also understand the potential value of a brief alliance of convenience during the 2008 election, or temporary strategic alliances on single issues. What I don't understand is why, when libertarians are finally escaping from a long and abusive relationship with one major political party, many intelligent libertarians are now out to forge a similar relationship with a group similarly antithetical to our values.

Yes, the Democrats are complaining about Bush's abuse of government power. That's what political parties do when they don't have control. Remember all the libertarian rhetoric the Republicans threw around during the Clinton years?

For decades, too many libertarians let fear of communists, and then fear of Bill Clinton or Al Gore, turn them into tools of enemies of freedom. Let's not let fear of George Bush drive us to the same mistake again. We've wasted too much time and energy that way already.

More on this coming soon.

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