MERRY CHRISTMAS, LIBERTARIANS!….Julian Sanchez weighs in on the question of whether Democrats ought to be more willing to play footsie with libertarians:

Since entitlements seem to be the sticking point here, I’ll reiterate one more time: The explosion in Medicare and retirement spending is coming either way. You can play an oppositional game against a fusionist conservatism, framed in terms of “saving” or “eviscerating” the programs as they now exist, or you can use the breathing room that you’d get on this front from bringing libertarians on board to avert a long-term clusterfuck, seizing the opportunity to begin reforms without worrying about conceding problems that could be used against the very existence of those programs.

I’ll confess up front that I don’t understand this. In what way would bringing libertarians on board shield Democrats from having to “concede problems” that might be used to destroy Social Security and Medicare? I’m obviously missing something here.

That aside, I guess my question is this: if it’s true that the “explosion” in Social Security and Medicare is coming no matter what — and I suppose it is — then why are libertarians so hung up on it? After all, as they themselves admit, this is the very issue on which Democrats are least likely to give ground. So why not just concede that we’re going to spend a bunch more money on these programs because that’s what the peepul demand, bless their greedy little hearts, and instead spend their energy trying to get Dems to move in their direction on other topics? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

And while I’m at it, a quick word on the “explosion” Julian talks about. This is conventional wisdom, but it’s worth a couple of quick words:

  • Social Security: In the worst case, if we do absolutely nothing, SS is projected to grow from about 4% of GDP to 6% of GDP and then level out. In other words, it means that over the next 30 years, total federal spending will rise from about 20% of GDP to 22% of GDP. This is just not that big a deal.

  • Medicare/Healthcare: Yeah, the cost of healthcare is going to increase. But it’s going to increase no matter who pays for it. I know that libertarians hate taxes and government spending as a matter of principle, but seriously, is it really worse for the economy if the feds handle our rising healthcare costs vs. American corporations getting socked with the bill? Especially since evidence from other countries suggests that national systems can accomplish the same thing we accomplish at lower cost while still providing higher satisfaction, better outcomes, and equal quality — and, apparently, without causing any noticable economic dislocations? I understand the principle involved here, but in practical terms what are we really afraid of?

Bottom line: Social Security isn’t going away and it’s not going to get cut back in any serious way no matter who’s in charge. Ditto for Medicare. National healthcare may or may not happen, but if it does it will be due to the kind of public outcry that no one can ignore. (I mean, Dems have been flogging national healthcare for 70 years and we haven’t gotten it yet, so obviously it’s not going to happen based on our silver-tongued eloquence, right?)

So why not relax on those subjects and work with us on other stuff? Wouldn’t that be a much more plausible strategy for gaining influence?