Tag Archives: Libertarians

Can a Libertarian also be a conservative?

David Davis

As readers will recall, this was the title briefed for the Chris R Tame Memorial Prize submissions, requested for the 2009 LA/Libertarian International Conference which took place in London in October. The prize was won by Antoine Clarke, but there were other submissions, one of which I reprint her below by one of our occasional visitors and guest commentators, Peter Watson:-

“Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?”

For the purposes of answering this question, it is necessary first to define the terms used.  As the question is posed using capital letters for both Libertarian and Conservative, it can be assumed that the words in this context are intended to mean specifically party political allegiances, and therefore the short answer would be “No”, since political allegiance distributed over two parties is meaningless.

Membership of a political party presupposes that the party manifesto and general ethos is such that by and large, the member can realistically lend his support to it.  Traditionally, the Conservative Party has also been “conservative”, in the sense that it has advocated limited authority for central government, and expected the individual citizen to use his own judgement in making such decisions about the direction and conduct of his personal life as are not specifically forbidden by the law of the land.

In the sense that this approach meant a limiting of government authority, the Libertarian would have approved.  But this limitation only worked when there was a general acceptance by the public at large of known and familiar customs and mores, and a commonly agreed view on principles and morality.  If there is self-discipline, there is less need for government to prescribe or to legislate behaviour in specific situations.

But for a considerable time now, the Conservative Party, in common with the two other main parties, has so relaxed the legal framework that has for generations governed personal behaviour that it can scarcely be said today to qualify for the term “conservative”, which implies the maintenance of and support for traditional, time honoured, tried and tested mores and morality.  In this respect, the Conservatives have gradually come much closer to those aspects of Libertarian principles and beliefs relating to personal behaviour.

Because of this, it is today possible for a member of the Conservative Party also to hold Libertarian views.  Owing to the wholesale ditching of traditional values, the prevailing belief by most of our political leaders seems to be that people should be allowed to indulge themselves even in areas where that indulgence is dangerous not only for their personal character, morality and principles, but also often for others and consequently for society in general.   Such matters as the preferential treatment of ethnic minority members in employment law, certain aspects of the treatment of homosexuality, where it is now considered positively beneficial to treat this subject in reading materials for school children, the ludicrous “all have won and all shall have prizes” approach to education, which has in short order reduced the British education system, once the best in the world, to a level where more children than ever emerge from school unable to read or write competently, all contribute to both increasing the divisions in society and the gradual disintegration of society itself.

The determination that regardless of competence, women, simply because they are female, should also receive preferential treatment in employment and other areas of life is a further illustration, if it were needed, of the folly of abandoning principles, laws and practices that have for decades given us in this country an reasonably peaceful, fair, and unified society.  It was until comparatively recently a social order that allowed for individual differences, without those differences causing the fragmentation and sectionalism of today’s special interest groups.  Today, there is in addition to the aforementioned, a growing feeling that there should be a more relaxed approach to drugs and drug-taking, the results of both of which contribute to and hasten the fragmentation and ultimate collapse of a once cohesive and orderly society.

In these matters, the Conservative Party, along with the other two main parties, is coming very much closer to Libertarian views.  So perhaps we might say that yes, in all probability it is now quite possible for a member of the Conservative Party to hold Libertarian views, without greatly contradicting either present-day Conservative principles, or those he holds as a Libertarian.

The Baron Report — a report that is in no sense libertarian – oriented —points out: libertarianism — (is) “the philosophy that argues against government intervention and for personal rights.” The report adds that libertarianism has an appeal to both ends of the political spectrum: “Conservatives welcome that trend when it indicates public skepticism over federal programs; liberals welcome it when it shows growing acceptance of individual rights in such areas as drugs, sexual behavior, etc., and increasingly reticence of the public to support foreign intervention.” (1)

But by appealing to both ends of the political spectrum, Libertarianism cannot fully satisfy either, and the Libertarian will most certainly sit uncomfortably with real conservatives.  Equally, aspiring Conservative politicians will find that their desire for progressive social change, which inevitably requires a continual expansion of state authority and power, will run directly counter to the Libertarian desire to restrict the size and consequently the power of government.

