Bring On Sha Na Na!


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.