Reconciling Libertarians and Social Democrats

Stephen Yearwood
3 min readSep 4, 2020

and all Liberals in between

Photo by Miikka Luotio on Unsplash

“Liberals” — capitalized— refers to people who accept that liberty and equality are the ‘twin pillars of justice’ for society. Libertarians are convinced that liberty is the key term; social democrats are convinced that equality is.

Both groups, though, are Liberals. Both groups recognize the necessity for both liberty and equality for a just society. Libertarians do recognize that equality constrains liberty, limiting anyone’s exercise of liberty to actions consistent with ‘an equal liberty for all’. Social democrats do recognize that personal liberty is necessary for a just society. (The citizens of the most socialistic socially democratic nations have every civil liberty enjoyed by the citizens of the U.S. — the most libertarian Liberal nation — and, with less ‘social engineering’ based on religion, more strictly personal liberty.)

Yet, the political divide that has developed between those two groups (along with their more centrist cousins, conservatives and political liberals) is making Liberal nations ungovernable. Nations that are ungovernable sink into chaos. Civil chaos makes almost all people crave stability — to the point that most will even willingly accept authoritarianism to end it.

There is a way to make all Liberals happy — libertarians, social democrats, and all in between. Both sides would get more of what they want than either has ever really thought could be possible.

What does each side want? In the abstract, let’s assume that both sides want maximum personal liberty for all and political democracy, that both sides recognize that neither of those conditions for a just society can exist without the other.

Materially, the ultimate libertarian goal for the nation would be a fully self-regulating economy with no taxes or public debt. The ultimate material goal as a nation for the social democrats would be no unemployment or poverty and increased sustainability.

There is a way to achieve all of that.

I understand that people on both political sides who see that will fear that they are somehow being duped. People on the ‘right’ see “no unemployment or poverty” and “increased sustainability” and react, “socialism!” People on the ‘left’ see “self-regulating economy” and “no taxes or public debt” and react, (to quote actual feedback I have received) “libertarian wet dream!”

To save liberal society, with political democracy and maximum liberty, Liberals have to stop reacting and start thinking. It is actually possible to achieve all of the above — through, in the U.S., a single Act of Congress.

Further reading:

Re-thinking Individualism to Avert the Worst Tragedy in the History of Civilization” (here in Medium)

For Crying Out Loud, Accept That A Solution Actually Exists” (also here in Medium)

I implore people on both sides of our political divide to read both. Though I realize this will encourage many people to do the opposite, I would strongly recommend that righties start with the first and lefties start with the second.



Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice