Bridging the Gap

DontTreadThumbby Steve Lancaster   4/30/14
A follow up to the continuing dialog  •  Conservatives and Libertarians are two sides of the same 24 karat coin. That coin, fired to purity over thousands of years, is called freedom. For the first 150 years in North America freedoms philosophy concentrated on experimenting with liberty and the colonies were the laboratory. In the Northeast colonies, Massachusetts specifically but also the other Puritan influenced colonies sought to bring an ordered liberty as the framework for government. In Virginia and the upper South another group settled with different ideas on freedom and liberty and the strong influence of ruling families with the structure of the Anglican Church as a bulwark. A third group centered in the Delaware Valley and Pennsylvania developed the concept of spiritual equality and a pluralist system of reciprocal liberty. In the unsettled frontier a forth group, mainly Scot and Irish Presbyterians developed a natural liberty.

Some of these groups conservative and libertarians will recognize as antecedents of their own. Many modern conservatives will see their intellectual roots in the ordered liberty of the Puritans or even the hierarchal liberty of Virginia. Libertarians will see their intellectual roots in the free-wheeling Scots/Irish liberty of the backcountry and the emphasis on equality in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley. In spite of their differences all agreed that freedom was the preferable human condition for living.

In religion and its practice the Anglicans were the most right wing conservative of the four basic groups. Anglicans favored a national church with state support for the clergy and a union of church and government. The southern colonies, specifically Virginia was the center of Anglicanism in the colonies. Somewhat to the right of the Anglicans were the Presbyterians who also favored a national church, but in theology were staunch Calvinists, some would say rigid. If you have ever been to a tent meeting you have participated in a Presbyterian tradition of the backwoods, Kentucky and Tennessee and the mountains became a center for them.

More centered but to the left of the Anglicans and Presbyterians were the Congregational Churches who self-defined as the “middle way”. Church government was a muddle of independent congregations, weak synods with some ministers paid and some living on offerings and handouts from the congregations. They were Calvinists in the strictest sense following a creed of austerity and settling in Massachusetts and Connecticut. To their left were the separatists, called such because of their desire to be separate from the corruption of the established church. In general terms they were Calvinist and each congregation governed its own with little ties to any kind of national organization. To the left of the Separatist are many Anabaptist churches who subscribed to the five points of Calvinism and added restrictions on baptism. Most Baptists strongly believed in separation of church and state. Strong Baptist influence can be found in Rhode Island and its surrounding areas.

Further left were the Quakers, who rejected the legitimacy of established churches, ordained clergy and even a formal liturgy. Meetings were free flow with anyone called on by the spirit to talk. Many libertarians find the concepts of Quakerism attractive particularly the concept of non-violence. Libertarians, of course only argue on the side of initiation of violence, strike a libertarian without cause and the response will be surprising; like the Marines: no better friend, no fiercer foe.

I believe it is necessary to understand that in spite of differences, sometimes violent, these groups had much in common. English was the primary language, they lived by English Common Law and for the most part they lived in nuclear households, and communities. The prevailing religion was Christian and Protestant, however Maryland was strongly Catholic and there was a strong Sephardic Jewish community in the Carolinas.

If we do not understand the origins of American concepts of freedom, it is unlikely that we can understand each other today. Modern conservatives and libertarians all have intellectual heritages in similar cultures that not only go back to immigrants in the 17th century, but trace back at least to Magna Carta. It could be argued that Cato and Brutus were the first conservatives. Jesus has some strong libertarian ideas that really set off the Pharisees of Judaism.

So, what do libertarians propose? It is a long list of government reforms that decreases the ability of government to impact our lives. We do not advocate the elimination of all government or a complete secession of all taxation. There are some public goods that government can only provide in an equal manner. So here is a short list to change the federal government and return power to local government or the people, remember the pesky 9th and 10th amendments?

1. Laws at federal and state levels regarding alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography should be repealed except for provisions about minors.

Ok, a short pause for all the social conservatives to catch their breath, regain their normal heat rates. Ok, here we go. Of course this is an emotional debate and involves two separate issues.

A. Should people be allowed to engage in behavior that is demonstratively harmful to themselves?

B. How can families and communities protect themselves from social practice they find offensive?

The answer to A. is simple, of course. You may believe that a friend who consumes Kobe beef and beer on a daily basis is causing himself harm, gaining weight and sleeping badly. You can bring that opinion to him but you have no right to force a cognizant adult to make any change. He has made a decision based on his goals for life; a shorter life is a cost he is willing to pay for the enjoyment of a marvelous steak on a daily basis washed down with his favorite brew.

The act of eating or drinking is not a punishable crime, the crimes committed by using drink or drugs is punishable. For libertarians it seems self-evident that government has no right, nor should exercise police power, to keep a competent adult from doing something others consider harmful.

