Why do Conservatives and Libertarians squabble so much?

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Why do Conservatives and Libertarians squabble so much?

Dur­ing the past two weeks I saw two Con­ser­v­a­tive friends post rather deroga­tory items about Lib­er­tar­i­ans on Face­book, and Lib­er­tar­i­ans do the same about Con­ser­v­a­tives. That is just a small sam­pling of what I‘ve seen since I’ve been on social media. At times it appears there is an all out war between the two sides because the debate gets that angry. This sort of behav­ior sur­prises me because I under­stand just how sim­i­lar the two philoso­phies really are.

Part of the prob­lem is that some in one philo­soph­i­cal camp do not have proper under­stand­ing of the other. A small minor­ity do not under­stand their own camp. Also too many label them­selves as belong­ing to a par­tic­u­lar phi­los­o­phy when their beliefs do not match that phi­los­o­phy at all.

I am very much a Lib­er­tar­ian. I have a firm under­stand­ing of both the Lib­er­tar­ian and Con­ser­v­a­tive philoso­phies. Because of this I con­sider Con­ser­v­a­tives to be my allies against the polit­i­cal left. Yes, I do dis­agree with Con­ser­v­a­tives on a few minor points, but I under­stand their point of view, and enjoy dis­cussing the dif­fer­ences over a beer or two

The Merriam=Webster Online dic­tio­nary defines Lib­er­tar­ian as: “a per­son who upholds the prin­ci­ples of indi­vid­ual lib­erty espe­cially of thought and action.” I agree with that def­i­n­i­tion. The same dic­tio­nary defines lib­erty as:” the power to do as one pleases.” This def­i­n­i­tion I do not agree with because it is incom­plete. It dif­fers from the def­i­n­i­tion that was uni­ver­sally accepted by those who wrote and rat­i­fied the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Bill of Rights. They believed that lib­erty is the free­dom to do as you please, as long as you do not hurt oth­ers, or inter­fere with the rights of oth­ers. It is free­dom with the respon­si­bil­ity to not hurt oth­ers or pre­vent them from exer­cis­ing their rights.

A Lib­er­tar­ian believes that pre­vent­ing indi­vid­u­als from harm­ing oth­ers, or inter­fer­ing with the rights of oth­ers, are the only legit­i­mate func­tions of gov­ern­ment. They believe that indi­vid­u­als should be free to live their lives as they choose, free from any gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence, as long as they treat oth­ers prop­erly. They believe that gov­ern­ment assis­tance, of any kind, is unac­cept­able, unneeded, and harmful.

Some mis­tak­enly believe that being a Lib­er­tar­ian means that you are free from any form of behav­ioral restraint, or any moral con­sid­er­a­tions. This is false. Lib­er­tar­i­ans believe every­one should be free from any exter­nal lim­i­ta­tions on their behav­ior as long as they do not harm oth­ers. Every indi­vid­ual must restrain them­selves. Some believe that reli­gion and Lib­er­tar­i­an­ism are mutu­ally exclu­sive. That is false because there is no bet­ter way for an indi­vid­ual to restrain them­selves than through reli­gion, espe­cially one of the Chris­t­ian denominations.

The United States Con­sti­tu­tion is very much a Lib­er­tar­ian doc­u­ment because it cre­ated a lim­ited fed­eral gov­ern­ment that pro­tected the lib­erty of every indi­vid­ual. The Con­sti­tu­tion left social issues in the hands of the States and local gov­ern­ments, but they believed those gov­ern­ments should take a hands off approach. They believed peo­ple should reg­u­late their own behav­ior through Chris­t­ian reli­gion, which they believed was essen­tial for indi­vid­u­als to fol­low freely.

Unlike Lib­er­tar­i­ans, Con­ser­v­a­tives believe that social and moral issues should be reg­u­lated by some level of gov­ern­ment. That is the main dis­agree­ment between the two philoso­phies. I believe both points of view are valid, although I side with the Lib­er­tar­i­ans. Both are accept­able in our Con­sti­tu­tional Repub­lic as long as social and moral issues remain at the local and State Level. The Con­sti­tu­tion for­bids these con­tentious issues from being brought to the Fed­eral level. I believe this was a very wise decision.

