Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty

I've been arguing at length over at No-Treason about whether modern liberals or conservatives make better political/philosophical allies for libertarians. Most of my interlocutors think that conservatives, not modern liberals, are more closely aligned with libertarians. I take the opposite view. Note that I am speaking about conservatives qua conservatives and not about libertarians who align themselves with Republicans for pragmatic reasons.

Modern liberals have a sense of justice and idealism. Conservatives, at the end of the day, care only about tradition, and will adamantly refuse to change a clearly unjust policy that even they agree is unjust, simply because of the "message" removing this policy might send, or the fear of unknown social change.

However, I now realize I was wrong. It is simply not true that conservatives only care about tradition - some have a sense of justice and idealism too. For example, consider the sense of justice and idealism expressed in this comment on the Australian Libertarian Society blog:

As for forcing my moral code on to others, first of all it is really God's code, I am only His messenger; and second of all: how many times do I need to say that I don't want to be a dictator; I simply support democratic governments that enforce God's law. You suppose that church and state must be separate; but 60 million Americans just disagreed and have voted for a leader who will uphold the bible because evil happens when good men do nothing.

Now ask yourself: which sense of justice and idealism do you find more appealing? Which world view is more likely to have common ground with libertarianism?

Share this

That Australian fellow is

That Australian fellow is certainly no libertarian, more of a modern Pro Bush conservative.


Jake, Perhaps my post was


Perhaps my post was unintentionally confusing. I wasn't trying to say that this guy is a libertarian, or even an Australian. He is merely a participant in a comment thread at an Australian libertarian website.

I think it's unfair to

I think it's unfair to characterise conservatives by the people who even they think are crazy. For every Christian Reconstructionist running around the Republican Party, there are probably a dozen unreconstructed Marxists running around the Democratic Party.

- Josh

Josh, the problem is, of all

Josh, the problem is, of all the conservatives I've ever encountered, online or in real life -- and I've encountered many -- they can be categorized into three groups: (1) those who are really libertarians, but align themselves with Republicans for pragmatic reasons, (2) secular or semi-secular conservatives who appeal to tradition and the fear of unknown social change, and (3) religious Christians (and Jews) who share roughly the same beliefs as the fellow above.

This third group is surprisingly common. You will not see it in most mainstream conservative publications, because it is not an intellectual position, or at least those who hold it recognize that it is not a respectable, persuasive intellectual position. But you will see it all too often if you speak to your run-of-the-mill religious conservative. I suspect that many conservative intellectuals whose arguments place them into category (2) are in reality motivated by category (3), but realize that they can go further in life if they stick with (2). I'm thinking of Stanley Kurtz as the prime example here. Very few conservatives I've encountered hold (2) for authentic, entirely secular reasons.

I'm not sure, I think 2) is

I'm not sure, I think 2) is a lot more common than you think. My father is a good example. When I and my siblings were young, he despised immigrants, insisted that we were all baptised, went to sunday school and voted for the Nationalist/Conservative party in Australia. He was your typical conservative.

Now he's nearly 60 and recently made himself sick by smoking marijuana at the bar after a game of lawn bowls with his fishing buddy (who's an immigrant of polynesian descent).

So is he a conservative or has he always been a libertarian? The way I see it, he's still a conservative, it's just that the status quo has changed during his (and my) lifetime.

Hi, I would just like to


I would just like to disagree that "modern liberals have a sense of idealism & justice": it is pretty clear from the modern liberal web that modern liberals have neither: the modern liberal idealism is a thin veneer for yet more government control over the lives of individuals; modern liberals have no sense of justice whatsoever, being perfectly happy to defend these government programs to the death, even when it is obvious that they are doing massive amounts of harm.

On the other hand, religeous tradition, in the west at least, is flexible, having been used to justify many different kinds of political systems; it demands a fundamental decency of people, which gives them the impetus to destroy unjust systems, and it has a sense of history: of what works and does not work.

Surely it is obvious that the religeous form of conservatism is a much better friend to those trying to improve the world than the hordes of hide-bound liberal fanatics, so fixated on continuing to replicate their predecessors mistakes?

(Only 4 months late, I know)