For nearly three years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to know some amazing political minds within the Libertarian movement. During that time, I have gained some really good friends within the movement and experienced events that I may not have, had I not made the connections. It has been an honor to meet and converse with the likes of Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano, John Stossel, and many other brilliant minds in the Libertarian movement.
At the end of the day, however – after conversing with and getting to know many of my libertarian friends – I still feel, in my heart, that I am a conservative. What exactly does it mean to be a true libertarian? How do conservatives and libertarians differ, exactly? Most importantly, what has convicted me to remain a conservative, rather than switch to becoming a true libertarian? This is a question that I have struggled with for quite some time, and it has recently dawned on me as to why I feel the way I do, and I am sure there are many more like me.
My first conviction comes from the fact that my founding father role models – George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin – were conservatives in the true sense of the word. They wanted a federal government to hold the union together, and they realized that a centralized government was the only way to succeed in this. Their version of a federal government was not to trample on the rights of the people; rather, it was simply to hold their republic intact. It was Hamilton, the primary architect of the Constitution, after all, who said, “Here, sir, the people govern.” These three founding fathers understood that it wasn’t government itself that causes a nation to collapse, but when that government becomes too corrupt and powerful for its people. This is reflective of Franklin responding with, “A republic, if you can keep it,” when asked what the constitutional framers had created at the Convention of 1787.
The United States of America was never intended to be a democracy. The Classical Liberals, following the ideals of minds such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, were fine with a loose republic, and would have been perfectly satisfied with the nation becoming a true democracy. Jefferson and Paine, although known for some wonderful ideas, supported the French Revolution, which Washington and Hamilton did not, as they foresaw the rise of Napoleon. Paine also showed socialist leanings, as he states in Agrarian Justice that his idea was “To create a National Fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of Fifteen Pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the system of landed property. And also, the sum of Ten Pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.” This begs me to ask a question: Why do many libertarians claim to hate socialism, but idolize Paine, who pushed for one of the earliest examples of socialism in American history? Also, how can many libertarians profess to strongly dislike Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, who shared certain moderate views on how government could be used, but idolize Paine, who openly wanted to redistribute wealth to people based simply on the fact that they owned land as property?
Last but certainly not least is how conservatives and libertarians differ on the issue of authority. Most people don’t like being told what to do; it’s a simple fact. Libertarians in particular follow a very strong “live and let live” philosophy. While this is a great policy to live by, the conservative is a realist, and he or she understands that, in this imperfect world, there will always be some form of authority. The conservative is also much more likely to come from a moral standpoint on authority, and he/she is likely unwilling to sacrifice the morality of a subject for the legality of it. Many libertarians often say that you can’t legislate morality, but I whole-heartedly disagree. America, from its conception, has always strived to uphold the moral high ground in the world, and we should always be expected to hold it. To do this, we have to start somewhere.
Many libertarians (I say many, not all) also do not share a biblical worldview like conservatives. Though many conservatives do not wish to force their theological beliefs down one’s throat, they do wish to preserve the theological backbone that America was founded on, and they understand that, without God’s help, America would be nothing. Paine, one of the libertarian founding father role models, was a deist (bordering atheist). Jefferson, another libertarian role model, was not an atheist, but he did not believe in the divinity of Christ, as many conservatives do, nor did he include Christ’s miracles when he constructed the Jefferson Bible.
On the other hand, Alexander Hamilton – a primary conservative role model – was a Christian who embraced the Ten Commandments, and even learned to recite them in Hebrew. George Washington was the first president to dedicate Thanksgiving Day in grateful honor to God for all that He had bestowed on America, only for Jefferson to discontinue the holiday until it was revived by Abraham Lincoln – a political descendant of Washington and Hamilton. In summary, the conservative understands that God’s moral code is what strengthens a nation, and His rules are not to restrict our freedom, but rather, to protect us from things that would otherwise damage our freedom.
I want to make something absolutely clear. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities that I have received through my libertarian friends. This article was not meant, in any way, to be a mockery of them, but rather, for me to explain why I cannot, in good Christian conscience, follow their path. Many of them claim that one of the key tenants to being a libertarian merely means following what the Constitution says, but does following the Constitution actually make one a libertarian? In actuality, I say it simply makes a great American. Many of them also argue that there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, but anyone with a knowledge of history knows that this is far from true. In recent years, both Democrats and Republicans have made a bad habit of not choosing what is best for the American people. Using my God-given gift, which is a knowledge of history, I can best sum it up using the words of one of my favorite presidents – Theodore Roosevelt – who said, “The Republican Party has the grandest record of any that was ever on this continent…We are the party of moral ideas. I think we can say this much, Republicans have not always done well, but it will be an evil day when they do as badly as the Democrats.”
I love my libertarian friends dearly, and though I may not share all of their same views, I am grateful for the wonderful things they have allowed me to experience, and I am grateful for their contribution to the political field.
Follow @GWSmith1993, Western Carolina University Alumnus