February 16, 2008

Let the Libertarians Go

According to Joe Carter, who has worked for the Huckabee campaign, lower taxes no longer attract voters. What they really want is (and I am paraphrasing) mythological government-created and facilitated growth and good schools. To me, that sounds more like the message of many Democrats. Similarly, he could care less about those of us lonely libertarians:

“If you let the libertarians go over to the Democratic Party while the Republicans win the votes of entrepreneurs,” he says, “you’re talking about a new majority party.”


The Reagan coalition has worked for almost 30 years. Economic libertarians have been a strong part of that coalition. Why do the Republicans insist on fixing something that isn't broken?

GOP2008 Primary Posted by Harrison Bergeron at February 16, 2008 12:22 PM

Well, I don't see a Huckabee worker really speaking for the party. Nor do I see how he is going to separate "entrepreneurs" and "economic libertarians." Don't they want the same thing?

Years ago, I was hoping for re-alignment, hoping that I could be in a different party from the Huckabee Demographic (Silence Dogood and I used to plan this on the Berkeley Square Blog). Since that time, the Democrats have moved so far away from classic liberal positions on trade and taxation, I no longer see the viability of that party offering, well, any freedom whatsoever.

I think we're stuck with Frank Meyers's fusionism for a few more cycles.

Posted by: jk at February 16, 2008 4:49 PM

Now that JK has already voiced my first reaction to this story, i.e. entrepreneurs are predominantly a subset of the class "economic libertarians," I'll share my second observation:

Huckabee and his staff are not conservatives, because they do not hold private property rights as an absolute. His Christianity-inspired egalitarianism and altruism tell him it is morally justified to take one man's property and give it to another, as long as the first man has more to start with. That puts him on a par with the Edwardsesque rhetoric we all tired of through the early primary campaigns.

As an "economic libertarian" I appeal to my Christian brothers to examine the teachings of their faith and recognize the difference between two like intentioned but fundamentally different processes: One one hand, individuals (and their voluntary congregations) doing charitable works and on the other hand, the heartless, soulless, ignorant servants of government attempting to be charitable with the conscripted wealth of others.

Governor Huckabee doesn't seem to recognize any distinctions between these two methodologies, but economic libertarians do.

Posted by: johngalt at February 17, 2008 2:18 PM

***Economic libertarians have been a strong part of that coalition.***

Weigel did a good job on the article, but it was difficult for him to distill our hour-long conversation into a few quotes. As the context hints at, I wasn't referring to "economic libertarians" but rather "cultural libertarians."

My point was that Reaganism won the day. Nowadays taxes are low enough that the upper-middle and wealthy business classes are free to vote on non-economic issues. (Even if the Democrats raise taxes they won't be anywhere near the confiscatory rates of the pre-Reagan era.) This has changed the dynamic, providing the cultural libertarians the freedom to vote for candidates that support gay-marriage, abortion rights, etc.

Of course, the people who still care about economic issues are the entrepreneur class. Even minor changes in taxation or regulation can severely impact their business. This is the group that Huckabee was trying to reach with his economic policies. So in a sense, the sensible, non-crazy* economic libertarians are pitted against the cultural libertarians.

*By "non-crazy" I mean the ones that don't hyperventilate whenever state governments increase the sales tax by a penny to fix infrastructure. ; )

Posted by: Joe Carter at February 18, 2008 3:30 PM

Welcome Joe, and thank you for contributing to our discussion! I'm not sure I understand the gist of your case here except to say that a small segment of the "big tent" GOP, (you call them cultural libertarians) are becoming less tolerant of the puritanical moral code espoused by evangelicals (whom you call conservatives). I don't think this really gets to the heart of the matter though.

I'd like to ask about your recasting of politics as a split not between conservatives and liberals, but between conservatives and libertarians. (I've been making a similar case for years, but not for the same reasons as yours.) Since "conservative" and "libertarian" (and "liberal" for that matter) have imperfect definitions I'll attempt to characterize them in a way I think you would agree with.

-Law and order social structure based on a judeo-christian" moral code
-Nuclear family (married complementary gender parents with or without children) promoted through Marriage Amendment to the Constitution
-Faith-friendly public schools
-Well funded military, used for worldwide humanitarian missions when possible
-"Managed" free-market economy
-Restrictions on abortion
-Equal "opportunity" for all (we'll say this means job or entreprenurial options right out of high school or college)
-Mandatory national pension plan

-Nearly unlimited individual freedoms
-Civil unions and single parent households recognized by the state
-Complete separation of church and state
-Military used for "homeland defense" only
-Laissez faire economy
-Abortion on demand (notwithstanding the position of the Republi-tarian Ron Paul)
-Every man for himself in the job market
-Every man for himself in retirement

-"Managed" legal system where offenders are excused for insanity, bad childhood, etc.
-Gay marriage and single parent households endorsed by the state
-Complete separation of church and state
-Department of Defense replaced by Department of Peace
-"Managed" and regulated market economy
-Abortion on demand
-Guaranteed jobs for all
-Guaranteed retirement for all

Now, you suggested that the Republican party would have a new majority if it abandoned the ideas important to libertarians and adopted more of what I'll call "upper middle-class social populism" (you called it "good schools, laws that make it easy to start a business, economic growth" - "good services" from government. Presumably this would attract a subset of Democrat voters (you call them entrepreneurs) to the Republican party. But this subset would include only those voters who don't care about certain hot-button issues, like abortion, gay marriage, and prayer/creationism in public schools. But those are the very issues you are willing to abandon libertarians over. Why would it be any more likely that Democrat entrepreneurs would embrace your brand of moralistic socialism than the libertarians are now?

I think you're correct to observe that libertarians have more issues in common with liberals than conservatives but I honestly don't see how the GOP can replace economically conservative social liberals with economically liberal social liberals, just by becoming more economically liberal itself. A more profitable strategy, it seems, is to work with libertarians to defeat liberal collectivism.

Or, do you see a large disaffected contingent of economically liberal social conservatives (or even social agnostics) out there? We used to call those "soccer moms," but Hillary is losing even them to Obama and his brazenly socialist rhetoric.

Posted by: johngalt at February 20, 2008 6:26 PM | What do you think? [4]