Friday, August 29, 2008

Libertarian Democrat Themes In Sen Obama's Acceptance Speech

Here are some libertarian Democrat highlights from Sen. Obama's marvelous acceptance speech:

"It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will...It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth...Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems...That's the promise of America -- the idea that we are responsible for ourselves...I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow...I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95 percent of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class...But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need."

Now, I realize that I have edited his comments in order to emphasize the libertarian aspects of his speech, which includes quite a bit that is not libertarian. My point is that Sen. Obama did indeed give some libertarian flavor to his speech, which I take to be quite important. I'm not saying that Sen. Obama is a libertarian Democrat, but that he does acknowledge some aspects of our ideas. That's a good start.

Many will believe that Sen. Obama is paying lip-service to these ideas, and doesn't really believe in them. I disagree, and believe that time will prove me correct. Wishful thinking? Isn't all political thinking?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ron Chusid On Obama

Ron Chusid has a terrific post on Liberal Values entitled "Libertarians On Obama". Here's the conclusion:

"As Bill Clinton said during the primary race, voting for Obama is a gamble. My bet is that Obama will not only be better than George Bush but will also be better than Bill Clinton, both from a liberal and a libertarian perspective. This assumes that by liberal one does not mean old-style big-government liberals as obviously Obama cannot please both Hillary Clinton-style Nanny State liberals and libertarians simultaneously."

I agree with this statement, as well as the following which was posted in the comments:

"Nathan said:

“For the most part, the Clinton years weren’t any worse than the last eight years of George W. Bush, and there’s some reason to argue that, for liberty, the Bush years have actually been worse.”

That sentence is ridiculous. There is no way anyone will look back on George W. Bush’s presidency as anything less than a disaster while the Clinton presidency was one of the greatest boons to our economy in modern history.

There is some reason to argue liberty has been worse under Bush? Is this even up for debate, warrantless wiretapping, federal attorney scandals, the patriot act?

Anyone who is still arguing these points is, as they put it, “a true believer,” a closet Republican who avoids scrutiny by claiming to be a libertarian. Doug Mataconis is a libertarian ideologue will never respond to facts proving contrary to his position."

Well said.

Let's Accept Arnold Kling's Offer

Arnold Kling made an interesting offer in his essay "Dear Libertarian Democrats...", that I believe should be accepted. Here's his position:

"Agreeing to an Experiment

What I propose is that Democrats promise to support one major libertarian experiment. In exchange for Democrats agreeing to support this experiment, libertarians would agree to vote for Democrats.

The experiment that I have in mind is school choice. If Democrats would instead prefer an experiment with voluntary investment accounts substituting for Social Security, that is an acceptable alternative. But for now, let us work with school choice.

The experiment that I propose is that in four or five diverse states, all tax revenues that ordinarily would go to schools would for a period of 15 years go to parents as school vouchers. Proponents of school choice will propose specific indicators that will be measured to assess whether the experiment achieves desired goals, such as improved school quality, lower cost, and greater parent satisfaction. Opponents of school choice also will propose specific indicators that will be measured to assess whether the experiment leads to greater inequality in schooling or other adverse results. After fifteen years, voters will have useful information to determine whether the experiment with school choice should be expanded or ended.

Single-Payer Experiment

Traditional Democrats may say, "If we are willing to give libertarians an experiment, what do we get in return? Do we get a chance to experiment with our policies?"

I would welcome experiments with socialist policies, provided that they are only experiments. That is, the policies must be evaluated, and if they are found to have failed, they must be abandoned.

For example, I would welcome an experiment in which four or five diverse states adopt single-payer health care. My guess is that if people were to experience single-payer health care for ten or fifteen years, that would provide powerful evidence that it is a bad idea for the United States.

Suppose that the single-payer experiment started on October 1st of 2007. As of that date, all residents of the single-payer states and all children subsequently born in those states would be enrolled in the single-payer program. All residents of other states would continue in traditional programs. People who change states would stay with their existing health programs -- you could not change health programs after October 1st by changing states.

