Terrorism, Acts of War, and Military Trials

As you’re probably already aware, there’s been some disagreement with the Obama administration’s plan to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York civilian court. Among the objections is the claim that trying terrorists in civilian court commits one to a “law enforcement” view of terrorism rather than a “war on terrorism” approach. Now as a general rule, I’m rather opposed to the rather overworked and almost always grossly misleading War on an Abstract Noun language. By and large, our WoaANs have effectively been wars on drug users and poor people – or most often, a twofer of poor people who use drugs.

That said, the war metaphor might not be as problematic in the case of international terrorism. Certainly many terrorists invoke war language to describe their actions. So should we take terrorists at their own word, and accord them military trials (which generally entail fewer protections for the defendants than do civilian trials)? Matt Yglesias says no, claiming that if you do so:

you partake of way too much of the terrorists’ narrative about themselves. It’s their conceit, after all, that blowing up a bomb in a train station and killing a few hundred random commuters is an act of war. And war is a socially sanctioned form of activity, generally held to be a legally and morally acceptable framework in which to kill people. What we want to say, however, is that this sporadic commuter-killing isn’t a kind of war, it’s an act of murder. To be sure, not an ordinary murder—a mass murder—but nonetheless murder.

But not so fast, says Norm Geras.

The opposition Matt sets up here between war and crime – between ‘a socially sanctioned form of activity, generally held to be a legally and morally acceptable framework in which to kill people’, on the one hand, and murder or mass murder, on the other – is too sharp. War may (sometimes) be legally and morally acceptable, but that doesn’t mean there is no criminality within war. There is – as defined by the laws of war. One is not therefore bound to choose between treating individuals as participating in a war and treating them as criminals, if that is what they are. Under the assumption of universal jurisdiction, international humanitarian law allows for war criminals and those responsible for crimes against humanity to be prosecuted in the civilian courts of any country. And terrorism is murder even when it is ‘a kind of war’.

Now I’m inclined to agree with Geras to a degree. The line between terrorism and war crimes is not as bright as Yglesias makes it out to be. I am personally inclined toward the view that terrorism is best defined as the deliberate targeting of noncombatants to achieve a political objective. That makes the 9/11 attacks and the Ft. Hood shootings both acts of terrorism, albeit on different scales. But that definition also makes the allied firebombings of Dresden and (at minimum) the atomic bombing of Nagasaki acts of terrorism. The latter two acts are also rightly defined as war crimes and should have been treated as such. (And, yes, I am fully aware that only the losing side is ever actually tried for its war crimes. It doesn’t make such acts any less criminal.)

But not all acts of terrorism are acts of war. I think one would be hard pressed to give any sort of plausible story that portrays Tim McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City as an act of war. The same goes for the Unabomber, the DC Sniper and the Ft. Hood shooter. Terrorists, yes. War criminals? Not so much.

KSM and 9/11 is a tougher call. Indeed, I think it’s something of a judgment call. I could probably get on board with either side – or, at the very least, I’d say that it’s a question about which reasonable people can reasonably disagree.

Still, I think that there is a serious risk of inconsistency present for many of those who are now arguing for treating KSM as a war criminal. As Geras rightly points out, international humanitarian law does in fact allow for war criminals to be prosecuted in the courts of any country. That specific international humanitarian law is the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 146 specifies that signatories “shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.” Those “grave breaches” are defined in Article 147 as:

those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

That pretty well describes the 9/11 attacks and KSM, and I think that anyone wanting to try KSM as a war criminal is legally in bounds to do so. But if one does wish to use the Fourth Geneva Convention to define KSM and company as war criminals, one will also probably need to pay attention to the last sentence in Article 146, which reads:

In all circumstances, the accused persons shall benefit by safeguards of proper trial and defence, which shall not be less favourable than those provided by Article 105 and those following of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 12 August 1949.

In plainer English, that means that if you want to try someone as a war criminal, you have to treat him as a prisoner of war. Meaning no “cruel treatment and torture,” and no “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Which pretty much rules out waterboarding the dude 183 times.

