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Common Ground: The Elusive Aim

A few days ago I was walking through Central Park with my best friend – a self-described socialist and a vocal once-Bernie supporter who now supports Gary Johnson – and we were discussing just how difficult it is for both of our respective political camps (libertarians and social democrats, respectively) to join forces on the broad issues. Yet, we both agreed that this should be the most important first step toward moving the country in the right direction. This friend of mine then relayed a story to me about how he went to a socialist gathering recently in the city, and how he ran into one fellow Johnson supporter in the whole lot. The rest of the attendees were quite hostile toward him about the “Johnson-Weld 2016” pin he was sporting. “My best friend is a libertarian,” my friend supposedly said. “He knows a lot of the important people in that movement personally, and I can vouch for his political know-how.”

But the majority of those my friend spoke to just weren’t having it – libertarians, of course, are just Republicans who want to smoke pot, right?

I would like to say that I had more encouraging news for my friend from my end of things – but unfortunately, I didn’t. Alas, the story is much the same over here in liberty land. Most activist types I’ve spoken to in these circles quite honestly don’t behave like activists at all. Instead, they would rather keep their circle small and contained – think more elitist debate club than an actual political movement, and you will get closer to what active libertarianism is today. It has assumed the form of an incarnate vexatious whinge – a spoiled child; a bullheaded significant other. And it presents, in all its aberration, an ultimatum: march to the band’s tune, or fall out completely.

But this is where it gets problematic, because there actually is no single tune to march to. It depends on which company one keeps at any given time. If one is among minarchists, then drivers’ licenses are likely okay, but once the anarcho-capitalists join the ranks, suddenly everyone who even thinks about such things as carbon or property taxes replacing the income tax is considered a damned traitor to the cause.

And it’s not much better in the Bernie Bot crowd. This friend of mine has described horror stories of how there are still people choosing to write Sanders in, rather than simply vote for the reasonable third party option (this is precisely what many Ron Paul supporters did back in 2012, and it cost Johnson big numbers that election). Madness. But madness that could easily be overcome if both camps simply let go of the purism, for one election, and got down to basics.

Point to their differences all you want, but both so-called democratic socialists and libertarians agree on plenty of broad issues – such as, what the problems are in the first place. Both groups agree that there is too much exploitation, bailouts, and monopolization going on in the market. Both camps agree that our leaders are corrupt. What is the biggest difference between each? The mechanism by which these problems are actually best solved. But what if there were actually something that libertarians and Bernie supporters, arguably the biggest young person crowds in the voting circle at the moment, could equally support?

Well, as it turns out, there is… But that’s next month’s article.

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  • A. Alexander Minsky
    September 22, 2016

    Many folks in both the leftist and libertarian camps are what author Jason Brennan dubbed “cartoon ideologues”. Such people view those who disagree with them as being either stupid or venal. Needless to say, this makes common ground and cross ideological coalitions rather difficult to form. Sadly, the most activist citizens ,across the political spectrum, tend to be some of the least thoughtful and deliberative citizens.

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