In my last post, I mentioned my belief libertarians and liberals are natural allies. One commentator presented a rebuttal which I feel is accurate when trying to decide if a given Democrat and a given Libertarian might see common ground. But the question is not about Democrats and the Libertarian Party, it's about "liberals" and "libertarians" which are intersecting but not identical sets.
The voting record of partisans on specific issues do not define the philosophies of these two political schools, they are more an inherited set of positions. And the position a given elected official takes is as much influenced by politics, personality, personal conviction, and self-interest as it is by party platform. And party platform itself is as much influenced by political opportunism as it is by any ideology. Trying to infer an alliance between political ideologies based on teh voting habits of individual members of political parties is therefore flawed.
Fundamentally, though, libertarians believe that an individual is sovereign and that they are best empowered to make decisions for their own personal lives. Liberals believe that people are valuable, and that empowerment of the indivoidual benefits society as a whole. These are closely related and compatible concepts. The assault on personal freedoms by social conservatives and the unregulated-capitalist removal of opportunity from the masses, consolidating it into the hands of teh elite, is an anathema to both libertarians and liberals as a result.
Fundamentally, liberals and libertarians have much in common because their vision is centered on the individual, and liberty (defined as the freedom to pursue happiness). Of course there are profound disagreements in how to achieve these end goals. But these are disagreements of method alone.
A truly fanatic libertarian might well advocate total demolishment of the social services net, just as a truly fanatic liberal might advocate a 30-hour workweek or retirement at age 50. But these positions are taking the respective core beliefs to an extreme interpretation.
Both libertarians and liberals could theoretically find a middle ground that finds a balance between social services and deregulation, without ceding any liberty authority to moneyed elites and corporations.
This is why I believe a liberal like Howard Dean, who does not fit the classic Democrat mold (for example, see his budget-balancing record and his stance on gun control), is well-positioned as an ally to libertarian causes (and why I advocate a possible vote-swap between liberals trapped in GOP states and libertarians in swing states).