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Of Libertarians and Liberals

by RonChusid

In discussions of Daily Kos it has often been noted that they often stress politics over ideas. For example they love Dean but hate Kerry even though the two are very close on the issues primarily for imaginary differences stemming from their primary battle. In a post yesterday Kos breaks from his typical type of comments to write about being a Libertarian Dem. Here’s a section from his description of the views of a Libertarian Dem:

Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn’t believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.

In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them — corporations and other individuals.

So in practical terms, what does a Libertarian Dem look like? A Libertarian Dem rejects government efforts to intrude in our bedrooms and churches. A Libertarian Dem rejects government “Big Brother” efforts, such as the NSA spying of tens of millions of Americans. A Libertarian Dem rejects efforts to strip away rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights — from the First Amendment to the 10th. And yes, that includes the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.

So far, this isn’t much different than what a traditional libertarian believes. Here is where it begins to differ (and it shouldn’t).

A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement — we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on.

Kos even says this will be the topic of his next book, and I suspect I’ll enjoy his next book more than his previous one. Naturally this has raised a bit of controversy, both from liberals and libertarians. Much of the disagreement is over labels as opposed to ideology, especially as many libertarians have entered into an alliance I have never understood with conservatives. Kos’s description of libertarianism also disagrees with those libertarians who support no government activity. Personally I don’t find arguments over labels to be particularly meaningful. In this case I suspect that Kos’ choice of terminology remains based upon his political instincts as he sees framing himself as a Libertarian Dem as a way to pick up votes in some of the western states.

This is really just part of a trend among Democrats dating back to Bobby Kennedy, and subsequently seen with Democratic leaders from Jimmy Carter to Howard Dean and John Kerry. Similar views have also been expressed frequently at Daily Kos even if not labeled Libertarian, contrary to the right wingers who try to portray them as being on the far left. Economic liberalism has long been dead, with ideas such as support for individual liberty and opposition to unjust wars, from Vietnam to Iraq, increasingly being the factors which separate liberals from conservatives. We’re all capitalists now, but liberals see through the right wing’s rhetoric as being support for corporate welfare, not the free market.

Historically liberalism was identified with liberty, as well as capitalism. Rather than Libertarian Dem being the best term, perhaps what is really occurring is that liberalism is being freed from its identification with big government and is returning to its roots. We may be Liberal Democrats, but that sure doesn’t mean what the right wingers claim in their scare campaigns.

21 Responses to “Of Libertarians and Liberals”

  1. Here we go again, Kos thinking he has come up with something new.

    I still like Pragmatic Progressives. Because it intentionally pokes fun at the idea of a label.

    Definitions change with time. That’s why dictionaries become outdated.

    The interesting thing about the current realities is that conservatism is normally the brake or regulator of the speed of change. One of the parts of Peter Montague’s
    http://www.counterpunch.org/montague06032006.htmlThe System in Crisis that I liked was:

    System response No. 13: Promote rapid technical innovation

    Business and government together are constantly searching for “the next big thing,” hoping to induce rapid technical innovation. It’s the star wars missile defense shield; no, it’s biotechnology; no, it’s nanotechnology; no, it’s really “synthetic biology” — the creation of entirely new life forms never previously known on planet earth. Of course, by definition, rapid innovation and deployment are incompatible with thoughtful consideration of likely consequences prior to deployment

    Making the speed of life and change unhealthy in this country and forcing the Dems to put the dampers on the forced heat market.

    I would hope the returning to the roots is correct and this time, lets be more careful what we grow into…

  2. oops got the HTML messed up. The link works.

  3. Ginny,

    “lets be more careful what we grow into…”

    It’s inevitable that we will grow in different directions if Democrats take power (just as Republicans did). A problem with (as well as a benefit of) the two party system is that diverse groups are forced to join together. It’s a lot easier to join together to oppose what we all agree in opposing from the Republicans. If Democrats take power there will be differences in what should be done.

    While people can argue whether this is true libertarianism, the trend towards social liberalism and fiscal conservativism is hardly anything new. However if Kos can use his clout in the blogosphere to push Democrats in this direction, and if he puts out a book explaining this (to counter the conservative claims of socialistic Democrats) then more power to him.I just wish he wouldn’t let his hatred of Kerry blind him to the fact that Kerry (like Tsongas who preceeded him) is a major leader of this type of Democrat.

  4. Ron,

    I agree the more people with a mike who can use it, the better. The idea that I think we could borrow from self improvement, is some sort of mission/purpose clarification.
    You can start that with ‘what do we want America to be like in 5 years, 10 years?’ discussions.

