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Why "Fusionist" Libertarian-Republicans Aren't Really Libertarians At All

Guy Incognito

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I've been doing a bit of research tonight that I wanted to share with my friends here at DP. Some people wonder about the meaning of the word "libertarian." Some people call themselves libertarian without really knowing what it entails. Libertarianism is based on the fundamental principle of noncoercion. Libertarianism cannot be squared with the Republican party. But don't just take my word for it:

Brink Lindsey said:
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.

Today's ideological turmoil, however, has created an opening for ideological renewal--specifically, liberalism's renewal as a vital governing philosophy. A refashioned liberalism that incorporated key libertarian concerns and insights could make possible a truly progressive politics once again--not progressive in the sense of hewing to a particular set of preexisting left-wing commitments, but rather in the sense of attuning itself to the objective dynamics of U.S. social development. In other words, a politics that joins together under one banner the causes of both cultural and economic progress.

Conservative fusionism, the defining ideology of the American right for a half-century, was premised on the idea that libertarian policies and traditional values are complementary goods. That idea still retains at least an intermittent plausibility--for example, in the case for school choice as providing a refuge for socially conservative families. But an honest survey of the past half-century shows a much better match between libertarian means and progressive ends. Most obviously, many of the great libertarian breakthroughs of the era--the fall of Jim Crow, the end of censorship, the legalization of abortion, the liberalization of divorce laws, the increased protection of the rights of the accused, the reopening of immigration--were championed by the political left.
Liberaltarians | Brink Lindsey | Cato Institute: Commentary

Brink Lindsey said:
I’m a libertarian because I’m a liberal. In other words, I support small-government, free-market policies because I believe they provide the institutional framework best suited to advancing the liberal values of individual autonomy, tolerance, and open-mindedness. Liberalism is my bottom line; libertarianism is a means to promoting that end.
http://www.brinklindsey.com/
 
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Cameron

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I agree with this premise.

What many modern Libertarian-Republicans, including candidates like Rand Paul, seem to forget is Libertarianism's fundamental exception: people should be left alone to do what they please so long as their actions do not significantly harm the life, liberty, and happiness of others.

Thus, when viewed in whole, the Libertarianism philosophy is somewhat indifferent to the size of government, because government needs to possess the power to prevent people from unfairly and selfishly acting to benefit themselves to the detriment of their peers.

What does this mean? Most modern conservative positions are indefensible under the lens of Libertarianism. Rand Paul's famous questioning of the Civil Rights act has no support in Libertarianism, because discrimination clearly falls under the government's power to regulate. Gun control. Smoking prohibitions. Environmental regulations. The republican stances on these issues similarly ignore the Libertarianist exception by refusing to account for the damages that can be done when individuals are permitted to own weapons and pollute without regulation. Financial reform can also find support in Libertarianism, as allowing businesses the freedom to engage in high degrees of risky dealing poses a severe risk on everyone in our country. Finally, Republican opposition to the gay rights agenda contradicts the notion that people have the right to do what they wish when it causes no significant harm to anyone else.

Only two Republican positions fairly follow the idea of Libertarianism: (1) the idea that the federal budget needs to be balanced, and to some degree (2) abortion . . . which theoretically should balance the interests of the mother in controlling her body and the interests of the unborn child in life. However, in recent years, moderate Democrats appear to have taken up both of these positions.
 

Ockham

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Libertarianism cannot be squared with the Republican party. But don't just take my word for it:

Ok, so is it then assumed that libertarianism cannot besquared with the Democratic party as well?
 

digsbe

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And libertarian-Democrats are libertarians?
 

digsbe

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I feel to be a true libertarian you have to give the finger to both parties.

I would agree with this as neither Democrats nor Republicans reflect a libertarian philosophy. I would imagine if a libertarian held social issues to be more important they would vote Democrat. If economic issues were more important they would vote Republican.
 

Guy Incognito

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I agree with this premise.

What many modern Libertarian-Republicans, including candidates like Rand Paul, seem to forget is Libertarianism's fundamental exception: people should be left alone to do what they please so long as their actions do not significantly harm the life, liberty, and happiness of others.

Well said, I totally agree with this statement. It's like republican-libertarians only care when it's government violating the rights of the people, and they lose sight of the fact that individuals can infringe on your rights too.

