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Why I’m a Conservative, Not a Libertarian

I am a William F. Buckely, Jr. conservative. This means I believe in limited Constitutional government.

WFB and Ronald ReaganI am not a libertarian. The Constitution is not a libertarian document.

The Constitution has a presumption in favor of liberty. But the Constitution is also a practical charter for government.

The Constitution allows the government to put a road through your property if it serves the “general welfare” of the country.

This is why we are able to have Interstate highways that are straight, not winding all over the place.

Many libertarians are ideologues. They are hostile to government. They think everything should be done with private contracts — even the building of roads.

Conservatives believe government to be essential — essential, as the preamble to the Constitution says, to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”

Conservatives are anti-ideological. Conservatives are guided by principles — the principles outlined in America’s Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.

Conservatives are also guided by facts — the empirical data. Conservatives favor what works best.

Conservatives defend Western Civilization because Western Civilization has produced, through time and trial and error, the best overall product in terms of human progress and respect for the individual.

The libertarian ideology advances the thesis that the free-market can solve all, or almost all problems.

But that’s clearly not the case.

Libertarians see government as the enemy. Libertarians would not have favored John F. Kennedy’s commitment to put a man on the moon within ten years. Libertarians would argue that the free-market would have achieved that . . . in time.

Libertarians don’t think government should be permitted to plow a road through someone’s farm. They think the private sector will build roads if roads are needed.

Of course, this is just not practical. This is why libertarians will never get more than one percent of the popular vote.

If we had to wait for the private sector to build roads, we would not have an Interstate highway system. We would still be an agrarian society, probably governed by local warlords — something like Afghanistan.

Libertarianism is just a silly ideology.

What William F. Buckley-style conservatives want are practical solutions. Conservatives want what works best for the country as a whole. I sometimes describe myself as a utilitarian tempered by Christianity and the Bill of Rights.

The utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and David Hume is that public policy should be determined by whatever produces the best results for the greatest number of people — or whatever is in the national interest. These philosophers happened to conclude that liberty generally works best — ordered liberty — that is liberty made possible by the “rule of law.”

But the guiding principle for them was “what works best for the greatest number of people.”

The problem with that principle is that “what works best for the greatest number of people” can (and often does) involve trampling on the rights of minorities, the government justifying the seizing of private property for the national interest, crushing freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedoms we cherish.

Utilitarianism can lead to an “ends justify the means” approach to public policy.

That’s why I say I am a utilitarian tempered by Christianity and the Bill of Rights. That is, I subscribe to the Bill of Rights even when it’s inconvenient to what I would like to see accomplished . . . because the Constitution, including the “Bill of Rights,” protects all of us from being trampled by the national interest.

The utilitarian part of my philosophy says that we should do “what works best” for the nation as a whole. But that must be tempered by a presumption in favor of liberty — the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.

So America’s founders got it right.

The Constitution states that the primary purpose of the federal government is to “secure the blessings liberty.” But the Constitution also says the federal government should promote the “general welfare” — that is, the good of the whole.

So the Constitution was a practical document. It was not an ideological document. It left lawmakers a lot of discretion as to what constitutes the “general welfare” — too much discretion, in my view.  But that’s another topic for later.

History has certainly shown over and over again that free-market capitalism creates the most wealth for the most people and that Socialism creates poverty and misery wherever and whenever tried. North Korea has universal health care, but spends $1 per year on each citizen. So the health care is not very good. North Koreans literally have to perform their own amputations. But it’s universal health care.

Health care in Cuba isn’t much better than in North Korea, but everyone has access to it.

So the verdict is in. Free-market capitalism works; socialism doesn’t.

But that doesn’t mean we should not have a Social Safety Net.

In my view, the modern American conservative movement is misfiring by becoming too closely aligned with libertarianism. Ron Paul makes some interesting points about the Federal Reserve and other issues, but his get-government-out-of-almost-everything philosophy can never get traction with a majority of Americans.

Writer Ben Hart says he's a "William F. Buckely, Jr. conservative," not a libertarian because, while the Constitution has a presumption in favor of liberty, it is not a libertarian document and the libertarian credo is not a practical charter for government. Please tell us what you think by posting your comments or submitting your rebuttal to CHQeditor[at]gmail[dot]com.

Tomorrow: Yes, We Do Need a Social Safety Net

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I"m an Independent Libertarian

I have no party affliation and adhere to the maxim that "Freedom has no party affliation". We are all borm coming from a source that is free and we will all die going back to that same source. In between we get our minds screwed up believeing that committees and public policy thnk tanks conjouring up behavioral dictates is necessary & could do a better job of deciding where and when birds should migrate and how hyrdogen and oxygen atoms should come together to make water. There is little if any virtue in any amount of social engineering and once we start down that road we end up with monstrosities such as the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, Homeland Security and on and on and on and on and on an on - (not to mention the United Nations).

It hasn't really mattered who has occupied the seats of power over the years - Reps, or Dems have all equally screwed things up and even the exalted Mr. Reagan was compromised. The fundamental principle is that government can't be trusted because the elixir of power is too seductive to resist. If there is ever to be any type of utopian society it will only be when freedom and the responsibility that goes along with it becomes the mainstay of consciousness.

Enough for now, else this will turn into a book.

PS: The Interstate Hwy system also put a lot of people out of business.