It is evident that Libertarian and conservative systems are dynamic, not static.  Compared to today’s Conservative Party, the Conservative Party of the 1950’s far better reflected true conservative beliefs.  The Conservative Party is now so far to the left of conservatives and so liberal in its social mores, that no true conservative could be a member of the party.  Talk about devolving power from the centre is pointless because impossible, due to the structure of the European Union, by which we are now governed, which was imposed upon us by the Conservative Party itself.  Basic tenets of liberalism, personal freedom and minimal State interference are now ignored by a Conservative Party which can no longer legitimately claim to be conservative.  In conservative philosophy, social order draws strength from the Christian principles which are its foundation.  The liberty-approaching-license approach of Libertarianism would be rejected by most conservatives because of the inevitably disastrous consequences of a wholly Libertarian society based on that principle.

An honest Libertarian cannot be a conservative because it is impossible to bridge the chasm between the liberal idea that man is basically good and evolving ever higher (all progress is good, on this basis) and the conservative recognition that man is an imperfect and fallible creature, by nature answerable to a Higher Authority.  The first of these views of man automatically removes most Conservatives from the belief system underpinning conservatism.  Because today most Conservatives view man as do the Libertarians they can no longer be considered to be conservative.

Consider the following observation from Malcolm Muggeridge:

“Had discussion with Bill Deedes on Liberalism, which was, I said, an attractive doctrine, but which I increasingly abhorred because false.  Its great fallacy, I pointed out, was the perfectibility of Man – i.e. the assumption that left to himself he would be humane, orderly and industrious.  My experience has been the exact opposite – namely that, left to himself, Man was brutish, lustful, idle and murderous, and that the only hope of keeping his vile nature within any sort of bound was to instil in him fear of God or of his fellow men.  Of these two alternatives, I preferred fear of God – an authoritarian Christian society to an authoritarian materialist society, fear of Hell as a deterrent to fear of human brutality.  And, as a matter of fact, more potent and wonderful is fear of being cut off from the light of God’s countenance and living in darkness – this fear the only deterrent which is at once effective and ennobling.” (2)

Philosophical conservatives regard it as necessary to regulate pornography and sexual activities and would utterly reject permitting incest, pederasty or bestiality.  But the number of “progressives” who would countenance such behaviour is rising.  This is not an extravagant claim – it is noteworthy that “progressive” political lobbyists in Europe already have not only sanctioned child sex and one Party leader has committed it, (3&4) but some also called for incest and bestiality, masquerading as a legitimate relationship, to be legalized all in the name of tolerance and progress. (5)

There are many amongst both Conservative Party members and Libertarians who presently back the call for voluntary euthanasia.  Past experience clearly shows that once the principle is established, it is only a matter of time before it is extended to cover more situations than originally either envisaged or intended.  Sooner or later in the name of progress the State will assiduously begin to apply euthanasia to those it deems suitable candidates.  This may be contrary to the intentions of both Libertarians and Conservatives, but it will be the inevitable result.

There is no logical reason for the Libertarian belief in the absolute autonomy of the individual to supplement the desire for this freedom with a caution  “avoid harming others”.  A conservative belief in an authority beyond the self, a spiritual authority, has for centuries been instrumental in forming the laws by which our society functions.  In this context, man is not considered “the measure of all things”, nor is he thought of as the final arbiter.  Without this underpinning, there is no possible reason why everyone should not do exactly what pleases him regardless of the convenience of others, or, as Alistair Crowley puts it, quoting Rabelais: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”.  What is presented as a call for liberty is actually an excuse for license, blurring the distinction of what is and what is not morally acceptable.  Anyone acknowledging a morality, external to himself, will find that the requirements of that morality are not always in accord with his natural inclinations.

Robert Bork identifies the impossibility of a Libertarian being a conservative in this extract from his book being a short essay on both pornography and drugs where he wrote:

“Modern liberals employ the rhetoric of ‘rights’ incessantly, not only to delegitimate the idea of restraints on individuals by communities but to prevent discussion of the topic. Once something is announced, usually flatly or stridently, to be a right –whether pornography or abortion or what have you– discussion becomes difficult to impossible. Rights inhere in the person, are claimed to be absolute, and cannot be diminished or taken away by reason; in fact, reason that suggests the non-existence of an asserted right is viewed as a moral evil by the claimant. If there is to be anything that can be called a community, rather than an agglomeration of hedonists, the case for previously unrecognized individual freedoms (as well as some that have been previously recognized) must be thought through and argued, and “rights” cannot win every time. Why there is a right for adults to enjoy pornography remains unexplained and unexplainable.” (6)

It is not possible for a Libertarian to be “conservative”, using the word as it used once to be understood by the Conservative Party, but is no longer.  The conflict between the old conservative beliefs that there were certain aspects of human behaviour that could and should not be indulged, encouraged or legally permitted, allowed, and the present-day practice of “letting it all hang out” does not allow a Libertarian to claim to be “conservative”.  Neither does it allow a conservative to claim, still less to want to claim, to be a Libertarian.  The two approaches are simply diametrically opposed to one another on matters of behaviour; the conservative wanting to retain as far as possible an orderly and civilised society where self-discipline is encouraged and expected and the Libertarian, however well-intentioned in theory, adopting principles which both discourage and radically undermine self-discipline, and eventually lead to a disintegration of society.

