Archive for the ‘Libertarianism’ Category

The Closing of the Libertarian Mind

September 30, 2014

In very draft format. I plan to clean it up later, but thoughts welcome.

Australia remains, largely statist, and despite a present flourishing of libertarian thought in the media and the election of Senator David Leyonhjelm, the majority of our population remain quite deeply committed to a pro-government mentality.

In order to achieve greater reach of libertarian principles, believers in small government need to re-examine just how they are communicating their ideas, because clearly some things are not working. I would argue that there are two factors limiting our effectiveness at communication, that insufficient attention has been paid to: Firstly, a growing echo chamber, exacerbated by the internet, creating an inability to understand those we disagree with, thereby making us unable to refute them. Secondly, many libertarians appear to have a strange refusal to read and engage with more contemporary academic work, instead thinking that arguments made many decades, if not centuries, ago is all that is sufficient.

Unless we address these two factors, our “year of the libertarian” will be limited to 2014, and not beyond.

I have previously attempted to promote ideological Turing tests, an idea proposed by Bryan Caplan. The idea was rather simple and designed to test whether a political or ideological partisan correctly understands the arguments of his or her intellectual adversaries. The partisan is invited to answer questions or write an essay posing as his opposite number, if neutral judges cannot tell the difference between the partisan’s answers and the answers of the opposite number, the candidate is judged to correctly understand the opposing side”

I would suggest that most libertarian keyboard warriors these days would fail rather miserably at such a test. The consequences of this are severe: if we do not succeed in understanding our opponents, we will never be able to convince them, or achieve the public policy change Australia desperately needs. No matter how well we know Locke or Mises or Friedman or Hayek, if we do not understand the arguments of those on the other side, then we are of limited use to the liberty movement. JS Mill put it best: (more…)

Advertisements

The Terrorists Have Already Won

November 17, 2010

It is rare to find an issue that can unite libertarians, leftists, and conservatives in mutual outrage, but in the last week the U.S. Administration has succeeded in doing such a thing. Despite the brief “aww” moment of bipartisanship however, what I wish to make a few notes upon what is a morally odious practice that has received virtually no attention in the international media, yet one that has serious ramifications upon our freedoms. And one that if we are not careful, shall creep our way into Australia.

I am talking about the new security theatre regime installed by the Obama Administration at U.S. airports. As of last week, air travelers in the United States going through security screening at most modern airports have only two options: either go through a scanner that shall enable security personnel to – literally – see them naked, or be subjected to an “enhanced pat down” – one that is little different to the groping of a sexual pervert – one that, according to the Transport Security Agency guidelines, requires for the feeling up of travelers genitalia. And I am not exaggerating when I say that that is what occurs. The guidelines literally say this!

Now, as readers here will know, I have slightly more sympathy for pro-national security arguments than your average libertarian (what can I say, it’s the conservative bent in me J ) Yet this new policy strikes even me as perverse. For it will do nothing to increase security (I mean, come on, any terrorist will be able to find a way about the ban if they tried, and besides, these don’t even detect most weapons), and at the same time, it is a morally abhorrent violation of the rights of U.S. citizens. The whole charade of security theatre, and all the inefficient, costly measures that it has created that perhaps in the past I was willing to turn a blind eye to, has just gone waaaay too far. And don’t think, unless we act upon it, it can’t happen in Australia.

So. Let us get into the details. (more…)

The Sanctimonious Smugness of Ideological Puritans

April 25, 2010

It would be an understatement to say that I am annoyed easily. You all would know that I flare up at the simplest provocation. Yet nothing annoys me more politically than the sanctimony of those I generally agree with.

I am, of course, talking about puritan libertarians. Those who seem to think it okay to retreat from political discourse, and instead, do little more than spend their times in the echo-chamber of those who they agree with.

Oh, it’s so easy to be “pure”. To “stand up for what you believe”. I’m sure the people who espouse politically puritanical views sleep so well at night, knowing that they “have not compromised their ideals”.

