AOC Shows Why a Libertarian-Progressive Alliance Will Fail

By | 2019-01-31T21:56:10+00:00 January 31st, 2019|
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Implementing a “Green New Deal” probably won’t happen unless Democrats take control of the White House and the U.S. Senate—but that won’t stop proponents from doing everything they can to shape the national conversation around the topic. And the legitimacy of the Green New Deal, its credibility, its urgency, the entire premise on which it stands or falls, is the theory of climate change.

Therefore it’s no surprise that the youthful congressional standard bearer for climate change action, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is trying to prevent corporations from supporting anything remotely skeptical of that theory. Hence the recent letter the freshman House member from New York sent to the CEOs of Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, as if these companies weren’t already using their almost unimaginable influence to shape that conversation in a way Ocasio-Cortez would like.

The transgression committed by the tech giants was to participate as sponsors of “LibertyCon 2019,” where, as reported in Mother Jones, “the event featured a group called the CO2 Coalition, which handed out brochures in the exhibit hall that said its goal is to ‘explain how our lives and our planet Earth will be improved by additional atmospheric carbon dioxide.’”

It’s more than a little ironic that these companies, Google and Facebook in particular, should find themselves in Ocasio-Cortez’s crosshairs. These are companies that in all areas—their leadership, their political spending, their employees, and, crucially, how they use their near monopoly power to favor or suppress online content—are overwhelmingly partisan in favor of Democrats like her. The fact that these liberal tech giants aren’t partisan enough for Democratic Socialists is cause for alarm. Consider this excerpt from Ocasio-Cortez’s letter:

Given the magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis that we are now facing, we find it imperative to ensure that the climate-related views espoused at LibertyCon do not reflect the values of your companies going forward.

“Urgency.” “Crisis.” “Imperative.” These are powerful, intimidating words. And while it is unlikely the Democratic Socialists in the U.S. Congress could actually do anything to force Google and Facebook to stop sponsoring events like LibertyCon, it’s quite likely that won’t be necessary. Beyond allowing members of the “CO2 Coalition” to pass out flyers that pointed out, accurately, that CO2 is a beneficial gas, not a pollutant, what other transgressions did they commit at LibertyCon?

Back to Ocasio-Cortez’s letter:

We were deeply disappointed to see that your companies were high-level sponsors of a conference this month in Washington D.C., known as LibertyCon, that included a session denying established science on climate change.

Reviewing LibertyCon’s agenda, the offending session was probably the one called “Population, Climate, and the Problem with Externality Arguments.” Here’s the program description: “The existence of external costs is a legitimate economic argument for government interference in a market system. But there are serious problems in applying that argument to an issue, such as population or climate change, where there are both positive and negative externalities of uncertain magnitude with the result that both the size and the sign of the net effect are unknown.”

In plain English, it appears that the panelists in this session discussed why the government should not destroy the energy industry before knowing whether or not it would do any good. After all, that challenges the premise: Climate change is a crisis, urgent action is imperative.

“Progressive Libertarian” Is an Oxymoron
This fight Ocasio-Cortez has picked with big tech illuminates the challenge facing the so-called progressive libertarians. The Silicon Valley is an epicenter of progressive politics. That dominant ideology manifests itself everywhere; the electorate, the politicians, the business community, the philanthropic community, the culture. Yet libertarian philosophy is also popular on the Left Coast. From programmers working for the tech giants to the hipsters driving for Uber, libertarian ideas attract widespread grassroots support. But while libertarians and progressives have much in common, they are not compatible ideologies.

On the one hand, many big tech CEOs and their employees consider themselves libertarians on social issues championed by progressive Democrats. These include legalizing drug use, criminal justice reform, gay marriage, and protecting a woman’s “right to choose.” They also largely embrace libertarian positions on issues such as open borders, cyber currency, innovation, disruptive technology, and maybe even on school choice, police accountability, and military spending. There’s a lot of overlap.

On the other hand, when it comes to other major issues, big tech culture veers away from basic libertarian values. By and large, big-tech culture supports affirmative action, with corporate cultures committed to race and gender “equity.” That these policies have put them on a collision course with the reality of profound disparities in group aptitude is something they have yet fully to confront.

Libertarians, by contrast, object to enforced race and gender quotas in hiring, promotions, college admissions, and the like.

Similarly, big-tech culture is almost monolithically committed to policies and products dedicated to fighting “climate change.” Libertarians have diverse opinions on the question of climate change and object to suppression of dissenting points of view.

For these reasons, it is impossible to be a “progressive libertarian.” For the progressives, the indispensable wedge issues that galvanize the masses and inform the policymakers are social justice and climate change. On those core premises, progressives and libertarians are worlds apart. Yet for progressives, on those core premises there can be no compromise. No cost is too high and resistance must be crushed.

Moreover, reduced to absolutes, progressives seek statist utopia, and libertarians seek stateless utopia. That they happen to agree on some issues, but not others, is incidental to that fundamental schism.

Irreconcilable Differences
From the perspective of a compassionate nationalist, or a Christian, or a secular advocate for the preservation of Western Civilization, libertarians and progressives are both wrong on the most critical issue, which is the sovereignty of nations. Libertarians and progressives may indeed disagree on the fundamentals of governance, but if they are true to their principles—cultural Marxism on the part of progressives, open borders and “free trade” on the part of libertarians—they are two sides of the same globalist coin. As a matter of fact, sadly, what may unite progressives and libertarians despite irreconcilable differences is their opposition to nationalism.

From a practical standpoint, and despite their denials, the ultimate outcome of worldwide progressive political triumph would be a one-world socialist government, and the ultimate outcome of a libertarian political victory would be a world run by multinational corporations. The pragmatists among them both would settle for some hybrid of these competing visions.

What may be worth emphasizing in the here and now, however, is the current disagreement between libertarians and progressives as exemplified by Ocasio-Cortez’s letter to the big tech CEOs. The progressives are trying to shut down any discussion on the critical issue of climate change, just as they’re trying to silence anyone who dissents from their revolutionary agenda on questions of race and gender. Ocasio-Cortez and her comrades are blatant in pursuing this effort, to the point where they are willing to chastise big tech for being a few steps behind and a great deal more refined in their common pursuit of the same goal.

The libertarians, to their credit, are not trying to shut anyone up. For that not insignificant reason, and even if for nothing else, they are to be commended. Libertarians must know that while conservatives and nationalists may disagree vehemently with them on some of the most important questions of our time, nobody on the Right—unlike those on the progressive Left—would ever try to silence them.

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About the Author:

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is a Senior Fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is a co-founder of the California Policy Center, a free-market think tank based in Southern California, where he served as their first president. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Ring, a fifth-generation Californian, has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from the University of Southern California.