“Libertarians should ditch the Republican Party in favor of the Democrats”

The Cato Institute daily e-mail newsletter highlights an article published in the New Republic by its vice president for research, Brink Lindsey, arguing that “[t]he old formulation [supporting a ‘fusionist’ alliance between Republican traditionalists and libertarians] defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government.”

Libertarian socialists will likely consider their capitalist counterparts rather slow in reaching this conclusion. George Bush ran on this platform and has been in power for just under six years. There is only one major issue on which the Bush administration and libertarian capitalists have agreed: global warming, which the Cato Institute continues to attribute to natural rather than man-made causes on the rare occasions its even willing to admit that it is happening. Libertarians, whether socialist or capitalist, have largely disapproved the Iraq war, the destruction of civil liberties, and the imposition of the evangelical Protestant social agenda.

Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.

The problem with libertarian capitalists is that they embrace economic authoritarianism; their idea of freedom is for wealthy property-owners to be able to do what they want with their money and their property at the expense of social and environmental interests.

To date, Democrats have made inroads with libertarian voters primarily by default. Yes, it’s true that Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos fame caused something of a stir by proposing the term “Libertarian Democrat” to describe his favored breed of progressive. And the most prominent examples of his would-be movement–first-term Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana, fellow Montanan Tester, and Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb–have sounded some libertarian themes by being simultaneously pro-choice and pro-gun rights. At the same time, however, their anti-NAFTA, Wal-Mart-bashing economic populism is anathema to free-market supporters.

But Lindsey also points to common ground:

Both generally support a more open immigration policy. Both reject the religious right’s homophobia and blastocystophilia. Both are open to rethinking the country’s draconian drug policies. Both seek to protect the United States from terrorism without gratuitous encroachments on civil liberties or extensions of executive power. And underlying all these policy positions is a shared philosophical commitment to individual autonomy as a core political value. . . .

The basic outlines of a viable compromise are clear enough. On the one hand, restrictions on competition and burdens on private initiative would be lifted to encourage vigorous economic growth and development. At the same time, some of the resulting wealth-creation would be used to improve safety-net policies that help those at the bottom and ameliorate the hardships inflicted by economic change. . . . Shift taxes away from things we want more of and onto things we want less of. Specifically, cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption. Go ahead, tax the rich, but don’t do it when they’re being productive. Tax them instead when they’re splurging–by capping the deductibility of home-mortgage interest and tax incentives for purchasing health insurance. And tax everybody’s energy consumption. All taxes impose costs on the economy, but at least energy taxes carry the silver lining of encouraging conservation–plus, because such taxes exert downward pressure on world oil prices, foreign oil monopolies would wind up getting stuck with part of the bill.

Of course those safety-net policies could only be implemented through larger government. Lindsey answers that “[w]ith millions already dependent on the current programs, and with baby boomers beginning to retire in just a couple of years, libertarians’ dreams of dramatically shrinking federal spending are flatly unrealizable for many years to come.” But with costs set to explode, he argues that liberals will have no choice but to rethink current programs.

Perhaps so. But libertarian capitalists have a simple-minded faith in an economic system that can only enhance elite privilege at the expense of everyone else. The only real growth in employment in recent years, especially as “free trade” policies have been implemented, has been in low wage, abusive jobs. Capitalism has no answer for this other than a false claim that it hasn’t been tried, a claim which ignores the history of industrialization in the late 19th Century and ignores more recent history with an increasing gap between rich and poor. A highest capitalist value of return on investment requires the exploitation of everything and everyone possible; it cannot be reconciled with any concept of social justice.

But Democrats, barely distinguishable from Republicans, will hardly care. While Lindsey points to progressive views as obstacles to a new “fusion,” he ignores the fact that Democrats pay only lip service to progressivism. Libertarians, I think, will find a deal easy to make, should they choose to make it.

Looking for an out? Or a way to stay in?

Tom Hayden has published an article on the Huffington Post blog claiming that negotiations are occurring between U.S. officials and the Sunni resistance in Iraq. Hayden writes, “Failures on the battlefield and in the recent American elections are propelling the Bush Administration to consider significant changes in Iraq policy. Having placed the Shiite majority in power, the Administration now wonders if the country is being delivered to Iran.” More mysteriously, “It is not for holiday purposes that George Bush and Condoleeza [sic] Rice are meeting next week with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman while Dick Cheney rushes to Saudi Arabia.” The plan would consist of the following points (quoted from Hayden’s article):

  • The resistance groups reject the ability of the al-Maliki government to unify its government, and therefore wants [sic] an interim government imposed before new elections can be held.
  • The former Baathist-dominated national army, intelligence services and police, whose leaders currently are heading the underground resistance, would be rehired, restored and re-integrated into national structures under this plan.
  • Multinational Force [MNF-I] activities aimed at controlling militias to be expanded.
  • The US-controlled Multi-National Force [MNF-I] would be redeployed to control the eastern border with Iran.
  • A Status of Forces agreement would be negotiated immediately permitting the presence of American troops in Iraq for as long as ten years. Troop reductions and redeployments would be permitted over time.
  • Amnesty and prisoner releases would be negotiated between the parties, with the Americans guaranteeing the end of torture of those held in the detention centers and prisons of the current, Shiite-controlled Iraqi state.
  • De-Baathification edicts issued by Paul Bremer would be rescinded, allowing tens of thousands of former Baathists to resume military and professional service.
  • An American commitment to financing reconstruction would be continued, and the new Iraqi regime would guarantee incentives for private American companies to participate in the rebuilding effort.
  • War-debt relief for Kuwait and other countries.

