Novus Ordo Seclorum, Politics



by David Beilstein

In a previous column, I weighed in on “conservative” firebrand Anne Coulter’s jousting fest with television host and libertarian, John Stossel. Ms Coulter lamented that libertarians were “pussies”—saying they were too busy “sucking up to liberals”, thus unable to actually deal with an increasingly progressive, socialistic state taking control of more and more of the United States, and dismantling individual liberties.

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, who has also criticised libertarians, based upon wholly different reasons than Ms Coulter, weighed in with a thought provoking analysis—one whereupon, a proper dividing line helps illustrate that Ms Coulter’s error-ridden criticism of libertarians as nothing more than social liberals, but fiscally conservative, is woefully inapt.

People who say they are socially liberal often call themselves libertarians and many libertarians call themselves socially liberal. But libertarianism and liberalism on social issues are not the same thing. Your typical liberal Democrat says she’s liberal on social issues but that doesn’t make her in any meaningful way a libertarian. For instance, the vast majority of the libertarians I know hate things like speech codes, smoking bans, racial quotas, and the vast swaths of political indoctrination that pass for “education” today. They tend to oppose gun control, think fondly of homeschooling (if not always homeschoolers) and are generally split on the question of abortion. They do not, however, think that the government should be steamrolling religious institutions with Obamacare or subsidising birth control.

Liberals tend to loathe federalism or states’ rights (though there’s been some movement there) libertarians usually love the idea. The liberals who don’t like it fear that states or local communities might use their autonomy to live in ways liberals don’t approve of. Libertarians couldn’t care less. 

Sure, there’s overlap between liberalism and libertarianism on things like gay marriage. But the philosophical route libertarians and liberals take to get to that support is usually very different. Libertarians are disciples of thinkers like Hayek and von Mises. Liberals descend from thinkers like John Dewey.

Nice to see a conservative of the fusion variety, helping to clarify, rather than confuse. Equally pleasant, too, is Mr Goldberg’s concluding remarks,

The former [libertarians] believed in negative liberty, the latter [Progressives, Fabian socialists, “modern liberals”] positive liberty. And therein lies all of the difference. As a gross generalisation, libertarianism advocates freedom to do whatever you like (short of harming others). Liberalism supports freedom to do whatever liberals like, everything else is suspect. 

Important to note, however, there are many libertarians who oppose gay marriage. See here. The difference is, libertarians opposed to gay marriage, firstly, do not believe marriage is addressed in the U.S. Constitution—thus, Constitutionally, the issue defaults to a state’s right issue (Federalism).

And, though the modern conservative movement has had little time for Federalism, progressive leftists, have been antithetical to Federalism to the extreme. Hence, libertarians of the consequentialist variety, are neither progressives nor the modern understanding of liberals, either.

They are classical liberals. What’s that, one might ask?

Read the U.S. Constitution.

It’s a document written by a bunch of classical liberals.



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