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Hayek : " Why I Am Not a Conservative "

I think a lot of libertarians out there are confused as to our place within the GOP.

Mr.Hayek (author of the seminal " The Road to Serfdom ", protégé of Ludwig von Mises, and celebrated Austrian economist in his own right)

wrote an essay years ago entitled " Why I Am Not a Conservative " that I feel elucidates some of the problems we libertarians have faced in the past and still grapple with today, all within a historical context.



Now for my own personal opinion as a libertarian living within the United States of America :

Historically, we libertarians were considered "the left" for many years, our opposition being conservatives wishing to preserve the authority of well-established (typically authoritarian or statist) institutions. Conservatives wish to conserve past traditions, our past at that point in time being despotic monarchies/aristocracies to a large degree. Thus their position makes perfect sense given their psyche. The most unexpected development in perhaps the entirety of modern history was that collectivists ( whose very ideology necessitates authoritarian control ) usurped our title as the party of freedom and thus became the new "left". As the new "left" began to institute policies that began to limit the liberties of American citizens ( collectivist policy cannot succeed without doing this ) conservatives within this country rose up in opposition. Now as I mentioned before conservatives wish to "conserve" past traditions, the kicker in this case being that America is the only country in the world whose traditions were founded upon libertarianism.

Thus, in order to fight the encroachment of the state upon our personal liberties, we libertarians found ourselves locked into a rather strange alliance. On one hand conservatives and libertarians both very much believe in the traditions and beliefs this country was founded on. On the other hand, conservatives by their very nature resist change and the "different", whereas we libertarians in fact desire a great deal of change given the emaciated state of our ideals today and furthermore we are open minded to the "different" as long as it is in line with our philosophical beliefs.

Now as to my opinion regarding the future of this country we live in I personally believe we should support the conservatives in this country as long as elections are free and honest and we at least have the chance to regain leadership of the Republican party ( I do not believe the recent rule changes at the RNC cannot be reversed given enough desire to do so ). The reason for this being that the Democrats ( unabashed collectivists ) are in fact antithetical ideologically to nearly everything we stand for. At least with Republicans, for reasons mentioned earlier, we have some common ground our major disagreements being with the statist elements of the party. As for Democrats, their policies are 100% statist. The only thing we can agree with them on is some of the humanitarian "ends" of their programs like reduction in poverty, equal treatment under the law, etc. However, the reason why we can never align with the Democrats is the "means" they use to accomplish these "ends". The Democrats believe in using the Government to coerce ( alternative word : force ) people to behave a certain way in order to usher in their utopia on Earth. This is statism. We libertarians know that the same "ends" and desires we share with Democrats will never be realized due to the methods ("means") they use to achieve them. We know from personal experience these methods make the world a worse place to live in as these methods take away individual liberties from people. Thus, due to their ignorance, we cannot support Democrats.

My belief is that if we support conservatives in this country until popular opinion is firmly on the side of libertarianism, collectivism will die off ( read : no more Democrats or RINOs being able to win elections ) then a new political paradigm will be established as the Republican party splits into two with us the libertarians becoming the "left" once more and the "right" consisting of statist neocons and repentant collectivist Democrats seeking to "conserve" the tradition of the welfare state.

Thank you for your time, and stay true my fellow libertarians.

Freedom and liberty always win in the end.

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Hayek said it well...

"My belief is that if we support conservatives in this country until popular opinion is firmly on the side of libertarianism, collectivism will die off, then a new political paradigm will be established..."

That time is now!!


Thanks for posting this. Here's another that I've found useful/interesting of late:


He seems to have been quite a thinker, his assertion that free markets achieve some sort of optimal state for the economy is clearly questionable, and exactly on the grounds that collectivists question it. Namely, that there can be such a thing as destructive consumer preference, i.e., the influence of human nature can lead to undesirable outcomes. (I'm not suggesting, of course, that central government has any hope of helping in this situation.)

On the other hand, people like Mises gave great weight to the fact that Socialists can't figure out the optimal levels of things like production.

I guess it's good that folks like Hayek left something for the rest of us to figure out.

Hi Farmer,Thank you for

Hi Farmer,

Thank you for reading and providing that link.

As far as destructive consumer preference goes...

In my opinion, Capitalism is one of humanity's crowning achievements, but at the end of the day it could be ultimately considered an intellectual tool ( as we are a tool making species, almost all living standard progress humanity has made has been with the use of mental and physical tools ).

Now as a tool what is its function.

I would define it as :

"A system to manage a limited amount of resources in the face of unlimited human desire."

