It was my fealty to the notion of personal liberty that made me a Republican when I came of age in the 1980s. It is my continued fealty to personal liberty that makes me a Democrat today. ~Markos Moulitsas, Cato Unbound
Try to read through those sentences without laughing at least a little. I bet you can’t do it. Maybe because of Reaganite positions on tax reduction and deregulation I can see why a “classical” liberal (does that make their modern successors Byzantine liberals?) or a libertarian would have been somewhat more attracted to the GOP in the 1980s. But at first glance I am at a loss to understand the second part.
But do my eyes deceive me? Kos was a Republican in the Reagan years? The world is indeed a strange place. Doesn’t that admission of Reaganite deviationism harm his street cred with the Kossack hordes? But no matter. What I found curious was the following statement, which seems to me to throw into doubt the entire premise that Kos is a libertarian of any meaningful kind:
Like me, these were people who didn’t instinctively reject the ability of government to protect our personal liberties, who saw government as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see the government as the source of first resort when seeking solutions to problems facing our country.
Anything jump out at you? Do any libertarians believe that the government protects our liberties? Do not, in fact, almost all libertarians believe that our liberties must be protected against the government? Now Kos knows this, anticipates this and answers it soon enough with the unconvincing answer that corporations are now the greater enemy, so government is now the ally of freedom.
This is something that never ceases to amaze me about Democrats. It is also one of the many reasons why I will never be one, though I may occasionally vote for their candidates to punish the GOP for its misrule. No matter how large, abusive and tyrannical government becomes (and it has become worse in just my lifetime), the corporations are always worse and government is, in many cases, the solution. Among conservatives I am as likely as anyone to accept harsh criticisms of corporations and I am perfectly glad to recognise that many of them are too powerful, but where they become most threatening is when these corporations work in tandem with the state. And, as libertarian apologists for megacorporations will frequently point out, corporations by themselves cannot kill or punish anyone with impunity; even when they get the government to fight “small wars” on their behalf they are using the state’s coercive powers. If we believe that the government will shield us from them, we are simply handing over control to another master.
No one needs to convince me that Republicans are enemies of liberty, though it is not because they oppose gay marriage and abortion, so Kos’ arguments here are as unobjectionable as they are unoriginal. What is unclear to me is how “libertarian Democrats” offer anything substantially better or even more “libertarian” than the old conservative Democrats and Populists of the 19th century whose legacy the modern Democratic Party has completely abandoned. Whether as diagnosed in Where Did The Party Go? or recounted by my relatives who were once Democrats but could no longer remain in that party, we all know that the party of both Cleveland and Bryan has become the party of Humphrey and Clinton and that this transformation is what irrevocably drove so many traditional Democratic voters, who shared an aversion to concentrated power and wealth, to the other side. For the last forty or fifty years these people have tried to convince themselves that siding with the party of concentrated wealth was at least slightly preferable to the party of concentrated power and cultural revolution. Unfortunately, the Democrats show no real signs of changing their fundamental direction or priorities, which do not include individual freedoms as most of these disenchanted Democrats understand them. The Democrats just might be wising up enough to allow people like Jim Webb and Jon Tester in the door, rather than purging them for lacking sufficient ideological purity on questions of sympathy for the Confederacy or centralised control, but the values of Webb and Tester are never going to dominate the Democratic Party. That leaves the anticorporate, antigovernment neo-populists and sons of former Democrats, such as myself, to head off in our own direction.