On the Two Libertarianisms

Let’s talk about libertarian conservatives for a bit, since David Broder, in Congress Finally Stands Up, mentions the phrase. There are two different kinds of libertarian, not just one. My friends like to joke that libertarians are Republicans who like to smoke pot. We met a few of those in law school.

I call myself a libertarian as well. But I am a social libertarian, not a capitalist libertarian. Libertarians often claim that they have no religion. I beg to differ. They are fundamentalists in the same way that religious conservatives are: they believe in the propaganda of capitalism whole-heartedly, without a clue as to what they are supporting.

Any student of Adam Smith, the so-called father of capitalism, would know that Smith supported public works and the public commons. He spoke of “enlightened” self-interest, not unmitigated greed and avarice, as a satisfactory social order. Paraphrasing Smith, any time you see three businessmen talking together, you can bet they are up to no good.*

The fact is: there are TWO political axes, not just one. There is left and right. Then there is libertarian and authoritarian. You can find out where you place on the grid of political thought by going to http://www.politicalcompass.org and answering a few simple questions.

After you take the test, let’s engage in dialog about what your placement on the grid really means.

*”People of the same trade seldom meet together”, Smith writes, “even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or some contrivance to raise prices.”

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