Ron Paul and Ralph Nader join forces to endorse a common agenda (Photo credit: VoteNader.org)
In a 2011 interview on Freedom Watch, libertarian Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) and progressive Ralph Nader displayed a remarkable agreement on a number of issues. While he was quick to point out that he could not speak for all progressives, Ralph Nader spoke of libertarians:
“To the extent they are genuine libertarian conservatives and not corporatists…they are great allies with many liberals and progressives: to challenge the bloated and wasteful military budgets; to challenge undeclared wars overseas; to challenge hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare, handouts, giveaways and bailouts; to challenge invasiveness of our civil liberties and civil rights by the notorious Patriot Act..”
Recent proposed legislation sponsored by Ron Paul and progressive Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) to end federal prohibition of marijuana and efforts by Ron Paul and progressive Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to go after the military budget and bring accountability to the Federal Reserve are examples of new coalitions being formed by libertarians and progressives. While libertarians, like progressives, may disagree among themselves, following is a list of values upon which libertarians and progressives can unite:
Anti-War: Both libertarians and progressives have a long history of opposition to American military interventionist policies. Libertarians believe the best foreign policy is trade, not war. They support the role of government to provide for genuine defense but oppose policies that amount to perpetual war. They support significant cuts in military spending and oppose relentless growth in a military industrial complex that seemingly knows no boundaries. They support swift and safe withdrawals of troops from Afghanistan and reductions in massive deployments elsewhere in the world. In 2008 progressive Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was the only Democratic presidential candidate to have voted against invading Iraq. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and Ron Paul advocate bringing our troops home as the best way to achieve national security.
Equal Justice: No policy in the United States results in more discrimination today than the war on drugs. Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow has described how people of color, though no more likely to use drugs than whites, are disproportionately arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated by drug prohibition laws, then legally marginalized as criminals for the rest of their lives by being denied employment, housing, education and other benefits due to their criminal record. A number of black leaders including Jesse Jackson and California NAACP president Alice Huffman have called for an end to the war on drugs. Libertarians have been among the most vocal opponents of drug prohibition, and the only presidential candidates willing to call for marijuana legalization are former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Republican Party candidate Ron Paul.
Civil Liberties: Libertarians and progressives are long-standing advocates of civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, rights to assemble, rights against search and seizure, due process of law, freedom to choose over one’s religion, and separation of church and state. Both oppose torture, oppose illegal imprisonment and oppose extraordinary renditions. Libertarians have been among the most vocal opponents of the erosion of rights against search and seizure and asset forfeitures that have accompanied the war on drugs. Libertarians and progressives oppose the deceptively titled Patriot Act.
Immigration: Libertarians and progressives support legal immigration. Libertarians regard American rejection of refugees from Nazi Germany as one of the most shameful acts of American history. Libertarians want a humane work visa program for immigrants and believe it makes Americans more competitive in a competitive world. Libertarians oppose fear mongering tactics that cause opposition between immigrants and American workers. Both believe that immigrants have made America the rich and diverse nation that it is. Both support a reasonable path to citizenship for immigrants who are willing to fulfill reasonable requirements to obtain it.
Informational Freedom: Libertarians and progressives support informational freedom. In Ralph Nader’s words, “Information is the currency of democracy.” Libertarians and progressives oppose suppression of information from the masses in order to control the people. Both oppose government control over the internet and support those who facilitate dissemination of information like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, private Bradley Manning and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson whose wife Valerie Plame was exposed as an undercover CIA operative in retaliation for exposing the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Drug Reform: Libertarians and progressives support the 2011 findings by the 19 member Global Commission on Drug Policy, which included former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. official George P. Schultz, and former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, and others who called to “End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.” Libertarians and progressives support legalization of hemp and marijuana, and support drug policies that focus on harm reduction rather than criminalization. Ron Paul and progressive Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass) have combined to introduce H.R.2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.
Choice: Libertarians and progressives, with a minority of exceptions in both groups, support the rights of individuals to choose what they can do with their own bodies. This includes a women’s right to choose over an abortion. Having an abortion is a heart wrenching decision for any woman, and most libertarians believe that government needs to stay out of it. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is pro-choice and supports the rights of all adults to choose what they can do with their own bodies.
Gay Rights: Libertarians and progressives support equal rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Libertarians oppose government imposition of its values upon marriage. Libertarians and progressives support the right of all to marry who they choose and oppose the Defense of Marriage Act which restricts marriage to that of a man and woman. Both supported ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies in the military. Libertarians and progressive Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) oppose discrimination in schools which contributes to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement among LGBT youth.
Corporate Welfare & The Federal Reserve: Libertarians and progressives oppose federal bailouts and giveaways that have drained our Treasury and enriched special interests at the cost to the American taxpayers. Libertarians and progressives question the role of the Federal Reserve. Ralph Nader has remarked that Ron Paul and “super progressive” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are “principled” and have joined to seek accountability by the Federal Reserve.
Environment: Libertarians and progressives support conservation and desire clean air and clean water. Libertarians oppose policies written by the regulated to serve the regulated but support market based incentives to improve the environment. In his insightful book Climatopolis, UCLA Public Policy professor and libertarian environmentalist Matthew E. Kahn has outlined strategies whereby individuals through the use of information and choice can respond and thrive in an environment characterized by global warming.
End the Death Penalty: Progressives are well known opponents of the death penalty. Most libertarians agree. Libertarians are skeptical of the power of the state and execution is the extreme exercise of state power. Both groups wonder, “Why do we kill people for killing people to show that killing people is wrong?” The death penalty does not deter, guilt is often uncertain, costs to the state usually far exceed alternative costs of life in prison, it condones violence as a solution to problems, it is racially and economically biased, it sets a bad example and marginalizes Americans in the international fight for human rights.
Health Care: Libertarians and progressives recognize the failure of our health care system. Ron Paul and Ralph Nader oppose the existing and soon to be implemented health care policies advocated by the Obama administration. Both oppose the systems as another windfall to special interest insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Both encourage increases in the supply of health care providers, more preventative medicine and increased availability of alternative medicines to bring down health care costs.
Ban the Box: While libertarians are well known for opposing the banning of anything, libertarians can stand side by side with progressives to “Ban the Box”. The “Ban the Box” campaign encourages corporations and state governments to remove the question about criminal history from employment applications. The NAACP has successfully advocated large-scale employers and the state of California to remove the question of criminal history from employment applications.
The Obama administration, which swept into office with grassroots efforts and the promise of hope and change, has morphed into a billion dollar campaign financed by special interests. Libertarians and progressives oppose interests that drain tax dollars to pay for the seemingly unlimited needs of the military industrial complex, prison industrial complex and Wall Street. By recognizing the values that we share, libertarians and progressives can unite to further the causes of freedom, opportunity, justice, choice, and human rights.