Finally, Republican opposition to the gay rights agenda contradicts the notion that people have the right to do what they wish when it causes no significant harm to anyone else.

Too true. It is flagrantly unlibertarian to oppose gay rights, so why have libertarians aligned themselves with a party that is not only anti-gay but opposed to civil liberties in general?

Only two Republican positions fairly follow the idea of Libertarianism: (1) the idea that the federal budget needs to be balanced, and to some degree (2) abortion . . . which theoretically should balance the interests of the mother in controlling her body and the interests of the unborn child in life. However, in recent years, moderate Democrats appear to have taken up both of these positions.

Personally, I've always seen abortion as an area where reasonable libertarians can disagree. I think it comes down to your view on when life begins. If you think abortion is the moral equivalent of murder, it is unlibertarian to support abortion. IF you think that the foetus does not enjoy the same right to life as an actual human being, then it is unlibertarian to deny a woman the right to an abortion.
 

Guy Incognito

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I feel to be a true libertarian you have to give the finger to both parties.

Yeah, but in this system that is basically throwing your vote away. I respect ideological purity, but for those of us who want to be pragmatic, we have to pick one of the two major parties to align with. So the question is, which is closer to us? The answer: the Democratic party by a wide margin.
 

ReverendHellh0und

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I think it's more of a stretch to call the thread starter a "libertarian" than to link "republican and libertarian". Neither works.

One can not be called a libertarian while holding monetary and wealth redistribution statist views. :shrug:
 
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Guy Incognito

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Ok, so is it then assumed that libertarianism cannot besquared with the Democratic party as well?

I don't know how you took that from the original post, it's precisely the opposite of what I and Brink Lindsey are arguing. What is your argument to support this?
 

Guy Incognito

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I think it's more of a stretch to call the thread starter a "libertarian" than to link "republican and libertarian". Neither works.

One can not be called a libertarian while holding monetary and wealth redistribution statist views. :shrug:

Like I said, you don't have to take my word for it, I got my argument from the Cato Institute. I wonder if you're going to start questioning their libertarian credentials next? :lol:
 

soccerboy22

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Yeah, but in this system that is basically throwing your vote away. I respect ideological purity, but for those of us who want to be pragmatic, we have to pick one of the two major parties to align with. So the question is, which is closer to us? The answer: the Democratic party by a wide margin.

I disagree. I think it would come down more to the person whether they would vote R or D. I am actually interested to see what our other libertarians feel about this issue.
 

Guy Incognito

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Re-read what i posted. I dont view you nor republicans as libertarians.

Hey, that's cool, we're on the same page. I don't view the Tea Party as anywhere close to libertarians, either. They're about as authoritarian as you can get.
 

ReverendHellh0und

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What does the tea party have to do with anything you are wrong as usual btw.


Also i think this author is not using liberal as you think

Left-libertarian is an oxymoron
 

Cameron

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Too true. It is flagrantly unlibertarian to oppose gay rights, so why have libertarians aligned themselves with a party that is not only anti-gay but opposed to civil liberties in general?
Not all Libertarians do so. For example, Warren Redlich in New York is in favor of gay marriage.

Some Libertarians justify their position by arguing that the government should step out of the "marriage business" altogether. I don't necessarily see anything morally wrong with that position (as I do with the more blatantly anti-gay Republican-conservative positions). However, I don't see how Libertarianism compels such a view. Nothing about Libertarianism suggests to me that the government cannot offer incentives for individuals to act in socially beneficial ways.

I think that many modern politicians (and people in general) have started to equate Libertarianism with classic anti-Federalism. But they are completely distinct from one another.
 

Ockham

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I don't know how you took that from the original post, it's precisely the opposite of what I and Brink Lindsey are arguing. What is your argument to support this?

A question mark - usually indicated a question is being answered. The OP identified libertariansm does not square with the Republican party so I'm asking if Libertarianism squares with the Democratic party and that's a question. And you already answered it, tha in your opinion, if you had to choose Democrats (ie., progressive liberalism) is more in line with Libertarian values than Republicans. And if that's true, that's sad. I would think Libertariansm is closer to Conservatism --- whether or not that Conservatism is based in a (R) or (D) ideology. I know only a few Libertarians on DP I would trust in their views of Libertariansm and Ikari probably tops the list and he's been consistent for years on multiple forum boards about what is and is not Libertariansm. I'm not sure your view is correct and if it is, like I said, it's sad.
 