In the privacy of your home you can go naked, not bathe, smoke pot, eat nothing but chips and dips, howl at the moon and associate with others who feel the same way. To do those things on someone else’s property you need permission; not likely in most communities. However, under current conditions the government will not allow you to discriminate in housing, or employment. It could be your friendly neighborhood drug dealer is a member of a “protected group” and you have little recourse to make him move, even if you own the property.

If we cannot outlaw these practices how then do communities protect themselves and their children from practice that they find invasive?

If the objective is to control vice and the harms done by it, than you are going to be able to accomplish that goal in one of two societies: either a totalitarian state or a free culture. We currently live between the two, although the trend over the last 50 years is towards totalitarianism. Vice can only thrive where it is protected, where there are restrictions on the freedom of association and subsidized by our welfare state.

The war on drugs, ongoing for at least 60 years is more significant to bureaucrats than the average person. Do you really care that heroin use is reduced by 50%? No, what you want is a policy that keeps our children from getting hooked. The proper question is what is success regarding drugs and are you able to live in a community as safe from drugs as you want to be? Think about how irrational it is for your child to attend a school where there is a drug problem? It is not hard for teachers and administrators to control schools if they have a free hand regarding discipline, suspend and expel students in 1920’s methods. Don’t ask your government to outlaw drugs, a losing proposition, send your children to a school that outlaws drugs.

If you as a parent want your children to not be exposed to drugs in any regard then you will send them to a school with regular locker inspections, perhaps drug testing and expulsion for any drug use. If you are moderately concerned than you would choose a school with less restrictive policy and if you have no concerns at all you might choose a school with strong personal rights program that includes due process and warrants. The point being that you would choose the policy and to make this happen you need parental control of school funding with unrestricted vouchers. It is not likely that we could ever again have schools solely supported by the parents and as a social good evenly distributing the burden of funding vouchers giving parent’s choice make sense.

The same applies to neighborhoods and workplaces, only without vouchers. Landlords and employers need the ability to manage their property and business in a manner that fits their perception of a drug free house or workplace. An employer could state up front his drug policy as lax or stringent as they deem necessary, an aggressive policy might force employees to consider that doing drugs, even on their own time is a threat to their employment. Most employers will take a practical view and follow a policy that forbids drugs in the workplace and encourages staff to show up for work sober and stay that way while at work. Since few employers will knowingly hire drug users than drug use follows with an action taken to terminate the person involved, no questions asked, proven insobriety in the workplace no job. However, the heavy hand of federal regulation and unions must be brought down to necessary limits.

This type of argument can be taken to other activities commonly called vice and are subject social control. Social control needs to be the mechanism rather than the heavy hand of government police power. From the first settlers in the 17th century until the mid-1960’s this was a method that worked. Dare I say it? A conservative approach.

Every action has an economic ramification the more control landlords exercise perhaps the fewer tenants will seek to live in his housing, aggressive drug testing in the workplace may limit the qualified applicants he can hire. A lax policy may encourage applicants but could encourage drug use. A community can balance what they will tolerate and what they will not. Regulation by fiat from DC only gives a faceless bureaucrat the power to decide. • (3152 views)

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49 Responses to Bridging the Gap

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    1. Laws at federal and state levels regarding alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography should be repealed except for provisions about minors.

    I haven’t taken time to read all this yet, but if this is your first priority regarding trying to reduce Leviathan, then libertarians every bit deserve the title of “libertines.”

    Libertarians’ obsession with legalizing drugs — while ignoring the real problems of Big Government — is yet another reason why libertarianism is feckless, at best. You ought to just change your name to the Free Love and Drugs Party and be done with it.


      I’m going to second what Brad said here (not meaning to gang up on you, Steve, but Brad I and tend to think alike). I raised the same point (by implication) in my reply to what I believe was part 1 of this piece. The Democratic Left is openly advocating crushing its enemies (us) by using the IRS and other government agencies, regulating political speech, and registering guns (so that they may be confiscated, of course), and your #1 concern is making sure pot parties with call girls are legal? To use a comic-book expression: ARGGHHHH!

      Don’t you think, Steve, we should secure our basic freedoms first, before we throw our party, get wasted, and attempt to stimulate the limp Obama economy (among other things) by purchasing the favors of ladies of the evening?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Yes, it’s a matter of priorities, and the Bill of Rights should be the top priority. Note that quintessential liberal John Paul Stevens (former a SCOTUS Injustice) would like to edit out those rights he finds inconvenient. (As Jimmy Stewart says of the Klan in The FBI Story, “They didn’t like the Bill of Rights.”) The failure to see this, and to realize what it means, is a failure of most libertarians as far as I can see (in fairness, I don’t know that Steve is one of those, though he fails to make that his priority), as well as the GOP Establishment.


          Yes, I read excerpts of the Stevens interview, and it was disgraceful – absolutely no concept of individual rights or an understanding that limiting government is what the Constitution is all about. One of the reasons we’ve got so many bad Supreme Court Justices is that the Left long ago marched through our Law Schools, with the result that you can’t get a law degree any more without being indoctrinated into Left-wing politics. Most especially, we have to exclude graduates from places like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton from consideration for the bench – they’re basically all going to be too far Left.