So here’s the deal. If you think that the Geneva Convention’s prohibitions on torture somehow don’t apply to KSM, then it’s a bit hypocritical to argue now that he’s a war criminal. If you’re going to charge someone with war crimes under international law, then that same law also requires that you treat them as prisoners of war. In other words, a war criminal gets the full set of Geneva Convention protections, not just the ones that happen to best fit your preconceptions (or, perhaps more to the point, not just the ones that best line up with the agenda of your favored political party.)

*Note: Just to be clear, I’m not accusing Geras of inconsistency. He actually supports trying KSM in civilian court and has argued that those who tortured KSM should be prosecuted. I don’t know of anyone specifically arguing both for torturing KSM and for now treating him as a war criminal, though I do recognize that there is one particular political party whose members by-and-large were okay with torturing suspected terrorists at Gitmo and who are now outraged at the decision to try him as a civilian. It’s unclear to me how many members of that subset are interested in attempting to justify that split on any sort of rational grounds and how many of them are simply okay with whatever Their Side does and displeased with whatever The Other Side does.


If you live in Virginia (or, I suppose in NJ or NY-23) and happen still to have a landline for whatever reason, then I’m sure you have a very special reason to be glad that election season is over for another year(ish). By the final week, Caroline and I were getting 3 or 4 robocalls a day (in our case, mostly urging us to vote for Bob “Women Should Be Barefoot and Pregnant” McDonnell, but YMMV). The blitz of calls prompted my friend Dale Miller (we’re not related so far as I know, but we are both Mill scholars with overlapping interests in political/moral/legal philosophy) to posit that political robocalls ought to be subject to some restrictions. I countered that doing so would likely fail on free speech grounds. We had an interesting set of exchanges that are mostly buried in a comment thread. Seeing as how a bunch of y’all are lawyers, though, and that a bunch more of y’all are political consultants, I thought some of you might want/be able to add in your $0.02.

For starters, some ground rules: We’re going to just stipulate that robocalls are annoying as all hell. And we’re going to bracket the question of whether they work. I suspect that there’s probably pretty good evidence that they do. My evidence for this is basically that really smart campaign managers seem willing to pay for them, and they must have good reasons for doing so. (Although seeing as how some of those same managers pay to put signs in the median of ever single road in the Commonwealth, my faith might be misplaced here.) Also, it’s probably not the smartest thing in the world to start a Con Law discussion with someone who is currently teaching Con Law, especially when you last looked at the literature somewhere around the spring of ’05. That’s really less of a ground rule and more of an observation. But I digress.

Anyway, here’s the gist of the argument thus far.

JM: Political robocalls might well be annoying, but they are clearly a form of political speech. And the Court has consistently ruled in favor of political speech over annoyance. The standard in Cohen v. California would apply here: you might find the speech irritating, but if so, you can always avert your gaze (in this case, by unplugging the phone.) That might be inconvenient, but your being inconvenienced isn’t adequate reason for limiting political speech.

DM: The “avert your gaze” standard in Cohen doesn’t apply. Cohen was on public property. Your phone is in your own private home. Moreover, my voicemail automatically picks up the content of said calls, so simply turning off the phone isn’t even equivalent to turning off my TV to avoid those ads. I’m stuck hearing them either way. Robocalls are closest to direct mail, but even there, I can choose when to pick up my mail, and the high price of mail limits the extent to which I am inconvenienced anyway.

Dale goes on to suggest at least limiting the times during which candidates can call. That doesn’t strike me as terribly unreasonable. Nor does it seem to me as if subjecting political candidates to Do Not Call registries would be Constitutionally problematic. After all, the First Amendment gives me the right to say as I wish, but it doesn’t guarantee me an audience or a particular platform. (Which is too bad, because I think I could publish a really kick-ass political magazine, if only the Constitution would guarantee me some readers. And some advertisers.)

That said, I’m not sure it’s possible to do things like limit numbers of calls. I think that Cohen is probably still the right answer, wrt the annoyance factor. One can, after all, ditch the voicemail feature. And these days, one can communicate by plenty of other methods (e-mail, cellphone, skype, etc.), so it’s not as if one can plausibly argue that turning off the landline would be unduly burdensome.

