Can a Llibertarian also be a conservative?

Michael Winning

I am thinking about writing a candidate essay on this for the Chris R Tame Memorial Prize, as I could do with £1,000. It’s also to me a hot topic as I know some libertarians who have come to the position from being socialists, and I wonder how they’d react.

8 responses to “Can a Llibertarian also be a conservative?

  1. It will be interesting to see the winning essay, and any others which are published.

    Personally I think its a ‘yes, but…’ and does rather depend on your definition of conservative.

    Its also possible to be a libertarian and a socialist – if you take socialist in its original sense rather than simply state socialist.

  2. In America, possibly, since being reactionary means being a constitutionalist, and the USA’s constitution is broadly, if weakly, libertarian/liberal.

    In Britain? No. The general beliefs of British conservatism are, broadly speaking, in favour of the late Victorian consensus; an interventionist moralist state whose purpose is to better the inferior classes. IOW, conservatives simply believe in the earlier stage of progressivism before it adopted continental marxist influences. It is inherently illiberal, even if it supports a somwehat liberal (though basically corporatist) economic model to some variable degree. The early British model of progressivism/socialism (as with the early American model) is strongly religious, puritanical and paternalist, seeing the job of the rich to be philanthropy, imprisoning their wayward hirelings in Port Sunlights.

    It is a useless and harmful philosophy for those who seek actual freedom. Britain was ruthlessly reformed during the nineteenth century, from being Europe’s most liberal state to being its most moralistically governed. That was where things went wrong. Both anglo-socialism and anglo-conservatism are consequent philosophies of that ideological hegemony and, if we are to be free one day, both of them, equally, have to be utterly destroyed.

  3. I came to libertarianism from socialism, but I wasn’t aware there was a different sort other than ‘state socialism.’
    Certainly, all the things I hoped to find in socialism despite all the evidence to the contrary- freedom from oppression, freedom from discrimination (which at the time I confused with ‘equality’) and the like were what I eventually discovered to be impossible under socialism and were what eventually brought me where I am today.

    Socialism and communism are a snare to catch and co-opt the noble; fascism is the same snare to the same end baited for the ignoble.

    Conservatism? I never have been sure what it means. I think -like liberal- it used to mean something but it’s now just a label.

    • I would like “conservatism” to mean what we who came from “the Right” call “liberalism”.

      That is why I always go on about us being “liberals”.

  4. If libertarian is basically about liberty and the freedom and responsibility of the individual. In a situation such as existed pre 1980 and is beginning to prevail again now where the centralist control is being exerted by the Labour Party, people who are hanging around on the rightish fringe of the Conservative Party and UKIP, etc will tend to be more likely to be promoting libertarian agendas, such as Mayor of Doncaster. But if the natural predeliction of anyone interested in politics is to control others and be important, then I guess you can get to diss them if you want. But it’s not very helpful.

  5. I’m certainly in favour of (“classical”) liberalism. I just don’t think conservatism, as a movement (if indeed it is one), has any particular affinity with that. That’s not to say there are not some liberals in the conservative party or movement, but then liberals have no political home now so turn up in all kinds of strange places, even the Liberal Democrats(!).

    Modern conservatism (e.g. Cameroonism) clearly has no defining characteristics whatsoever, at least to dinstinguish it from the rest of Teh Consensus (which is why I care not a fig which of the fools wins the next election). “Old” conservatism is I believe as I described. It had a tendency to be less interventionist than the officially socialist party, but certainly not anti-interventionist. The conservative Stanley Baldwin gave us nationalised broadcasting, for instance. Conservatives and labour are, in my view, just a schism in the ruling class (and its supporters) between those who tend to prefer sticks and those who tend to prefer carrots. Just MHO of course.

  6. I agree both parties are different flavour of the same stuff and Cameron is probably less conservative now than Blair was when he came in. Which he did by appealing to the popularity of conservative sentiment in the voters better than the Conservatives did. My experience is freedom got a bit (a bit) of a breathing space the last 30 years which is now closing up very, very fast. The USSR and all that rides again with a whole new dimension on totalitarian terror from a different quarter out of the Middle Ages.
    It is indeed all a bit of a mugs game (politics). Individual liberty and freedom is all that counts really. The Whigs of old probably resemble more the Conservatives of Thatcher and the Labour control freaks more the old Tories? One can speculate exactly how things felt 150 – 200 years ago but whatever, the whole system I am sure was radically different.
    In terms of 1950 to now I would say there would be hope to promote libertarian agendas with Conservatives than Labour.