I consider myself to some degree a conservative and as such a member of the right. I contrast this with those on the left and libertarians who sit along another axis. I often hear complaints about the conservative movement, but as soon as the principles of conservatism are clarified, as I put them anyway, I often see opposition vanish and the attacks become about people rather than the principles.
So, I want to write these principles down.
A strong conservative fits each category while a weak conservative may only fit or sympathize loosely with one category. As soon as these principles are laid out it will seem obvious that most self-identified conservative politicians are in fact nothing of the sort. The principles are as follows:
- Economic conservatism. That is, both fiscal and monetary conservatism. That is, reduce government spending, taxes, and borrowing, and replace the federal banking system with a system of free banking. In addition, economic conservatism broadly entails support of the free market and a preference toward devolution and localization of control.
- Social conservatism. That is, Christianity. In particular, Christianity which holds to traditional, mere Christianity and a literal or near-literal interpretation of the Bible, as opposed to liberal Christianity or the view that the Bible as a morally instructive narrative.
- Burkean conservatism. Apparently Richard Hooker is regarded by some as the father of conservatism, but I was taught that it was Edmund Burke. Burke basically argued that society should respect its traditions and institutions because they evolved for a reason, often by the experience of many people interacting and sometimes for reasons beyond our overt comprehension.
I would argue that the evolutionary process Burke describes is properly understood as or refined to market equilibration. For example, in this quote Burke seems to be describing something like an equilibrium in the market for manners:
This is the more necessary, because, of all the loose terms in the world, liberty is the most indefinite. It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty, as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint. A constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man, and no body of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in the society.
Here’s a cool article arguing that Hayek and Burke are in the same political tradition. That would be conservatism.
Burkean conservatism advocates for tradition in society. Applied to the case of the United States, this traditional set of values has been called paleoconservatism. Really, it’s just conservatism.
The label paleoconservative serves to identify a form of conservatism in contrast with the neoconservativism. Neoconservatism is a hybrid of American progressivism and conservatism. That is to say it is a departure from conservatism.
Given this background I’ll show why I feel more comfortable identify as a strong conservative compared to other labels.
- (American) Liberal or progressive.
- I think they have the economic and social policy wrong. I also think they don’t understand how institutions or markets work, or how Christianity and philosophy are serious.
- I agree with the laissez faire economic approach, but I feel it is missing advocacy of Christian culture. I don’t support theocracy for empirical reasons, but an emphasis on voluntary support of the institution.
- On a deeper level, libertarianism seems to have three camps to me:
- Libertarian Empiricism, which I love.
- That is, advocacy of laissez faire due to the efficiency it generates.
- I would put David Friedman in this camp.
- Libertarian Moralism, which I can’t stand.
- That is, arguing that the state, government, or even authority per se are necessarily bad, or else that perfect freedom and self-ownership are true and/or good.
- I would put Michael Huemer, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard in this camp.
- Government and authority are inescapable, the state is a bad on empirical grounds not moral grounds, the NAP is invalid, self-ownership is in violation of Christianity, and perfect free will is impossible and therefore it can’t be a moral principle.
- This seems to be the main form of Libertarian I run across.
- Historical Libertarianism, which I think is the same as conservatism.
- That is, identifying as a libertarian because one has been influenced by classically liberal thinkers such as Smith, Locke, Burke, Ron Paul, etc
- Love me some Ron Paul.
- Libertarian Empiricism, which I love.
- For a long time I did identify as an ancap or an anarchist. Sometimes I still do if I am speaking imprecisely.
- However, I try not to do this now as I am not really opposed to government or authority as the term anarchy semantically implies. I simply reject the legitimacy of the state, not the legitimacy of authority or government per se. In fact I think some degree of government and authority is logically inescapable.
So ya. I identify with exotic precision as an advocate of polycentric law and Christianity, or less precisely as a Christian ancap, or most simply as a conservative. A very strong conservative.