A while back I proposed a third party (I know, I know third parties are total pipe dreams. The barriers to entry are too high. Tell that to the Whigs and the Tories…!). I basically said that the word ‘libertarian’ carried with it too much baggage – something that has come up now in the renewed discussion about liberal-tarianism (also here, here, here, and here). So why not start a Liberal party?
My hastily sketched out platform:
- Limited government, but not anti-government. Trust in good governance and transparency rather than demonizing all things ‘statist’.
- Support for a simplified, but still progressive tax code.
- Non-interventionist militarily; globalist economically.
- Free trade with strong safety nets (like health care and unemployment assistance) to help people aversely effected by inherently chaotic (and thus functioning) markets.
- Support for more legal immigration of both low-skilled and high-skilled workers.
- A strong focus on civil liberties and social equality: end DADT, support for gay marriage, no more government authorized torture or assassination.
- A push toward more competitive federalism where possible to make government more responsive to people and less bureaucratic.
- A focus on ending subsidies in agriculture, fossil fuels, and other industries which distort trade, hurt the environment, and benefit big business.
- Strong, but fair, environmental protections.
- Support for workers rights, but not for too-big-to-fail government unions.
I think this probably leaves out more than it includes (like ending the drug war, etc.), but it starts to shape at least some of what I’d like to see from government, and it focuses a great deal on social and foreign policy issues rather than purely economic ones. In large part, that’s because I believe that free markets and capitalism are here to stay. We can argue about taxation and spending and deficits and all that, and there is room for much disagreement on a whole host of issues from health care reform to climate change (and I will fall largely on the side of market reformers on these, but not entirely), but at the end of the day nobody is suggesting we do away with the market economy. The busy-bodies may be trying to do too much good and all that do-goodering may lead to more central planning, more unsustainable deficit spending, etc. but we’re still largely going to be economically a liberal society with many, many kinks to work out.
In any case, I’ve also recently written about what I called ‘positive conservatism’ and I really think the two – the idea of a ‘Liberal’ party and the idea of a more positive conservatism, a conservatism of ideas – go hand in hand. In any case, I think that whether we’re talking about a new sort of libertarianism or a new brand of conservatism, either way we need to be talking about ideas. To decentralize government, to limit the state in ways that are effective and not merely hand-outs to special interests and big business, we need to speak in terms that go beyond broad brush strokes or shots at our political opponents. Oh there’s space for those as well, to be sure, but we need to go further. The very terminology of left and right begins to drag down a discussion of ideas after a while, though I’m hopelessly wed to that taxonomical project myself.