Can Liberals and Libertarians Unite?

Todd Seavey asks the question here.

“I don’t know if a “liberaltarian” alliance will work, but it does seem more productive, intelligent, and civil than the site RedState’s reaction to Democratic dominance: the creation of Operation: Leper, their plan to spend the next few years reminding the conservative base which specific operatives from the McCain campaign badmouthed Sarah Palin to the media — and even working against any candidates who hire said operatives.  Yeah, that sounds…healthy…much like Salieri’s reaction to Mozart in Amadeus.”

Read his full article in Reason magazine here. The rift with right conservatism reinforced by election results as they have continued to come in seems to impact the notion of liberaltarianism. It also clearly reveals that the connections are palpable and substantive rather than simply a reactionary position. Hopefully the dialogue here can foster a constructionist position uniquely situated to support a large swathe of the voter populace that are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

See Michelle Malkin’s blog for more on Operation: Leper. If this is the direction that the GOP and its base chooses to go, I would argue that it is counter-productive, destructive, and will continue to lose appeal to both right and left libertarians who would rather focus on actually reforming government rather than giving reform empty lip-service while chasing failed presidential campaign runs. There are other destructive paths the GOP can take if the base continues to be defined by the Religious Right agenda as I argue elsewhere here.

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About Drew Tatusko

Andrew Tatusko is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (1999, 2000) from which he earned an M.Div. and Th.M. There he focused on philosophical theology, philosophy of education, and postmodern theory. From there he was a senior instructional designer at Seton Hall University where he worked on initiatives to integrate technology into teaching and learning. Currently he is the program activity director for a Title III grant to integrate technology into teaching, learning, retention and advising at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA. He currently lives in Duncansville, PA with wife Brenna, sons Alexander and Evan, Stella (Rhodesian Ridgeback mix) and Sophie (Rhodesian Ridgeback) and two cats Digit and Kit Kat. Drew has published articles on postmodern theory, theology, and education. He is working on his dissertation in an effort to complete the Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership, Management and Policy at Seton Hall University. The focus of the dissertation in on the influence of theological tradition on policy development in religiously-affiliated higher education since the 1970’s. He also played drums with a band called Green Marie which put out its first CD before Drew left in the summer of 2006. Drew is now taking a break from playing music to work on healing from Lyme disease which he contracted from a tick while planting trees in the backyard in July 2007. He also needs to finish that dreaded dissertation project at some point while still eligible. Drew went to Colonel Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville, MD and went to Westiminster College in New Wilimington PA with B.A. in Religious Studies.

7 thoughts on “Can Liberals and Libertarians Unite?

  1. Socially liberal and fiscally conservative is what I learned as the definition of libertarianism. I would be interested to hear your views on what the difference is between libertarianism and liber(al)tarianism.

    What are the problems with libertarianism, and what can liberalism bring to the table to fix those problems?

    Is liber(al)tarianism about a political alliance between liberals and libertarians, or is it about patching up some holes in libertarianism, or is it about fundamental philosophical differences?

  2. @Drew — Welcome to the conversation!

    The more I use the liberal+libertarian formula, the more I find a wide variety of interpretations for it. I think yours (liberal on social issues, libertarian on fiscal ones) is the most similar to the one Brink Lindsey articulates.

    @Bob — great questions. They were the same ones I had after reading the Lindsey article. Still, I do think there is value in forming an alliance between liberals and libertarians, mostly because in the encounter between two ideologies, both are usually transformed to some degree. I suspect that where you are in your political philosophy is where classic liberals and libertarians will eventually end up after walking in one anothers’ shoes for awhile.

    My own brand of liberaltarianism is more akin to what has been called “anarcho-socialism.” I have my brother Joe, who posted an article here awhile back, to thank for that term. Since I know his variety of liberaltarianism is similar, I’m hoping he’ll write more about that soon.

    Anyhow, I think there is great discussion potential here among liberaltarians of all persuasions.

  3. I hope my response didn’t come out sounding too harsh. I didn’t mean it that way. When I said, “the problems with libertarianism”, I assumed you see some problems since if there weren’t any there would be no need for liber(al)tarianism.

    And I have no problem with a liberal-libertarian political alliance, but my definition of liberaltarianism is not about a political alliance. Good point, Neal, about political alliances helping ideologies mature.

