Every month, Cato puts out a new issue of Cato Unbound, an online journal that looks at various topics. This week, the topic is fusionism, something that has received quite a bit of attention here at United Liberty.
The format of Cato Unbound is quite simple. One writer contributes a lead essay, and then three other writers write response essays. Then, it descends into a furball as we all starting writing shorter response posts to each other. The discussion is not just there, however; blog posts elsewhere will be linked, and everyone—yes, including YOU!—is encouraged to join in the discussion.
Our lead essay this month is written by Jacque Otto, a friend of mine and a writer at Values and Capitalism, a project of the American Enterprise Institute. She writes:
There has been much debate in recent weeks over fusionism inside the liberty movement, especially now that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has become a prominent national political figure. This debate has been raging for years, but has really taken off for a number of reasons.
Writing yesterday at National Review, Jonah Goldberg, author of The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, noted that conservatives and libertarians have always shared a core belief in economics, making us natural allies:
What often gets left out in discussions of the American Right is that fusionism isn’t merely an alliance, it is an alloy. Fusionism runs through the conservative heart. William F. Buckley, the founder of the conservative movement, often called himself a “libertarian journalist.” Asked about that in a 1993 interview, he told C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb that the question “Does this augment or diminish human liberty?” informed most of what he wrote.
Most pure libertarians and the tiny number of truly statist social conservatives live along the outer edge of the Venn diagram that is the American Right. Most self-identified conservatives reside in the vast overlapping terrain between the two sides.
Just look at where libertarianism has had its greatest impact: economics. There simply isn’t a conservative economics that is distinct from a libertarian one. Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Henry Hazlitt, Ludwig von Mises, James M. Buchanan & Co. are gods of the libertarian and conservative pantheons alike. When Pat Buchanan wanted to move America towards protectionism and statism, he had to leave the party to do it.
There has been a lively debate on the UL list serve and on twitter about fusionism and the modern liberty movement. Let me be clear from the very beginning that I am a proponent of fusionism. I want to see libertarian ideas become libertarian policies. I think that libertarianism, for far too long, has been content to rule college classroom debates and think tank discussions and has not done enough to focus on how we actually implement libertarian theory.
I don’t think the real debate is about whether or not libertarians should engage in fusionism, the real debate – exposed clearly in the back and forth with some of my fellow writers at UL over the last few days – is over what that fusionism looks like.
I believe that if the point behind fusionism is to see libertarian ideas become policy, than any fusionism should be based around the achievable. The common ground we seek should be on those issues where our work with others will actually end up in changing policy in this country.
Right now the American people, and young people in particular, are becoming more and more libertarian when it comes to social issues. A recent Washington Post poll showed that voters aged 18-29 support same-sex marriage by a staggering 81%-15%. The same opinion polls show young voters overwhelmingly support ending the failed drug wars and as the recent Rand Paul filibuster showed – there is growing support from every segment of the country to safeguard our civil liberties.
Given that the American people are on our side on these issues, and that winning on these issues is achievable, one would think that libertarian fusion efforts would be centered around these issues. Alas, there are plenty clamoring for a fusionism that not only ignores these issues, but proposes a fusionism with forces openly hostile for these positions.
There was some uneasiness about CPAC this year due to last year’s disappointing loss at the ballot box and internal disagreements among various ideological views. Despite those initial concerns, the conference was a success if you’re part of the liberty movement, at least. Here’s a look at the winners and losers from CPAC. Also, scroll down to the bottom for a few more pictures and some additional thoughts.
— Rand Paul: When it comes down to it, Sen. Paul has been constantly winning over the last few weeks, but his speech on Thursday was probably the most anticipated and well-received speech of the week. And while the straw poll win over Sen. Marco Rubio just adds to the momentum.
— Liberty Movement and Young Attendees: Really, the liberty movement should go above with Sen. Paul, but given what we heard on yesterday from RNC Chair Reince Preibus and former ACU Chair David Keene, both of whom called for conservatives and Republicans to welcome liberty-minded activists into the fold, requires some separation. Add in Sen. Paul’s straw poll win and it was a successful weekend. Also, the fact that 52% of straw poll voters were between the ages of 18 and 25 — many of which I suspect are in the liberty movement — is a big deal because it gave them a chance to have signficiant influence.
Last year at CPAC, it seemed as though there was a significant schism between conservatives and Ron Paul supporters/libertarians. However, 2013 was an entirely different story. Not only did several speakers praise Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who spoke at CPAC on Thursday, for his strong stand against President Barack Obama, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus honored the Kentucky Senator and called on the GOP to embrace the “liberty-minded Republicans,” a movement of young libertarians and fiscal conservatives who are gaining influence and prominence in movement.
David Keene, former Chairman of the American Conservative Union and current President of the National Rifle Association, was more pointed about the need for acceptance of Ron and Rand Paul supporters, noting that “[p]olitical movements and political parties have two options: they grow or they die.” Keene also slapped down Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) over his criticism Sen. Paul.
