Arnold Kling  

Politics, Economics, and Religion

Russell's Question... The New Deal Legacy...

I write,

I find it a challenge trying to persuade religious conservatives to loosen the relationship between their religious beliefs and their political agenda. However, I find it even more of a challenge to deal with the Left, where their political agenda is their religion.

...In recent years, the Republicans betrayed us on economic issues. However, my sense is that many in the conservative movement are anxious to repent.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (12 to date)
MattC writes:

I think part of the problem might be there aren't enough Christian libertarians. As you said in your piece, you're a personal conservative who might change your position if you were shown ill effects. That's basically why I have leaned away from drug legalization and have strong reservations about gay marriage, fearing the marginal effects on society. However, I think a lot of Christians could be brought around to a less interventionist state, especially with regard to education.

Maybe it is possible to build off the changes from the Catholic Church over the past 15 years, which has become stridently pro-market (at least from the top).

Matt C (a different one) writes:

I doubt that conservatives see themselves in a marriage with libertarians. To the extent they see a relationship at all, it is a less flattering one.

As far as ideology goes, I think it is a mistake to divide ourselves into conservative libertarians, liberal libertarians, green libertarians, anarcho libertarians, lifestyle libertarians, etc. Some of this is unavoidable, but influential guys (like you) shouldn't do it on purpose. IMO a better goal would be getting ordinary, mostly non-ideological Americans to feel comfortable saying they are libertarian, or libertarian leaning.

For practical politics, we should ally with whoever is in power on any issues that we might conceivably have in common. For now, this looks like the Democrats. Perhaps we might get some sort of marijuana decriminalization on the table. Or perhaps a bill to shore up the tatters of the Fourth Amendment. Or one to affirm the right of habeas corpus, even if only for U.S. citizens.

Christina writes:

I think the biggest problem libertarians have is convincing regular folks that just because we don't advocate government intervention in every facet of life, doesn't mean that we want some sort of jungle society. Based on my conversations, that's the biggest hurdle people have to leap in order to come around. Both the Republicans and Democrats have successfully conflated government programs with "doing something positive." Until we figure out how to effectively debunk that, we won't get anywhere with non-libertarians.

Arnold Kling writes:

I agree. That is one purpose of this earlier essay:

(request for comment)

Matt writes:

No matter what the repents or apologies; the conservative mob will behave exactly like that, a mob. So do the progressives.

Cognitive awareness just make the mobs more efficient.

I fear Kling starts with a personal view and warps libertarianism to fit it.

I am equally aware of both camps; they both seek for government to expand its role in the private sector, they both use a fixed price variable service model to coherce ever larger portions of the private sector into government.

Note, both camps, especially the conservative, always seeks the line item veto; proof that he/she is a government expansionist.

Kling will never make a purse from that sow's ear.

Snark writes:
However, I find it even more of a challenge to deal with the Left, where their political agenda is their religion.

I think Arnold is right. Conservatives have the advantage of praying to a better God. May He grant all of their prayers, and the wisdom to understand what they're praying for.

Barkley Rosser writes:

I would be careful about overstating the irreligiosity of the "political left," although certainly traditional Marxists were/are atheists. But there has long been a "Christian social" movement in many countries (this was the term used in the US for its mostly Protestant one), that advocted a variety of government interventions in the economy. The Roman Catholic Church has never supported anything like libertarianism in economic policy, although it has become somewhat more pro-free market in recent years than it used to be.

For libertarians the problem is the Christian Right in the US, which does tend to lean to libertarianism in economic policy, but then gets all big government on social policy and sometimes on foreign policy as well. But, heck, there is a school of argument out there that one can find articulated by some at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University that says taxation is bad because it violates the Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal."

Yet another Matt C writes:

I just figured this thread needed a third Matt C. to weigh in. . .

I agree with Arnold that conservatives (religious and otherwise) tend to be much more open to libertarianism than the left is.

I suspect that is because the conservative base is in the working private sector of the economy and especially the entrepreneurial sector, while the liberal base is in the public and medieval guild sectors (government and academia). Given the obvious differences in worldview between those different bases, it seems virtually impossible for the Democratic party and the left to support any movement towards libertarianism in economics.

Calca writes:

Since libertarians think that society comes first and the government second and since the word "socialist" is already taken, maybe we should call ourselves "societists". Would that be more appealing to the masses?

George writes:

Marijuana decriminalization? If you want to see that, you'll need not just a Democratic Congress, and a Democratic White House, but every last living Republican politician to (a) die, (b) move to Mexico, or (c) get caught live on national television toking up. If the Democrats make the tiniest move in that direction on the national level, they'll get hit with the Soft on Crime stick so badly their own mothers wouldn't recognize them.

The best hope for decriminalization seems to lie with conservative theorists, who endorse actually abiding by the constitution, as this quote from Justice Thomas seems to indicate:

"Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything--and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."

Jason writes:

I posted before that I thought that Christians as a group could be more receptive to the moral argument for libertarianism. I agree with Kling that Christians on the right do tie their politics up with their religion too much. There is an argument that might be effective on these people that I came across in Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About America. In the book he compared religious followers in the Middle East and in the U.S. Those living under Sharia law are forced to adhere to moral standards. Violators are punished severely and often executed. In the U.S. millions of people live lives in accordance with their religions voluntarily. The people forced to live virtuous lives are not really virtuous; they are merely avoiding punishment. This leads to the money quote (I'm probably paraphrasing), "Virtue not freely chosen is not virtue at all."

TGGP writes:

Conservatives pay lip-service to small government. Progressives denounce it. Maybe the latter are as deceitful as the former, but it's doubtful. Very few on the left seem to be open to a new fusionism (for demographic reasons Kling has pointed out), and the "libertarian democrats" Kos has talked up are really not libertarians at all, just democrats. I think libertarians should stop being led around by the nose by either party and not try to ally with any, and encourage other groups that have been duped (the religious right mentioned earlier is an example) not to put up with the crap politicians in washington have delivered.

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