Xenophon shares a great link from the blog Really, Libertarians?, about whether libertarians should form alliances with liberals or not. The blogger starts by affirming the libertarians shouldn't attempt to place themselves on the political spectrum. But he goes on to emphasize that that doesn't mean there shouldn't be substantial interchange between the left and libertarians (presumably there has already been such interchange between the right and libertarians).
The discussion is very interesting. I have a few thoughts:
1. First, I find it interesting that he thinks about the "liberaltarian" phenomenon as liberals turning more libertarian and not libertarians turning more liberal. Empirically, I have no clue what direction of conversion dominates. Anecdotally, I can say that I personally moved from libertarian to what I guess you'd call "liberal".
2. And the reason why I made that conversion is important. Libertarian insights in a lot of ways are basic, Econ 101 insights about the efficiency of free contracting writ large and converted into norms or political values. In other words, I think one of the most essential libertarian fallacies is building a politico-ethical system around positive social science findings (and, I want to stress, basic and introductory social science findings at that). It's kind of an odd way of going about formulating a politico-ethical system. We don't adopt Nietzschean super-man ethics because of evolutionary biology, and we shouldn't simply adopt libertarianism because of these insights. I want to be clear - my point is not that you have to mix up normative and positive findings to come to libertarianism. My point is only that it's possible to get everything there is to get out of libertarianism simply by improving people's knowledge of social science. This is only to say that it's not entirely clear to me what should be important here: teaching people more social science, or sharing libertarianism.
3. But even that isn't entirely satisfying - after all, the reason why I abandoned libertarianism was because I kept learning social science. Yes, the market is efficient and the price mechanism leverages decentralized knowledge. But if institutions don't or can't internalize costs and benefits social scientific insights start to militate against the efficiency of markets. Uncertainty and imperfections ensure that market forces, as fantastic as they are, are going to remain sub-optimal. I haven't abandoned any of the introductory insights in adopting these views - the complement the introductory insights that I still use. I still have a relatively contractarian view of human relations. I still take a fairly atomized, individualist view of things. I still come down on Hayek and Mises's side of the socialist calculation debate. But I can't call myself a libertarian. So, if what we really want is to get people to take the implications of social science more seriously, then its not clear that that would move people towards libertarianism either.
4. This all reminds me of something that's been bugging me lately about the way libertarians talk. I recently got Marginal Revolution on my blogroll. I know, I know - that sure took a while. Anyway, the blog uses this language "market-oriented economists" a lot. At first it confused me - Cowen wrote something about how no "market-oriented economists" think the minimum wage raises employment. My response was "haven't you ever heard of Card and Krueger?!?!? It's a little much to say that no market-oriented economists think this". Later it dawned on me - what he meant was "libertarian economists". I think this gets to the point of my feelings on this particular blog post. A lot of libertarians have a pretty twisted view of what non-libertarians think, and the idea that if you're not a libertarian you're not "market-oriented" or "pro-market" is high on the list. I think this sort of thing is completely unproductive. If I were more cynical, I might just as easily turn the epithet on libertarians. I've said before that the market is a lot like a tool in the sense that it works for certain jobs and not for others. You use the right tool for the right job. If you saw someone banging on a screw with a hammer, your reaction wouldn't be "wow - that guy has a deep respect for hammers". Quite the opposite. That's how I see libertarians and markets. I could go around referring to people that see things my way as "market oriented economists", but that would confuse things, just like Cowen and other libertarians that use this phrase as a synonym for "libertarians" confuses things. The fact is there are fundamental differences of opinion - let's leave it at that and stick to the clear terminology when we talk. [Mises.org does this all the time with "pro-liberty" too. It can be very confusing if you don't know what the code-words mean].
This is starting to get a little farther afield, but I think the point I want to make is simply that (1.) the link that Xenophon shares is a very good one and the impulse is very good, but (2.) the guy clearly has blinders on and that limits the usefulness of his more fundamental insight. This is fine. We all have blinders on. I'm providing a few counter-arguments here to help take those blinders off, and people should take them how they will.
Personally I, like the blogger, don't see a lot of use for these ideological spectrums. Mostly I just feel like a non-descript moderate, often I feel like a liberal, sometimes I feel conservative, on occasion I feel downright leftist, and fairly regularly I do feel like a libertarian. The center of gravity for me is probably what you'd call "center-left" but the point is spectrums are often a dumb way to think about this stuff, and even distinct ideologies like "libertarianism" is a dumb way to think about this stuff. It is convenient, though - and convenience matters.