LIBERTARIAN DEMOCRATS. ...

LIBERTARIAN DEMOCRATS. On the eve of YearlyKos, Markos himself has penned possibly the first full account of his personal political philosophy. He is, he says, a "Libertarian Democrat." It's a style he's stealing from the Western Democrats like Brian Schweitzer, Jon Tester, Jim Webb, and Paul Hackett and hoping to popularize as a "progressivism for a new century" in an upcoming book.

According to Kos, libertarians believe only two forces can impinge on personal liberty -- individuals, and government. "The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty -- the corporation." So too, it seems, can personal liberty be checked by lack of access to health care, or exploitation in the workplace. So the Libertarian Democrat believes government should step in to prevent such limitations of freedom. Sometimes. Kos also says that the Libertarian Dems' "first proposed solution to a problem facing our nation shouldn't be more regulation, more government programs, more bureaucracy." From second-term Bill Clinton's mouth to his ears.

Indeed, "Libertarian Democrat" strikes me as confusing framing -- Kos is describing nothing so much as a socially laissez-faire populist with a patina of New Democrat market affection. A synthesis of current tendencies, rather than a new approach. And this philosophy doesn't seem to say much about foreign policy, though Kos's next book, which he promises will offer a further explication of this faction, might rectify that.

Nevertheless, I'm skeptical. Tester, Schweitzer, Webb, and Hackett don't share an ideology, they share a muscular authenticity. And if that's what Kos means, he should say so. As it is, "libertarianism" already has a meaning -- it's a philosophy of individualism, and that's not the direction progressivism tends to point towards. Nor is it the direction Kos tends to drift towards. We'll see, but for now, my hunch is Markos is trying to turn the style of his favorite politicians into a political philosophy. Maybe he'll prove me wrong this weekend.

--Ezra Klein

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