Who are the conservatives? Let's examine the conservative minds, the various types of conservative, how they think, and their legacy. We shall see that conservatives of different stripes all agree on this: they are superior and right and the rest of the world is inferior and wrong!
The Libertarians: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Government!
The word "libertarian" originally meant an ideology that valued a balance between individual liberty, the capitalist economic system, society and government. The best of all worlds, according to perhaps the most influential economist of all time, Adam Smith, would be one where all of these facets of the system would coexist in virtue, trust and harmony.
So original libertarians were sort of like "classical liberals" of the 19th Century. Both sought to protect the individual and the commons while also encouraging free enterprise. They meant well. Then reality set in, and both terms fell mostly out of use.
Today's American "libertarians" are a product of the hate-the-government genie that Ronald Reagan uncorked back in the 1980s. These MongrelCons are a rabid blend of CorpCon and SoCon impulses, synthesized into an unsavory froth of selfishness. They liked the name "libertarian" so they stole it, and have perverted the old term, discarding the system's balance bit altogether. This new movement is one of the most visible of the MongrelCons, recently invigorated by the (perennial) presidential candidacy of Texas congressman Ron Paul, with the banner now assumed by his son Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky. As well, the billionaire Koch Brothers (the fifth and sixth richest people in the world) have co-opted and bankrolled segments of the movement to serve their conservative social and corporatist agenda.
Modern American "libertarians" are comprised of a strange melange of bedfellows, who otherwise wouldn't want to belong to the same club. Imagine unethical business people, white supremacists (or white people in general who fear they are losing their privilege in a changing culture), gun fanatics, End-timers, pot-growing hippies, off-the-gridders, survivalists, alligator trappers, right-leaning egg-headed professors, Chicago school economists, Ayn Rand-drunk college kids, oil drillers and coal diggers, NIMBY ("Not in my backyard") suburbanites, brothel operators, "socially liberal but fiscally conservative" centrists, teeny-tiny government believers, porn producers... and anarchists... all at the same party! Sweet, eh? There you have the libertarians. Of these, the anarchists are the only ones who give two hoots about society itself; for the rest it's all about the "I, Me and Mine."
What makes them conservative, not liberal, is their staunch desire to "conserve" a "traditional value," namely GREED, while defending their own, unique hierarchy (Me and mine first and foremost), as well as their susceptibility to fear of just about the whole wide world, while lacking in any real interest to help to extend liberty, equality, justice or compassion to anybody else.
They cloak their selfishness behind "liberty." Claiming to revere liberty above all, their rhetoric at first seems very appealing and draws in even erstwhile liberals. No more crazy foreign wars. End the War on Drugs. Legalize pot, prostitution and same-sex marriage. To the naive college student, it sounds intriguing. But this is all smoke to the fire of their core ideology. Unlike actual liberals, these libertarians have no interest in liberating anybody... but themselves. When they speak of "liberty," what libertarians really mean is the liberty to do whatever they want to do, particularly in the way of managing their property rights.
So, hey, they like at least one American value. They are not Communists, to be sure. Those other American values? Not so much. Equality gives them the willies. But the American value they are most wary of is Justice for All. Why? Because justice constrains liberty. And who controls justice? The government! Did we mention libertarians hate the government? It takes away their unfettered liberty.
Right here is a good time to mention that liberty is not the Prime Value in the pantheon of human virtues. Not by a long shot. "Give me liberty, or give me death," is a stirring battle cry for those struggling to break out of an evil oppression. But once acquired, liberty itself must be strictly regulated, constrained and blended with other key values such as equality and justice to form a coherent society, much less a "perfect union." And such a blend of values is precisely what the American Founding Fathers wove into our founding documents and philosophy. For an even more perfect nation, it's also a good idea to have a healthy dose of empathy and compassion for others, you know, that "love" thing Jesus was always going on about! But at the very least, you need the three legs of the stool... liberty, equality and justice to have some semblance of democracy.