Then again, I’m a philosopher, not a lawyer. And I’ve rarely found the law lining up with the clearly-articulated, internally-consistent sets of reasons that philosophers tend to offer.

Rights and Health Care

So, a week or so ago, I posted a half-snarky status message on Facebook poking a bit of fun at a then-popular meme about health care reform. Jim Arnold, who was good enough to give me a job a couple of years ago, and Mike Taylor, a career diplomat, both took some exception to my way-too-brief remarks. Their criticisms were fair in light of what I’d posted. I think that there are important responses to both, but making that case requires going into a bit of detail about rights. Those of you who think that philosophy majors talk too much as it is (you know who you are) may want to click something else right now. And those of you who had to endure my philosophy classes can probably skim pretty quickly through much of this, as there’s not a whole lot here you haven’t heard before. The rest of you…eh, you’ve been warned.

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Normativity and Economics, cont.

Quick follow-up on my last post on the Is/Ought distinction. I argued there:

The very discipline of economics is loaded with normative assumptions. Consider two propositions:

  1. All goods can be exchanged.
  2. Money is a useful proxy for value.

Plenty of people reject these propositions.

In a post today, Mark Kleiman points out yet another normative assumption built into economics: the value of distribution.

Formal benefit cost analysis counts everyone’s gains and losses equally. But common sense and the principle of diminishing marginal utility agree that a dollar’s worth of gain is more valuable to someone with few dollars than it is with someone with many. Obviously, taking $1 each from 900,000 poor people to give $1 million to a hedge-fund billionaire doesn’t reflect a social gain, but a formal benefit-cost analysis will show that it does: after all, the net benefit is $100,000. Thus gains and losses should be adjusted by (at least) dividing each gain or loss by the income or wealth of the person bearing it, so that a $20 gain to a family with an income of $20,000 weighs as a heavily as a $10,000 gain to a family with an income of $1 million.

I don’t think that this framed quite right. Formal cost benefit analysis does take into account diminishing marginal utility. But what it doesn’t do is to take into account interpersonal comparisons of diminishing marginal utility. That is, while it’s certainly true that my one millionth dollar has less value to me than did my first dollar. But it doesn’t automatically follow from that that my one millionth dollar has less value to me than your one hundred thousandth dollar did to you. Knowing that would require us to accurately determine just exactly how much value you and I really got. Certainly there’s no particular reason to think that Kleiman’s exact calculation is correct.

Still while interpersonal utility comparisons cannot be rigorously calculated, there’s certainly something to Kleiman’s objection. I can be pretty confident that my one millionth dollar has less value to me than that same dollar would have to a starving Bengali, for whom a single dollar might represent half a year’s wages.

More to the point, though, questions about interpersonal utility calculations in general, and about the actual distribution of wealth rather than the maximization thereof in particular, are normative questions. They are questions about what sorts of things we ought to value. And, as Kleiman rightly points out, cost benefit analysis builds in a particular answer to that question.

Which once again leads us back to my earlier point. Policy doesn’t fall out of purely scientific economic analysis. Oughts are still necessary — and simply embedding them into your analysis doesn’t let you escape defending your normative commitments.

Political Sleight-of-Hand, in Which Pundits Attempt to Derive an Ought from an Is

Every once in a while I find myself banging my head against the wall watching some pundit or making the claim that Pure Science tells us exactly what we should do. Why this is supposed to be a point in the pundit’s favor is beyond me. Is there anything more frightening than the image of a bunch of folks in white lab coats cooking up a set of rules we all must follow? And yet I seem pundits making the appeal again and again, from both the right and the left.

For example, Michael Peroski, writing for the left-leaning Center for American Progress, argues that bioethics should be a “data-driven” inquiry, a process that “entails considering the best available evidence before making decisions.” That process would require one to “gather information about public sentiment on the topic, carefully analyze the costs and benefits of proceeding with or prohibiting the research, and offering [sic] a pragmatic recommendation that takes all of these considerations into account.”

In other words, if we simply gather the right facts and maybe attach a few numbers, the correct policy will just fall out.

Bryan Caplan, a libertarian economist at George Mason University, makes a similar case for economics, claiming that a correct economic analysis will point the way to correct policy, whatever moral perspective one might have.

