Sunday Read: If I Wanted Acceptance from Normal People I Wouldn't Be a Libertarian
"Whip conflation now," urges Rod Long (now that's a porn name) in a solid new argument [pdf] for a left-shift in the libertoid friend-finding strategy:
There are many, many left-wingers whose primary motivation for their left-wing political stance is the very libertarian impulse to protect people who are being pushed around. These left-wingers look at contemporary society and see an economy dominated by mammoth, impersonal corporations with enormous and seemingly unaccountable power; they see lower-and middle-income people disempowered in the workplace and struggling to make ends meet; they see institutions and social practices rigged against blacks, women, gays, immigrants, and other oppressed groups – and they turn to government to redress these inequities, viewing the democratic state as an institution in principle accountable to the public, and thus able to serve as a bulwark against private power and privilege. Call this variety of left-wingers the anti-privilege Left.
And this is the Left we can reach. The anti-privilege Left is already largely on our side when it comes to civil-liberties issues and to war; these are the folks who didn't switch their positions on those issues when the White House turned from red to blue. I say they're only "largely" with us on civil liberties because this group still tends to be bad on (at least) one civil liberty: gun rights. But otherwise their chief sticking points are economic; thus we need to show them that a freed market can actually achieve the goals of the anti-privilege Left better than government regulation can – and that, thanks to public-choice problems on the one hand, and what Mises calls the "economic democracy of the market" on the other, markets are actually more, not less, accountable to the public than governments are.
Long wants to disambiguate the anti-privilege left's confuzzlement on the difference between an actual free market and the government-sustained economy of present-day America. He distinguishes between the reachable anti-privilege left and the unreachable aristocratic left – a step in the right direction after the nasty, brutish and short life of the "liberaltarian" movement, which seemed set up specifically to court the sensibilities of the aristocratic left. Examples of how to win the anti-privilege left include explaining why the monopolization leftists see as the natural result of the free market can in fact only be achieved with government support:
Thus when left-wingers complain of an economy dominated by a few large, hierarchical corporations with global reach, crowding out smaller and more local production, they are complaining about a situation created and sustained by government – and we should be pointing that out to them, rather than leaping to defend those corporations as though they'd achieved their bigness under market discipline.
And the ancient imperative to help a brother out:
As libertarians we are often unsympathetic to left-wing concerns about discrimination by employers against blacks, women, or other groups, as we think such practices cannot survive on a free market.
I'm skeptical of advice on how to do better evangelization. The history of efforts to position libertarianism as a natural fit with certain tendencies on either the left or the right does not inspire confidence. The reason to posit free-market economic ideas is that they are useful and accurate. That's very different from – and maybe the opposite of – being persuasive to a certain political school. I can spend all day explaining my rational reasons for choosing my set of politics – many of them very close to the anti-privilege left sensibilities Long describes. But I suspect my decision really comes down to my nostalgia for the great American tendency ta fuck shit up – which seems to me less present than it was when I was a lad, and to which the libertarians seem closer than either end of the left/right continuum. I suspect most people on the left and right are driven by similarly non-rational motivations, and thus are similarly not susceptible to rational persuasion on political matters.
That said, it's a great article, full of red meat and including a meditation on whether Dilbert is a legitimate source of economic data. The topic is also an evergreen: Brian Doherty suggested a left-libertarian reader a while back. And in a Reason TV interview, the San Diego Union Tribune's Chris Reed boils the left-libertarian dialogue into one simple question: Are progressive policies producing the results progressives want?