Why Young Conservatives Are Drawn To Libertarian Politics

Note: The following article is a feature in PolicyMic's new 20-Something Series, in which we highlight topics with particular relevance to young people.

I can't help but feel confused by an organization like the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC). On the one hand, Dick Cheney received roaring applause and a standing ovation and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was awarded the "Constitution Award."

On the other hand, a few of the smartest libertarian minds were also represented: author Thomas Woods, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, and Congressman Ron PaulCampaign for Liberty and Antiwar.com - two libertarian outposts with significant grassroots influence - were also in attendance.

I have a hunch, however, that the old, stuffy, and wealthy right-wing donors at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute are dying off; that their ideas of perpetual war and a "clash of civilizations" with Islam are losing sway with my generation.

As fellow PolicyMic contributor Christine Harbin - who also happened to be in D.C. attending the event - pointed out in her recent article:

Young people are dissatisfied with the status quo. They’re worried about the government’s rate of growth. They wonder whether the government will be able to pay for its promises without burdening the tax base. They disagree with the federal government on what issues should be a priority, and how they can be best achieved.

And she's right. The biggest thing I took away from watching the events at CPAC from the web here in San Francisco was how young people "crashed" CPAC and made their presence felt.

And it appeared that the overwhelming majority of youth were sympathetic not to the modern, war-mongering, torture-supporting, nationalist conservatism of the Republican Party, but to a classical (but still just as relevant and applicable) conservatism.

Some, like Fox News, have labeled these youth as "disrespectful libertarians," but it strikes much deeper than that. Sure, the politics of the followers of Ron Paul may be described as "libertarian" in this age of Left Statism and Right Statism, but in a different time, conservatives were making the same arguments libertarians are making today.

Frank Chodorov, Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn - the most prominent intellectuals of what has been dubbed "the Old Right" - were distinctively conservative in the very essence of the word. They understood that a moral and social order lies not in the power of the state but in the power of the individual and his right to exercise his liberty free from outside coercion.

Decentralized and limited government, private property, peace, an inherent suspicion of all things large, whether corporate or state; these ideas used to resonate with American conservatives before the movement was hijacked by neocons and warfare statists. “Small is beautiful” morphed into a defense of America’s state-capitalism, and the vision of a peaceful, commercial republic transformed into an ugly thirst for Pax Americana.

Although I consider myself a libertarian with anarchist impulses, I have always sympathized with the voluntary aspects of social and cultural conservatism; that morality and virtue do not come from government edict and are regulated best by communities and ostracism.

It is a strange feeling for someone who hasn't even hit 25 to feel such resonance with a philosophy held by old white guys that are long dead now, but living under a government that steals half your income, garrisons the globe, wages perpetual war, and twists morality like a pretzel makes a wild-eyed radical find strange bedfellows.

According to those that "hijacked" CPAC, I'm not alone. My generation is tired of the killing, of the police state, of the debt and taxes, of the utter racket that the American Empire brings.

As Ronald Reagan said, libertarianism is at the heart and soul of conservatism. It's time the Right re-discovers its roots and abandons its nationalistic and big government impulses.

Photo CreditWikimedia Commons