Strangers in a Strange Land

|

It's not a bad reality show premise: Can libertarians and Democrats work together? The bloggers at Democratic Freedom think so.

NEXT: Free Trade Area of the Americas: Dead?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m pretty sure Democrats and libertarians can work together, as long as libertarians abandon their pesky small government ways. A real win-win situation. Not dissimilar to the Rep/lib relationship. When libertarians compromise with a major party, the only part of our agenda that gets help is the part that agrees with the major party’s.

  2. It’d be like like Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth both fronting Van Halen.

  3. I dunno, I think one could just as easily woo Democrats over with small government appeals. I for one have felt increasingly comfortable with the idea of de-linking the states ever since I came to realize that I don’t want to be associated with half of them.

    In other words wouldn’t you be more likely to support Libertarian ideas if it meant your federal tax dollars were less likely to wind up in the pockets of people whose social values you hated?

  4. I was thinking about this the other day. I think that a libertarian agenda that focused narrowly on a few key issues could attract a much wider base of support. I had in mind the following:

    1) repeal the Patriot Act

    2) establish a federal policy of noninterference in state decisions about marijuana use

    3) stop eminent domain abuse

    I think that a campaign that focuses on these three issues could attract a large enough base of support to make the main parties very vulnerable. Naturally, such a coalition is going to disagree on a lot of other things, but if they stay focused and stay on message I bet such a strategy could get some serious support. Get some election victories, THEN start worrying about the issues where you disagree.

  5. If libertarians can start absorbing the fact that not every government program is a tyrannical oppression of their rights and a waste of tax dollars, then I think liberals can start realizing that calling for a government solutions to every social ill isn’t always practical or advisable.

    On both counts it would call for a badly needed dose of pragmatism.

  6. “First, the traditional political quadrants put an emphasis on domestic issues, not foreign policy issues. But isn’t it true that where you are on the domestic issues will influence where you stand on foreign policy? What you want to do abroad is rooted in what you want to do at home.”

    There’s something to that. I expect the Democrats to eventually embrace neo-conservative foreign policy or evolve a permutation of it more to their liking, leaving embargos and the United Nations to the birds. Their opposition to the neo-conservatives often feels like a reaction to the Bush Presidency, nothing more. Speak of pragmatism and you’re as likely to be denounced as a collaborator as not.

    …It’s not as if the Democrats are about to embrace the Powell Doctrine.

  7. Wake me up when our liberal Democratic brethren reach out to us by sponsoring a major tax cut, start talking up privatization of Social Security, and/or come out in favor of rolling back the nanny state.

    Frankly, irritating as the Republicans are, less compromise has to be made by both sides to create a coalition with them on domestic issues.

  8. First, the traditional political quadrants put an emphasis on domestic issues, not foreign policy issues. But isn’t it true that where you are on the domestic issues will influence where you stand on foreign policy?

    You would think so, but the war in Iraq has made forced both parties askew of their own theoretical beliefs.

    Francis Fukuyama had this to say in his brilliant article, “The Neoconservative Moment.”

    Of all of the different views that have now come to be associated with neoconservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the United States could transform Iraq into a Western-style democracy, and go on from there to democratize the broader Middle East. It struck me as strange precisely because these same neoconservatives had spent much of the past generation warning-in The National Interest’s former sister publication, The Public Interest, for example-about the dangers of ambitious social engineering, and how social planners could never control behavior or deal with unanticipated consequences. If the United States cannot eliminate poverty or raise test scores in Washington, dc, how does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it and is virulently anti-American to boot?

  9. He’s a desperate Democratic upstart, with a balanced budget and a bleeding heart.

    She’s a hard-boiled two-fisted Lady Liberty, with an urge for equality and a taste for trade.

    THEY FIGHT CRIME!!

  10. “You would think so, but the war in Iraq has made forced both parties askew of their own theoretical beliefs.”

    I suspect, rather, that the War in Iraq was a hiccup on the way to acceptance. Kerry didn’t balk at the war. When the Democrats I know complain about the war, they don’t complain about in principle, they complain about the Bush Administration. He lied, they say, he tortured people, there was no WMD, there was no collaboration with Al Qaeda, etc. It’s not, well, using the military abroad should only be done if there’s a clear American interest, etc.

    That is, they don’t seem to mind neo-conservative foreign policy much, they just don’t like the neo-conservatives. They’d rather get the UN on our side, but, philosophically, that’s the extent of their objections, or so it appears to me.

    “Of all of the different views that have now come to be associated with neoconservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the United States could transform Iraq into a Western-style democracy, and go on from there to democratize the broader Middle East.”

    I’m not terribly surprised that a foreign policy emerged that would use the military to spread Democracy, rather, it strikes me as strange that more traditional Democrats haven’t openly embraced the neoconservatives. Once again, I suspect they will. Just because they haven’t yet done so doesn’t mean they won’t.

  11. I’ve been making some headway with my dad. He admits now that smoking bans and gun control are probably a waste of time and political capital.

    His gig is the environment. We were discussing last month his attempts to block some riverfront development and I asked him this question: what if you got back all the money your government spends on the Drug War, enforcing the Cuba embargo, fighting wars of choice against countries that turn out not to have any weapons of mass destruction, subsidizing settlements on the West Bank, and corporate welfare? Wouldn’t you and your friends be able to buy the land in question and place it in a trust?

    When you give the government all this money and power, they’re just not going to use it the way you want them to, no matter how hard you try to organize the voters. The power creates its own logic. I think that a lot of Democrats are suddenly more receptive to this idea after seeing the foaming-at-the-mouth homophobes seize control of the electorate. The centralized power is a threat in and of itself. It’s just a matter of time before it spins out of our control.

