greg (grysar) wrote,

Should Democrats bring Libretarians into our coalition

There's been a great exchange over at The New Republic on this issue.

Brink Lindsey's offer: Liberaltarians.
Liberals should actively court libretarians, we have a lot we can work together on.

Jonathan Chait's response: Kiss me, Cato. TNR to Libretarians, drop dead. (Subscription required)
We have a winning coalition right now. There's no real ground for a liberal libretarian alliance on entitlements despite Brink's suggestions. Moving towards libretarians doesn't pick us votes because the 20% of the population that likes "small government" also likes entitlements.

Brink Lindsey's retort: The dangers of a liberal-populist alliance.
Libretarians can work with Democrats on anti-censorship, gays, and immigration. Chasing after populism hasn't worked for liberals in the past.

On the whole, at this point, I'm with Chiat. The economically conservative socially liberal block in the south west are only pseudo libretarians. They're happy to protect entitlements. You guys are real common among techies, but I haven't seen any real clout when it comes to voting. I think we should try to pick up those states and their pseudo-libretarians, but that doesn't require a substantial policy shift from present center-left policies. It helps that the Republicans are bat-shit crazy on social issues and with Roe vs. Wade dying the "judicial activism" card is losing it's benefits. Now, I'd also oppose substantial moves towards Lou Dobbs style populism, but that's a different issue.

Here's what I see as the perks of bringing in real libretarians and leaving them out.

Bigger tent benefits in order of achievability:

  1. Free-trade tilt.
  2. Stronger alliance against domestic survellience, torture, and supportive of habeas corpus.
  3. Better immigration policies.
  4. Homosexual equality and reproductive rights issues could be a bit more prominent.
  5. Start to roll back the war on drugs.

Status quo benefits in order of achievability:

  1. Universal health care.
  2. Mitigating affects of expanded risk throughout the economy.
  3. Mitigating affects of inequality.

Now, I do like what the libretarian alliance could bring. However, I think only point one is really achievable. On point two libretarians weren't really able to slow down the Bush juggernaut. We can work with President Bush to get point three. Also, since the south-west is the top area for immigration, I think geographical factors might trump ideological ones. Point four and five are mostly being fought at the state level at this point and I would support forging close alliances on those issues in states where progress can be made. I'm not happy about the losses we're going to take in the free trade department, but we're going to need to come up with ways of how to handle the risk and inequality it spawns before a major push is really possible.

As for what avoiding a libretarian alliances gives us, the answer is simple, universal health care, baby. I'm betting it will be a major plank of the Democratic party platform come 2008 and with rising health care costs it can be a winner. Obviously they'll be a lot of debate on the best system, and I think we should pick one that at least won't be vehemently opposed by the pseudo-libretarians in the south west. However, true libretarians are going to oppose most any form of universal health care, right? Brink Lindsey didn't mention it once. I am not willing to sacrifice universal coverage to get a libertarian alliance.

Nonetheless, once enacted, entitlement programs are hard as hell to kill. So I'll be much more supportive of a bigger tent approach once universal coverage is the new norm.

(Quick summary of why I like universal healthcare: It's cheaper and people live longer. Thus ends my quick summary.)

So, whether or not you support the perks I lay out, am I correctly characterizing what true libretarians are and are not willing to support?
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