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.