Hi, I'm Nick. This is my blog. I'm a life-long unschooler living in New York. You can find more about me here.

I help run the Recurse Center (YC'S10).

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"I'd rather hang out with the liberals and argue about economics than hang out with the Republicans and argue about Darwin and stem cells."

November 05, 2008

Reason, the best damn magazine you're not reading (assuming, of course, that you don't already read it), has a decent piece today about liberals and libertarians. This quotation by professor Jacob Levy from McGill University struck me as particularly important:

"If our core liberalism—if our roots in the struggle of common law against the absolutist king, or in Locke, or in Montesquieu, or in the American Revolution mean anything at all to us—then it means a four percentage-point difference in income tax rates is less important than removing the party of torture and detention without trial from power. That's morally so overwhelmingly important as to make my traditional arguments about libertarians leaving the fusionist alliance with the right seem kind of silly."

There's a laundry list of issues on which libertarians and liberals ought to share at least some common ground: torture, war, criminal justice issues, the drug war, gay marriage, immigration, the death penalty, government transparency, privacy, reproductive rights, and free speech.

The Democrats have proven to be a miserable opposition party these last two years, and their excuse seems to have been that they couldn't do X because the Republicans were running the show. On issue after issue, ranging from the Iraq war to FISA, they've proved to be not just incapable of stopping a Republican executive but all too frequently compliant. That excuse is now off the table -- they've got commanding leads in both houses of Congress and a President with strong popular support. The questions that remain to be answered are how much the Democrats really believe in these values, and how exactly they will prioritize them.

Early results (and by that I mean yesterday's election) are mixed. High Democratic turnouts helped pass bigoted, civil-liberties bashing state constitutional amendments in Florida, California and Arizona, while Democrats in Massachusetts decriminalized pot and Michigan voters legalized medicinal marijuana. This last issue is one on which President Obama has the potential to do some immediate good: If Obama stays good to his word and stops federal raids on legal, state-sanctioned medicinal marijuana dispensaries, perhaps we can stop ruining the lives of innocent citizens and throwing away tax dollars.

The results of half a dozen ballot initiatives clearly can't be used as a true gauge of how the new Democratic government will run things; only time can answer that question definitively. But if President Obama decides to prioritize traditional liberal and libertarian values -- equal protection under the law, social tolerance, privacy, constitutionally limited powers, and peace -- the next four years will be a breath of fresh air.