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Conservatism and Libertarianism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/16/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,993 times Debate No: 23328
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (56)
Votes (5)




Resolved: Conservatism and Libertarianism are ideological allies.

I am Affirming. The burden of proof is shared, my opponent needs to show that on balance, the goals of Libertarianism and Conservatism are too far apart to be treated as actual allies.

What exactly defines a Libertarian and Conservative will be a point of contention between my opponent and myself, but my opponent acknowledges upon accepting that the definitions need to be within reason.

For clarification I will be defending Hoppes thesis that statist conservatism is essentially self defeating. Citing one's sources outside of the debate is permissible.

This is now a part of man-is-good's tournament.


Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting. Having debated him before, I know that I'll have my hands full for this debate.

Hoppes thesis can be summed up as follows: The ideological goals of conservatism can only be achieved by embracing anti-statist libertarianism. That is, while modern conservatism is muddled and confused with seemingly incomprehensible goals, if one digs deeper into the crux of the ideology they will find that it indeed does have coherent goals, and a coherent worldview that can only be properly implemented under a libertarian order. What these are will be elaborated on shortly.

Wikipedia defines an ideology[1] as "...a set of ideas that constitute one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things..." From this it follows that ideologies are transcendental to the times, events, and circumstances in which an individual finds themselves; that is, while times change the worldview of those subscribing to conservatism, anarchism, liberalism, and every ideology in between would remain roughly consistent.

Let me first begin by defining the terms, and justifying those definitions. That will, of course, be at the crux of this debate. I have no doubt that there are many self-styled conservatives, likely including my esteemed opponent, who would vehemently disagree with the thesis I am going to defend, but recall that, mostly due to statism, conservatism in our day and age is a confused ideology-as proof, one in the United States needs to look no further than the modern day champions of "conservatism", the confusing mess of libertarianism, classical liberalism, and neo-"conservatism" (national socialism): the Republican party. Some will posit that to be a conservative one must merely prefer the status quo. This definition is useless, as Hoppe points out, assuming that the posited definition[2]:

"Because different laws, rules, and political institutions are in place at different times and/or different locations, what a conservative supports depends on and changes with place and time. To be a conservative means nothing specific at all except to like the existing order, whatever that may be."

Such a meaning must be discarded then. Indeed, using said definition, Democrats in the United States, and Communists in the late Soviet Empire were Conservative! An obvious paradox.

To be a Conservative then must mean something different. Hoppe defines[3]:

"The term conservative must have a different meaning. What it means, and possibly only can mean, is this: Conservative refers to someone who believes in the existence of a natural order, a natural state of affairs which corresponds to the nature of things: of nature and man...Moreover, the natural is at the same time the most enduring state of affairs. The natural order is ancient and forever the same (only anomalies and accidents undergo change), hence, it can be recognized by us everywhere and at all times."

True conservatives everywhere support the family unit as the fundamental building block of society, respect of private property rights, and order. These things correspond with the natural order; this explains much of the the modern day Republican parties message of "family values" and (general) rejection of big-government (after all, the more members of a society relies on government, the weaker the family unit becomes).

I will not pause to deter any foreseeable objections that may come from this definition, as my opponent will undoubtedly raise any of merit in the next round, but I will say that I believe this definition of conservatism to be irrefutably true.

Now, I will move on and explain why conservatives must be libertarians, and libertarians must be conservative. It needs to be conceded as truthful that the welfare state erodes the value of the family unit since relying on ones government keeps one from having to rely on ones family, and the welfare state is inherently redistributive- taking wealth from the haves to give to the have nots, a violation of property rights if there ever was one- and thus true conservatives must unashamedly oppose the welfare state. This is compatible with libertarianism, the platform of the U.S. Libertarian party even goes so far as to directly challenge the welfare state[4], saying:

"We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual...Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. " [Emphasis mine].

However, it goes without saying that most political ideologies have comparable goals, so what is it about libertarianism and conservatism that makes them so intricately entwined? Well, most if not all conservatives are concerned with, and rightfully so, the cultural and moral degeneracy that is plaguing us, world over in our modern day. What they often fail to realize is that this damage is directly caused, again world over, by the state.