    How much do we agree on that vision, what will it take to do it, how do we do it? My both sides picture is that words can have an exact meaning – ‘true’ libertarianism, and they can have shades or nuances that help us redefine them as society changes.

    My daughter’s elaboration goes;

    Pictures have a thousand words and words have a thousand pictures*. To understand a concept, you need to have both.

    The more abstract the ideas, the tougher it is to find the right words. Perhaps because they have 4 dimensions.
    What is important is that we get a better understanding and consensus of the vision before we grow too far without one.

    *how many ways can you picture blue, mountain, evening…

  5. Libertarinaism is certainly a word with a thousand pictures, which is why I won’t get involved in arguments as to whether Kos’s use of the term Libertarian Dems is accurate.

    On one extreme you have libertarians who believe in no government, and oppose any form of taxation. Then there are the limited government libertarians who allow some government, but still won’t allow taxation. Then there’s the ones who want a very limited government and will allow limited taxation to pay for it. By now you are getting into matters of degree between liberals and libertarians. One Libertarian Party candidate even campaigned on rollilng government back to the size it was under JFK.

    Then there’s the left versus right libertarians. There’s also Bill Maher’s use of big tent libertarians which ultimately gets to liberals who concentrate on increasing freedom as opposed to big government solutions.

  6. Kiellor on the Repub incompetence

    With Ineptitude on Full Display, the Party’s Over for Republicans
    by Garrison Keillor


    For the past year, Dennis Hastert has been two heartbeats from the presidency. He is a man who seems content just to have a car and driver and three square meals a day. He has no apparent vision beyond the urge to hang onto power. He has succeeded in turning Congress into a branch of the executive branch. If Mr. Hastert becomes the poster boy for the Republican Party, this does not speak well for them as the Party of Ideas.

  7. Why Dems lose…

    Why Democrats Lose
    by Robert Parry


    But the one point the Democratic consultants almost never mention is the giant media advantage that Republicans have created from years of investing in media outlets – from newspapers, magazines and books to cable television, talk radio and the Internet.

    Yet, it is this conservative messaging capability – in coordination with the Republican national political operation – that has proved decisive in election after election, even in disputed contests such as Florida in Election 2000 when the conservative media quickly portrayed Bush as the legitimate winner even though Al Gore got more votes.

  8. Those who have been around this blog Bubba was not my favorite. But his balance-the-budget disipline was superb.

    read all about it.

    This is a two week old article by bonddad who blogs here.

    great article…thanks

    Why Clinton’s Economy Was Better
    By bonddad
    Posted on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 12:23:16 PM EST

    I have been saying this for several years. The ’90s boom didn’t just happen as the budget mess we are in now didn’t just happen. They both are deliberate actions and paths.

  9. battlebob,

    By the time I got through moderating all your linked posts, I approved one of the spams as well. Maybe Ron can delete it. Landed on a post in January!

    As far as bonddad – it’s all good except I’m still not convinced that nano technology is getting enough consideration for safety issues. There is one company owner in Nevada I think, who actually asked OSHA to come do a study in his plant.

    Micronized dust in the lungs is not good and I question whether the masks are sufficient to protect the workers.

  10. Keillor does have a way with words and mental images 😆

    However, I think the dig on wrestling coaches was unfair. My son had four and only one was a bit confused. Compared to Hastert, he’s quite intelligent.

    Yeah, having Hastert in there brings back memories of the Quayle, praying first if any thing awful happened if he ever became president.

    Come to think of it, why was Bush sitting there with the book for so long? Trying to think of a prayer?

  11. Speaking of the two party system and the GOP incompetence. I had a GOP business owner tell me he was printing up bumper stickers to sell in his shop:

    NO Republicans for 100 years.

    Drastic and yet, they are going to have another 40 years of rebuilding. I wonder every so often if they will have enough trouble that another party might move in. It seems very unlikely but… the world is going through big changes.

    I still think the IVR vote would challenge the parties to do a better job and allow a third party to grow into something more powerful than is possible now. With the IVR, it would not be a problem of someone who would have lost getting the win. Combining it with government funded elections would really help.

  12. Ginny #9,
    The point being made is creativity only exists in places where thought boundries don’t exist. BushInc wants to restrict freedom and therefore deprive us of the ability to be creative.

    I am not sure I by that completely.
    The Russian military designed some pretty good weapons where there was no freedom and poor performers got a trip to Siberia or a bullet in the head.
    Yet a lot of their supposedly high quality stuff was terrible.

    There are risks with nano-technology but I like the possibilities of being to cobble together new devices and interfaces quickly.
    Obviously there are miles to go but we have to investigate the paths.

