pageok
pageok
pageok
Goldberg on "Liberaltarians":

NRO's Jonah Goldberg weighs in on the prospects of a Liberal-Libertarian fusion, such as that advocated by Brink Lindsey. Among Goldberg's more interesting claims is that a significant portion of the libertarian movement has shifted its focus (and here I paraphrase) from "freedom from coercion" to "freedom from constraint." In Goldberg's words:

Libertarianism was once primarily concerned with negative liberty — i.e. delineating a zone free of government intrusion. Meyer's libertarianism was primarily concerned with the ability of the individual to find the virtuous path within "an objective moral order based on ontological foundations" best expressed in Western civilization. As such, fusionism was less a coalitional doctrine than a metaphysical imperative.

That was then, but this is now.

[A]ccording to today's leading libertarians, economic freedom's virtue lies in its ability to provide everybody the custom-made lifestyle of his choice. . . . This emphasis on the liberating power of technology and wealth — i.e., materialism and positive liberty — represents an enormous philosophical transformation within libertarianism that echoes, albeit faintly, elements of the economic liberalism of John Dewey and FDR. It also shows that today's libertarians have a different view of the 1960s than their forefathers.

Goldberg acknowledges that conservatives have changed as well -- and are far more friendly to big government than they once were -- but he thinks libertarians need to acknowledge their evolution as well.

if the conservative-libertarian union is in trouble, it's not solely because conservatives have strayed from their vows. Marriages tend to dissolve when both parties "grow apart," and libertarians have been doing quite a bit of growing themselves. "You've changed" is a fair accusation from both sides, though "I don't even know you anymore" is surely an exaggeration. Perhaps the real lesson here is that conservatives and libertarians need to recommit themselves to the fusionist project. In other words: Let's seek counseling.

lucia (mail) (www):
Goldberg:> Perhaps the real lesson here is that conservatives and libertarians need to recommit themselves to the fusionist project.

Where's the question mark at the end of that statement? The question is: given their current differences, why should they feel committed to a fusionist project?
12.19.2006 12:05pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Ok... the other real question: Why is that NRO article dated Dec. 31, 2006? (At least it is when I click here. )
12.19.2006 12:27pm
Mr. X (www):
Yeah, I'm going to take advice from Jonah Goldberg about how the conservatives are more friendly to liberty.

"Don't go looking for someone who doesn't beat you honey. Nobody else loves you like I do. Especially not that suave Democrat. He'll just beat you worse. Trust me. I can change, we just need counseling."

Just say no to Battered Voter Syndrome.
12.19.2006 12:42pm
Rich B. (mail):
From Brinkley:


Back in 2000, [Libertarians] voted overwhelmingly for Bush, supporting him over Al Gore by a 72-20 margin. By 2004, however, John Kerry--whose only discernible libertarian credential was that he wasn't George W. Bush--got 38 percent of the libertarian vote, while Bush's support fell to 59 percent.
'

From Goldberg:


Perhaps the real lesson here is that conservatives and libertarians need to recommit themselves to the fusionist project. In other words: Let's seek counseling.


But why? Bush's percent of Libertarians dropped by 18%, but he ended up with MORE votes in 2004. A lot of good all that Libertarian support earned Kerry when more people supported the Patriot Act than thought it violated civil liberties.

If the Republicans embraced Libertarians by, say, supporting embryonic stem-cell research, they'd probably lose more Evangelicals than they'd pick up Libertarians.

In a country where most people are NOT libertarian, having the libertarian vote may turn out to be more often than not a contrary indicator.
12.19.2006 1:07pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Interesting idea, Rich, but I think there was more going on in 2004 than a public rejection of libertarianism. Faced with a hobson's choice between Bush and Kerry, libertarian voters were confused and drifted closer to Kerry (but still supported Bush overall). Faced with the same choice, but with less care for libertarian principles, the rest of the public chose Bush (but by a smaller margin than libertarians).

I think if we assumed equally appealing candidates where one rejected "libertarian principles" and the other embraced them, it would still be a plus to have the libertarians on your side.

Can you imagine a group of people out there who would vote Republican BUT FOR their (modest) libertarianism? I can't.
12.19.2006 1:16pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
If the Republicans embraced Libertarians by, say, supporting embryonic stem-cell research, they'd probably lose more Evangelicals than they'd pick up Libertarians.