As with the school-choice experiment, the single-payer experiment would require indicators of success. Proponents and opponents should identify cost, coverage, and quality indicators that will be measured, so that voters can decide how well the experiment fared."

I think that this would be an excellent idea. Maybe other issues would be better, but the willingness to try out ideas in practice is a fine proposal. As Kling says:


Experimentalism is the philosophy of trying political ideas in clear, finite, measurable experiments. It is an alternative to the futile ideological head-banging that is turning off more and more voters every day.

Experimentalism has the potential to be a new political philosophy that transcends partisanship. My guess is that more Americans could be comfortable with experimentalism than with traditional Democratic or Republican dogma.

In fact, there is good reason to suspect that support for the traditional two parties is at an all-time low. The major parties are leaving huge gaps in the political center as well as other parts of the political spectrum. In this essay, I argued that the future political battle pits incumbent politicians against the "long tail."

As a libertarian, I would prefer that people adopt my ideas right now, based on their clear logic and intuitive appeal. Since that is not likely to happen, the next best thing would be experimentalism, which would allow libertarian ideas to be tried along with other ideas. Perhaps over time the best ideas would win out.

So that is my response to libertarian Democrats. I will forgive what I see as the flaws in your libertarianism, if you will make a serious commitment to experiment, with something like school choice."

My only problem with Kling's position is that libertarian Democrats might well have reasons of our own to experiment with school choice. It is true, we would be more skeptical and less likely to do anything to hurt public schools, whether by choice or inadvertently, but a libertarian Democrat is willing to consider such ideas that can further liberty within a Democratic party framework.

Also, assuming every position held by Democrats to be socialist is not a fair point.

Third Rail As Bridge For Libertarian Democrat To Build On

Tim Cavanaugh has a post on Reason called "Everything New Democrat Is Old Again: The Third Way Has Become The Third Rail, But Have Democrats Really Abandoned The Free Market?". Here's his conclusion:

"That is to say, expect any calls for re-regulation to be preceded by lip service about the power and benefits of trade and markets. It may not be sincerely meant, but it's nice that the Democrats feel compelled to offer it. Obama's rhetoric about fiscal responsibility and making the rich pay their fair share has been balanced by a reality about how an economy works. During an endorsement interview I attended early this year, he spoke about how his path had brought him into circles of wealthy people, and acknowledged that overburdening the rich diminishes opportunities for the poor.

The New Democrats are finished. In their place there appears to be a new breed of Democrat, less driven by a vision of dumping leftist junk from the party's agenda, but benefiting from a nearly two-decade period in which the benefits of free markets have become conventional wisdom. That's a change, but it will take more than a good speech to make it one we can all believe in."

I disagree. I believe that most Democrats now acknowledge the power and benefits of free markets. In other words, everyone basically does believe in it. There are differences about the role of government in those markets, but I doubt many really advance any form of socialism today. Nevertheless, Cavanaugh is correct about it being conventional wisdom, and that change is one reason not to despair of a libertarian Democratic option. Free markets are a good base to build on, but, from a libertarian Democrat point of view, just the base. There is a role for government and regulation in those markets, although the details have to be debated.

How Bad Is This Mess? Enough To Sway A Principled Libertarian Voter?

Many libertarians will no doubt vote for Barr, or not vote at all. The current administration, which has been so egregiously awful, has convinced me that such a choice is a mistake. The current Republican party is a dreadful mess, and no friend to the kind of libertarianism that I adhere to. On the other hand, the Democratic party offers up at least some hope. Hope versus dreadful mess is an easy choice.

I am also more inclined by temper toward compromise and getting things done than holding very consistent personal views, and so am not willing to let the chips fall where they may. Libertarians need to thoughtfully consider how dreadful the Bush administration has been, and vote accordingly.
I respect voting for one's beliefs, but I need to see an end to this current group running our country.

