True Conservatism and Libertarianism are Mutually Exclusive – A Response to Adam Garrie | Charles Shier

Once again, we find ourselves at an ideological resurgence: conservatism in Britain is on a rise and it appears to be for the long-haul this time. The results of the General Election last year shows a clear message that the British people put the Conservative Party first when we are at a time of genuine crisis – and I, for one – am relieved.

Some days ago on this esteemed publication however, Mr. Garrie asserts that the values, beliefs and tenets of traditional British conservatism are entirely interchangeable as to that of American-style libertarianism: a rejection of the foundation of this country and a dangerous flirtation with ideological replacement.

For centuries, our nation has stood as a beacon of all that is good in this world: from enlightenment education of the masses, the pursuit of science, culture and the arts, and the defence of the innocent from harm. Our worldwide enterprise in the Empire and now as an equal member of the Commonwealth, has always stood for fair justice and the respect of personal property, the esteem for faith, morality and the pursuit of happiness, the strive for honourable conduct in diplomacy and trade, and ultimately, that the family unit is the crowning hallmark of society. It is with these cherished beliefs in mind that I must reject wholeheartedly the assertion of Mr. Garrie, that our two ideologies stand as equals: In Britain, only conservatism represents our message.

Before I delve further into the myriad of paradoxes implied between the two political theories, it would be unfair not to make remarks in agreement. Mr. Garrie’s points regarding the abolition of tradition being often replaced with Marxist-Leninism and other socialistic undertakings is well-founded and I wholeheartedly agree. Furthermore the paragraph relating to individual liberty being inexorably linked with Church, Crown and Parliament is unable to be argued with. Moreover the fair criticism of globalism and ‘post-moral internationalism’ is a topic that I often express personal fears of myself. It is largely here, however, that our agreement comes to an end.

Libertarianism is based around the predication that the greatest service one can do to oneself is unto themselves: that the mere existence of the state – if there is one – is to serve as a vessel unto which personal gain and fulfilment can be achieved. To accept that the state exists exclusively to pave the way for individual excellence is to reject the almost 1000-year-old, unwritten British Constitution and the very fabric of our national being. Conservatism fairly espouses that the benefits of freedom, justice, the pursuit of capital and the protection of the citizenry is an exchange for participating in democracy, represented taxation to provide said services and ultimately loyalty – and possibly voluntary service – to Crown and country, should one be called upon to do so in times of dire crisis.

A great friend of mine and a former libertarian himself once said, “the Messiah complex that many youths encounter after secondary education either leads them to socialism or libertarianism, as in both, they believe that some Utopian society can reasonably exist where no ill can befall its people if ‘done correctly’.” Upright British conservatism understands that to be able to call ourselves that “Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free”, we must be first and foremost wary of ideologies that claim ultimate perfection for seemingly little cost. Socialism? Just expand the welfare system! Libertarianism? Just remove it. Dear reader, we cannot simply allow ourselves to be drawn to endless perfectionism for the sake of the argument, we must both seek to remove the title ‘welfare state’ and also show the world that a country as noble and great as Britain has the means and desire to raise up its poorest in the pursuit of a better humanity. That is the essence of paternalistic conservatism: the nation is a father to its children, not an endless purse, nor an annoyance we can do without.

Photoy by papajoesm on Flickr.

It falls to the final paragraph, however that must be addressed. “There is therefore no contradiction between libertarianism and tradition unless one seeks to create such a conflict by exploiting the most extreme and outlandish interpretations of both.” Nowhere, does a true conservative seek to become the extremist. To be a conservative is to seek to protect the society of his or her heritage, not to tear it up by the very roots unto which it grows. While not all conservatives are happy with the various policies of the current political party that shares its name: in 2006 the Conservative Party voted to remove the torch as its symbol in favour of the oak tree. Why? According to pollsters, people were quoted as saying the new symbol shared imagery with the words and phrases ‘strong’, ‘rooted’, ‘British’, ‘protective’, ‘reaching for the sky’ and ‘providing shelter’.

The Torch, a cherished icon: it is a symbol of dear, insurmountable liberty.

The Oak, however, is preeminent, as it is a symbol of something greater: Britain.

Photo by Derek Elston on Flickr.

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