One can do no better than to once again quote Hoppe[5]:

No wishful thinking can alter the fact that maintaining the core institutions of the present welfare state and wanting to return to traditional families, norms, conduct, and culture are incompatible goals. You can have one-socialism (welfare)-or the other - traditional morals-but you cannot have both, for social nationalist economics, the pillar of the current welfare state the very cause of cultural and social anomalies...By subsidizing with tax funds (with funds taken from others) people who are poor (bad), more poverty will be created. By subsidizing people because they are unemployed (bad), more unemployment will be created. By subsidizing unwed mothers (bad), there will be more unwed mothers and more illegitimate births, etc"

Redistributive policies, including the welfare state, inherently reduce the incentive to be a producer, because the fruits of one's production is taken from them-not only is this a violation of private property rights, but moreover it is used to provide incentives for bad and immoral things and discourage the natural order, the order of private property. For this reason, conservatives must be opposed to the welfare state and taxation in all it's forms, lest they experience cognitive dissonance-meaning of course, that they must be libertarians. In regards to most self styled conservatives, [6] "Most contemporary conservatives, then, especially among the media darlings, are not conservatives but socialists." The "compassionate conservatism" of George Bush and Rick Santorum is nothing less than socialism.

Why must Libertarians, then, be conservatives? Well, libertarianism is fundamentally conservative[7]! After all, Libertarians believe that "the principles of justice are eternally and universally valid (and hence, must have been essentially known to mankind since its very beginnings)" just as conservatives believe that normalcy is widespread and ancient. Libertarianism, despite what many of it's young adherents may believe, is not a new (post-war) ideology, but rather one established under ancient, conservative framework. Modern libertarianism, with its reverence for private property and individualism, can only be regarded as an ideological offshoot of conservatism.

In conclusion, Hoppe states that libertarian ethics actually provide conservatism a "more rigorous moral defense" of the natural order. For these reasons, these two ideologies must be regarded as one of the same, and inseparable allies. The modern welfare-warfare state is responsible for the destruction of traditional ethics and values, and it is this that conservatives must stand with libertarians to oppose.

I look forward to my opponents reply, and already urge the readers to cast a ballot in affirmation.





I'd like to thank thett3 for instigating this thought-provoking debate. As a radical conservative who is fundamentally opposed to libertarianism, I am really excited about the opportunity to defend my vision of conservatism. Whatever the outcome, I sincerely hope this debate helps clarify what conservatism is, and in doing so, helps illuminate the important distinctions between conservatism, liberalism, and libertarianism. I ask that our readers go through this debate very carefully, as it will be introducing and condensing a huge amount of information into a few short rounds of debate.


Modern society is characterized by a pluralism of incompatible yet reasonable religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines. This poses a serious problem for the organization of society: what political order would allow individuals with competing conceptions of the good to peacefully cooperate?

John Rawls proposes to deal with this intractable conflict as John Locke proposed to deal with it three hundred years before him, by removing issues of religion, philosophy, and morality from the public agenda [1]. This is the dream of political liberalism, and conflicting fundamental beliefs (liberal theorists rename them "opinions" on the way to marginalizing them) have no place in its political sphere.

The argument goes as follows: because we are all prone to error and to the overvaluation of our opinions, we ought not judge one another. None of us is God and in full possession of the truth. As such, we must allow others equal freedom to pursue the truth. In Kantian terms, this becomes the doctrine of the autonomy of free rational agents, who are to be regarded not as means but as ends.

In Kant's words: "Each may seek his happiness in whatever way he sees fit so long as he does not infringe upon the freedom of others to pursue a similar end; that is, he must accord to others the same rights he enjoys himself" [2]. Or in the words of John Stuart Mill: "We must beware of admitting a principle of which we would resent as a gross injustice the application to ourselves" [3].

The logic behind liberalism sounds fine, but it employs a slippery logic whereby deep moral convictions and life allegiances are turned into mere opinions. For liberals, every belief is like every other belief, neither something to live for nor something to fight for. In effect, liberalism asks you to inhabit your moral convictions without conviction, because it asks you to withdraw from your convictions whenever pursuing them would impinge on the activities and choices of others.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it displaces morality by making all assertions equivalent and, because equivalent, inconsequential. As such, liberal thought promotes a regime of relativism by refusing to make judgments, because passing judgment would take away from the equality of persons and their opinions.


Libertarianism begins from the same fundamental premises as liberalism. Thus, by privileging individual liberty, libertarians attempt to establish a neutral political framework in which individuals with conflicting fundamental beliefs can peacefully cooperate. This is exactly what liberalism attempts to do.

