Open University

Credit Where It's Due


by Jacob T. LevyI hope to have a substantial post sometime soon about Brink Lindsay's "Liberaltarians," (I usually dislike ideological neologisms, but that one tickles my fancy). Brink is singing my song; both in politics and in political theory I've been firmly on the liberal-libertarian side, and impatient with libertarian-conservative fusionism, for years now. (Indeed, this has been my default topic of conversation and argument with Todd Seavey, my oldest libertarian friend, for some 15 years; and of course co-blogger Dan and I made up an awkward two-member "University of Chicago libertarians for Kerry" caucus a couple of years ago.)

But I wanted to note that Belle Waring was there long ago. Unlike Kos' more recent and high-profile proposal for "libertarian Democrats" in which, as Julian Sanchez notes, "libertarian" serves as an "inert qualifier," Belle lightheartedly but genuinely discussed items of genuine overlap and shared concern.

After six years of George W. Bush, it seems to me that it's easy to see the way toward a political program of a smaller, more progressive, more honest, more competent, and more law-bound government. And indeed, through free trade and the elimination of agricultural subsidies, such a government would be more progressive worldwide. Indeed, I think it would be entirely healthy for libertarians to say--even without any courting from the left--that at any given size of government, a more progressive, more honest, more competent, and more law-bound government is preferable. Sometimes we've talked as though the size of government (or, worse, only the size of the present tax burden) morally mattered, and I think that's part of what's made some of our prospective friends to the left correctly skeptical of us. I'm glad Brink (and Julian, and Will Wilkinson) are pointing out a better way. Like Will, I can say that "the project Brink mentions, melding the best of Rawls and Hayek and identifying feasible policies of a Rawlsekian stripe, is very dear to my heart;" and it's one that I think libertarians should be pursuing even independently of trying to put ourselves up for political auction. That also helps immunize liberaltarianism from the inevitable short-term disappointments of really-existing Democratic interest-group politics.

(Speaking of "Rawlsekian," comic book geeks such as myself have to love this passage from Julian: " If we already had substantially the same policy views, we wouldn't need to be talking about an "alliance" because we'd already be one wacky Amalgam Universe political movement, and I'd be pondering the legacy of Ayn Sinclair's Jurgis Shrugged in the pages of The Reasonable Prospect." Much better than the various kissing-and-dating metaphors that have been floating around and which tend to inspire awkwward visualizations...)

But, to reemphasize: Belle was there first.

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