“The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.” -George Orwell
In my fairly sizable experience conversing with politically interested youth, two strange patterns have stood out. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that for many of my politically interested peers social issues generally constitute the majority of their political interests, or often the entirety of them. The second is that in a shockingly large number of cases, despite their adamant insistence on labeling themselves “liberal” or “Democrat”, many students share free market sympathies, and are critical of overzealous actions by the state.
Given these irreconcilably schizophrenic differences between what these, as I call them, “in the closet libertarians”, say they are and say they believe, it baffled me why they were so eager to identify with the left. When confronted with the idea that they are politically closer to being Libertarians than Democrats or liberals, I usually receive a response along the lines of, “Ew, Libertarian ? Isn’t that what George Bush and Rick Santorum are?” almost invariably followed.
As a Libertarian who would cheerfully gnaw off any given appendage rather than be philosophically lumped together with these wretched men, this type of response was horribly disconcerting. Many of those I talked to were under the impression that to be pro free market meant having to be anti gay or anti drug, as if the two ideas were inseparable from each other. I realized that many students and their young peers have adorned these left wing philosophies, not for their virtues, but in rejection of the right.
That is to say, in rejection of the social platform of the right. I have encountered countless young people who have had the ideas of free market capitalism and liberty fused with the conservative social platform into some sordid pool in the most nauseous parts of their memory and labeled it “Libertarianism”. Because of their impassioned concern for social issues, much of today’s youth will flock to the Democratic party for philosophical asylum, even though the party may contradict what they believe economically. Many will simply adopt liberal economic and political positions because they assume they will match up to their social beliefs.
Having worked with several of Colorado’s predominant conservative think tanks, I have found that many conservatives place very little emphasis or care on social issues. Speaking from my experience, they tend to be more concerned with economic and other political issues, and rightly so, I believe. However, the low calorie banter of comedy news anchors, and pedantic 140 character credos of celebrities have successfully caricatured the right and conservatives as social bigots, obsessed with stripping away their social liberties.
This coupled with the token bile of the Rick Santorums is all that many young people will ever know about the beliefs of the right. I know that for the vast majority of conservatives, their social beliefs do not come from a place of hatred or ignorance, but sadly this is irrelevant. The macabre truth of the situation is that the social conservative social platform, is keeping many young voters away from the ideas of free market and liberty; and that to many, the abhorrent drawls of bigots is directly related to the ideas of liberty.
Antiquated prohibitions against ingestion and personal relationships are doing more harm to our most cherished values of freedom and liberty than Billy Graham thinks they could do in his most harrowing fantasy. The death of the ideas of liberty will not come from legalized drugs or gay marriage. It will come from the supporters of liberty treating membership to their party like a 19th century country club. I beseech conservatives not to let the ideals of liberty die in the trenches of battles that should not be fought.
I’ve always disdained arguments from necessity or practicality. I want to make clear I’m not arguing that conservatives should give up their philosophical beliefs because young people don’t like them. While there is a compelling pragmatic argument for it, socially free and tolerant beliefs are consistent with the core beliefs of conservatives. How is it that the same people who advocate personal liberty and responsibility are the most vehement opponents of the victimless lifestyles that they bring?
If this still doesn’t convince you, for the sake of your interests and philosophies, for the love of freedom, please stop advertising it. You don’t have to agree with it or like it, but as representatives of personal responsibility and freedom you are compelled to fight for people’s freedom to lead peaceful lives, whatever that may be. History nauseously recalls countless prohibitions that failed in everything except expanding the regulatory power of the state. The war on drugs and the fight against gay marriage are no exception. Save the petty tyranny for the authoritarian statist jerks. We have more important battles to fight.
I would like to end my inflammatorily titled article on a sincere note. I care deeply for the liberty movement and have devoted years of my life to fighting for it. I write this not to enrage and create controversy, but rather to give a moment for reflection on the reality of political climate amongst the youth today.