Monday, October 02, 2006

He Wants YOU!

Months after a casual post at his namesake Daily Kos, advocating for a libertarian species in the Democratic Party flock, Markos Moulitsas takes another opportunity, this time at Cato Unbound, to convey a definition. For several reasons, I don't anticipate many serious libertarians coming around. It hardly requires a resurrected Murray Rothbard or Robert Nozick to come to grips with the confusion of the argument. This will take two posts, one for each revelation. (I haven't read the Cato Unbound piece, so that will come next.)

The Moulitsas post both neglects libertarianism as a political philosophy, and makes light of this by foisting on it some barely-concealed false premises. Kos charges "traditional libertarianism" with insouciance toward the potential in corporations for mischief against the principles and actions of the free market. I have no idea why - the classical liberal economic literature is replete with critiques of the modern corporation's monopolistic and anti-competitive proclivities. So why should an unaffiliated libertarian "join up" with the Democrats? Leaving out the general principles which Kos doesn't think a libertarian needs help with...well, you see, the Libertarian Democrat is unique, and wholely non-traditional, because he believes that the government should act in some instances, but not others. A little more explanation of his criteria on this point wouldn't have killed him. The point at which Kos avers that "it begins to differ, and shouldn't" - well, it should. The style of the writing itself removes doubt that Kos hews to the now-redundant and unconvincing argument that the problem with libertarianism is that it fails to grasp one philosophical principle: since rights are good things, more of them is a better thing. Thus, the distinction between asserting a right to free speech and a right to free healthcare lacks a difference ("the same with healthcare. And so on.") What obtains is as far flung from libertarianism as conservatism or socialism or any other political theory that deserves to be taken seriously, but this is no matter for Kos. The foundation of the argument is the assumption that libertarianism shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone as a coherent political theory until it surrenders most of its philosophical territory. You can't do a hatchet job to a valid ideology and then endorse its molested result as if it has merely evolved into its truest self - especially if you're behind that conceptual growth spurt. He affords his reviled conservative opponents more respect than this. To stipulate that libertarianism should endorse the redistribution of wealth doesn't upgrade libertarianism. Nor does it advance argument; it circumvents it. Kos makes it blithely obvious that he isn't merely attempting to persuade libertarian-minded people to vote Democrat. He is, rather ambitiously, calling on such people to ditch their system of principles without expecting persuasion. This is a tall order for anyone - but especially for someone who considers Jon Tester "libertarian."


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