You are wrong

 You are speaking for others, but you have no clue what you are talking about. I am a conservative and a Libertarian. The highway system was and is messed up,but we all use it.The Imminent domain issue has gone far from it's original intent of emergency infrastructure. For example the small restaurant that was there for 50 years and Miami decided that they wanted condos there for increased revenue. In that case the fair thing to do would be to not take it at all, or give all that revenue to the former owner since it was his property to begin with. Do not get me started on toll roads. Everytime a contract to build anything for the government it ends up costing the tax payer way to much, they use illegal aliens to do the actual work, and no jobs go to the economy that it is built in. Someone's cousin makes a lot though! I do think that excessive government is bad, but most of the things that the Federal government does used to be handled by the states, which is the best solution, because it gives them a chance to compete for the best ideas instead of trying a national failure for the span of a whole man's life. It is also easier to drive to the state capital with pitchforks and torches. The Federal government should work for the States, not the other way around. That is how the constitution is set up. Some people are just afraid of freedom, and to them I say, "move to England!"

Dems & GOP Running Scared

The Dems & GOP are running scared due to their misleadership. As former Republican of 37 years, I can tell how desperate both parties are by the massive increase of articles attacking Libertarians, like this one does. Justice for all, Constitutional government, smallest possible government. abolish the corrupt IRS, replace it with a fixed 10% national sales tax, & strict national defense, are what Liberterians stand for. Most American voters who take the Libertarian Test are shocked to find they're actually most closely aligned with Libertarian values. This article should warm the Hearts of all Americans. Because, just the tsunami of voters swithcing to the Libertarian Party will force the other 2 parties to be more honest. 

Not Running Scared!

There is a big difference between being 'scared' of someone or some thing, and not supporting their their beliefs or principles.  That is the way it is for most people who oppose Libertarianism.  I am a Conservative Independent and I do not support Libertarians foreign policy principles, in particular. That is why I would never vote for one.  And, until America has a 3 party system, running for office as an L, and or voting for an L, only gives the vote to the opposing party,

Low information voters seem to flock to Libertarianism because they do not thoroughly investigate all of the principles and doctrine of the movement.  But hey!  Democrats THRIVE on the low information voter. 


We are a Republic

We are designed to be a Constitutional Republic where the Constitutional rights of even minorites are protected and that is why "The utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and David Hume is that public policy should be determined by whatever produces the best results for the greatest number of people — or whatever is in the national interest" is a bit scary to me. Libertarians will protect the Bill of Rights that he mentions that will his brand of Conservatism.

conservative vs libertarian

Mr. Hart has succinctly "hit the nail on the head!"  In 1980, given Mr. Reagan's history of raising taxes, over and over again and given Mr. Anderson's lack of an established party, i voted for the Libertarian party candidate, Ed Clark.  However, in 1988, when once again facing a "wolf in sheep's clothing," GHWB, I was caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place, as the Libertarians had been co-opted by the John Birch society!!  Since that time, libertarians have become little more than "money grubbing pirates!"  In Biblical terms, they are idolators, worshipping mammon! 

Mr. Hart is trying to create a larger difference than there is.

I've not met a Libertarian that thinks we don't need government.  Those people are called Anarchists.  However, I've met plenty of Libertarians that think our government has stepped beyond it's Constitutional boundaries, and is therefore setting itself up to be an abusive entity.  Mr. Hart mentions how property can be taken from individuals to build roads for example.  He forgets to mention a small part at the end of the Fifth Amendment that requires "Just Compensation".  Here's the whole thing...

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Now an example of my own to show how currently government is abusing it's power.  The Keystone Pipeline.  How can you say that the property that has been, and is being, seized is for PUBLIC use?  And if you read what happened to some people who didn't take the initial offers to buy their land, and chose to fight in court.

Their land was taken and they were given only a fraction of what the land was valued at on the tax rolls.  How is that "Just Compensation"?

I would say that Libertarians favor a government that protects individual rights over group rights, and over businesses.

Government is a necessity, but it has lost it's way.  We need to put it back on the right path.

Not much clarity here

There is nothing conservative about Mr. Hart. He recites the classic RINO credo that while socialism is bad, we still need it but only as defined to suit Republicans, not Democrats. It would help if Mr. Hart had defined his terms.

I subscribe to conservatism as defined by Thomas Paine in "Common Sense" where Mr Paine makes an important distinction between society (all that is good) from government (all that is bad). To say that the Constitution was not a libertarian document is technically true but wrong in the way Mr. Hart uses that statement.

Our Founding Fathers created the foundation for our democratic republic to be governed by as small a government as we deserve depending on how virtuous we are at running our own lives. It then follows that as we grew more virtuous and solved our own problems without having to turn to "the government", government would shrink as our freedoms expanded.

Freedom was a goal, not a current reality to our Founding Fathers. There certainly were lots of important problems needing solution in the early days with slavery being the biggest one. They didn't have the virtues necessary to abolish slavery in 1787 so they were set down the groundwork and issued the challenge so as to "create a more perfect union" over time.

It is also important to make another important distinction between "self-government" and "government". Most of the American Experiment depends on Americans rising to the challenge of "self-government" whereby we, as members of society, choose to do the right things even when no one is looking. We do the right things because we BELIEVE and UNDERSTAND why it is better than doing otherwise but getting away with it. When we fail as free people to solve our own problems, we surrender those freedoms to government. That is how governments destroy personal freedom and why true conservatives, not like Mr. Hart, openly declare government to be an unfortunately necessary evil for now, but an evil nonetheless.

It would help if Mr. Hart clarified what exactly he is saying other than presenting skimpy rhetoric attacking libertarians (which I am not) as a defense of Democrat/socialism-lite (which I also am not). I am a constitutional conservative. There is no other kind.

The Preamble is Not the subTotal of the Constitution

If the Framers of the Constitution wanted the union of States, Federal government, to have the authority and jurisdiction presented in the preamble, they would have stopped with it. But they didn't. What followed placed the "chains" on it and its promotion of the general welfare, NOT on the people!  "Secure the Blessings of Liberty"  which are unalienable and unregulated as long as there is no harm done to another life or property.