Brink Lindsey, a registered Republican, was for many years associated with Cato, was an editor of Regulation, Cato Unbound and Director of their Center for Trade Policy.
A liberal-libertarian rather than a conservative libertarian (as we have with Douthat and Salam among others), Lindsey has no desire to make the family central. In his 2007 essay, “Liberaltarians,” Lindsey advocates carbon taxes as an ideal public policy that reflects the harmonious convergence of liberalism and libertarianism for a maximally limited government. Lindsey attempts to rethink the possibility of limited government in the actual world. Having concluded that the retiring baby-boomers preclude any radical dismantling of the welfare state, for now, Lindsey advocates market-based approaches to social policy a la the elegant, non-invasive tax policies of Pigou: we should “shift taxes away from the things we want more of and onto the things we want less of.” Specifically, cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption….And tax everybody’s energy consumption. All taxes impose costs on the economy, but at least energy taxes carry the silver lining of encouraging conservation.”
What is most intriguing to Lindsey is the possibility of a liberal-libertarian alliance. He imagines both the liberals and libertarians maturing. He observes that the liberals are already giving up attachment to the socialist ideal and are more likely to embrace free market policies than conservatives. Libertarians, in his view, would be best served by separating from social conservatism, and by recognizing the limitations of capitalism. Given finite resources and negative externalities, corrective and incentivizing social policies are definitely required. There is no more unlimited abundance to be had on a frontier; certain limitations must be accepted for freedom to flourish. Strict libertarianism is simply insanity. But if both sides can mature in the required ways, the stage is set for a happy convergence, a new political identity that happily reinforces the legacy of freedom and tolerance found in both liberals and libertarians. At the same time, with market-based policies such as incentivizing carbon taxes, citizens will succeed in achieving the social policies that are effective and least invasive, allowing maximal possible freedom given modern conditions.
For more, check out Lindsey’s “When Prices are Wrong, Markets don’t Work.”