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Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Progressive Libertarian in the Occupy Wall Street Age

It's been 3 and 1/2 years since I posted I Am a Progressive Libertarian, which received some 60+ comments, most in 2009 and 2010, most by people who argued that I wasn't really a libertarian, which I maintained I really was.  The gist of my position is we need (a) less or no government in regulation of communication, technology, etc., and strict enforcement of Constitutional provisions of government's capacity to wage war, collect data on citizens, etc., (b) more government involvement in providing health care (I see protection from microbial parasites or disease as akin to protection from human invaders), and (c) payment for necessary government by taxing the super-rich (as a goal, no taxes from any person or business earning less than $1,000,000 per year, greatly increased taxes for all people and corporations earning more than that per year). 

How does that position play in our Occupy Wall Street age?

1. The resurgence of direct democracy that is the mainspring of Occupy Wall Street is a straight-up staple of any libertarian philosophy.   Direct democracy intrinsically reduces government by replacing representatives of the people (in Congress, in state houses, and in city halls) with the people themselves as decision-makers.   See Occupy Wall Street, Direct Democracy, Social Media for more.  The failure of Congress to reach an agreement on budgetary issues this year is further evidence of the decline of representative democracy.  Referenda to recall or remove elected government officials, calls for a Constitutional Convention, and General Assemblies at Occupy sites are expressions of this new direct democracy.  Note that The Tea Party, which often presents itself as a conservative libertarian movement, is explicitly focused on electing representatives, meaning that, unlike Occupy Wall Street, The Tea Party is not pursuing direct democracy (though both movements arise from a common refusal to accept business-as-usual from current officials and representatives in government).

2.  Police brutality against protesters in Occupy Wall Street sites across America is precisely the kind of government trampling of communication - and abrogation of First Amendment rights to peaceably assembly - that the progressive libertarian seeks to prevent, restrain, punish, and stop.   Similarly, the obstruction of the press from covering the Occupy Wall Street eviction in New York by Mayor Michael "I Have an Army" Bloomberg is an outright violation of the freedom of press provision of the First Amendment.   The failure of President Obama to condemn all of these violations in the U.S., and of Governor Jerry Brown to do the same in California, is yet another example of the exhaustion of representative democracy in our digital/street age.

3.  The 99% vs. 1% focus of Occupy Wall Street is exactly what I have in mind with the goal of no taxes for any person or business earning under a million dollars per year, and sharp increases in taxes for all earnings above one million dollars per year.   Bank of America's decision to rescind its plan to charge $5 a month for use of debit cards is a small but first explicit victory of the 99% over the 1%.

In sum, the progressive libertarian approach is not a call for yet another political party.  It is, rather, a philosophy, a perspective, which I see as consonant with Occupy Wall Street and hope will ring a bell with those seeking less government in our political  lives and more government responsiveness to our human needs, financed by the super-wealthy.   As a citizen, I intend to continue to shine an uncompromising light on the government's escalating violation of our First Amendment rights.

See also I Am a Progressive Libertarian and The Occupy Wall Street Chronicles, Part 1

-Paul Levinson, PhD
Professor of Communication and Media Studies
Fordham University
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