While I have frequently identified with conservatives and conservative causes, I am not a conservative. I am a libertarian. I use the small case “l” to distinguish my party from my philosophy. There are many libertarian-Republicans, for instance, who have no affiliation with the Libertarian Party. True conservatives are much more libertarian than what is commonly referred to as neo-conservatives, but there are still some critical differences.
Ideological conservatives place a great deal of emphasis on principals such as individual liberty, personal responsibility, private property, and limited government. These are also libertarian principals. The difference involves the scope of application. Libertarians are inclined to apply this to as many issues as possible; conservatives apply theses ideas to a limited range of issues. This has been a source of confusion for people who have been programmed to think in terms of a one-dimensional left-right spectrum. If you are among them, I suggest looking over a Nolan chart or taking the smallest political quiz.
Libertarians have frequently come under fire for supporting peoples right to act offensively or amorally so long as the behavior did not violate the natural rights of others. This recognition of a person’s rights has often been misconstrued to be acceptance or approval. This is not the case. Libertarians have long argued that we must tolerate individual differences, if we expect to be tolerated. Stated another way, a threat to one person’s rights is a threat to all rights. The reason for this linkage is the power of philosophical consistency.
Giving in to the idea that the government could censor radio content was like letting the camel’s nose in the tent. The right of broadcasters to control the content of their programming is thereby forfeited. What remains is an illusion of liberty granted at the whims of those in control. So it is with all sacrifices of principal. The specifics that were derived from the forfeited principal are only vestigial remnants. Bending to whims may be expedient and gain one favor in the short run, but consistency wins in the long run. No social movement has been able to grow and prevail, if it discarded its integrity for short-term gain. Conversely, worldviews that offer clear-cut answers and absolute principals survive.
The human mind requires some semblance of consistency to work, so it is that luke-warm conservatism is on the decline, but even conservatism is luke warm when it comes to liberty. Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand saw this in April of 1964 when she wrote:
It was the so-called “conservatives” — including some of the pioneers, some of the broadcasting industry’s executives who, today, are complaining and protesting — who ran to the government for regulations and controls, who cheered the notion of “public property” and service to the “public interest,” and thus planted the seeds of which Mr. Minow and Mr. Henry are merely the logical, consistent flowers. The broadcasting industry was enslaved with the sanction of the victims — but they were not fully innocent victims.
So it is that today’s conservative radio pundits are not fully innocent either. They have conceded the need to have government control over the content of radio broadcasts, by either approving censorship, or mocking liberals who disapproved. The fact of the matter is that Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer made an insightful point when he told a Fox news reporter:
The very same people who don’t want the fairness doctrine, want the FCC to limit pornography on the air. I am for that; I think pornography should be limited. But you can’t say ‘Government hands off!’ in one commercial enterprise but the government intervenes in another. That’s not consistent.
He’s right: It isn’t consistent.
Ironically, his so-called “Fairness Doctrine” would only call for fairness between inconsistent “liberal” and “conservative” speech. Even if it included equal time for libertarians, it would still be just as wrong, and I would oppose it. The first amendment made no exceptions.
For those who fear hard-core porn on prime-time TV, consider the content of basic cable programming. It is immune to the restrictions placed on broadcast TV. Sure “adult programming” is there for those who subscribe to it, but commercial standards for family viewing exceed the standards set by the FCC. If this isn’t good enough, parents can fire the TV from baby-sitting duty (mine did). The market works if we let it.* This is another mantra recited by self-described conservatives. The difference is that libertarians actually believe it.
When a person goes against one’s principal, he or she gets a funny feeling. It’s called “guilt.” Those who fail to form principals are confused. People who look to government or the collective to solve their problems are called “statists” those who trust individuals over governments are libertarians.
I’m not guilty, statist, or confused; I trust you to run your life.
* Here I am referring to a free market in which peoples rights are protected. Marketing in abuse is not a free market principal. That would be a contradiction. Individual rights cannot include the right to enslave.