As a former conservative and as a Christian myself, I think I have a little bit of insight into how such a person fits into libertarianism. It’s important for conservative Christians to understand that libertarianism is exactly where they belong. Being a conservative isn’t being a libertarian, but I think that once you understand, as a conservative, how libertarianism is a good fit, you just might decide that’s where you should be.
Libertarians typically argue that, first and foremost, all people are born with certain rights, and I think most conservatives believe in these natural rights. It’s just that, at first glance, they might not agree with their application.
Firstly, conservatives and libertarians tend to agree about economic freedom. There’s a basic understanding between both, that whatever property I obtain by peaceful means belongs to me and no one else. No one has the right to take my property without my permission, and if they do, that would be theft. Taxes violate this basic principle. The confiscation of funds from people to be distributed amongst others also violates this principle. This is a good place to start in understanding where there is agreement.
Conservatives hold traditions and values dear. So do libertarians. In fact, values are extremely important to everyone, and everyone believes in some set of values that governs one’s life. Both libertarians and conservatives believe in protecting the values they hold dear. Conservatives also recognize that having the values of others forced upon them is a bad thing. Both recognize that people should not be bullied into accepting the values of others.
Both conservatives and libertarians believe strongly in the right of a person to protect his own life and property, as well as to, when there are circumstances that call for it, to protect the lives of others when they do not have the means to protect themselves. Both conservatives and libertarians believe very strongly in the ownership of whatever weapons might be necessary in one’s own defense, and also as a counter-balance to a government power. And, as an extension philosophically, both libertarians and conservatives believe in the necessity of a military force of some sort for protection from external threats.
Conservatives are closer to understanding and adopting libertarianism than they might think. Where things get hung up is understanding the full implications of the beliefs they might already hold, and what it means when those beliefs are fully applied.
If taxation violates the rights of people to their own property, then one must extend things further to accept that forced confiscation of property from one group to distribute it to other groups would also mean that would include corporate entities as well. In other words, corporate welfare is also an affront to rights, in the same way individual welfare programs are. The protection of certain corporate entities injures other entities and creates an unfair and unlevel playing field that prohibits free trade. It’s the same principle. It’s a principle upon which we already agree. For conservatives, it just needs to be fully applied.
When we say that it’s important for others not to force their ideas of morality and values onto conservatives, then it’s important to recognize that when one set of values (conservative Christian values) are forced onto others, it opens the door for them to do the same to conservatives. Conservative Christians will very soon be in the minority in the United States. In order to preserve their values, they must recognize that it is just as important to preserve the values of all. It’s the only way. What is right and what is wrong is a constant.
We might disagree about what that constant is, but it remains no matter what anyone has to say about it. It’s important to recognize that it is entirely possible to get it wrong, however. My interpretation of right and wrong might not be quite the same as yours, but we can agree to disagree because I might be wrong, and so might you. This does not mean that libertarianism is preferred. It means that in order to practice one’s beliefs and to keep the values one holds dear, all values must be protected. Otherwise, we have values by majority rule, and the majority is not always correct. It’s important to understand that while Christians enjoy the right to worship as they choose today, if they force others to accept their beliefs, then there may very well come a time when Christianity is declared immoral by majority rule. It’s imperative that Christians act now to preserve the protection of values before it’s too late.
Similar concepts to self defense apply when it comes to the defense of a country. Self defense thwarts aggression towards oneself. It is used to protect against external threats. This does not mean that a country should use force to protect its influence. In fact, it could be argued that using influence to force countries to bend to another’s will is aggression in itself.
It is this that has been at the root of many armed conflicts. It’s important for a country to defend its inhabitants, but it is wrong for it to exert control and to become embroiled in the conflicts of others that do not represent a direct threat. Conservatives agree that self protection is necessary and that aggression is wrong. That idea must extend to foreign policy. Immoral taxation can be decreased and so can national debt when the military is used for the protection of citizens rather than the protection of national influence.
If conservative Christians only recognize that their own beliefs fit nicely into libertarianism and that the extension of the application of their beliefs in rights means adopting libertarianism, then we can all get on the same page. Conservatives, you belong with the libertarian movement. Study libertarianism and see where the extension of your own ideas about rights applies to accepting libertarian ideals. You are libertarian. You just have not thought about it for long enough. You just need to fully apply the ideas you hold.
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