The Leave Us Alone Coalition – A Way Forward For Conservative/Libertarian Fusionism

In my previous post, I took umbridge at faux-conservatives who repudiate core conservative beliefs in small government, and instead argue for the power of the state to achieve their aims. These people – the Mike Huckabees of the world – are a cancer on centre-right politics, and are anathema to the core values that we as a movement believe in.

The question remains however, how traditional conservatives – by which I mean people who believe in small government, but have socially conservative values, can reconcile such views with libertarianism within the Liberal Party, and work together towards a common goal.

I would suggest a possible way forward for the fusionism of conservatives and libertarians revolves around the “Leave Us Alone Coalition” – a direct opposition to the “Takings Coalition” of the left.

This dichotomy was first articulated by Conservative Guru Grover Norquist, and can be expressed as follows:

The Reagan Republican party and conservative movement can best be understood as a coalition of individuals and groups that — on the issue that brings them to politics — want the federal government to leave them alone.

The “Leave us Alone” coalition includes taxpayers who want the government to reduce the tax burden, property owners, farmers, and homeowners who want their property rights respected, gunowners who want the government to leave them and their guns alone, homeschoolers who wish to educate their own children as they see fit, traditional values conservatives who don’t want the government throwing condoms at their children and making fun of their religious values.

The Leave us Alone coalition also includes those Americans who serve in the military and police as they are the legitimate functions of government that protect Americans’ right to be left alone by foreign agressors or domestic criminals.

The modern American left is a “Takings Coalition,” a coalition of groups and individuals who view the proper role of government as taking things from one group and giving to another. This often is in the form of money. And the recipients of others money are usually the leaders of the “Takings Coalition.”

The Takings coalition consists of the Trial Lawyers, the corrupt Big City Machines, the Labor Union Bosses and the two wings of the Dependency Movement — those who remain trapped in dependency and those who make $80,000 a year managing the dependency of others and making sure they don’t get jobs and become Republicans. They are joined by the various coercive Utopians who want to reorganize society through force to make us stop wearing leather or driving sport utility vehicles or owning large toilets or otherwise run our lives as they see fit.

The Left puts forward the fiction that the Right want to force their morality on others. However, the homeschooler movement does not demand that homeschoolers be recognized as an alternative lifestyle. Gunowners do not insist that schools teach ten year olds books entitled “Heather has Two Hunters.”

Grover has spent at least the last decade building this movement, and expanding on these principles. Late last year, he released the book “Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives“, which I strongly suggest you all read.

Here’s a video clip of Grover elucidating on this principle:

What we see is a vision that conservatives and libertarians can agree on 90% of the time. One of a government that leaves people free to spend their money how they choose, leaves people free to practice their religion and does not force socially progressive programs down their throat.

Conservatives often rail about the breakdown of the family unit and call for government intervention to ‘fix’ this. Yet this ‘breakdown’ can be traced directly to government actions imposed upon soceity, through things like top-down changes to the Marriage Act. Similarly, one can make the case that sexual permissiveness was formulated through government mandated educational programs. Indeed, virtually every complaint on family issues by conservatives was caused directly by government action.

However, there is a clear and present danger here if social conservatives become social authoritarians. To quote Grover once again:

In the 1980s, conservatives looked at polling data, and 70 percent of the people in the country were for prayer in school. And they introduced bills in Congress and constitutional amendments to legalize prayer in school. But most people who are for prayer in school think everybody else is for prayer in school, and therefore it’s not really a threatening issue.

But there’s a strong contingent who fear prayer in school because they’re pretty sure the prayer won’t be one they like. Some of these people may be antireligious, but some are other religious people who don’t get enough votes to be in charge of writing the prayers: Jews, the Amish, religious minorities. They hate prayer in school. So even though 70 percent tell you that they’re for prayer in school, 3 percent of the people in the room will say, “I hate you forever.” On Election Day, those 3 percent remember what you did, and you just lost votes on a 70 percent issue, as impossible as that sounds.

The answer, therefore, lies in fusionism:

“When you go from prayer in school to school choice, where you can send your kid to a school with exactly the kind of prayer you want—or no prayer at all—then all of a sudden the 3 percent you scared to death will be going, “Hey, I’m for that.” You’ve just turned opponents into allies.”

