Friday, December 21, 2018

Post-Libertarians Shopping For Ideas

Hey la hey la, my Brooksy's back ("A New Center Being Born")!
Americans have lost faith in the big institutions of society. Many fly off to extremes, to the Donald Trump right or the Bernie Sanders left. Most of the rest of us feel adrift, gloomy and politically homeless.
But people figure it out. New ideas emerge. Old ideas are put together in new ways. Today, I offer you just one example — the Niskanen Center, which has become one of the most creative think tanks in America today.
I feel less politically homeless than any time I can remember, in a wildly quarrelsome but furiously loyal Democratic party—like an Italian or Jewish or Chinese family, full of drama and hot rages and sloppy kisses, not like an Anglo one—where there's suddenly room for all my contradictory priorities to be entertained, if not necessarily carried through. But anyway...

He's back from vacation and almost up to date, referencing this thing Jonathan Chait was on about last week, where a bunch of libertarians found out that libertarianism was based on an economic error
Toward the end of his life, though, Niskanen began to express some doubts about the efficacy of supply-side economics, the unquestioned foundation of the Republican domestic platform. Cutting taxes without cutting spending, Niskanen observed, simply hadn’t worked.
and is wrong about everything else as well
Last year, Will Wilkinson argued against “small-government monomania” and in favor of a social safety net to “increase the public’s tolerance for the dislocations of a dynamic free-market economy,” and identify libertarianism with hostility to democracy, resulting in persistent Republican efforts “to find ways to keep Democrats from voting, and to minimize the electoral impact of the Democratic ballots that are cast.” Brink Lindsey attacked “the notion that downward redistribution picks the pockets of makers and doles it out to layabout takers.”
These are frontal assaults on the basic orientation of the libertarian political project. By recognizing the value of social transfers as a backstop to a free-market system, and acknowledging that the right’s obsession with the protection of property has made it hostile to democracy itself, they forced themselves to rethink not only the methods but also the goals of libertarian politics.
Wilkinson, late last year, stepped away from libertarianism, acknowledging that according to libertarians’ own data, countries with larger welfare states also had more freedom. This revealed “a pretty major intellectual mistake lurking within the ideal-theoretic version of libertarianism that the most prominent institutions of the ‘freedom movement’ were built to promote.”
and decided to adopt something else, in a manifesto that sounds like the New Liberalism of David Lloyd George, vintage 1906, or maybe the Progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt from around the same period:
In theory, [says Chait,] it argues, market forces do a better job than central planners. In reality, though, most of the regulations conservatives target are those that advance legitimate social objectives — protecting health, safety and the environment — and impose costs on existing firms. The regulations most in need of scaling back are those imposed by state and local governments, and which protect incumbent owners of businesses and land. That is, regulations can be either good or bad, but in general, Republicans are attacking the good ones while leaving the bad ones in place.
That's so great. Theory and reality disagree? Let's compromise!

So naturally Brooksy loves it, because he's crazy for compromise, and besides it's so fresh and new:
As I was reading the Niskanen report I experienced two strange sensations: I felt liberated to see the world in fresh new ways, and not only in the ways I’ve always seen them or the way people with my label are supposed to see them. I began to feel at home.
There's no place like home, especially if you've never been there before.

Nevertheless the fact is that to the extent there's any substantive policy implications in this stuff, they're in territory that's been fully occupied by Democrats for the last 90 years or so, in what used to be a Popular Front boiling with ideas and is becoming one again. It's not my favorite neighborhood in the party, but it's ours, and if young Beto wins the primary next year it's going to represent us.

I used to think there ought to be a real opposition between two progressive parties, as there was in the new US at the end of the 18th century, with two distinct versions of what progress is. There's no need for a conservative party at all, but maybe there should be a contest between Individual Liberty and Social Justice, as priorities that society as a whole needs to get balanced.

But these post-Libertarians aren't going to provide it. If they are going to get anywhere, they're going to have to come up with something of their own.

Drifty has quite a bit more.

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