Caplan and Peroski both seem to misunderstand the role that normative (philosopher-speak for “ought”) claims play in setting public policy.

Let’s start with Peroski, whose conflation of facts with morality is much more egregious. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for getting facts right. But facts are only part of the story. They’re an important part, and when the facts are wrong, policy decisions are likely to go astray. Facts tell us how the world is. But policy – and indeed, politics more generally – is about what we ought to do. And those two things, the is and the ought, are very different.

The 18th-C Scottish philosopher David Hume is usually credited with making this point. In A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume writes that it seems “altogether inconceivable” that we can deduce anything about what we ought to do from claims about what is the case. Philosophers have called this the is/ought problem, though I prefer the more colorful if less frequently used “Hume’s Guillotine.” To put Hume’s point in the preferred jargon of philosophers everywhere, we can say that normative claims (or value claims like ought or should) cannot be derived from descriptive claims (which are just claims about the way the world is – the sort of claims that science makes, for example.) The late Oxford and University of Florida philosopher R.M. Hare calls Hume’s point a logical rule, and states the principle formally as:

No imperative conclusion [i.e., statement about what one ought to do] can be validly drawn from a set of premises which does not contain at least one imperative.

A nice way of demonstrating Hume’s point is to borrow a method from another British philosopher. In Principia Ethica, G.E. Moore presents what he called the open-question argument. Moore was actually asking whether we can use natural terms (like “pleasant”) to define good. Moore says that since we can answer sentences like, “This is pleasant, but is it good?” with a no, then it must be an open question whether pleasant and good mean the same thing.

We can use the same method to show that ought claims don’t follow from is claims. Suppose we ask something like: “Reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent will reduce overall carbon levels to 550 parts per million, but should I do it?” As long as it makes conceptual sense to answer such questions with a “no,” it can’t be the case that the fact alone is sufficient to justify the normative claim. The point is that any argument that ends with the claim”We ought to do ____” can’t appeal just to a set of facts.

Of course, some philosophers will tell you that there are normative facts. The arguments on this score are as complicated and abstract as they are esoteric. And even if this view (which philosophers call “moral realism”) is correct, those moral facts are of a very specific sort (e.g., “violating autonomy is wrong” or “desire-satisfaction is good”). Even the most ardent moral realist wouldn’t take a straightforward scientific claim about, say, carbon emissions to be a normative fact. The fact (as it were) is that normative conclusions have to be supported by at least one normative reason.

Caplan, for his part, recognizes the necessity of ought claims. His claim is rather that one can combine economic analysis with any reasonable moral premise and the same policy will fall out. Caplan says, for example, that if economists were able to demonstrate conclusively that allowing people to sell organs (as in, body parts, not the things you find in cathedrals) “would make sick people healthy and poor people rich,” then there couldn’t possibly be any plausible moral reason to object to an organ market. Caplan’s fellow-libertarian, Will Wilkinson of the Cato Institute, objects to that characterization. Wilkinson points to a number of perfectly plausible reasons for disapproving of a market in organs, even if such a market really would “make sick people healthy and poor people rich.” But even leaving Wilkinson’s objection aside, Caplan has falsely blurred the line between normative and factual disputes.

The very discipline of economics is loaded with normative assumptions. Consider two propositions:

  1. All goods can be exchanged.
  2. Money is a useful proxy for value.

Plenty of people reject these propositions. You might very well reject the first claim, holding, as the English philosophy John Locke did, that you cannot morally sell yourself into slavery. For Locke, individual freedom and material wealth simply were not exchangeable. Similarly, you might join the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in believing that lots of things that we consider to be good can’t really be directly compared with one another. After all, Aristotle might say, just how many units of honesty will a dollar buy? How much would it cost to purchase your best friend from you?

But to make a cost-benefit analysis (sort of the bread-and-butter of economics) work, you have to assume that both (1) and (2) are true. In other words, economic models like a cost-benefit analysis simply build in the normative claim. But this isn’t getting us around the problem, so much as it is obscuring it.