On Democracy Now!, Hayden explained that “over the past several years, but especially in the past month since the election, there have been contacts at a deniable level.” All this occurs while Iran reportedly offers “to help Washington calm Iraq’s escalating sectarian violence, if the United States drops its ‘bullying’ policy toward Tehran,” “[c]ongressional leaders displayed eroding patience in the Iraqi government on Sunday, adding pressure on President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to find a faster path to peace when they meet this week,” even as “Shiite politicians loyal to the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr … have threatened to boycott parliament and the Cabinet if al-Maliki meets with Bush” possibly because, as the London Sunday Telegraph reports, “The goal [of a weeklong, high-stakes diplomatic offensive for control of the Middle East] is to marshal a force of friendly Sunni regimes against the radical leadership of Shi’ite Iran, which Washington thinks is trying to develop a nuclear bomb,” and which is also widely believed to have gained considerable influence within Iraq itself. Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, the Iraq Study Group’s “draft report on strategies for Iraq, which will be debated here by a bipartisan commission beginning Monday, urges an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria.”

The upshot of all this is it looks like the Bush administration now seeks to play the Sunnis off against the Shi’ites–importantly including Iran–and seemingly seeks to do it before the Iraq Study Group releases its report. The trouble with this is that the Shi’ites, importantly including Iran, are capable of raising even more havoc than the Sunnis. This really doesn’t look to me like a plan for peace, but a way to provoke the wider war with Syria and Iran that I thought the Bush administration wanted when Hezbollah rebuffed Israel earlier this year.

“Look at all this mess,” said Timur Goksel, a former longtime spokesman for United Nations Forces in Lebanon. “The only one who has overall influence in the region with their military, ideology, money and propensity to cause mischief, are the Iranians.”

Happy Genocide Day

I have a collection of native American speeches which helps to explain the failure of native Americans to unite against the European invaders who would ultimately annihilate the vast majority of their population. It’s important to understand that some native Americans did not perceive the Europeans as a homogeneous group. British, French, and colonists all vied for alliances with the natives. Different groups allied with different Europeans; this not only prevented native Americans from uniting against the scourge, but I imagine that because Europeans were likely less apt to tell one native American from another, likely contributed to an image of native American treachery.

The first of these speeches was given by Acuera, the Timucua chief, circa 1540:

Others of your accursed race have, in years past, poisoned our peaceful shores. They have taught me what you are. What is your employment? To wander about like vagabonds from land to land, to rob the poor, to betray the confiding, to murder in cold blood the defenceless. No! with such a people I want no peace–no friendship. War, never-ending war, exterminating war, is all the boon I ask.

You boast yourselves valiant, and so you may be; but my faithful warriors are not less brave, and this too you shall one day prove; for I have sworn to maintain an unsparing conflict while one white man remains in my borders–not only in battle, though even thus we fear not to meet you, but by strategem, ambush, and midnight surprisal.

I am king in my own land, and will never become the vassal of a mortal like myself. Vile and pusillanimous is he who will submit to the yoke of another when he may be free. As for me and my people, we choose death–yes! a hundred deaths–before the loss of our liberty and the subjugation of our country.

Keep on robbers and traitors: in Acuera and Apalachee we will treat you as you deserve. Every captive will we quarter and hang up to the highest tree along the road.

Now comes this on, of all places, FreeRepublic, a conservative blog:

Origin of Thanksgiving Holiday

Culture/Society Miscellaneous
Source: Univ of Connecticut Anthropology Dept
Author: William B. Newell (Penobscot Tribe)
Posted on 11/22/2000 10:23:07 PST by waonkon

The year was 1637…..700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe, gathered for their “Annual Green Corn Dance” in the area that is now known as Groton, Conn.

While they were gathered in this place of meeting, they were surrounded and attacked by mercernaries of the English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth, they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in the building.

The next day, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared : “A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children.

For the next 100 years, every “Thanksgiving Day” ordained by a Governor or President was to honor that victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.

Source: Documents of Holland, 13 Volume Colonial Documentary. History, letters and reports from colonial officials to their superiors and the King in England and the private papers of Sir William Johnson, Britsh Indian agent for the New York colony for 30 years.

Researched by William B. Newell (Penobscot Tribe)
Former Chairman of the University of Connecticut Anthropology Department.