The key difference between libertarians and liberals is that libertarians uphold individual liberty as the highest good whereas liberals uphold equality as the highest good. As thett3's account of libertarianism implies, libertarians are willing to sacrifice many traditional goods for the sake of preserving individual liberty. Hence, because individual liberty must be affirmed at all costs, libertarians will oppose the pro-life position, laws prohibiting obscenity, as well as laws promoting marriage, regardless of whether these are the right positions or not.

Like liberalism, libertarianism requires a commitment to not take one's deepest convictions (other than the absolute value of individual liberty) seriously. But as my brief discussion of liberalism has demonstrated, this line of reasoning is extremely problematic. It quickly leads to relativism and the displacement of morality.

Libertarianism thus empties history of its meaning. A truly libertarian government does not distinguish between the rantings of neo-Nazis and the proclamation of the golden rule, as both are equally legitimate actions because both are instances of individual free choice.


thett3 represents conservatism as yet another "neutral" framework (according to thett3, the "natural order"). thett3's conception of conservatism rests on the following statement from Hoppe: "The natural order is ancient and forever the same (only anomalies and accidents undergo change), hence, it can be recognized by us everywhere and at all times." The problem with thett3's argument is that it assumes the natural order does not change (it does) and it assumes conservatives believe their understanding of nature is complete (they don't).

In fact, conservatives believe human understanding is limited. Above all else, conservatives believe the outcomes of gradual, bottom-up social evolution are more revealing than humans themselves are capable of understanding. That is why conservatives place faith in history and tradition (in the wisdom accumulated through centuries of human experience) over and above abstract human reason.

Does this mean conservatives are completely unwill
ing to embrace change? Not at all. It means that, without a compelling historical reason to believe otherwise, what has worked in the past will probably continue to work in the present. Why? Because human understanding is limited, so it makes more pragmatic sense to trust the principles developed by history and tradition rather than the abstract principles devoloped by human rationality.

A good example is gay marriage. Gay families are the outcome of a gradual, bottom-up social evolution. Of course, no conservative would ever support gay marriage because of abstract principles (liberty or equality), but when conservatives realize that gay families were the gradual result of a natural social evolution, I believe conservatives will become the strongest defenders of gay marriage.


The philosophical underpinning of conservatism and libertarianism is clearly different. If libertarianism is liberalism with a twist, conservatism is pragmatism with a twist. Conservatives invoke traditions and principles developed over millenia to determine what works and what doesn't. Libertarians invoke abstract principles developed by rationalism, outside of any time or place, with absolute faith in the capacity of human reason.

It is possible that the interests of conservatism and libertarianism may intersect in a particular time and place. That does not mean conservatism and libertarianism are inherently allied. Conservatism does not value individual liberty as an abstraction, it values tradition, history, and human experience. What's more, history is distinctly opposed to libertarianism (have we ever had a truly libertarian state?), so as it can be seen, conservatism is clearly not allied with libertarianism.

Conservatives value the community and the family unit above the individual. According to conservatives, human beings enter the world dependent on others, requiring the coercive care and direction of parents, friends, teachers, police, and soldiers. A true conservative does not believe in absolute liberty.

Conservatives are not moral relativists, they believe political life requires a public moral order determined by centuries of human experience. Libertarians, on the other hand, displace morality from the public agenda. Conservatives value moral intuitions, libertarians do not.

That is why many conservatives support drug laws, public schooling, paper money, immigration controls, foreign aid and wars, and various other infringements on individual liberties. No true libertarian is a conservative.

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks for your great arguments fourtrouble. Appologies in advance if this round seems rushed, things came up in real life that left me with little time to post this round.

My opponents definition of liberalism is invalid and self contradictory. He first argues that liberalism seeks to remove all moral and philisophical perceptions from the public sphere, then argues in his next paragraph that:

"liberals uphold equality as the highest good". If equality is the highest good, than that is not keeping morals out of the public sphere, but rather acting upon a different moral code than that of conservatism. His own statement throws out his definition as flawed.