But no, this is bad, bad, bad as far as libertarians are concerned. They see the world through grossly distorting liberty-only glasses. They believe "liberty" is the answer to all questions. If some liberty is good, then maximum liberty should be maximally good. Their motto is "Life, liberty and property, and the rest of you can fuck off!" And make no mistake, it's their life, their liberty and their property that they care about... not yours! Your liberty, or your welfare, is of little or no interest to them. Other values and virtues such as equality, justice, love, compassion, cooperation and care about the "General Welfare" which the Consitution emphasizes for the greater good of the community, just don't fit very well in their selfish mindset.
As small-bore CorpCons, libertarians hate government and love what they imagine a "free market" would be like. They dream of somehow being able to actually transform America into a manifestation of the queasy duality of flimsy government paired with hyper-inflated individualism. The closest analogy would be a classroom of three-year olds with no monitor. Alas, they can't point to a single example in all of world history where this was even seriously attempted, much less actually worked. No country has ever been stupid enough to go down that path. (Well, there is one place: Check it out.) Only libertarians are confused enough to believe that it could ever work. Clearly they don't really understand government or the free market. They are uniquely, and willfully, oblivious to the well-established fact that capitalism will devour itself if not carefully regulated by some outside force... which is generally defined as "government." And so their dream would actually lead to a self-negating proposition. In trying to liberate themselves from the pesky government that requires them to wear seat-belts while they drive freely across the nation, they would guarantee the rise of a much crueler overlord, unfettered capitalism, that would be stopping and charging them a toll at every road intersection.
Kentucky senator Rand Paul is probably the most popular libertarian politician presently, and he is perfectly emblematic of the confused state of his ilk. Recently featured in the (supposedly liberal) media as "the most interesting man in politics," junior Paul is really a rank amateur. Unlike daddy Ron Paul, he can't seem to decide where he stands on many important issues. He's "interesting" in the way a car crash is interesting; there's nothing good about it, but it commands attention. He's already flip-flopped on foreign aid, military involvement against ISIL, tough action against Russia, and getting rid of Medicare. He seems too easily conned by conspiracy theories, jumping to a false conclusion about John McCain supposedly palling around with ISIL members.
Recently Rand Paul urged the creation of "freedom zones" where businesses would be free from governmental regulation or taxation. Now wouldn't that seem to be a CorpCon nirvana? Imagine lions and tigers and wolves (Big Business) placed into a "freedom zone" with bunny rabbits and piglets (small businesses and consumers). Imagine businesses truly free from government regulation! So let's see... potentially a corporation in this "freedom zone" could manufacture the most worthless yet most toxic product ever produced by humankind... and be able to sell it, totally unregulated, not even the requirement to tell buyers what it actually is... reap huge profits... and not pay any taxes! Hooray! You've just seen libertarianism exposed. Now you have a picture of how well thought out libertarian ideas really are. They are flights of fancy. Yet there are people, such as the filthy rich Koch Brothers, who are pushing precisely for this kind of societal structure.
Libertarians love their property. They obsess over their property. They are not usually the rapacious, can't-get-enough, plunderers like the true professional CorpCons, but they cherish what they have, and are determined to protect it. Their property means more to them than your life. They are the purest materalists anywhere on the political spectrum... even more so than CorpCons, and that's saying a lot. Sure, the professional corporatists do very much revel in the spoils of their conquests... but it is the very game of conquest, the exhilaration and power and glory, that is the CorpCon's real motivation... not the stuff, which they discard as soon as possible in their ever-upward mobility (you know, it's embarrassing to be seen in the same dress, the same diamonds, the same luxury car, the same house, more than once). CorpCons get a thrill about lording over everyone; libertarians just want to be left alone, with their gun collection. Moreover, the CorpCons are rarely fearful; after all, they are the Masters of the Universe. The notion that they are going to lose their stuff, or someone is going to take it away is rather foreign to CorpCons. The know full well that they, themselves, have rigged the system so that either scenario is highly unlikely. Libertarians are totally different. Feeling comparatively powerless, they share in the general fear of SoCons, but rather than being terrified of poop or gays or Muslims, Libertarians are terrified that they might lose their stuff. They must remain ever vigilant, because they are very worried - indeed, often over-the-top paranoid - that somebody is going to try to take it... probably the government. Unlike a CorpCon, they have no burning desire to be the boss of the world, but steal their property and they will drill you with their AR-15 and get a warm, fuzzy feeling in doing so, a hero defending liberty! And this paranoia-meets-righteousness is what drives their weaving, veering, inconsistent, incoherent, and wholly selfish philosophy.
