Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Bleeding Heart Libertarians

That is the name of a new blog by a group of political philosophers who argue for a blending of the best of libertarianism and the best of liberalism. Sound right up my alley, doesn’t it? Well, it is. I’m quite excited about its arrival. I particularly like this statement from Matt Zwolinski, who founded the blog and recruited the other participants:

Labels are often a greater source of confusion than insight in academic discourse, and no doubt most of the contributors to this blog will wish to qualify the sense in which they fit this description. Some, for instance, will qualify their libertarianism with a label – “left-libertarian,” or perhaps “liberaltarian.” Others might prefer to think of themselves as “classical liberals” or even “market anarchists.” But libertarianism, as I’ve argued elsewhere, is a broad intellectual tradition bound together more by rough agreement than by meeting a set of necessary and sufficient conditions. What we have in common on this blog is an appreciati0n for market mechanisms, for voluntary social cooperation, for property rights, and for individual liberty. But we appreciate those things, in large part, because of the way they contribute to important human goods – and especially the way in which they allow some of society’s most vulnerable members to realize those goods.

I’m sure there will be many disagreements both among the participants and between them and their readers — including me — but the conversation should certainly be an interesting one. I have long argued that liberals and libertarians need to build on their common ground rather than treat each other as political enemies, which has gotten me a fair amount of heat from both liberal and libertarian friends, for opposing reasons.

The first thing that needs to happen, however, is for people to stop thinking that the terms “liberal” and “libertarian” refer to a single set of monolithic beliefs; they do not. Libertarians differ widely on a great many very important subjects, like the legitimacy of the 14th amendment, the lessons of the civil war and much more. Liberals, of course, disagree even more widely on even more subjects.

Yet there is much common ground — or there certainly should be — in matters of criminal justice reform, eminent domain, fourth amendment issues, first amendment issues, foreign policy and in our mutual support for the Bill of Rights in general, which in and of itself means a mutual understanding that limitations on the state’s power is crucial to maintaining liberty and justice.