Here are some policy areas where classical liberals or libertarians seem to have a lot of common ground with those on the political left:
• Immigration – Immigration is a net benefit to the receiving country and a matter of justice to would-be migrants. We should allow more of it – probably much more.
• “Corporate welfare” – Protectionist, promotionist, and mercantilist policies (to borrow Andrew Cohen’s terminology) are inefficient and unjust, and should be abandoned.
• Agricultural Policy – Using tax dollars to prop up US or EU agribusiness is harmful to consumers’ health and pocketbooks, and is a gross injustice to poor farmers elsewhere in the world.
• Anti-militarism – Many or most of the current uses of American military power are unjust. They are also, secondarily, ineffective in advancing Americans’ genuine interests.
• Anti-war-on-drugs – The expansion of police and military power for purposes of preventing the production, distribution, and consumption of illegal drugs is both unjust and disastrous in its consequences
The post goes on to argue that areas of disagreement between liberals and libertarians, while theoretically interesting, aren’t as practically important as these areas of agreement (where “important” means something like net effect on human well-being). The implication seems to be that liberals and libertarians should put aside their disagreements and focus on these issues where their views overlap.
While I think there’s something to this, I think liberals might rightly balk at some of it. For instance, while immigration might be a net benefit to the receiving country as a whole, liberals are going to want to talk about distributional issues before signing on. More specifically, suppose that letting in more immigrants provided a net economic benefit to a country, but also has the result of lowering wages for some identifiable group of workers in that country. It’s not obvious that the benefits yielded by increased immigration (say, cheaper labor and more inexpensive goods and services) necessarily outweigh these costs if we refuse to simply aggregate them and ignore the particular details of who’s affected.
Secondly, I’m not sure liberals will agree that these issues are categorically more important than establishing and maintaining a robust domestic social safety net, as the author suggests. (“Whether our military is off fighting unjust wars or not is much, much more important from the standpoint of both justice and people’s well-being than whether or not we have a minimum wage or a single-payer health care system.”) This post seems to take for granted that liberals and libertarians all share a kind of cosmopolitan consequentialism where, for political purposes, each person’s interests–no matter where they reside in the world–are to be weighed equally. But this assumption is by no means shared by all, or probably even most, liberals. American liberals, like most other people, are primarily concerned, from a political standpoint, about the well-being of their own countrymen. Benefitting immigrants or poor farmers overseas isn’t necessarily going to take precedence for a liberal over ensuring that all Americans have access to health care or decent jobs.
I guess the practical upshot depends on whether the proposal is a kind of ad hoc coalition or a more thoroughgoing fusion of libertarianism and liberalism. If it’s the former, there’s no reason liberals can’t work with libertarians in, say, opposing the latest U.S. war without giving up their commitment to the welfare state. But if the proposal is that liberals stop worrying about domestic social justice issues in order to focus on libertarian-friendly issues, I can’t really see why liberals should want to do that.