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30


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 30, June 15, 1997

Philosophical Systems Part Two: Liberalism and Conservatism

By John Cornell
102122.3062@compuserve.com

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Liberalism has the appearance of agreeing with libertarianism on issues of personal rights such as free speech and freedom of association. As liberalism has been abandoning the defense of these rights over the past several decades, dissatisfied liberals have been attracted to the libertarian movement. Modern liberalism gets its roots from Marx's dialectical materialism, which, though atheistic, also denies the existence of the human mind and rationality. Everything is just atoms, so forces of mass can and must prevail over smaller masses. This "justifies" the class war of "workers" or "peasants" against "bourgeoisie" or aristocracy. Envious emotions are the drivers, as man has no mind. Feelings become our means of knowledge leading to political and economic institutions of collectivism.
         Liberalism in recent decades has been growing more complex. Older liberals likely to defend personal rights that libertarians defend are being crowded out by the greens and modern proponents of political correctness. Worship of nature is becoming a religion among leftist environmentalists. This variation to this system (not noted on the table below) seems to be that there is some universal force like a god assumed to exist, but this force or god is feminine and the universe is benevolent. But there is still no mind -- and no reason -- so the same ethics, politics and economics are derived from this variation as from traditional liberalism. Thus the dialectal materialistic atheist sides with the Gaia worshiper, as ultimately they both desire statist collectivism, and neither seem to be really sure whether there is a god nor what Her Name is. And, traditionally, collectivist religions such as Catholicism, though denying Marx, often have sided with leftists, as both preach that man must deny his self-worth and sacrifice himself to "higher powers."
         Liberals will not let a person be rewarded or punished for his actions. Wealth-creation is random chance according to them, so it can be commandeered at any time by the "people," and it is therefore a punishable offense if you try to keep it when you create it. Murderers are not responsible for their actions, as "society" must accept "responsibility." (When a liberal does talk of "responsibility" he means not taking responsibility for your actions, but accepting responsibility for feeding everyone else and taking the punishment for everyone else's stupidity or evil.) Money and guns are evil, because they "cause" man to commit evil, so therefore must be confiscated.
         As the table shows, liberals and libertarians deny the existence of fetal rights, but for different philosophical reasons. Yet there is disagreement on whether individuals, groups or animals have rights. Hating or denying individual minds, liberals believe in group rights instead of individual rights (though they traditionally defended personal rights, if they were based on feelings instead of thinking). Liberals also drag man down to or below the level of the animal, thus bestowing equality or even superiority to many or most fauna, and even to flora.
         Because individuals have no rights, self-defense is evil. But because we are full of feelings we cannot control, violence is justifiable if it is initiated, but not retaliatory. Thus convicted murderers are freed while businessmen are imprisoned for "collusion." This is in complete reversal to libertarian and Objectivist thinking. But then, liberals feel in place of thinking when they form their opinions.
         Conservatism is especially complicated. In many ways it is a relative term, describing any existing status quo relative to a new order. A long history of systems covered by this description clutters the concept and the table at the end of this article. Philosophical roots in religion have been the "justifying" forces behind most political systems for two or more millennia, at least in the Judeo-Christian West. Roman conquests of the later Empire, medieval feudalism, monarchies, and even Industrial Revolution Era democracies and republics have all, at least in the minds of many proponents, been morally justified based on biblical interpretations. Of course, as usual, the religions were "revealed" to a "select" few to be administered, previously through a king and later through the "representatives of the people."
         Examining the table in the "Conservative" column, we see the descriptions of where conservatism has been over the millennia. But it is more of a portrayal of what the constructs have actually been as opposed to trying to explain why the particular institutions arose from the metaphysical and epistemological bases that flourished at their creation. Liberal and libertarian institutions and positions derive fairly logically from their respective philosophical bases. But liberalism starts with faulty metaphysical assumptions that lead to the generally irrational values of its output, though the internal consistency of its processes creates the appearance of moral integrity. But conservatism, starting with religious metaphysics and epistemology, has no clear-cut path throughout its system. Each successive move to the next step on the table can lead to a myriad of possibilities. Thus we have had so many aristocratic, monarchistic and statist systems of politics and economics, each claiming the blessings of the same God, competing with each other, even though almost identical in structure. (See the histories of England versus France, or France versus Germany, before this century.) The "divine right of kings" evolves into the "will of the people," under whatever interpretation these subjective terms are used.
         But many of the moral outcomes of conservatives and libertarians are similar (as seen at the bottom of the table). Conservatives and libertarians traditionally agree on individual responsibility in economic areas and self-defense because both philosophies affirm the existence of the mind. But conservatives, from their generally Christian heritage, believe in fetal rights, as well as the right to initiate force if those to whom it is initiated "deserve" it because of ill-favor in the eyes of those defining our morality.
         A special quirk of conservatism has been this link of religion with "capitalism" and militarism. This has led to a distortion of true capitalism that de-evolved in America to mercantilistic corporate-welfarism that vies with the collectivist socialism of liberals for political power. Perhaps this has descended from the traditional religious nature of most Americans, combined with the legacies of statist Federalists such as Washington and Hamilton, and bastardized with the more laissez-faire policies of Jefferson, until we get the mishmash brand of typical American conservatism we have today. Religion and pragmatism are often in bed together because those with political, imperialistic aspirations get the support of the religious leaders when a target country is simultaneously deemed "ungodly" by the latter and "good pickin's" by the former.
         All this variety makes it hard to define exactly what a conservative is, as many lean to the very religious, theocratic side, while others are less religious and more concerned with real life and economic issues, of which many are laissez-faire "conservatarians." This creates an appearance of agreeing with libertarians on economic issues and gun rights and has led to some recruitment into libertarian ranks of pragmatic conservatives dissatisfied with the Moral Majority of Pat Buchanan, the militarism of Reagan, and the centrist, essentially leftist politics of "middle-of-the-road conservatives" such as Nixon, Bush and Dole.
         But liberalism and conservatism, though seemingly different, and having some overlap on different fronts with libertarianism, have many ultimate similarities with each other. When that happens, they are usually at odds with libertarianism. Liberalism denies the existence of God and the human mind, while conservatism affirms both. The former results in putting man under the state because collectivized atoms are superior to an individual's limited number of atoms. The latter says that man has the right to exist, but he is always to be denied his rights, ultimately, by the god that supposedly created him. Thus man, in trying to be an individual, becomes evil when, by his nature, he inherits "original sin" from which he is supposed to "freely" deny his right to exist for his own sake and on his own terms (under duress from God) and trash his human individuality to ultimately sacrifice himself to God or other men. Thus my assertion that Communism and Christianity are at war against and intend to smash the individual -- as man exists in life -- and bring on his collectivization -- whether spiritually or economically.
         Part Three will explore the issue of freedom and two approaches one may take in making it a value in a set of beliefs.


John Cornell is a finance professional whose personal goal is to spread rational, Objectivist and libertarian ideas by writing and publishing libertarian science fiction and literary novels, stories and articles and occasional pieces of political satire and humor.


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