Saturday, October 14, 2006

Libertarian Democrats v. Libertarian Republicans?

CATO UNBOUND is hosting an interesting debate this month that began with an essay by Markos Moulitsas on libertarian democrats.

I like JANE GALT'S response to the idea of libertarian democrats:
"For most people, the economic areas of life dominate their contact with the government. And the powers granted to the tax authorities are broader and more abusive than any other civil authority that deals with US citizens. They have their own special, and opaque, court system in which their cases are tried. The rules for criminal acts are, by and large, clear and commonsensical; most people have a pretty good idea of what constitutes assault with a deadly weapon, murder, burglary, criminal trespass, and so forth. People may be falsely accused of being involved in a terror plot, but at least they have a solid notion of what 'conspiracy to commit terrorist acts' means. Tax law, on the other hand, is incomprehensibly complex, and the courts tend to make their decisions based less upon what is just than upon what maximises revenue collection for the government. Securities law, environmental law, zoning questions, building codes, and so forth, are similarly flawed.

Democrats say: but look at all the goodies we get! And that's a fair argument–but not a convincing one to libertarians, who want to maximise freedom of action and minimise interference of government, not maximise security and minimise white collar crime. That's why they tend to vote Republican: they disagree with the Republicans on many issues, but if you want to minimise the power of the state, you need to hack deep into the apparatus limiting economic freedoms, because that is where there is the most state to minimise. The Democrats will, I expect, get a fair number of libertarian votes this election, including mine. But it will be a vote of protest against the various sins of the Republican party, not a conversion to the notion that sexual freedoms are the only ones that really matter"
Of course I like the emphasis here on economic freedom. It is my sense that the Democrat party is, in general, relatively little interested in protecting economic freedom. Both parties, in general, are subject to the same sorts of criticisms when they govern. Corruption and abuse of power, as well as the interest to accommodate rent seeking, seem to me pretty equally found on both sides of the political isle. The constitution, as written, seems to me a fine document for protecting economic freedom, and at least with the Republican party I see a larger chance of Supreme Court justices who will read the constitution as written.

While Jane Galt may see value in a protest vote in this election, I see little value in protest votes in general, and especially in this election. The inherent nature of any legislature encourages rent seeking. It seems to me the only chance to constrain government's intrusions on economic freedoms is for the Judicial branch of government to see it's job as protecting individual economic freedoms. Over the course of the final two years of the Bush Administration, there may well be at least one or two more Supreme Court justices that retire. If there is any hope of moving government in ways that increase and enhance individual economic freedom, I think it is very important to replace those retiring justices with justices who believe the constitution protects economic freedom. This will not happen if Democrats can filibuster in the Senate. It seems to me a protest vote in this election weakens the chances of increasing the realm of economic freedom in our system of political economy.

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