Libertarian conservatism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Barry Goldwater, writer of Conscience of a Conservative, was a notable libertarian conservative figure.

Libertarian conservatism,[1][2] also referred to as conservative libertarianism[3][4][5] and conservatarianism,[6][7] is a political and social philosophy that combines conservatism and libertarianism, representing the libertarian wing of conservatism and vice versa.[8]

Libertarian conservatism advocates the greatest possible economic liberty and the least possible government regulation of social life (described as "small government"), mirroring laissez-faire classical liberalism, but harnesses this to a belief in a more socially conservative philosophy emphasizing authority, morality, and duty.[1] Primarily an American ideology, libertarian conservatism prioritizes liberty, promoting free expression, freedom of choice and free-market capitalism to achieve conservative ends while rejecting liberal social engineering.[9]

Although having similarities to liberal conservatism and therefore mainstream American conservatism with both being influenced by classical liberal thought;[10] libertarian conservatives are far more anti-statist and are much more hostile to government intervention in both social and economic matters.[11]



In political science, libertarian conservatism is an ideology that combines the advocacy of economic and legal principles such as fiscal discipline, respect for contracts, defense of private property and free markets,[8] fewer laws banning minor crimes, and the traditional conservative stress on self-help and freedom of choice under a laissez-faire and economically liberal capitalist society with social tenets such as the importance of religion and the value of religious morality[12] through a framework of limited, constitutional, representative government.[13] For Margaret Randall, libertarian conservatism began as an expression of liberal individualism and the demand for personal freedom.[14][15] According to Andrew Gilbert, conservative parties such as the British Conservative Party and the American Republican Party hold a significant libertarian conservative wing, although Gilbert argues that "it is questionable to what extent conservatism and libertarianism are compatible".[16] According to Mark A. Graber, libertarian conservatives are "philosophically consistent liberal legal individualists".[17]

In 1998, George Wescott Carey edited Freedom and Virtue: The Conservative/Libertarian Debate, a book which contains essays that Carey describes as representing "the tension between liberty and morality" and "the main fault line dividing the two philosophies".[18] For Brian Farmer, "Libertarianism is a form of Conservatism often considered separate from the more mainstream conservative ideologies, partially because it is a bit more extreme, and partially because Libertarians often separate themselves from other forms of more mainstream Conservatism".[19]

In 2004, Thomas DiLorenzo wrote that libertarian conservative constitutionalists believe that the way to limit government is to enforce the United States Constitution. However, DiLorenzo criticized them by writing that "[t]he fatal flaw in the thinking of the libertarian/conservative constitutionalists stems from their unawareness or willful ignorance of how the founders themselves believed the Constitution could be enforced: by the citizens of the free, independent, and sovereign states, not the federal judiciary". DiLorenzo further wrote that the powers accrued to the federal government during the American Civil War overthrew the Constitution of 1787.[20]

In 2006, Nelson Hultberg wrote that there is "philosophical common ground" between libertarians and conservatives. According to Hultberg, "[t]he true conservative movement was, from the start, a blend of political libertarianism, cultural conservatism, and non-interventionism abroad bequeathed to us via the Founding Fathers". He said that such libertarian conservatism was "hijacked" by neoconservatism, "by the very enemies it was formed to fight—Fabians, New Dealers, welfarists, progressives, globalists, interventionists, militarists, nation builders, and all the rest of the collectivist ilk that was assiduously working to destroy the Founders' Republic of States".[21]


Libertarian conservatism subscribes to the libertarian idea of free-market capitalism, advocating minimal to no government interference in the market. A number of libertarian conservatives favor Austrian School economics and are critical of fiat money. Libertarian conservatives also support wherever possible privatizing services traditionally run or provided by the government, from airports and air traffic control systems to toll roads and toll booths.[1][9] Libertarian conservatism advocates economic freedom in the product and capital markets and consumption whilst excluding collective action, collective bargaining and labor organization in general.[22]


In the 1950s, Frank Meyer, a prominent contributor to the National Review, called his own combination of libertarianism and conservatism fusionism.[23][24]