Here's Hoping Terry Michael Changes His Mind

Terry Michael ends his recent post saying the following:

"But can a jilted supporter like me hold his nose and actually vote for Obama? Anger—more like fury—seized me this past weekend and told me no, at least for the time being. In the meantime, my advice to less practical libertarians: ideas do matter. Go with a protest vote for Bob Barr or sit this one out, if that's where your heart and your head lead you."

I hope that he changes his mind, and takes a position more like the one advanced by Steve Chapman. I continue to feel that Sen. Obama needs to win this election, and I'm willing to cut him a lot of slack in doing so. Ideas do matter, and I don't much like the ones on the other side.

Chapman On Obama

Steve Chapman gives a libertarian view of Sen. Obama that I feel is quite nuanced. He's no libertarian, but...

Here's his conclusion:

"Those who favor a less expensive and less expansive federal government will find plenty to complain about should Obama become president. For consolation, they can try chanting this mantra: It could be worse."

I would argue that Chapman himself makes the point that Sen. Obama is open to new ideas, and some of them do have a libertarian bent.

However, I do not agree with this statement:

"There are no disciples of small government in the Democratic Party, and Barack Obama fits right in. His economic program is based on the assumption that the economy is to the president what a marionette is to a puppeteer, requiring his direction and responding to his every wish.

Anyone partial to free markets, restrained government, fiscal discipline and light taxation approaches a Democratic nominee's economic platform with trepidation, expecting one fright after another. Obama does not disappoint.

He offers a long list of things the federal government should be doing to rearrange the nation's productive sector—paying U.S. automakers to build fuel-efficient vehicles, confiscating allegedly excessive oil profits, and spending hundreds of billions to create jobs in environmental and infrastructure industries. Democrats have not given up their basic faith that the market, while useful, is always in need of Washington's whip hand."

I believe that there is currently much more pragmatism, and more libertarian thought than Chapman says in the Democratic party. It is certainly true that many of Sen. Obama's ideas advance government intervention, but the way that government intervenes and the general size of that intervention are still open to debate. As well, by focusing on areas that libertarians and Democrats can agree on, it might be possible to extend this agreement to other areas if libertarian ideas are advanced within the party. There are enough areas of agreement to at least begin to see if libertarian ideas can be applied to other policy positions in the Democratic party.

Chapman makes my point. It could be worse, but we can also make it better over time.

Freedom Democrats On Libertarian Democrats

Freedom Democrats has a post by Kaligula entitled "Wither The Libertarian Democrat?", calling the whole concept into question. Fair points are made, but I want to answer a few.

Here's one point:

"Firstly, the notion of "libertarian democrat" infecting the bloodstream of the National Democratic Party was a stillborn one at best. Kos himself, after the 2006 midterms, quickly abandoned the libertarian dem project. At Daily Kos the only ideology is winning and the primary means to such an end is to attack Republicans. Thus, the selection of Biden, which should have been viewed as an anathema by Kos, is instead praised primarily because the echo chamber reassures him that Biden will be a rabid Republican attack dog(of course, I take the contrarian position that McCain would welcome a daily news cycle attack-counterattack dialog with Joe Biden over issues like National Security)."

I don't believe that Kos has abandoned the idea, and, while I agree the idea is stillborn, perhaps it needs new parents. This blog will attempt that.

As for Biden, I agree with Kos, even though I agree that Biden is no libertarian Democrat. It is essential for Democrats to win for libertarian Democrats to have any efficacy. Surely we want our party to win, given the alternative. I don't see that being a libertarian Democrat obviates the need for pragmatic and strategic thinking. Quite the opposite.

