Philosophical Systems Part Two: Liberalism and Conservatism
By John Cornell
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
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
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
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.