In a 1975 interview with Reason, California Governor Ronald Reagan appealed to libertarians when he stated to "believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism".[25] Ron Paul was one of the first elected officials in the nation to support Reagan's presidential campaign[26] and actively campaigned for Reagan in 1976 and 1980.[27] However, Ron Paul quickly became disillusioned with the Reagan administration's policies after Reagan's election in 1980 and later recalled being the only Republican to vote against Reagan budget proposals in 1981,[28][29] aghast that "in 1977, Jimmy Carter proposed a budget with a $38 billion deficit, and every Republican in the House voted against it. In 1981, Reagan proposed a budget with a $45 billion deficit—which turned out to be $113 billion—and Republicans were cheering his great victory. They were living in a storybook land".[26] Ron Paul expressed his disgust with the political culture of both major parties in a speech delivered in 1984 upon resigning from the House of Representatives to prepare for a failed run for the Senate and eventually apologized to his libertarian friends for having supported Reagan.[29] By 1987, Ron Paul was ready to sever all ties to the Republican Party as explained in a blistering resignation letter.[27] While affiliated with both Libertarian and Republican parties at different times, Ron Paul stated to have always been a libertarian at heart.[28][29]

In the 1980s, libertarians such as Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard[30][31] criticized President Reagan, Reaganomics and policies of the Reagan administration for, among other reasons, having turned the United States' big trade deficit into debt and the United States became a debtor nation for the first time since World War I under the Reagan administration.[32][33] Rothbard argued that the presidency of Reagan has been "a disaster for libertarianism in the United States"[34] and Ron Paul described Reagan himself as "a dramatic failure".[27]

Already a radical classical liberal and anti-interventionist strongly influenced by the Old Right, especially its opposition to the managerial state whilst being more unequivocally anti-war and anti-imperialist,[35] Rothbard had become the doyen of libertarianism in the United States.[36][37] After his departure from the New Left, with which he helped build for a few years a relationship with other libertarians,[38][39] Rothbard had involved the segment of the libertarian movement loyal to him in an alliance with the growing paleoconservative movement,[40][41] seen by many observers, libertarian and otherwise, as flirting with racism and social reaction.[42][43][44] Suggesting that libertarians needed a new cultural profile that would make them more acceptable to socially and culturally conservative people, Rothbard criticized the tendency of proponents of libertarianism to appeal to "'free spirits,' to people who don't want to push other people around, and who don't want to be pushed around themselves" in contrast to "the bulk of Americans", who "might well be tight-assed conformists, who want to stamp out drugs in their vicinity, kick out people with strange dress habits, etc." whilst emphasizing that this was relevant as a matter of strategy. Rothbard argued that the failure to pitch the libertarian message to Middle America might result in the loss of "the tight-assed majority".[45]

In the 1990s, Rothbard, Lew Rockwell and others described their libertarian conservative views as paleolibertarianism.[46] In an early statement of this position, Rockwell and Jeffrey Tucker argued for a specifically Christian libertarianism.[46] Later, Rockwell would no longer consider himself a "paleolibertarian" and was "happy with the term libertarian".[47] Those libertarians continued their opposition to "all forms of government intervention—economic, cultural, social, international" whilst upholding cultural conservatism in social thought and behavior. Paleolibertarians opposed a licentious libertarianism which advocated "freedom from bourgeois morality, and social authority".[46] Rockwell later stated to have dropped that self-description because people confused it with paleoconservatism which libertarians such as Rockwell rejected. While distancing himself from the paleolibertarian alliance strategy, Rockwell affirmed paleoconservatives for their "work on the immigration issue", maintaining that "porous borders in Texas and California" could be seen as "reducing liberty, not increasing it, through a form of publicly subsidized right to trespass".[48][49]

In 2001, Edward Feser emphasized that libertarianism does not require individuals to reject traditional conservative values. Libertarianism supports the ideas of liberty, privacy and ending the war on marijuana at the legal level without changing personal values. Defending the fusion of traditionalist conservatism with libertarianism and rejecting the view that libertarianism necessarily requires support for a liberal culture, Feser implied that a central issue for those who share his viewpoint is "the preservation of traditional morality—particularly traditional sexual morality, with its idealization of marriage and its insistence that sexual activity be confined within the bounds of that institution, but also a general emphasis on dignity and temperance over self-indulgence and dissolute living".[23]

