The Myth That Libertarianism is a Step Child of Conservatism
The following is a guest submission by Brandon Loran Maxwell, an incoming Campus Coordinator for the 2012-2013 academic term.
The fundamental origins of libertarianism’s earliest, most influential philosophies and ideals are never short of a buoyant discussion — and a few diverging opinions.
To some, early libertarian virtues can be seen in Confucius’s disciple Mencius, who once wrote that “in a nation, the people are the most important, the state is next, and the ruler is the least important,” as Reason’s Brian Doherty once revealed. To others, qualities of libertarianism can be traced back centuries to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who is purported to have once said, “Without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony.”
And still to others, the roots of modern libertarianism are found in the Age of Enlightenment and, ultimately, the Declaration of Independence, which unambiguously states that “all men are created equal” and decrees individuals’ rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Irrespective of where libertarianism’s earliest ideas officially commenced, however, it has become evident that, in its contemporary form, it is the spectacular culmination of a variety of philosophical contributions over the centuries allocating one denominator: liberty.
Untold numbers of scholars, philosophers, writers and activists have all, over a substantial duration of time and from every corner of the world, contributed to refining, defining, and disseminating various but equally significant conceptions of liberty.
But with such a wide array of inspirations, why, then, is libertarianism so routinely shelved under the constraining parasol of “the right,” as so often is the case? Indeed, many conservatives have even come to presumptuously regard the average libertarian as a step child to their cause.
And while conservatives and libertarians may rhetorically divvy a number of surface commonalities, does this mechanically render libertarians conservatives? Or corroborate conservatism’s modern incarnation? Of course not.
Subsequently, I would argue that the modern libertarian not only ideologically resides contrary to the modern conservative, but ideologically resides in closer proximity to the founders than the modern conservative. In fact, as economist Murray Rothbard once pointed out,
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