  13. Battlebob

    Interesting articles, but I do have a couple questions. I’m not saying that there aren’t some democrat consultants who don’t know anymore about winning than a 6 year old does about calculus. But the whole “it’s the consultants fault” seems like too much of a cop out.

    As for Clinton, sure a balanced budget is better than what we have now, but the fact remains that even in the booming late 1990s the country failed to see a reversal of the most important (and socially destructive) trend of Reaganomics: a growing, rather than declining gap between rich and poor (not to mention rich and middle class). What can be done about reversing That trend and is the experience of the Clinton years really the model to follow here?

  14. Sure we enjoy the freedom to have safe outdoors, not be exploited by employers, etc. But if the solutions to that are involve more government spending and or gov’t regulations (and enforcement of old reguations) what’s the difference between Dean or Kerry or whomever and “big government” or “economic” liberals like FDR? To paraphrase the movie that made Matthew Broderick a household name “if you took a lump of coal and twisted it like it was Kos’ logic, I guarantee in a few weeks you’d have a diamond!”

  15. Hi Nick,
    Paying money on interest rate maintenance is poring money down a sewer
    Clinton’s saw the evil of debt and made that his focal point.
    He capped military spending that Bush 1 already started (at the request of Dick Cheney).
    He allowed tax breaks for new plants, equipment and hiring new people.
    He allowed educational benefits to be a corporate write off. They were always present but he made them better.
    He allowed accelerated depreciation which allows capital equipment purchases to be written off quicker in the early years instead of the same each year. Bush did this and was about the only reason for the minor uptick in company expansion in early 2002,2003.

    What hurt Clinton was Greenspan with the soft landing. He kept raising interest rates until the economy stopped and then soured. When Bush came in, I believe he raised rates again until after 9/11 when rates were cut. Greenspan was not strident enough against tax cuts and deficit spending. Here are the prime rates since 1996. http://www.moneycafe.com/library/prime.htm

  16. Nick..I don’t understand your post about the environment.

    There is nothing free except breathing bad air, drinking bad water and not enough juice for the lights.
    So there must be a fair-use policy where something that is owned by all of us can be used by all of us forever.
    Drilling, logging and exploitation is possible but it must be controlled.

    The Alaskan pipeline is pretty good because environmentalists made the oil company do it correct. There have been few pipeline leaks. The shipping and sea transport is a disaster.

  17. battlebob,

    I was sort of restating the quote in the first response. No problem with creativity stimulation that doesn’t create a lot of quick, unsustainable business.

    I think Keillor did a great job of illustrating the difference between the open minded creativity of San Francisco versus a small Baptist town in Texas.

    Creating consumer demand is different than filling a need.
    If you went past Ron’s diversion into electronics (On the Verizon phone issue) it’s a good illustration of the contrast between products that are designed and made to force consumer buying versus some of the stuff that is helpful and works.

    In nano technology, the “thoughtful consideration of likely consequences prior to deployment” was never really done. The workers are already being exposed. At least one business owner is concerned enough to do it now while better precautions could save lives if we figure out they are needed.

    Which I think, from your other comments, you understand. Just some crossover here that makes it a little gray.

  18. Ginny #17,
    I skipped the Verizon link as we can’t have camera phones at work. My cell is way out of date and rarely gets used.
    It is my only anti-technology act.
    A friend of ours took his portable laptop around his home area. It is amazing the number of people who don’t encrypt anything.
    It was getting freaky seeing credit card, SS numbers fly by.
    Encryption takes time and would slow down trasnfer rates. It also takes time to encrypt and decrypt the messages.
    Europe is much more advance then the US in net security matters. They take the time and expense to do it correctly.

  19. Battlebob,

    The camera on the V710 is so bad they might as well allow you to use it at work.

    When ever there are comments on line on how Verizon crippled the picture transfer it is typically accompanied by comments that the picture quality is so bad you won’t really care that you can’t use blue tooth to transfer them.

    Fortunately the phone has other useful features–if only Verizon hadn’t crippled some of them.

  20. My interaction with a self-proclaimed Libertarian was with one who (attempted at least) to enter into what Ron called phrased as an alliance with conservatives. I was part of a triangle that existed between a Libertarian and a Bush Conservative… but when push came to shove re: the run-up to the 2004 election, the Libertarian joined with the BC. I left the triangle to focus on the primaries. Months went by and eventually the two of them clashed, the alliance didn’t hold.

    It’s a great political strategy… re-claiming labels… for those who care about labels. And there are many that do, so I’m not being sarcastic here at all.

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