Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kos and liberty

The Daily Kos has started its own version of Wikipedia, for politics. And it would be rude not to take a moment to make fun of its - acknowledged - biases.

However, classical liberals and libertarians might be interested in this piece by the man himself, from 2006. There's not much wrong with this:

A Libertarian Dem rejects government efforts to intrude in our bedrooms and churches. A Libertarian Dem rejects government "Big Brother" efforts, such as the NSA spying of tens of millions of Americans. A Libertarian Dem rejects efforts to strip away rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights -- from the First Amendment to the 10th. And yes, that includes the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.
And he went on to cast a more realistic light on "positive" freedoms than is often the case:
A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement -- we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on.
No rational right-libertarian denies the existence of negative externalities (though some irrational ones do), nor would they quibble about law and order. The sticking points are transport and health care.

Perhaps. These are similar arguments. Shopping has moved from High Street to supermarkets you really do need a car to use, especially in the country. Are you really free if you're unable to buy the food others can and don't have access to health care because you're uninsured? Yes, you can be. But here the liberal and the libertarian part company; concern for the less well off has always been a liberal preoccupation, since Adam Smith and Mill (in the latter case the utilitarian argument is obvious). On health care, the libertarian and the overwhelming majority of this country part company. Libertarians can choose to bathe in the streams of doctrinal purity if they wish, but they make themselves irrelevant if they do. It would be more fruitful to debate how tax-funded treatment should be provisioned - by the People's Army or private suppliers - than over whether it should exist.

It does strike me, though, that a significant alliance is not being formed - liberal people from right and left - because both prefer to let the best be the enemy of the good.

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