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Pragmatic Libertarian? Free-Market Socialist? Progressive Constitutionalist?

In the hope of finding like-minded people, I've been meaning for some time now to set out my political beliefs. Without further ado...

I belong to no political party because no political party represents my beliefs.

I don't reflexively believe in government as the first and best source of solutions to our problems. I don't believe that spending more money on problems necessarily makes them go away; when you're burning money, more money is like gasoline, not water. I don't believe that multilateralism is an absolute; sometimes we must be prepared to act on our own if we feel we're right. I don't believe in a "progressive" tax system; I fail to understand why one person should pay a higher percentage of his or her income (after subtracting basic living expenses) in taxes than another. By all these counts, I can't possibly be a Democrat.

I believe that a fundamental right to privacy is implied in the US Constitution but should be made explicit so that it can't be infringed. I believe that women should control their own reproduction. After many years of soul-searching, though I respect the death penalty as the current law of the land, I believe it should be abolished. I believe that easy and widespread ownership of guns is a cancer in US society (but I'm at a loss as to how to address this problem). I believe that the environment is a trust given to us and must be protected. By all these counts, I can't possibly be a Republican.

I believe that the War on Drugs is a war on an individual personal choice and so can't be won. I believe that the War on Terror is a war on a strategy and so can't be won. (This doesn't mean I agree with terrorism, nor does it mean I feel we shouldn't pursue terrorists who harm us or our friends. To declare war, though, demands that we have a clear picture of how lasting victory will be achieved, else we enter a quagmire.) I believe that subsidies and trade protections for US industries are insidious taxes that, in the end, harm not only consumers at large but the industries they are said to help. By all these counts, I can't possibly belong to either major party.

After going through a phase of liberalism in my teenage years, a phase of conservatism in my twenties, and a phase of libertarianism in my early thirties, I then spent time living and working in Canada, which helped crystallize my beliefs at last.

Without wishing to overgeneralize, I nevertheless think it safe to say that Canadians generally feel that any society that doesn't provide universal medical care for its citizens is somewhat barbaric. US conservatives scoff at this idea, but then they probably feel the same way about any society that doesn't provide universal primary education. What's the difference? There is none, except that US citizens long ago came to the shared belief that universal education is a right, but have yet to come to the same shared belief about universal medical care. If it's reasonable for us to decide to educate our children at taxpayer expense, then would it be reasonable for us to decide to provide health care for all at taxpayer expense? Yes.

On the other hand, the Canadian vision of universal health care is suffused with an all-pervasive sense of fairness. Private health care is generally disallowed. If the government doesn't provide it to all, no one can have it. The entire system is run by the government at the provincial level, with mandated requirements from the federal government. The result is a highly centralized system with minimal choice in which no one seems truly happy. Severely ill patients often cross the border to the US for prompt treatment, and job actions by health care workers are common.

After seeing this system in person, and talking with Canadians about it, I came to two conclusions:

  1. Citizens of a nation must be free to decide that a particular goal is so important that the government must assume responsibility for it, even going so far as to create a new human right in the process.
  2. When this is the case, however, the programs to implement such a human right should be devised in such a way to maximize individual choice by giving participants both as much information about the programs as possible and the tools to make use of such information.
In practical terms, I agree with the goal of universal education, but feel that parents should have far more choice in where and how their children are educated. I agree with the goal of universal health care, but feel it should be implemented so that patients have the freedom to seek care whereever they choose and the incentive to spend their health care dollars wisely.

Given all the above, I can't think of a label for myself. Pragmatic libertarian? Free-market socialist? Progressive constitutionalist?

I look forward to hearing from readers with their thoughts on these issues. Am I the only person holding this set of beliefs?

Comments

You are clearly not a Constitutionalist and are most likely a socialist or closet liberalist.

