A Liberaltarian Union?

Neither liberals nor libertarians are satisfied at the moment. The Obama administration has continued favoring Wall Street over Main Street, maintained the PATRIOT Act and launched additional overseas operations.

A Democratic president, in short, has done exactly what George W. Bush did: enact more big government, crony capitalist, neoconservative policies.

Washington is broken. That banal refrain has been repeated ad nauseum. Voters throw up their hands in frustration. They then toss the bums out at the next election. Newly elected representatives deliver more of the same. Americans become increasingly disillusioned with the system.

The Left-Right debates have gotten us nowhere. Perhaps that’s why “liberaltarianism” has gained traction once again. This idea emerged five years ago in a New Republic essay by Brink Lindsey. Lindsey says the Bush years destroyed the fusionist alliance on the Right, which had united conservatives for fifty years. Here’s a sample:

Libertarian disaffection should come as no surprise. Despite the GOP’s rhetorical commitment to limited government, the actual record of unified Republican rule in Washington has been an unmitigated disaster from a libertarian perspective: runaway federal spending at a clip unmatched since Lyndon Johnson; the creation of a massive new prescription-drug entitlement with hardly any thought as to how to pay for it; expansion of federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind Act; a big run-up in farm subsidies; extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and, to top it all off, an atrociously bungled war in Iraq. Libertarians should join with disaffected liberals and form a new coalition, Lindsey says. The author was unsure about the long-term viability of such a union, but concludes: “I don’t know [if they can work together], but their alternative is most probably to languish separately.”

Libertarians needed a new alliance. Why not join liberals, who felt that Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” – the 43rd president’s shift to the right to win a second term-had throw their values under the bus.

Clinton’s success suggested that bleeding heart liberalism could no longer win national elections. Liberals became increasingly disenchanted with the Democratic Party—a feeling that’s only grown during the disappointing Obama presidency.

Dissatisfaction with the Washington status-quo has created a political odd couple: Ron Paul and Ralph Nader.

Paul and Nader have found common ground in opposition toU.S.military adventurism, civil liberties violations and corporate welfare. Nader, the long-time left-winger, has embraced Paul’s GOP presidential candidacy and believes the Texas congressman is a better alternative for liberals than Barack Obama.

Paul has questioned the GOP’s limited government philosophy since the last days of the Reagan administration. In fact, he first ran for president in 1988 as a Libertarian Party candidate. He is not your ordinary Republican, and maybe that’s what voters want: a new vision.

Maybe Americans should look across the pond, where an unusual coalition government has run the country for the past year and a half. Last May, Liberal Democrats and Tories united to form a coalition government in Britain. The David Cameron led government toppled Gordon Brown last spring, ending twelve years of New Labour rule.

The Lib Dems have shared power during austerity, in power while austerity measures have been put into place. Cutting government spending is anathema to their beliefs. Cameron, meanwhile, endorsed climate change that will reduce carbon emission 50% by 2027. These efforts have infuriated many conservatives.

Cameron and Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, have proven that a Left-Right union can muddle through. Perhaps Americans will follow the Brits’ example—at least for a little while.

I don’t believe liberaltarism is a long-term union in U.S. politics, just as I doubt it will last long in the U.K. The differences between liberals and libertarians is simply too great. Libertarians love the free market and loathe centralized power. Liberals, generally, feel exactly the opposite.

But in the interim, liberaltarians could form a potent partnership that would end the policies which have so damaged America.


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