Monday, October 20, 2008

How to paint yourself into a corner

Draft of an introductory paragraph for remarks to the "liberal and libertarians: common cause or separate agendas?" panel at Princeton.

Now, the timing of our session is odd, for this argument. On the one hand, I have arguments I’ve been developing for many years about why libertarians belong not in a great fusionist alliance with conservatives but rather in common cause with our fellow liberals. I think that’s been an interestingly hard argument to make, but we meet at a time, a few weeks before an election, when I think the immediate conclusion to draw is boringly easy. No libertarian can hope to see the party of torture, denials of habeas corpus, indefinite detention without trial, and boundless unsupervised executive power returned to office. If our core root liberalism, if our roots in the struggles of common law against absolutist king or in John Locke or in Montesquieu or in the American Revolution mean anything at all, then it means a four percentage-point difference in marginal 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 seem kind of silly.

"Therefore, I now sit down and thank you for your attention"? Doesn't seem quite satisfactory.