Liberaltarianism

by Brien Jackson

On the one hand, I think Will Wlikinson’s effort to “merge” liberals and libertarians is somewhat laudable, but on the other hand, I think Wilkinson might have been at that Michael Phelps party. Here’s “Liberaltarianism” as Wilkinson sees it:

I think Obama and the Democrats are already in the process of screwing it up. The romance of transformative hope is going to wear off pretty quick as all-but-uncontested Democratic policy deepens and lenghtens the recession. There’s a lot of culturally and psychologically liberal people out there who are, and are going to be, interested in a liberalism that actually works. I want to use this time of ferment to work on developing the missing option in American politics: an authentically liberal governing philosophy that understands that limited government, free markets, a culture of tolerance, and a sound social safety net are the best means to better lives.

Gee that sounds an awful lot like…libertarianism.

The problem with this, I think, is that Wilkinson is just kidding himself as to what libertarianism/liberalism is. At the end of the day, there’s just no reason to expect that liberalism is going to be able to reconcile itself with the anti-government, laissez-faire inclinations of libertarians (or any reason why they would particularly want to). Even in the realm of civil liberties, where liberals and libertarians are more ally than foe, I can’t really see where they could actually come to a cohesive position, given that libertarianism’s committment to the sort of broad civil liberties liberals tend to care about stops, roughly, at the point of government codification of such rights. In other words, they’ll support a woman’s right to choose or your right to marry whomever you would like to in theory, but at the point of actually making it public policy, that is the point of actually making it happen and enshrining those rights and liberties into the country’s legal framework, well that’s where they draw the line.

Also, to keep this in some perspective, roughly 12-18 months ago most of libertarianism was taken with Ron Paul; who wants to eliminate the Federal Reserve, most of the social safety net liberals have put in place sine the New Deal, wants to a return to reactionary state governance, and has a helluva lot of ties to white supremacists and confederacy sympathizers. Where, exactly, are liberals going to fit into this equation?

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