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is a libertarian conservative, whose belief in rights of property owners to establish private covenant communities, from which homosexuals and political dissidents may be "physically removed",[50][51] has been strongly criticised.[42][43][44] Hoppe also garnered controversy due to his support for restrictive limits on immigration which critics argue is at odds with libertarianism.[52] In Democracy: The God That Failed, first published in 2001, Hoppe argued that "libertarians must be conservatives".[53] Hoppe acknowledged "the importance, under clearly stated circumstances, of discriminating against communists, democrats, and habitual advocates of alternative, non-family centered lifestyles, including homosexuals".[54][55] In contrast to Walter Block,[56] Hoppe argued that libertarianism need not be seen as requiring open borders[57] and attributed "open border enthusiasm" to "egalitarianism".[58] While defending "market anarchy" in preference to both, Hoppe has argued for the superiority of monarchy to democracy, maintaining that monarchs are likely to be better stewards of the territory they claim to own than democratic politicians, whose time horizons may be shorter.[59]

Notable people[edit]

Richard Epstein, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Albert Jay Nock, Richard Posner, Peter Schiff, Thomas Sowell, David Stockman, Peter Thiel, and Walter E. Williams have been described as libertarian conservatives.[9][60] Former Congressman Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand Paul have been described as combining conservative and libertarian small government ideas and showing how the Constitution of the United States defends the individual and most libertarian views.[61] Barry Goldwater who furthered conservatism in America was a libertarian conservative.