When pushed, many libertarians will reluctantly acknowledge the need for some kind of governmental structure, but insist that it be as tiny, weak and localized as possible, certainly not involving intrusion by the despised federal government. So they sometimes pander to "states' rights" to try to wiggle out of uncomfortable paradoxes and dichotomies that their vehemently anti-fed posture inevitably leads into. Of course, it's an utter contradition... something is terrible, horrible - probably illegal - if the feds do it, but if the states or localities do it, well maybe that's OK. They don't ever go into too much detail about how this would actually work, and don't seem to realize how the message is clearly contradictory: they demand the smallest possible national government (one that could be "drowned in a bathtub"), but potentially BIG government on the state and local level. Of course, implicit such a position of any and all conservatives is the notion that local government is far easier to manipulate, bully, distort and control than the federal government.
The ONLY thing libertarians think the feds should be doing is national defense. And that, itself, should be confined to the borders of the nation. With a foreign policy to match their empathy for their own fellow citizens, they say to hell with the rest of the world!
Other than a huge military, what good is a federal government? The total confusion of libertarian logic is revealed by this one great allowance of the federal government. Let it create and maintain the very thing - an invincible armed force - that could theoretically usurp their sacrosanct liberty! Good thinking. (This total collapse of logic and sanity is matched by the general concept of conservatism that government can't do anything right, is completely inept and corrupt; the private sector can do everything better, faster and cheaper: so let's privitize all government functions EXCEPT the military which is the only thing standing between our nation and our most evil enemies. Either conservatives are wrong about the government's efficacy - and they know it, but continue to propagate a falsehood - or they actually want us to be overthrown by the enemy!)
Meanwhile, goodbye ALL other national programs... Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all federal welfare, food stamps, all federal grants, loans and scholarships, farm subsidies, the Federal Reserve, the SEC and all federal banking and security exchange oversight and regulation, all National Parks, the U.S. highway system, NASA, FEMA, the National Disease Control Center, education subsidies, the Transporation Department, FAA, Amtrak and all other federal transportation agencies and programs, the Food and Drug Administration and health inspections, the Forest Service, BLM and all other federal land management agencies, the EPA and all environmental and wildlife protections, federal courts, federal prisons, the FBI, CIA and all other federal law enforcement, funding for the arts and humanities, the federal Safety Commission, the Copyright and Trademark offices, Equal Opportunity Commmission, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, the Smithsonian and all other federal historical museums and monuments, national flood insurance, National Labor Relations Board, NOAA and all federal weather programs, the National Science Foundation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Waste Review Board, OSHA, the Federal Safety Commission and all other industrial and commercial safety agencies and programs, the Peace Corps, the Post Office, the State Department, the U.S. Mint. That should get them started.
