Finding The Libertarian Democrat

John Samples, in an article entitled In Search of the Libertarian Democrat at Cato-at-Liberty, writes that a libertarian-liberal coalition is not possible. Andrew Sullivan agrees, considering this a fantasy. Samples repeats the same fallacy which has been cited by other libertarians who feel closer to the Republicans in only looking at certain issues, and concentrating on the rhetoric as opposed to the actual policies of the GOP.

Samples quotes polls showing that Democrats are more likely to support increased government spending for services such as education and health care. The problem is that some libertarians dwell so much on size of government and amount of government spending that they forget about basic issues of liberty. They also ignore the fact that government spending in recent years has grown more under Republicans than Democrats despite Republican rhetoric. It was Bill Clinton who left office with a budget surplus. If reduced government spending is the major goal, then libertarians will be disappointed in both parties, but should still back Democrats over Republicans.

The many differences between the parties which aren’t related to government spending are far more important. Republicans have eroded the checks and balances on the Executive Branch which are necessary to limit the power of government and preserve liberty. Republicans increasingly deny that there should be a separation of church and state as they attempt to impose the agenda of the religious right by law. Republicans have eroded civil liberties with the Patriot Act. They have taken advantage of the 9/11 attacks not by defending the nation or concentrating on those responsible for the attack, but by attempting to create a state of permanent warfare which is used to further justify suppression of civil liberties.

Any discussion of a fusion of libertarian and liberal interests must also recognize that there exists a variety of people labeled both libertarian and liberal. Such discussions typically refer less to hard core libertarians who reject virtually all government and more to socially liberal and fiscally conservative individuals who are also often considered libertarian-leaning. These include the so-called Starbucks Republicans and South Park Republicans who are rejecting the GOP in favor of Democrats in increasing numbers.

In the past the conventional wisdom was that conservatives were more libertarian on economic issues while liberals were more libertarian on social issues. This idea was perpetuated by attacks by the right wing noise machine which often mischaracterized the views of both parties. There have also been significant changes in recent years. Having the Republicans in power has demonstrated that their policies of corporate welfare are even further from the libertarian ideal of laissez-faire capitalism than the views of many liberals.

The meaning of liberal has also changed as the number of those advocating leftist economic ideas has decreased and liberalism has increasingly come to mean opposition to the war and other recent Republican policies. Increasingly liberals stress opposition to the war (which has now become the mainstream position) and social issues while being more pragmatic and nonideological on economic matters. The major difference between liberals and conservatives is not their position on government spending but how often they attend church. While some libertarians and liberals may always be incompatible, there are also people who consider themselves both libertarians and liberals whose major concern is in increasing our liberty and fighting the authoritarian policies which have been promoted by the Republicans.

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  1. 1
    Frank Wilhoit says:

    We got where we are by letting people get away with stuff. A libertarian is merely someone who wants to be able to get away with something.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I think most libertarians would see this more as being motivated by a desire for freedom and personal autonomy. Of course from the viewpoint of those who want to control others this might be seen as “letting people get away with stuff.”

  3. 3
    Eric Dondero says:

    It goes way beyond just economic issues. For instance, Democrats and Liberals are even bad, horrible in fact, on civil liberties issues these days.

    Remember the Democrats of the 1970s? They were cool, hip, party animals.

    Well, the ’70’s Dems have turned into the Safety Nazis of the 2000s.

    Democrats used to support Marijuana legalization, higher Speed Limits, lowered Drinking Age Laws, Sexual liberties including legalized Prostitution and baring it all on Spring Break, and most certainly Rock ‘n Roll music.

    Now Dems stand for: Stringent Seat Belt Laws, Madatory 21 Age Drinking Laws, Censoring Video Games and Music, bringing back the Military Draft, and incredibly, even opposing legalized weed.

    There were three instances last year where it was the Republicans who proposed marijuana legalization to varying degrees (WA, MA, & CT), and the Democrats viciously slammed them.

    And of course, Mr. PMRC himself Al Gore, is now the hero of the Democrat Left. Anyone remember Twisted Sister?

    It’s not just economic issues, where libertarians have problems with Liberals and Democrats.

    Libertarians are cool, hip, tolerant.

    These days it’s the Republicans who are good on civil liberties, while the Democrats have turned into the Prude Party.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    You have things rather backwards, especially on civi liberties issues as you make up a bunch of nonsense as to what Democrats support.

    It is the Republicans who are pushing for greater restrictions on civil liberties with measures such as with the Patriot Act.

    It is the Republicans, not the Democrats who have been pushing the war on drugs and a hard line on marijuana. The Bush administration is even violating state’s rights, despites traditional GOP rhetoric, by failing to respect laws in states which have legalized medicinal use of marijuana.

    Democrats have become the more libertarian party on economic issues, social issues, and civil liberties, leading many true libertarians to finally give up on the GOP.

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