Another issue that often divides libertarians and conservatives is that of immigration. Libertarians often call for complete free trade in labour – ie open borders. Conservatives on the other hand are concerned about community and assimilation. This could lead to tension. However, if we look at the concerns conservatives have, again, it is government action that is to blame.And a similar solution can be applied. To once again quote Grover on the problem:

“People don’t become assimilated. They don’t learn American history. They don’t learn English. They don’t learn what it means to be an American. Well, that’s because we have a public school system that’s run by a monopoly, a unionized set of bureaucrats, and they don’t teach the people born in Nebraska how to be Americans and American history and how to speak and write English very well. So we have a problem with our government monopoly education system, and we have a problem with the welfare system.”

Fix that, and many of the concerns about immigration will become moot.

Perhaps more controversially, let us look at the issue of gay marriage:

“Sometime around 1600s, religion allows the state to nationalize marriage. So when people say, “We can’t let the state change a sacrament by allowing same-sex marriage,” I go, “Where were you 300 years ago, when you handed the state control of this issue?” So the proper political answer is: Churches, synagogues, and mosques should write marriage contracts, and the state should enforce contracts. You shouldn’t have sacraments organized, managed, and defined by the states. Communities of faith ought to be into denationalizing marriage, just as I want to denationalize healthcare and education, rather than trying to get the federal government to run the post office correctly or manage marriage correctly.”

Again, an outcome conservatives and libertarians can be happy with. And the list goes on.

Sure there are some things that conservatives and libertarians will disagree with, yet if we place politics into the dichotomy of a Leave Us Alone vs Takings Coalition, we can focus our energies on the 90% of things we agree on – and make a difference!

Obviously this will involve some compromise. Libertarians will have to accept that a total end to drug prohibition is unfeasible anytime in the foreseeable future, and conservatives will have to accept that they can no-longer support any financial or other discrimination against same sex couples,  to use but two examples. But at the end of the day, this is a model that works.

Conservative/libertarian fusion formed the basis of the Reagan & Thatcher Revolutions. It achieved real results. Working together, we can make it happen again. But it involves a recognition that the heart of true conservative values are those classical liberal/libertarian principles of small government, individual freedom, and free markets.

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22 Responses to “The Leave Us Alone Coalition – A Way Forward For Conservative/Libertarian Fusionism”

  1. Amy Says:

    Maybe I haven’t read enough of this person’s opinions but i think it’s incredibly naive/wishful to say that once you get rid of a state-funded education system people’s fears about immigration will become “moot”.

  2. Tim Humphries Says:

    I kept thinking after reading this post, if the influence of the national party continues to wane at the Federal Level, a Liberal-LDP type fusion alliance maybe an interesting thing to explore.

    It seemed consistent with the line of reasoning espoused in the post.

    Not that I’d be nessesarily for or against it straight off the bat, just thought it would be an interesting approach to potentially re-energizing the movement and the party in the next 10-20years. The longer-term view as it were.

    I’m sure there would be entrenched interests on both sides of the argument.

  3. Chris Says:

    Tim Andrews:
    Thanks, that has clarified quite a bit and I think I like this Grover fellow!

    Tim Humphries:
    Liberal-LDP type fusion alliance? That would pretty much be the best thing that could happen to Australia!

  4. John Humphreys Says:

    The best thing for Australian politics would be to have the Liberals in power with the LDP having a couple of Senate seats holding balance of power. That way the LDP could force the Liberals to “water-up” instead of “water-down” their reforms. 🙂

    The Liberals could still look to the ALP to do the dumb conservative stuff anyway. The LDP wouldn’t be setting the agenda… just improving it.

    I really do think this is in the Liberal party’s interest, especially compared with the other likely balance-of-power options (Greens, FF). They could help create this situation by not running in some dead-red seats and implicitly supporting the LDP there… allowing the LDP to get a high vote in that seat, which is often linked to a higher Senate vote from people in the same seat.

    This would also increase the profile of the LDP, increasing coverage of a liberalising agenda and making the Liberals look more moderate. Works for the Nationals in NZ.

  5. Tim Humphries Says:

    Exactly.

  6. Denny Says:

    What about IVF and adoption rights for the queer and the unmarried?

  7. Tim Andrews Says:

    On IVF’s I think conservatives and libertarians could both agree that the government should not fund IVF procedures, so the issue of funding would be the common ground there.
    On adoption right, I wrote about this a week or so ago at https://insidethemindoftim.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/gay-adoption/

  8. Hamish Says:

    Interesting take on the gay marriage issue (religious contracts enforced by the state) but that doesn’t actually solve the issue.

