Hey, I'm a Statist!

I’ll try to respond at length to Jonah tomorrow. But a couple thoughts. Again, I’m not the one who’s trying to talk about partisan coalition politics. Its not my main interest, and it’s not my comparative advantage. I’m trying to show how attractive classical liberalism can be once it is scoured of the conservative barnacles of the now irrelevant Cold War alliance and once it begins to take seriously (rather than just ignore) the powerful arguments of the best contemporary liberal thought.

I think maybe one of our main issues is that Jonah seems to think actually-existing-politically-relevant conservativism is in some sense “anti-statist,” and that’s why libertarians ought to like that kind of conservative. (Jonah: “If the right ever loses its anti-statism, we will have a race-to-the-bottom between two statist parties, one cosmopolitan and socialistic one nativistic and nationalistic.”) I have some questions about what the anti-statism of “the right” amounts to. But, hey, I’m not an anti-statist! I’m statist! Lots of libertarians are! So maybe statism isn’t ipso facto socialism? Like James Madison, for example, I want a state, I want its power constitutionally limited, and I want it democratically governed. I am a proponent of free-market liberal democracy — like Hayek, Friedman, Buchanan, and I’d guess a whole lot of market-loving economists. I accept the public goods justification for the state, more or less. I accept that regulations which correctly price negative externalities tend to make everyone better off, and are worth doing. I am morally and methodologically anti-nationalist–which is more unusual–but that’s not anti-statism. I don’t mind the fact of country-sized public goods jurisdictions, nor do I mind tax-financing of genuine public goods by more or less legitimate states. I just wish national jurisdictional boundaries should better respect basic liberties by being more porous. Nor do I mind the tax-financing of education or welfare programs that actually help members of a polity to develop the capacity and ability to meaningfully exercise their rights and liberties. I am a liberal! “Rawlsekianism” is a ridiculous word, but I actually think a certain fusion of the best of 20th Century classical/market liberalism and welfare liberalism is the best political philosophy. I also think it may be possible to persuade many other people of this, and that they will find it attractive. In my experience, the people open to this view are already relatively liberal, in the usual sense, and tend to favor Democrats. That’s fine by me. 

But I do have some admittedly amateur thoughts about partisan politics, and I think Jonah’s commitments may have led him a bit astray, so I’ll try to say something about that tomorrow.