The problem is,such an attitude achieves nothing. It makes no difference to the world, it achieves no change. It does nothing other than to make the holder feel smug and morally superior.

Yes, politics is difficult. Yes, compromise is tough. But at the end of the day, those of us on the right – conservatives and libertarians both – need to recognize that we hold 95% of our principles in tandem. And for someone to take the easy road, and refuse to even dialogue with their ideological compatriots – then that is cowardice of the highest order.

The only way to achieve change is to build alliances. Those of us who decide to declare war on everyone who isn’t “pure” have little interest in that. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that they have little interest in affecting change; all they care about is being able to continue riding their moral high horse.

The real political heroes are not those who “remain pure”, proclaiming to all and sundry how difficult this must be for them. Rather, the real heroes are those who toil away at actually changing things. Who have the backbone and moral fortitude to put aside their own arrogance, and actually work with others to achieve change.

Look, I think more than most people involved in partisan politics, I have a general detestation towards political compromise. I certainly believe principles matter. But there is a point where ideological puritans are no longer fighting for principles, but rather, simply to sate their ego. To be able to tell people that they are “pure” and damn the consequences.  And such selfish action I can not tolerate.

Socially Conservative Libertarianism

February 22, 2010

I have always balked at calling myself a libertarian. In Australia, I would eschew the title completely, generally calling myself a conservative, or, if pressed, a ‘classical liberal’. Here, where the political nomenclature is somewhat different, I describe myself a conservative libertarian, or libertarian conservative (as my mood may take me).

This might come as somewhat of a surprise to those of you who do not know me that well. After all, my political views are what would be considered fairly doctrinaire libertarian (albeit tempered somewhat by pragmatism). To those of you who know me a bit better, however, I am sure that this is not that much of a surprise, for the image of the stereotypical libertarian (irrespective of how far from reality this may be) seems to conjure up tattooed and overly-pierced radical quasi-anarchists toasting “f**k authority” and “smash the state”, or as persons wishing to overthrow the established social order with their own libertine utopia of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Neither of these images suit me, to put it rather mildly.

Instead, my libertarianism is rooted in deep conservative principles, and a deep-seeded belief that if social conservatism is to flourish and prosper, then it is only by libertarian means that this can be achieved. I take very much to heart the words of Ronald Reagan that I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianismThe basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is”, and indeed go even further in my belief that a return to a society based on socially conservative principles can only occur through what is now deemed libertarianism.

As such, it is not simply, as John Humphreys writes in Menzies House, a case of separating  personal views, and political ones. Rather, it is because these views are so interconnected, that the only way I can envisage a true conservative society emerging is where we rid ourselves of government interference, and allow institutions of civil society to once again take the rightful place in shaping cultural mores.

For in every area where we have witnessed what social conservatives term moral degeneration, it can be directly attributed to the corrosive actions of the state. Whether it be the decline in marriage caused by the 1974 Marriage Act, a welfare system that rewards and indeed promote single-parenting, or the government-run education system abolishing the stigma and shame immorality causes under the relativist banner of ‘everything goes’ and ‘accept everyone for who they are’ – all are results of government action.

Indeed, it is because I am both a libertarian and a conservative that nothing disturbs me more than how traditions that have stood for centuries are being dismantled. How codes of conduct that have stood the test for time are deemed illegal by the state. And how the enforcers of sound behaviour and a strong society in the past are piece-by-piece being dismantled by the state.

Because I find that generally, if a tradition or institution has existed for a few thousand years, then it probably had a good reason behind it, and we should think twice before rushing to change. This is by no means to defend all practices simply because they are handed down from the past (slavery springs to mind). Rather, it is a recognition that we need to accept the fact that we do not know everything, and change ought be undertaken with temperance and restraint, and radical innovations treated with suspicion. As such, conservative libertarianism for me, is as much a mindset, as an ideology. It recognizes tradition, and defers to institutions of the past, whilst simultaneously recognising that these institutions stem from voluntary interaction, and not the state. Despite my disagreements with Prime Minister Howard on many policies (guns, middle class welfare etc), his success in ultimately ending the culture wars cannot be denied. Just look at early 90’s Australian television, and see the seeping cultural cringe that permeates, the black-armband view of history that engages in little more than destructive self-flagellation, seeking to destroy all that has gone before us, and replace it with little more than relativism and nihilism. Now, at least, this mindset is banished to the dustbin of history where it belongs, and we are beginning once again to embrace some of the lessons of the past.