And that, at the end of the day, is my objection to both Peroski and Caplan. Both reach ideologically-driven conclusions while pretending that they are operating in a morally neutral fashion. Indeed, there is just not any way to go about making policy in a completely neutral way. You simply must have normative claims somewhere if you’re ever going to make a conclusion of the form “we ought to do X.”

Caplan and Peroski would have us smuggle normativity in with our data. That strikes me as a dangerous path.

Just Following Orders

Today’s Washington Times features an opinion piece by GEN  Michael Hayden, whose most recent two gigs were as head of the CIA and the NSA. Given that background, it’s probably not much of a surprise that his op-ed blasts the Obama administration for its plan to release another cache of documents relating to the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” practices. (Say what you want about the program, but I loathe the euphemism. Aren’t we adult enough to simply argue over whether certain forms of torture ought to be permitted? It’s a legitimate question, but we shouldn’t paper over its seriousness with comfortable euphemisms. </rant>)

I’m going to leave aside all questions about the legality/morality of the actual practices. If you’re really curious, you can go to Amazon and buy War, Morality and Ethics; the collection includes an essay on torture with which I agree 100 percent.

I want to focus instead on one of Gen. Hayden’s particular arguments:

The second task is to explain to the intelligence work force that the government still has its back. This too is a tough sell, especially when the work force reads in a Newsweek cover story that, in supporting the release of the first set of DOJ memos, the leadership of the Department of Justice calculated that “if the public knew the details, … there would be a groundswell of support for an independent probe,” and that when the decision to release those memos had been made, the DOJ leadership “celebrated quietly, and waited for the national outrage to begin.”

Now, in one of those neato coincidences, I happened to attend an event this morning at which Gen. Hayden and former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff spoke about private contractors in the intelligence community. (Don’t be too impressed by this; mostly it involved getting up absurdly early, putting on a tie and going to the 13th floor of my own building. Tell people you’re a reporter and they’ll let you into pretty much anything. Especially at 8 a.m. in a city that everyone with any sense leaves in August.) At any rate, several people asked Gen. Hayden to elaborate on his op-ed. Hayden explained that he was worried that investigating rank-and-file CIA operatives who were simply following directives handed down by the president and approved by DOJ and the CIA chief would prevent them from “pushing the line” and encourage “timidity.”

This, to me, is a puzzling response, particularly coming from a retired general. [ed — I was going to put an Air Force joke here, but it seemed too easy.] In the military, “I was just following orders” isn’t a legitimate defense. Indeed, chapter 8 of Army FM 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, has an entire section (IV if you’re wondering) dealing with “Defenses Not Available” to those soldiers accused of war crimes, the very first paragraph of which reads:

a. The fact that the law of war has been violated pursuant to an order of a superior authority, whether military or civil, does not deprive the act in question of its character of a war crime, nor does it constitute a defense in the trial of an accused individual, unless he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful.

The rest of the section goes on to say that following orders might be considered mitigating, and that courts martial should take into account the fact that soldiers are expected to obey orders. There’s a lot of leeway. But there is also an expectation that soldiers actually pay attention to whether or not they are being ordered to break the law.

It’s curious, then that Gen. Hayden wants to hold CIA operatives to a lower standard than the one that applies to a 19-year-old fresh from AIT.

Again, this is all separate from asking whether or not any CIA operative ought to go to jail. Even if we apply something like the Law of Land Warfare standard to CIA operatives, there’s a good case to be made that they still ought not go to jail. After all, an opinion from DOJ that something is legal (however shoddy the reasoning) is still prima facie evidence that the act really is legal. Whether we should hold a CIA operative morally accountable for accepting John Yoo’s legal advice is a judgment call (Professor Yoo now teaches at Berkeley’s law school, so the “he’s obviously incompetent” line is going to be a tough sell).

Still, Gen. Hayden’s argument isn’t that we shouldn’t convict CIA operatives of wrongdoing. It’s that we shouldn’t even be investigating them, since doing so may make them less good at their jobs. This is an argument that we ought not even consider the possibility that CIA employees may be individually guilty for following bad orders. It’s hard to see a principled reason why the CIA should be held to lower standards than the Army.

