The Continuing Battle Between Libertarians and Libertarian Democrats


Earlier this week over at Cato Unbound, the Daily Kos kicked off a debate about "libertarian Democrats" and whether libertarians should vote Democrat. DLC prez Bruce Reed's rejoinder is up now, and Harold Meyerson's reply should be up today or tomorrow. I'll be weighing in at CO on the topic on Monday.

In the meantime, here's a spirited response over at Catallarchy to one of Kos' main contentions–that corporate power needs to be reined in by activist government. Trent McBride dismisses such nonsense, notes that Kos fails to engage the basic libertarian argument regarding government and corporate power, and asks, "Persuade me that corporate (coercive) power, to the extent that it exists, does not rest on governmental power at its foundation."

More, including attempts to persuade McBride, here.

NEXT: And what about the fakirs? Nobody ever blames the damn fakirs

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  1. I used to vote Democrat more than Republican, because I thought the Democrats did a better job of protecting individual rights. Unfortunately, they now seem to be under the influence of the nanny-staters to a degree similar to that of the Religious Right on the Republicans.

    It would be nice of the libertarian leaning Democrats and Republicans could come together and tell both parties to stuff it, but I think they’re more interested in being right than winning or having any real power. They’d spend too much energy arguing with each other over what a “real” libertarian is.

  2. The conundrum is to figure out a way to elect someone who doesn’t need a lot of corporate money to gain power. That’s why our government is run for the benefit of big money without responsibility. Our prison population more than doubled during Clinton’s administration disenfranchising enough voters to cost Gore all the southern states.
    When GOP “libertarians” say they want less government it is NOT the government that punishes low income people; it is the government that punishes high income people. And of course, low income racists know that it means punishing “those” kinds of people. Of course, low income racists will never be viable libertarians in any semblance of libertarian principle.

  3. JT Barrie,

    Are you suggesting that all criminals are Democrats? What are you, a Karl Rove plant?

  4. What’s with this “New Democrat” gobbledygook that Reed was pushing?

    Any Democrat who laments the “sins and costs” of Big Business without addressing the “sins and costs” of Big Labor is, well, a Democrat. No “New” is required or deserved.

  5. Damn, Kos’ post was disappointing. Once again, leftoids miserably fail in 2 subject areas:
    economics (“free” health care),
    history (why is it that leftists can become “realists” about foreign policy, but are rather naive about the success of their domestic programs)

    History is what bothers me in Kos’ post:
    “corporations are becoming more powerful than governments.” while corporate governance is a concern, yes – he should check up on a little history. Look at the 19th-century monopolies on railroads, steel, etc. . . look at the East India Company. Is Micro$oft, Apple, Fox worse?

    They ignore the government granted pseudo-monopolies: power, health-care, oil (in other countries), phone (RIP thanks), baseball, etc. . .

    Once again, let me include the oft-repeated disclaimer that one of the largest inhibitors to free trade, is Big Business.

  6. And another thing blatantly missing from Kos’ – taxation. No mention on what is the biggest infringement on my personal liberties (thankfully I haven’t been ass-raped-searched yet), is what this government does with my money: wars; drugs wars; wars on poverty; redistribution to those who don’t need it; redistribution to those who don’t deserve it; subsisidies; welfare; corporate welfare.

  7. While I do oppose the Democrats on their “Corporations are evil” rhetoric and their pathetic nannystate policies, the Republicans have very little to offer libertarians anymore. As a practical matter, the gridlock that would result from having a Democratic congress and Republican president sounds appealing.

  8. Ironchef,

    I’m surprised that the average Democrat doesn’t make the leap from being appalled at the Bush administration to being appalled that we’ve let the federal government get so powerful as to allow these types of abuses. Ditto their strange attitude about corporations. Corporations are beneficiaries of government much more than they are checked by government. That’s bad and is yet another sign of a government that has grown too powerful. The regulatory barriers to entry that limit competition in heavily regulated industries and ensure the survival of only big companies are no accident, and they help to expand the size of the fearsome corporate entities by shielding them from competition and innovation.

