Response To Comments On We’re Not Conservatives: Part One

My blog post on the differences between conservatives and libertarians has caused some controversy. These criticisms and comments deserve to be answered. Let’s start with a comment made on this page by N8chz:

Libertarian and conservative are practically opposites, but America is a special place. American libertarianism is a different breed of libertarianism and American conservatism is a different breed of conservatism. Both are much more enamored of classical liberalism than their international counterparts (and their traditional forms).

Much truth above, but the contemporary conservative right in the U.S. pays more lip service to classical liberal ideals than actively embracing them. Observe the attitude of the GOP establishment towards war, civil liberties, immigration, public secularism, corporatism, and so on.

In terms of your five points:

1) Grass roots small-government conservatives (“tea party” types) seem to be rediscovering their party’s isolationist traditions. No doubt much of this is because there’s a Democrat in the White House.

Not sure of the Republician Party’s isolationist roots, but I acknowledge that some conservatives are anti-war. Not all Tea Party types are anti-war though, and it remains to be seen whether what anti-war sentiment exists is due to a Democratic being in office.

2) There has been -some- movement on drug policy on the part of such conservatives.

This may be true, but the GOP establishment remains pretty firmly favorable to the War on Drugs.

The preservation of the state has left and right minarchists on one side and left and right anarchists on the other. It’s an anarchist-minarchist rivalry, not a conservative-libertarian one.

It’s true that there is an anarchist-minarchist divide on the issue, but the conservative also wants to preserve the state. I fail to see how it can’t also be an anarchist-conservative divide.

Populist conservatives have also been kvetching about airport security, since there’s a Democratic administration. And of course the American far-right “patriot” types have always had their slogan “love my country, fear my government.”

It still couches things in nationalistic or patriotic terms, but it’s true that conservatives seem more insistent on civil liberties under a Democratic administration.

I think it’s significant that the fifth item on the list contrasts not conservatives and libertarians, but conservatives and left-libertarians. Left libertarians are on the opposite side from conservatives on bosses and corporate overlords–although even tea party types have adopted the phrase, when addressing libertarian and other leftists, “it’s really ‘corporatism’ you’re against.” Left libertarians are on the same side as conservatives on seeing competition as a positive thing, believing market equilibrium represents the best (most efficient) of all possible worlds, and having generally positive attitudes toward Mises, Hayek, etc.

I am not of necessity an uber fan of Mises and Hayek. My conception of markets is considerably different from the conservative one too. I also don’t believe markets are the best in all cases. It’s one part of a unified theory. The type of markets I embrace dilute plutocratic or oligarchic power, rather than reinforce it.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory