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Leftists and Libertarians Shocked To Find They Agree

Lakshmi Chaudhry has written a column examining chances for a left-libertarian alliance [AlterNet]. The column focuses on the recent direction of articles from the Cato Institute, which have made bold stands for civil liberties, against corporate welfare, and against the ever-expanding military-security Leviathan of the "War on Terrorism."

This shouldn’t come as that much a surprise. Cato has always held a good line on issues such as foreign policy towards the Mideast (1991) and corporate welfare (1995). The supposed animosity between Cato and the Left is based on fights that emerged from Cato’s role in fueling the economic policies of the 1994 Republican Reaction. But of course, the Republicans never seriously followed Cato; they merely altered the nature of tax-and-manage bureaucratic coercion. They turned welfare into a government-sponsored temp agency for shitty dead-end labor. And they never saw a massive corporate welfare boondoggle they didn’t like. Meanwhile, Cato kept calling for a society based on free association and mutual aid—not State privilege for corporations and a hawkish military.

The move towards a more robust and self-conscious Left-Libertarian alliance is emerging as the natural consequence of the growth of the "War on Terrorism," which like all global warfare, naturally brings the nexus of economic, military, and governmental power into the starkest relief. When the military-industrial Leviathan rises from the sea, it naturally draws together those who are fighting government power and those who are fighting boss power. The last time this happened on a wide scale, the radical libertarian Murray Rothbard allied with the radical left in the Peace and Freedom Party against the Vietnam War and imperialist "anti-Communism" worldwide, and the repression of dissent at home. And the "War on Terrorism" is now playing the same role. Former Libertarian Presidential candidate Harry Browne has written a column condemning United States foreign policy as "terrorism" and urging against a second war on Iraq. Cato itself has published a lengthy report addressing the need to understand the "root causes" of terrorism against the United States and urging an end to military interventionism overseas. Leftist and Libertarians are being brought together as government policy increasingly seems designed with the explicit purpose of proving the dictum, "War is the health of the State."

This is all for the best. I’ve been urging the Left to look to Libertarianism for a while, and I don’t think this should come as much of a surprise. The struggle for social justice is a struggle for equity and against power and privilege. And Libertarianism, properly conceived, is a struggle against the power and privilege of the government over the governed. Now, a lot of members of the Libertarian Party are little more than Young Republican rejects who don’t think that the Republicans go far enough on social welfare or public education. But at their best, the Libertarians have a lot to teach those of us on the Left who have remained too complacent about the bureaucratic State as a solution to societal ills. And the Left has a lot to teach Libertarians about the ways in which the systematic power of "private" hierarchies and exploitations undermine the necessary psychological and cultural conditions for maintaining a free and open society, even if they do not directly involve the use of physical violence. Statism in the polity is deeply linked with authoritarianism in the society, and we need to fight them together.

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  1. Taylor

    Lakshmi Chaudhry can’t write a word without first consulting her FRAMING BY Lakoff book. She’s useless. (Wasn’t she putting out “Osama is a myth in 1998?”)
    You make good points but you give her a pass. She’s got no original ideas and with her war-war-war! of late, she’s really got nothing to swipe. (Though surely she’s practicing that framing — may she frame herself right over to the right already.)

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