Why Libertarianism Will Crush Conservatism

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus recently wrote a piece on PolicyMic attempting to draw millennials to the GOP. Priebus and the rest of the Republican leadership know the future of their party is in serious jeopardy; what they don't realize is that only libertarians can save them.

At the core of the party's problems is conservatism itself. Having never been a coherent philosophy of government, conservatism exists as an amalgam of reactionary concepts loosely tied together by historical accident. The only apparent unifying theme among ideas as unrelated as opposition to gay marriage and aggressive foreign interventionism is a fear of the unfamiliar. This reactionary nature is leading conservatives down a path to irrelevance in an age of improved communication, access to information, and cultural understanding.

Murray Rothbard pointed out that conservatism, lacking a coherent ideology, offers only a practical defense of the existing status quo, reacting to progressivism in defense of "tradition." But when progressive reforms endure and become part of that tradition, conservatives lose their intellectual ammunition and end up accepting the change, for better or worse.

Through the decades, conservatives have been overwhelmingly impotent at preserving their ever-shifting vision of tradition. They have over the last century lost their battles against Wilsonian progressivism, the New Deal, the Great Society, racial integration, abortion, drug abuse, and secularization, and they are now losing their fights against gay rights and so-called illegal immigration. The fact that they have lost so reliably, despite their persistent numerical superiority, is a testament to the holes in their philosophy. Along the way, they've adopted virtually every bureaucratic idea pioneered by progressives, increasing government spending while wasting energy and billions of dollars fighting losing cultural battles.

The diminishing appeal of conservatism for younger, more cosmopolitan millennials as well as exploding immigrant populations who view it as bigoted or old-fashioned translates to serious demographic problems for Republicans. If current trends continue, winning the White House will become a distant memory for the GOP. Absent a commitment to change (something they don't generally excel at), the party may cease to be competitive at the national level.

Libertarianism can perhaps be thought of as a natural response to this contradiction. Libertarians are skeptical of power in an age of skepticism, embrace science in an era of rapid scientific improvement, reject banal expressions of nationalism in an increasingly-globalized world, and remain dedicated to individualism, not for tradition's sake, but to advance mankind's virtually limitless potential.

The growth of libertarianism in the GOP is very much the result of the millennial generation's coming of age. Millennials seem to have a different view of what conservatism is than their parents and grandparents. It's well known that they are much more socially liberal than previous generations. They are, however, still split on the role of government, with millennials today slightly more conservative than Generation X was at the same age.

Libertarianism is the true yin to progressivism's yang: a platform consistently emphasizing individual rights and self-determination can more effectively combat the global march toward collectivism and consolidation without conservatism's archaic cultural baggage.

The differences between libertarianism and progressivism are scientific, rather than sentimental, so the battle can be fought on scientific grounds consistent with the values of today's youth. Having a firm philosophical foundation, libertarian congressmen such as Justin Amash and Tom Massie have demonstrated an immunity to the customary weaknesses that have drawn the GOP away from its small-government ideals.

Conservatives don't have much to lose by embracing libertarianism. Whether they like it or not, their reactionary philosophy has led them to defeat in both the culture wars and the quest for limited government. Sometimes, change is good.

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Jason M. Farrell

Libertarian writer and former Think Tanker of Washington DC and Baltimore, MD.

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