  9. Reasons to vote Republican:
    1) lower taxes.

    Reasons to vote Democrat:
    1) gridlock

  10. Reasons to vote Republican:
    1) They say nice things about federalism and reducing regulation.

    Reasons to vote Democrat:
    1) They say nice things about civil rights and tolerance.

    Reasons not to vote Republican or Democrat:
    1) Everything they say is a lie.

  11. Given that Democrats are virtually identical to Republicans, shouldn’t it be Democrats who vote Libertarian, and not vice versa.

  12. I?ll leave it to the civil libertarians in my party to explain why our side is less likely to spy on your library books, read your e-mails, or infringe upon your constitutional rights

    I find it very depressingly telling that Reed doesn’t have the balls to try to actually argue this, instead relying on Democratic past history (which, er, includes his side spying on emails and infringing on constitutional rights).

    I don’t give a damn about “shrinking government” in terms of budget or ending corporate welfare – I know the Democrats will probably not accomplish either (if they’re even interested) and so don’t consider it a voting issue. I want to hear that Democrats actually give enough of a shit about civil liberties and ending fucking torture to do something about it.

    That worthless hack’s utterly spoiled my lunch hour.

  13. Warren, you should sell that to the LP. That’s speaking truth to power. When the Democrats claim to be doing that, they neglect to mention that they are part of the power elite, even now. The amount of nasty legislation that gets enacted with their connivance is a wee issue, for instance. Or the well-documented attack on civil liberties (mostly due to the continued war on drugs) that somehow continued unabated during the Clinton administration. The Bush administration is worse, mostly due to 9/11, but it’s on the continuum of illegitimate government power not some completely new exercise of it.

    These jackasses lie to us, and lie with impunity. They take important issues and twist them for their own benefit, with NO REGARD AT ALL for the country. I am so sick of all of this, I can’t stand it. Maybe we’re idiots and deserve what we ask for, but it is so incredibly frustrating. We quibble over who is worse while letting our system degrade. We need to go to Constitution XP, because Constitution 89 keeps crashing and network support keeps deleting code that we need. And I don’t like all the workarounds, either.

  14. The problem with guys like Kos is that they complain that the corporations have too much power in the halls of government and then, in the same breath, argue that what’s needed is more government regulation of industry. Ten thousand years of human history illustrates the fact that the rich have more influence over government than the poor. The Russian Revolution didn’t change that: all revolutions do is transfer power and wealth from one elite to another.

    The only logical way to remove government’s power from the arsenal of the elites is to minimize the power. I distrust large corporations as much as anyone, but I have far more influence on them as a consumer than I do as a voter. Meanwhile, oil company execs can get meetings with the VP pretty much at will. How could I compete with that influence?

    Every major private abuse, from slavery to the notion of “limited liability” itself, rests upon the protection and intervetion of the State. There are no genuine enemies of regulation to be had among the elites; they merely wish to alter the regulations to their advantage. And, if the past is any guide, they will be.

  15. Congress has voted to give the president the right to abduct people at will and torture them.

    Anyone who can say that the real threat (or even “remotely similar threat”) is corporate power is a damned oxygen thief.

  16. Kos can bitch all he wants about evil corporations that have too much power, but until the day comes that a Microsoft striketeam armed with submachineguns kicks in the door of a Linux user, he’s full of shit.

  17. Libertarian Democrats should vote Libertarian. Libertarian Republicans should vote Libertarian.

    Why? It is very important to let the parties know that they can’t take you for granted, and that they are vulnerable IF they take you for granted. You cannot vote for them, either of them, and expect any long-term change in the status quo. If you vote for Libertarians, the message about the direction in which you wish government to proceed will come through, loud and clear.