          As for Steve, I think of him as a sort of closet-Conservative, ashamed to come out because he can’t abandon the Left’s caricature of Conservatives as hellfire-and-damnation religious maniacs. His attempt to bridge the gap between Libertarians and Conservatives is sincere but in the end hopeless because he’s building from the wrong side – Conservatives to Libertarians – instead of from Libertarian to Conservative. It is they who need to join us, not the other way around, and I think Steve is having trouble accepting that.

          • steve lancaster says:

            If I am a closet conservative does that make you a closet statist?

            If you desire to call me a conservative, because I favor very limited federal government, limited local government and free markets and expanded individual freedom than go for I really don’t care.

            But if you desire government to address social issues of individual freedom than you are only talking the talk of individual freedom and when you encounter a free individual it scares you.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I generally have taken a libertarian approach to moral issues. The fate of Brendan Eich (and he’s merely the latest example; several others lost jobs because of their “homophobia” and the viciousness of the Lavender Thought Police) is an indication that I may have been mistaken to do so. It’s better to ban immoral behavior than to ban the advocacy of moral behavior, which is what the Left is doing (currently mostly by “private” intimidation) today.

            • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

              I’ve never yet been scared of a Libertarian, although I do find my patience growing shorter and shorter with them for reasons that should be obvious. If by “social issues” you are referring to SSM and abortion, I must tell you that calling Conservatives “statist” because we want to protect human lives with the force of law (which is what it’s there for, you know) and preserve marriage because of its importance to maintaining a functioning, decent society, then you’re way off base. This is one of the places where Libertarian thinking tends to go seriously awry, and you are unable to refute the points I have made on this subject.

              Like it or not, your choices are two: join up with us and accept that we’re not changing for your sake, or sit on the sidelines and sulk why we try to save our freedom and this country.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Not just our freedom, but theirs as well, if they dissent in any way, on any issue from liberal orthodoxy.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Geez, Nik. You nailed it again. We do think alike. When I go on vacation, you can be my Mark Steyn. 😀

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I see someone’s been reading Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer. That does make for a good beginning. You do have some interesting points that our War on Drugs has been a rout in favor of drugs (and drug-dealers). Whether your approach would work better, I don’t know. Prohibition probably did reduce the consumption of alcohol, and no doubt drug prohibition does the same. But we do pay a very heavy price in corruption for the War on Drugs.

    But I can also understand Brad Nelson’s concern that removing bans on libertine behavior seems to be such a priority. Ann Coulter once offered to run as the LP candidate for the Connecticut 4th CD (then represented by Chris Shays), but the deal fell through because she supports anti-drug laws. She might be more libertarian than anyone else who had a chance of winning the district, and they could agree on most of the really major issues and agree to disagree on the others until the major concerns were out of the way, but NO. Makes you wonder whether the LP really considered the various other issues (such as free speech, excessive taxes and spending, and micro-management of business) as important as legalizing drugs. For that matter, would they consider getting rid of drug bans more important than getting rid of bans on large soft drinks or smoking in your own apartment?

  3. steve lancaster says:

    Read Alibon’s Seed in the 1980’s and taught several classes from it.

    The point is that these are issues best left to the lowest levels of government, notice I said federal and state repeal of these laws not city and county. It is local police that are charged with enforcing prohibitions and local communities should have the only say in how they are enforced. Here in Arkansas about half of the counties are dry and have been since prohibition, yet the alcoholism rate is statistically the same in dry counties and cities as wet and DUI’s are often higher in the dry counties than in the wet.

    If, for example, your church First Church, after years of debate brings to the congregation a motion to amend the bylaws allowing for homosexual marriage fully sanctioned by First Church. You have a choice; you can state your opinion for or against and attempt to persuade a majority to your point of view. If that effort fails you have to option of moving on to a congregation more in line with your views or living with a majority decision.
    It is not any different with the list I gave.

    My point is that only a totalitarian state can command from above with any chance of success. For over 200 years local controls worked with more success than mandates from DC. Prostitution is legal in rural counties in Nevada the owners of these establishments may be sleazy, but they pay their taxes, and the men and women who work there are not subjected to abusive pimps and STD testing is an ongoing effort. Clark county had over 500 reported cases of HIV last year, Nye county home of three legal brothels had none.

    No one is saying that you need to like or agree with what an adult chooses to do with their time, money or body but if you are going to take a conservative view of freedom you should acknowledge that local control makes more sense.

  4. Anniel says:

    Reading this leaves me with a hollow feeling in my gut when I think of the havoc wrought on the innocent by drug and alcohol abusers. I just get itchy at the idea that a community may act only after the fact. Isn’t that what you are really saying? Yes, there are problems in our approaches to Law enforcement and I’m no expert on the matter, but I do want my grandbabies protected before any harm comes to them.