Particularly since there is nothing "libertarian" about forcing federal taxpayers to pay for embryonic stem cell research.
12.19.2006 1:46pm
Justin (mail):
Taking Jonah Goldberg's theory as true, wouldn't that mean liberterians would be more friendly to the "pro-business, generally economically liberterian, anti-other-forms-of-liberty" conservatives, rather than less so. It seems like conservatives have become HORRIBLE when it comes to "freedom from constraint," but are at least arguably better than Democrats in terms of freedom to acquire and retain wealth.

So, even under Jonah's theory, conservatives are completely to blame for the defection of liberterians. Even though liberterians have moved closer to conservatives, they're actions have been so antithetical to freedom that Democrats still look better.
12.19.2006 1:50pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Which libertarians are this positive-liberty New School / FDR type? (e.g. Socialist libertarians)? They are not my libertarians, and I won't go with them to the Democrats.
12.19.2006 2:26pm
Parvenu:
This emphasis on the liberating power of technology and wealth — i.e., materialism and positive liberty — represents an enormous philosophical transformation within libertarianism that echoes, albeit faintly, elements of the economic liberalism of John Dewey and FDR.
I hate to reduce this to semantics, but is this a change in the definition of libertarianism or simply a sign of disenchantment with it, at least on the economic axis? An "emphasis on ... materialism and positive liberty" sounds like the definition of a secular social libertarian, who might well support progressive (i.e., distinctly not libertarian) economics. After all, "positive liberty" includes things like the "right to health care," "right to education," and so on. If the definition of libertarian is so malleable, then the term has no meaning. Goldberg probably doesn't like the idea that people could actually be lured away from libertarianism--heaven forbid that people exercise the freedom to change their minds--but changing the definition of libertarianism to go after them doesn't seem like a very productive strategy to compensate.
12.19.2006 2:45pm
Chris B (mail):
You might want to read these two two posts by Ann Althouse for her opinion on libertarian fusion with liberals or conservatives.

I've read Ann's blog for a couple of years, and she seems to be a very open-minded moderate Democrat. She's routinely labeled a right-wing hack by the extreme Left.

She still went all Dorothy-in-the-Ruby-Slippers at a meeting with what seemed to me to be some pretty mainstream libertarians and conservatives. If she comes back from a meeting claiming they are 'delusional' and and not part of 'regular world', what sort of snake oil do you think Kos, et al are pushing with their efforts to promote 'liberaltarianism'?
12.19.2006 2:48pm
lucia (mail) (www):
liberty,
I suspect Jonah's real gripe is there are libertarians who are fine with the idea of extending marriage to same sex couples and women using "floozy patches" to avoid pregnancy.

The "echoes, albeit faintly, ...of John Dewey ... FDR's" seems like a rhetorical ploy to me. If Jonah can find a socialist libertarian, he should name them.
12.19.2006 3:02pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Rich B-

In a country where most people are NOT libertarian, having the libertarian vote may turn out to be more often than not a contrary indicator.

Actually a lot of the polling shows that large swaths of the population hold libertarian views, they just don't associate them with libertarianism. There's an awareness and education gap, which both Democrats and Republicans love to exploit:

Democrats: "They're going to starve grandma, and they kick puppies and kittens."

Republicans: "They're amoral libertines who can't be trusted to run a police state."
12.19.2006 3:23pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
I think the notion of lumping conservatives and libertarians back together is a long shot. And it isn't a problem with libertarians being compatible with conservatives - you can have one of the strictest moral codes conceivable as a libertarian as long as you aren't forcing it on other people privately or through the government. But conservatives absolutely cannot refrain from this - they have a compulsion to force their opinions on others.
12.19.2006 3:29pm
Rich B. (mail):

Interesting idea, Rich, but I think there was more going on in 2004 than a public rejection of libertarianism.


Certainly. But the fact remains that the primary article assumes that "Base" is a losing proposition, while "Base Plus Libertarians" (for either party) is a winning proposition. This argument assumes that one can "Just Add Libertarianism!" without alienating the base.

I personally consider myself on the Libertarian side of the Democratic party, but I don't delude myself that if many of my personal preferences were enacted (by either party), it wouldn't cause major splintering off to Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan or whomever. I just think personal liberties are more important than economic ones, so I vote for the Democrats.


