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Aug 30 2010

Classically Liberal: The intersection between Libertarian and Liberal

I’ve mentioned a couple times before that I regularly read a libertarian blog written by CLS called ‘Classically Liberal’. While I don’t agree with everything CLS says (particularly his views on the role of government and health care), I find his articles useful and insightful.

Today’s post is no exception:

But things have changed. Both the Left and the Right have changed. The Left in most the world no longer has the same slavish dedication to dirigism that they once had. The political Left, to a large degree has shifted politically toward the center. The communist empire that attracted so many of them collapsed and so did the ideological assumptions of many on the Left. You now have former socialists like New Zealand’s Michael Moore, the former prime minister, writing in defense of globalization and free trade. This isn’t the Left of fifty years ago anymore. It isn’t even the “New Left” of the 1960s, which was just a more obnoxious version of the old Left.

I find myself struggling to see where I fit with the libertarian moniker. There is a great deal about the philosophy that appeals to me – maximum liberty for all people, the power of free market capitalism, the possibility of multiple viewpoints and approaches where the best one comes through. At the same time, I recognize that regulation and taxation exist for a reason – to compel us to do things that are in our best interest that we might not otherwise do. PZ Myers is notoriously dismissive of libertarians, a fact that is much to my chagrin as I agree with him on most other things. A friend and commenter on the site is much more libertarian-leaning than I am, and I’m not sure that I agree with his stance either.

Wherever I may find myself on the libertarian/authoritarian scale, it will never be in the morass of conservatism that is destroying the word ‘libertarian’ in the United States. I shudder when I see our neighbours to the immediate south dress up bigotry and xenophobia in the costume of Libertarianism (note the capital L), whilst simultaneously eschewing its core principles of equal rights and maximum liberty. CLS’ article draws a sharp line to show why being in bed with conservatives is indeed sharing that bed with the devil.

The Right of the 1980s was not obsessed with bigotry. What did happen, however, is that the Christian fundamentalists abandoned the Democratic Party. Until the 80s the fundamentalists were Democrats, since Southern Democrats were the most consistently hatefully, bigoted politicians around. But when the national Democratic Party adopted the civil rights movement white fundamentalists abandoned their natural home for the GOP. Unfortunately they brought with them the stilted, bigoted views that they always held. They eventually, for the most part, came to accept black people as their legal equals but they still harbor a natural tendency to find scapegoats to hate. At the moment their favorite targets are gay people and immigrants.

Read the article. It’s not good; it’s great. Plus, I learned a new word: dirigisme

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