Conservatism And Libertarianism: No Need For Conflict

Waging The War On Misleading Labels

This diary is inspired by a comment on aesthete ‘s post in which he rightly suggested that libertarians and conservatives ought to unite politically. I completely agree with the diary, although I would like to demonstrate that there is no reason why the two groups should be considered mutually exclusive. I am a conservative libertarian.

This comment on the diary caught my eye and I want to respond to it. I won’t name the poster in case they do not want to be mentioned.

A Conservative believes that a man without morality cannot be free.

A Libertarian believes that a man without freedom cannot be moral.

There is no logical overlap. Libertarians will never share a genuine common cause with Conservatives. What coalition there may be between the two is, at best, one solely of political convenience.


It is important to note that comparing apples and oranges can be confusing and misleading. In this case, social and political philosophies are being compared. Here is my breakdown of the most basic social and political philosophies in their most basic definitions. Hopefully it opens up some eyes and makes thing clearer.

Social philosophies:

Conservatism: Belief in the preservation of social institutions.

Liberalism: Belief in the change of social institutions.

Political philosophies:

Libertarianism: Belief in the sovereignty of the individual over the government. 

Authoritarianism: Belief in the sovereignty of the government over the individual.

If you believe that those definitions are not fundamentally correct, you are likely the victim of media labeling errors and/or public education.

For individuals interested in sociology and politics, there are quite a few different ways you can describe yourself:

Conservative Libertarian


Conservative Authoritarian


Liberal Libertarian


Liberal Authoritarian

OR maybe you are in the middle somewhere in one or both categories (few ever fall at the extreme of a spectrum), but you at least lean in a certain direction by some degree.

*Note: What is defined as a conservative or liberal view is relative to where we are in history. Most people know what the social issues of the day are, so I won’t go into depth.

Now, before I get slammed for saying conservatism and liberalism aren’t political philosophies, let me ask you this: Do you or anyone you know base your political positions solely on whether it results in the preservation or change of society? I don’t. Most so-called conservatives and liberals support a mixed bag of positions that either maintain or alter society.

Sure, some overlap does exist, but that is only a natural result of the connection between society and politics. For example, government is actually a social institution in itself. However, I have found that if you view the two in a blur, you will lose track of your guiding principles very quickly. So when I analyze these sorts of things, I do what economists do and that is establish ceteris paribus, which is Latin for “all things being equal.”

Back to the comment. The reason there is no “logical overlap” is because we are comparing different categories of  philosophies. That is not to say social and political philosophies cannot complement each other, they can and do. So for me, I believe BOTH statements: “that a man without freedom cannot be moral” and “that a man without morality cannot be free.”

As I stated at the beginning of the diary, I am a conservative libertarian. It is a lot easier to pin myself down for the political category than the social category because I support a substantial amount of both change and continuity in society, while I am very firm in my belief in small and limited government.  However, if we define social conservatism as relating to Christian/historical European values, there is no doubt I am considered extremely conservative.

I could write a book about this topic, but I’ll cut it off with this question:

How do you define yourself?


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