Arthur Schaper: Libertarianism: The Heart of Conservatism

Friday, August 30, 2013


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When the Republican Party reasserts its heart, libertarianism, this country will beat strong once again, believes Arthur Schaper.

Despite all the rhetoric, Republicans have ratcheted onto President Reagan’s legacy to their hurt (“Government is not part of the problem; it is the problem” is problematic, as Reagan’s actions and words did not quite match up: the War on Drugs, raising the debt ceiling without cutting the spending. Still, there is one piece of Reaganite advice (among others), which Republicans should regard:

“I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism,” – Ronald Reagan

More than mere vogue, libertarianism is a demonstrable, present-day rebellion to the failures of the current GOP Establishment’s “No more taxes! No spending!” conservatism and the unhinged, tax-and-spend liberalism of the Obama Administration, whose policies are stretching government overreach into our pockets, onto our healthcare, and right through our privacy into our cell phones and Internet correspondence.

The role of the individual

The libertarian argument for less government is hardly heartless, but a hearty call for good governance.

US Senator Edward Brooke (R-Massachusetts) commented in a recent interview that the Republican Party “must have a heart as well as a head” [2:00-2: 205].

That heart, libertarianism, does not dismiss the needs of the individual who cannot care for himself. The context for Brooke’s statement informed the notion that the government should never do for man what he can do for himself, yet government can step in to do things which alone people cannot accomplish. Public infrastructure, for example, or criminal sanctions for lawbreakers should not be doffed to the private sector alone. The abuse of prisoners in private prisons has demonstrated that profit only as a motive can be unprofitable to the greater good of society. A proper tax structure which provides rather than perverts public safety should be promoted in all locales.

In contrast to the rising libertarian impulses, the declining trends of Progressive doctrine, initiated under President Woodrow Wilson and culminating under President Barack Obama have only ushered in progress for the state, but not for the citizen. While the government asserts itself as the source of all things good, the individual has become diminished and distanced, wondering why the costs of food, health care, and public safety are rising, and why the basic services of the state are receding, and why fewer people are able to live and thrive on their own.

Then again, one repeated criticism against conservatives, libertarians, and limited-government types, a grip which liberals and progressive love to lob, relies on the charges of anarchy and anti-government ravaging. “They want to get rid of all government!” liberals will cry; or “They would just as well force everyone to dig a hole in the backyard instead of collect their taxes for a sewer system,” progressives will pout. Such hysteria demonstrates a concerted lack of understanding of true liberty, one which requires rules, yet rules which require everything from everyone cannot contain, but rather constrain liberty. With libertarianism, the state has its place, but smaller.

Libertarianism is not anarchism

Libertarianism does not mean eliminating government entirely or discourage any intervention by force. The essence of this growing philosophy, per conservative columnist George Will, concurs with the heart of Brooke’s statement and also Reagan’s statement of heart:

So let’s be clear about what libertarianism is and what it isn’t. It is not anarchism. It has a role in government. . . t basically says before the government abridges the freedom of an individual or the freedom of several individuals contracting together, that government ought to have, A) a compelling reason and B) a constitutional warrant for doing so.

The role of the state

There is a place of the state, one which protects our rights, secures our borders, and provides an adequate, stable monetary system. The state should regard the needs of marginal populations, too: the mentally ill, miscreants, and minors. Those issues cannot know their rights, have abused them, or have not yet learned their full consequences.

There is a place for the state. This assertion is no novel statement, but doctrinal, found and founded in the founding Declaration of the United States of America:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

To protect our rights, not create them, and not compel someone else to pay for them: there the role of the state is best defined. And confined.

Is there a compelling, constitutional reason for the state to step in? Let’s consider one controversial example. Under Obamacare, state power has only made matters health care worse. Taxes have increased, with access declining and rationing to follow. Doctors are leaving the profession. In California, legislators are scrambling to pass laws which will expand the number of people who can practice medicine, since fewer people choose to under the growing regulatory burdens of the Patient Protection (Ha!) and Affordable Care (Double Ha!) Act. Obama’s signature legislation has been heartless from its inception.


When the Republican Party reasserts its heart, libertarianism, this country will beat strong once again.

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


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