  5. steve lancaster says:

    You can and should act as a community to control drugs. You can discourage landlords from renting to drug users and you can make enforcement efforts, but beware of the ever present heavy hand of the federal and state government. Drugs are like water you can dam them up for a while, but sooner or later they seek their own level. You have to take charge of what comes and goes into your home and community once you allow the federal government entry its the house guest that will not go home.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      So basically you’re taking the Nevada approach (prostitution is legal in most of the state, but not Las Vegas, Reno, and Carson City — except by the politicians in the latter case, of course). I think state action is legitimate, but I do agree that the federal government should have nothing to do with all or most of these issues aside from those places actually under federal jurisdiction (which should be rare).

  6. steve lancaster says:

    Then we have bridged a gap. I can live with some state oversight as long as it is limited to setting a uniform policy, as long as the licensing authority is local and courts are willing to enforce tort and criminal law. You see in the long run we do come back to don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.

  7. Anniel says:

    Getting a community to control drug and alcohol users when it’s cold out, and Alaska does get cold, is almost impossible. Our community just went through the process of converting a Red Roof Inn into a homeless facility, with no restrictions on drinking. The inhabitants get free, warm and comfortable housing and can drink in their rooms. They probably do drugs, too. There have been 3 or 4 deaths there already and I’m sure the women are really safe. The surrounding businesses and their customers have to put up with street people in various states of public inebriation, all in the name of compassion and understanding. I have seen the results of what happens when an alcoholic is in the last stages of his or her disease. The day will come when the building will be so filthy that the city will have to burn it. I wish there were easy answers but I don’t have a clue. You are right about the government of course.

  8. Rosalys says:

    You almost persuade me to become a Libertarian! What I really object to about Libertarians is the Utopianism. As for the drugs, alcohol, and gambling, what you do in your own home and on your own dime is your business. What you do in the public square and on my dime becomes my business. I think that if one is hell bent on wasting away his life in a drunken stupor, there isn’t much that I can do about it, and all the treatment and counseling centers are more about milking the system than treating the afflicted. What concerns me most is that these people have families who are deeply affected and it isn’t always possible to remove yourself from the consequences of Daddy’s drunkeness.

    But I do agree that Conservatives have much in common with Libertarianism and so I refuse to just dismiss them out of hand. There seems to be a variety of thought among Libertarians as there is with most groups. The Libertarianism described in this article is more attractive than most. I’m not going to join the club, but maybe I can be an associate member.

    • steve lancaster says:

      Thanks Rosalys,
      Libertarians are like herding cats, no one stays put and they never go in the same direction. My most difficult arguments are with fellow libertarians not conservatives.


        May I suggest, Steve, that if Libertarians “never go in the same direction” it’s going to be mighty difficult to turn them into a coherent political movement?


      Rosalys – I don’t want to blow my own horn all the time, but in Libertarianism Minus Conservatism = Zero, I believe I pretty well established the reason that “Conservatives have much in common with Libertarianism” is because Libertarians have consistently poached the ideas of classical liberalism, the chief source of Conservative politics – without, of course, acknowledging their debt, but instead stamping “Libertarian” on them as if Libertarianism went back to the Enlightenment. If you look at them carefully, I think you’ll see that Libertarians do not have any original political ideas to offer to Conservatives. In brief, we don’t really need Libertarians for anything, except to refrain from drawing enough votes away from Republicans to elect more Democrats.


    To save your kids from drugs, don’t make selling drugs to kids illegal – send your kids to drug-free schools! Steve, this is frankly bizarre, and reveals an odd kind of extremism – remember that even William F. Buckley Jr., who believed the war on drugs was lost, did not favor legalizing sales to children! Apparently, Libertarians can’t abide any drug laws, even where kids are concerned. On top of that, your proposal assumes parents have a choice on which school to send their kids to; in other words, you presume a system of private education. Fine with me, but shouldn’t that have come first?

    Finally, your tour of early religious sects in America was interesting, but I’m not at all sure you’ve got their political leanings straight, especially with your use of the terms “left” and “right” (which I believe are capable of definition, but as opposite ends of a one-dimensional spectrum of freedom). I’ll only focus on one statement here:

    “Libertarians will see their intellectual roots in the free-wheeling Scots/Irish liberty of the backcountry and the emphasis on equality in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley.”

    With all that Colorado-style smoke in the air, Libertarians may see their intellectual roots in the UPC code on the back of a pizza box for all I know, but the fact is those roots only go back as far as the idiosyncratic anarchism of Murray Rothbard in the 1960’s. Anything else is an attempt to co-opt the ideas of those who did not consider themselves Libertarian.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      For what it’s worth (and per contra a song from the musical 1776), the “left” and “right” terminology comes from the National Assembly created after the onset of the French Revolution.


        Yes, and I mean to advocate for its revival, that is, for a one-dimensional approach to understanding the gradations of liberty, from fully free to complete serfdom. The Left and Libertarians are always trying to obfuscate this simple model because it benefits them to pretend that Nazism and Fascism are somehow on the Right with Conservatism. See, e.g. the preposterous diamond-shaped diagram favored by Libertarians, with Libertarianism occupying the supreme pinnacle of reason and freedom – second base!