What Libertarians may fail to realise is that if a range of behaviours previously unacceptable within a society are now to be permitted, as they appear to wish, it becomes increasingly necessary for government to legislate on all manner of matters as a direct result of the growing disorder developing because of the now-permitted behaviours.  If the population is self-disciplined, this problem does not arise.  But when there are fewer and fewer people who observe the rules that used to govern civilised behaviour, more and more laws are required to make good the deficit.  And this is something Libertarians do NOT like!

Libertarians can not have it both ways. Either society is self-disciplined and intelligent enough to accept and observe an unwritten code of conduct, within which everything that is not expressly forbidden by law is allowed, or society under the pressures of each individual pursuing his own selfish interests, gradually disintegrates.   No amount of legislation will compensate or rectify the resulting chaos.

In summary – A Conservative (party member) may certainly be a Libertarian, and a Libertarian should feel reasonably comfortable (if not entirely at home) in today’s Conservative Party but a “conservative” does not hold Libertarian beliefs, and a Libertarian certainly doesn’t hold “conservative” beliefs.


(1)     http://mises.org/rothbard/newlibertywhole.asp – return15.7 The Baron Report (February 3, 1978), p. 2. [p. 322] http://mises.org/rothbard/newlibertywhole.asp#note15.7

(2)     LIKE IT WAS – A selection from the Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge

excerpt dated July 20th 1950.

(3)     Irish Daily Mail: Pedophilia and the dark heart of the EU’s parliament Irish Daily Mail
Monday, May 25th, 2009 – by-line Mary Ellen Synon

(4)     Wise Up Journal http://wiseupjournal.com/?p=933

(5)     http://www.petitiononline.com/Beast999/petition.html

(6)     Robert Bork “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” pp 151-152

Peter Watson


I’ve upset someone

Shit happens: oh well, we sometimes differ about the means of achieving a libertarial polit, and specially about how to communicte with those still to be persuaded…

[UPDATE: There is a constructive exchange of strategic views about what the Libertarian Alliance blog ought to be for, over here. Do read: specially Patrick’s long and detailed reply to me.]

David Davis

[OLD STUFF:]You can read what he thinks of my opinions here. It’s a pity that so many libertarians disagree so violently about so many things. This is a sad and inevitable result of lots of intelligent people trying to unsuccessfully reach agreement about important matters: it’s how we lost WW2 for example [ I leave Stalin out of that group for he always knew what he wanted, and got most of it.]

The Libertarian Alliance has existed for so long, and has, apart from being noticed by a few thousand academics, achieved so little reduction in the socialist-megadeaths-per-year count, that one begins in the evening of one’s life to despair of any improvement. Having said that, I do have the pleasure of inviting you all to our conference on 24th/25th October 2009! Only £85, a snip: no increase on last year, unlike what biofuels have done to food.

Perhaps we have not amplified our appeal-base /because/ we are so ideoligically pure, and not despite this.

There is no point in just sitting on one’s arses and talking academically to academics and think tanks and conferences, when real people with real guns are really killing other people who either just want liberty, or are “in the way of programmes”, or just don’t think about politics at all at all ever. (And thus get killed.)

Look here you purists: I’m building a blog – or trying to – and I have not got all the time in the world. People like these might want to know about libertarianism before people like these get to them instead, and make the task of repair impossible.

Or perhaps it’s this that he objects to. I do not know.

I just think that although it is clearly right to be ideoligically pure and consistent, there also remains an ultimate risk to the survival of liberalism at all in any form, as the world darkens. We ought to be sen as serious about defending what we believe in, as well as just being seem as a load of wimpish academics who sit about all day and talk about it.

No possible number of truncated interviews with Sean Gabb on the wireless will alter the course of either this government or the “Taleban”, or the course of Kim Jong-Il before he died. If I am to be now regarded as a hawkish “NeoLibertarian”, then let it be. I am fine with that.