  12. Sounds like my relationship with a girl from Simmons college, “She’s a beautiful statist. Her turn ons include a woman’s right to choose, blue skies, fuzzy bunnies and castrating rapists. He’s an intellectual libertarian. His turn ons include legalized drugs, low taxes and the government leaving him alone. Just wait for the hijinks to ensue when she finds out that he has a gun and he finds out she has a crush on Che Guevara”

  13. That is, they don’t seem to mind neo-conservative foreign policy much, they just don’t like the neo-conservatives. They’d rather get the UN on our side, but, philosophically, that’s the extent of their objections, or so it appears to me.

    I’m not terribly surprised that a foreign policy emerged that would use the military to spread Democracy, rather, it strikes me as strange that more traditional Democrats haven’t openly embraced the neoconservatives. Once again, I suspect they will.

    I don’t know that there’s much of a “philosophy” at work on either end, except in defining oneself in binary (but electable) opposition to the other side.

    However, you’re more or less right. While I doubt the “neo-conservative agenda” will ever be embraced by the left, there is much to be said for a principled opposition to the Iraq War on account that it gives nation-building a bad name. A point on which disillusioned neocons like Fukuyama and bitter lefty internationalists like Soros can come together on.

  14. Why is spreading democracy abroad not like raising test scores?

    Answer: Because spreading democracy abroad is not like raising test scores.

    Different things are different. Get it?

    Test scores can’t be raised by force of arms, and can’t be raised by a Federal spending program.

    Democracy cannot be spread by a Federal or international spending program…but it CAN be spread by force of arms.

    Perhaps because there is a strong default for personal liberty and responsive governance – stronger than the urge to send your kids to school or have electricity.

    Marxists say different…but then, they would, wouldn’t they?

    If we don’t rebuild a damn thing in Falluja the elections will be a slam dunk. To the extent that we rebuild anything, we merely re-build the “resistence”. All democracy needs to flourish, is to remove its impediments…the less the outside party does otherwise, the better.

  15. The democrats would have to realize two things: 1) that a smaller, less intrusive government is less likely to piss them off by trampling on civil rights and fighting bogus wars, and 2) no one buys the crappy idea of taking from the haves to give to the have-nots.

  16. Joe? 🙂

  17. There are plenty of individual Democrats with libertarian leanings, but the national party isn’t even libertarian on the issues where it’s supposed to be libertarian (i.e., civil liberties and corporate welfare). Most arguments I’ve seen for libertarians to align themselves with the Democrats are really arguments to align with the Naderites or the Greens.

  18. I’m glad to see Democratic Freedom is active again. I stopped visiting it earlier this year when new posts stopped for a long time.

    Interestingly, Logan Ferree is a geolibertarian, so his version of Democratic libertarianism has a heavy Georgist spin to it.

    db,

    But keep in mind that the Democratic Party has strong Jeffersonian populist/agrarian/decentralist roots, and that they potentially provide an appealing symbolism for Red Staters. The GOP, on the other hand, is a basically Hamiltonian party that has adopted Jeffersonian rhetoric for tactical reasons since the mainstream Democrats in 1932 became even more statist and centralizing than the GOP.

  19. Most arguments I’ve seen for libertarians to align themselves with the Democrats are really arguments to align with the Naderites or the Greens.

    Except for the argument about…you know…winning an actual election in our lifetime.

  20. I usually vote Democrat, and compared to most people here I’m on the left.

    I think that the correct strategy is to convince mainstream Democrats to give up Marxism. It’s the cause of most of their mistaken judgments. I think the result would be a party that libertarians could be much more comfortable voting for.

  21. Pavel says, “not every government program is a tyrannical oppression of their rights and a waste of tax dollars…”

    OK, I’ll bite. Provide some examples of government programs that do not tyrannically oppress SOMEBODY in their funding or execution; or some examples of programs that aren’t a waste of tax dollars (meaning that government isn’t the only or best way to do the job). From that nucleus, perhaps we can figure out what government ought to be doing, and join forces to sweep away everything else that it ought NOT to be doing. Deal?

  22. I guess the flip side of a Democrat-Libertarian alliance is that the Libertarians would have to learn to live with the idea that the greater good is sometimes served by some people being a little bit oppressed.

    James, I’ll go out on a limb and try to offer a few suggestions, although they don’t fit your strict criteria …
    (1) the interstate highway system
    (2) fines/taxes that compensate for externalities like pollution
    (3) food and drug labeling/safety standards
    (4) NIH, NSF … government funded basic science
    (5) (free/subsidized) universal public education
    (6) (free/subsidized) childhood vaccines
    .
    .
    .
    and so on

    To your last point, I and all people should whole-heartedly agree. Every dollar wasted on ineffective government programs is a dollar that could be improving the quality of life for everyone.

    But let’s cut to the chase. The real divide will be around the direct redistribution of wealth. This is where liberal and libertarians won’t be able to come together.

  23. “Libertarians would have to learn to live with the idea that the greater good is sometimes served by some people being a little bit oppressed.”

    They know how to live with it now…they just don’t know how to live with it without puerile and pointless tantrums.

    I prefer my little bit of oppression to reside somewhere in the neighborhood of the indisputable functions of any government – maintaining public safety at home and abroad. I can get very comfortable with that.

  24. “I think that the correct strategy is to convince mainstream Democrats to give up Marxism.”

    …and for the sake of symmetry:

    I think that the correct strategy is to convince mainsteam Republicans to give up Christrianity.

  25. Maybe if they sacrifice Hillary we can talk.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.