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The libertarian Wing of the Democratic Party

I ran across an interesting piece published by Cato last week. Andrew Sullivan linked to a post by Markos Moulitsas, the writer for the Daily KOS (a flagship blog of the left-wing, if you’re not a follower of political blogdom).

The thrust of his argument is that libertarians once found a home in the Republican party, but parties and politics have changed, and libertarians can/should/are finding a new home with the Democrats. Like a lot of Moulitsas’s writing, it has enough truth to make an interesting read, but too much wishful thinking on his part to really carry the argument.

The truth of his essay is in the libertarian frustration with the Republican party. Bush has spent more money, by any measure, than any president since Johnson in Vietnam. Libertarians grind their teeth over that statistic, and find themselves feeling nostalgic for Bill Clinton, a weird feeling they experienced before. On top of the spending, you add personal liberty issues: Patriot Act, domestic surveillance, the phone record database, Terri Schiavo, and gay-baiting legislation. Libertarians distrust the “imperial presidency” that Bush and Cheney have tried to implement. Last but not least, libertarians tend to be isolationist or pacifist, and do not approve of the Iraq policy. Libertarians have a lot of reasons to abandon the Republicans.

The essay falls down when it tries to make the case that the Democrats are the new libertarian home. He defines the “libertarian democrat” as someone who is afraid of the power of the corporation, someone who needs the government to help with the corporate threat. But 500 words later he analyzes the Microsoft anti-trust case and determines that “The market worked on its own.” If the market works, a libertarian asks, then why should libertarian democrats need government protection? The libertarian concludes that the government is still the problem, not the solution. Democrats are still a party of big government.

Moulitsas badly wants the Democrats to win, in 2006, in 2008, and beyond. He has correctly identified that the Republicans have a constituency that is disaffected. He’d love to pick off those voters for himself. What he hasn’t done is made the case that his party is the new libertarian home. I suspect that most libertarians will do what I’m doing. We’ll pick and choose among candidates with good policies, and wait for a mainstream party that isn’t confused about what a libertarian is.


Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Right, Left, or Other
Time: February 25, 2007, 6:51 pm

[…] If this post is interesting, you might peruse my take on Markos Moulitsas. […]