Markos Moulitsas' "Libertarian Democrat" manifesto (blogged here yesterday) has inspired some credulous head-scratching over at the Cato Institute's blog, Cato@Liberty. Gene Healy (read his take on President Geena Davis) thinks the idea has potential, as long as the GOP keeps its eye off the ball.
Does the Libertarian Democrat exist? It's doubtful, though Kos has a few examples, including the impressive James Webb, Vietnam war hero, former Secretary of the Navy, and current Democratic challenger to Virginia Senator George Allen. But then the Libertarian Republican has been an elusive creature of late as well, judging by the GOP's constitutional amendment fetish. The last time the flag-burning amendment came up for a vote in the House, only an even dozen Republicans voted against it, and only a couple of those could reasonably be described as "libertarian." Neither party is a reliable friend of liberty, but any effort to move either party in the right direction ought to be applauded.
The Democratic party is quite unlikely to evolve in the direction Kos's post suggests. But if it did, for all its flaws, it would still beat "Big Government Conservatism" any day of the week.
As Gene did, it really is worth pointing out common ground between libertarians and the left. Nobel-winning libertarian heroes such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman have supported a tax-funded safety net, and so would I, if it was sanely designed. Now, if Democrats like Kos really meant it, and started thinking about market and government institutions in anything remotely like way Friedman and Hayek were thinking when they proposed their minimum income policies, or started thinking about environmental policy like PERC, or threw away their silly vestigial Marxist model of agonistic employee-employer relationships—which is just to say, if Democrats actually become more recognizably libertarian—then I think the psychological evidence supports the hypothesis that personality-compatible libertarians would flock to the Democrats in droves.