letters to a young conservative

I was watching an episode of Stossel last week on the Fox Business Network and there was a panel made up of libertarians in a particular segment. As a conservative they said some things I agreed with and they said some things I was not sure about as well as some ideas I absolutely opposed.

After the segment I did something I had done quite often which was to pick up Dinesh D’Souza’s book, Letters to a Young Conservative.

This book is necessary for conservatives of all ages. In each chapter D’Souza writes a fictional character advising the character on different political issues from a conservative perspective.

Here are a few chapter titles…

  • “Why Professors Are So Left-Wing”
  • “More Guns, Less Crime”
  • “Against Gay Marriage”
  • “Speaking As a Former Fetus…”
  • “Authentic vs. Bogus Multiculturalism”

It is a great book not only because the content is enlightening, but also because each chapter is separate therefore you can skip around throughout the book and not miss anything.

After watching Stossel I turned to the second chapter in the book, “The Libertarian Temptation.” In this chapter D’Souza argues why conservatism is a better option than libertarianism.

Consider an example that contrasts the conservative and libertarian views of freedom. If you said to a libertarian, “What if 300 million Americans opt to become pornographers like Larry Flynt? Would that constitute a good society?” While the conservative would emphatically answer no, the pure libertarian would have to answer yes, because these people have chosen freely. As this example illustrates, libertarianism is a philosophy of choice without political concern for what people actually choose. Thus, although many libertarians live virtuously, libertarianism as a philosophy is indifferent to virtue. In this respect it differs markedly from conservatism.

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5 comments so far

  1. J.J. on

    Jacob, I generally like your political point of view and enjoy your posts. As a Liberatarian myself, I have to disagree with D’Souza. He is correct in his assertion that Liberatarians would answer the question “yes” while conservatives would answer “no.” The issue here (if you truly believe in freedom) is that it is not your place, my place, or the government’s place to determine what virtue is. For a conservative to tell an American that pornography is not good for him and therefore he shouldn’t have it is not much different than a liberal telling an American that healthcare is good for him and therefore he must purchase it. In the end (if you believe in freedom), it is nobody’s place and especialy not government’s place to decide what is virtuous and what is not. Government is only designed to do a limited number of things, and protecting me from myself is not one of them. So called conservatives start to lose their way when they stray too far from enumerated powers.

    On a related note, D’Souza’s premise is absurd. The free market cannot support 300 million Larry Flints. Therefore a free people operating in a free market would quickly branch into other goods and services desired and/or required by other members of society. If you want to compete with Larry Flint in porn, go for it. If you want to compete with Trump in Real Estate, go for it. Liberatarians believe that you should unchain the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans. They’ll be impressive.

    One last point. If you are truly a fiscal conservative, then you should be a social liberal. The 2 go hand in hand.

  2. Jacob Clingan on

    Thanks J.J.

    I completely understand where you are coming from. I have a feeling that we would ideologically agree on around 80% of issues. I’m assuming issues that we would disagree on would be gay marriage and national defense among many others.

    You wrote, “it is nobody’s place and especially not government’s place to decide what is virtuous and what is not.” I somewhat agree with this however I think that government should play a role in deciding if things such as sex trafficking should be virtuous by making it legal or illegal.

    • J.J. on

      I suspect that we do agree on a lot. Regarding your reply, let’s not confuse the issue. No one is arguing that you should have the freedom to harm another. It is in fact the government’s job to secure a person in their freedom. One person’s freedom ends at the place where it infringes on another’s freedom. In your example of sex trafficking, I think that we can agree that a person’s freedom would be infringed upon in that scenario. That act is both immoral and illegal, and government has a duty to step in.

      Unfortunately many of the things that government tries to protect us from are none of their damn business but instead an infringement on personal freedoms. As an adult, I think that I’m perfectly capable of deciding whether to wear a seatbelt or not. I’m able to decide whether I want to use drugs or drink fruity malt beverages such as Four Loco. I can determine whether I want to spend my hard earned dollars in an establishment that allows smoking or one that does not allow smoking. These are certainly decisions, whether they be considered virtuous or not, that I can and should make for myself but government has taken away from me. In sum, an American over the age of 18 should be able to do anything they damn well please so long as it does not infringe upon the freedom of another. They also should have to suffer the consequences of said behavior. We don’t need government to be a nanny or a safety net. Government has a job – a very limited job – that it would do much better if it would let you worry about you and me worry about me and so on and so on.

      I like your blog and will continue to read and occasionally comment. For what it’s worth, keep watching Stossel. He’s got it right.

  3. Jacob Clingan on

    I chose my words poorly. I was meaning to go more along the lines of legalized prostitution where everyone consents but nonetheless I really appreciate the comments and I will definitely keep watching Stossel. I was able to hear him speak a couple of years ago and I have been a big fan since then.

    • J.J. on

      Interesting. See as a Liberatarian, I would argue that prostitution should be legal as should drug use or basically anything that you want to do with your self so long as it doesn’t infringe upon the freedom of others. Surely we’d agree that 2 consenting adults own their own bodies. If so, then surely we’d agree that they can use those bodies (their talents if you will) as they see fit. Those consenting adults also have to live with the consequences of their actions. Would we tell an MMA fighter that he doesn’t have the right to use his body in his chosen profession? How about a boxer? Or a ditch digger? When you don’t look at these professions through the lense of your personal morality, you see that there is very little difference. Whether you and I like it or not there is a market for the services and someone is capable and willing to provide those services.

      You and I might find prostitution or drug use or something else morally reprehensible, but Liberatarians believe that people should not be governed by another’s sense of morality. That’s a slippery slope that unfortunately we’ve already gone down. Consider that some people think that dancing or drinking a beer is morally reprehensible. Should there be laws against dancing and drinking beer because some are offended by it? I think you’d agree not because I’m willing to bet that you have danced and have drank beer and likely will do so again.

      To be a truly free society means that we have to be willing to accept that there are going to be some things that we don’t like, but to paraphrase Jefferson, it neither breaks my arm or picks my pocket for these things to exist. On the contrary, it actually picks my pocket (through taxes) trying to regulate behavior and fighting a losing war on drugs. Since I’m fiscally conservative, this is what offends me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you are fiscally conservative, you should be socially liberal.

      Keep working at it. You may be a Liberatarian yet!


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