    A number of religions (or denominations within religions) support same sex marriage. They offer same-sex union religious ceremonies and afford them equal respect as their different-sex equivalents. If a religious institution wishes to marry same sex couples, should the state enforce the contract under this proposal?

    Most religious groups have been slowly liberalising their marriage rules for centuries. Divorcees and openly sexually active couples are regularly married in many religious groups. (Once upon a time, some argued that interracial marriage was ‘against God’s will’ but such notions today are rejected as absurd). Gay marriage is surely next.

  9. Tim Andrews Says:

    It is the role of the state to enforce contract without prejudice.

  10. Denny Says:

    Funding is only but one issue. The more central issue is: should society be allowing single women and lesbians to use IVF to deliberately create children without fathers? This is in fact separate to any arguments against state institutions you made earlier about adoption rights.

  11. Simon Berger Says:

    Tim, if you (or your legions of fans) are interested, the following link is to an article I wrote a few years ago, arguing that (classical) liberalism and conservatism are complementary:

    http://www.conservative.com.au/the_conservative/the_conservative.htm

    A big part of our challenge is with language and tone.

    A potential pitfall with “leave-us-alone-ism” is that to a population that is increasingly “worldly” and likes to think they “care”, railing against government and championing the “individual” can make us sound inwardly focussed, uncaring and uninspiring.

    The above discussion centres around ISSUES, which is just one consideration for voters. Voters also (I believe increasingly) choose PEOPLE (a leader, team or candidate) and our people need to be able to look and sound positive, upbeat, optimistic and able to talk about things BIGGER than ourselves, like (apologies to Maggy) “society”.

    By arguing that STRONG societies are created by strong, virtuous and self reliant PEOPLE, we can make small government a big idea, by being FOR:

    Self-reliance, hard work, iniative, enterprise (libertarian things).

    Personal responsibility, community initiative, strong families, volunteerism, service, citizenship (conservative things).

    …BOTH of which promote independence and reliance on BIG government, which (for all it’s good intentions) ends up making SMALLER citizens.

  12. Amy Says:

    Denny’s comment I think is another example of the fundamental conflict between conservatism and libertarianism. I think this “leave us alone” conservative/libertarian fusion is really only convincing to those who are convinced already…

  13. Tort King Says:

    I think conservatives are full of it. Libertarians are too! Long live socialism! ticketslayer@gmail.com

  14. John Humphreys Says:

    I think Amy has a point. Ultimately, many conservatives want to run your life. The only difference between them and leftists is the way they want to run your life.

    Old-style conservatives often fit with classical liberal ideas, but modern conservatives often want to conserve the social democratic status quo and then add more regulations to micro-manage your moral decisions.

  15. John Humphreys Says:

    Simon — “personal responsibilty, community initiative, volunteerism” are all libertarian values. So is strong families and service, so long as they’re voluntary.

    The conservative values you need to consider are (1) wanting to ban all sorts of things; (2) wanting to keep all the current government programs; (3) not liking diversity, foreigners, risk or change; and (4) wanting to invade random countries. This is the core of most conservative thought, and it’s hard to square it with a small government agenda.

  16. On factional fights, the joys of a real contest, and the trepidations of fusionism « Pimpin’ For Freedom Says:

    […] Tim followed up with a treatise if you will on the concept of ‘fusionism’ and how the (true, whatever that means) conservatives and libertarians shoul…. […]

  17. Club Troppo » Attention Aussie billionaires — Tim Andrews needs your help Says:

    […] Norquist‘s small government advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform. He refers to Norquist as a “Conservative Guru” and writes that his ambition is to set up an Australian organisation that’s an "amalgam […]

  18. J VORPAGEL Says:

    I AM TOO TIRED TO COMMENT BECAUSE I AM BASICALLY WORKING MYSELF TO DEATH TO PAY TAXES FOR THIS GODFORSAKEN GOVERNMENT.

  19. acquisitions Says:

    mergers…

    The Leave Us Alone Coalition – A Way Forward For Conservative/Libertarian Fusionism « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC…

  20. Dú Vidros | Sete Lagoas e Região Says:

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    […]The Leave Us Alone Coalition – A Way Forward For Conservative/Libertarian Fusionism « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC[…]…

  21. Pellet Stoves Says:

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    […]The Leave Us Alone Coalition – A Way Forward For Conservative/Libertarian Fusionism « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC[…]…

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