For two years in a row — 2010 and 2011, The Future of Freedom Foundation participated in the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Ordinarily, we would never do something like that, given how ardently conservatives support such things as foreign interventionism, militarism, empire, undeclared wars, wars of aggression, torture, the war on terrorism, and the denigration of civil liberties, all of which are anathema to libertarians.
But during those two years, Ron Paul and his campaign-inspired Campaign for Liberty, along with hundreds of college-age libertarians, had a giant presence at CPAC. The Campaign for Liberty asked us to join them at the conference with an exhibit table on “Liberty Row” and also to present panels giving the libertarian case for a non-interventionist, non-imperialist foreign policy and the case for the vital importance of restoring civil liberties to our land. One of our panels was entitled, “Why Real Conservatives Oppose the War on Terrorism.”
Well, this past weekend, I had the same sort of experience but at the opposite end of the political spectrum. I participated in a big conference at Pace University in New York City called “The Left Forum.” I was invited to participate in a panel entitled “Prospects for a Left-Right Alliance in the Fight against Empire.”
I arrived early and walked around the exhibit hall. Rather than the standard pro-torture, pro-war, pro-assassination, anti-civil liberties books that you’d find at a conservative conference, the place was filled with books extolling the virtues of Marxism, socialism, and communism and condemning capitalism. Not surprisingly, there weren’t any economics books that would interest libertarians, such as ones by Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Friedman, or other free-market types. Needless to say, it was quite an interesting experience going through that exhibit area after having attended many conservative and libertarian conferences over the years.
Our panel addressed the issue of liberals/progressives working with conservatives and libertarians on shared opposition to foreign interventionism, empire, wars of aggression, torture, and the like. The panel included a conservative, Kelly Vlahos, who writes for American Conservative magazine and Fox News, two ardent liberals, John Walsh, a physician whose articles appear on the liberal site Counterpunch and Chip Berlet, a former analyst at a progressive organization named Political Research Associates, and me, the libertarian on the panel. The moderator for the panel, and the person who put the panel together, was Evan Siegel, a liberal activist who opposed the Vietnam War and has long opposed U.S. interventionism in Latin America and the Middle East.
Of course, I let everyone know during my presentation that FFF has been at the forefront of drawing on conservatives, liberals, and, of course, libertarians to make the case for a limited-government foreign policy and for the restoration of civil liberties in America. I pointed out that in our two big conferences on this theme, we had such notable liberal speakers as Robert Scheer, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Joanne Mariner, Jesselyn Radack, and others, all of whom gave great presentations presenting positions that, in effect, mirrored that of libertarians on these particular issues. In fact, Scheer, as I told the audience, actually received a standing ovation at the FFF conference at which he spoke.
While there were, not surprisingly, some differences among the panelists on how best to advance our positions, everyone on the panel got along really well and were in fundamental agreement on the central point — the importance of working with people of difference political ideologies to bring an end to America’s disastrous experiment with imperialism and interventionism..
After the panel, the four panelists and the moderator went out for an informal lunch, where we had some more great informal discussion.
It was a great panel, lasting 1 hour and 50 minutes, which provided lots of time for Q&A. The audience wasn’t large — about 20 people — but it made for a very interesting and friendly discussion. They videotaped the session and so when they post it online, we’ll include the link in our FFF Email Update.
Thanks to Evan Siegel for putting the panel together and inviting me to participate in it. And thanks to all the other panelists for a very positive, enlightening experience!