Wednesday, 25 May 2005

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Conservatism

Literally, the doctrine of conserving the status quo because it is the status quo – hence the bestowing of this appellation on such seemingly unlikely bedfellows as Ronald Reagan and hardline Communists in China.

More commonly, the term applies to those who defend capitalism on religious/ altruistic grounds – i.e. they say it promotes the general welfare ahead of individual self-enrichment in accordance with godly ethics – and confine their advocacy of freedom to the economic realm. Conservatives typically favour the criminalising of drugs, prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, etc. Laws that still exist in some parts of the United States against oral sex are favoured by conservatives who happily defend the free market in economics, and are completely oblivious to the inconsistency. Margaret Thatcher did much to free up the British economy while introducing repressive censorship laws.
In the battle for freedom, conservatives at best provide a breathing space, a slowing of the momentum of the statist advance, to the extent that they de-regulate economies and revitalise government’s legitimate defence function – at worst, they are positive impediments, since their bottom line is still that one’s life belongs to God and/or society, and they are in that sense indistinguishable from freedom’s enemies.
Conservatives too, as Ayn Rand pointed out,
have a disposition towards compromise that delivers more to freedom's enemies than they could otherwise hope to expect from their own efforts alone..

Libertarians are not conservatives – they are
radicals for freedom.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Democracy.'


  1. One can only quote Edmund Burke after this:

    The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risque congratulations, which may be soon turned in complaints.

  2. I think Rand said something like one can be drawn to the left simply because it is more intellectual...I find that, especially in the blogosphere, or the NZ one at least. The right is mired in irrelevancies - notice they will run with the most irrelevant point in your posts, ignoring the big picture completely. Velociman's phrase about dumber than a bag of marbles springs to mind.

  3. radicals for freedom? Freedom is such a confusing word as hope. It must be clear, freedom from what? to do what?

    An example of this is, drugs. When you said that drug use doesn't harm other people, for start, which drugs? All drugs including coccain? secondly, what about the addictiveness of it?

    I believe that anything radical will never suit society, because society is complex. A good government balances between protection of society and individual.


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