    Mostly, after reading the post I was wondering if you, dtatusko, self identify as a liber(al)tarian, and if so how is your definition of liber(al)tarian different than just libertarian.

    In any case, I look forward to productive discussions.

  4. I too would be fine if there were an alliance with liberals and libertarians or the Democratic and Libertarian parties. There is a faction of Democrats that call themselves the “freedom caucus” or “Libertarian-Democrats”. More people advancing civil liberty is always positive. However, should this mean greater deregulation of the economy, then I think that our current economic plight as well as the long history of the plight of nations whom we forced to “liberalize” their economies through institutions such as the World Bank and IMF should be enough to cause us to seriously reconsider. I would like to see more awareness of the long tradition of “libertarian-socialism”, “left-libertarianism” or just plain “libertarianism” as it is identified in Europe where the “libertarian-capitalism” of the American Libertarian Party is seen as having little creditability and is virtually unheard of in public discourse. Should more people understand that multi-national corporations and an oppressive state are two sides on the same coin, and that “free market theory” is only license for this two-faced enemy to exist, then discussion of systems which promote freedom and equality could occur.

  5. I think liberalism and libertarianism can become a successful confluence if and only if they temper each other with common sense. My problem with liberalism is that it too often coddles members of society to create a dirty underbelly of people who not only do not contribute to society, but actually detract from it. Also, there seems to be little concern with financial accountability. My problem with libertarianism is that there is no consideration for the actual state of society. If you start all men in the state of nature, then you could build a proper libertarian society, but since we can’t start with the state of nature, you have people who are totally incapable of living under libertarianism without some help (which ought to lead to their ability to stand on their own two feet).

  6. @Bob

    Once you get to know me, you will find that nothing is too harsh. Especially when coming from good thinking folk like yourself 😉

    Sorry for such a delayed response…

    Keep in mind that I am still kind of new to this particular discourse so I am not as well read as I should be. But I am reading Brink Lindsey’s Age of Abundance (fantastic book BTW, best on the topic of consumerism out there and I have read a lot of them). And I read publications from Cato which drew me into the libertarian conversation this election season. The thinking and articulation is, I think, so much better than anywhere else.

    My reading of much of the libertarian material, including left-libertarian ideas which are so far incongruous at best, shows a rather troubling void with respect to how the state regulates justice. I do not think of this in terms of rights. I think of this in terms of each member in a social structure’s fundamental obligation to cooperation in order to maximize human welfare. Rights are passive zones that the state is seen as a protector. Obligation however is an active movement of members of a social structure to see that every member has an equal opportunity to work and succeed. But I do not believe, pragmatically, that people will act this way out of the goodness of their hearts. I have on my list to read Rawls followed by Nozick, but I think I will come out somewhere in the middle. We will see.

    The problem that is not well enough addressed in what I have read thus far is what to do with the fundamental flaws of human nature such as greed and the horrific track record people have with how they wield their freedom without regulation. Adam & Eve, and Cain and Abel give us the first myths of this problem. Sadly these are microcosms of something far more hard-wired in all people. If you can do it and get away with it, you probably will. Unless of course someone tells you to stop.

    So that is where the liberal in me comes out. I am highly skeptical that a free market can regulate itself unless there is oversight to create a structure of obligation. This goes beyond government protecting individual rights but creating a structure that invites people to sacrifice their own aggrandized wealth for the good of the whole. The important term is “invites”. Forcing altruism results in socialism which to my mind is slavery – even in a seemingly benign form. Besides, forced altruism is an oxymoron.

    But I’ll stop there…

  7. @ Denise “liberalism…coddles members of society to create a dirty underbelly of people who not only do not contribute to society, but actually detract from it.” I think you are blaming the victims of oppressive system and those trying to do something about it, even if their efforts fall short of addressing the root problem.

    “you have people who are totally incapable of living under libertarianism.” You place the root of the problem with the oppressed individuals and groups, as opposed to the system that oppresses. It is not that the system is trying to help, but is ineffectual and therefore causes a puny and week “underbelly”. The problem is that the system is oppressive in the first place.

    Change the system and these social problems will greatly be curtailed. The anti-social reactions of the oppressed are a natural response. It would be much more pathological for the oppressed to be adjusted to a racist and oppressive system.

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