How to Fight for Liberty, Part Five – Conservatism


How to Fight for Liberty, Part Five – Conservatism

By Duncan Whitmore

In Part Four of this continuing series of Fighting for Liberty, we explored the nature of radicalism and its value for the fight for freedom. In this part, we will do the same for conservatism before concluding with some final remarks on reconciling conservatism with radicalism as part of a libertarian political strategy.

While a precise definition of conservatism is debatable, it seems reasonable enough to summarise it as a preference for traditional customs, conventions, cultures, and morality in addition to the institutions which uphold them. Contrary to the popular view of conservatism as rigid and uncompromising, it is not averse to change; the dedicated conservative is not trying to trap humanity in a time warp. He does, however, recognise that existing institutions – standing on the shoulders of centuries of human experience – must provide the starting point for any prospective change. In the words of Edward Feser, paraphrasing J L Austen: “[T]hough tradition […] might not always give us the last word, it must always give us the first word.”1 As such, change is likely to be relatively slow and undertaken within an evolutionary “arc of continuity”, with each new building block placed carefully upon one underneath instead of demolishing the entire foundation in revolutionary fervour. Another, more explicitly pro-freedom way of describing it, is a preference for “spontaneous” or “organic” order generated gradually by millions of individuals as opposed to consciously engineered order from the centre.

In the last part, we noted that libertarians – in contrast to Marxists and social engineers – simply do not have the option of demolition, of wiping the societal slate clean before merely “hoping” that liberty will prevail as the dust settles. Thus, adherence to conservatism in the manner described may assist the libertarian movement in two ways:

  • It can help to nourish the non-state institutions that would be necessary to support social co-operation in the absence of the state, sensitising us to the level of cultural diversity that a given society can sustain;
  • Given that liberty has flourished in the Western world more extensively than in any other, we should look to the specific cultural and institutional history of the West to determine why this is so.2

To at least some extent, therefore, we can see that libertarians need to adopt conservative attitudes.

However, it is abundantly clear that any efforts of modern conservatism to preserve freedom have been an abysmal failure, and if such conservatives today identify with freedom at all then it is either residual or in name only. In the UK, for instance, we are saddled with a governing Conservative Party that has not only implemented the greatest peacetime power grab in history as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, but is seemingly committed to vast state spending, the rampant greening of the economy, and the authoritarian policing of speech and censorship. While, therefore, such conservatism cannot be our model, it is useful to understand how it arrived at where it is so that libertarians can avoid its pitfalls if they are to adopt conservative attitudes as part of their strategy.

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I don’t usually comment on this sort of thing….


One sort of knows, in the background, that it goes on, but one is rather tired from striving to pay Gordon Brown and all that stuff….and Yemen and Afghanistan are rather far-away countries right now, of which we know little…

…but I even wondered about this picture for a LA caption competition – just look at the poor LITTLE girl’s face: this is her wedding photo, the poor mite – he’s “about 40”, and she’s eleven:-

David Davis

...you mean, I have to shag THAT?...

...you mean, I have to shag THAT?...

In my mind, there is no problem for a woman to marry an older man, in principle. I am 16 years older than my wife, and even the Director, Sean Gabb, married his dear and nice wife whom we know and love, when she was at the time about 12 or 13 years younger than he was. They have now caught up in age together, as you do, and as we have done. My wife is still 16 years younger than I am, but we are both now old warring scrag-bags together.

But I think for the wife to be “eleven”, as in the above picture, so it is said, is pushing at the boundaries of the envelope” a little bit, or even a lot. If this is what is going on, then I as a Libertarian who believes that individual humans have Natural Rights, believe this sort of process to be disgusting. If we believe that children are children up to a “certain age” (about which there can be some argument but broadly we all agree it is “about” 16 (or so) and therefore cannot consent legally to serious interpersonal arrangements or other sorts of contracts under that age, then that must be the case for all humans. It cannot be that our children here can’t do it, but Yemeni (or other) children can, for some spurious and quasi-religious or other pre-Renaissance pre-capitalist reason.

Ragged pre-capitalist, pre-classical-liberal, and barbarian-warlord-survival-guides, cleverly promoted and peddled as “religions”, and dealing with the disposal of debts, animals, defeated tribes, the enemy’s widows-of-beheaded-warriors, and his relict children, his men’s and boy’s severed heads, and his slaves and concubines, are no help to these poor children in the photo. Not at all.

Libertarians, when they will have regained The West (a long job, Boyo!) will have their foreign-policy-work cut out for some time. But perhaps not as long as against Lithuanian EU Commissioners who hate light bulbs.

This is the real, primary sort of Enemy-Class enemy that we ought to be “servicing”. We can then, having secured our civilisation, “service” people like that “Taliban” bloke who seems to be able to get lots of interesting and exciting weapons to attack our boys with. I can’t find a correct wikiref to “service”, which in the Cold War, meant “kill on the battlefield”. Sorry.