Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Libertarian Democrat

Apparently, Kos from Daily Kos is stealing my thunder, and declaring that he too is a "Libertarian Democrat." What does that mean?

A Libertarian Dem rejects government efforts to intrude in our bedrooms and churches. A Libertarian Dem rejects government "Big Brother" efforts, such as the NSA spying of tens of millions of Americans. A Libertarian Dem rejects efforts to strip away rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights -- from the First Amendment to the 10th. And yes, that includes the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.

So far, this isn't much different than what a traditional libertarian believes. Here is where it begins to differ (and it shouldn't).

A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement -- we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on.

This is a bit ridiculous. If "social net programs" such as universal health care are defined as "libertarian," then the word has lost all meaning as a political identifier. Moreover, Kos's examples of "libertarianism" would be an anethma to many if not most self-identifying libertarians. Accepting his premise that "liberty" includes freedom of movement, most libertarians (even left-leaning ones) would introduce market-based reforms and privatization to mass transportation, to encourage innovation and lower costs (e.g., more private toll roads). Same with "strong crime prevention" -- almost universally, libertarians favor radical decriminalization of drugs and deescalation of the drug war.

Still, the underlying premise is sound: there is an opportunity for Democrats to become the party of individual freedom, a party that opposes big corporations and big government alike. I'll have more to say about this soon.


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