Now most of us would agree capitalism has performed this function admirably well, at least compared to other systems that have been tried by humanity in the past as well as in the present times.

You could go on for quite a while as to how capitalism accomplishes this, most of us have a pretty good feeling as to why this is being on a libertarian forum, but in any case this isn't the time or post to go into that.

Now if you accept capitalism as a tool with a limited function (it is impossible to create a tool that can solve every problem) a useful analogy to make would be to compare an intellectual tool to a physical tool.

Take a hammer for instance, it is created with the sole purpose to exert crushing force, that is its function. We can also agree that a hammer has a limited function, you can't use it to screw in a screw or saw a board in half. Most people use this tool in constructive ways (housework,construction,etc.) however there will be people that will use this tool to exert crushing force on a human being. We can both agree that that is a bad idea in most cases. But if you were to re-engineer a hammer to not hurt a human being it would probably become totally ineffective at its initial function and thus reason for its existence, to exert crushing force.

Capitalism is similar in this regard. Its function is to manage a limited amount of resources in the face of unlimited human desire. It cannot keep people from immoral economic choices resulting from immoral human desire. If you were to attempt to alter Capitalism to perform this function it would undermine its initial purpose and thus raison d'être until it became noneffective as tool for the management of resources.

Finally, if you split up the problem of destructive consumer preference into two problems, management of resources and immoral human desire, you can then apply two different intellectual tools: capitalism for the resources, and religion/individual ethical responsibility for the immoral behavior; all problems are solved and the systems functions once more.

The "liberal" in "libertarian"

People today who consider themselves "libertarian" used to be called simply "liberal," the historical term for a political philosophy centered on the notions of promoting liberty, natural inalienable rights, rule of law, social contract, etc.

Only after the rise of the Progressive movement in the US (which was originally conservative and elitist, and rather Bismarkian in ways) did the world liberal, referring to social liberalism, arrive at its current connotation.

What would be considered free market "conservatism" in the US (given lip service, but never practiced by the GOP) is referred to now as "neo-liberalism" in Europe, while the big government-big business alliance promoting imperialism abroad and cartel economics at home is rightly referred to as "neo-conservatism" in the US.

So, yes Hayek would never have thought of himself as a European conservative.

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Progressivism and Neo-convervatism

While you would be accurate to call Progressivism "Bismarkian" if you meant imply that Progressivism ( and thus socialism and collectivism ) drew their inspiration from 19th century German political theory that peaked under the rule of Otto von Bismarck from 1860-1890 it would be fallacious to imply that these policies are "American conservative" as Bismarck was a German conservative and was thus conserving the German tradition of autocratic statism directed by the aristocratic princes that controlled each of the German states of pre-unification Germany, a system which had been in place for hundreds of years.

Neo-conservatives are actually conservative Democrats that left the Democratic party in the 1960's in disgust over the policies of Lyndon Baines Johnson and the general movement in the Democratic party toward more extreme leftist ideologies.

Beautifully written augustus.

I have not found a more appropriate summation of our mission within the Republican Party.

Libertarians Have Got To Create A Major Think-Tank For...

the sole purpose of creating legislation to privatize as much government as possible in order to take power away from the socialists/collectivists and return more wealth to main street. Replace instead of slash and burn.

It is frustrating to read

It is frustrating to read Hayek's work and hear the word Liberal used to describe paleo conservatism... which was also classical Liberalism... which was the non interventionist of the time for some Republicans and Dixie-crats.

And then today, all words have lost meaning and are prostitutes to their true value.

I'm probably wrong but I view anarcho-capitalism as the purest form of conservatism because it is anti-state and laissez faire where it allows the individual to determine his destiny.

Southern Agrarian

Hayek explained his displeasure of this

In his 1956 foreword of The Road to Serfdom

"there is one point of phraseology which I ought to explain here to forestall any misunderstanding. I use throughout the term “liberal” in the original, nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain. In current American usage it often means nearly the opposite of this. It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country, helped by the muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that “liberal” has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservatives."

We really dropped the ball on this one.

It is in the nature of

It is in the nature of tyrannical institutions and deceptive individuals that desire power to use language to control the thought patterns of other people. The technique is to use a word with strong emotional content or historical character, but to subtly change its meaning so that the person hearing the speakers argument subconsciously associates the past emotional content or historical character with its new usage. In my opinion this leads to a breakdown in communication between human beings as ideas and feelings can no longer be conveyed effectively as each participant in the discussion no longer can tell just what the other means.

Thanks for reading and good point.


Very interesting indeed. Thanks for posting.