We have written several times herein about the political spectrum of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. Indeed, we have gone so far as to say that libertarians are really just liberals who happen to be fiscal conservatives. This is an idea which was, it seemed, cemented at a recent time when we read that some some libertarians have come to like the term 'liberaltarians'(we must thank a friend of a friend who pointed this out). But sometimes other things come along which give us pause.
In a speech given at Hillsdale College here in Michigan and reprinted in their neat little pamphlet called Imprimis (the particular article can be found here: http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis.asp) William McGurn, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, makes the case that libertarians and conservatives are actually much closer. Why? Due to the libertarian emphasis on economics and economic justice.
It is a fascinating speech and we will not attempt to repeat it in detail. But the gist is that what conservatives and those who share the ideal of economic freedom have in common is the belief that it is freedom which drives the machine which improves the human condition. This is because freedom allows greater innovations and deeper thought in decision making than any type of state controls might allow. Freedom invented the wheel, the cam, and the steam engine. Freedom eradicated disease. Freedom improved agriculture, advanced science, and opened minds. And why does freedom work?
Because it offers a positive trust in the individual.
This is not to say that what individuals may or may not do is boundless. But it is to say that, where there is no moral affront involved, freedom works. To be sure, and Mr. McGurn points this out, there are differences between libertarians and conservatives, and the differences matter. Still, it is at least arguable that the right wing and the libertarian are closer than the latter may be to the liberal because the liberal ultimately believes in government control of people and things despite how he may protest otherwise. That's why they go to the bureaucrats and the courts when the don't get their way. They believe in force, not freedom.
We are closer, perhaps, to libertarians than liberals are because we share, even if from different starting points, the same essential belief in individual human beings. The full bodied libertarian and the blue blooded conservative are so much concerned about human relations that it makes differences more acute, precisely because we are seeking to do and support what's right. Liberals believe in a vague, amorphous humanity, defined ultimately by their whim. Conservatives and libertarians believe in real, flesh and blood people.
Mr. McGurn suggests that we are sides of a coin. It is an idea which deserves more discussion.