What are the differences between conservatism and libertarianism?
In a recent Twitter posting from Matt Walsh from TheBlaze, he stated what he believed the core principles of conservatism are. These principles were primarily concerned with protecting marriage, the family, and human life. So I posted a question to him. Would a conservative that didn’t believe in protecting these principles be a libertarian instead?
In response, Matt Walsh stated:
Unfortunately, he never answered my question, but then I started thinking to myself. What are the differences between conservatism and libertarianism? There are so many similarities between the two political philosophies but what makes them different. They both believe in limited government and individual freedom. These beliefs guide the majority of policies these two camps espouse, but the question is, what is the fundamental foundational principles that separate these two philosophies?
Is worldview the difference?
After thinking about it. In my opinion, the difference between the two must come down to differing worldviews. You might be asking what a worldview is? A worldview is simply the lens we use to understand the world around us. It is the foundation of our thought process and determines what we believe. For instance, I once spoke at a Republican event and told the audience that if you wanted to win elections in California, you must first win the worldview argument. You have to change people’s worldview, or you will never win and have actual change.
You see worldview will determine your position on taxes, big government or limited government. It is the key to everything. If you can change a person’s worldview, you will change their position on a host of issues.
What are those differences?
I believe the differences may lie in the theological concept known as total depravity. A basic understanding of the doctrine of total depravity teaches that all human beings are morally corrupt from birth. I believe that conservatives even though they may not hold to total depravity as a theological concept, they do unknowingly hold to this view as a part of their worldview. Contrastly, a libertarians’ worldview does not hold to the moral corruption of man.
You see, libertarianism believes in limited government because they believe that government is the issue, not man. They believe that people are inherently good and the free market should be void of regulations. People will act in their self-interest, and even though some bad apples will exist, the free market will drive them out of business, and thus you will create a utopia. Libertarianism isn’t, for the most part, full board anarchism, but it is closer to anarchism than conservatism.
People are not angels
The reason they are closer to an anarchist, than conservativism, is that conservatism believes that government is a problem because men are not angels. In Federalist 51, it states:
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
People are not angels. They are morally corrupt. This doesn’t mean of course that there are no noble people out there. It just means that we understand the fundamental problem with mankind. Therefore, we cannot and will not give too much power to anyone. We don’t want too much power in the hands of politicians, but at the same time, we know if we allow people and corporations to do what they want they will eventually act immorally to maximize profits and power.
Slavery is a perfect example of this. You not only had government approved slavery throughout human history, but you still have individuals today involved in slavery.
Why I’m a conservative
The reason why I’m a conservative and not a libertarian is, the simple fact that men are not angels. I agree with libertarians that we need limited government, but I also believe that a limited government needs to be strong in its enumerated powers. The Founding Fathers understood this dilemma. How do you create a government administered by men over men and at the same time keep the government in check?
That is the dilemma we as conservatives continually face. How to minimize the moral corruption of men. It is a never-ending struggle.
Conservatism doesn’t have all the answers, no one does. But the reason conservativism is different and superior to libertarianism, in my opinion, is because conservatism has a far superior worldview.