There are some other minor dif­fer­ences between the two philoso­phies. Both how­ever fully embrace indi­vid­ual free­dom and appose col­lec­tivism. Both also fully sup­port free mar­ket eco­nom­ics and a con­sti­tu­tion­ally lim­ited gov­ern­ment. These two philoso­phies are the polar oppo­site of pro­gres­sivism, and all other left­ist philosophies.

Given the small dif­fer­ences between the two philoso­phies, and how much they have in com­mon, shouldn’t we get along bet­ter? Shouldn’t we spend our time engag­ing in philo­soph­i­cal bat­tles with those on the polit­i­cal left instead, con­sid­er­ing how much we dis­agree with those on that side of the polit­i­cal spectrum?

During the past two weeks I saw two Conservative friends post rather derogatory items about Libertarians on Facebook, and Libertarians do the same about Conservatives.  That is just a small sampling of what I‘ve seen since I’ve been on social media.  At times it appears there is an all out war between the two sides because the debate gets that angry. This sort of behavior surprises me because I understand just how similar the two philosophies really are.

Part of the problem is that some in one philosophical camp do not have proper understanding of the other.  A small minority do not understand their own camp.  Also too many label themselves as belonging to a particular philosophy when their beliefs do not match that philosophy at all.

I am very much a Libertarian.  I have a firm understanding of both the Libertarian and Conservative philosophies.  Because of this I consider Conservatives to be my allies against the political left.  Yes, I do disagree with Conservatives on a few minor points, but I understand their point of view, and enjoy discussing the differences over a beer or two

The Merriam=Webster Online dictionary defines Libertarian as: “a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action.”  I agree with that definition.  The same dictionary defines liberty as:” the power to do as one pleases.”  This definition I do not agree with because it is incomplete.  It differs from the definition that was universally accepted by those who wrote and ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  They believed that liberty is the freedom to do as you please, as long as you do not hurt others, or interfere with the rights of others.  It is freedom with the responsibility to not hurt others or prevent them from exercising their rights.

A Libertarian believes that preventing individuals from harming others, or interfering with the rights of others, are the only legitimate functions of government.  They believe that individuals should be free to live their lives as they choose, free from any government interference, as long as they treat others properly.  They believe that government assistance, of any kind, is unacceptable, unneeded, and harmful.

Some mistakenly believe that being a Libertarian means that you are free from any form of behavioral restraint, or any moral considerations.  This is false.  Libertarians believe everyone should be free from any external limitations on their behavior as long as they do not harm others.  Every individual must restrain themselves.  Some believe that religion and Libertarianism are mutually exclusive. That is false because there is no better way for an individual to restrain themselves than through religion, especially one of the Christian denominations.

The United States Constitution is very much a Libertarian document because it created a limited federal government that protected the liberty of every individual.  The Constitution left social issues in the hands of the States and local governments, but they believed those governments should take a hands off approach.  They believed people should regulate their own behavior through Christian religion, which they believed was essential for individuals to follow freely.

Unlike Libertarians, Conservatives believe that social and moral issues should be regulated by some level of government.  That is the main disagreement between the two philosophies.   I believe both points of view are valid, although I side with the Libertarians.  Both are acceptable in our Constitutional Republic as long as social and moral issues remain at the local and State Level.  The Constitution forbids these contentious issues from being brought to the Federal level.  I believe this was a very wise decision.

There are some other minor differences between the two philosophies.  Both however fully embrace individual freedom and appose collectivism.  Both also fully support free market economics and a constitutionally limited government.   These two philosophies are the polar opposite of progressivism, and all other leftist philosophies.

Given the small differences between the two philosophies, and how much they have in common, shouldn’t we get along better?  Shouldn’t we spend our time engaging in philosophical battles with those on the political left instead, considering how much we disagree with those on that side of the political spectrum?