In the United States, conservatives and libertarians share many values including a love of liberty, a belief in small fiscally responsible government, and great respect for the constitution. These shared values mean they often support the same politicians and causes. The Tea Parties are a prime example; some are made up of conservatives while others are primarily composed of libertarians, and some contain both. While these shared values can draw them together, there are many issues where they are worlds apart.
The main differences between conservatives and libertarians can be traced to what each sees as sacred, and what is merely held dear. These differences effect how they see the relationships between individuals and society. To conservatives, individual sovereignty (the right to do what you want as long as it does not directly harm others) is held dear to their hearts and to many it is even a religious tenet called freewill. To the conservative mind, this freewill, no matter how important, can not come at the expense of our humanity and society because these are sacred above all else. This is never truer then when it comes to need to protect children. To libertarians, it is individual sovereignty and the freedom it implies that is sacred above all else. This simple difference has a huge impact on how each sees the vital issues of out time. Some of the issues where this difference are their most prominent is in their differing attitudes toward family, drugs and prostitution.
To many libertarians family and marriage are just personal life choices to be defined by those who chose to take part in them. To conservatives the traditional family is one of the basic units of society and the only way a society can provide a foundation for future generations. This means, unlike libertarians, conservatives see the nuclear family as being all about children, the most sacred of a humanities treasures. Adult freedom, although held dear, does not trump society’s sacred responsibilities towards its children. The traditional family offers a child the best chances by providing things like a sense of belonging, a personal heritage, natural mentors from both sexes, a foundation from which to grow and moral framework that no other arrangement can provide. To redefine marriage for the benefit of individuals is a price no society should be asked to pay.
When it comes to drugs and prostitution the two groups are similarly far apart. Libertarians see drug use and prostitution as mere personal lifestyle choices and as such no one has the right to interfere. Conservatives see drugs that destroy people’s lives, and prostitution that reduces human beings to a commodity to be bought and sold as immoral. To conservatives, human life is sacred and no one has the right to destroy it or the right to treat people as objects; to do so degrades the value of humanity and society as a whole. This is something no one has the right to do, even to themselves.
To Quote John Adams, ” It (a republic) is productive of all that is great and excellent among men. But its principles are easily destroyed as human nature is corrupted. ….There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honor, power, and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty. And this public passion must be superior to any private passion. Men must be ready, they must pride themselves, and be happy to sacrifice their private pleasures, passions, and interests, nay their private friendships and dearest connections when they stand in competition with the rights (interest) of society.” Adams’ quote is in line with conservative values, but in direct opposition to the libertarian point of view.
There are other differences of course. Conservatives value traditions more highly, seeing them as part of a shared culture that connects past generations with the present. Conservatives are also more ready to come to the aid of those they see as oppressed no matter where they are in the world. This is merely a reflection of the overall responsibility they feel towards humanity.
Libertarians may be allies in the fight against out of control spending, abusive government power grabs, and the fight to retain America’s freedom, but they stand on the opposite shore when it comes to morality and individual obligations to society.
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