Ivan Reitman, the director of Ghostbusters, described his political views as "conservative-slash-libertarian".[62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Heywood 2015, p. 37.
  2. ^ Yadav, Aryma Brajesh (2021). "An Insight into Libertarian Conservatism". International Journal of Law Management & Humanities. 4 (3): 1615–1622.
  3. ^ Graber, Mark A. (1991). Transforming Free Speech: The Ambiguous Legacy of Civil Libertarianism. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 18. ISBN 9780520913134.
  4. ^ Narveson, Jan (2001). The Libertarian Idea (revised ed.). Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press. p. 8. ISBN 9781551114217.
  5. ^ Passavent, Paul (2003). No Escape: Freedom of Speech and the Paradox of Rights. New York: New York University Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780814766965.
  6. ^ Cooke, Charles C. W. (March 23, 2015). "Conservatarianism" Archived 2021-06-22 at the Wayback Machine. National Review. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  7. ^ Polumbo, Brad (April 4, 2019). "What Is a Conservatarian?" Archived 2023-01-18 at the Wayback Machine Libertarianism. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Johnston 2007, pp. 154–156.
  9. ^ a b c Piper, J. Richard (1997). Ideologies and Institutions: American Conservative and Liberal Governance Prescriptions Since 1933. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 110–111. ISBN 9780847684595.
  10. ^ Van de Haar 2015, p. 71.
  11. ^ Heywood 2004, p. 337.
  12. ^ Johnston 2007, p. 154.
  13. ^ Johnston 2007, pp. 154–155.
  14. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur (September 1933) [1933]. "48". The Rise of the City: 1878–1898. The Academy of Political Science. pp. 454–456.
  15. ^ Randall, Margaret (January 14, 2018) [1995]. "Preface". Sandino's Daughters: Testimonies of Nicaraguan Women in Struggle. Rutgers University Press. pp. ii.
  16. ^ Gilbert, Andrew (2018). British Conservatism and the Legal Regulation of Intimate Relationships. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 9781509915897. "Political parties which are usually considered to be conservative parties (such as the US Republican Party or the British Conservative Party) are also known for having a significant libertarian grouping within their ranks (especially in America), yet it is questionable to what extent conservatism and libertarianism are compatible."
  17. ^ Passavent, Paul (2003). No Escape: Freedom of Speech and the Paradox of Rights. New York: New York University Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 9780814766965.
  18. ^ Carey, George Wescott, ed. (1998). Freedom & Virtue: The Conservative Libertarian Debate. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. ISBN 1882926196.
  19. ^ Farmer, Brian (2008). American Conservatism: History, Theory and Practice. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 9781443802765.
  20. ^ DiLorenzo, Thomas (July 21, 2004). "Constitutional Futility". Lew Archived from the original on December 11, 2019. Retrieved July 2, 2008.
  21. ^ Hultberg, Nelson (December 20, 2006). "True Conservatism vs. Neo-Conservatism". Americans for a Free Republic. Archived August 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved August 20, 2008.
  22. ^ Zafirovski, Milan (2007). Democracy, Economy, and Conservatism: Political and Economic Freedoms and Their Antithesis in the Third Millennium: Modern Free Society and Its Nemesis. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. p. 309. ISBN 9780739117965.
  23. ^ a b Feser, Edward (December 22, 2001). "What Libertarianism Isn't" Archived 2018-09-22 at the Wayback Machine. Lew Retrieved December 22, 2001.
  24. ^ Raico, Ralph (Fall 1964). "Is Libertarianism Amoral?" Archived 2019-04-22 at the Wayback Machine. New Individualist Review. 3 (3): 29–36.
  25. ^ Klausner, Manuel (July 1975). "Inside Ronald Reagan" Archived 2020-08-03 at the Wayback Machine. Reason. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  26. ^ a b Roberts, Jerry (September 17, 1988). "Libertarian Candidate Rolls Out His Values". San Francisco Chronicle.
  27. ^ a b c Nichols, Bruce (March 15, 1987). "Ron Paul Wants to Get Americans Thinking: Republican-Turned-Libertarian Seeks Presidency". Dallas Morning News.
  28. ^ a b Kennedy, J. Michael (May 10, 1988). "Politics 88: Hopeless Presidential Race: Libertarian Plods On – Alone and Unheard". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 18, 2023. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  29. ^ a b c Kutzmann, David M. (May 24, 1988). "Small Party Battles Big Government Libertarian Candidate Opposes Intrusion into Private Lives". San Jose Mercury News: 12A.
  30. ^ Rothbard, Murray (1984). "The Reagan Phenomenon" Archived 2023-01-18 at the Wayback Machine. Free Life: The Journal of the Libertarian Alliance. Libertarian Alliance. '4 (1): 1–7. Retrieved September 20, 2020 – via the Mises Institute.
  31. ^ Riggenbach, Jeff (February 5, 2011). "The Reagan Fraud – and After" Archived 2023-01-18 at the Wayback Machine. Mises Institute. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  32. ^ Kilborn, Peter T. (September 17, 1985). "U.S. Turns Into Debtor Nation" Archived 2020-02-13 at the Wayback Machine. The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  33. ^ Johnston, Oswald (September 17, 1985). "Big Trade Deficit Turns U.S. Into Debtor Nation : First Time Since 1914" Archived 2020-08-04 at the Wayback Machine. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  34. ^ Weltch, Matt (September 9, 2011). "Rothbard on Reagan in Reason" Archived 2020-10-01 at the Wayback Machine. Reason. Reason Foundation. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  35. ^ See Raimondo, Enemy; Brian Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (New York: Public Affairs 2007).
  36. ^ Raimondo, Enemy 372–383.
  37. ^ Doherty 565–569.