        French politics are fascinating, by the way. Steve might want to take note of the fact that French Libertarians are no more than a debating society over there, and everyone knows it.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Have you ever read John Steinbeck’s The Short Reign of Pippin IV? A very nice parody of French politics of his era.


            No – in fact I’ve never even heard of it! I generally avoid Steinbeck because I find his view of life depressing and worse, but The Short Reign of Pippin IV sounds like it’s worth looking at.

    • steve lancaster says:

      You seem to be obsessed with Murray Rothbard and nothing I suggest, to the best of my knowledge is in his work. I am suggesting that the free market in education will control behavior we both do not find acceptable. You seem to be on the side of more laws and greater enforcement. I find that option to be null, unless you are advocating a totalitarian state which is a strange position for a conservative.


        Really, Steve – you think I’m a totalitarian? Perhaps the inability to perceive reality correctly is the hallmark of the hidebound Libertarian. I haven’t expressed any detailed views on drugs here on ST because it’s a marginal issue and not something we can afford to get bogged down by as the Left has pulled this country either near or past the tipping point where they can no longer be stopped by elections.

        Just think about that for a moment – we are, in my opinion, either past the point or at least close to it when the Left institutes effective one-party rule and can no longer be stopped by anything short of collapse, secession, or revolution – and you’re worrying about drug laws! This is one of the reasons why Libertarianism is not taken very seriously by the general public.

        Well anyway, for your edification, my views on drug prohibition are very similar to WFB’s (and, I think, to Tim’s as well) – we recognize the war on drugs has been a failure and that the “cure,” in the form of destroying people’s lives with prison sentences and tolerating outrageous police abuses, is worse than the “disease” of drug use itself. I personally think this is unavoidable any time we criminalize self-destructive behavior that does not violate the rights of others, but that is a theory for another day.

        As to the origins of Libertarianism, like it or not, Rothbard is very much a central figure of the movement, and I stand by my analysis in Libertarianism Minus Conservatism = Zero – there are no “Libertarian” ideas as such, only ideas smuggled in from classical liberalism or Randian objectivism.

        • steve lancaster says:

          OK, NAHALKIDES,
          For over fifty years the federal government has conducted the so-called war on drugs. In any manner of evaluation it has been a dismal failure in the US and Mexico. Northern Mexico has become a free-fire zone from Tijuana to Juarez.

          Since we do not have control of Mexican policies exactly what would you do to lessen the impact of drugs, or fix the problem in the US?


            I’d stop worrying about it until I had dealt with the more pressing concern of restoring basic freedom and prosperity to this country, which could be done without addressing drug laws at all. But if for some strange reason I accepted Libertarian priorities and decided to waste my energy formulating drug policies while the Democratic Left passes “Hate Speech” laws and confiscates our guns, I would probably favor a broad liberalization of drug laws at both the state and federal levels except those regarding minors.

            The Federal government has no business making “possession” laws at all, for the simple reason that it does not possess the police power. It probably has the authority to interdict imports and perhaps to impose some regulations on interstate shipments. At the state level, I think I’d legalize both possession and sale of most drugs, because without a legal means of obtaining them, criminal syndicates would continue to flourish.

            And then I’d hope like hell Libertarianism and its ally Progressivism hasn’t so corrupted the ability of my fellow citizens to think clearly and make sound moral judgments that drug use does not substantially increase. Libertarianism is dangerous because it combines the freedom to act with a total lack of concern about the moral values that tell us how to act, and the result could be a Colorado-style non-stop-pot-party among those who are supposed to be functioning citizens.

            O.K.? Can we get back to more pressing matters, like fighting for our lives against the Democratic Left now?

  10. steve lancaster says:

    So your answer is essentially the libertarian position I have taken

    Me: Laws at federal and state levels regarding alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography should be repealed except for provisions about minors.

    You: I would probably favor a broad liberalization of drug laws at both the state and federal levels except those regarding minors.

    I spent nearly 20 years of my life on the front line killing communists and other statists in Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East. I know full well what challenges we face today from a government that has forgotten why it exists and that the principles of freedom are hard won and easily lost.

    The issue is now and always has been freedom. Can we agree on that?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      But our point is that the Left’s attempt to use 1984 as a model is far more urgent than drug laws.


      Yes, we can agree on that. But unless Libertarians are willing to join with Conservatives, and accept Conservative leadership, and understand that we’re not budging on same-sex marriage or abortion, nor are we about to accept Ron Paul’s foreign policy/national defense ideas (typical of Libertarians, by the way), nor are we going to drop everything else to concentrate on drug laws, you’re not much use, are you? This comes back to the relative strengths of our two movements and the internal contradictions of Libertarianism.

      If Libertarians want a piece of the action, it has to be on those terms – otherwise, they’re just a drag and a strain on the one political force, namely Conservatism, that has the slightest chance of defeating the Left.

