A bit of background about the term, “Liberaltarian”. In December 2006, Brink Lindsey, Cato Institute’s vice president for research, penned an essay in which he posited that Contemporary Conservatism had betrayed its own roots, and no longer truly represented a libertarian worldview. Lindsey went on to muse that liberals had at least, and probably more affinity to true libertarian precepts than the travesty that passes for conservatism presently in America. His essay began with:
The conservative movement–and, with it, the GOP–is in disarray. Specifically, the movement’s “fusionist” alliance between traditionalists and libertarians appears, at long last, to be falling apart. To understand what’s happening, look at the Democratic gains made in previously Republican strongholds on Election Day. In “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, both House seats–as well as control of both houses of the state legislature–flipped from the GOP to the Democratic column. Out in the interior West, Jon Tester squeaked past Conrad Burns in the Montana Senate race, while other Democrats picked up a House seat in Colorado (along with the governorship) and two more in Arizona. These parts of the country are all known for their individualism and suspicion of officialdom–in short, for their libertarian sympathies.
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.
This woeful record cannot simply be blamed on politicians failing to live up to their conservative principles. Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.
Brink Lindsey, “Liberaltarians” Cato Institute reprint of an article first published by The New Republic, December 4, 2006
This started up a dialog within some of the libertarian movement; notably at the Volokh Conspiracy, and Reason Magazine. Much of the dialog died down, although Reason Magazine has continued publishing articles. Some of the younger libertarian thinkers also published their thoughts about Liberaltarianism. Will Wilkerson and Julian Sanchez are two fine examples.
Dialog about Liberaltarianism was largely left on the back-burner for close to two years, until recently, when National Review’s Jonah Goldberg started it up again, followed by NRO’s John Hood:
- Jonah Goldberg, “Whither Liberaltarianism?“, NRO – The Corner, February 11, 2009
- John Hood, “Re: Whither Liberaltarianism“, NRO – The Corner, February 11, 2009
That Jonah Goldberg is considered to be a conservative pundit is direct evidence of contemporary conservatism’s continuing plunge into the dark well of moral relevancy. That the CaponHawk Goldberg has the audacity to pretend he is able to speak for libertarians is personally defamatory to me. At least Goldberg’s inanity started up new dialog about Liberaltarianism. The following are a few links, listed alphabetically, by date:
- Will Wilkinson, “Missing the Point of Liberaltarianism“, February 11, 2009
- Reihan Salam, “The Point of Liberaltarianism“, The American Scene, February 12, 2009
- Andrrew Sullivan, “The Long Angle“, Atlantic, February 12, 2009
- Matt Welch, “‘Liberaltarianism’ in the Age of Obama“, Reason, February 12, 2009
- Ross Douthat, “The Future of Liberaltarianism“, The Atlantic, February 13, 2009
- Ross Douthat, “The Future of Liberaltarianism (II)“, The Atlantic, February 13, 2009