Bring On Sha Na Na!

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Libertarians who made the decision to vote Democratic in 2006—yes, that includes a Reason editor or two—enjoyed a healthy 90 minutes or so of honeymooning before the questions started. "Are you happy now?" "What does Speaker Pelosi have to offer libertarians?" "Do you regret it yet?" &c.

It was almost assumed that libertarians who voted for the blue team were making a one-time decision; the Democrats had nothing, it was just time for the GOP to get punished. Over at TNR, the Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey groks that sentiment.

Here, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the rival ideologies of left and right are both pining for the '50s. The only difference is that liberals want to work there, while conservatives want to go home there.

But the rest of his essay "Liberaltarians" is an attempt to see whether or not libertarians could actually stick with the Democrats, if the Pelosi party is willing to seek out common ground. "The central challenge in cementing a new fusionist alliance–and, make no mistake, it is a daunting one–is to elaborate a vision of economic policy, and policy reform, that both liberals and libertarians can support." One of his thought experiments:

Tax reform also offers the possibility of win-win bargains. The basic idea is simple: Shift taxes away from things we want more of and onto things we want less of. Specifically, cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption. Go ahead, tax the rich, but don't do it when they're being productive. Tax them instead when they're splurging–by capping the deductibility of home-mortgage interest and tax incentives for purchasing health insurance. And tax everybody's energy consumption. All taxes impose costs on the economy, but at least energy taxes carry the silver lining of encouraging conservation–plus, because such taxes exert downward pressure on world oil prices, foreign oil monopolies would wind up getting stuck with part of the bill. Here again, fusionism is already in the air. Gore has proposed a straight-up swap of payroll taxes for carbon taxes, while Harvard economist (and former chairman of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers) Greg Mankiw has been pushing for an increase in the gasoline tax.

I have to say—maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but that's more of a positive overture than anything I've seen from the spurned Right. Republicans have one week left in power, and it looks like they're passing up the opportunity to pass (or fight, and go down fighting on) any conservative legislation, preferring to kick the can down the road to when Roy Blunt and Trent Lott can embarrass the Dems. (Blunt was elected Whip in the House with a pledge to "make the Democrats be Democrats," not get anything done. Obviously, bipartisan statism is another 50s relic we should avoid; but the model of one impotent angry party and one flawed governing party has worn on me, too.

NEXT: On Friday, April 13, 2029, Earth Has a 99.7 Percent Chance of Being Missed by an Asteroid—Is That Good Enough?

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  1. Was there a meeting in the Reason offices at which it was decided that joe was Hit & Run’s target demographic or something?

  2. Lindsey’s idea is the main reason I have always supported the “death tax.” There are a lot of taxes I would rather cut sooner than the tax that rich kids get hit with on inherited wealth. Let the people that earn the income keep more of it at the time they earn it.

  3. I find it interesting that any libertarian would support the concept of social engineering through tax structure. That is exactly what has bought the US 26,000 pages of tax regs.

    The function of taxes is to efficiently raise money to operate the government. It does not exist to punish people for using too much electricity, having too large a mortgage, or dying after accumulating some personal wealth.

    Nor should the tax system reward people for having extra kids, paying for child care, or getting married.

    As a bonus, the libertarian position should be that the money belongs to the people who earned it. Whether Paris Hilton deserves here millions takes second place to the real point which is:

    It ain’t your money and it doesn’t get to be your money because you (or someone else) voted to take it because you hate spoiled rich kids.

  4. Still trying to figure out who you people are “conserving oil” for. I suspect a hidden agenda.

  5. Let the people that earn the income keep more of it at the time they earn it

    I agree. But why punish their heirs at their death? This implies that the estate somehow still “owes” the state, as if the state has not yet sucked out enough blood.

  6. I stopped considering myself a (l)Libertarian when I saw how likely they were to behave in a herd fashion towards republicans. I am just as likely to hate libertarians who think the same of democrats.

    I have been so disappointed in the shallow analysis by (l)Libertarians towards power vs. freedom. Libertarians who don’t understand the diference between a corporation owned by nobody, but controlled by “politicians” who go in and out of public service to “private”, and reward themselves handsomely regardless of whether or not they helped the companies they worked for.

