Conservatives and liberals should come together in fight-the-power populism, argues this scattershot political manifesto.
The answer to problems of legislative gridlock, vicious partisanship and spiraling debt, the author claims, is a national unity platform he dubs “libertarian socialism.” This oxymoronic program draws on inspirations as diverse as the Constitution and Star Trek, but its core principle is an omnidirectional animus against excessive power, public or private: tyrannical TSA air-travel regulations; government infringements of privacy and due process; media monopolies; health insurance companies; sundry “[u]nholy alliances between billion-dollar corporations and millionaire government officials.” On specific issues, Watson’s brand of progressivism is all over the map—and sometimes all over the solar system. (“America should not cede a moon base to China!”) He supports Second Amendment gun rights and makes a forthright case for deploying nuclear power plants as a solution to energy and environmental crises. But he leans left in supporting unions, higher taxes to fund public investment and services, health care reform with a public option, and legalization of marijuana, coca leaves and opium. Yet sometimes he throws in a curveball, like a scheme to select primary candidates through an American Idol–style television contest. Watson’s arguments are sometimes lucid but often shaky; to extend Medicare to everyone, for example, he incoherently proposes that “initial funding will come from all of the IOUs our government owes the people.” He assumes that passionate social controversies over abortion, gay marriage and the like will easily yield to callow expedience and split-the-difference compromise. (America should allow unrestricted entry to all Mexicans who can pass an English test, he contends, in order to absorb the “young and fertile” immigrants it needs and atone for the sins of Yankee imperialism.) As blithely confused as its name, Watson’s libertarian socialism skates past the deep thinking required to address America’s clashing interests and ideologies.
This intriguing but idiosyncratic, often garbled stab at political consensus will most likely put off more people than it wins over.