Tuesday, December 05, 2006 :::
In the New Republic, Cato's Brink Lindsey has a piece in which he argues that Liberals and Libertarians have more in common than one would think (and I believe this is true). However, he cautions Democrats that if they want to make something of the relationship -- bringing the Libertarians who once supported the GOP more firmly inside their camp -- they will have to "up their game." But first, he believes we have to dispense with a few labels:
But the real problem with our politics today is that the prevailing ideological categories are intellectually exhausted. Conservatism has risen to power only to become squalid and corrupt, a Nixonian mélange of pandering to populist prejudices and distributing patronage to well-off cronies and Red Team constituencies. Liberalism, meanwhile, has never recovered from its fall from grace in the mid-'60s. Ever since, it has lacked the vitality to do more than check conservative excesses--and obstruct legitimate, conservative-led progress. As a governing philosophy, liberalism has been moribund: When Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton managed to win the White House, they did so only by successfully avoiding the liberal stigma.
While I wouldn't go so far as to say conservativism has become "squalid," its most recent political incarnation bears only a passing resemblance to its ancestors. The distrust of power and the overarching preference for limited government has fallen to the desire for majorities and the power they bring. Conversely, it does seem that Liberalism is trying very hard to shed its pacholie-drenched past (ironically, by putting forward former Republicans and Democratic conservatives as candidates).
Lindsey believes these two rotting hulks have poisoned politics:
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.
I nice turn of phrase. The sort that will send both sides scrambling for their keyboards. But how can this "Liberaltarian" fusion take place? By looking closer at, and cultivating, the common ground Liberals and Libertarians share. Like farm policy and corporate welfare, for example:
Let's start with the comparatively easy stuff: farm subsidies and other corporate welfare. Progressive organizations like Oxfam and the Environmental Working Group have already joined with free-market groups in pushing for ag-policy reform. And it's no wonder, since the current subsidy programs act as a regressive tax on low-income families here at home while depressing prices for exporters in poor countries abroad--and, to top it off, the lion's share of the loot goes to big agribusiness, not family farmers. Meanwhile, the president of Cato and the executive director of the Sierra Club have come out together in favor of a zero-subsidy energy policy. A nascent fusionism on these issues already exists; it merely needs encouragement and emphasis.
In everything Cato does, Ed Crane gets his due deference. Some things never change.
Lindsey makes other proposals here -- including tax and entitlement reform -- that ought to generate some thinking on all sides.
And that, really, is one of the best things about this piece and what makes it so different from much of the current fare: It demands thought.
And we certainly could use a lot more of that.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 12/05/2006