Here's the second point:

"...the second point that needs to be made, articulated here rather dramatically by Chuck Todd, is that while the national Democratic party remains largely indifferent or even hostile in some instances to libertarian ideas, Western Democrats have succeeded in no small part due to the shift of the western "libertarian vote" from the GOP to the Dems. So while Schweitzer's convention speech was perhaps disappointing from a libertarian point of view, I would nevertheless posit that to the extent the likes of Schweitzer wish to remain popular governors in Western states, you should regard that speech for exactly what it is: just a speech. I don't see it portending any significant change in the actual governing philosophy--which is distinct from that of the National Party--of Western democratic Governors. However, the speech does highlight everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party."

Give us a chance! I do see signs of such movement among people I actually know in the Democratic party. I will document these shifts as I go along, but one I can mention now is rent control, which many Democrats have now begun to question if not jettison.

In any case, these are good points, but I find that there is enough hope for this position for me to begin this blog, whatever might come of it. A movement can begin with "just a speech".

Gillespie On The Libertarian Democrat

There are a number of past responses to the idea of the libertarian Democrat that I want to consider as I go along. One very important response was by Nick Gillespie entitled "Libertarian Democrats: The Titillating Myth", posted on Cato Unbound on October 11th, 2006. It is a fair and reasonable critique of the libertarian Democrat conundrum, i.e., being in a party where a large number of people favor larger government. Of course, this applies to the Republican party as well.

But consider this quote from Gillespie:

"But maybe Moulitsas and Reed haven’t made particularly compelling cases for libertarians to vote for Democrats because they don’t have to. As each of them notes, it’s President Bush and his GOP Congress who have made the best arguments for pulling the lever for any candidate that doesn’t have an “R” by his or her name. The Republicans have done this through massive spending increases, abandonment of even the slightest pretense of limited government, neo-Wilsonian adventurism abroad, and much, much more. Libertarians know these arguments well because they are the ones who have advanced them most consistently and systematically — at Cato, in the pages of Reason, and in books such as The Elephant in the Room to Impostor."

One point that I would make is that given this shift, this movement to at least considering to vote Democratic by libertarian minded people, should we not take this opportunity to see if a longer lasting political bond can be forged between these positions, one that will advance the concept of liberty. I began this blog precisely because no one else seems to have accepted this challenge.

Another quote:

"What speaks far louder than Moulitsas and Reed’s ritualistic, feel-good invocations of “civil liberties,” “smaller government,” “restrained government,” “ending corporate welfare,” and the like are the things they don’t even mention. Are they in favor of, say, ending the drug war? Vouchers for public schools? Social Security reform (Meyerson is clearly against this)? Where do they stand on issues related to free expression — do they support Howard Dean’s “reregulation” of the media? Hillary Clinton’s censorious aims toward the dread menace of video games or the FCC’s desire to regulate cable and satellite TV and radio; are these markets that need to be tempered by regulation? Do they agree that McCain-Feingold-style campaign-finance “reform” is nothing more than an abridgement of the First Amendment? Where are the libertarian Democrats on such things? And apart from a handful of governors and losing congressional candidates, who exactly are they?"

I take the point, but the only way to advance this agenda is to accept the challenge. It will be up to libertarian Democrats to advance some of these ideas in a way that Democrats can find acceptable. That's the point of this blog. I believe that many of Gillespie's chosen issues might well be persuasively argued in the Democratic party, if not all. Isn't that better than nothing?

Gillespie ends:

"Until Democratic partisans such as Moulitsas and Reed make a convincing — or maybe even a half-hearted — case for laying in with the party of Robert Byrd and Henry Waxman, they’re just peddling the political equivalent of couples porn."

Once again, I accept the challenge. Wish me luck, or, better yet, give some space in Reason.

Guns And The Libertarian Democrat

Weigel also mentions in his column the fact that "Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer is a loud-mouthed gun owner. Wayne La Pierre himself once flew to Montana to hand Schweitzer a National Rifle Association endorsement."