Milibanana is actually right, but now, nobody will believe him: his party has done too much damage to what he purports to support, also favours “disarmament”, and won’t buy his soldiers any kit (so that they can die.)

David Davis

Here’s the milibanana on Afghanistan. there will be more about this later after I have done chores.

More later, here it is:-

I have concluded my household wife-imposed duties, for the present.

Now then: most British  libertarians are against our being involved in wars in Asia – or anywhere for that matter. They say that the UK has no “vital interest” in that region. I disagree absolutely, and the principal proponents of the “no involvement” school of thought know this quite well.

I expect to be aggressively excoriated in the next week, as a result of this opinion, mainly by friendly libertarians, some of whom even know me. Comments from all sides will be welcome, it makes life exciting.

Although “fundamentalist Islamists”, the “Taliban”, (whatever he is – I think he publicly hung a Wireless Tele Vision Set a few years ago for capital crimes – good bloke then) and “Al Quaeda” (whatever she is – I think she has a David Frost type TV channel like Big Brother?) do represent a threat to liberal Western civilisation, and certainly a threat to its spread (which is a Crusading-Duty and an obligation laid upon us) they do not represent such an immediate short-term threat as home-grown GreeNazis.

I have spoken about these latter kinds of Green-trons before, but they will have in the end to be sorted out separately: it is a different sort of war, and more tragic, for we will have to assault or restrain our own people, who grew up with us and whom we trusted, and whom we even shagged, sometimes, because we thought they loved us for ourselves. Sex makes war and conflict harder later – ask any divorcee.

[Don’t even get tempted, while drunk, to shag willing pretty hippie Green women who invite you back after a political argument which they say they enjoyed – you will live to regret it.]

However, if we leave this Taliban bloke untouched and unexterminated, then owing to the nature of state structure currently in Pakistan – and probably in other neighbouring outfits too in the medium term –  he will get his hands on far more powerful WMDs than he has at the moment, and our task of doing what the Milibanana says will be 1,000% more difficult. I believe that Baluchistan, a large tribal gathering of some 120 million people, struggling right now to keep some kind of writ running in parts of itself, has missiles called something like “Shitbag-3” , or some such resonant acronym. We will, later, face the possibility of actual anihilation, as opposed to daily humiliation.

If we do nothing in Afghanistan in these next two decades, then the kind of spectacle that the BBC is pleased to send you, underlining its policy-position that you should “get out” (and join places like the USSR – a failed state –  in ignominy) will be amplified a hundredfold: in Baluchistan, Kashmir, Persia and places to the North and West. Probably in Burma and Malaya too if you are not careful. India will probably hold out, and the Chinese, properly unscrupulous in the /correct sense/ of the word, will stand no nonsense in Tibet and other near places.

Milibanana’s problem as Foreign Secretary (is he still?) is that he knows what is being fought for as he in an intelligent man. He’s even a Jew, for f***’s sake – so he ought to know what I and he and our enemies are talking about. However, his entire policical historiography, and his whole educational upbringing,  is based in the belief about the iniquitousness of Western liberal Classical civilisation, and how it must be aborted and attenuated at all costs, as he is a paid-up GramscoFabiaNazi.

It’s not what he can’t say, that I compain about – it’s the way he can’t say it.

He can’t say, in front of his masters, that this war is a small, tragic and necessary part of the defence of Western Civilisation, for his masters in the GramscoFabian movement won’t allow it to be said on the Wireless Tele Vision.

Because he can’t now, any more, fall back on the simple truth – which is outlined above – he has to appear to panic at the severe (by our standards today…!…think of the Somme – 19, 247 killed on 1st July 1916 alone…) loss of life among British Soldiers – some of whom might even have been his constituents. He has to put, hastily and desperately, some sort of manichaean gloss on what is by our standards really bad news. He can’t, in fact, bury it, much as he’d love to: he has to say something approximating to the truth, but he can’t put it the way it ought to be. (He’s also terrified of what he thinks “Muslim voters” will do to his party at home here…but he need not be, for as I said, the British GreeNazis are far, far more potentially lethal to him and to us than anything Islam could even dream of.)

As regards, too, the sad fate of the eight British soldiers who died in one day just now, there could be a remedy.

British modern people are not accustomed to these kinds of Wireless Tele Vision reports. Every death is an individual sorrow for the man’s family. From this there is no escape.

