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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:27 PM
Original message
Libertarian Democrats
From Matthew Yglesias:

Libertarian Democrats

I thought I might comment a bit on Markos' "libertarian democrats" concept since, technically, abstract political theory is actually what I know about. But let me start off with a little political analysis. Insofar as we're talking about attracting libertarian voters, I think the case that libertarians should vote Democratic in 2006 is ironclad. A Pelosi-led House of representatives, and to a lesser extent a Reid-led Senate, would provide more of an obstacle to the Bush administration's imperialist instincts than the reverse. Either would offer some oversight of the executive branch and to some extent curb Bush's taste for gross abuses of power. Neither would really be in a position to enact any grandiose economic policy plans. So Q.E.D., as I see it. For the future, though, it's just going to depend on circumstances.

Meanwhile, I don't see any reason to believe it would be smart for a major political party to deliberately aim at the votes of some libertarian constituency. The reason is that, to a decent first approximation, about zero percent of the electorate is primarily motivated by a principled opposition to state coercion. We're not literally talking about zero people, I know some of them, and some write blogs, but it's genuinely a rounding error in the scheme of things. You do have some people who adhere to the Economist-style center-right politics of the American elite consensus, and this view has some similarities with libertarianism, but this genuinely is an elite consensus voting bloc rather than a libertarian one. It's also not seriously accessible to the Democrats over the long-run because a core element of the consensus is a fairly deep-seated loathing of progressive activism and progressive activists. It's worth understanding that, at the end of the day, there's much less libertarianism in American society than people sometimes think.

For one thing, a lot of the views liberals tend to think of us libertarian-ish liberal positions aren't actually especially libertarian at the end of the day. For example, liberals, like libertarians, don't think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Unlike libertarians, however, liberals generally think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. We think that landlords shouldn't be allowed to refuse to rent houses to gay men, that bartenders shouldn't be allowed to refuse to serve them, that employers shouldn't be allowed to fire them, etc. Liberals believe in a certain notion of human liberation from entrenched dogma, prejudice, and tradition, but this isn't the same as hostility to state action, even in the sex-and-gender sphere.

Similarly, it's often said that the interior west manifests a libertarian or proto-libertarian politics. I see, however, very little support for this view. We're talking about a portion of the country that derives its economic viability largely from huge levels of subsidy from the rest of the country. From the Universal Service Fee that makes telephones in the rural west cheap, to the way highway money disproportionately flows to sparsely-populated states, to agricultural subsidies and protectionism, to cheap exploitation of natural resources (lumber, coal, metals, grazing) on federally-owned land, these are people who very much enjoy sucking on the federal teat. A principled libertarianism would sell horribly in Montana. It is true that Jon Tester is cutting ads about the Patriot Act that get Jim Henley hot and bothered but this is on a limited domain of topics.

More to the point, what Tester is really appealing to here isn't libertarianism, as such, but an American self-conception and rhetoric of rugged individualism. This certainly is a sentiment one tends to see in the West. The dense living conditions of the coasts naturally incline people toward a sort of gut-level collectivism and fear of chaos that you don't see in the West. This is an important phenomenon, since even though it's geographical and demographic range isn't what it once was, it's deeply entrenched in the broader American political tradition so it resonates at least somewhat everywhere.

Snip...

Proper libertarians have all heard this line of reasoning, and they disagree with it, which is what makes them libertarians. For electoral purposes, though, the key issue isn't serious ideological libertarians, but simply people with a very autonomy-oriented emotional makeup. This way of framing egalitarian liberal politics has some reasonable chance of succeeding at persuading people of that sort. But it isn't libertarianism, it's simply the orthodox egalitarian view of how to understand egalitarianism.

more...



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nam78_two Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:33 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thank you for this
I whole-heartedly agree...Most liberals who I have met that describe their own "libertarian"
views are at the end of the day not libertarians at all. Most libertarians (there are exceptions) tend to fall into the centre-right mold-with the more extreme (and scary) ones being those Objectivist Ayn Rand bots...

