Libertarian Populism (cont’d)

Last week, Brian posted on Tim Carney- GOPers Need To Embrace Conservative Populism , and the “compelling argument how conservatives can win if they get the message out that the collusion of big government and big business is what is holding back many middle income Americans.”

Political commenter Ben Domenech wrote two recent columns on the same theme, on Real Clear Politics: The Libertarian Populists Agenda and Three Challenges to Libertarian Populism. Both are serious and worthy discussions, and It is hard to select among a multitude of great quotes, but here are a few:

[T]he most successful conservative reform project of the post-Reagan era was not from the top down, but the bottom up. The Tea Party joined those who favored limited government together regardless of their priorities, and they were successful in a not insignificant part because they were running with the tides of American sentiment as opposed to against them – with a rising skepticism for institutions, particularly those of great size. . . .

[In so many areas] libertarian populists do not believe the current system is fixable because it was never intended to – and simply cannot – accomplish the goals it is attempting to meet. The problems we currently face – of cronyism, waste, abuse, disincentives, and so on – are not flaws in government but instead the inevitable result of expanding it far beyond its intentionally-limited design. Smarter government cannot solve them – only markets, individuals, and civil society can. . . .

Much of the debate about conservative reform amounts to a wager on which GOP option is more appealing to the current electorate: managing power vs. devolving power. Of these options, the latter platform runs deeper and requires more opposition to the status quo of how government works – and it also represents an effort to cleanse the party’s soul of its sins over the past two decades. . .

And the ending of the second article:

Much as I love free markets, a mere defense of “free markets” is a campaign that is destined to fail, a representation of an abstract idea which fails to evoke any sort of visceral reaction from any group other than the already-convinced. In a marketing battle between “free markets” and “fairness,” fairness is going to win, because it requires no argument to make sense. And this is what populism really is about today: an expression that the game is rigged, the deck is stacked, the Bigs have their thumbs on the scale – and that the only way to make the game fair is to end the institutions which rig it. Tim Carney writes eloquently about this today. . . . Where once the thread of American populism was about the redistribution of other people’s money, now it is about ending the government’s unfair redistribution of opportunity. This is a task which should unite the city mice and country mice, and with the right leadership, it will.

[Emphasis added.]

Domenech has a reasonably-priced daily newsletter, The Transom ($30/year), and after reading these articles I signed up.

(65 Posts)

Author: "Ending 'Big SIS' (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic" (2012) [] and "Property Matters--How Property Rights Are Under Assault and Why You Should Care" (1997). Some former jobs: Assistant Director of Consumer Protection in FTC; member of the Program Analysis Staff of the US Bureau of the Budget; Research Director of the Administrative Conference of the United States; Director of IPCentral at the Progress & Freedom Foundation; VP & GC of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest. Graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, former Book Review Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

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