Politics and Attitudes

I’ve already commented (very briefly) on Julian Sanchez’s post imploring people to spend some time trying to understand other people’s views rather than just demonizing them as “the other.” Today, Matt Yglesias adds his two cents. I don’t disagree with anything Matt says, really. But I’m actually far more interested in what Matt’s response says about his attitudes toward politics. Here’s a (slightly longish) snippet:

At the same time, I’ve come to be increasingly baffled by the high degree cynicism and immorality displayed in big-time politics. For example, Senators who genuinely do believe that carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to a global climate crisis seem to think nothing of nevertheless taking actions that endanger the welfare of billions of people on the grounds that acting otherwise would be politically problematic in their state. In other words, they don’t want to do the right thing because their self-interest points them toward doing something bad. But it’s impossible to imagine these same Senators stabbing a homeless person in a dark DC alley to steal his shoes. And what’s more, the entire political class would be (rightly!) shocked and appalled by the specter of a Senator murdering someone for personal gain. Yet it’s actually taken for granted that “my selfish desires dictate that I do x” constitutes a legitimate reason to do the wrong thing on important legislation.

Now as a moral and political theorist whose sympathies are broadly utilitarian, I’m pretty sympathetic to Matt’s conclusion that it’s worthwhile to pay more attention to the moral dimensions of political actions. That said, I’m unconvinced of the wisdom of basing any sort of positive program on the premise that it’ll work just as soon as we convince political agents to ignore their self-interest and work for the greater good.

The fact is, humans are mostly just self-interested. No, I’m not signing on to the psychological egoist’s claim that all actions are self-interested. It seems relatively uncontroversial to say that many actions are (at least partly) motivated by altruistic concerns. Still, it seems equally uncontroversial to say that for most of us, we mostly act in self-interested ways.

So when I put on my moral theorist hat, I try to encourage people to act less self-interestedly and more like good utilitarians. Or at least more like good rule-utilitarians. The question, however, is whether I should do the same thing when I put on my political theorist hat.

When I’m designing political systems, I have two basic approaches. I can (a) design a system that will work well when people behave the way that they ought to behave or (b) design a system that will work well when people behave as they in fact behave. Capitalism, quite famously, is said to take the second approach. Most collectivist systems take the former. Welfare capitalist approaches (aka, what most of the western world is, to varying degrees) more-or-less split the differences, allowing markets to work their wonders and then splitting the proceeds according to some notion of justice.

The U.S. Constitution is likewise (IMO) premised upon something like (b), with various mechanisms in place (see Electoral College, judicial review, and the Senate) to prevent the populace’s baser elements (see Representatives, House of) from running wild. Or, more specifically, the Constitution takes advantage of people’s natural provincialism (i.e., local self-interest) to protect individual rights by making it structurally difficult to pass any sort of radical agenda.

What the Framers didn’t foresee, however, was that people who get elected to office don’t suddenly stop having self-interested feelings. Nor will they cease acting on those feelings simply by virtue of having been given a lot of power. (Indeed, I’m hard pressed to think of an instance in which someone has suddenly Gone Humble With Power!)

So, to come back to the original point, I think that Matt is right to notice that political actors frequently act in narrowly self-interested ways. Indeed, he and I actually share rather a lot of first-order commitments. But I think that a lot of the reason why Matt ends up calling himself a progressive while I end up flirting with the libertarian label is that Matt thinks it’s possible to reform the political system in such a way as to encourage political actors to be less self-interested. I think that’s pretty much a pipe dream.

That ends up leading us to very different places wrt various policy issues. I am inclined toward the view that programs designed and maintained by political agents will inherently end up corrupted, given that those powerful interests most affected will have incentive for rent-seeking while those in charge will have incentive to accept money/power/influence from those looking to profit from regulatory capture. Matt, OTOH, seems optimistic that well-meaning technocrats can construct good programs, if only we have the political will to let them.

And that, I think, is really one of the main hurdles to a liberaltarian alliance. Thoughtful liberals like Yglesias (not, obviously, his commenters) and (on his good days) Klein don’t really start from premises that are radically different from those of a lot of libertarians (Wilkinson, Sanchez or McArdle, say). But we have fundamentally different conceptions of the best method for realizing our shared prior commitments.