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A Plea To Conservatives And Libertarians

29 April 2010 @ 12:59

Lately I’ve seen a back and forth between some conservatives and libertarians/classical liberals that is starting to trouble me.

While both groups have many of the same ends in mind and both are clearly advocates of freedom and liberty, their underlying thinking and approaches are different.  Very simply put: libertarians are ideologues and conservatives are not.  However, because they are so close in their beliefs, their squabbles are often, as is to be expected, quite intense.  It reminds me of the conflicts between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks who were much more harsh towards each other towards their common and absolute enemies the Monarchists.

There is much to wrangle over between conservatives and libertarians, but the times call for them to put aside their underlying differences for now and work towards freeing America from the ever more powerful tyranny of the Progressives.  There are so many things that the two groups agree on and, separately, neither side has enough strength to achieve victory in the battle to the death with Leftism.

An example: the vast majority of people in both camps believe that abortion is a matter for the states to decide, that The Constitution does not empower the national government to be involved on the issue.  It is also true that a good number of libertarians favor allowing abortions to take place — most, if not all, conservatives do not.  Fine.  The key is we agree on the most important aspect of this issue: that it is a matter for the states.  We should be working together to see that this is realized.  Once it is, then we can battle it out on the state level where it should be fought.

If we take our eyes off such a prize and get bogged down in inter-family squabbling, the Left, which operates under the philosophy of ‘by any means necessary’ will take advantage of our internal conflicts and seek to widen the philosophical rift between conservatives and libertarians.

The goal here is the utter and total defeat of Leftism.

There will be time enough after we achieve this victory to have a good old-fashioned, knock-down/drag-out row — preferably involving amber liquids and tobacco.

To quote Ben Franklin: We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.

  1. 29 April 2010 @ 14:05 14:05

    I am one of those who reject purity for purity’s sake, so I have one foot in each camp. Conservatives are also ideologues.

    I am also a Christian, and I have gotten in some big arguments with conservative Christians who can not see that it is not government’s role to impose religious morality on everybody. That is just another form of tyranny.

    I don’t know if it’s liberal wishful thinking or if something real is going on, but I’m reading reports of James Dobsona and Tony Perkins having differences with the tea party movement because they don’t like the libertarian tack the movement is taking.

    You have brought out an important point that I try to keep everyone focused on: The Constitution.

    Not The Bible, not Ayn Rand novels, but The US Constitution is the sole measure of the legitimacy of government action. The Federalist Papers are a good backup.

    If we can just agree on that, everything else will fall in line.

    • bobbelvedere permalink*
      29 April 2010 @ 14:44 14:44

      Well put, SF. One quibble: some who consider themselves conservatives have made the fatal error of approaching it as if it were an ideology, a system of ideas, when, in fact, it is the exact opposite as Russell Kirk put so well:

      Being neither a religion nor an ideology, the body of opinion termed conservatism possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata. So far as it is possible to determine what conservatives believe, the first principles of the conservative persuasion are derived from what leading conservative writers and public men have professed during the past two centuries. After some introductory remarks on this general theme, I will proceed to list ten such conservative principles.

      Perhaps it would be well, most of the time, to use this word “conservative” as an adjective chiefly. For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.

      The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.

      In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night. (Yet conservatives know, with Burke, that healthy “change is the means of our preservation.”) A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers. But of course there is more to the conservative persuasion than this general attitude.

      This was taken from his bookThe Politics Of Prudence and the section it was taken from may be found by clicking here.

  2. 29 April 2010 @ 14:31 14:31

    My thoughts exactly Sir. Especially the amber libation.

    • bobbelvedere permalink*
      29 April 2010 @ 14:34 14:34

      Why am I not surprised about either.

  3. 29 April 2010 @ 19:16 19:16

    Thanks for the link, Bob!
    I am ashamed to say I had never heard of Russell Kirk. I’m adding a link to that website in the Intellectual Ammo section of my blog.

    Your point is well taken. What struck me as I read this brilliant piece, was that the antithesis of each of these describes unwashed modern liberalism, more rightly called progressivism, since there is nothing more illiberal than the modern day liberal.

    They are liberal in that they turn each of these principles upside down, but then they ruin their liberalism by dogmatically declaring that everyone else must follow their march into the sea of idiocy.

  4. Adobe Walls permalink
    29 April 2010 @ 21:22 21:22

    Great link to the Kirk Center most educational. When I went to a/the Libertarian website and took their test the results placed me right at the corner of the corner of the centrist box and the line dividing Conservative and Libertarian. While being at the edge of Centrism appalled me being on the line dividing Conservative and Libertarian really surprised me. Obviously this simple test lacks nuance but it was enlightening. I believe most Conservatives who have strong negative opinions of Libertarians do so from an encounter with one of the more extreme Libertarian viewpoints or they equate Libertarian social policy with unfettered sin. IMHO there are nearly as many versions of Libertarianism as there are Libertarians. When I was in my late teens lost interest in learning about Libertarianism when I determined, perhaps incorrectly, that were basically just anarchists. I had already decided that Anarchism and all forms of Socialism suffer the same catastrophic flaw, they require a new perfect-able type of man to function after the state has withered away. The attempt to impose these Utopian systems on the as yet unperfected men inevitably lead to tyranny.
    “Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfect-ability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent—or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things.” From Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principals, I believe speaks to what I believe are some of the philosophical differences between our 2 movements. Liberty : permission especially to go freely within specified limits. Freedom : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. Is the difference between Liberty and Freedom the or one of the differences between Conservatives and Libertarians?

    • bobbelvedere permalink*
      29 April 2010 @ 22:58 22:58

      I like to summarize the differences between the two in a very simple way: Conservatives believe in Original sin; Libertarians do not. I realize this is an extreme simplification, but I think it serves as a good starting point for discussion.

      • 30 April 2010 @ 18:55 18:55

        Hey, my trackback didn’t come through? I wrote a post titled “Conservatives and Libertarians Today,” demystifying our “irreconcilable differences.”

        Conservatives believe in Original sin; Libertarians do not.

        Being a Christian, I have to say there’s a serious flaw in your analysis. Because the main reason libertarians are so skeptical of government, is indeed “original sin.” Being that governments are composed of mere mortal, imperfect humans … people in government must be limited of power, after all, “power corrupts.”

        Besides, if those libertarian-types were so bad, you wouldn’t associate with me. Yet we agree on the vast majority of things, don’t we? Those pesky libertarians are a lot more like you than you think.

        • bobbelvedere permalink*
          30 April 2010 @ 19:00 19:00

          WordPress has been acting funny over the past week. Sometimes things work, sometimes they just don’t. But I did read your posting and I’m preparing a response – still in stuck in the brain at this point though.

  5. 18 May 2010 @ 00:19 00:19

    I dissent on the idea that we must all hang together. Today’s John Birch crazy are the Libertarians. I have seen many a Libertarian destroy basic social interaction to prove the “international communist conspiracy”, so to speak. They are second rate theologians with blue ribbon egos. And. . . .

    They will never seriously influence a national election. In sum:

    A lot of talk. Most of it gibberish.

    Tradtionalism, community, heritage, are, for the American, as Silver Fiddle put it, the constitution. However, to disagree on the application of the constitution does not amount to ideology, but disagreement. There is no “right” way to interpret the constitution. The constitution was meant to be debated.

    My point to Libertarians was summarized by you, Belvedere: they don’t get original sin. The test is in the pudding. When the time comes that people have to rule themselves in chaotic conditions, childish, self-centered notions about “liberty” will be seen for what they are: mental illness.


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