Archive for February 15th, 2009

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:

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:

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“Artist Scott Donahue of Emeryville, Calif., was paid $196,000 by Berkeley’s public arts program to create two large statues, which feature small, artistic medallions that show dogs doing what dogs do best.

“‘Various things,’ Donahue said. ‘Biting each other, chasing each other…. One dog is defecating, two dogs are fornicating.’

All that spending comes with one hell of a dog knot.

I wonder if taxpayers will finally have had enough of being the government’s bitch, or will they be like these fratboys and keep lapping it up? (warning: disgusting)

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Like many libertarians, I’ve come to hold a low opinion of Alan Greenspan. Austrian libertarians loathe him. Objectivists regard him as a traitor. Those who hate the free market alternate between thinking him a genius for allegedly giving us prosperity and saying that the current downturn is the result of his alleged free market ideas.

If he had free market ideas, why do so many free market libertarians despise him so?

But nothing destroys a good hate-fest like pointing out that Greenspan might not have been a traitor at all.

As strange as that may sound to libertarians, Bob Murphy makes that argument.

How could that be? Every act taken by Alan Greenspan has been one that Monetarists and Keynesians would approve of. During the entire eighteen years of his tenure his every act has been anathema to free market proponents.

Perhaps, argues Bob Murphy, Greenspan was motivated by his Objectivist beliefs to act like the perfect unrestrained Keynesian in order to show us that Keynesianism does not work. He was deliberately trying to break the system instead of thinking, as his admirers did during his tenure, that he was trying to find the winning combination that would result in unending prosperity.

In short, his Objectivist beliefs caused him to act like a Keynesian so he could destroy the economy. When the statist say his Objectivist beliefs caused the meltdown, they are right for the wrong reasons. They left out the middle term because that would cause them to doubt their own beliefs.

It’s a hard concept to grasp, because libertarians have spent the last twenty years hating Alan Greenspan. But we have to remember that Objectivists like to demonstrate that they are right. They like object lessons. The trashing of the economy is the San Sebastian Mines writ large.

If Bob Murphy is right that is. Unfortunately if he is there’s no way to find out. Alan Greenspan won’t admit it on this side of the grave.

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