    I have watched the political circus for several decades now, and only electoral loss or the fear of it ever seem to motivate the parties — and then, only temporarily, until they can secure power and pass more laws to protect incumbency. I have also seen how the faux ideological initiatives in either party (e.g., the infamous “Contract With America” in the GOP) fell by the wayside, once the parties pushing them achieved the power they sought. The parties are invested in the system and its status quo. Shaking up the situation, and acquainting BOTH parties with the sting (or at least, the fear) of defeat, seems to be the only way to get their attention.

    Also, you may just find Libertarian candidates out there, whom you might actually endorse for the offices they seek. More and more spring up every year. VOTE FOR THEM. Even the occasional Libertarian victory will keep the fear of being replaced in the minds of the power parties, and help them to be more responsive to your demands, Libertarian Democrats and Libertarian Republicans. But better yet, occasional victories in the present-day will set the stage for re-election and more newly-elected Libertarians in the future, which will strengthen and broaden the availability of your alternatives.

  18. I usually do vote Libertarian in the general election. Me and and about two hundred fifty other people in my county. I did vote for Governor Bush last time around, but he’s actually not a bad governor (except for that Schiavo thing). And, of course, as a member–albeit a renegade one–of the GOP, I do vote for those jackasses in the primaries. Usually against the incumbent, except for the rare instance where there’s a candidate with an RLC endorsement. Or one I know personally.

  19. James, I really like the way you put things.

    I think part of the problem with the Kos types is that they don’t think there is such a thing as “bad power”, only “power badly used”. So when they suggest more government regulation, it’s because they’re thinking as though they’re going to get to wield it. They won’t, of course, but they would have no problem with unlimited power as long as they were holding the reins, because of course they would only rule in a purely enlightened way… I think this is why our arguments like “Every time you think about giving the government more power, imagine it being used by your least favorite politician” don’t seem to have much effect; when they think about things like “more regulation of corporations”, they’re not thinking of it as “giving the government more power” but as “what I would do if I were king”.

  20. Ironchef writes: History is what bothers me in Kos’ post: “corporations are becoming more powerful than governments.” while corporate governance is a concern, yes – he should check up on a little history. Look at the 19th-century monopolies on railroads, steel, etc. . . look at the East India Company. Is Micro$oft, Apple, Fox worse?

    Yeah, when I read that line I thought “Compared to what?” I believe that there was a period of time in the ’50s and ’60s when the phrase “What’s Good for GM is Good for America(tm)” was the going idea in public policy.

    Still, its cute that they think of us at all. My brother lives inside the beltway, and so his run-ins with the cogs in the public-policy machine had left him with the idea that the left hated the Christian Right, but sort of in the way that a fundamentalist Christian hates a fundamentalist Muslim. They’d gladly put aside their differences to string up a godless libertarian who denied their mutual faith in an all-controlling government.

    Fortunately when you get further away from DC, they’re a little less tied up in the idea of protecting government power at all costs, so libertarians are just seen as crazy, not the most dangerous idea in history.

  21. well i am convinced…i shall vote for a mix of libertarians and republicans…the republicans I will be voting for will be running against democratic encumbants the libertarians i will be voting for will be running against democrat encumbants.

    Nothing in Kos’s article has pursuaded me that there is anything of any value in the democrat camp. Exept perhaps that they are not satisfied with stealing the liberal name but now they want the libertarian name as well.

    note: They have not been good stewarts of the liberal name and i suggest we take the word back.

  22. Well, Kos. As you know, never a quibble about the coersive nature of the State. No. Its just: “Give US the club! and WE’LL show you PROGRESS”.
    No, thanks. My futile vote goes to the Libertarian candidate, unless its a close run between Evil and Lesser Evil.
    Im an old guy, seen shit. Ill have to vote against greater eveil, (I rarely actually get to vote FOR anyone) and dont think that dont both anger & humiliate me.
    Fuckin chickeshit swine. The lot.

  23. Add me to the list of hopeless libertarian voters. A vote for a libertarian atleast gives me the moral high ground over vote abstainers, *shrug*

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