Editor’s Note: This is the last of a three part series on Conservatarianism, the blending of conservative and libertarian ideologies within the new Republican party. In the first two parts, Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review, author of The Conservatarian Manifesto, discussed the principal areas of agreement between the two sides, and their major differences on the US role in the world.
As conservatives and libertarians strain to build a durable Conservatarian coalition within the Republican party, they are in virtual lockstep on the foundational issues of localism vs. nationalism, constitutionalism and the free market, as we discussed in the first part of this series.
At the same time, they must figure out how to reconcile their considerable differences on foreign policy, as we examined in our second part.
But the gulf between conservatives and libertarians does not exist only on their views of the proper role of the US in the world, but on two key domestic issues: the federal war on drugs and immigration.
Libertarians are almost universally and radically opposed to the drug war that has produced perverse results – more usage, greater availability and lower cost of illegal drugs – since its inception forty years ago Conservatives animated by their quest for law and order have either supported the war or remained silent about it.
On the issue of immigration, the divide is just as large, with most conservatives supporting the strict enforcement of immigration laws and a stronger defense of our borders, while many or most libertarians favor open borders or lenient immigration policies.
Since Liberty Nation identifies itself as Conservatarian, we have provided a variety of commentary on immigration reflective of these divergent views. Charles C.W. Cooke, author of The Conservatarian Manifesto who spoke to us on Liberty Nation Radio about both the similarities on domestic issues and differences on foreign policy between the two schools of thought, stipulates that both sides have blind spots – conservatives on the drug war and libertarians on immigration.
LN: A big point of division it seems between conservatives and libertarians would be the drug war. Libertarians are bitterly opposed to it, but conservatives who oppose the intrusive hand of government don’t say much about it, even though it’s really a textbook example of the failure of big government – by almost all measures it’s been a failure. Why do conservatives seem to make an exception to their distaste for big government when it comes to the drug war?
Mr. Cooke: I think conservatives who do that are coming from a good place. The instinct is to keep people away from substances that will ruin their lives. I think especially in a culture such as ours that features a high level of welfare spending and in which one person’s indigency is the problem of another, in which those who make bad decisions are on the tax payer’s dime, then that makes some sense.
Unfortunately, conservatives fail to apply the principles that they do everywhere else. Namely, that just because there is a good reason here, just because a particular government action might be defensible, just because there is a moral code doesn’t mean the government will do what it’s promising to do or that there won’t be a whole host of unintended consequences. With the drug war, I think there are a host of unintended consequences.
Even if we leave aside the Constitutional question here, I for one see no justification for federal involvement in this area. I can’t find the part in the Constitution which permits it. I think if prohibition needed a constitutional amendment then so should the drug war. Let’s leave that aside it’s an enormously expensive government program, it doesn’t seem to be working very well. If you look at the opiod crisis we’re currently living through, really at any point in the last 40 – 50 years – the crack epidemic for example – government simply is not doing what it said it would do. In trying to do so it seems to have created a cycle of dependency. A lot of gun crime is linked to the drug war. There is a blind spot here among conservatives that I think they’re going to have to fix.
LN: Let’s talk about one more issue, which would be illegal immigration. Many or most libertarians favor open borders, but do they think past that ideal to the effect that unlimited immigration will have on an American culture that favors multi-multiculturalism over assimilation?
Mr. Cooke: If they do, I think they imagine incorrectly the likely consequences. My view is that in any country the existing party gets to decide who joins it. That is to me what a country is. Even if one doesn’t believe that in a country with a government as big as ours bringing more people in, many of whom will be dependent, many of whom will eventually vote, is eventually going to change the national character.
Now anywhere that would be a problem, but in a country such as the United States, this is unique in that it is based upon an idea, a common creed. There is always going to be a tension between open borders and the maintenance of the central ideal. I think it is a good thing that we choose who joins us. I think it’s a good thing that we require language tests and citizenship tests before we give people a vote and a passport. I think that it’s a great irony that libertarians who are probably the best and most eloquent defenders of the American ideal are happy to see it diluted in the way that they are, in the name of an open borders ideology that made a lot more sense in 1900 when the government was smaller and the welfare state was non-existent than it does now.
As Mr. Cooke stated in part one of this series, if conservatives and libertarians can reach a seventy percent threshold of agreement, there is a strong basis for the two sides to join forces under the same ideological umbrella – and the GOP banner. At this point, the question is whether both groups believe that threshold can be crossed, that divide narrowed, that consensus possible in the hearts and minds of impassioned proponents of both ideologies.
Do the two sides agree that it is worth putting aside their admittedly substantial differences on some core issues for the sake of advancing the ball down the field in their common quest for free markets and free people? Such is the goal of Liberty Nation and our Conservatarian allies fighting for the future of liberty.
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