Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thoughts On Unifying Libertarians And Conservatives

Thoughts On Unifying Libertarians And ConservativesMy take on this by Peter Berkowitz's argument for the harmonization of conservatives and libertarians.

 What distinguishes say Burkean conservatism from classical liberalism? 

The former wants to go slow--despite the American Revolution--in policy change, be incremental, be concerned about unintended consequences, wants to emphasize traditions for at least two reasons--a presumptive bulwark against radical policy change and the organic continuity of the past into the present, our bonds with out past being the meaning of who we are nationally. 

So on this conception, there is no necessary denigration of government or even the imposition of government in our lives. Rather government working within the imperatives of going slow, being incremental, and respectful of traditions is fine. One could say the emphasis is on the polity as such and not so much on the individual and perhaps harkens to an aristocratic notion of regime, the complete appropriateness of betters ruling lessers. Hence perhaps Berkowitz's shorthand conceptualization of conservatism as virtue. Normatively, tradition yields stability, predictability and so traditional institutions such as, writ large, the state as manifestation of its past and, smaller, the family, the church, local communities, and within those habits of respect, civility, obedience to authority. And other things too.

Classical liberalism is not so concerned with tradition, our organic connection to the past or the nature of the state as such save for what it minimally ought to be. It focuses on the individual. It sees its ideal in individual liberty, in unleashing the potencies of that, of the manifestation of that in the market, entrepreneurial energy, competition, where the role of the state is to set the minimum conditions for allowing that to flourish and to secure it all including securing the state. Decentralization is a watch word here and central planning is anathema as an individual energy killer. More deeply, in this tradition, is a philosophic  commitment to the primacy of the individual as a principled starting point, a natural law commitment to inalienable rights preceding states (which, could be consistent with Burkean conservatism--but I don't know that.) So there is no right in the state to do more than what its minimal role is, which is to safeguard individual liberty and the enterprise it unleashes. Laissez faire, as they taught in grade 10 social studies. And here the shorthand conceptual counterpoint to virtue is liberty. 

I'm uncertain how this all works out in foreign policy. What positions necessarily flow from the starting premises. 

On the social issues side, I can't readily see a harmonization of the two positions. There is no necessary or compelling reason emerging from classical liberalism's starting premises that could be argued to commit it Berkowitz's idea for virtue; and, more, classical liberalism is doctrinally set against aristocratic notions of man and government that for Burke lead to the imperatives of hierarchy, rank, and tradition in the structuring of societies.  

On the law and order side, from the standpoint of criminal law I can see compatibility in criminal law against harming conduct but direct incompatibility on criminalizing non harming but aguably offensive conduct.

On the fiscal policy side, I don't see necessary compatibility or incompatibility but can see tensions between perhaps conservatives' willingness for state regulation to enhance the desiderata of stability and predictability and classical liberals' willingness to tolerate some upheaval, disorder, unpredictability in the unleashing of individual energy. In two words, again, laissez faire. 

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