We are not like Stalin, the archetypal Mark-III-GramscoFabiaNazi personified, who said famously “one death is insignificant”, but being ideologues like him we knew what he meant – that did not make him right however. We deplore both the deaths and also the effects of these deaths on the political morale of the UK. (OK some of us are at leats minimal-Statists and we think the British got it least wrong in terms of defining stateness…) Charges could be laid of course at the door of the present UK government, for both hating the Armed Forces for what they represent and for their ethos of loyalty to what they undertook to do.

But in the end, this Taliban bloke is getting his munitions form somebody. That somebody can’t be far away or we might have noticed. Perhaps it’s Russia. I would not evince surprise, as their governments always cheat and lie (more fool the Russian people for failing in the last 30 years to resist more, when they could.)

But perhaps it’s not Russia. I also don’t think it’s China or Japan or India or Iran or Korea or South Africa, or Israel, or Pan-Arabia, and the like.

The point of having Nuclear weapons is to be able to point them, in public of course, at someone that is upsetting your foreign policy objectives – providing he does not have either any, or as many as you do. Therefore, whoever is supplying this Taliban man with his IEDs, and thingies that blow up Land-Rovers, ought to be able to be threatened. Otherwise, there is no point in having sumbarines that can deliver such a weapon to anywhere in the world, form anywhere unknown.

I can’t really see whay we could have any problem in stopping these unpleasant deaths among our soldiers, whose only mission is to peacefully protect the longer-term-future-survival of Western liberal Civilisation.

Like we did over eradicating slavery, for about 200 years [ – AND we had to apoligise –  we WILL get you GramscoFabiaNazi bastards…one day…and you WILL pray to be sorry, and we will not let you.]

Liberals like us want to be merciful people, but the quantity of mercy (strained or unstrained) that you will now require, when we find you finally, has become too great for the market to provide – so you will have to make do with what will be available.

You yourselves, GramscoFabiaNazis, keep on trumpeting – especially in your text books for students – that “the market” “distributes goods and resources imperfectly”…so now you can eat your own words at last.

This blog does not favour a Tory government…..(and WTF does “post-modern” mean? I do not know)

…..but it favours the continuation of a Labour government even less positively than that.

David Davis

What we would like is a LPUK government (despite the fact that the LA takes no party-political position on this matter) or, in default of that, a UKIP one which nasty Libertariano-Gramsistio-inverted-Marxists like me could, slightly possibly, subvert and direct into libertarian paths rather more easily than we could direct the policies of the LPUK or certainly of the Tory party (discuss….I relish the fireworks.)

However, there could be a General Election in 2009: but I doubt it. If there is, Gordon Brown could still win, or at least Guido thinks so. The risk is there.

Guido thinks that there’s a probability of another 3/4/5 (whatever) years of Zanulieborg. What libertarians have to consider, at least who think that the continuing existence of Britain not only as a (now failed but headless-chicken-walking) state but as a home of liberty and the birthplace of libertarian philosophy, er, matters, is whether it’d be better if Labour won?

Are there still enough active and angry liberals (call them Whigs, whatever, who cares) to make a difference the next time round, so that we could conceivably rescue ourselves by some revolutionary means which I cannot right now imagine, from another session of Labour/Nazi tyranny……..?

……..Or, would we prefer even a possibly short spell of “conservatism” – which we of course would view not very differently from full-blown Statism, which it will still resemble – in order to slow the slideage into the political/tyrannist cesspit enough for, say, the Indians or the Chinese to rescue us?

I know that when Chris Tame died, he said that didn’t think there were enough classical liberals left to make a difference any more, and that he was rather pessimistic about the prospects for liberty. I hope he was wrong.

But if the Tories lose, again, in 2009 or 2010, what then will YOU do? What will become of “Jacqui” “Smith” ?

I can’t believe that someone who looks like that and talks like that and says the things which it does, is a real personette. I just can’t. Sorry. It’s a construct; probably “post modern”, whatever that term means. I don’t know. Really. Really. I have not even looked it up, I am so terrified of what I might find.

What is “post-modernism? Please could the commentariat tell me for I do not know?

Interesting new critique of Whig/liberal/anti-EU blogs

David Davis

Have a look at this here. (The Libertarian Alliance gets a rating…)

My machine now thinks it has no battery, so whenever anybody trips over the mains wire, I go right off and shut down. So you’ll all have to work out what the link is about for yourselves, as I now have other stuff to do.