“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms. He needs to know what he’s talking about.” - Sen. John McCain
John McCain thinks that Rand Paul needs to know what he’s talking about. Well, since he was asking a legitimate question in an effort to get an answer that the White House had danced around for weeks, we think he actually did know what he was talking about. Of course, Sen. McCain might want to take his own advice to heart.
“My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.”
That was in reference to the Obama campaign during the 2008 campaign. How did that election turn out again? Maybe he should have known what he was talking about and realized that it was far from a done deal.
That’s the same campaign he “suspended” to deal with the financial crisis. He just “knew” what he was talking about when that backfired.
How about this gem, also from 2008:
“The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public’s trust. If I were president today, I would fire him.”
Of course, the president actually can’t fire the head of the SEC. You see, the SEC is an independent regulatory body. The President doesn’t get to make that call. Of course, maybe he shouldn’t have known what he was talking about.
Then, there is McCain’s answer to being asked about inviting Jose Rodriguez Louis Zapatero to the White House:
There is quite the debate going on in the liberty movement as to whether or not libertarians should partner with conservatives and/or Republicans to advance their beliefs. This was part of a discussion that I had with David Boaz, who explained that libertarians could work with conservatives on fiscal issues, but was “uncomfortable” with defining the movement to include conservatives.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who generally votes in a manner consistent with libertarian principles, weighed in on the debate last week, telling a crowd of college students that young libertarians should work within in the Republican Party to advance their views:
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., called for greater youth involvement to unify the libertarian movement and the Republican Party on Feb. 26 at an event hosted by AU College Republicans and AU Young Americans for Liberty in the in the Mary Graydon Center.
Amash emphasized that legislators cannot please everybody, including their own party when voting on issues that cross party lines.
“You’re never going to find people who agree with you on every single issue,” Amash said. “It doesn’t mean that they are sellouts just because they disagree with you on one or two issues. It matters that they have a reason, that they have a principled logic to it.”
Amash also urged today’s youth to get involved with the Republican Party.
“I don’t think libertarians should subsume themselves in a conservative movement or even just in a fiscally conservative movement. [A]bsolutely libertarians can work with conservatives on fiscal issues.” — David Boaz
Editor’s note: The audio came out a little weird. We tried to work out the kinks, but didn’t have much success. Apologies.
On Friday, I sat down with David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer and The Politics of Freedom: Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to Our Liberties, to discuss the sequester, CPAC, and fusionism between libertarians and conservatives.
Since we did the interview on “Sequester Day,” I asked Boaz about some of the silliness and scare tactics that have been used in recent weeks as we counted down the days until the spending cuts took effect.
“A lot of the silliness, of course, is a dedicated campaign by the Obama Administration. They want people to believe that if you cut anything out of the federal budget the country will fall apart,” Boaz explained. “And we know that if they actually do the things they’re talking about — you know, we’re gonna lift the border patrol and let illegals flood into America and we’re gonna take TSA officers off and slow down all the airplanes — it’s a deliberate strategy.”
The liberty movement is in the midst of a much needed conversation over its future. While not a new conversation, it is one that has been recently reignited thanks to Alexander McCobin of Students for Liberty and Glenn Beck.
Over the past few years, the liberty movement has seen tremendous growth, thanks largely to Ron Paul, who has been able to lure a number of conservatives into the liberty movement. As a result, libertarianism has grown in popularity as more people begin to understand the basic tenets of the philosophy — including free markets and individual liberty. However, there are some in our movement who don’t seem to want the message to spread to those who may not fully share all of our ideas.
Yesterday, Glenn Beck helped further along this conversation, inviting Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation, Zachary Slayback of Students for Liberty, and Jack Hunter to discuss libertarianism and the future of the movement.
Beck asked the trio how to get people interested in libertarianism when the perception is that those who follow the philosophy want so much change so quickly.
“Politically, you can’t get from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ without there being an in-between,” said Hunter in response. “‘B’ being the ideal political world we would like and ‘A’ where we are now. There’s going to be some messiness in between. That’s just human nature — that’s the way it’s got to be.
“You have to start where people are and work towards liberty in a practical sense,” he added.
According to Ann Coulter, libertarians are “pussies” for wanting to end the war on (some) drugs and for agreeing with the Left on certain social issues such as gay marriage. Coulter was a guest on Stossel at the Students for Liberty Conference.
We’re living in a country that is 70-percent socailist, the government takes 60 percent of your money. They are taking care of your health care, of your pensions. They’re telling you who you can hire, what the regulations will be. And you want to suck up to your little liberal friends and say, ‘Oh, but we want to legalize pot.’ You know, if you were a little more manly you would tell the liberals what your position on employment discrimination is. How about that? But it’s always ‘We want to legalize pot.’
Liberals want to destroy the family so that you will have one loyalty and that is to the government.