A Leftist-libertarian Movement

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A couple of weeks ago, right before hunching over my coffee table to initiate this water-bong and Drum ‘n’ Bass fueled blog, I fell into a deep reflection on the Democratic State Convention (DSC) that recently took place. Residing near aforementioned bong was the likely catalyst: the Our Revolution (OR) Somerville pin that I wore while acting as whip.

Though Facebook, I recently became involved in politics. In the midst of all the self-affirming grandstanding and rabble-rousing, it turns out there are pockets of activism materializing. A few months ago my buddy Jim was, with great success, expanding the Somerville chapter by petitioning for his friends to get the lead out.

How? — By running as delegates in the upcoming Democratic caucus.

With the initial intrigue came conflict. The OR movement was fast gaining traction, but my alignment wasn’t entirely on the same tracks. The Our Revolution hearth was initially sparked by the Bernie campaign and collectively took up the mantle for many of his social Democratic causes (in addition to a blanket of more central issues). Some of my concerns diverge sharply from a few of the more populist interests than my fellow associates, so during such topics at pre-caucus meetups I’d often maintain silent attentiveness. Far be it from me to shove an underrepresented difference of opinion into the cogs of a mobilized revolution.

Case-in-point

Federal Realty Investment Trust is building 500-unit luxury condos in a local ward. They were pushing for a waiver on a 12.5% low-income housing requirement on the units when Somerville policy is 20% (upped as of last year), to which ORMA was opposed. In the Planning Board meeting, the investment firm “compromised” with half of the units originally mandated, so only 6.25% low-income units, while using the remaining money to purchase a greater number of units throughout the city via a local 100 Homes program.

One of the concerns with the compromise is that while the extra $10.3 million towards homes could in theory provide up to 43 additional affordable units, real estate competition is fierce and would also require significant development resources. 100 Homes has so far been only able to create 20 additional units.

Yet, setting the distaste of local code aversion aside, I gravitated to the benefits.

Real estate developments can be transformational for being living around them, not just alienating. -Source

Alongside a reinvented Somerville comes innovative growth and a deeper footprint in the world’s future stage. If I have to pay an extra hundred or so a month to live in an area with upped average market-rate housing, yeah I get it, and good on ya, Somerville. If I struggle to make do, displacement sucks, but maintaining affordable neighborhood proximity is quite feasible.

But I grokked, stepping in the shoes view of those impacted, that it was also easy to empathize. Moderating urban sprawl requires scrutinous curbing, and the decidedly deaf renegotiation at the cost of it’s citizens felt mishandled. Being required to maintain 20% affordable housing would have likely put the project on ice, inevitabilities such as these are often just stymied. The momentum for this issue was based on the acute concern to those it impacted; If someone‘s rent is going up a few hundred dollars in September, it’s difficult to be active on other local issues when their involvement hinges on actually living within that city.

When activism is fueled by proximity to the issue, a disparity in prioritization is inevitable. Volumes and tones will clash within a single movement. Multifaceted activism craves individual representation.

/anecdote

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Self-realizations like the one above were latent to the nascent momentum, however, and was yet lacking fine-tuned direction. So, desiring some form of early velocity, I continued on with ORMA.

Oddly enough, qualifying as delegate for the Democratic party requires you to be a registered Democrat. So I changed my affiliation from Libertarian and hopped on the Berniecrat party bus. Aggressive move, evidenced by previous pro-Hillary blogs, but it just felt great to be doing something.

After getting elected and attending the DSC preparation meeting, I was floored by the level of energy and passion everyone had. The best term to describe it was collective effervescence. Similar to the resonating emotional fervor within a group of people that can be found during a church sermon or sports event. For me, it was like listening to pounding EDM in a dim basement of an underground event.

First-timers weren’t the only ones riding the hype, though. In addition, more experienced delegates, platform activists, state reps, senators, and gubernatorial candidates all came to the OR events to contribute to the vocal resonance and show support (or in the case of the gubernators, grace their constituency). Because we were getting BIG.

All-in-all, the new delegates repped a whopping 1500 out of 4500 total at the DSC

I had volunteered to be a whip for the 2nd Middlesex district (Somerville, Cambridge, Medford, Winchester). Nothing crazy. Basically hold up a green or red poster card and tell our district whether to vote “yea” or “nay” at the convention.

Unfortunately but not unpredictably, this rookie didn’t consider the depth of internal conflict when there’d be a portion of district and charter amendments she neither agreed with nor signed the night before that she was now telling others to vote for. It nearly felt criminal, not alleviated by us enduring 5 hours of parroted speeches to echo those same issues.

I wore the pin instead of the ORMA t-shirt because I didn’t want to loudly rep something I wasn’t 100% on (to be fair, I was also wearing a dress I really like). In truth, I agree with the majority of OR endpoint policies, but there are enough differences that I can’t keep pretending it’s my movement.

We are overdue for unified representation of all us ‘liberaltarians’ out there, particularly in lieu of commonplace assumptions.

Radical libertarians, who are overrepresented in the public’s perception of the movement, damage the chances of some of libertarianism’s more palatable platforms, through their lack of acknowledgment that cutting regulation or social safety nets could damage public welfare. The hard truth in these take-it-or-leave-it agendas however, evidenced by a notable lack of verbosity on such policies, is that there are glaring conflicts between freedom of action and security to anarcho-capitalism, or even minarchism. These conflicts and their ambiguity-ripe practicalities are analyzed in depth by a profoundly insightful essay by Brink Lindsey.

