June 6th, 2019
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
I once ran a libertarian blog, but I am happy to see a split between libertarians and conservatives, because not having religious and moral conservatives speak up in defense of their values leaves too much of the culture exposed to the idea that consumption in the marketplace is a moral choice equal to any other.
As I said at the top of this piece, the debates over libertarians and conservatives, Sohrab Ahmari and David French, are really about a very important question: What is conservatism, and what are its goals?
During the Cold War, conservatism defined itself in its opposition to communism, and in the era of Trump, many conservatives appear to have defined themselves by their opposition to “the left” or liberalism more broadly, a phenomenon I’ve termed “reflexible anti-leftism.” But right now, many conservatives are talking and debating among themselves about what conservatism should be promoting, not just opposing, or, in the words of National Review founder William F. Buckley in 1955, “standing athwart, yelling stop.”
Should conservatism support a limited government, even if that puts nuclear families at risk? Should conservatism support free markets, even if that means people can readily buy pornography that saps their moral virtue? What would conservative victory, real, true victory, look like? Who would lose if Ahmarian conservatism or Carlsonian conservatism or any of the conservatisms won? What kind of moral compromises should conservatives make to win a cultural or political battle? Should conservatism aim to persuade liberals or inoculate conservatives against liberalism? Should conservatism care what private citizens do in their bedrooms or boardrooms or places of worship?
The debate over libertarianism and conservatism, and over Ahmari and French, isn’t just about what conservatives believe. It’s about what conservatism is.