This has been a question that has become more pertinent over the past few years. Both philosophies overlap in several major areas, but differences have severely separated the two. However, there seems to be more of a willingness on both ends to reconcile these differences for a greater cause. This will be of the utmost importance going into the 2014 midterm election, and the 2016 presidential election. Major areas of policy can be agreed upon by both camps, but the differences must be addressed and either put aside for a time, or done away with.
Economically, Conservatives and libertarians largely agree. But social issues and foreign represent a real stumbling block for uniting the two philosophies. When comparing the two here, I use general beliefs to categorize; I realize this is not true of all people within each philosophy (just work with me here).
Traditional Conservatives believe that marriage should be legally defined as one man and one woman; libertarians do not. Conservatives believe that drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin should be illegal; libertarians do not. Conservatives believe in a more interventionist foreign policy; libertarians do not.
How can these issues be reconciled? There will have to be some conceded ground for both sides. Social issues tend to be the more sensitive areas when addressing the differences. What I have noticed is that each side tends to have a straw-man view on the other’s position. Conservatives want to define marriage because it protects the institution. Libertarians do not because they believe that marriage is not a part of the government’s jurisdiction, and defining it as one thing or another would be discriminatory.
Who is right?
Well, how about a combination of both? Conservatives want to preserve marriage, libertarians want to limit the government. Why not just remove the government from the marriage business? It has been a religious institution for thousands of years, why should it be any different in today’s world?
Both parties win. Government is limited; marriage is defined by the church as it historically has been.
What about drugs? Conservatives believe that they ruin a society, libertarians believe that it’s none of our damn business what one does with their body. Both have a solid point. Finding a balance is the key. Here’s an example that can help. Alcohol is the deadliest drug in America. Marijuana is the 8th deadliest. Yet SWAT raids and consistent police abuse go after Marijuana. Why? Because it’s an easy arrest and police get points for it.
People may claim that by banning something it will no longer be accessible. Is that so? When is the last time you saw marijuana on the store shelf (outside of Colorado and Washington)? The fact of the matter is that if human nature craves something, the law will not stop that person from obtaining it.
Marijuana is far less deadly than alcohol. There are Constitutional concerns that must be addressed here. Shall we continue to let the 4th amendment be shredded, or will we decriminalize the scapegoat drug?
Other drugs like methamphetamine are much more deadly though, and can cause a person to do serious harm to others. For the protection of other people, it should be kept illegal, but the raids that shred our 4th amendment rights must stop.
How about foreign policy? The current situation brewing in Crimea between Russia and Ukraine is a perfect example. Senator Ted Cruz has argued that we should send more aid to the Ukrainians. However, Senator Rand Paul has argued against it, citing concerns about Russia benefiting rather than the Ukrainians. Both provide legitimate proposals, but adapting them to fit both ideological camps is the mountain that must be climbed.
The fact of the matter is that the United States is not going to withdraw its troops from Germany, South Korea, and other strategic places. A nation needs to be able to defend its interests abroad. Given that the US has huge assets worldwide, it would be unwise to withdraw its troops from areas where aggression is likely.
Should the US be intervening in every conflict? Certainly not. How can we continue to try to fix everyone else when our own house is falling apart? Intervene in places where it is in our vital interests, not just because it is a compassionate cause. It’s not being cold-hearted as much as it is a matter of self-preservation.
So, can the two ideological camps unite? This remains to be seen. The two have historically not been particularly friendly to each other, but that seems to be changing. The libertarian movement is definitely growing; Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign is the ultimate evidence of that. The energy from the senior Paul’s movement still lives, now with his son Rand, who has united more Conservatives and libertarians than his father ever could have dreamed.
I sincerely hope that the two camps can put aside differences and move forward. An alliance of the two could have huge ramifications in the next few election cycles. Capitalizing on the areas of unity is more important than emphasizing differences.