My deep (get out the hip boots!) question of the day

I asked this on Twitter this morning, and meant to bring it up on the blog ere now:

Today’s question: Why is it that Libertarians — the champions of radical individualism — have a party, and communitarians do not?

But as it happened, it engendered a thread of comments on Facebook, which I share…

Phillip Bush well, if you take the religious component out of it, I’d say the Democratic party comes closest in the US, and various Social Democratic parties in Europe.
8 hours ago · Like
Brad Warthen Why not the Christian Democrats? To me, religious faith is far more likely to lead to communitarianism than without it.
8 hours ago · Like
Phillip Bush Yes, you’re right, that’s closer still. Also paradox of US politics: GOP touts religious/cultural “values,” but central ethos to me is more anti-spiritual than US liberalism, which seeks to balance community and individual, and acknowledges values beyond just $.
8 hours ago · Like
Stanley Dubinsky Because communitarians, having community and (hence) lots of friends, are busy building their community and have no time for the pointless activities that are the hallmark of party politics. Libertarians, on the other hand, are very lonely (being out hiking on the Appalachian Trail or traveling alone to Brazil, and all that). They have few friends, and the few friends they do have are narcissistic to the point of being poor company. Desperate for something that has at least the appearance of social interaction, they form a political party. Through this, they can convince themselves that they have friends … or at least imaginary ones.
7 hours ago · Like
Doug Ross Libertarian: I’ll do it
Democrat: YOU should do it because it will make ME feel better
Republican: We won’t do anything unless there’s something in it for us
Communitarian: I hope someone else does it
There’s no Communitarian Party because there are no Communitarian principles. As soon as the community picks a side on one topic, they lose everyone on the other side. You can’t be a pro-choice Communitarian or an anti-war communitarian, can you?
9 minutes ago · Like
Brad Warthen No, you can’t be a “pro-choice” communitarian, since that’s one of the most libertarian positions you’re likely to find. I suppose you COULD be an anti-war communitarian, in that you could believe war is not healthy for communities and other living things. Of course, Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq invasion, and my own, arose from communitarian attitudes…
3 minutes ago · Like

14 thoughts on “My deep (get out the hip boots!) question of the day

  1. Doug Ross


    You answered your own question as to why there is no Communitarian Party with your response on abortion. A party that is to the right of the Republican Party on that issue would be even more fringe than the Tea Party.

  2. bud

    There are so many problems with communitarian philosophy I don’t even know where to start. The whole notion of the majority telling people what to do is highly offensive to me. Freedom is too valuable to throw away on the whims of some governing body that cannot possibly understand the hopes, dreams, values and desires of individuals.

    I like the philosophy of libertarianism. The reason I can’t be a full blown libertarian is the completely unreasonable worldview they have concerning many things that work. They rant and rave and carry on about social security. If ever there was a program that worked it’s social security. My gosh my family has benefited from that pragmatic program to no end. Same with medicare. And the whole notion that the rich shouldn’t pay very high taxes just leaves me cold. I’m for soaking the rich like they do in Sweeden.

  3. Doug Ross


    If Social Security “works” then why does it have to be tinkered with. Why would we have to raise the retirement age? Why would it have to go from 2% of income to 6.2% of income over the years? It has only “worked” because there were always more people paying in than receiving benefits. As the baby boomers retire, the numbers just don’t work.

    Medicare “works” because it shifts costs to people with regular insurance. The payment rates are well below what most people pay. It is also one of the most fraud infested government programs in existence.

    If those are examples of what works, I don’t want to consider what doesn’t work. Which is nearly everything else.

  4. bud

    Stuff that doesn’t work:

    Lehman Brothers
    Goldman Sachs
    Freddie and Fannie
    Bank of America
    Chrysler (how many times have they been bailed out?)
    And of course the United States military with it’s $600 hammers.

  5. martin

    FICA taxes aren’t collected on income over $106,800. There’s always been a limit on what the rich and their employers have to pay into Social Security. Why, I can’t fathom.

    It strikes me if someone making $20,000 a year has to pay on 100% of their earnings, someone making $20,000,000 should have to pay on 100% of their income, too.

  6. Lynn

    Communitarians value equality and individual responsibility for themselves and others in their tribe/community. That we are all in someway our brothers/sisters keepers. Some of the best examples of communitarian spirit come from the upper Midwest where people band together to build schools, hospitals, libraries and other public oriented services valued by both individuals and communities. Much of what de Tocqueville admired about the young America. Parties take too much time to organize when there are casseroles to bake.

    Libertarians value freedom and individual achievement. People who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps by hard work and diligence and good luck. Libertarians are often very generous with their resources, they just hate being told they HAVE too. Parties are too much trouble to organize besides someone will want to enforce a creed.

  7. SusanG

    I think it’s because there’s a cap on what your benefit is once you retire. The person making $20,000,000 doesn’t get an astronomical benefit when he/she retires, so they don’t pay on the full $20 million during their working days either.

  8. Doug Ross


    You’ve got it exactly right. The cap on payments into the system is based on the cap on payments you can receive when you retire.

    I expect we will reach a point within the next few decades when the cap on payments will be lifted but the cap on payments will remain the same. The pyramid model used to fund Social Security cannot handle all the baby boomers entering the system in the coming years.

  9. bud

    The pyramid model used to fund Social Security cannot handle all the baby boomers entering the system in the coming years.

    I’ve heard that libertarian, cryptic sound bite in one form or another since I was a little boy. And in about 8 years I’ll start drawing social security for myself. I feel confident that if I live long enough I’ll be able to recover all that I put into the system. Of course if I die young I’m out of luck. Perhaps that’s why the GOP fights against a workable healthcare system, it helps reduce the surplus population and keep ss solvent.


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