Brink Lindsey proposes a liberal-libertarian fusion is the new New Republic (subscription only, though Sebastian Mallaby summarizes Lindsey’s argument in the WaPo UPDATE: Here’s Lindsey’s piece at Cato). Lindsey is hardly the first to cover this ground; some libertarians were proposing an alliance with the New Left 40 years ago. The argument hasn’t gotten much more convincing.
Lindsey writes that “If a new kind of fusionism is to have any chance for success, it must… at the philosophical level, seeks some kind of reconciliation between Hayek and Rawls.” Unless one is willing to embrace something along the lines of the very un-libertarian “positive freedom” agenda, that just isn’t going to work. What Lindsey credits as common ground between liberals and libertarians are really superficial overlaps in policy that emerge from very different philosophical approaches, and which lead to different logical endpoints. As positive freedom fan Matt Yglesias has put it,
a lot of the views liberals tend to think of us libertarian-ish liberal positions aren’t actually especially libertarian at the end of the day… Liberals believe in a certain notion of human liberation from entrenched dogma, prejudice, and tradition, but this isn’t the same as hostility to state action, even in the sex-and-gender sphere…
Proper libertarians have all heard this line of reasoning, and they disagree with it, which is what makes them libertarians.
Indeed. This is a peculiar time to be proposing a new fusionism since, as Katherine Mangu-Ward pointed out last week, the new Democratic majority is poised to send libertarians running screaming in the opposite direction. In opposition, libertarians and conservatives have more common ground, not less.