For it was always the left that sought to ‘reshape’ man, and build him up in their own personal vision. The dreams of the high-modernists, as expressed in their greatest triumph, the attempt to create a. communist Heaven on Earth, however can never be realised, for man can never be perfected; their unconstrained vision of humanity shattered upon the rocks of the Gulag archipelago.

But this left-wing viewpoint also fails to recognise the key aspect of society that conservatives and libertarian grasp intuitively: the power of invisible forces to shape our lives. Just think how many times a day we follow codes of conduct that spring not from the government, but from society. How to stand in an elevator, how to walk down the street. There are a myriad of social interactions that take place every instant that can never be governed by the state. A rules-based system of governance that attempts to micromanage our lives is invariable doomed to failure (just think of how a work-to-rule strike can paralyse a business)

The failure of many people who erroneously term themselves conservatives in current times, is that they see the problems that the state has wrecked, and then, curiously, seek to use the state to cure them, a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Such social authoritarianism (as distinct from conservatism), is a radical departure from traditional conservative thought, and, like an alcoholic seeking the hair of the dog as a cure for his symptoms, by emboldening the state, we simply fuel our further destruction.

In order for conservatism to truly triumph, we must avoid the easy road of legislating morality.  Rather, we must remove the government from the personal sphere, and return our attention to engaging with society. The churches must once again have the courage to lead, social groups must have the authority to guide, and we must return to a culture where societal shaming is a more powerful guide of behaviour, than the authority of the state. In doing so, we must never forget that the absence of government coercion will not lead to an absolutist freedom, but rather a freedom restrained by the forces of society.

It is only be gradually dismantling the Leviathan of government, and replacing it with tradition, and a truly functioning society, that we shall begin to reverse the unfortunate course of history.

And conservatives and libertarians both should be happy with that.

On Left-Libertarianism

November 9, 2009

One of the things I’ve been trying to do recently is to encourage more guest posts on Thoughts On Freedom, the blog of the Australian Libertarian Society, so that we can expand our range of writers away from the usual suspects (and if anyone reading this is interested in contributing, please let me know).

I’m particularly excited about a post put up yesterday by Amy, who recently started up her self-described left-libertarian blog, Civil Tongues, (which I would strongly encourage everyone to check out).

I’ve always been interested in left-libertarianism, because on a cultural level at the least, I have strong sympathies with some of the left’s critiques of modern society; however I genuinely can not see the logic behind the left-libertarian argument. In her post, and the quite stimulating discussion in the comments thread, Amy makes quite a good case on how essentially that the difference between left and right libertarians is while we have similar outcomes in mind, we have very different ways of getting there.

I would strongly encourage all to read the post, and engage in the debate!

UPDATE: I forgot to link to the article! Oops! You can find it here.

How I Plan to Dedicate My Life to Reforming Australian Politics

July 20, 2009

It came as somewhat of a stunning realisation to me the other day that I’ve never actually explained to anyone why I’m in the US. I’ve never said explicitly what my plans are, and what I want to do with my life. I’ve never gone into why I uprooted and left Australia, to what end I’ve dedicated the last few years of my life.

So here goes: I want to establish Australia’s first grassroots free market advocacy organisation. Sounds simple. I wish. Read on…

I have already written about why doing this is desperately necessary, and I shall not repeat myself (but please read the link before you go on if you have not already – it really is critical to understanding the rest of this post ). Let it be enough for me to say that I feel this is so desperately necessary, that  unless enacted upon, the cause of freedom in Australia will be lost. An exaggeration? Perhaps, but one I feel is justified by history.