This captures the essence of it:
For one thing, a lot of the views liberals tend to think of us libertarian-ish liberal positions aren't actually especially libertarian at the end of the day. For example, liberals, like libertarians, don't think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Unlike libertarians, however, liberals generally think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. We think that landlords shouldn't be allowed to refuse to rent houses to gay men, that bartenders shouldn't be allowed to refuse to serve them, that employers shouldn't be allowed to fire them, etc. Liberals believe in a certain notion of human liberation from entrenched dogma, prejudice, and tradition, but this isn't the same as hostility to state action, even in the sex-and-gender sphere.


Most mainstream libertarian groups (I realize its an ideology and thios doesn't have to be part of it but its certainly true right now) are strongly anti-environmentalism ,anti-animal protection, anti-labor laws etc.


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endarkenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:50 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. I think of myself as a reformed anarchist.
So I want to mitigate coercion by the state while recognizing that it is vanishingly unlikely that we are going to all form cooperative self managing enterprises and abolish the state entirely.

Where I differ from right-libertarians is that I view the state as both the de jure institutions of the state and the de facto super set of global corporations and nation states that actually constitute the real power structures on this planet. Discrimination against gays, as per your example, should be forbidden across the board - the liberal position - but there is no contradiction in my mind regarding state sector/private sector as for the most part I view them as only partially separate.
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Katzenjammer Donating Member (541 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 04:11 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Don't give up on anarchism
It all works if you start thinking of government not as something done TO us, but as something done BY us FOR us.
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endarkenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 04:36 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. I haven't given up.
It is just not going to happen in my lifetime, and I am fine with that. Meanwhile I bring my anarchist perspective on the world to all things (to the annoyance of most everyone I know) and have tried to nurture a love of liberty and a skeptical free thinking attitude in my children, as they are the ones who are going to have to deal with the colossal mess that the capitalist regime has made of this planet.
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Caution Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:47 PM
Response to Original message
2. An interesting aside is the "Political Compass" website.
They divide the political spectrum into four quadrants along an X-Y axis rather than a straight right/left division. You can have views that are "libertarian" (I would refer to them as civil-libertarian for lack of a better term) while stil falling into the left-wing of politics (the Y axis goes from the top most authoritarian to the bottom most libertarian). When I take the test at the website I fall into the bottom-left quadrant (at about -8/-8 I'm deep in this quadrant).

For those interested the test it can be located at http://www.politicalcompass.org

as with any standardized test, it is imperfect but I find it useful to point friends to as they are often surprised by just how conservative they are not. For the record GWB falls into the upper-right quadrant while most Libertarian party members fall into the bottom right quadrant.

Nearly all major US political figures are in the upper-right (GWB is pretty extreme upper right though).
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eallen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 04:48 PM
Response to Reply #2
8. The interesting thing I've found about that test, regarding Bush...
Is that the vertical scale is a better predictor of who supports Bush, than the horizontal scale.
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eallen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:54 PM
Response to Original message
4. There is a plea for civil liberty that I wish were more emphasized.
The difference between a liberal civil libertarian and an ideological libertarian is how they view the relation between liberty and government. To the libertarian, every act of government is necessarily a restriction of liberty. If regulation is created requiring boats to adhere to a channel separation scheme near a port, they view that as a restriction of liberty, even though some fraction of a percent of the population need even know about this regulation, and those who do aren't particularly concerned about it from a liberty perspective. In contrast, the civil libertarian recognizes that there are different spheres of human activity, and there is a greater liberty interest in some spheres than others. We are as ardent as the ideological libertarian on matters of expression, personal privacy, and freedom to arrange one's personal affairs. But we see a difference between an individual who chooses to have nothing to do with homosexuals in their personal life, and someone acting as a mortgage officer at a bank who does the same, and the difference precisely has to do with the former falling into the individual's personal sphere, and the latter into the bank's commercial sphere. These admittedly overlap, resulting in the need to draw boundaries, and personally I believe that single proprietors should be allowed more freedom than likely many here would support.

Liberals have a long history of expanding personal freedom for Americans. That story needs to be repeated, and civil liberty should ever be one of the first parts of our political pitch. Especially in this time when conservative has become more and more defined by a list of civil liberties the religious right would like to curtail.
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:57 PM
Response to Original message
5. Libertarians are just right-wing Republicans that happen to smoke pot. n/t
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distantearlywarning Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 04:49 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. I've heard this statement many times on DU
While it may have been true at one time, it is not true now.