    I have been so disappointed in the shallow analysis of power. Of people versus “might makes right” philosophies. Of libertarians who see the hand of the freemarket in government controlled capitalism, Chinese style. Of libertarians who don’t understand the basic nature of freedom. I know liberals with libertarians leanins, I know conservative leanings, but again and again libertarians align themselves with power, rather than fighting to limit it.

    I suspect that I will continue to be disappointed.

    It was just the other day, when discussing one of the controversial appointmets that Bush made to a department that should make any libertarian suspect that one of the editor/writers here basically endorsed incompetent government, rather than competent government or less government.

    That government we have should have it’s feet held to the flame of accuontability, while we should work on limiting it’s “power” to insuring liberty.

    But, is suspect that libertarians will continue to betray themselves to the same false analysis that progressives and neo-cons subject themselves.

    Praising men who start such anti-freedom movements as the drug war as the greatest presidents, because while with their right hands they spoke of reducing government, while with their left hands they increase the reach of government into each of our lives.

    I suspect that Libertarians/libertarians will continue to refuse to offer an alternative that can both persuade and satisfy the electorate.

    It’s possible you know, to increase freedom on all levels without elimating government. Really.

    I still think the greatest example is social security, if one wants to reform it great! But in the end, should we suddenly have a great number of 70 year olds with begging cups, both demo voters, and repub voters will vote for more .gov. Often support of such “reforms” actually stimulates more government (as we saw with the prescrip plan). For some reason, libertarians cannot see all of these connections, and it is a shame.

    Politicians, whether or not they are running the .gov, or limited liability corporations shielded from the free market are not to be trusted, but libertarians continue to look for others to lead them to the promised land.

    What a shame.

  7. For the life of me, I will never understand why Bush didn’t confront tax code reform early in his second term instead of social security reform. The latter may be more important, but the former is an idea popular in both parties. It could have given Bush the bipartisan momentum to move into social security reform; even if his idea still failed, the DC atmosphere would have been less toxic and maybe yielded some kind of compromise.

  8. The Wine Commonsewer,

    So no taxes? Period? All taxes are taking from someone to give to others. Doesn’t the question then become, what is the best place to take the taxes from?

  9. They should pay for all military-related spending with capital gains tax funds.

  10. Ah, a new installment of Johnny’s diatribe against the libertarians in his head. It must be a Monday.

  11. ed,

    Why punish the income producer when he is alive by taking more money from him than you need to? Why are we protecting the heirs who receive the money after the income producer dies, over the income producer?

  12. Johnny,

    Do you have any specific problems or just a nebulus of failure you wish to twirl around modern libertarianism. At one point, you complain that libertarians are too idealistic and another you berate them for praising someone that met them halfway. Libertarians are constantly looking for ways to meet republicans or democrats atleast halfway, but both complain about us either throwing away our ideals to pander to power or being to rigid in our stances to be reliable within a party. You accuse us of both, which is a hair pulling experience for those of us trying to accomplish something, anything.

  13. Westy,

    I suggest you google for a fellow named Gustav Molinari, and start reading.

    Taxes are absolutely unnecessary. The cant that they are needed to pay for governments which in turn are the underpinning of civilization is a superstition as pernicious as the one that monarchs are divinely appointed to wield absolute power.

  14. Oh, good God. What conservative site is linking lately and asking its readers to come post here and claim to be angry libertarians?

    Seriously. Are we supposed to believe that a lot of actual libertarians who have some kind of grievance over rejecting the Republicans only care to express that beef here after the election?

    Bullshit.

    That said, let’s be honest: libertarians have nothing to offer liberals. Their time would be more efficiently spent reaching out for the votes of, say, left-handed gay men who happen to vote Republican. Further, the most liberals can offer libertarians is to not do much damage in important areas…which they may still fuck up anyway, but what else are we left with?

