Libertarian Dissonance: Who?s Right, the Daily Kos or the Wall Street Journal, and Does It Matter?
This week, “Kos” (Markos Moulitsas), uber-blogger of the left-blogosphere, argued in a Cato Institute’s monthly electronic journal that the Democratic party is the natural home for voters who believe in individual liberty…
It was my fealty to the notion of personal liberty that made me a Republican when I came of age in the 1980s. It is my continued fealty to personal liberty that makes me a Democrat today.Of course, Kos is wrong. Consider some of the America’s biggest domestic challenges, and the potential solutions that maximize personal liberty…
The case against the libertarian Republican is so easy to make that I almost feel compelled to stipulate it and move on.
- Improving the Quality of Education: Public School choice, charters, and vouchers
- Retirement Security: Inidividual retirement accounts
- Healthcare: Health-Savings Accounts, Decoupling health insurance from the workplace
- Political Participation: Repeal campaign finance limits on free speech.
As many commenters to the original article have noted, the centerpiece of Kos’ “libertarianism” is increased government regulation of private business, which is not libertarian at all, with some paeans to issues like flag-burning added on. (Combining attitudes on flag burning with campaign finance reform is as enlightening an illustration of mainstream Democratic thinking on individual liberty as there is: the government should leave individuals free to engage in symbolic, isolated acts, but as soon as individuals want to take actions that might influence the larger society, then it’s regulate-to-the-max!)
However, Kos’ attempt to redefine a political phiosophy as its opposite is not the point. He freely admits he is an activist, not an intellectual. The more interesting point is that as an activist, if he thinks libertarians are worth courting, he must believe there’s substantial voting bloc of them out there.
However, a Wall Street Journal editorial that appeared the day after Kos’ article hinted (unintentionally) at the opposite. The Journal suggests that the Republican leaders don’t believe that there are enough voters in the electorate who believe in individual freedom to make liberty-maximizing solutions to domestic problems political winners…
Social Security reform was never going to be easy, and Mr. Bush’s war-driven decline in job approval meant he couldn’t move any Democrats. But that still doesn’t excuse such prominent Republicans as Tom Davis (Virginia) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) for resisting their President’s reform effort behind the scenes. So frightened were they that they never even brought the subject up for a vote.Add to the Journal’s despair the fact that President Bush allowed the No-Child-Left-Behind act to be turned from a potentially-meaningful school choice plan ito an increased layer of centralized regulation and that he signed of campaign finance reform act of 2002, and it’s hard to make the case that the Republicans have done their part in advancing an agenda of individual liberty.
Perhaps the most puzzling abdication was the GOP failure to do anything at all on health care. The window for saving private health care from government encroachment is closing, and both business and workers are feeling the pinch from rising costs. Yet Republicans failed to make health-care savings accounts more attractive, failed to let business associations offer their own health plans, and failed even to bring to a vote Arizona Congressman John Shadegg’s bill to avoid costly state mandates by letting health insurance be marketed across state boundaries.
Accepting that the WSJ and the KOS are reliable windows into their respective sides? political thought, it seems that an agenda of individual liberty doesn’t have a home in either political party right now. America has one party (the Democrats) so committed to an agenda of centralizing government power, it has talked itself into believing that government regulation is freedom! We have the other side (the Republicans) that doesn’t believe that many Americans really support individual liberty, and has resigned itself to the inevitable adoption of a collectivist agenda. How will liberty prevail in this environment?