Having thus established the necessity for such an organisation, the obvious question is: why me? Am I really so arrogant as to believe I can personally reshape the Australian political landscape? Is my ego so big that I really think I can bring about that much change?

The answer is no. I am not a prime candidate for the task. There are innumerable people more intelligent, more skilled than I am, who would do a far better job. I wish someone else would do it. Despite my wishes, this is what I am preparing myself for. The obvious question is, why?

Before I can answer that, it is necessary for me to sketch out just that which I want to do.

The core idea is simple: Create an activist grassroots free market advocacy organisation. Something to take abstract ideas, intellectual theories, and policy papers, and package them into something nice and simple that your average citizen can understand. To set up an organisation to fight in the trenches, to spread the message, to actually engage in the battle of ideas. Australia has some of the best think tanks in the world, in the CIS and IPA, but they are think tanks – they are not ground troop warriors. And that is what we need. And I want to set something up to actually be such warriors.

Essentially I want this organisation to do two tasks: take the ideas of classical liberalism and promote them to all Australian citizens, and secondly, to lobby politicians to adopt solid policy ideas. Essentially I want this to be an amalgam of Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform.  In order to do this, my plan revolves around starting up two organisations: one a research/education body (to which donations are tax-deducible) which shall be focused on education people on economics. The other shall be more aggressive, and shall lobby and do advocacy on legislation. Both shall work together to advance the common goal.

Many people don’t know this, but I actually founded such an organisation back in early 2005. It was called young&free (the name wasn’t my decision!), and it was intended to promote the ideas of classical liberalism to young people. We got it incorporated and registered and all. But for various external factors, it never got off the ground. Now I am older, wiser, and with more experience. When I start this, I will have the skills necessary.

Obviously, this means that I can no longer be an active member of the Liberal Party. From a personal perspective, this pains me greatly; after all, I have dedicated almost half of my life to serving the Party. I know the personal losses that leaving will cause. Yet is necessary. There is, after all, no way I can objectively advocate sound policy, while I have a vested interest in one political party. Oh don’t get me wrong, doubtlessly I shall continue to be a member, to try to influence people as best as I can. But I cannot – and will not – continue to waste my time with the petty childish sandpit of internal party politics, nor place myself in a position where I can no-longer critique the party from outside.

So why exactly do I want to do this. The answer is unfortunately simple: there is no-one else. I mean this by no means out of arrogance, but simply as a statement of fact. There is no-one else who wants to do this. After all, I fully recognise I need more than simply desires, I need concrete skills. So let us look at my skillset as objectively as possible.

Firstly, I think it’s rather important to note that, to some degree at least, I do actually possess a brain and the ability to use it. I don’t know how I can objectively demonstrate this, other than to point out that my UAI of 99.85 (for all the flaws the UAI contains) does place me in the top 0.15% of the population intellectually (and, correct me if I’m wrong, is the highest in the NSW YL’s for the last 10 years or so).

Academically, I have a Bachelors of Economics (Social Sciences), with a double major in Government and International Relations, with a minor in economics. I have a Bachelor of Laws (Honours), with a primary focus in jurisprudence, and the relationship between politics and law. I also have a Masters in Public Policy, again, rather relevant to the intellectual underpinnings of what I wish to achieve.

Politically, I spent two terms as President of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation. I was Vice-President (Policy) of the NSW Young Liberals from 2006-2008. I was a branch president, Sydney University Liberal Club President, a campaign manager, a candidate for local government – I really don’t think a political resume could prepare you any better for what I want to do!

From the NGO perspective, I am a member of the Board of Management of the HR Nicholls Society, Australia’s leading free labour market organisation, and am on the National Board of the Australian Libertarian Society. I have attempted to involve myself in all free-market events by the CIS, IPA and the Sydney Institute, and am an alumni of the Liberty & Society Programme. Since I started university, I have regularly attended conferences by the Lavoisier Group, the Bennelong Society,  and the Samuel Griffith Society. No-one – and I mean no-one – my age has done this in the last decade.