I believe in the words of the Constitution that all men are created equal: all are equally human from conception to natural death. The Constitution, grounded in Judeo-Christian values is a safeguard to life, all life, no matter how small or regarded inconsequential. Similarly, the constitution is not open to free minded, rambly discourse interpretation. It's meaning is fixed. I do however agree with you that there is an implicit right to privacy hence amendments regarding illegal search and seizure. The second amendment safeguards both our liberty and our privacy.

see also:

http://www.constitution.org/pol/us/consplat.htm
http://www.eagleforum.org/court_watch/alerts/2003/may03/Manifesto.shtml
http://www.blackstoneinstitute.org/

Of course, I respect your right to hold whatever political opinions you will, and I'm glad you saw fit to express them here. With that said...

I find it interesting that self-styled constitutionalists are so often the same people who believe that life begins at conception and therefore all forms of abortion should be illegal. Where does it say that in the US Constitution? The answer is that it doesn't. Nor, on the other hand, does it say that life begins at birth. The US Constitution is ambiguous on this question.

You wrote, "...the Constitution, grounded in Judeo-Christian values..." Where does it mention God in the US Constitution? The answer is that it doesn't. The US Constitution's only mention of religion is in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I submit to you that you and other "constitutionalists" are just as prone to interpretation as the "activists" you so disdain.

The US Constitution says nothing about the question of abortion, yet you interpret its words to find protection for the unborn. A truly strict constitutionalist would answer the abortion question by saying that there is no mention of it, and therefore, per the Tenth Amendment, the question is left to the states.

The US Constitution's only mention of religion is to prohibit the government from establishing it and to guarantee freedom of worship, yet you interpret it as "grounded in Judeo-Christian values". One of the pages to which you linked had this to say:

The world view in which the Constitution is moored is the Judeo-Christian world view. Therefore, the ultimate foundation of the Constitution is Judeo-Christian religious/theological values and views, revolving around a theistic God. The ultimate foundation of the Constitution is not the Humanistic world view, demanding that a human agent or group of human agents (i.e., judicial elite) ravage the Constitution with Humanistic perspectives, purposes, and values. Indeed, our constitutional republic will increasingly malfunction and eventually collapse if severed from its Judeo-Christian foundation.
How interpretive can one get? This is using the context in which a document was created in order to justify one's own reading of it!

Liberal or conservative, activist or constitutionalist, socialist or libertarian -- whatever your beliefs, at least be honest in them.

You sound fairly close to a "progressive libertarian" with the exception of some of your views on health care and the right to self defence. Another similar, overlapping group calls themselves "Geo-libertarians" inthe sense that they believe in an earth-centric and labor-centric kind of libertarians. Both groups are about half way between the Greens and the rather conservative official Libertarian Party USA.

There is also a newish group in the Democratic Party called the DFC for Democratic Freedom Caucus that is made up primarily of populist, progressive and pragmatic libertarians.

We're not absolutely against government intervention in health care, education, self defence arms but we favor a gradual transition toward better social policy alternatives. One set of alternatives is to replace government command-controlled educational, health and other programs with vouchers similar to food stamps. Other alternatives is to cut corporate welfare, welfare for the rich while "perking up" the economy so that the little folk can support themselves and their own needs.


check out

Chris, thanks for the great pointers.

I can easily think of a label for you: Confused.

Mike, you're going to have to do better than that. Exactly how am I confused?

While not to jump the gun on Mike, I'd like to offer up a very simple and universal fact: a human being shares neither thought proccessing nor exact opinion with any other human. This is beautiful for creativity and growth in the existentialist view, but does little to aide in solidifying political parties, or overbearing organizations in general. In my opinion, this uniqueness amongst us all is one of the reasons that we have so many factions and denominations within both political and religious establishments today.

It's too easy to chide each other and claim that none of us is right- almost as easy as it is to dismiss all other opinions and beliefs in order to stand stalwart by your own. Yet the undying bullheadedness (even within these few opinions here) and this age of seperatism never ceases to amaze me. Instead of embracing different shapes we've just continued to seal ourselves off into groups, just like middle school childred in the lunchroom.

Call me a goodie-two shoes or an optimist... I just can't help but hope that some day before we destroy ourselves, at least some small majority will be accepting of one another's differing mentalities.