Obviously, there's a few items in that list that CorpCons might briefly salivate at eliminating, but, upon perhaps two seconds of deep reflection would quickly realize what a slippery slope to anarchy would be removing just one or two of these agencies and programs. Yet libertarians want to do away with ALL of these federal programs. NOW! They never go into too much detail about who or what would pick up the slack. Perhaps no one. Or perhaps, somehow, the fractious, uneven, inconsistent and discombobled state governments will assume responsibility for some of these matters, while your local churches will take care of all the welfare, food stamps, health care and housing of the poor. Your local Barney Fife can wrangle with all Indians, wild cowboys and outlaws in the county. And your local community college can take up where the feds left off in disease control, weather modeling, the arts and humanities. The rest of it? Why those programs should be sold off to the highest bidder... especially federal land! That's right, libertarians would love to "liberate" BLM land, National Forests, National Parks, Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon... all sold to the highest bidder.
Sometimes libertarians will say that they are "fiscally conservative and socially liberal." This would render libertarians almost diametically opposed to most social conservatives, who (often unbeknownst even to themselves) are actually socially conservative and fiscally liberal... they love Social Security, Medicare, exorbitant spending on ultra-expensive weapons systems and warmongering (not batting an eye at its attendant corporate profiteering), as well as the federal pork project coming to their community. But libertarians are not really socially "liberal" in any true sense. That would imply some kind of empathy or care for others, or for the commons. Liberals, of course, the original "libertarians," care about everyone's liberty, as well as the welfare of the entire community, state, nation, and world beyond. Libertarians don't give a damn about much of anything except their liberty to have and keep their stuff. Many don't even give a damn about God, abortion, gays or immigrants... the typical wedge issues so dear to most SoCons. "To each his own," libertarians often say. "I have mine, and others can figure out what to do with theirs."
Libertarians do come together with SoCons in support of somebody's "liberty" to discriminate against someone else. They staunchly believe that the government shouldn't be in the business of preventing prejudice (forgetting that prejudice inherently crosses the line into injustice). Everyone should have the "liberty" to be prejudiced against anyone else. A business, say, should be able to serve, or not serve, who they want: female, black, gay, Muslim, Mexican, handicapped, brown-eyed, whatever. An insurance company should be able to shun anyone they deem unhealthy. Now we're back to talking about property. Don't mess with a libertarian's property. That includes their businesses, their clubs, their churches, their guns... and their cash. No one hates taxes more than libertarians. Well, maybe anarchists. But at least anarchists are motivated by liberty that serves the collective rather than just one self, and are egalitarian in their belief that no one should pay any taxes. Libertarians (and CorpCons) think somebody should pay taxes, just not them.
On the spectrum of economic ideologies unlikely to succeed, anarchism and libertarianism are right there neck and neck. Considering these two options, the final condemnation of libertarians is that even when compared to anarchy, theirs is the political belief system with no heart.
So what is the future of libertarianism? It has enjoyed a pretty good run the past decade or so, even though it has made little incursion into real power. It is rather amazing that so many people self-identify as libertarians. Still, it has been outgunned on the right by the Tea Party movement of the SoCons. And now, with Trump's style of Big Government corporatism, their prospects don't look overly bright, even though they may approve of some of his methods.
It is revealing that the clear "intellectual" head of the American libertarian movement, Rand Paul, did so poorly in the 2016 Republican primaries. He was quickly shoved aside by the far more incendiary Donald Trump, whose cult of personality overlapped to a degree into libertarian turf. Of course, the official libertarian Party nominee was Gary Johnson, again, to be its candidate. He did reasonably well for a Third Party, garnering over four million votes, which was the most since Ross Perot in 1996, but that was still less than four percent of the total vote, and he didn't come remotely close to winning a state. The libertarian message is likely to continue to resonate with very selfish, mostly naive and undiscerning people, but will continue to be a marginal player on the conservative spectrum as the social conservatives and corporate conservatives dominate, along with the now ascendent economic and social "nationalists" of the Alt-Right.
Let Dusty explain modern libertarianism. (Warning: explicit language)
There's an insightful article on the web by a fellow, once a Ron Paul admirer and libertarian dupe, who has discovered a place where libertarianism is actually being tried. He says, "Eliminate taxes, privatize everything, oppose all public expenditures, load up a country with guns, and you end up with Honduras." Read his article here.