I have noticed that most people I encounter who are sympathetic to libertarian ideals or become libertarians of some stripe (minarchist, anarchist, whatever) would identify themselves as conservatives. However, progressives (i.e., those who would identify themselves as liberals) seem more often to be quite hostile to libertarianism. Many will gladly accept the label of “civil libertarian”, but few would wish to lose the modifier. Conversely, there seem these days to be a number of conservative wannabe libertarians who find some of the economic and small government ideals appealing but continue to defend their pet nanny state projects and imperial aspirations.
Should libertarians be content to win converts or half-hearted patronization from self-serving, self-righteous, hypocritical, warmongering, statolatrous conservatives? I don’t think so. I believe if we actively courted progressives and accepted their faults as we seem to accept those of conservatives we’ll achieve critical mass for real political change much more quickly.
Nota Bene: I’m not advocating watering down libertarianism; I’m merely suggesting that if compromises are to be made for the sake of pragmatism and achieving our goals by slow attrition, let’s not be biased toward conservatives over progressives. After all, by chosing conservatives over progressives implies that we prefer the warfare state and theocracy over the welfare state and collectivism. Is that what we really want?
I believe most leftists have their hearts in the right place even if their heads aren’t always screwed on straight. 😉 Seriously, though, most just want to make sure that the outcasts of the society – the hungry, the homeless, the orphans, the widows, the mamed, the marginalized, the unloved, the oppressed, etc. – are cared for. They believe that left to their own devices (i.e., the free market), people will not give enough of their time, energy, or money to charitable causes. For progressives, the solution is to take from each according his his ability and give according to need. This of course translates into high taxes and bloated government programs.
If we are to win the bleeding hearts of progressives, we must convince them what we know to be true: that the state is a horrible (if not the worst) charitable organization, plagued by inefficiency, waste, and corruption, that the government hurts at least as many as it helps, and that the efforts and contributions of free individuals and associations could care for the underdogs better than any cleptomaniacal bureaucracy – if only they weren’t hampered by oppressive taxation, regulation, and government monopolization of charity.
Any ideas how?