By David Beilstein
JACK HUNTER, of The American Conservative, wrote an arresting column on the libertarian-conservative dialogue embracing this year’s CPAC conference, and its broader stirrings and implications within an embattled G.O.P.
Hunter’s thesis has been the basic premise of Crede, ut intelligas since this blog begin. Which is, Social issues, important to conservatives, decentralisation is the only answer.
I have taken this position for sundry reasons. Most importantly, because it respects the constitutional formulations of our free republic. Likewise, it respects Madisonian “factions”—or Burke’s islands of separation, useful against government intrusion on the lives of its citizens, and is a helpful detriment to policy-by-preference polity—a wholly irresponsible and illiberal conception of government which will attenuate the foundations of a free society.
It is also a stiff attack on the culture of offense. That is, a culture which decides whatever offends it, must therefore be banished.
But Hunter—like a lot of people—is smarter than myself. And he does a good job explicating his points.
Some on both the left and right perceive libertarianism as inherently hostile to social conservatism. Some libertarians even think this. This is not only a misperception, but flat out wrong—libertarianism offers social conservatives a better hope for success in our current political environment than the nationalist approach often favoured by some social conservative leaders.
Part of the beauty of libertarianism is that you can be socially liberal or socially conservative and subscribe to the label. For the millions of social conservatives who constitute a significant base of the Republicans Party, embracing libertarianism is not an all-or-nothing question of accepting or rejecting deep convictions about life, traditional marriage, or drug regulation.
It simply means rethinking the approach to these issues.
The distance between mere rhetoric and tangible success for social conservatives essentially comes down to this question: Does the federal government always have to become involved?
Or should certain decisions be made at the state and local level, as the framers of the Constitution intended?
Though Hunter was just getting warmed up, he summarises beautifully,
The protection of innocent life is the number one concern of millions of Americans in both parties. Most pro-lifers believe that Roe v. Wade was constitutionally unsound, and indeed, some pro-choice advocates even admit that the legal reasoning was flawed. Given the gravity of what its stake, it is understandable that many would demand federal protection of the unborn.
It is also true that the political prospects of this happening anytime soon are nil. But if murder and manslaughter laws are decided at the state and local level, why shouldn’t that approach work for those who believe abortion is the taking of an innocent human life?
The more libertarian position is the constitutional one—that any powers not delegated to the federal government as outlined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution are delegated to the states.
It might not be possible to get rid of abortion throughout the nation, but it might be possible to save unborn children in Alabama or South Carolina. National polls have shown that more Americans than ever are now calling themselves pro-life. Fighting at the local and state level to keep pushing attitudes in this direction is certainly a worthwhile effort.
On traditional marriage, public opinion is quickly moving in the direction of allowing same-sex marriage, something still anathema to many people of faith. Libertarians generally take two positions on this issue: One, that states should decide what constitutes a marriage; Two, that government has no business regulating marriage and it should be defined by religious or civic institutions.
Polls show that the entire country, and particularly youth, is becoming more tolerant of the idea of same-sex marriage. In this political climate, allowing more conservative states to define the institution—or better yet, allowing your church to define it—should be more attractive to social conservatives than some of current alternatives. Concerning the federal war on drugs, it’s hard to measure the damage done to many families whose kids were put in jail for an extended time due to mandatory-minimum drug sentencing. There are countless Americans, and especially young people, who’ve made a single mistake with drugs, get caught, and are then incarcerated longer than rapists and murderers—alongside rapists and murderers.
States should regulate softer drugs like marijuana just like they do alcohol. This might be the tricky issue for some social conservatives, but it is the constitutional position. If we concede that the current federal war against the unborn is wrong, and that President Obama and Congress have no constitutional authority to define marriage, the same is true of federal drug regulation. A war against drug abuse—just like alcohol abuse—should be done at the state and local level, or better yet, the church and community level.