The Delusion of Republican Libertarians

With Republican policies being contrary to libertarian principles on economic issues and the war, as well as social issues where they have traditionally been at odds, some libertarians such as Brink Lindsey have suggested that the Democrats would make more natural allies. Arnold Kling disagrees, arguing at TCS Daily that Republicans make the better allies for libertarians, but in coming to this conclusion wears blinders as to the polices of Republicans and is quite uninformed as to the beliefs of many Democrats.

Kling recognizes the differences between libertarians and Republicans but pretends they are of no significance. In the past the view was that libertarians were closer to Democrats on social issues and closer to Republicans on economic policy. He acknowledges the anti-libertarian trends of Republicans on both economic issues and foreign policy but is quick to over look these differences:

In recent years, the Republicans betrayed us on economic issues. However, my sense is that many in the conservative movement are anxious to repent. On foreign policy, I think that we can gradually persuade more of them to come to their senses on the challenges of the Natural State.

While Republicans claim to support small government we have only seen the size of government grow under Republicans. They speak of supporting limited government again now that they are out of power in Congress, but return them to the majority and we will see the same support for growing government when it is under their control. Big government is even more to be feared under Republican control in light of their conservative views on social issues as Republican government becomes more intrusive in our lives.

There is also little reason to believe Republicans would behave any more sensibly on foreign policy. In rejecting liberals he claims that “They lack any vision for foreign policy” which is only a sign that he has absolutely no idea of what liberals believe. It was liberals, despite Kling’s claims of a lack of vision, who recognized that going into Iraq would be a disaster. It was liberals who wanted to concentrate on fighting al Qaeda, while Republicans attacked the wrong country and pursued a course which strengthened terrorist groups. It was liberals who started the framework for containing North Korea, and the Republicans who allowed this to fall apart. If we want to look further back, It was even liberals who first started a policy of containment of Communism, and Democrats who won two world wars.

Kling complains that, “I rarely find myself making progress in discussions with those on the Left.” It is not a surprise that he is totally unable to communicate with those on the left considering the erroneous views he has of liberals. He is like a character stuck in an Ayn Rand novel of the 1950’s who sees liberals as supporters of socialistic economic policies. While he has differences of agreement with Republicans which he is willing to ignore, he writes, “I find it even more of a challenge to deal with the Left, where their political agenda is their religion.” He returns to this claim later in writing, “The Left’s religion often comes dressed up as science. Marxism is one example. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century is another. The Global Warming crusade is probably another.”

While his attitude is stuck in the 1950’s (and even then not very accurate), he ignores the realignment which has occurred over the last several years which has led many to see Democrats as the more libertarian of the major political parties. While his description of the left might still apply to a handful, I have no more connection to those on the far left than the Republicans do. The battles against socialism are long over and capitalism has won. The division between left and right is no longer over the old economic battles. Those of us who have moved to the left in recent years have no connection to Marxism, and many of us are stronger supporters of capitalism than the Republicans considering the GOP’s promotion of corporate welfare. Using the power of government to redistribute wealth to the ultra-wealthy is no more capitalistic than using the power of government to redistribute wealth to the poor.

Many of us who have moved to the left (or, more accurately, have had our long standing views be considered left) are those who oppose the anti-libertarian tendencies of the Republicans, including the war, the restrictions on civil liberties, the increased government secrecy, and the increased concentration of government in the executive branch. While he claims that the political agenda of the left is a religion, voting trends demonstrate the opposite. While Kling makes a number of specious claims based upon voting trends he ignores the fact that the major predictor of which party someone will vote for is church attendance. The Republican Party has been dominated by those who are using it as a tool to enforce their fundamentalist religious views on others through government action.

While the Republicans actually are dominated by religious thought, Democrats tend to be more pragmatic and less ideological, contrary to Kling’s view of the left as a religion. The difference between the parties isn’t that the views of the left are “dressed up as science” but that pragmatic and realistic liberals respect science as opposed to religious faith as the means to understand the world. I recently discussed another article from the right which tries to dismiss global warming as a leftist religion. It is hardly a religious attitude when liberals acknowledge that the consensus of the scientific community has taken a position. Last June the National Academy of Sciences published a review on climate change which was requested by Congress finding that “recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia.” and that “human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming.” Just this month we had publication of the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finding that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main driver, “very likely” causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950. Which are more similar to a religion–liberals who accept the results of consensus scientific studies or conservatives (and sometimes libertarians) who ignore the scientists because their findings disagree with their preexisting beliefs? Similarly it is the right wing which is at odds with biology, geology, and cosmology because their findings disagree with their views on creationism, the age of the earth, and the birth of the universe.

Republicans have long used libertarians while having no intention to implement their beliefs when in power. While most Democrats will not agree with hard-core libertarians with eliminating the government, there is considerable common ground in supporting separation of church and state, reducing government intervention in our lives, establishing a sensible foreign policy, and reducing the concentration of power established under Republican rule.

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