Thus far on this blog, you may have noticed that I often lump together libertarians and conservatives. I hate typing out both words, but I’ve often referred to them in juxtaposition to the left, and I don’t like the phrase “the right” (although I slip up and use it from time to time). I believe that the two groups are natural allies against the left.
Nevertheless, there are differences between them, some of which are substantial. However, I will argue that the libertarian/conservative conflict is more over which principle to emphasize than over the very essence of those principles themselves. Libertarians and conservatives accuse each other, often with good reason, of either ignoring the sanctity of the individual, reality, or morality. My retort would be that the opposing group does not in fact ignore the principle you hold dear, they simply emphasize another one over it in that particular circumstance. Therefore, although each faction accuses the other of sometimes acting like Democrats, neither group either completely warps or disregards the fundamentals in manner typical of the left (barring some of the extremists, of course). Recognizing this will help us to 1) forge a more effective alliance on “the right” against the left as we respectfully disagree amongst ourselves, and 2) help us more effectively battle against the left on our own terms, for understanding the principles you share with your allies helps you understand more deeply how the left violates those principles, and 3) know which dipshits on “your side” are actually unprincipled thugs.
(I’m aware that there are folks in both camps who simply CAN NOT ABIDE the other. I understand, and I won’t argue with you today. God bless you, and I hope you find a great tribe to stand by you when the proverbial fecal matter hits it.)
One simple test you can give yourself to determine whether or not your tendencies are more conservative or libertarian is to observe your first response when you hear something like “Two cops beat the crap out of some guy.” Without knowing any of the specifics of the situation, libertarians will instinctually assume that the cops are got out of hand again. Conservatives think that the bastard probably deserved it.
Each tendency is fine, as long as you recognize it as such and reserve judgment accordingly. I have respect for most folks in law enforcement, but from time to time they do get out of hand (and I’ve seen it). Yet there are plenty of idiots out there who deserve to get beaten to a pulp with those long flashlights. It’s a tough job and deserves some deference. But it’s also a job with power, and power can be abused.
Hence, the debate over the security aspect of A. You are an individual endowed with rights, and there are people out there who want to take those rights away from you. Sometimes they’re scary dudes in ski masks who want to rob your store. They’re rapists and pickpockets and swindlers. They use weapons or cleverness and fraud. They are outlaws. Libertarians and conservatives both recognize this, but outlaws bother conservatives just a little bit more.
However, sometimes it’s not outlaws who want to take away your rights, sometimes it’s your government. These violations range from the petty BS of Nanny Bloomberg to Stalin’s famines. We’ve been fairly luck here in the US thus far, but that could be changing, and changing fast.
And this is the primary concern of the libertarian: the state.
Conservatives are naturally much more inclined to trust authority, for they value the order that the state can provide. Conservatives support free markets, but not as radically as the libertarian, for they’re more cognizant of our current entitlement state and the need to wean people off of it. Conservatives are more inclined to use the state to institute programs that encourage traditional morality, are more inclined to give the police the benefit of the doubt, and are far more inclined towards an aggressive foreign policy.
Conservatives place a stronger emphasis on morality, structure, and order. Without guidance, people go nuts, and when people are nuts, they need an Ultra State to keep them in line. Conservatives recognize that a man who cannot control himself can never be truly free. The problem lies in how they sometimes hope to save us (all too often from ourselves).
Nonetheless, both conservatives and libertarians DO believe in I. The difference is that conservatives place a greater emphasis on A: the laws and courts and cops and militaries instituted “to preserve these rights.”
Hence the eternal, and necessary, tension. The state can preserve our rights, but the state can take them away. The more efficiently a government can lock away an armed robber, the more efficiently it can take away your ranch because coyotes moved in. On the other hand, the laws that protect you from getting framed by a cop in a bad mood can also keep that same cop from gathering the necessary evidence to convict a murderer.
Because we have a Democratic president, conservatives are awakening to the abuses of the state much more quickly than they did a decade ago (and more slowly than they did a decade before that), whereas libertarians are entirely consistent on this account. (The press is by no means a reliable ally. To paraphrase Glenn Reynolds, although both Republicans and Democrats have the tendency to abuse civil liberties, if you care about civil liberties, you should hope the Republicans win. When they GOP violates our liberties, the press actually reports on it.)
I’ll have many lengthy discourses in the future on how best to forge a libertarian/conservative alliance. For now, I want to emphasize the practical preservation of liberty against force.
On the extreme end of foreign policy, there is agreement (I won’t get into it now, but there is a very important point on which Ron Paul and John Bolton are entirely in agreement), but in the practice of foreign policy, there is divergence. The divergence continues in domestic law enforcement, but at the very end of the “right preservation” continuum, regarding the individual, they converge.
That convergence is Gun Rights.
Whether or not the greatest threats to your liberty are outlaws or the state, the individual right to bear arms is the most direct means for an I to protect himself. Whether you’re at the Objectivist Institute, Focus on the Family, or the Club for Growth, you will find that principled men and women of “the right” support the 2nd Amendment.
Hence, the two fundamental arguments in favor of gun rights. They don’t contradict, and there’s no reason not to believe in both.
The Libertarian (I): I am an individual with inalienable rights, and as such I have the right to protect myself and my family. I don’t care if it reduces crime or not (although it does), I have the right to a gun as long as I don’t use it improperly, for I am what I am and the State has not right to mess with that. The US Government may not be quite as bad as Pol Pot’s, but history shows that democracies have degenerated into tyrannies before, if that crap happens here, an AR-15 or a Glock is the best shot I’ve got. Governments attract people who want power, and I don’t trust anyone who wants power over me. Justice Thomas may treat me okay, but I’m not so sure about Justice Kagan. And even if she has no intention to harm me, she has no right send any SWAT teams to my house to deprive me of my property.
The Conservative (A): I support the police, but they can’t be everywhere. Criminals respond to incentives, and there’s no stronger incentive to not rob me than a .45 at my side. I don’t want a gun to shoot the police, I want a gun because I respect them. They’re willing to risk their lives for me, and if I can protect myself, they’re less likely to have to. Besides, outlaws by their very nature, don’t respect the law. If you ban firearms, the only people who won’t have them will be the people who don’t care about the law.
In short, some of us want guns because the cops can’t be everywhere, some of us want them because some day they might actually be everywhere.
Both I and A can be effective when defending 2nd Amendment principles. The most ostensibly rebellious your lefty opponent, the more I would incline toward I, but either can work.
The most important things to realize are that principle will win this argument more than facts and figures, and that the weirdo who wants to legalize drugs/throw nonviolent drug offenders behind bars and throw away the key understands the fundamentals of I in this regard.
And anyone who understands the truth of a principle can be persuaded to understand that principle more deeply. Libertarians and conservatives disagree in many important ways, but they do so based on principle. Through our understanding of this, we can successfully overthrow the Establishment that stands in our way.