The concept of natural rights may instruct us to protect individual rights, but it is silent as to how much protection they should receive. That choice remains wide open, and depending on how it is exercised the character of the legal order can vary dramatically. — source

Something that often surprises me is how many people today believe that radical libertarians are representative, and are unaware that the party’s pragmatic libertarian insurgency is fast gaining momentum. We are doing so by privileging freedom of action above security of rights and conceding that a degree of guided institutionalization can align with that aim.

Another less-flinching libertarian dogma of maximizing utility is often vilified for selfishness and greed, but that in itself criminally belies the magnanimous efforts of those pursuing altruistic ends.

Maximizing utility involves doing whatever you value, including serving your fellow man selflessly.

Mutualism first

At times it can be productive to discuss differing opinions of politics, but I think most can agree that a prioritization on the points of overlap can provide both a more proximate and longstanding ROI for both groups involved. Perhaps a logical place to start is tackling the libertarian and social Dem overlaps, which, oh hey, happen to include some seriously important stuff.

To expound on this are some libertarian stances on a few important topics in lieu of some of the more extreme interpretations —

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Climate Change

Radical assumption: The science does not justify addressing climate risks.

Counterpoint: It should go without saying that how one feels about individual rights and liberties has nothing to do with how one interprets the scientific literature regarding atmospheric physics.-source

Radical assumption: Restricting greenhouse gas emissions will increase the size of government.

Counterpoint: According to libertarians, the purpose of government is to protect rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. If greenhouse gas emissions infringe on those considerations (as they most assuredly do if the scientific consensus regarding climate change is correct), libertarian principles demand that government should act to enjoin those rights violations.

Actual platform —

  • The parties responsible for pollution should be held liable.
  • Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources.

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Immigration

Radical assumption: Immigration impedes on freedom of security and action by impacting access to native-born rights and properties

Counterpoint: Free immigration is often regarded as one of the core concepts of libertarian theory and philosophy. Some libertarians assert that: “Efforts by the government to manage the labor market are as apt to fail as similar efforts to protect domestic industries or orchestrate industrial policy. … If an immigrant seeks to engage in peaceful, voluntary transactions that do not threaten the freedom or security of the native-born, the government should not interfere.” wiki

Actual platform —

  • Unrestricted political refugees; but restrict threats.
  • Eliminate all restrictions on immigration.

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Social Issues

Abortion

Radical assumption: Abortion impacts the right to life of the fetus and should not be impacted

Counterpoint: Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

Actual platform —

  • Government should be kept out of the matter of abortion
  • Abortion is a woman’s choice and does not concern the state.

Social Issues cont.

Civil Rights

Radical assumption: Same-sex marriage would de-sanctify and ultimately destroy heterosexual marriage to the assertion that it would logically lead to polygamy and the downfall of Western civilization.

Counterpoint: Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.

Actual platform —

  • Let consenting adults choose their own sexual relationships.
  • Repeal all laws against homosexuality.
  • Support individual’s right to choose, even if we disapprove.

and not to cherry pick,

  • OK to deny service to gays & OK to boycott those companies.

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Crime and Justice and the War on Drugs

Radical assumption: Drug abuse and drug cartels have no impact on individual rights and should require minimal government resources

Counterpoint: We believe that ending the racist War on Drugs is an essential part of any plan to improve our justice system. Millions of people, disproportionately people of color, are arrested, jailed, and given a criminal record become they voluntarily chose to consume something. Not only is it immoral for the government to decide what is and is not acceptable for people to consume, criminalizing drugs does nothing to reduce the scourge of drug addiction and abuse. The War on Drugs hurts the people we should be trying to help and diverts criminal justice resources away from prosecuting actual crimes committed against people and property. — From the official Libertarian Party site

Actual platform —

  • Encourage private efforts to fight crime (see Batman)
  • De-fund the war on drugs, and end violent drug cartels
  • Repeal all drug laws creating “crimes” without victims
  • The war on drugs threatens individual liberties

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and one final shoutout:

Voting

While it’s often dangerous to make blanket statements about sociopolitical movements, it’s not a stretch to say libertarians have a contentious relationship with voting.

Ranked choice voting

Our current voting system is rigged against anyone who isn’t a Democrat or a Republican, and RCV is arguably the best way to break this duopoly.

Platform —

  • Support election systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels.
  • As private voluntary groups, political parties should be free to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions.

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While the values above don’t all trend along the exact same curve, and the foundational basis for libertarian and social democrat’s respective policies come from very different origins, the significance of the commonalities is stark, and hitherto has yet to be ignited.

I want to fight alongside those with the same restless energy to combat this shit show presidency. Because what I saw over the weekend was the result of passionate ideas catching fire. I may not be an Our Revolutionary, but I am a revolutionary.

Let’s start our own movement, my left-leaning libertarians. To dig in, and speak out for the climate, immigration, social, electoral, and criminal justice aspects of this revolution. We need more libertarian representation on the issues that matter. And while it sucks that we have a dysfunctional two-party system, the way to start is by fortifying internal growth.

My dudes, let’s make this a thing*

*This is quite nascent and I‘d love all of your help so shoot me a message or something if you wanna get involved.