Guy Incognito

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A question mark - usually indicated a question is being answered. The OP identified libertariansm does not square with the Republican party so I'm asking if Libertarianism squares with the Democratic party and that's a question. And you already answered it, tha in your opinion, if you had to choose Democrats (ie., progressive liberalism) is more in line with Libertarian values than Republicans. And if that's true, that's sad. I would think Libertariansm is closer to Conservatism --- whether or not that Conservatism is based in a (R) or (D) ideology. I know only a few Libertarians on DP I would trust in their views of Libertariansm and Ikari probably tops the list and he's been consistent for years on multiple forum boards about what is and is not Libertariansm. I'm not sure your view is correct and if it is, like I said, it's sad.

I guess I don't understand your view of proper libertarianism. I think the quotes in the OP made it clear how the Democratic party is closer to libertarian ideals than the Republican party. Who supported civil rights and desegregation? Who supports equal rights for gays? etc.

Republicans do not support libertarian the libertarian ideal of social liberalism. They do purport to support the libertarian ideal of economic (classical) liberalism, but in practice they betray that ideal too.
 
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Cameron

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Hey, that's cool, we're on the same page. I don't view the Tea Party as anywhere close to libertarians, either. They're about as authoritarian as you can get.
One Tea Party position I forgot to mention in my original post is at least somewhat Libertarian, in my opinion. That is their opposition to the health care mandate.

As a starting point, I would expect Libertarians to believe that the government should not be permitted to force people to buy health insurance: people should be able to save and hedge risks as they wish. However, I would also expect Libertarians to account for the reality that many people who irresponsibly refuse to join a health care plan and refuse (or are inable) to save on their own inevitably cost innocent third parties money in exercising this "right to be left alone."

For example, some might refuse to buy health insurance, but then go into the hospital and receive emergency treatment they cannot pay for, burdening those who played by the rules. Or uncovered individuals might sign onto a health insurance plan the day after they realize they have an expensive disease, thus avoiding their fair share of costs up until that point. Given the negatives on both sides, I think Libertarians could reasonably come out on either end of the spectrum.
 

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Well said, I totally agree with this statement. It's like republican-libertarians only care when it's government violating the rights of the people, and they lose sight of the fact that individuals can infringe on your rights too.

Yeah, well, unfortunately for you, libertarian views are concerned with government.

You want to claim that it's "libertarian" to use the government to stop individuals from "violating" the rights of others (and no doubt there's a great deal of self-service in your definition of same).

Unless, of course, you want to define "libertarian" along the lines of the anarcho-socialists, in which case, you're talking about something entirely different and your OP is meaningless.
 

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Unless you don't care to exert any political influence at all, you are all but required to square with one of two political parties in the U.S. Republican or Democratic.

To suggest that libertarians can't or shouldn't do that is silly. In fact, some blurbs from tea partiers I hear are "we want to change the republican party to be more libertarian". How would you do that without interfacing with the Republican party?
 

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I guess I don't understand your view of proper libertarianism.
And I guess I don't understand yours either.

I think the quotes in the OP made it clear how the Democratic party is closer to libertarian ideals than the Republican party. Who supported civil rights and desegregation? Who supports equal rights for gays? etc.
The use of the word "liberalism" isn't today referencing the 18th or 19th century view or definition of the word. Liberalism today has more in common with Progressivism than traditional views of Liberalism. And while we untangle ourselves from labels, the major point here is this - Progressives won't have you. Progressives today are as partisan biting gnashing teeth nincompoops as the hardest Conservative ideologue. The difference is, Progressives will throw Libertarians under the bus before any of their own, which they also do regularly. When I look at the Libertarian Party platform, I don't see Progressives or Liberals - I see a moderate Conservative view. If you choose to buy off on Lindsey's view of Libertarianism, that's your choice. But I don't think you'll get a majority agreement that Liberaltarians is an accurate description. The tents of all political party's have gray area's and some tents are bigger than others. If you think throwing in with Progressives is the way to go, the Conservatives will still be here to wipe the mud off you when they throw you out on your ass by not supporting the next big spending bill or backing some Progressive pet project.
 