From an employment perspective, I have worked for a Federal Senator, I have been a paralegal, I worked for the Cato Institute, and am now a Fellow at Americans for Tax Reform.  Even while going through university, when I ran a call-centre, and worked as a telemarketer, why did I do this? The answer was simple – to learn effective communication skills. And I succeeded. Currently, I am partaking in the Koch Associate Program. This is a year-long program in how to best manage and run a non-profit political advocacy group. What better training could there be.

Most importantly though, I have the fortune of having won that roulette of lottery that is US citizenship, and have taken advantage of it. This, more than anything else, I cannot overstress the value of. Unless you have been here, no-one can actually understand the difference that living in the US makes. The fact that I am immersed in the core of the future of free market advocacy, means that I will have unparalleled skills necessary to be able to do this back in Australia. And these skills are impossible to pick up at home.

I have no doubt whatsoever that we need to set up a free market grassroots advocacy group in Australia. I have no doubt that this is essential if we want to prosper as a society and not tumble headfirst down the road to serfdom. I believe, therefore, that I am the person with the enthusiasm, the experience, and the skills to make this happen.

So help me. Please help me. I cannot do this on my own. I cannot raise the money necessary, I cannot come up with the business plan, I cannot create the strategy all by myself. I need your help. So please, contact me, and together, we can change Australia.

If you and I fail, if together we can not start up a genuine advocacy group, then freedom in Australia truly is doomed.

PS: Seriously, you can not actually understand this unless you read my earlier post. If you haven’t, do so now. Please.

Update: A few minor typos etc have been corrected

Update 2: To those who think this won’t work in an Australian context, all I can say is that similar arguments were raised when the Taxpayers Alliance was launched in the UK, and they have had great success recently – and they are in a cultural context rather similar to ours in many ways. In order for us to actually win the culture wars, I think we need to actively start evangalising to the masses – and the new media revolution that is only just starting in Australia will very much help us in that regard!

For instance, let’s look at the Liberals support of alcopop taxes. Horrid, horrid policy. Yet what are we (as a conservative movement) doing to put pressure on MT to tell him he can’t do this? How are we harnessing the thousands of Australians who agree with us and getting them to engage? I feel that we spend too much of our time preaching to the choir, so to speak, and not actually trying to shift public opinion. This is what I very much think it is essential for us to do – to take our ideas, and package them in such manner that the general public – the consumers – understand them and support us. We need to actively put pressure on MT so that he feels he has no other choice than to support free market principles. And that’s what I intend to do 🙂

Why We Shouldn’t Give Up (aka It’s a Wonderful Institute)

July 14, 2009

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, one of the US’s finest libertarian think tanks, and defiantly the coolest, put together this little clip for their 25th Anniversary Dinner earlier this year, which I had the great fortune of being able to attend.

A spoof on It’s A Wonderful Life, I think it’s a rather cute and amusing look at what would happen if we all just gave up – and why we should bother. Not exactly a professional production, but it is a nice lighthearted look at why free market institutions matter – and why we shouldn’t give up!

You can support similarly great institutions in Australia by donating to the Centre for Independent Studies and the Institute for Public Affairs.

(Cross-posted at Thoughts On Freedom)

How To Achieve Free Market Success In Australia

July 1, 2009

It is a sad fact that the state of liberty in Australia is in a rather sorry shape. The size and scope of government is consistently increasing, our economic and social freedoms are shrinking, and there is no respite in sight. There can be no denying that freedom is on the retreat.

Yet why is this? Our think tanks are world-class. We have many believers of small government in state and federal parliaments (albeit somewhat hidden in the closet), and youth political organisations like the ALSF are completely onside. Why, by any objective standard, have we failed?

Rather than using excuses of political culture, and blaming external forces, I would suggest that we look squarely at ourselves as the reason. We need to take responsibility for our failings, and address them for the way forward. I believe that one of the fundamental reasons we have not succeeded is that we have failed to look at the battle for liberty in a strategic manner, and instead have approached things in a manner that can be described as ad hoc at best.