Off on a tangent again- truly sorry. :)


Hi Frank,

I see this thread is growing a bit old but perhaps you still drop in to see who has been by.

Your orientation does tend toward the libertarian side with some of your opinions deviating from what might be termed the ‘mainstream’ of the philosophy.


> I don't believe that multilateralism is an absolute; sometimes we must be prepared to act on our own if we feel we're right.

Who decides what is ‘right?’
We can probably agree on most items such as slavery and Saddam-style genocide but at which point should any other country intervene?
Abstaining from intervention is more in line with my thinking.
This country fought against great odds to secure the freedom we are now abandoning and others should do the same.
I cannot support spilling American blood unless we are clearly and directly under siege by another power.

> After many years of soul-searching, though I respect the death penalty as the current law of the land, I believe it should be abolished.

Although capital punishment may seem harsh, those killed to remove them from society will not commit any more crimes at all.

> I believe that easy and widespread ownership of guns is a cancer in US society (but I'm at a loss as to how to address this problem).

An armed society is a polite one.
I’m certain you understand that our founders did not trust even the government they constructed to replace the one they deposed.
Even with the superior weapons our military possesses, some of which they have generously passed on to local law enforcement, they could not defeat a citizenry of tens of millions that is armed.
When we lose our last freedoms, it will be quietly and slowly to an apathetic and conditioned populace.
It may seem far-fetched to think our government could go mad but if our founders could see what we have allowed to be imposed upon us, they would probably think it already had.

On health care and education: You admit that the single-payer system, with its faults, doesn’t appear to meet everyone’s needs, nor does our educational system.
Universal education has provided government with a controlled environment to pursue its own agendas and there is a growing awareness of this among parents.
People who have recognized this are removing their children from the system.
Why do you believe that healthcare would avoid this problem?
Do you really think that there would be that all-pervasive ‘fairness’ for all times?
Do you think our elected royalty would subject itself to the same multi-bed wards and just climb onto a waiting list for their heart surgery?
The cartoonist, Lichty, summed it up quite succinctly in one cartoon:
“Yes Comrade, is all people equal. Only some are more equal than others.”

I lived under a form of socialized health care in West Germany during a period of rapid economic growth (1966-1974) that outpaced even the governments spending.
Now, with 10% unemployment, all those socialist chickens have come home to roost and my (German) mother-in-law writes often about the increasing deductibles, lengthy delays for treament and shrinking services.
This comes at a time when she can least afford them; in retirement.

Even during my tenure there, the variance in quality of healthcare depended greatly on whether one was in employment that allowed one to join one of the trades groups and those who were ‘just’ normal mortals were cast into the largest and poorest of the groups.
For the same monthly percentage burden, if one was in the “A.O.K.” and was hospitalized, it was in a 20-40 bed ward.
I belonged to the technical trades groups and would have had at least a semi-private room.
The A.O.K. groups choose between three frames for their glasses; we had 300 available.
The A.O.K. was directly administered by the federal government, the T.K. was run by a staff of non-government employees and far more efficiently.

My US doctor in California retired early because his time was already half tied up with paperwork and he said he had not gone into medicine to support bureaucrats.
How do you think it would be after the healthcare system is nationalized?
Tort reform and getting government out of the business would do much to alleviate costs and improve service.

I am now old enough that if my luck holds, I will die before I am subjected to a healthcare system administered from D.C.
I have been self-employed for about half of my life and have often been without insurance.
The money I would have sent away in premiums has appreciated very nicely in investments and when the time comes I feel the need for me or my wife to seek care, we will be paying for it on our own, not asking others to bear the cost.

I don't recall the source but it was recently said that if you think healthcare is expensive now, just wait until it is "free."

> Citizens of a nation must be free to decide that a particular goal is so important that the government must assume responsibility for it, even going so far as to create a new human right in the process.

I can’t agree with a dictatorship of the majority.
Individuals should be free to make their own decisions, not have them taken from them only because they lost the vote.

> it should be implemented so that patients have the freedom to seek care whereever they choose and the incentive to spend their health care dollars wisely.