  11. steve lancaster says:

    I see,
    My way or the highway, well you are no use if you focus on hindering liberty instead of finding a way to make it work; as it did for over 300 years until the 1960’s.

    I personally find Rand Paul’s ideas on foreign policy simplistic for the 21st century, as far as abortion goes my views are well known on these pages as for same sex marriage, well you seem to care about it a lot I don’t except as part of the broader issue of government interference in our personal lives. Government does not at any level have an interest in marriage, that is a religious issue and not a political one. Get the government out of it and rely on contract law for sanction regarding all the issues surrounding it and the issue of who marries who goes away.

    What you find unacceptable is homosexual couples attempting to force their way into your church or social group by way of marriage. It may surprise you but I agree with you. Freedom of association is a natural right and you can and should have a say in who you associate. If your church decides to accept homosexual couples or clergy you have the option of leaving. I left the Presbyterian (PCUSA) for that very reason, so I might add have over a million others.

    I do not need your sanction to be a free individual, seeking to live a free life making my own decisions and taking responsibility for the bad ones and reward for the good ones. If I am right a return to the liberty we knew as Americans before the welfare state is possible; if I am wrong than all the social conservative angst will not make a change.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Unfortunately, tax and inheritance law mean that the government can’t get out of the homosexual marriage issue completely (though I would agree that it should be as little involved as possible). Note that the issue is not banning homosexual marriage, but formal state recognition of it. But as the Brendan Eich inquisition shows, the real issue is that the Lavender Thought Police are unwilling to allow other people to dissent. I’d rather adopt the Saudi policy on homosexuality than what we have now in America. Free expression is the sine qua non of my politics, and liberalism is inherently hostile to it. No one who has any form of Thought Police (which conservatives, even those who favor banning homosexual behavior, don’t have) can ever be in any way acceptable.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        A flat tax would solve that concern and inheritance is a legal issue not a government concern.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          “Legal” issues are government concerns. Even a flat tax is likely to have deductions for family/dependents. Without something of the sort, it would never pass.


            Exactly – legal issues are government concerns by definition. It’s odd that Steve doesn’t see that, but it may explain why he and other Libertarians keep making the absurd claim that marriage (by definition a legal status bridging all religions) has nothing to do with government!


      Steve – I don’t know why this is hard for you to face, but the fact is you and your fellow Libertarians are a negligible factor in American politics on your own. Your only chance to get a goodly portion of what you want (other than drug legalization) is to join with us Conservatives, because we are much stronger than you. I added the emphasis in the hope it might sink in. I’m sorry if it crushes the Libertarian ego, but you guys are so few and so poorly organized the only effect you have ever had is to elect more Democrats.

      As a practical matter, whether you like it or not, your either join with us Conservatives or you lose – big time. Those are the facts of reality at the present time, and I hope you can face them.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        They only lose big time if (like Steve) they actually are concerned with economic liberty and free speech and such. Those whose primary concern is libertine behavior (such as some libertarians I’ve encountered) will be quite happy to see more Democrats elected. And if they end up with a Fascist state, so what, as long as they can shoot up and screw around to their heart’s content without consequence (or none they consider)?


          I’m afraid you’re right about that, Tim, now that I think about it. They really see the Left as “good” on non-economic issues, and might prefer to join with them to get their libertine agenda passed, and never mind that they’ll be packed off to the gulag not long after we Conservatives are once the Left has seized absolute power.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Yes, this is something I encountered from William H. Stoddard, sometime editor of Prometheus (the publication of the Libertarian Futurist Society). He preferreded the Democrats because of their love of abortion.

  12. steve lancaster says:

    Sorry but advise and sarcasm from someone who does not have the courage to use his own name is of no use to me. I have made no secret of my name or where I live, if you want a specific, Fayetteville AR. but remember you are dealing with a Marine who is seriously lacking in negotiation skills and even at 66 is a terror at combat. See you on the range.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Steve, you’re likely just joking around. But we should probably avoid things that sound like a threat.

      I know how frustrating it can get arguing a view and trying to persuade somebody else. This is why more than one discussion I’ve had in real life has ended in arguments. Partly that is because I don’t suffer fools gladly. I don’t have a tendency to just smile and say “Oh, isn’t that nice” when I think someone believes total rubbish.

      And I have to say, I’ve haven’t been at all convinced by libertarian arguments, yours or anyone else’s. In fact, when I started this site, I had every intention to make it a conservative/old-style-libertarian site. But the more I learned about libertarianism, the more I understood that libertarians are not our friends. Hey, neither are Establishment Republicans, so that’s hardly shocking.

      I think, as was said in Cool Hand Luke, what we have is a failure to communicate. I will grant you every which way from Friday that many conservatives are not particularly conservative. Many are quite happy with the enlarged state. Many Christians aren’t Christians either, which has been a theme of mine and was taken up in a recent article by Janice Shaw Crouse titled America’s Appalling Ignorance of Christianity.