I consider myself to be closer to the Libertarian end of the spectrum than anything else. On the Political Compass another DUer posted above, I am right smack in the middle of Left-Libertarian.

While my beliefs might be closer to the classic Republican stance than the classic Democratic stance, that is no longer true. In today's political climate, the Republicans do not in any way, shape, or form represent what I believe in. In fact, they are pretty much exactly opposite of me on almost any issue you care to name (GW is in the upper right quadrant on the political compass and I am on the lower left). Gay rights, drug legalization, unprovoked invasion of foreign countries, the separation of church and state, civil liberties, religious whatever-ism, etc, etc. The list is about a mile long at this point for me.

Yes, there are things that I disagree with the Democrats on. Gun control comes to mind.

But right now, I agree with them about a lot more things than I do the Republicans. And the things I disagree with the Democrats about are much less important to me than the things I disagree with Republicans about. Debate about raising the minimum wage is not as big an issue in my life as say, the fact that GW is sitting on a bill that would allow his goons to declare me an enemy combatant and take me away in a white van, never to be seen again. Minimum wage = little problem in my life, White Van = major problem. Democrats are at least discussing the White Van problem, even as they might quibble with me over my views on the minimum wage.

If the Democrats get into power any time soon and start making a thorough nuisance of themselves like GW and his cronies have for the past 6 years, then yes, maybe they and I will have a problem with one another. But as of right now, that doesn't seem likely. For one thing, even if we have an all Democrat everything in two years, it will probably take them at least one presidential term just to fix the wretched mess GW has made, and I will be well pleased with that.

So for right now, I'm sticking with the Democrats. I post here a lot, I post in my LJ and encourage my friends to vote Democrat, and I watch Keith Olbermann. And I will be voting a straight Democratic ticket on Nov. 7th, because it's more important to me to boot the current bastards than to throw away a vote on a Libertarian candidate. (And to any Greens out there - I think you should do the same. Just my opinion.)

So, instead of insulting people like me (and BTW, I don't smoke pot either), you should be courting my vote by emphasizing the things Democrats and I have in common, and pointing out the places where Republicans and I are very far apart. There are others like me. My parents are Mountain West libertarians and they hate hate hate Bush with a fierce passion. My husband is a libertarian and I talked him into voting for Kerry in 2004 by pointing out how Bush was attempting to take away civil liberties.

Be nice to us. Many of us are on your side right now. And you need all the help you can get. :-)
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 04:53 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. Libertarians are the party of Corporate Anarchists.
They believe that the only thing necessary for people to be free and happy is laisez-faire capitalism and de-regulating everything.

I don't trust them at all.

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Caution Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 05:07 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. I agree this is true of the Libertarian party,
100% accurate IMHO.
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distantearlywarning Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 05:07 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. Hey
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 05:09 PM by distantearlywarning
Did anything in my post suggest that I believe that the only thing necessary for people to be happy is capitalism? Did you even read it? Or did you just skip to the part that said "libertarian" and apply your own stereotype? Read it again.

You should also read the post upthread that talks about freedom for individuals vs. freedom for large entities (post #4). A lot of libertarians I know make this distinction, and have no love for corporate America as it stands today. It doesn't really matter much to me if Big Brother is called the "Federal Government" or "Halliburton" if they amount to the same damn thing.








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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 05:11 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. I think you've been duped by someone putting a happy face on it
Get out while you still can.
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nam78_two Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 07:06 PM
Response to Reply #9
15. Well I think thats a problem I do have with libertarians
Not you per se :)..
But this kind of thing:

"Debate about raising the minimum wage is not as big an issue in my life as say."

Raising the minimum wage wouldn't personally affect my life, but there are a lot of people whose lives it does affect and I think one of the huge problems with the world is people only caring about issues that directly affect them :shrug: (am not saying thats your attitude-its not clear from your post why you are against raising the minimu wage).

Thats what puts me at odds with libertarians on environmental issues as well.

I think that being tolerant while good and necessary, does not solve anything by itself :shrug:. A lot of affirmative action is required I think on these issues.

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ComerPerro Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 05:13 PM
Response to Original message
14. basically, libertarians don't care about anyone but themselves
yeah, they might think it is wrong to discriminate against someone because of race, sex, age, or sexual orientation.

But they won't doing anything to stop it from happening.
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