Actually a lot of the polling shows that large swaths of the population hold libertarian views,


I think the polling actually shows that large swaths of the population hold libertarian views in the abstract, or if you ask whether you want more taxes or more government programs. The numbers drop precipitously if you ask, for example, if they are in favor of decreasing funding for Medicaid, or converting Social Security to private accounts, or cutting any other parts of safety net.

Everyone's a libertarian as to other people.
12.19.2006 3:32pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
I think the polling actually shows that large swaths of the population hold libertarian views in the abstract, or if you ask whether you want more taxes or more government programs. The numbers drop precipitously if you ask, for example, if they are in favor of decreasing funding for Medicaid, or converting Social Security to private accounts, or cutting any other parts of safety net.

To an extent that's part of the education gap - understanding that those measures would have long-term benefits.
12.19.2006 4:17pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

I suspect Jonah's real gripe is there are libertarians who are fine with the idea of extending marriage to same sex couples

Save that there is nothing "libertarian" about government licensure of family formation (or anything else).
12.19.2006 4:30pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Duncan Frissell:
I agree that libertarians don't all wish to extend marriage to same sex couples. Quite a few would eliminate it completely, which would have the effect of eliminating the inequity in the marriage laws.

I suspect Jonah doesn't like those libertarians either. I know he doesn't like those who want same sex marriage to be recognized by the state because he says so here.

Anyway, it happens that from time to time, Goldberg likes to use the phrase "cultural libertarians" to describe the group he dislikes -- that is the libertarians who think the government should stay out of people private lives by enacting laws that impose conservative cultural preferences.

[sarcasm on ]I infer from Goldbergs writings that the only reason "real libertarians" object to laws and programs that impose conserative cultural preferences and interfere with our private lives is that paying for programs will raise taxes! [/sarcasm off]
12.19.2006 5:31pm
nunzio:

Is Jonah Goldberg a libertarian? I've read his stuff for awhile and I don't think he is. A conservative with a mild sense of humor is not a libertarian.
12.19.2006 5:58pm
ThomasL (mail):
American P, you say "you can have one of the strictest moral codes conceivable as a libertarian as long as you aren't forcing it on other people privately or through the government" and I think that's as good an example of the new strand of libertarian thinking as any. Traditionally libertarians weren't concerned about people "forcing" their moral views on others "privately." Libertarians worried about state power, and insisted on enforcement of minimal protections against coercion (violence, etc.). That has, as Jonah says, changed. The "modern" libertarian is happy to endorse gay marriage (no longer insisting on privatizing marriage), happy to endorse particular public school curricula (no longer insisting on ending government schooling), happy to endorse government taxation and funding for science research (no longer insisting on a limited government), etc. I don't doubt that many will soon endorse a single-payer health care system, at least if James Dobson is opposed.
12.19.2006 6:23pm
Shelby (mail):
Am I the only one who thinks Goldberg's talking out his ass making up the "shift" in libertarian thought and emphasis? Sure, technological changes have illustrated some libertarian concepts and made some aspects of libertarianism easier to put into practice, and libertarians have to an extent pointed to those changes and said "See? That's what I'm talking about!" But that's been fairly opportunistic, not indicative of a fundamental shift.
12.19.2006 7:05pm
Shelby (mail):
Sorry, should have been "making up ... out of whole cloth."
12.19.2006 7:06pm
Elliot Reed:
Why do people keep talking about this? Except among a well-educated, disproportionately influential elite (think tankers, law professors, etc.), there are essentially no libertarians. A lot of people will say libertarianish things (like "government is too big") in response to public opinion polls, but support plummets when you suggest making significant cuts in any particular government program.

As a liberal, I'm happy to see libertarians becoming more liberal. But from the standpoint of practical politics a liberal/libertarian fusion has nothing to offer liberals.
12.19.2006 11:28pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
ThomasL-

Traditionally libertarians weren't concerned about people "forcing" their moral views on others "privately."

To some extent that's true, and it's a point I disagree with them on. If I don't want my freedoms and rights dictated to me by the town gossips, prudes, and busybodies I don't want them dictated to me, period. Whether they draw a salary from the state or not. I think many/most libertarians would agree with this if faced with coercion from private sources.

As far as the other things you mention - gay marriage, public education, taxes, etc. - there's a lot going on there. As mentioned in what I could read of the linked article, a lot of people are trying to claim the "label" libertarian. Some are true libertarians that are just trying to accomplish what they can - for example allowing gay marriage as a way of letting consenting adults do what they want with their own lives, realizing that the privatiziation of marriage isn't even on the agenda right now. Others are just trying to claim the label without understanding or agreeing with a lot of the agenda.