    In terms of accomplishing anything…if some Democrats get it in their head to actually protect civil liberties, liberalize trade, or do anything else libertarians might like – we should support them in those specific efforts. Not “support Democrats”, not “become Democrats”, but support something worthwhile that some group of Dems (which won’t be the same group of Dems every time, naturally) is going for. We won’t have much weight, but every bit helps. And if those Republicans who occasionally obsess over how our votes should be their property are thus stirred to support those things to try to woo us back, so much the better…

  15. The Democrats could reach out to Libertarians on economic issues, as Lindsey suggests, if they were willing to abandon Unions, Public Sector employees, academia, the nutroots, nanny-state soccer moms and the Congressional Black Caucus. I am quite sure Brink the other four or five remaining Democrats would get along swimmingly with their new Libertarian brethren. What planet does this guy live on?

  16. I think an argument can be made for taxing carbon emmissions based on the ground that they have effects on others’ rights, though not to force conservation or punish “splurging”, as if consumption was inherently bad. Does the morgtage deduction somehow aid tax collection efficiency? I don’t offhand see how. I don’t see how inheriting a lot of money hurts anyone else and being able to leave money provides an incentive to make it, so I think inherited money should be taxed in essentially the same manner as any other income.

  17. Re: The Death Tax

    What ownership does anybody have over someone else’s income? Let the person who earned it determine who should receive it. Then, when their trust fund baby decides to buy another yacht, tax him on that purchase.

  18. Westy, Tarran is right, a system of user fees is morally preferable to mandatory taxation under threat of jail for non-compliance.

    That isn’t going to happen in our lifetimes, but we at least must work for a system that raises revenue without concern for social engineering of any kind.

    I’m skeptical of a national sales tax for two reasons.

    1) we’ll end up with both sales and income taxes

    2.) it will put the underground economy out of business

  19. Government through voluntary donation. I look forward to watching the July 4th telethon where politicians and celebrities try and solicit donations from the public.

  20. Taxation is Theft.

    Isn’t that the basic libertarian position? If so, why all this debate about how we can allow the government to hijack our nestegg?

    Or maybe this isn’t really a libertarian site. Think somebody else said that yesterday. Ironlung or something like that.

  21. Taxes aren’t theft. An income tax with the threat of imprisonment at gunpoint for non compliance is theft. A national sales take is theoretically voluntary. If you don’t want to pay taxes, don’t but anything. Grow your own food, burn your own fuel, live of the grid. If you want to go out and buy a snowmobile…..you just volunteered to pay a tax.

    I agree both a national sales tax and an income tax would be disastrous, which is why most plans include the passing of an amendment to make the income tax unconstitutional.

  22. For every Dem who’s making at least non-grating noises to libertarians, there are two who want to draft the whole country a la Rangel.

  23. Saying that a sales tax gives you a choice is like saying that laws criminalizing certain types of speech give you the choice of not using those types of speech.

    Iguana,

    “Taxation is theft” is part of what I’d call the pure libertarian position. Many here would think of themselves as “minarchists” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchism) and/or are just resigned to taxes as they are to death.

  24. Cab, I think you were right the first time.

    take = tax or tax = take

    🙂

  25. Fyodor, thanks for the link. I know the term but never saw the link before.

    I count myself as a minarchist who is tempered with the reality of the state of nature we live in today. It sounds Randian but reality is what it is, so we have to work it out as best we can while not losing touch with our libertarian principles.

  26. Fyodor. Good link. Thanks. The “taxation is theft” remark was intended to remind libertarians of our roots. I realize that not everyone who comments here is a libertarian, but those of us who claim we are libertarian or libertarian leaning should keep in mind that libertarianism means a minimal intrusion into our lives by government.

    I assume since Lindsay works at CATO he is a libertarian but, unless I misread Lindsay’s quoted comments, he doesn’t seem to take much of a libertarian position on taxes.

  27. It sounds Randian

    Well that clearly discredits whatever you have to say, sorry!! (LOL!!)

  28. Eagle wrote:

    “For every Dem who’s making at least non-grating noises to libertarians, there are two who want to draft the whole country a la Rangel.”

    Eagle,

    You may want to look into the history and details of this. He brought the bill to embarass Republicans. Rangel even voted against his own bill.

  29. As long as the GOP remains in the embrace of Southern fried social conservatives, I think libertarians should prefer Democrats come election time.

