The Left And Liberty

Will Wilkinson explains why it sometimes seems as though all language relating to liberty has been ceded to the right:

...the contemporary left is an uneasy fusion of technocratic progressive and liberal-democratic conviction... The progressive technocrat's attitude toward liberty is: "Trust us. You're better off without so much of it." The more the left is inclined to stick up for this sort of "activist government" as a progressive, humanitarian force, the less it is inclined to couch its arguments in terms of liberty. And that's just honest. More honest, I would add, than social conservatives who in one breath praise liberty and in the next demand the state imposition of their favourite flavour of morality.

Peter Beinart wishes the left would talk more about liberty:

The Obama administration has barely tried to argue that activist government can make people more freeby, for instance, guaranteeing their health care coverage and thus freeing them to leave a dead end job. In America today, as at past moments in our history, there’s a profound debate underway not just about how to right our economy but about the relationship between capitalism and freedom. Pretending it’s not a real debate is a great way for the left to lose.

I would think there's a way to talk about this without all this tedious right-left stuff. Take a gas tax: is that really a big government coup? If we removed most tax deductions, lowered rates and added a gas tax, would that be right or left? And yet it would make us all freer, I think, by relieving us of an insanely complex tax code, empowering citizens to have easier scrutiny of government, and nudging us toward an economy where the market us encouraged to innovate clean energy. Ditto universal access to private healthcare. Of course, this helps liberalize the job market. And even Hayek approved of core social insurance against fate.