Libertarian or Conservative?

     Should these be considered diametrically opposed worldviews, or simply two sides of the same coin?

     Russell Kirk would certainly agree that “libertarians” (or as Hayek prefers to call them “liberals,” in the classic sense) and “conservatives” are not the same thing.

     However Frank Meyer‘s “fusionism,” suggests that traditional American conservatism and “classical liberalism”/”libertarianism” are but two sides to the same coin.

     What traditional conservatives want to conserve, is the liberty that the classical liberals love, and the American society that made that liberty possible. That liberty, though, does not exist in a vacuum, and can only exist if the people and society are conducive towards it. That natural virtue that allowed America to keep its freedom for so long is something that can only grow organically from society, and can pop into existence neither through sheer lack of government nor through government dictate. Once that is gone, it can not be replaced. A working society requires limits, either they come from within, or it must be imposed. The brilliance of America lies in the fact that society was capable of self-regulation without government imposition, such that liberty could thrive.

     Culture, norms, mores, folkways, &c. are important and must be fought for and protected, but it can only be done OUTSIDE the realm of coercie government. Society, generally speaking, must be allowed to regulate itself. Above all else, the government should not be given the tools to destroy that culture the allowed liberty to thrive.

     Much of this confusion is due to the Nolan chart, which is perhaps inaccurate. The progressive left does NOT support personal liberty, for what they want is to reorder society according their own delusions of utopia. The blogger “zombie” has a different take on this.  zombie proposed to replace the Nolan chart axes of individual liberty and economic liberty with axes of Government Control (less vs. more) and Human Nature (innate vs. constructed).

“The horizontal axis measures “government control,” ranging from a desire for less governmental power at one end of the scale, over to a desire for more governmental control at the other end of the scale. Most of you will understand this axis intuitively. But the vertical axis is a little more subtle, but also more eye-opening: it delineates people’s beliefs about human nature. At one end is the assumption that human nature is innate — that our personalities and other essential human attributes are built-in, unchangeable, and naturally occurring. At the other end is the belief that everything about humans is “constructed” — that we only are the way we are because of the particular cultural environment surrounding us, and that as a result people can be changed, through indoctrination, education, and/or alteration of the culture itself.”

     A more meaningful axis, rather than degree of government control, that might more accurately be representative of the nature of government: Organic vs. Managerial:

“Managerial. Like attending a job, days at an American high school or going to a mall, the managerial state consists of people who have nothing in common except wanting to make money and not get murdered. As a result, a strong nanny/police state is needed to make lots of little laws, enforce them, and subject children to intense propaganda for the ‘morally right’ way to behave.

“Organic. More like an extended family, this society has an organic values system arising from culture in the form of shared values, customs, language, heritage and beliefs. As a result, less police enforcement is needed and commerce is restrained by what the people value based on their shared ideals.”

     Ultimately, it is the progressive left that wants the state to manage society, while conservatives and libertarians are more likely to believe that society should manage itself (and the state not be used as an avenue to change that). Of course, there are many social conservatives who have seen the lefts norms imposed gradually and surreptitiously and want to proactively change it back, just as there are plenty of libertarians who are too wedded to philosophical musings and utopian visions. That unifying essence, of liberty and virtue unified, is being broken, forever, with each side of the coin becoming much, much less then the whole. Even if they are not two sides to the same coin, libertarians and conservatives must be allies.

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