RETURN OF THE...

RETURN OF THE LIBERTARIAN DEMOCRATS. Writing in this month's Cato Unbound, Markos lays out the case for Libertarian Democrats -- a socially libertarian, fiscally moderate ideology he's been formulating over the past couple of months. Reading the essay, it would seem we could as easily be talking about Technocratic Democrats, or Silicon Valley voters, or some fraction of the electorate completely driven by upwardly mobile, white collar concerns. His primary examples of the market's magic are how Google outraced Microsoft, and how Indians have ascended to high positions in software development. All good things, but potentially limited in explanatory or predictive potential when you slip down a couple rungs on the economic ladder.

Backing slowly away from the specific instances he cites, Kos's schema seems to be in the positive freedoms model. Lauding the government's role in infrastructure creation and universal K-12, he writes that "[t]his isn�t a question of equality, it�s one of opportunity. Some people will take advantage of those opportunities, and others will not. That will be up to each individual. But without opportunity, there is no freedom." Replying to this, Shakes wonders "Where do issues like the government�s responsibility to provide a social safety net fall into the 'Libertarian Democrat' paradigm? What about socialized or universal healthcare?" Going off past writings from Kos, I'd guess that this opportunity-in-service-of-freedom agenda may well expand to include universal health care, more generous pensions, asset building, and other items on the progressive wish list. Which I'm all for. So maybe it's one big happy family

I do wonder, though, how far progressives will really get buying into the demonization of government and the deification of the individual. Kos hits at something important when he approvingly cites a diarist musing that "corporations are becoming more powerful than governments." If you believe the country lacks appropriate countervailing powers for business, if government is too weak to effectively balance out the interests of corporations and the common good, aligning yourself with an anti-statist ideology that can sneak in social programs under the cover of an "opportunity" agenda may not prove the savviest play.

Indeed, it sounds like what Kos is actually arguing for is a strong government that protects competition and innovation by counterbalancing corporations and ensuring individuals have a range of social insurance programs, educational opportunities, and public goods available to them. It looks to me like that agenda will make government bigger, though not redundantly or uselessly so, and it will certainly entrust it with greater responsibility. "Libertarian" may be the label du jour, but progressive is much more accurate. And if that is in fact the case, and I'm not misinterpreting Kos at some crucial juncture, then the project he and others should be engaged in is rescuing government from its current rhetorical revilement, not buying into the label and frames of its most determined opponents.

--Ezra Klein

You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)

Connect
, after login or registration your account will be connected.
Advertisement