Libertarianism is always going to be in conflict with liberalism and conservatism. With conservatives about issues of social freedom, with liberals about issues of economic freedom. These conflicts might get sidelined for brief periods, but unless there are shifts in liberal or conservative philosophy they will still be there.
12.20.2006 7:59am
Thomasly (mail):
American P, I don't doubt that many new-fangled libertarians would agree with you. As a recovering libertarian, let me tell you that not all would. Many traditional libertarians really aren't concerned at all about gossips, prudes and busybodies, believing that these unsavory sorts have as much right to be free of state coercion as anyone else. These traditional libertarians recognize, rightly in my view, that once you move past restrictions on state power you must identify the good you are trying to advance (that is, why is the state worried about the gossip and not about the sodomite?), a question which traditional libertarians wanted to avoid.
12.20.2006 9:31am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Thomasly-

Many traditional libertarians really aren't concerned at all about gossips, prudes and busybodies, believing that these unsavory sorts have as much right to be free of state coercion as anyone else. These traditional libertarians recognize, rightly in my view, that once you move past restrictions on state power you must identify the good you are trying to advance (that is, why is the state worried about the gossip and not about the sodomite?), a question which traditional libertarians wanted to avoid.

The point wasn't that gossips, prudes, and busybodies shouldn't be free to be gossips, prudes, and busybodies. It's that they shouldn't be able to use private coercion to impose their opinions, etc. on others. Some traditional libertarians though this was OK if it was a "church", "community" group, etc. as long as it was not the government. I think that's nonsense, just replacing a government master with a private one - the oppression and opinion forcing are still there.
12.20.2006 4:34pm
CLS (mail) (www):
NRO was making exactly the same argument when Jonah was is diapers. In the view of the NRO crowd this is nothing new. How can they have been right in 1980 (when I read this accusation the first time) and Jonah being right now? Jonah says libertarians have moved this way now. NR said they were like that in 1980. So either the people at NR in 1980 were wrong or Jonah is wrong today. Or, maybe, as I suspect they were full ot it then and Jonah is full of it now as well.
12.20.2006 6:43pm
Wild Pegasus (mail) (www):
In the 1960s, the counterculture basically supported communism. Libertarians and conservatives united because both hated communism, not because both were social conservatives.

As conservatives have signed onto the social democratic notions of cradle-to-grave state, libertarians have naturally said, "Uh, no." We never cared if someone was gay or wanted to smoke pot or *shudder* attend church.

As to socialist libertarians (usually called "libertarian socialists"), try Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, and Kevin Carson.

- Josh
12.20.2006 11:26pm
lucia (mail) (www):
As to socialist libertarians (usually called "libertarian socialists"), try Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, and Kevin Carson.


When I suggested Johan name them, I meant to suggest he should name living people who self identify libertarian, who others call libertarian and yet are also socialist. Most of the people on your list are a)long dead b) did not call themselves libertarian and c) are generally described as "anarchists" not "libertarians."

The fact is, in common usage, the term "libertarian" has come to be associated with "free market libertarian". It doesn't mean: "anarchist of any sort including communist leaning anarchist".

I was intrigued by inclusion of Kevin Carson who I'd never heard of. I googled, found his blog, which does have the word "libertarian" plastered all over it. I clicked the site meter link and found he gets 207 readers a day. The referrer logs suggest a sizeable fraction of site visitors find his blog using search terms like "water purifier", "fish who moved my cheese" and "fish theory choose your attitude" Automatic Toilet Roll Production and "pork abbatoires, australia" (I kid you not.)

I suspect Mr. Carson would be thrilled to have Jonah single him out as a prominent example of the growing class of "libertarian socialists"!
12.21.2006 11:35am
Chris_W:

The point wasn't that gossips, prudes, and busybodies shouldn't be free to be gossips, prudes, and busybodies. It's that they shouldn't be able to use private coercion to impose their opinions, etc. on others. Some traditional libertarians though this was OK if it was a "church", "community" group, etc. as long as it was not the government. I think that's nonsense, just replacing a government master with a private one - the oppression and opinion forcing are still there.


