Has The Time Come For A Coalition of Progressives and Libertarians?

Psychologist Bruce Levine has reported in his blog most recently on a notion by Ron Paul and Ralph Nader that a populist coalition of progressives and libertarians could be forged in the interests of fighting corporate government. The article in question is called, pointedly enough, Populist Alliances or Senseless Wars and Corporate Welfare.

Whether or not Nader and Paul can pull off such a coalition, their conversation can promote a useful dialogue among populists and anti-authoritarians across the political spectrum. We Americans are routinely grouped as Democrats, Republicans and Independents and divided into left-liberal, right-conservative and center-moderate camps, but these categories tell us little about where we stand on two historically important questions: (1) Do you favor some fashion of elite rule, or are you a populist who believes in government that is genuinely of, by and for the people? (2) And if you believe that a ruling elite exists, who exactly are they?

Levine takes much of his philosophical inspiration from the under appreciated and much abused founding father, Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense and Rights of Man.

Real-deal populists are emotionally fueled by their contempt for illegitimate authority. Anti-authoritarians – be they Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Ralph Nader or Ron Paul – have historically energized young people who have not yet been socialized into abandoning their rebelliousness against illegitimate authority. While authoritarians accept a standard schooling and a government that demands compliance to authority by virtue of rank and position, anti-authoritarians consider whether that authority is or is not legitimate before accepting it.

His feeling seems to be that that a government bought and controlled by large corporations is an illegitimate government.

When populists such as Nader and Paul both use the terms corporatists and corporate government, this greatly improves the possibility of coalitions and alliances among populists. While it is more comfortable for many libertarian populists to rail only against “government tyranny” and for many progressive populists to rail only against “corporate tyranny,” what can unify populists is a recognition that elite rule consists of a “corporatocracy tyranny” – rule by a corporate-governmental partnership.

This anti-authoritarian populism, as I see it, also represents a politico-philosophic way for psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers to break out of what has come to be called the mental health ghetto, a ghetto created largely by corporate government and bureaucracy. The liberation I am speaking of comes with the consciousness that there is more to life than diagnostic tags, “community treatment programs”, “medication management”, and disability payments. People who know the mental health system intimately have, in most cases, not entirely lost their right to vote, and one way to express this right is to use it to wrest control of government back from the corporate interests that have stolen it (or, bought it with money stolen from the people). Government by, for, and of a rich minority is not going to be good government for the vast majority of citizens. By building alliances and coalitions of this sort, it just might be possible for us to eventually end this tyranny of the rich.

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