TURN: The pursuit of total equality is inherently hostile to private property--the fundamental basis of libertarianism. After all, private property is inherently discriminatory, I own this and that and can prohibit you from using it, and can discriminate against you on my private property however I wish. Since Conservatism is the ideological foe of liberalism, if the fundamental basis of liberalism as my opponent himself put it is contrary to the basis of libertarianism, than the conclusion logically follows that both factions are fundamentally opposed to liberalism and hence allies.

I would go further however and argue that another fundamental building block of the liberal ideology is that people are unable to care for themselves. This is evidenced in the fact that statist leftists virtually always advocate a big-brother, cradle to grave welfare system and anarchist leftists (anarcho-communists to be sure) advocate a collevtive society in which private property does not exist- "to each according to their ability, to each according to their need". That liberalism at its core has a collectivist streak seems undeniable, and later on in the round I will explain how conservatism is individualistic. Much of my opponents conception of conservatism revolves around him juxtaposing it with liberalism, however his interpretation of liberalism is quite flawed. From this it follows that his conception of conservatism is flawed as well, causing him to lose the debate.

On libertarianism, my opponents definition misses the point substaintially. He argues that libertarianism attempts to "establish a neutral political framework in which individuals with conflicting fundamental beliefs can peacefully cooperate." The first part takes out the definition entirely. That is, if we have a neutral political framework, than there is nothing compulsing individuals with different beliefs to cooperate. Libertarianism follows the non-aggression principle, which is by itself itself a political framework. My opponents representation thus fails because a truly neutral political framework would allow individuals to act according to their own desires, even if that meant aggression. Moreover, my opponents interpretation implies forced cooperation-a contradiction in terms. Libertarianism does not strive to maximize cooperation as much as it does rights-I have the right not to use my property to cooperate with anyone else, however reasonable their requests. It is true that there are positions often held by "conservatives" that libertarians oppose, but recall my (dropped) analysis of how modern conservatism is muddled and confused. Recall also that my argument rested on the position of conservatism ultimately holding the natural order of private property as sacred, many culturally conservative positions (such as opposition to abortion) are positions that ultimately get defeated under statism. Further, governmental incentives towards "bads" (such as abortion and unemployment)-the cornerstone of the liberal welfare state- increases those bads according to the undisputed card 5. This tells us, once again, that libertarianism and conservatism are allied against liberalism. A libertarian society would achieve conservative ends more than statism.

Fourtrouble argues that a libertarian government makes no distinction between good and evil. First this is false as the "rantings of neo-nazis" are virtually certain to encourage aggression against others- evil according to the libertarian ethic, but moreover a libertarian government would exist to enforce property rights, not to dictate the opinions of its citizens. his assertion that libertarianism would rob history of its value is flawed since governments do not tell us the meaning of history.

Fourtrouble misunderstands the natural order. The conservative fundamental does not assert that mankind understands the entirety nature, as much as mankind understands it's proper place, what norms and behaviors should be followed and what is sacred. No doubt the natural order can change somewhat to account for changing needs due to gradual human evolution, but it would remain mostly the same. Even the name conservative implies that conservatives attempt to conserve the natural order. Fourtroubles definition of conservatism fails because the only criteria of substance to be conservative is adherence to the status quo. Not only did Hoppe disprove this thesis in my opening round, but this also violates the (dropped) framework of the round where its specified that political ideologies HAVE TO be transcedent to the situtations in which an individual finds themselves. Furthermore, my opponent argues that Conservatism embraces change if and only if there is no "compelling historical reason to [oppose]" the change. This, ladies and gentlemen, is no political ideology. My opponent can call it pragmatism, but the reality is that without compelling values (such as the natural order of private property or the nonaggression principle) there is NO brightline to accurately judge what is or isn't a positive social change, or what is or is not a compelling historical reason to oppose something. The reason that my opponents definition fails is that it posits that conservatives can recognize what has worked in the past, without any compelling values to judge if something has worked. This is not an ideology, which must, by definition, present a "comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things", my opponents version of conservatism means to prefer the status quo, nothing more.

Until he establishes a brightline on how to measure positive "bottom-up social evolution" he loses.

Fourtrouble posits that a true conservative does not believe in absolute liberty, but neither does a libertarian. Absolute liberty would be the freedom to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, desires as antithetical to an order of private property as anything I can think of. Libertarians also value the family unit, and a libertarian society destroys the very thing that destroys families, which is the welfare state! Again, libertarianism is what allows conservative values to flourish and be implemented.