Allow me to explain. Think, if you will, of the promotion of liberty as analogous to the structure of production, and the way institutions fit together. For this example, I will use a simplified and bastardised version of Hayek’s model (apologies to puritans)!

The structure of production in a developed economy can rather easily be defined. First you have the initial stages, representing investments and businesses involved in the enhanced production of basic inputs – raw materials. The middle stages convert these raw materials into various types of products that add more value – intermediate and capital goods. The final stages take these, transform them, and package them as consumer goods.

This theory, I suggest, can be applied just as equally to the structure of social change, and, through that, to the institutions of social change and political battle. So. How would this work?

Firstly you have your raw materials – ideas. These are raw intellectual materials; abstract theories and concepts. These are generally removed from the average citizen, and abstract in nature. These then become converted into policy analysis and policy papers. Slightly more accessible perhaps, but still generally removed from your average layman. Then you have the third stage. Consumer goods. Policies are neatly packaged, simplified, and presented to the people. The proposals are translated in a way the citizenry can understand and act upon.

So, how does this translate into something a little more concrete and into an institutional setting. Firstly, we have the raw ideas – these come from the universities. A great example would be the work in the University of Chicago in the 1960’s and 70’s. These are then developed into policy proposals by think tanks – to continue the example, Cato and others in the 1980’s. Then, we have the ‘implementation phase’ where grassroots advocacy and activist organisations fight in the trenches to convince the public, and then lobby the politicians – the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform etc. After all, it was this combination that ensured the great deregulations here, leading to  significant increases in economic growth and prosperity.

Success is achieved in this model when all organizations work together in a holistic manner and are equal in strength. It is only when all three components are in play and institutions in all three stages are health that we can actually achieve true policy change.  It is essential that all three stages are strong and functioning to maximise output in the final stage.

Now look at Australia. We certainly have the raw ideas – whether it be through the work of those in our Academy (eg Sinclair Davidson and Alex Robson) or that we steal it from abroad, whilst outnumbered by the left, we certainly are represented here. Then it comes to the middle stage, the think tanks. The CIS and the IPA are without doubt world class, and produce brilliant policy papers and proposals. Now we come to the implementation stage. And….. um… hmm…

There is nothing.

This, I suggest, is the fundamental problem we face. We have no organisations dedicated to free market ideas that are focused to a)packaging the message in a nice simple format for the average Australian to be able to digest and b)lobbying politicians to adopt this. None. The left have them. Social conservatives have them. Even crazy insane people have them. But not us. Granted, the IPA has recently started moving in that direction, which is great, but ultimately that isn’t their comparative advantage. What we need in Australia is a genuine grassroots free market advocacy organisaiton.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m currently in the US learning the skills to do just that. As part of that, I’m participating in the Koch Associate Program in conjunction with my employment at Americans For Tax Reform; whilst many don’t know the name Koch, it is not only the largest private company in the world (revenue exceeding $100 billion USD a year), it also funds pretty much the entire small government movement. At the risk of turning this into blatant self promotion, the year long program’s aims are “ to identify up-and-coming leaders and entrepreneurs interested in liberty and help them develop the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for careers with market-oriented think tanks, policy institutes, and other non-profit organizations”. In just two weeks I have learned more on how to effect change than I have in many years at home (and will try to go into concepts of the Science of Liberty and Market Based Management in a later post). So my grand plan down the track is to set something up like this back in Australia (hence the self-serving nature of this post!)

I know many in Australia doubt the efficacy and practicality of grassroots organisations as opposed to think tanks (I had a debate with the doyen of the ALS, Mr. Humphreys, on this very matter a few weeks ago). However I am convinced that until we set up a vibrant grassroots advocacy movement – that actually works – to promote the free market back at home, we are doomed to continue the failures of the past.