On the second amendment, a libertarian Democrat position would certainly hold that there is an individual right in the constitution to own a gun. However, it is also a perfectly reasonable position to hold that restrictions can be placed on that right, as long as the right is not restricted so much that it is no longer meaningful.

In this sense, a libertarian Democrat can sound very much like a moderate, being for the ownership of guns but with restrictions. But there is a difference between the two positions. A moderate may well believe that guns can and should be outlawed, but agree on a moderate position as a political compromise. A libertarian Democrat, on the other hand, will be against outlawing guns both for constitutional and libertarian reasons, no matter what he might believe about guns and gun ownership himself. The idea of personal liberty is key to understanding the libertarian Democrat position, while the moderate can certainly avoid any such commitment to personal liberty.

That is why the agenda of the libertarian Democrat is so important, because it introduces the notion of liberty into all policy debates, even those on the Democratic side. Such principled reasoning, even if not adhering completely to libertarian ideas, can be very important in framing the debate and implementing policy.

Consider the following two quotes from liberal writers:

"As I said before, I don't have very strong feelings on gun control, largely because I've not dug deeply enough into the evidence on efficacy. But insofar as the political conversation is around gun control and regulation rather than actual gun bans, this seems to leave a lot of room to maneuver."

Ezra Klein June 26, 2008

"I'd like to be able to thunder about the injustice committed by an activist, archconservative Supreme Court that seeks to return our jurisprudence to the 18th century. I will, almost certainly, about some future outrage. But this time, I can't.

The big problem, for me, is the clarity of the Second Amendment's guarantee of the "right of the people to keep and bear arms." The traditional argument in favor of gun control has been that this is a collective right, accorded to state militias. This has always struck me as a real stretch, if not a total dodge.

I've never been able to understand why the Founders would stick a collective right into the middle of the greatest charter of individual rights and freedoms ever written -- and give it such pride of place -- the No. 2 position, right behind such bedrock freedoms as speech and religion. Even Barack Obama, a longtime advocate of gun control -- but also a one-time professor of constitutional law -- has said he believes the amendment confers an individual right to gun ownership.

And even if the Second Amendment was meant to refer to state militias, where did the Founders intend for the militias' weapons to be stored? In the homes of the volunteers is my guess.

More broadly, I've always had trouble believing that a bunch of radicals who had just overthrown their British oppressors would tolerate any arrangement in which government had a monopoly on the instruments of deadly force. I don't mean to sound like some kind of backwoods survivalist, but I think the revolutionaries who founded this nation believed in guns."

Eugene Robinson June 27, 2008

This is a case where liberals are advancing a moderate position, and where libertarian thought, brought forward in a principled way in the Democratic party, could help frame and decide an issue in a more libertarian manner.

Of course, the libertarian Democrat might also disagree with the classic libertarian position advanced so well by Cato and Reason, but it is surely still a movement guided by the concerns of personal liberty.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Boaz On Biden: Yes, But...

David Boaz has a fair critique of Sen. Biden and property rights. I like the choice of Biden, but admit I like if for pragmatic and strategic reasons. I also enjoy Sen. Biden personally, even though he is no libertarian Democrat.

Let me be clear. If you belong to a major political party, you are accepting the fact that you are part of a large coalition, many parts of which you don't agree with. Hence, my opinion about Sen. Biden. So, it is not a lethal critique of the libertarian Democrat position to know that many Democrats don't find such a position agreeable. The question is whether the cause of liberty can be advanced within the Democratic party, which I obviously believe it can.

Weigel On Moulitsas

David Weigel also mentions the following in his post:

"Tuesday afternoon, I saw Markos "Daily Kos" Moulitsas, author of the "Left-Libertarian Manifesto" from 2006, share a stage with “market Democrat” Bill Richardson and avowed libertarian Tucker Carlson to talk about race and gender politics. After Carlson suggested, plausibly, that Obama would win in a landslide if he declaimed race-based affirmative action and replaced it with preferences based on class, Moulitsas rolled his eyes and told the Kostastic audience to never listen to the advice of "a Republican." Carlson spent the rest of the hour fending off accusations of misogyny and suggestions that he be kicked off the panel."

