Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Conservatives and Libertarians

Pejman Yousefzadeh argues that although there is a difference between libertarians and conservatives, they should stick together. I generally don’t like these insider-like discussions having to do with definitions, but this one is worth noting in part because he links to this 1975 interview with Ronald Reagan, who said this:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are travelling the same pat

Discussions - 4 Comments

Reagan was correct in that the reemergence of conservativism had a strong libertarian flavor (due to Goldwater), but it would be a mistake to imagine that the base of the Republican Party or the Conservative movement is libertarian. Conservatives want smaller government because they perceive that government as hostile to traditional society. Most libertarians tend to view traditionalism as oppressive nonsense...a violation of the sacred individual. Indeed, libertarians share with liberals a taste for Enlightenment philosophy.

Conservatives and libertarians can make common cause on economic issues, and also on the governance of economic issues, but ultimately their respective worldviews are inimical.

Some conservatives today remind me of Daniel Bell...

also if liberals share something with the enlightment philosophy then they are classical liberals. When was the last time you heard a liberal "democrat" talk about Hume, Locke, Smith, Mill? Hayek says that with certain reservations and exceptions conservatives are the party that support the classical liberals.

I agree with what you are saying with the exception of liberals sharing a taste for enlightenment philosophy.

Much silliness (along with some good) flowed from the Enlightenment. Did not Rousseau advocate a kind of Platonic totalitarianism (’the general will’) to destroy private property and its evil institutions? How is this different from Marx’ project? Didn’t we get the notion of "tabula rasa" for John Locke...beloved of the libertarians? Don’t modern-day liberals believe in both the blank slate and human perfectability through social engineering?

I’m a Libertarian.


I’m a Conservative


I’m a Federalist

In these times - not much difference amongst the three.

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