More liberaltarianism

On the definitional questions, this is where I usually hope Devin will jump in and clarify everything in a few sentences. I think of progressivism as the modern state religion. That makes it tough to define – how would someone in the middle ages have defined his religion? It would have been hard for such a hypothetical citizen of the middle ages. Religion just was for him – much like progressivism just is for us today. At best, you can only hope to catch dark glances of what progressivism really is. The reactionary seeks to escape this state of affairs.

Back to liberaltarianism, Aretae says:

While it is perhaps true that the Wilkinson/Lindsey project of convincing power-hungry DC Apparatchiks that a market would solve their problem better than the government is foolhardy…it is substantially less foolhardy to attempt to convince the black parents of the country, and many of their sympathizers that public schools are a government conspiracy to keep them down…and that a free market in education, perhaps (unhappily) voucher-funded, would be 100x better than the crap they’ve been getting for the last 50-100 years. There’s a real difference between addressing the concerns of the progressive on the street who thinks the poor need help, and addressing the concerns of the Washington establishment who thinks that the poor need to be managed.

I think this misunderstands progressivism. To "solve their problems" without government is not a possibility for progressivism. No such state of the world is possible in the progressive vision. Such a "solution" would not represent a compromise but a total destruction of progressivism.

Think of progressive achievements: institution of the income tax, direct election of senators, abolition of alcohol (this, by the way is simply unforgivable), women’s suffrage, the civil rights bill, affirmative action, equal opportunity laws, etc.

What do all these things have in common? They make government bigger. State intervention is equivalent to solving problems. This is true even for apparently "libertarian" victories. Progressives, for example, might claim credit for ending abortion (an arguably libertarian or un-libertarian view). But their victory came about in such a way that eventually still grows government. They want legalized abortion, so now you have to sell contraceptives if you own a hospital or pharmacy. To make the Constitution protect this right, they invented a new Constitutional protection. This precedent will allow them to expand and mold the state in any way they see fit in the future. This state of affairs is not a boon for liberty, unless liberty is so narrowly defined as to become meaningless or, at best, highly subjective.

If their goal is to make government bigger and your goal is to reduce the size of government, you cannot compromise.

I mock liberaltarians because it doesn’t recognize this obvious point (and one more, see the next paragraph). The best that can be said of liberaltarianism is that it politely asks government to please stop using some of its powers without doing anything to actually limit those powers. The net result is generally increased government powers that are temporarily used in more friendly ways. Could you possibly design a better losing strategy? This strategy makes modern conservatism seem brilliantly effective by comparison.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, progressivism doesn’t need to compromise. On a long time scale, it basically always wins (at least for the last several hundred years).

2 Responses to More liberaltarianism

  1. aretae says:

    My issue is pretty simple.

    There are folks…and I know a lot of folks (my parents, say) who are attached to protecting the weak and in general attached to equality-approaches…but who have no attachment to government solutions.

    My experience interacting with non-political folks (who don’t live in DC) is that they care about the poor, but they don’t care about whether the government does the work.

    The government-dwellers and the DC folks disagree, but that constitutes only the political class, not the actual progressives on the ground.

    So what do you call the (In my experience the majority of) “liberals” who care about the poor and (rightly) think that conservative and standard libertarian policies look like they’re going to screw the poor, but are not attached to using the government to solve the problem.

    I’ve been calling them progressives. And I think that you can break political affiliations into 4 categories:

    Conservatives think things are mostly good, and that we should first and foremost, not break them.

    Progressives (my word) think that making things better for the poor/weak is a higher priority than not breaking what works.

    Libertarians think that (negative) liberty is a higher priority than either stability or protecting the weak.

    The Political Class thinks that government should get more authority.

    I think that you’re talking about the political class when you say progressive. I’m talking about the standard liberal-on-the-street, not the civil servant/academic/politician. Trent Lott, for instance is a Political Class representative, who has a thin veneer of conservativism painted over.

  2. […] Foseti – “My Beef with Liberal-Tarianism“, “In Defense of Pessimism“, “More Liberaltarianism” […]

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