I also understand the impulse to convert. I would like nothing better than to convince libertarians to see things my way on economic issues as much so as they want to convert me to their Austrian ways. Perhaps, one or the other will happen one day but I think we both can see the unlikelihood of that happening before November 2012, if ever.
I will not here belabor the point I have made continually throughout this blog that Ron Paul secures the nomination and the election only through establishing a real coalition strategy with the promise of a real coalition government. I do not say, forget the cultural conservatives or other elements of the Republican party. I do say, do everything reasonably possible to woo them and win the nomination with them on your side. I doubt very seriously you can win by only reaching out to progressives or by only reaching out to other stripes of conservatives. And it is very clear to me that Ron Paul stands a much better chance of being elected if he is the GOP nominee.
For the last 50 years libertarians have chosen another coalition and have had some success within that coalition. Libertarians have forfeited their desire for total cultural liberty and their commitment to non-intervention foreign policy to gain a modicum of economic liberty. That has not yielded them less government but it has given them marginal victories in terms of tax and regulatory policy. I am sure many of you will slap your head at this last comment. I did say "marginal" but if you wish to say "minuscule," I will not argue the fine point as it makes my major point all the more relevant.
That point is: libertarians must now choose whether they wish to stay within their current coalition or join with progressives in a new coalition. At first this may seem like an easy decision. Of course, libertarians are happy to join with progressives to end drug wars, the military industrial catastrophe and the assault on our constitutional rights and civil liberties.
However that choice is made more complex by the reality that some amount of compromise on economic issues will need to be worked out if we are ever to move us beyond our current confinement. A real coalition will involve agreement on foreign policy, cultural, constitutional, and economic issues. The first two are rather simple and the third would require a little bit more work. The fourth seems all but impossible.
The need to solidify the terms of an economic agreement is essential to establishing a true coalition. Robin Koener, founder of the Blue Republican movement, has been instrumental in calling for about 70% of what is needed to form a coalition. What he and other libertarians have not ventured into is the differences on our interpretations of the commerce clause and economic issues.
Libertarians might think, "Why would progressives refuse a deal that gave them 70% of what they want?" A rational question, but one has to imagine the shoe on the other foot. Let's say Mitt Romney was already our president and Bernie Sanders was the progressive favorite in a Democratic primary full of progressive posers. We would have much the same problems we have now. You would find the polite section of the Bernie Sanders' entourage begging you to jump ship and come on board. You'll get 70% of what you want, but the commerce clause will be interpreted our way with a 3 trillion dollar public works stimulus and higher marginal rates on the top 2%.
This is an exact analogy to what polite Paulians are offering us now. As hard as it would be for most libertarians to swallow the compromise I just described, progressives feel the same way when they look at Paul's budget. We like the huge cuts in militarism spending and would love to see more. We are glad to join with you in ridding the nation of the unpatriotic Patriot Act. We want the US Constitution respected and unlawful and counterproductive wars and occupations ended.We appreciate Ron Paul's sincere willingness to make sure that current recipients of social security and medicare get the full benefits they were promised.
However, his opt out plan seems as dangerous to us as the public option does to you. His promise to gut several cabinet departments scares us like any tax increase scares you. We are as skeptical of the commitments and abilities of state and local governments and private businesses and organizations to provide for the needy as you are of the federal government solving their problems. We fear that banks and businesses self-regulating will be giving the the proverbial fox the key to the hen house. We value private property but do not think that small land owners can compete with larger ones in the court house and that our national parks ought to be property of all the people collectively and not put up for sale to oil slurpers.
We progressives may need our heads examined and healthy dose of Hayek and an abundant ameliorative of von Mises. You may think that if we just give you guys a chance, we will be overwhelmed with the turn around in the American economy. You may be absolutely right on every economic issue, but you must account for our obstinacy in a politically realistic way. Of course, we must also make the same calculation and reach the same conclusion about you. Neither of us has a majority or large enough plurality of the electorate to convince 60 Senators that one of us is right and and the other, wrong. American political history is filled with this tension between libertarian and interventionists elements in economic, military and cultural affairs. This reality is not going to change in 2012.
And so you and we both need a partner. Fortunately, we don't have to get married; we just have to room with each other for 4 (or maybe 8) years. That means we are both going to have to compromise on economic issues and agree to do so ahead of the primaries, or given a third party run, before the general election.
The basic agreement looks like this: whatever deal we make on reductions in spending over the the term of 2013 through 2016, we need also to agree that half of the savings is used to reduce federal debt while the other half goes to the states in block grants according to the population of each state. There is where the contest can unfold. Let's see which states fair the best under our policies or yours.
Dr. Paul has already agreed to a transition plan that calls for most of the savings to come from reductions in overseas spending and for half of that savings to go to shore up entitlements. He does this for the moral purpose of taking care of those already in the system and for the ideological purpose of giving young people the opportunity to opt out of the system. This proposal, as much as you like it and and as fair as it may be, will fail to pass congress. And anyone who tells you differently, is using something we and Dr. Paul want to make legal. As soon as the opt out is out of legislative options, the more realistic block grants deal needs to be put in place.
I am optimistic that if we could strike this basic deal there are other areas of economic policy on which we can make good, principled and mutually acceptable deals. We can legalize pot if we tax and regulate it like we do tobacco and alcohol. We can raise tariffs on countries who do not play by the rules that we and other democratic societies do. We can lower the pay roll tax rate substantially and permanently on both employers and employees if we eliminate the cap or find a better way to raise funds. We can significantly and permanently lower everyone's income tax rates below the Bush rates if we put an absolute limit on the dollar value of all deductions, credits and exemptions and add an annual consumption tax on individual spending above a million dollars. And this is a longer shot... we might just find a way for you to have your opt out in exchange for us getting our public option.
The clearest signal that Ron Paul can give us that this is an acceptable deal is to name a running mate like Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich and begin to name a coalition cabinet ahead of the election. That's a tact he might have to wait to take until after the bosses run him out of Tampa Bay despite a plurality of votes and delegates (which would be most easily obtained if he became more public and intentional in his courting us).
I know you, my libertarian friends, have, like I and all my pollyannish progressive partners, grandiose dreams of complete victory, of triumphant policy shifts, of an America finally just and free. Wouldn't it be wonderful?!!!
Now let's be real, and make the deal before it's too late. You already know what the alternative is.