Liberal / Libertarian fusion

Brink Lindsey has a great piece outlining how and why libertarians and liberals should join forces:

Allow me to hazard a few more specific suggestions about what a liberal-libertarian entente on economics might look like. Let's start with the comparatively easy stuff: farm subsidies and other corporate welfare. Progressive organizations like Oxfam and the Environmental Working Group have already joined with free-market groups in pushing for ag-policy reform. And it's no wonder, since the current subsidy programs act as a regressive tax on low-income families here at home while depressing prices for exporters in poor countries abroad--and, to top it off, the lion's share of the loot goes to big agribusiness, not family farmers. Meanwhile, the president of Cato and the executive director of the Sierra Club have come out together in favor of a zero-subsidy energy policy. A nascent fusionism on these issues already exists; it merely needs encouragement and emphasis.

Tax reform also offers the possibility of win-win bargains. The basic idea is simple: 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.

Lindsey didn't mention my favorite example of such a policy, perhaps because it is politically intractable - namely school vouchers. Here we have a fundamental progressive end (widespread education) which can be implemented through an efficient means (privately run, publically funded) instead of as an incompetent public monopoly. It's perfect - except that our democracy rewards voting blocs, not efficiency, and to turn against the NEA is political suicide.

This example pretty much encapsulates my views on the fusion. When I was younger, I got pissed off at what government tried to do - stealing some people's money to make other people's lives better. Nowadays I'm more practical, and I see it as a much bigger problem that they try to do this and fail than just that they try. I would prefer privately funded education, but I think the difference betwen what we have now and a voucher system is way bigger than between a voucher system and tax-free libertopia. It's worse that my money is wasted than that it's stolen.

However, I also think the inevitable effect of democracy is mass looting, corruption, and the entrenchment of powerful special interests, as exemplified by the NEA. So while implementing soft-hearted goals with hard-headed policies would be a dramatic improvement, I'm skeptical that it will ever happen. Hence I'm all for this sort of fusion in theory, but I don't think it has much of a chance to improve things in practice. I'd rather think about seasteading, although since Wikipedia says it isn't important :???:, maybe I shouldn't even do that.

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