I take Weigel's point, but feel that Moulitsas is also allowed to believe that Carlson's point is preposterous, and so would be silly to follow. I am not sure about Carlson's point, and so can see both sides of this question. In any case, it says nothing about the ideas of the liberterian Democrat, since it could be seen as a strategic point, and not a point about principle.

If you ask why I am spending so much time on Weigel's post, it is because he is the only person that I can find who takes this idea of being a libertarian Democrat seriously enough to write about it. From my point of view, it makes Weigel a writer worth reading.

Was Gov. Schweitzer's Convention Speech Libertarian?

Here's the text of Gov. Schweitzer's speech last night, and here you can watch the video. I want to call attention to the following lines:

"...we have cut more taxes for more Montanans than any time in history...and we created the largest budget surplus in the history of Montana.... We need them all to create a strong American energy system, a system built on American innovation... Now he wants to give the oil companies another 4 billion dollars in tax breaks. Four billion in tax breaks for big oil?...It will give you a tax credit if you buy a fuel-efficient car or truck, increase fuel-efficiency standards and put a million plug-in hybrids on the road."

Now, I want to suggest, contra David Weigel, that all of these ideas are compatible with being a libertarian Democrat, if not a libertarian.

Cutting taxes, a budget surplus, innovation, taking away tax breaks from large corporations and giving them to individuals, these are libertarian ideas within our current system. From the point of view of a libertarian Democrat, for example, there is no reason to have the government run a deficit. If we are going to have a program, then we should fund it. The assets of the American people are vastly larger than government budgets, and so there is no good reason for the government to borrow money. So let me add a balanced budget to the ideas put forward by libertarian Democrats. Adding a tax burden to later generations could well have a definite adverse effect on future liberty, and should not be accepted.

I would also add giving tax breaks to individuals, as opposed to a business or corporation, to be a position of the libertarian Democrat. Surely it is better to focus on individuals than on groups if possible.

So Weigel is incorrect that Schweitzer did not advance the ideas of the libertarian Democrat, although he is correct that he did not make a point of advancing libertarianism. However, since the idea of the libertarian Democrat seems to be on a level below ridicule, I accept the fact that Schweitzer was scheduled to speak in a featured position as a sign that the libertarian Democrat agenda is being slowly advanced.

So Weigel is incorrect when he says, "In short, the libertarian Democrat Schweitzer became an overnight party celebrity without sounding a single libertarian note." Libertarianism is about advancing the cause of individual liberty, not about a simple set of policy positions which someone defines as the pure position.

Weigel should be applauding any libertarian idea being advanced by anyone, not judging every politician or person by his own ideals which might or might not be achievable, or even desirable.
The libertarian Democrat is devoted to advancing individual liberty in the real world, and by that standard Gov. Schweitzer is clearly a step forward.

David Weigel, Meet A Libertarian Democrat

David Weigel in Reason asks the question "Whatever Happened To The Libertarian Democrat?". Here's his basic thesis:

"What makes up the alleged libertarianness of the allegedly libertarian Democrats? As yesterday's events suggested, it's about attitude, not ideas."

I am beginning this blog in order to flesh out this concept of the libertarian Democrat. I intend to put forth ideas, although I believe attitude to be important.

I concede Weigel's point about libertarianism not getting any mention in Denver, but I believe that this small part of the Democratic coalition can grow if some people continue to push it. Hence, I have started this blog.

Thanks to David Weigel for throwing down the gauntlet.

The Guaranteed Income And The Libertarian Democrat

One thing that distinguishes Libertarian Democrats from Liberal Democrats is the willingness to consider a guaranteed income. For instance, Charles Murray's book "In Our Hands" details a proposal for a guaranteed income. This simple transfer of income fulfills the need of alleviating poverty, while decreasing the problems associated with bureaucracy. It also is more conducive to liberty, as Murray explains.