      I think much of our rich legacy of thought and ideas has been lost because of the Left. And even Jonah Goldberg agrees. In a recent article he wrote:

      Some might say the military-industrial complex or the national-security state. But not me. To me, the most obvious dangerous legacy of the Cold War would have to be the damage the Soviets did to the world. I don’t mean the millions they murdered; those dead do not threaten us now, even if they should haunt us.

      I mean the relentless distortion of the truth, the psychological violence they visited on the West and the World via their useful idiots and their agents. I’m thinking not merely of the intellectual corruption of the American Left (which even folks like Richard Rorty had to concede), but the corruption of reformers and their movements around the globe. Soviet propaganda still contaminates, while nuclear fallout does not. Lies about America, the West, and the nature of democratic capitalism live on throughout the third world and in radioactive pockets on American campuses.

      One of those radioactive pockets seems to be libertarianism. Mr. Kung calls the movement “The Bolsheviks of the Right.” I find myself agreeing with him more and more. And Nik makes several good points as well. And so far you haven’t really answered him.

      Again, I think it is a failure to communicate. And what I think is being failed to be communicated is that libertarianism is more of an identity than a political philosophy. I think Dan Quayle might have called it just another “lifestyle choice.” You want drugs and prostitution to be legalized. And yet you also supposedly (unless I’m wrong about this) want to help restore America, Western Civilization, and the Constitution. But America and the West were never about establishing as legitimate the worst instincts of mankind.

      So I don’t at all see how libertarianism is actually for limited government or baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. In practice, that just seems to be lip-service meant to either deceive or self-deceive. And, in practice, libertarians have not backed conservative (or even semi-conservative) candidates and have often instead either wasted their vote on some fringe libertarian candidate, voted for the Left, or just stayed home. You have utopian and perfectionistic aspirations…and/or are not just a heresy of conservatism (otherwise reconcilable) but are something else altogether.

      You seem like a nice guy and you’ve provided several thoughtful articles and reviews. But I’m pretty much over discussing libertarianism. It’s not a coherent set of principles. It seems more like some kind of yute identity. And it’s fine to have an identity. But it makes it difficult to discuss the politics of the identity when it seems the politics are actually secondary, or a smoke screen. It’s the identity of “libertarian” that seems to count for most.

      Nik and others have tried to tweak out what might be behind this, as have I. Have libertarians soaked up the same anti-conservative and anti-Christian bigotry that is “out there” in the culture at large? My guess is that this is so, going back to what Jonah said about some of the lasting after-effects of Communism and the Left. So few libertarians seem to have even the barest idea of what a conservative is. They seem to share the same caricature that is “out there” in the culture long polluted by Leftism. We’re dismissed, if not secretly sneered at.

      Suffice it to say, I have yet to come away with a feeling of honesty regarding libertarians. There just seems to be so much hidden under the surface, so much unstated, so many thoughts unrealized or not crystalized. That’s one reason I did that blog post, What is American conservatism? I did it as an exercise and as a way to show that conservative principles are not hidden, they’re not stealthy, and they’re not particularly obscure. But when dealing with libertarians, it always seems like boxing with your shadow. There is so much deflection and fuzziness that one is left (as I am) supposing that libertarianism is the equivalent of a mental tattoo, marking one as a certain “type,” rather than it being any kind of coherent political philosophy.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I think there is such a thing as libertarianism as Steve presents it, based intellectually on various concepts of freedom that have been around for decades (Ayn Rand, Rose Wilder Lane, and Isabel Patterson were progenitors back in the 1940s). But it’s also very convenient for a lot of people whose main concern is justifying a self-indulgent lifestyle (as in one of L. Neil Smith’s novels, in which a Libertarian offers a “Thank you for pot smoking” button — whatever one thinks of legalizing marijuana use, no sensible person would advocate it).

        Which group is larger, I don’t know — but it would help if the “real” libertarians didn’t consider the self-indulgent aspects such a high priority. We can agree that we want to reduce the size of government, and accept that eventually we’ll disagree on some moral issues — but how many libertarians are willing to do that? Obviously, none of those for whom libertarianism is just an excuse. How many others are willing to go along with such a deal?

        • steve lancaster says:

          We can agree that we want to reduce the size of government, and accept that eventually we’ll disagree on some moral issues — but how many libertarians are willing to do that?

          I will sign on under those stipulations. All I have written deals with individual freedom not state approved freedom. At no time have I advocated LICENSE as policy or lifestyle and I have consistently said that there are consequences for actions, good and bad.

          The utter fecklessness of the progressives has destroyed several generations of Americans and there is as Charles Murray suggests a divergent culture among the elites in business, education and government that if successful over the next ten yeas will destroy the ideals that make America what it is.

          I have repeatedly stated my positions asking no one to give up social conservationism, but to suggest that there are other methods of skinning the narcissistic progressive. I will continue to do so.

