Libertarians, Social Conservatives, Natural Allies

Written by foutsc on 7:05 PM

What's wrong with libertarianism? It's too cold, too logical... Sterile.

It lacks the fecundity to spawn an emotional movement, and sociologists tell us that politics is driven by emotion.

Libertarianism stands for... Nothing! It doesn't have an elephant or donkey as its symbol, or even a flag.

Actually, libertarianism stands for thousands of things: Drug use, homosexuality, gun rights, log cabin get back to nature, Christianity, Judaism, atheism. It stands for not standing in the way of human activity, some of which may be destructive to the actor.

And guess what? That puts libertarianism in complete concert with the constitution. Unfortunately, it also puts libertarians in the same suspicion-worthy category as liberals and atheists in the minds of cultural conservatives. That's too bad, because these two groups have overlapping goals that can only be protected by banding together.

Peter Berkowitz writes in WSJ Online:

Unfortunately, contrary to the Constitution's lesson in moderation, the two biggest blocs in the conservative coalition are tempted to conclude that what is needed now is greater purity in conservative ranks. Down that path lies disaster.

The cultural conservatives point to how California, Florida and Arizona passed bans on gay marriage. What they fail to recognize is that, notwithstanding these victories, public opinion is trending against them on this issue. In 2000, 61% of Californians voted against gay marriage. In 2008, the anti vote had shrunk to 52%.

Libertarian conservatives point disdainfully to GOP spending that is indistinguishable from Democratic profligacy, as well as a fixation on issues that government has no business getting into such as stem cell research, Terri Schiavo, and gay marriage.

At best, cultural conservatives and libertarian conservatives are highly suspicious of one another; at worst, these are mutually hostile camps.
Berkowitz explains why these two groups need each other:
But the purists in both camps ignore simple electoral math. Slice and dice citizens' opinions and voting patterns in the 50 states as you like, neither social conservatives nor libertarian conservatives can get to 50% plus one without the aid of the other.
He then identifies the principles these two camps can rally around:

The principles are familiar: individual freedom and individual responsibility, limited but energetic government, economic opportunity and strong national defense. They are embedded in the Constitution and flow out of the political ideas from which it was fashioned. They were central to Frank Meyer's celebrated fusion of traditionalist and libertarian conservatism in the 1960s. And they inspired Ronald Reagan's consolidation of conservatism in the 1980s.

Short-term clashes over priorities and policies are bound to persist. But championing these principles is the best means over the long term for conserving the political conditions hospitable to traditional morality, religious faith, and the communities that nourish them. And it is also the best means over the long term for conserving the political conditions that promote free markets, and the economic growth and expanded opportunity free markets bring.

It's not about fighting the noble but futile battle of converting everyone to your social values. It's about defending the constitutional principles that guarantee your right to continue to exercise those values. This is how conservatives keep liberals from hijacking the government and using its powers to snuff their values. It's about creating that space for human action that is free from government control. That is what the founders envisioned. Who knows, in the process, you may just gain some converts by your actions.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123086011787848029.html

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