I really don’t care how people spend their money, wisely or otherwise, as long as they don’t come to me with outstretch hands when they discover their errors.

> I believe that the environment is a trust given to us and must be protected.

Given to us by whom? This sounds as if your belief is grounded in faith.
If so, I can respect that although I do not share it.

I also do not believe we should destroy the planet for those who will come after us.
But who should be appointed arbiters of the damage created?
Government?
Government across the planet has caused more pollution and environmental damage than private industry ever has, along with being the mass murderers without equal.

I certainly support the concept that those who have caused damage should be charged with repairing it.
The courts and the people should decide that, not government. They use such punitive actions to fatten their coffers, not only punish.

In summary, I would say that you would not be out of place in the ranks of the Libertarian Party, we certainly don’t agree on everything either but are far more consistent than the Republicrats and there is hardly any part of life when freedom to succeed or fail is less desirable than being commanded by a nanny government.

Our founders got it damned close to ideal when they formulated our fundamental laws and throwing out the concepts of personal responsibility, individual choice and the free market can never bring an improvement to the human condition.
Too many historical examples show otherwise.

Come home to the LP; being an Independent means never having to take a stand.

Steve A.

Hi Frank,

I bumped into your web page again and thought of a few other things that have helped me clarify my own political views and understanding.

The first is that there has been a major corruption of the historical meanings of terms "libertarian" and "socialist" into nearly always mutually exclusive, opposite meanings. It may help you and others to know that the first "libertarians" and the first "socialists" were largely the same people. Probably the most famous of these was the Frenchman P.J. Proudhon. (Later, somewhat less famous representatives were Bakunin, Goldman, Tucker and Nock.) Various historical and political revisionists have muddied the historical track with confusing half true commentaries about "anarchistic socialists, libertarian socialists," etc.

The original context of "socialism" was the opposition of politically powered privilege and monopoly to free social self determination and freely organized cooperation and association. In this original context, circa 1820 to 1850 in France, "socialism" meant "Social Power" of a free society vs the "Political Power" of the privileged Aristocracy and their client middlemen "cronyocracy" or bureaucracy. The English word "libertarian" is literally borrowed from its original usage by, for and of these original "French Socialists." Eg, a free society meant "Societe Libertaire."

These orignal "libertarians" were opposed to all forms of politically coerced monopoly, privilege, and coercive combination and concentration of opportunity for the favor of a private few at the expense of the rest of the public. It was not until Marx' Germanic form of "socialism" did socialism come to mean the opposite of its original french usage, to mean an even greater extreme of monopoly of political power over production and natural opportunity. Marx' "wrinkle" that allowed him to hide under the sheepskin of "socialism" was that under his version political power "siezed by society" (snatched from the puppet strings of oligarchy) would be used to ensure a fairer, more equal access and disposition of economic opportunity and natural resources for production. Marx often disdainfully contrasted French "romantic socialism" of anti-monopolism with his supposedly more "scientific, realistic, materialistic socialism" because of his presupposition that monopolistic concentration of all the factors of production would be "inevitable."

Marx made no substantive policy distinction between politically coercively rigged artificial monopolies and the very few "natural monopolies." Marx was surely not a socialist in the original French sense; he was merely a Statist of a different kind after political power and privilege for a new set of state rulers. If you dig a bit deeper into socialist history, you would find a "schism" between the Marxist statists and the Bakunin anarchists . Marx' faction gained the upper hand by moving the Socialist International Congress from Europe over to New York. This was the beginning of the end for the "libertarian," sometimes called "anarchist" moment in "official socialist" history.

I've misplaced the exact web page, but if you search the Benjamin Tucker sites, you will find a translation of a monograph written by a French journalist named LeSigne ca. 1870 which describes the two diametrically opposed different forms of "socialism," the "libertarian" (or anarchist) vs the Marxist statist style.

Chris Toto

Frank,

the Tucker/LeSigne page I mentioned about libertarian socialism is at the following:


http://flag.blackened.net/daver/anarchism/tucker/tucker2.html

Chris

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