  30. Southern fried social conservatives are Republicans for the most libertarian of reasons, religious freedom. If the Democrats were for leaving us alone, they’d vote for them too. But anyone with eyes can see that leaving us alone is the last thing on any Democrat’s mind. I can handle jesus freaks and their blue law pushing moralism way more than I can having my taxes increased.

  31. Democrats offer all of the nanny statism of the worst republicans.

    For example we have, music labeleling (Al and tipper gore), policy opposition to violent video games (lieberman and hilary clinton), opposition to gay rights {defense of marriage act, don’t ask, don’t tell} (bill clinton), mandated national service / draft (rangel), prosecution of medical marijuana (bill clinton), and strong support for the drug war (vast majority of the democrats). As a bonus to the above lunacy the democrats add in a reflexive desire to tax anything that moves.

    Meanwhile Tom Coburn, one of the southern fried conservatives that ashish dislikes so much, was jamming a finger in the eye of his fellow republicans and the democrats by stopping several billion dollars worth of spending at the end of this session.

  32. I dunno if I’m happy now, but at least I can look forward to being unhappy about new things.

  33. Fyodor (smirks), be nice now, David Kelley is a friend of Reason. And the difference between Kelley and Piekoff is striking. Almost like comparing Baptists to Jehovah Witnesses. Both believe in God……….

    I have a couple of Big O friends and at times it is much like having friends that are Christians or Lefties. There are certain subjects that are just better avoided.

  34. “Southern fried social conservatives are Republicans for the most libertarian of reasons, religious freedom. If the Democrats were for leaving us alone, they’d vote for them too. But anyone with eyes can see that leaving us alone is the last thing on any Democrat’s mind. I can handle jesus freaks and their blue law pushing moralism way more than I can having my taxes increased.”

    Oh, please. Have you been Rip van Winkled throughout the Bush era? There was this thing called the Federal Marriage Amendment, the text of which reads, in part, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” Which of course would mean that technically a minister of a private religious denomination who presided over a ceremony between two men or two women would be violating the Constitution. Most Democrats might not be pro-gay marriage–though many prominent ones are either pro-gay marriage(Feingold and Kennedy, for example) or for partnership benefits (Boxer), while no prominent Republicans in Congress are–but they sure as hell aren’t going to waste our time in the post-Clinton era with a push to further entrench backward social policy the way Republicans have.

    And if you really have less trouble with a tax increase than you do with campaigns that spitefully identify minority groups with societal crisis, then at least have the decency not to call yourself a libertarian and just come right out and say you’re out for yourself and no one else.

    “Meanwhile Tom Coburn, one of the southern fried conservatives that ashish dislikes so much, was jamming a finger in the eye of his fellow republicans and the democrats by stopping several billion dollars worth of spending at the end of this session.”

    “The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power… That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That’s a gay agenda.”– Tom Hero of Freedom Coburn

    And last time I checked, Oklahoma wasn’t considered part of Dixie.

  35. And if you really have less trouble with a tax increase than you do with campaigns that spitefully identify minority groups with societal crisis,

    Complete bullshit, liberal PC type thinking.

    If an ad shows a less qualified black person getting someone else’s job (which DOES actually happen thanks to government policy) then an ad is racist.

    Meanwhile, there is something called the Democratic Black Cacus, an orginization that organizes based on race. I find that just as sickening as if there was a Republican Cacus for White Interests.

    What a backwards world we live in where those who demanand special treatment for certain groups and form orginizations based on race are the tolerant ones and those that say people be judged by the same standards are the racists.

  36. I humbly submit the theory that some libertarians prioritize social values and some libertarians prioritize economic values, for a myriad of reasons not the least of which is self-interest. There’s not much use in being appalled that someone else claiming to be libertarian would support a candidate who opposes gay marriage or supports jacking up taxes and tariffs. Different strokes for different folks.

    I’m sure that if you asked twenty posters here what ONE libertarian measure they would like to see enacted, you’d get twenty different answers. Well…. maybe only if you took ending the drug war off the table. That’s in a lot of folks’ self-interest. 😉

  37. Sorry, Ashish, I didn’t realize you were gay. You are right that the GOP wronglyfully tries to score political points with the gay marraige issue. But please don’t only blame Dixie for feelings that can be found on all four corners of the country.

