The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Match Made in Hell

A couple of years ago, The Onion ran a story about a meeting of committed libertarians. The tiny group, sitting in a cramped room, seemed divided between "legalize it" stoners and oily businessmen. That's what was so irritating about the 'liberaltarian' story that appeared in The New Republic recently. It generated a fair amount of buzz on the blogs, but I thought I'd skip it for its fatal flaw: arguing that "we need an alliance between liberals and libertarians-- and as liberals, here's a long list of things you can change to get us on board."

Jonathan Chait wrote a response pointing that out, in addition to a series of other serious flaws. I liked the piece not only for that, but because it serves the secondary purpose of addressing the 'liberals can't communicate their philosophy' issue. Besides, even if followers of "objectivism" did make up a significant voting bloc, it wouldn't mean they're any less goofy.

Lindsey's most interesting argument is that the greatest liberal triumphs of the postwar era have been libertarian ones. He maintains that desegregation and other progressive social movements have been enabled by economic liberalization. (The mechanization of housework has enabled feminism, for instance.) "[I]t has become increasingly clear that capitalism's relentless dynamism and wealth-creation--the institutional safeguarding of which lies at the heart of libertarian concerns--have been pushing U.S. society in a decidedly progressive direction," he writes. "Yet progressives remain stubbornly resistant to embracing capitalism, their great natural ally."

Here, though, Lindsey betrays his incomprehension of liberalism. Socialists disdain capitalism. Liberals don't. And, if you want proof that liberal policies are compatible with economic dynamism, consider Lindsey's own examples. The economic dynamism that he credits with producing postwar social progress occurred primarily under--guess what?--liberal-style big government.

Oh, and the author of the original piece wrote a web-only response. In case you feel the need.