One of the things that has always fascinated me is why progressives (I refuse to call them liberals because they’re frankly illiberal) think the way they do. Part of the fascination has been partly “know thy enemy” and part of the fascination has been frankly to try and convert some of them to the cause of individual liberty. A progressive website I think has helped answer the question for me and I did not like the results.
The Applied Research Center published a study called Millennials, Activism, and Race which was a series of focus groups of progressive activists and Occupy members between the ages of 18-30. Here’s the key bullet point that stood out to me:
All our participants named a dominant doctrine of individualism as a critical barrier to progressive change, but people involved with Occupy had a more explicit critique of capitalism as a system than those involved in other organizations.
In the mind of the progressive activist, individuality is the main enemy. When you read more of the summary, you find that conformity is the main goal. All the other issues and memes that progressives espouse suddenly become more clear once you see that through their lens. Progressives, and particularly Occupy, hate free market capitalism because it emphasizes individual success and failure, not the collective.
Now the only real question that remains is can there ever be a libertarian and progressive alliance on common issues such as civil liberties and foreign policy. I would argue the answer is an emphatic no. To be perfectly honest, I don’t trust them either rhetorically or in practice on either issue. The progressive viewpoint on civil liberties, especially when they’re in power, is to view everything from marriage to healthcare as “rights” that must be provided by the theft of property (ie. money) from taxpayers and an increase of government power to achieve them. The progressive viewpoint on foreign policy is to use the US military as some kind of glorified meals on wheels (with bombs) program and open the US treasury up to every half-baked foreign aid scheme imaginable. Finally, the reason why there never can be a libertarian/progressive alliance is because progressives reject individuality which means the reject individual liberty, which is basic tenet of libertarianism.
Individual progressives on the other hand should be engaged regularly and attempted to be persuaded of the error of their ways. Since progressives tend to value equality and fairness, it would probably be wise to emphasize libertarianism’s beliefs in the equal opportunity of all individuals to succeed, and to point how government usually stands in the way of that through occupational licensing, zoning restrictions, crony capitalism, and other means. We also need to be clear about our support for the Rule of Law and how we believe the same laws should apply to everyone regardless of their economic status. Then start transitioning to other topics and get them to start realizing that government is the problem and not the solution and that individuality is very important.
As Luke 15:7 (KJV) would say on this subject:
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.