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?