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I guess I don't understand your view of proper libertarianism. I think the quotes in the OP made it clear how the Democratic party is closer to libertarian ideals than the Republican party. Who supported civil rights and desegregation? Who supports equal rights for gays? etc.

Republicans do not support libertarian the libertarian ideal of social liberalism. They do purport to support the libertarian ideal of economic (classical) liberalism, but in practice they betray that ideal too.



uhm, the Republicans?


:failpail:
 

Ikari

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I agree with this premise.

What many modern Libertarian-Republicans, including candidates like Rand Paul, seem to forget is Libertarianism's fundamental exception: people should be left alone to do what they please so long as their actions do not significantly harm the life, liberty, and happiness of others.

Thus, when viewed in whole, the Libertarianism philosophy is somewhat indifferent to the size of government, because government needs to possess the power to prevent people from unfairly and selfishly acting to benefit themselves to the detriment of their peers.

What does this mean? Most modern conservative positions are indefensible under the lens of Libertarianism. Rand Paul's famous questioning of the Civil Rights act has no support in Libertarianism, because discrimination clearly falls under the government's power to regulate. Gun control. Smoking prohibitions. Environmental regulations. The republican stances on these issues similarly ignore the Libertarianist exception by refusing to account for the damages that can be done when individuals are permitted to own weapons and pollute without regulation. Financial reform can also find support in Libertarianism, as allowing businesses the freedom to engage in high degrees of risky dealing poses a severe risk on everyone in our country. Finally, Republican opposition to the gay rights agenda contradicts the notion that people have the right to do what they wish when it causes no significant harm to anyone else.

Only two Republican positions fairly follow the idea of Libertarianism: (1) the idea that the federal budget needs to be balanced, and to some degree (2) abortion . . . which theoretically should balance the interests of the mother in controlling her body and the interests of the unborn child in life. However, in recent years, moderate Democrats appear to have taken up both of these positions.

I think for the most part this is correct. However, I would say that libertarian policy wouldn't be completely indifferent to the size of government. You have hit on several things I have always said. Libertarians are not anarchists. Meaning that we understand that there is a necessity for some government. We're not all in the Austrian economics camp, meaning we understand that there is proper place for oversight and regulation. This is all true. And as you have stated it comes from the basis that people should be free to do whatever they want so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. And because of that caveat, we actually need government.

However, size does matter. Because while government is a necessity to secure the free exercise of our rights, to promote liberty to ourselves and our posterity, too much government can and does have the opposite effect. I view much of libertarian philosophy as a minarchist philosophy. Meaning that while we understand the necessity of government and the proper role it can play; there is something known as "too much" government. Over regulation or overzealous policing, things which can infringe upon our rights and liberties. As government grows, it inherently collects the other negative side effects (for lack of a better word). So I think there is some concern on size of government because while we need it and while it has proper roll; it can become a hazard in and of itself if not properly constrained.

But that's really the only "complaint" (again for lack of a better word) I would have. I think the assessment you've made is fair and accurate. We cannot abide by the Republican party, I would say we cannot abide by the Democrat party either. Both want to expand their power and influence over the People. Proper government would be first and foremost concerned with the security of our rights and liberties. Even the Democrats voted for the Patriot Act.
 

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We cannot abide by the Republican party, I would say we cannot abide by the Democrat party either. Both want to expand their power and influence over the People. Proper government would be first and foremost concerned with the security of our rights and liberties. Even the Democrats voted for the Patriot Act.


This is why I don't buy Lindsey's view of a Liberaltarian. I see libertarians as rejecting the shared view of both Democrats and Republicans that government is there to serve them and to grow their power based. By throwing in Libertarians in with Liberals - I see that as an inherent contradiction to what Libertarians and their platform want and stand for. This part of the OP:
Brink Lindsey said:
I’m a libertarian becase I’m a liberal. In other words, I support small-government, free-market policies because I believe they provide the institutional framework best suited to advancing the liberal values of individual autonomy, tolerance, and open-mindedness. Liberalism is my bottom line; libertarianism is a means to promoting that end.

...doesn't sit right with me and I only have some libertarian leanings.
 
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