Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I think I agree with Mark, Jeff and Kip...

It may (or may not) have been more appropriate to insert my own thoughts on Mark's comments on John's post at the bottom of Mark's post, but I thought I'd put them up here since I'd rather not be poking around the work of others, even if the idea is well-intentioned. Mark, please feel free to move it anywhere you wish if you disagree.

John is right. Both the Left and the Right do take morally authoritarian positions on certain issues that matter to them, whether it be sexual activity or freedom of contract and seek to resolve matters through regulation or outright prohibition. I have never suggested otherwise. To be fair, I know John's comment to this effect was geared towards the discussion toward a libertarian alliance with the Left. If anything, it is a useful reminder. Another useful reminder is David Bernstein's recent op-ed, written in light of the Heller decision comparing liberal and conservative views of individual rights.

Mark is right. I say this because differences between libertarians and liberals (or conservatives in the days of fusionism) on state regulation of "virtue" is not enough to disqualify the possibility of an alliance. Substantial differences in opinion between traditional conservatives and libertarians (or perhaps classical liberals) did not keep Frank Meyer from attempting to seek common ground between traditionalists and libertarians. A strong enough issue or set of issues could be the impetus for an alliance today. As with fusionism, any liberal-libertarian will have its critics. This will be neither new nor surprising.

Kip is right. While I have not completely worked through the possibility of a left-libertarian alliance, I am skeptical because:

1) the notion of limiting the power and reach of government is still important to us and goes beyond issues involving surveillance or national security. This was, I think, the fundamental reason why the right-libertarian alliance has been severely undermined, if not fatally; and,

2) if David Bernstein's article is any indication on the differences between conservatives and liberals on individual rights, it is almost obvious who holds the upper hand and it is not the Left. I take no pleasure in this assessment. If we assume "civil liberties" as some subset of individual rights and people wish to run with it, so be it. If lefties start to take matters like economic liberty (freedom of contract) and private property rights more seriously, then I would be more enthusiastic than I am protecting a limited basket of rights one political persuasion believes is worthy of protecting above all else.

This is not to say that my mind would not change with further analysis, the passage of time or changing circumstances, but my quick take on the idea raises many questions. Mark has written more about this and I should probably take some time reading those arguments before I go any further.

(Ed. Note: Time of post edited by Mark to reflect actual posting time)