More on libertarianism

Shows you where I’ve been the last couple of years – up to my eyeballs in multiple moves and raising kids. Apparently there was a dust-up over liberals and libertarians back in the summer of 2006.

The other day I linked to a post from a libertarian leader who looked at ways that liberals and libertarians can have common cause. I have to admit, there’s a lot about libertarianism that’s attractive to me.

I’m not alone in this. In June of 2006, the founder of the liberal web site dailykos.com, Markos Moulitsas, caused quite a stir when he described himself as a “Libertarian Dem”.

I’m largely on board with his view. I’m all for maximizing individual freedom from government intrusion. But to my mind, there are some important components missing from this simple idea, some of which kos gets at in his post, I should say.

First, its strikes me that freedom is more than just being free from interference. It’s also having your individual capacities developed to the point where you can lead as free of a life as possible. Without a solid education, your prospects of getting paid well are much lower, which in turn lowers your ability to enjoy the fruits of this life. Without your health and the healthcare to maintain it, you could very easily end up terribly sick or just plain dead – not very conducive to leading a free life. I think government can play a role in guaranteeing these prerequisites to a full and free life.

This leads me to my second point. Some might argue that it’s the responsibility of parents to guarantee these things. I agree, up to a point. We can never forget the role of sheer, dumb luck in our lives. Not everyone has the advantage of a supportive home life. Do we just condemn these children to a less fulfilled and free life? No, of course not. Can government alone do the job? No. But can parents alone to the job in every case? No.

Last, nothing in traditional notions of libertarianism seems to me to deal with the freedom lost to concentrations of economic power. Power not only comes from the government, with its legal monopoly on the right to use force to compel you to do something. The whims of great economic power can also dramatically alter the freedoms that people enjoy – jobs can be sent overseas, products can be kept off the market, and do I need to point out how the money tends to open lots of doors with politicians?

For a great discussion of the role of luck, check out Matthew Miller’s book, “The Two Percent Solution”. And for a great discussion of the roles of government, private enterprise , and civil society (meaning parents, family, communities, etc.), check out a book called “The Radical Center”.

Here’s some more reading. A fellow writer at dailykos responded to kos’ original post – watch out for the profanity, by the way.

More recently, columnist Michael Kinsley wrote just the other day about the virtues of libertarianism. A libertarian writer, Brian Doherty, soon responded with his own thoughts.

And just for the record, here’s that essay, “Liberaltarians”, I linked to in my first post on libertarianism.

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