So, I would like to posit the idea of a guaranteed income as a possible solution to poverty as indicative of being a Libertarian Democrat.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kos On Being A Democratic Libertarian

I don't want to produce a manifesto, but produce a more or less coherent view over time by commenting on issues of the day. However, I generally agree with Kos:

"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.

The core Democratic values of fairness, opportunity, and investing in our nation and people very much speak to the concept of personal liberties -- an open society where success is predicated on the merit of our ideas and efforts, unduly burdened by the government, corporate America, or other individuals. And rather than always get in the way, government can facilitate this.

Of course, this also means that government isn't always the solution to the nation's problems. There are times when business-government partnerships can be extremely effective (such as job retraining efforts for displaced workers). There are times when government really should butt out (like a great deal of small-business regulation). Our first proposed solution to a problem facing our nation shouldn't be more regulation, more government programs, more bureaucracy.

The key here isn't universal liberty from government intrusion, but policies that maximize individual freedom, and who can protect those individual freedoms best from those who would infringe."

There were many comments on this piece, and I'll refer to them as I go on. But this is where I first found the idea of being a Democratic Libertarian. For many years, I had called myself a Pragmatic Libertarian, and voted strategically. My problem with the Democratic Party was that it seemed inimical to libertarianism, while the Republican Party at least claimed to welcome libertarians. I now believe the reverse to be the case, but would not have considered it possible until the piece by Kos. So I will take his position as basic to this blog.

Terry Michael On Sen. Biden

Here is Terry Michael on the choice of Sen. Biden by Sen. Obama:

"For free market and free mind types resigned to the political system we've got, not the one we want, Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) cynical choice of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) as his number two sends a serious wake-up call. Never place much faith in a politician with no discernible political philosophy."

I disagree. Sen. Obama needs someone who can take on Sen. McCain on the war in Iraq from the point of view of someone who initially supported the war. In other words, Sen. Biden needs to convince moderates who initially supported the war and who now are worried about pulling out, that Sen. McCain has and would continue an egregious war policy.

There are other reasons to choose Sen. Biden as well, which I will detail later. As for Sen. Biden being a Libertarian Democrat, Michael has a point. However, Sen. Obama, in my opinion, does lean towards my position. His choice was not cynical, but pragmatic, and I see the pragmatism, where Michael does not.

Libertarian Democratic Economics

David Leonardt wrote an interesting piece on Sen. Obama's economic philosophy in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, August 20th. It contains the following quote:

"There is, however, a more philosophical critique of Obama’s tax policies. It’s one that Douthat and Salam make in “Grand New Party.” The book doesn’t mention Obama by name, but it contains one of the best summaries of his economic policy that I have read. The authors describe a new-model liberal consensus that weds “the free-market centrism of the Clinton years to a revived push for European-style social democracy.” This neoliberalism, as they call it, wouldn’t involve the big-government programs of the postwar years, but the government would come to play a larger role in the economy and would redistribute much more income from the rich to everyone else. “This is, in many respects, a deeply un-American solution to the problems facing our country,” the authors write, “one that would emphasize dependence over self-sufficiency and bureaucratic condescension over self-help.”

Assuming this to be Sen. Obama's philosophy, is it un-american ? How does it relate to a Democratic Libertarian view?

I would suggest that this is essentially the Democratic Libertarian view. In other words, from the point of view of income, the government may redistribute income when it will greatly increase the liberty of one group ( namely, the poor ), and not significantly effect the the liberty of another group ( namely, the rich ).

I don't want to argue whether this redistribution is un-american or bureaucratic or dependence forming here, only to point out the principle that liberty must be considered in any such analysis in order for the position to be called libertarian. Obviously, from my point of view, such a redistribution does increase overall liberty. More on that as I go on.