For us to succeed, we must step down from the ivory towers of intellectualism, we must tear ourselves away from online debates, and we must get into the trenches are really start to fight. Only then can we really create change.

(Note: This post was based on From Ideas to Action: The Roles of Universities, Think Tanks, and Activist Groups by Richard H. Fink. Whilst my desire to set up a free market grassroots advocacy organisation in Australia has been around for years, this specific model and argument is completely taken from Richard Fink and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and I can claim no credit for it whatsoever)

Cross-posted at Thoughts On Freedom

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

June 17, 2009

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.

Conservatism, Libertarianism and the Liberal Party

June 15, 2009

I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism”.

Thus spoke President Ronald Reagan, without doubt one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. He continued “I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”

True conservatism, at its heart, is libertarian. It is for this reason that conservatives throughout the 20th century stood up to big government. It is for this reason that the Liberal Party was formed. It is for this reason so many of us became interested in politics.

Thus it pains me greatly to see some self-proclaimed conservatives these days spitting on the legacy of great men like President Reagan and attacking libertarianism. Instead of true conservative beliefs – those of small government, individual freedom, and free markets, they preach social authoritarianism and government control. Casting aside the ideology of the ‘founding fathers’ of what is now considered conservative thought –  great thinkers from John Locke and Thomas Jefferson to Milton Friedman and FA Von Hayek, they instead replace it with a statist regime little different to that of the socialists. Rather than trying to minimise the size and scope of government, they instead seek to use it to their own ends.

Seeking to use government to achieve your desired aims is certainly not without intellectual underpinnings. It is something many philosophers have argued in favour of for centuries. It certainly is not without some intellectual merit, although I vociferously disagree. One thing you can NOT call it, however, is conservative.

This new brand of statist social authoritarians style themselves as conservatives and attack libertarians for believing in the very things that conservative have argued in favour of for generations. Sure, there have been differences between conservatives and libertarians, drug prohibition being probably the greatest of the last two decades, but, at the core, both ideologies shared the same desire for freedom, and this is what made fusionism work.

Indeed, while conservatives and libertarians certainly can disagree on some issues, these are at the periphery. It is our shared view on the size and scope of government that unites us. Thus it is especially distressing that this new mould of faux-conservatives, who wish to impose their extreme and radical personal world-view upon society, seem so hostile to libertarian thought. I do not need to start listing examples of anti-freedom things such people propose, although adopting Obama’s ‘compulsory volunteerism’ conscription plan and supporting internet censorship come to mind. Nor do I need to remind people on how these people have shown no interest in free markets or supporting private enterprise. All I need to say is that conservatives previously – even social conservatives – accepted the notion of small government.

It was, after all, never laissez-faire government that led to the social outcomes that these people now so decry. It was not an absence of government regulation that led to the attack on the family unity, and social breakdown. Rather, it was – consistently and without exception – government intervention that caused such things. It always was, is, and will be, the actions of the government that have led to the outcomes that social conservatives now decry. Even on matters as divisive as abortion, many libertarians have supported the socially conservative position . Traditional social conservatives recognised this, and recognised that they, like libertarians, would have their outcomes achieved by a reduction of the power of the state. Alas no longer.

It is for this reason that rise of the Christian Left in the Liberal Party disturbs me greatly (and I use the term “Christian” loosely, and only as is the self-styled moniker of those who preach this mantra – their actions, let alone their theology, I find little Christian about). I joined the Liberal Party because, like Menzies, like Howard I believed in individual freedom – and I’ll be damned if some extremist social democrats hijack the party I love, and turn it into no more than a socially authoritarian labor whilst trumpeting their self-proclaimed conservative values.

The fact that there are now these faux-conservatives who argue for greater government regulation, greater responsibilities for the State and greater control over peoples lives, is nothing more than an insult to the memories of the true conservative heroes. It is not conservatism, but socialism in drag, and it is a disgrace.

If you want to be a social authoritarian statist, that’s fine. We live in a free country, and you have the right to be wrong. But please, please, don’t you dare call yourself a conservative.