          If you are sincere about ending the progressive state we can work together and be successful. If not then I will follow the advise of David Crockett in his last speech in Congress, “you can all go to hell, I’m going to Texas”


      Steve, I’ve obviously really gotten under your skin here, which wasn’t my purpose, but you must see the classic ad hominem in your argument: “You use a pen name, therefore you lack courage and your complete demolition of Libertarian pseudo-philosophy (I’m patting myself on the back a little here, I confess) is therefore invalidated.” As Brad pointed out in his response to you, you haven’t been able to refute any of the (many) points I’ve made, even if I were “hiding” behind a pen name (which in the age of Obama may be fully justified).

      And that brings a smile to my face, because I’ve been accused of that sort of “cowardice” once or twice before on NRO, and the truth is that “NAHALKIDES” is my own name! I’ve always signed my writing (long before Brad started ST) “N. A. Halkides” – in fact I used to sign my computer programs the same way before government interventionism caused the crash, the 2nd Depression, and cost me my job. I haven’t advertised my location as more specific than “Chicago” but with a name like “Halkides” anyone could find me if they really wanted to.

      As for meeting me on the range, well, I don’t take that as a threat. As a matter of fact, if I were ever in your neighborhood, I’d like to go to the range with you – as an ex-marine (“Every man a rifleman”), I’m sure you could help me improve my skills with my M4 (civilian version, Obama’s BATF please note, and please don’t break down my door in the middle of the night). Although as long as you’re holding your rifle, I believe I’ll take the precaution of not aiming any pot-shots at Libertarianism and confine myself to the targets downrange!

      Finally, let me try to set things as straight as I can. Even before today, I had pretty much decided that if you wrote another article in the same vein as this one, I’d just let it slide because I’ve already said a lot(!) on the subject of Libertarianism, and because I do feel a little badly about the reception you’ve received here on ST from me and everyone else. Not that our comments haven’t been justified – they have – or that any of us holds any malice in our hearts toward you (we don’t). No, it’s that your obvious sincerity in trying to bridge an unbridgeable divide by bringing Conservatives around to your way of thinking (possibly without realizing that’s what you were doing) was met, and had to be met, with a stern rebuff.

      I regret that we could not somehow have been gentler even though I know and can see in our responses the obvious efforts Tim, Brad, and I made to be as gentle as we could while saying “No” to adopting the fatal Libertarian conceit: that politics may be conducted without reference to moral values, and with a sort of floating abstraction of “freedom” as the chief, axiomatic good, despite the fact that neither “freedom” nor “good” can be understood without morality.

      We would be poor Conservatives and even poorer Christians if we did not feel for you, Steve, and appreciate the sincerity of your efforts, and hurt along with you even as we must reject your offering – and I think our words here, along with Brad’s willingness to publish you in the first place, testify to our sincerity. But we come back as we always must to the lateness of the hour and the desperate plight of freedom in the world. Brad started ST and the rest of us write for it because we understand those things, and we haven’t the time for long side-excursions into the Libertarian preoccupation with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.

      You were a warrior for freedom once, Steve, and you may become one once again – but only if you join with Conservatives, the one political force that has any chance at all of saving this country, because we cannot join with you as you are today. You have tried to build a bridge from Conservatism to Libertarianism, which means a one-way path from the first to the second, and it can’t work. Try building it in the other direction, and then come over to our side. All of us would welcome you with open arms and gladdened hearts.


      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I made to be as gentle as we could while saying “No” to adopting the fatal Libertarian conceit: that politics may be conducted without reference to moral values, and with a sort of floating abstraction of “freedom” as the chief, axiomatic good, despite the fact that neither “freedom” nor “good” can be understood without morality.

        That’s extremely well said, Nik. Most of my brushes with libertarians has shown them to be amoral, at best. And this shuffling off of morality becomes a learned habit. It becomes little different from the multiculturalism of the Left. I’m not talking about Steve, necessarily, but one libertarian had the audacity to tell me that Iran would be just fine if we would just trade freely with them. And it was his opinion that Israel is the real problem.

        What can you say to a person such as this? We can debate what to do about Iran. But to suppose that Iran is not a threat is bizarrely foolish. I question the ability of libertarians to think in ways that are wiser and more complex than those they stereotype as dumb. And, indeed, the “Progressive” policies of Bush and others toward the Muslims in the Middle East are worse than naive. We might agree on that. But that doesn’t mean that the goofy stuff coming out of the mouth of Ron Paul is the only alternative. There are alternatives to dumb and dumber.

        I see libertarianism more as a cult or an identity. The ideas they present do not stand even the barest logical scrutiny. Few of the problems we face today are easy. And none of them are made easier by the bumper-sticker thinking of libertarians.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I see libertarianism more as a cult or an identity.

          And the mantra of the largest Libertarian sect is “aum, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll”

  13. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    There is so much deflection and fuzziness that one is left (as I am) supposing that libertarianism is the equivalent of a mental tattoo, marking one as a certain “type,” rather than it being any kind of coherent political philosophy.

    Well said Brad.

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