Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

December 6, 2005

Why We Are Not Conservatives

by Doug Mataconis

Libertarians are often lumped into the same camp as conservatives and it usually takes alot of explaining to the uninitiated before they completely understand the differences. I was reminded of those differences this morning when I read this piece on Hit & Run that contained the following quote from Robert Bork:

“Liberty in America can be enhanced by reinstating, legislatively, restraints upon the direction of our culture and morality,” writes the former appeals court judge, now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “Censorship as an enhancement of our liberty may seem paradoxical. Yet it should be obvious, to all but the most dogmatic First Amendment absolutists, that people forced to live in an increasingly brutalized culture are, in a very real sense, not wholly free.” Bork goes on to complain that “relations between the sexes are debased by pornography”; that “large parts of television are unwatchable”; that “motion pictures rely upon sex, gore, and pyrotechnics for the edification of the target audience of 14-year-olds”; and that “popular music hardly deserves the name of music.”

Bork’s logic is strangely Orwellian. By restraining you, we will make you more free. Of course, by free we mean free to make only the choices that we approve of. This is the difference between conservatives and libertarians. Libertarians are content to let people live their lives as they see fit, to watch the television shows they want to watch and listen to the music they enjoy, without getting the state involved. Conservatives, bound as they are by the chains of tradition, talk as though they believe in freedom, but it is the freedom to only make a limited set of choices.

I remember back in 1986 I was upset that Bork was not confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court. After reading quotes like the one above, I am glad that he wasn’t.

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  • http://me-ander.blogspot.com/ muse

    It reminds me of something I overheard in hs, 40 years ago: “The non-conformists all have green bookbags.”

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