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Libertarians for the New Deal

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 16 years ago, in 2006, on the World Wide Web.

Ever wondered how to become a libertarian without even trying? It’s simple: Kos breaks it down for you in a recent post. His new addition to the political bestiary is the Libertarian Dem:

Traditional libertarianism holds that government is evil and thus must be minimized. Any and all government intrusion is bad. … 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.

… Of course, this also means that government isn’t always the solution to the nation’s problems. There are times when business-government partnerships can be extremely effective (such as job retraining efforts for displaced workers). … The key here isn’t universal liberty from government intrusion, but policies that maximize individual freedom, and who can protect those individual freedoms best from those who would infringe.

And, just so we’re clear, we are also informed that the Libertarian Dem supports (1) tax-funded government highways and transit systems, (2) ex-ante government environmental regulation, (3) managerial government control over wages and working conditions, (4) Social Security and government healthcare. But you can rest easy knowing that the Libertarian Dem does not view government as the solution for everything.

Or, in other words, Libertarian Dem is Kos’s new phrase for just another damn corporate liberal whose libertarian apparently consists in supporting the entire New Deal state — except maybe for gun control — and using bold, new rhetoric that you could have nicked directly from Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech in order to explain it.

Those of you who’ve been reading for a while may know that I’ve hammered on for a while about the virtues of a libertarian Left ideology, a libertarian critique of robber baron corporatism, and the possible benefits of strategic alliances between existing Leftist and libertarian tendencies.

In case you were wondering, I think that trusting the chief enabler and weapon of the plutocrats to effectively check their power, building up a Leviathan in order to protect you from Behemoth, and making sure that we find lots more opportunities for business-government partnerships, are not quite what I meant.

This may be the single most intellectually vapid post I have ever read on Kos’s website.

Further reading:

3 replies to Libertarians for the New Deal Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. labyrus

    Traditional libertarianism holds that government is evil and thus must be minimized.

    First of all, I wonder which libertarian tradition he’s thinks of as traditional. Secondly, “minimizing” government power is what liberals (such as the people that post on Daily Kos) are for.

    Although at least there is slightly less hypocrisy in the positions of so-called libertarian Democrats who actually advocate low-level wealth distribution than in the so-called libertarian republicans who demand that the state protect their property at the barrel of a gun. If you’re going to be selective about which kinds of state power you oppose, I suppose it’s best to at least have a somewhat sensible rationale.

    I’ve got to say, more generally, that I’ve always appreciated your posts about left libertarianism, as someone who identifies far more with socialist anarchism, these posts give me a perspective on pro-capitalist libertarianism that I didn’t have before.

  2. Nessus (#atheism)

    Heathen, I was wondering: where would you differentiate yourself from, say, social anarchism?

    Because most of the social anarchists I know are obviously completely against any form of government (or hiarchy for that matter), but don’t consider themselves libertarians either.

    Just wondering what major distinctions you’d make.

  3. Rad Geek

    Hey Nessus! Good to hear from you.

    For what it’s worth, a lot of social anarchists do consider themselves libertarians; they point out that the word was originally coined to refer to anarchist socialism, claim that capitalist libertarians have hijacked the word, and are pretty sore about it. (Cf. for example The Anarchist FAQ, A.1.3.) It’s connected with the fight over whether anarcho-capitalists qualify as anarchists, and I think the whole thing is pretty silly on both sides. (Capitalist libertarians are often genuinely ignorant of the origins of the word, and mount all kinds of strawman arguments to prove that anarchist socialists are the ones who aren’t really anarchists. Social anarchists are being needlessly pedantic, and also distorting the history of the anarchist movement in order to try to define anarcho-capitalists out of the tradition.)

    Anyway, while I pay attention to a lot of anarcho-capitalists, capitalist libertarians, etc. I’d actually define myself as a socialist anarchist rather than a capitalist one — following the tradition of individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner.

    Like Tucker and Spooner, I lay a lot of stress on the right to personal property and I have a pretty healthy respect for the virtues of free markets — but not for actually existing capitalism, which (like them) I consider to be a piratical system, based on mercantilist privilege for big business, rather than on the free market. (You can find a lot on this theme in my Fellow Workers articles.) Unlike the 19th century individualists, I accept quite a bit of Austrian economic theory and reject the labor theory of value — although I think that Austrian economic theory properly understood actually supports the individualists’ economic ideas better than it supports those of mainstream capitalist libertarians.

    Generally speaking, I’d like to see my comrades amongst the social anarchists to become more pro-market, and my comrades amongst the anarcho-capitalists to become more anti-corporate. I’d also like to see both sides realize that while there are some hefty substantial differences between them, there’s also a lot of important commonality, and that both have a lot to contribute to understanding and resisting statism.

    There are also some philosophical differences that divide me from certain camps of socialist anarchists. E.g. like Spooner but unlike egoists and many anarcho-communists, I believe in inalienable natural rights, which inhere in each individual person, and I think that the radical political equality that those rights entail is the proper basis for anarchist political theory. That affects some of my views on property use and land ownership; it also affects my view of when, and against whom, revolutionary violence can be justified. I think that individual people have a lot more leeway in how they can acquire and use property than some other socialist anarchists do; I also think that revolutionary violence can be legitimated but must be much more limited in its targets than many other socialist anarchists think.

    I don’t know how much that answers, but I guess it’s a start.

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