December 30, 2013

On Conservatism and the Libertarian Party

By In C.Jay Engel

The libertarian cannot technically be a political conservative because a political conservative is one that uses the State for alleged “conservative” goals.  The key word in that sentence, in case you could not tell, was political.  It is important to stress that word because, as I have stated before, one who is conservative in his social outlook and cultural preferences can very well be a libertarian politically because libertarianism is a philosophy of the role of the State.  Thusthe libertarian can indeed be a cultural conservative because the cultural conservative does not per se use the State for his goals.

Some cultural conservatives do desire to use the State.  Others do not.  The latter includes libertarians.

Now, as a cultural conservative whose outlook on things is generally “old school is better,” I would also point out to the political conservatives who have any sense about them (so, I am speaking of the older conservatives, not the Neoconservatives) that the State is detrimental to the cultural conservative’s goals.  While perhaps some sort of “moral majority” could pass a piece of legislation pursuant to the cultural conservative’s liking (i.e. increased regulation on drugs), this both expands the power of the State and sets the course for the State to use the legislation as the basis for a liberal legislation.  The State should not be trusted in any way and the cultural conservative will find that all the hope they placed on the State was indeed misplaced.  We all have an idea of how we would like society to look.  But for those that trust in the wrong god, which in this case in the American State, they will find that this god is a Great Betrayer.  So to the cultural conservatives: abandon the State!

With that said, I want to mention a recent Pat Buchanan (a paleoconservative) post regarding Putin.  If the reader ever takes the time to follow what Buchanan says, he will undoubtedly admit that Buchanan is always provocative and interesting.  Always clear.  Buchanan asks: “Is Putin One of Us?”  Pay attention to the fact that what follows can be considered a cultural commentary that does in no way depend on the intervention of the State.  The point is that when it comes to the collapse of society based on the fall of moral standard and a “progressive” set of values, the Western elite are against the conservative.  What Buchanan fascinatingly suggests here is that Putin is closer to our position than those who rule over us.

Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?

In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?

While such a question may be blasphemous in Western circles, consider the content of the Russian president’s state of the nation address.

With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered.”

“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil.”

Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.

No moral confusion here, this is moral clarity, agree or disagree.

President Reagan once called the old Soviet Empire “the focus of evil in the modern world.” President Putin is implying that Barack Obama’s America may deserve the title in the 21st century.

Nor is he without an argument when we reflect on America’s embrace of abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values.

Our grandparents would not recognize the America in which we live.

Moreover, Putin asserts, the new immorality has been imposed undemocratically.

The “destruction of traditional values” in these countries, he said, comes “from the top” and is “inherently undemocratic because it is based on abstract ideas and runs counter to the will of the majority of people.”

Does he not have a point?

This, to me, is a devastatingly revealing analysis.  It wipes away the cloudy misconception that America is the standard of conservative and Christian values in this world.  Now, it is quite clear that the most vocal members of the American society are anti-Christian and promote lifestyles that are opposite to what Americans were once known for.  But nonetheless there is a certain desire to dismiss this reality and continue to pretend that America is a Christian nation.  This is not to mention the fact that the state of the Church in the United States is depressingly weak, unknowledgeable about the faith, and is in almost a complete rejection of the Christianity of the Scripture.  Now, Putin’s Russia may not be the best example of a place breeding healthy churches, but perhaps Buchanan is onto something by pointing out his efforts to uphold the goodness of traditional values.  One does not always have to cater to Hollywood and the liberal elites in order to have a voice.

It is this backdrop which leads to my general disinterest in the Libertarian Party.  For while they are definitely good on some things, especially compared to the Republican and Democratic Parties, it continually seems that their definition of libertarianism is the praise progressive values.  Libertarianism to them is about libertarian lifestyles.  Many of its members praise homosexual relations, abortions, promiscuity, Hollywood, and moral relativism.  There is far less in their message about property rights and its deductive implications.  Of course, this is why they are less than consistent on many issues, why they prefer political expediency to principle, and why they have so often catered to “managerial minarchism.”  For instance, when it comes to the income tax, they will readily stand up against it.  Only to quickly clarify that a national sales tax would be far better.  What about not replacing the income tax with anything at all?  Surely it is not too much to ask that we go back to 1912 in regards to taxation?

But the fact that the Libertarian Party is not consistent to the libertarian political philosophy is not the biggest concern.  For neither is Pat Buchanan consistent with libertarian philosophy.  The difference is that many in the Libertarian Party too often praise the progressive lifestyle.  I agree that the State should not be used to declare war on cultural progressivism.  But why does the Libertarian Party act as a grand proponent of anti-Christian lifestyle?  Why not avoid the cultural preferences altogether and focus on policy?  To be a libertarian is not to be an enthusiast of tearing down traditional gender roles, advancing the homosexual cause, or ensuring that nothing offensive is ever said.  To be a libertarian is to want the State to stay out of our lives at every point.   The Libertarian Party has members that are very good, and others that are not so good.  But overall, I sense a tendency to be anti-traditional values because it is thought that libertarianism implies such a position.

This is what attracts me to Ron Paul.  A consistent libertarian with a good philosophy, he is also personally very socially conservative.  A Christian too.  I like this mixture.  I was glad that he did not endorse Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis for VA governor, despite the outcry of many in the Libertarian Party.  I am a libertarian of the cultural right.  I like Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, Hans Hoppe, Murray Rothbard, Tom Woods.  Cultural conservatism is important to my worldview.

 

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • While I do like this post and shared it on Google+, I will say that I am disappointed that Ron Paul endorsed Ken Cuccinelli. It’s not necessary for him to endorse Robert Sarvis, but I am disappointed that he endorsed a neocon who is far from libertarian (though he may have some leanings to that). And “thick” libertarianism is not exactly bad. It depends on what kind of “thick” libertarian one is (whether he be socially liberal or socially conservative). I am a mix of “thin” and “thick,” recognizing that the NAP is central to libertarianism while also recognizing the need for Jesus Christ’s saving power in the lives of men and women and children.

    • cjayengel

      I agree and don’t think he should have endorsed Cuccinelli either. He should have stayed out of it completely. But I am glad that he doesn’t simply hop on board the Libertarian Party Candidates like Sarvis. Speaking of Paulian endorsements, I also don’t think he should have endorsed Ted Cruz either. Sometimes he does things like that.

      What Tom Woods meant by thick libertarianism was that something must be added to NAP to complete the libertarian philosophy. He and I both agree that this is foolish. Why is thick libertarianism okay for you?