Libertarianism and Contemporary Liberalism

Josh Patashnik discusses a post by Tim Lee at The Plank which I discussed earlier this week. He also finds that the type of libertarianism described by Lee is very similar to contemporary liberalism. He writes:

As Matt points out, this sounds a lot like contemporary liberalism, which has gradually been shorn of its more statist elements. This, ultimately, is why I’m persuaded that the liberal-libertarian alliance Lindsey envisioned in his December 2006 TNR article is likely to come about in some form or another. You’re already starting to see quite a few young libertarian-leaning voters decide that the Democrats’ mild economic heresy is more palatable than the GOP’s more serious deviations from the small-government line in the realms of social and foreign policy.

What’s more, it’s quite possible that the trend might be accelerated if the Democrats find themselves controlling both Congress and the White House come January. One serious look at long-term budget projections will convince the Democrats that means-testing entitlements is the only way to make the numbers add up: You can keep sending checks to wealthy seniors or you can fund liberal priorities like universal health care for the working poor, but you can’t do both. If, after a few years of unified Democratic control of the federal government, you don’t see marginal tax rates reverting to their pre-Reagan levels, libertarians will be apt to decide they’ve won the battle and Lindsey’s prediction will be borne out. A social-safety net that’s genuinely Rawlsekian, even if it’s more generous than most libertarians would prefer, is something I’d wager they’ll be able to reconcile themselves to. (Of course, it’s also possible that we’ll get no means-testing of entitlements, a serious spending orgy, and massive tax hikes beyond anything currently being proposed by any prominent Democrat, which would obviously preclude a liberal-libertarian alliance. But I wouldn’t bet on it–even Democrats aren’t that suicidal.)

Obama Speaks On Faith Based Programs, But AP Got It Wrong

There was a bit of a scare based upon an erroneous AP report today. In January I posted on Obama’s plan to continue faith-based programs but noted how he also respected separation of church and state. AP got the story wrong today in reporting that ” Reaching out to religious voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans to expand President Bush’s program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support their ability to hire and fire based on faith.” Subsequent report updated the wording to “some ability.”

Steve Benen reviewed Obama’s actual speech and found it to be different from the AP report:

“Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don’t believe this partnership will endanger that idea – so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.”

Steve writes that “By all appearances, Obama’s vision is consistent with what Bush’s plan would have been, if Bush cared about constitutional law, the interests of taxpayers, the rights of families in need, and the integrity of religious institutions.” He quotes further from Obama’s speech:

“You see, while these groups are often made up of folks who’ve come together around a common faith, they’re usually working to help people of all faiths or of no faith at all. And they’re particularly well-placed to offer help. As I’ve said many times, I believe that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.

“That’s why Washington needs to draw on them. The fact is, the challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.

“I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up. What I’m saying is that we all have to work together – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike – to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”