Are Libertarian Values The Key To Bridging The Political Divide ?
Michael Shermer had an interesting piece over at The Huffington Post last week in which he posits that libertarian ideas can be the basis on which conservatives and liberals find common political ground:
Libertarianism is grounded in the Principle of Freedom: All people are free to think, believe, and act as they choose, as long as they do not infringe on the equal freedom of others. Of course, the devil is in the details of what constitutes “infringement,” but there are at least a dozen essentials to protecting from infringements our basic freedoms:
1. The rule of law.
2. Property rights.
3. Economic stability through a secure and trustworthy banking and monetary system.
4. A reliable infrastructure and the freedom to move about the country.
5. Freedom of speech and the press.
6. Freedom of association.
7. Mass education.
8. Protection of civil liberties.
9. A robust military for protection of our liberties from attacks by other states.
10. A potent police force for protection of our freedoms from attacks by other people within the state.
11. A viable legislative system for establishing fair and just laws.
12. An effective judicial system for the equitable enforcement of those fair and just laws.
These essentials incorporate the moral values embraced by both liberals and conservatives, and as such form the foundation for a bridge between left and right.
Of course, as Bruce McQuain points out in his own post about Shermer’s article, there’s at least one item in the list above — “mass education” — that may not exactly be a libertarian value, at least not if we’re talking about education under the exclusive monopolistic auspices of the state. At the same time, though, I think that most libertarians will agree with a sentiment that Thomas Jefferson expressed two centuries ago:
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
So, on some level, an educated citizenry is essential for the existence of a free state. How that is accomplished is another question.
On Shermer’s broader point, though, I’m not as sanguine about the ability of libertarian ideas to unite liberals and conservatives. Both sides use rhetoric that appeals to liberty and America’s founding principles, but when they actually get into power, it’s a much different story. I’m no longer sure that the values Shermer talks about are anything more than talking points to them anymore.