  38. ^ Murray N. Rothbard, "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty," Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought 1.1 (Spring 1965): 4–22.
  39. ^ Roderick T. Long, "Rothbard's 'Left and Right': Forty Years Later" (Rothbard Memorial Lecture, Austrian Scholars Conference 2006).
  40. ^ Raimondo, Enemy 266–295.
  41. ^ Doherty 561–565.
  42. ^ a b Sheffield, Matthew (2 September 2016). "Where did Donald Trump get his racialized rhetoric? From libertarians". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  43. ^ a b Lewis, Matt (23 August 2017). "The Insidious Libertarian-to-Alt-Right Pipeline". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 17 February 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  44. ^ a b Ganz, John (19 September 2017). "Libertarians have more in common with the alt-right than they want you to think". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 7 August 2019. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  45. ^ Murray Rothbard, letter to David Bergland, June 5, 1986, qtd. Raimondo 263–264.
  46. ^ a b c Rockwell, Lew. "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" (PDF). Liberty (January 1990): 34–38. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 7, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018..
  47. ^ Kenny Johnsson, Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian? Archived 2019-08-04 at the Wayback Machine, interview with Lew Rockwell, May 25, 2007.
  48. ^ Rockwell, Llewellyn H. (May 2, 2002). "What I Learned From Paleoism". Lew Archived from the original on June 10, 2020. Retrieved July 2, 2008.
  49. ^ Johnsson, Kenny (May 25, 2007). "Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?". Lew Archived from the original on August 4, 2019. Retrieved July 2, 2008.
  50. ^ Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (11 April 2005). "My Battle With The Thought Police". Mises Institute. Archived from the original on 26 September 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  51. ^ Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2011). DemocracyThe God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order. Transaction Publishers. pp. 216–218 Archived 2023-01-18 at the Wayback Machine. ISBN 9781412815291.
  52. ^ Guenzl, Simon (June 23, 2016). "Public Property and the Libertarian Immigration Debate Archived 2020-10-02 at the Wayback Machine". Libertarian Papers. 8 (1): 153–177. "I conclude that supporting a legitimate role for the state as an immigration gatekeeper is inconsistent with Rothbardian and Hoppean libertarian anarchism, as well as with the associated strategy of advocating always and in every instance reductions in the state's role in society."
  53. ^ Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction 2001) 189.
  54. ^ Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "My Battle With The Thought Police Archived 2014-10-28 at the Wayback Machine," Mises Daily (Mises Institute, April 12, 2005). The quoted material in the text is intended as an elaboration of an earlier discussion in Democracy; Hoppe notes that "a few sentences" of Democracy: The God that Failed address this point and writes: "In its proper context these statements are hardly more offensive than saying that the Catholic Church should excommunicate those violating its fundamental precepts or that a nudist colony should expel those insisting on wearing bathing suits." In Democracy, he suggests that, in a stateless society, it would make sense for people forming communities "for the purpose of protecting family and kin" to eschew "tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal." He says that "the advocates of alternative, non-family-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism—will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order." Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction 2001) 218.
  55. ^ Stephan Kinsella, "Hoppe on Covenant Communities and Advocates of Alternative Lifestyles Archived 2020-10-01 at the Wayback Machine," (n.p, May 26, 2010).
  56. ^ Walter Block, "A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration," Journal of Libertarian Studies 13.2 (Sum. 1998): 167–186.
  57. ^ Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "Natural Order, the State, and the Immigration Problem," Journal of Libertarian Studies 16.1 (Winter 2002): 75–97.
  58. ^ Hoppe, "Immigration" 93n23. Proponents of open borders, he maintains, "were initially drawn to libertarianism as juveniles because of its "antiauthoritarianism" (trust no authority) and seeming "tolerance," in particular toward 'alternative'—nonbourgeois—lifestyles. As adults, they have been arrested in this phase of mental development They express special 'sensitivity' in every manner of discrimination and are not inhibited in using the power of the central state to impose non-discrimination or 'civil rights' statutes on society. Consequently, by prohibiting other property owners from discrimination as they see fit, they are allowed to live at others' expense. They can indulge in their 'alternative' lifestyle without having to pay the 'normal' price for such conduct, i.e., discrimination and exclusion. To legitimize this course of action, they insist that one lifestyle is as good and acceptable as another. This leads first to multiculturalism, then to cultural relativism, and finally to 'open borders.'"
  59. ^ Hoppe, Democracy.
  60. ^ Rockwell, Lew; Tucker, Jeffrey (1991). "Cultural Thought of Ludwig von Mises" Archived 2020-08-03 at the Wayback Machine. Journal of Libertarian Studies. Mises Institute. 10' (1): 23–52.
  61. ^ Mafaldo, Lucas (October 10, 2007). "The Conservative Case for Ron Paul". Lew Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved July 2, 2008.
  62. ^ "Ivan Reitman Cops to Libertarian Subtext of Ghostbusters". 2014-09-23. Archived from the original on 2022-09-27. Retrieved 2022-06-21.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]