I'm at a loss as to how one would stop gossips, busybodies, etc, from being gossips, busybodies, etc, and therefore using private coercion to force behaviour change. Since this is "private" coercion, by what means would you end it? Would you bring Leviathan into the picture to pull it off? Perhaps the government should use its public coercive power to prevent private coercion... that would be particularly libertarian :)
12.22.2006 2:31am
Virginia:
If by "private coercion" you mean something like "behave as I like or I'll shoot you in the head," I don't think any major faction in American politics would have a problem with the state stepping in to prevent it.

If, on the other hand, "private coercion" means something like "behave as I like or I'll fire you from your (private sector) job/excommunicate you from your church/never invite you over for dinner at my house again," a libertarian would have no problems with it. Indeed, defense of the freedom to use such coercion is one of the chief distinctions between libertarianism and modern liberalism. The latter prefers extensive antidiscrimination laws that empower the state at the expense of the private sphere.
12.22.2006 10:56am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Chris_W-

I'm at a loss as to how one would stop gossips, busybodies, etc, from being gossips, busybodies, etc, and therefore using private coercion to force behaviour change.

Well first, my statement wasn't that you could or should stop people from being gossips, busybodies, prudes, etc., but that they shouldn't be allowed to impose their opinions on others.

Now the issue itself is an odd contradiction, because the outlook itself is odd, in my opinion. Some of the more conservative, religious, and/or traditionalist libertarians think or thought that while the state should get out of people's personal lives the state's moral authority or enforcement should be taken over by private actors - churches, the family and extended family, community groups or the "community" collectively, social organizations, etc.

What force or coercion could they use? Well, the various types of force that various private groups have used on individuals throughout history. Shunning. Boycotts. Harassment. Employment, business, or other economic sabotage. Constant selective enforcement of nuisance laws. And as things like this have a tendency to escalate - possibly to things like legal fraud, framing on criminal charges, etc. Now most of the people that say they support the "private enforcement" of what they consider morality, etc. wouldn't admit they are advocating things like this, because things like this aren't very nice and are immoral and/or criminal in their own right, but that's what they imply.

So for a more modern libertarian like myself this is just substituting private tyranny and coercion for state tyranny and coercion. Take premarital sex, for example. I don't have a problem with it and large swaths of the population don't seem to either. If I don't want the state lecturing me or trying to coerce me into not having premarital sex, I don't want the local gossips, prudes, busybodies, etc. doing the same.

Since this is "private" coercion, by what means would you end it? Would you bring Leviathan into the picture to pull it off? Perhaps the government should use its public coercive power to prevent private coercion... that would be particularly libertarian :)

If this was occurring and to the extent you could - yes. And that isn't anti-libertarian. As a libertarian I believe I should be free from force or fraud and that my human, civil, and private property rights should be honored. Since some of the actions above are crimes and torts, it isn't anti-libertarian to bring criminal charges or civil claims. It's just like calling the police to arrest a mugger.
12.22.2006 11:00am
Jamesg:
Shunning? Boycotts? Employment sabotage?

Meaning the gossips and prudes a) Don't invite you to parties, b) Don't shop at your store, and c) Don't hire you at their privately owned business. And you want Leviathan to step in and force these people to come to your parties or something? You, sir, are nowhere near a libertarian, and you should stop styling yourself as one.

As a humorous aside, you state that you favor government intervention to prevent "selective enforcement". So basically, you'd favor more government to make sure that the government isn't being naughty?
12.22.2006 1:39pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Jamesg-

Meaning the gossips and prudes a) Don't invite you to parties, b) Don't shop at your store, and c) Don't hire you at their privately owned business. And you want Leviathan to step in and force these people to come to your parties or something? You, sir, are nowhere near a libertarian, and you should stop styling yourself as one.

No, I could care less whether I get invited to their parties or hired by their businesses. But they can commit libel, slander, defamation, etc. that can do considerable economic and personal damage - that's why people collect awards for it. And there's tortious interference, which is blocking someone's employment or customers. These laws are on the books because you can actually damage people this way.

Libertarians believe that people should be free from force or fraud and that markets should be free and fair, so all this is consistent with those principles.

As a humorous aside, you state that you favor government intervention to prevent "selective enforcement". So basically, you'd favor more government to make sure that the government isn't being naughty?

Sure - happens all the time. If you can prove it and depending on the circumstances, it's called by a number of things - harassment, malicious prosecution, civil rights violations, etc. Do you think criminal and/or incompetent government should be able to trample on people at will?
12.22.2006 7:04pm