Tuesday, December 05, 2006

That Whole Liberal-Libertarian Alliance Thing

There’s a big blogospheric brouhaha about Brink Lindsey’s article on the possibility of a liberal-libertarian alliance. Julian has the definitive round-up.

Do I have anything useful to add? Probably nothing that hasn’t already been said by someone else, but I’m too lazy to read everyone else’s post before making my own. Julian hints at what’s bothering me about this whole discussion when he says:
If libertarians are seen as basically unmoored and "up for grabs," both parties will have more incentive to court us. ... But the relationship between exit, voice, and loyalty is complex: The threat of exit augments voice to a certain extent (think of responsiveness to consumer complaints in competitive versus monopolistic markets), but one's willingness to make concessions in a coalition is going to be dependent on its apparent stability. You're not going to move across the country and convert to Judaism for a girlfriend you suspect will ditch you for the first cute bartender who winks at her. And, as I suggested yesterday, there are places where moves to more optimal policies from both libertarian and liberal perspectives are blocked by liberal fears that we'll exploit the diminished political popularity of more targeted social programs (say) to wipe them out altogether.
Think of an alliance as a kind of contract. Contracts require some form of enforcement, but this contract has no sturdy enforcement mechanism. Libertarians can swear up and down to support Policy X, and liberals can swear to oppose Policy Y, but those promises won’t realistically bind anybody – probably not the promise-makers themselves, and certainly not future generations of policymakers. You can’t sue political parties for altering their platforms or politicians for breaking their campaign promises. The proposed liberal-libertarian bargain is thus not subgame perfect; both sides can predict opportunistic defection by the other side.

It’s true that cooperation can be sustained in a repeated game without external enforcement, generally by means of strategies of the "I'll cooperate until you cheat and then refuse to cooperate ever again (or at least for a really long time)" variety. It’s also true that such cooperative solutions tend to be fragile, especially in the presence of short time horizons. In politics, actors are not accountable for sufficiently distant costs and benefits; blame can easily be cast on various other parties (other politicians, other branches of government, etc.); and the vagueness and complexity of legislation obscures when true defections have occurred. All of these factors combine to make political bargains unstable at best.


Eric Dondero said...

All this talk of "libertarian Democrats."

Democrats may want to link up with us libertarians, but we libertarians have little if any interest whatsoever of linking up with them.

Put aside for a moment our huge disagreements on economic issues.

Democrats are even bad these days on civil liberties. Who is pushing all the smoking bans all over the US? Democrats. Who is it that's calling for a return to the Military Draft? Democrats. Who was it that blocked our brave libertarian petitioners for property rights and got our libertarian petitions kicked off the ballots all over the US like MT, MO, and NV in 2006? Democrats. Who is it that protests and disrupts speeches by libertarians on college campuses all over the US? Democrats. Who is it that wants to take our guns away? Democrats.

Who is it that supports anti-libertarian affirmative action laws? Who is it that supports seat belt laws? Who is it that wants to force little kids riding bicycles to weat helmets? Answer to all the above: Democrats

When was the last time you even heard a Democrat supporting legalization of marijuana?

There are virtually no areas of agreement between Democrats and libertarians. Maybe Pro-Choice on abortion and Gay Rights. But even there Dems want government funding and "special rights for Gays"(which we libertarians oppose).

Further, how many libertarians ever win election as Democrats? Virtually none. How many libertarians win as Republicans? Hundreds like former Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Ron Paul now a Republican Congressman from Texas.

"libertarian Democrat"? A stupid idea if there ever was one.

Eric Dondero at www.mainstreamlibertarian.com

Anonymous said...

After reading the previous comment, it is clear to me that the ONLY hope for the libertarian movement is to rid itself completely of all right-wing Republican nutcases.

I can envision an alliance among libertarians, environmentalists, the labor movement, and anti-perpetual war groups. The plutocracy and military-industrial complex will have to be dismantled abruptly by riots and revolution if necessary. The fanatical gun/hunting lobby must be crushed as well. Wild animals and their habitat are entitled to be free from encroachment, certainly more so than greedy, beastly, and selfish subhumans and their lavish, sprawling mansions.

I'm only in favor of the draft for those warmongers who want to "stay the course." This is a cost effective approach, because those people with the illiberal belief in mass murder are already armed to the teeth, and are able to furnish their own AK-47s and flak jackets.

Anonymous said...

You call me a "Right-wing nutcase..." What part of support for legalizing prostitution, pro-choice on abortion, pro-rights of Swingers and Striptease club owners, anti-sodomy laws, pro-rights to smoke tobacco in nightclubs, repeal of the 21-year old drinking age law, and pro-legalization of gambling, sounds "Right-wing" to you??

Eric at www.mainstreamlibertarian.com