  38. I humbly submit the theory that some libertarians prioritize social values and some libertarians prioritize economic values,

    Its economics for me. How often does governments opionion on homosexuality or abortion affect your life?

    What about economics? It effects how easy it is to find a job, how much I pay when I drive on the high way, what kind of work I’m allowed to do, how much money I get to keep, and just my overall freedom and standard of living.

    If I own a business economic freedom allows me better odds at success, being able to hire and fire who I like, deciding who I want to work and associate with, keep more of my money, what kind of contracts I can enter into, etc, etc, etc,

    As a matter of fact, I’ll go as far as saying that government opinion on “social issues” never has never had a noticeable effect on my life. Actually, there was one time I wanted to buy alcahol on Sunday but couldn’t. And I’d like to try heroine just to see what it feels like. I’d put those under economic freedom though.

    Now if the theocons totally get there way and I couldn’t get condoms, that might be a different story. I don’t think we’re in any danger of that.

    I’m sure that if you asked twenty posters here what ONE libertarian measure they would like to see enacted, you’d get twenty different answers. Well…. maybe only if you took ending the drug war off the table. That’s in a lot of folks’ self-interest. 😉

    Yeah, that would be my first. Second would be abolition of the income tax.

  39. I’m skeptical of a national sales tax for two reasons.

    1) we’ll end up with both sales and income taxes

    2.) it will put the underground economy out of business

    A national sales tax would be a boon to the black market for tax avoidance.

  40. All this policy wonkishness here. Show me the beef!

    How many libertarians won election this year running as Democrats?

    Answer: 1 (Some guy named Joel Winter to the NH State Legislature)

    How many libertarians won election this year running as Republicans?

    Answer: Official number from the Republican Liberty Caucus is 120 or so, but the expanded number of officially endorsed, and unofficially backed number of libertarian Republicans who won public office this year is in the hundreds, probably in the low thousands.

    This number includes FOUR LIBERTARIAN REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS: Butch Otter, Sarah Palin, Mark Sanford, and Charlie Crist.

    Show me an elected “libertarian Democrat” please. And no Bill Richardson doesn’t count. He’s the least offensive of the Democrats from a libertarian perspective, but not a libertarian.

    Really, all these Cato-ites and others who are talking about some libertarian-Democrat alliance, need to show us some cold hard facts, before they open up their traps.

    When you have statistics like number of actual libertarian Democrats compared to libertarian Republicans running 1000 to 1, I think the choice is clear.

  41. Answer: Official number from the Republican Liberty Caucus is 120 or so, but the expanded number of officially endorsed, and unofficially backed number of libertarian Republicans who won public office this year is in the hundreds, probably in the low thousands.

    And they’re probably as “libertarian” as the other abortion-banning, Bush-boosting, theocrat-enabling, “you guys talk too much about legalizing drugs” goons who occasionally show up here but couldn’t articulate a libertarian position if their lives depended on it.

    Face it, Red Team fanboys – your guys have nothing to offer at the moment. The Blue Team, at the very least, has “we’re not the Red Team”.

  42. This whole line of discussion makes no sense to me. In the first place, the distinction between Democrats and liberals is missing.

    If you say that libertarians (an ideological movement) should team up with Democrats (a political party), it makes no sense to talk about correspondence between libertarianism and liberalism. There is no ideology to a political partiy, there is only a collection of policies. Liberals may believe lots of things that libertarians believe, but Democrats don’t. Democrats are wholly defined by what brings their constituents to vote. The very essence of the Democratic party is redistribution and regulation. It isn’t liberal ideology in any meaningful sense – it is the ardent belief that the political reallocation of wealth and the imposition of significant regulation makes things better.

    Absent redistribution and regulation, there is nothing left, except maybe the ‘keep abortion legal’ crowd.

    Liberals, then, are in a spot where they must choose to ally with The Party of Regulation and Redistribution or with the libertarians who are fundamentally opposed to those activities. Who should they choose?

  43. This is utter rubbish and Lindsey is acting like a fool.

    I broad-stroke the thing in a comment on Bruce McQuain’s post at QandO.

    No fucking ‘compromises’. Period. That is all.

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