He brings up several laws that "conservatives" support, but in actuality most of those positions are statist, not trly conservative. They are grasping at straws to save a socal order swamped with statism.


Conservatism and libertarianism have similar goals that rest upon eachother and give eachother the best chance of success. If one does not rely on the state, they have to rely on their family, and if one does not rely on their family they must rely on the state. Thus, both conservatives and libertarians support the family unit, just as they do many other things. Libertarian ethics allow conservatives to truly support their goals and ideology. For this reason, you must affirm.

Thanks for the reply fourtrouble, I look forward to your next round.



thett3 misunderstands formal equality and the public/private distinction that is the heart of liberal thought. The idea is that in the public sphere, we should regard our strongest beliefs (whether religious, philosophical, or moral) as someone's opinions rather than as truths.

A neo-Nazi is given equal legitimacy as long as his actions grant the same legitimacy to others. This form of equality is not "total" (as thett3 claims). And according to liberals, it is not self-contradictory or inconsistent precisely because it is a procedural equality (in other words, it is "impartial" in the way 2+2=4 is).

thett3 conflates liberalism with communism, claiming a "fundamental building block of the liberal ideology is that people are unable to care for themselves." This is false. Liberalism is inherently capitalistic, as it supports natural rights and private property.


When thett3 attacks my use of the words "neutral" and "cooperate," he equivocates and attacks a straw man. As I made explicit last round, libertarianism is a political order that does not pass judgement on the religious, philosophical, or moral doctrines of individuals. It is therefore a "neutral" political framework.

By preventing people from harming others, libertarianism requires some coercion on individual liberty (as thett3 pointed out). This is a form of forced cooperation, what I called an imperative to "peacefully cooperate" (notice how thett3's fallacious critique takes the word "cooperate" out of context by removing its essential qualification, "peacefully").

In point of fact, I never said (as thett3 claims) that libertarianism requires people to maximize cooperation. What I said was that libertarianism requires a form of cooperation, namely, the acknowledgement on the part of each citizen to not harm others. As such, it is somewhat ironic that thett3 tries to use the non-aggression principle as a counter-example to itself.

thett3's arguments consistently use this bizarre circular logic in which counter-examples are also examples of what they are countering. He does it again in the following two sentences: "a libertarian government would exist to enforce property rights, not to dictate the opinions of its citizens. his assertion that libertarianism would rob history of its value is flawed since governments do not tell us the meaning of history."

First, thett3 admits that a libertarian government is "neutral" because it turns all religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines into mere "opinions" (this is the classic liberal move I highlighted in the previous round). Then, in the following sentence, thett3 uses this fact to claim that libertarian "governments do not tell us the meaning of history." In other words, thett3's argument affirms the same point it attempts to contest: libertarians empty history of its meaning by turning it into an "opinion."

It should be clear that every one of thett3's arguments regarding libertarianism further establish it as an ideological ally of liberalism. The non-aggression principle finds its liberal manifestation in Mill's harm principle. And thett3 admits that both ideologies are predicated on a public/private distinction that turns the fundamental beliefs of its citizens into opinions rather than truths.


thett3 claims my characterization of conservatism "violates" his "dropped" framework. But if my argument "violates" thett3's framework, then the framework was obviously not "dropped." thett3's framework is flawed because it is inconsistent with most ideologies, including conservatism.

If ideologies are "transcendent to the times," then ideologies cannot change. Yet liberalism, libertarianism, and conservatism have each changed radically throughout history. If we take history into account, ideologies obviously change.

Of course, liberalism and libertarianism function by ignoring history. thett3's argument presupposes a libertarian framework, which is why thett3 insists that ideologies cannot change. The only principles that can be transcendent are the abstract principles of liberalism and libertarianism (equality and liberty), principles which are derived from rationalism alone.

On the other hand, conservatism is fundamentally empirical and pragmatic, deriving its principles from history, tradition, and human experience. Unlike libertarians, conservatives look at historical facts to determine what has worked and what hasn't.

thett3 claims there is no "brightline" to measure "positive" bottom-up social evolution. Of course not. That is the basis of my entire argument: human understanding is limited. Therefore, humans are not in a position where they can step back and evaluate which religious, philosophical, or moral doctrine is correct. But we are in a position to look at history and figure out what has worked and what hasn't.

The principles of conservatism are established by making a coherent system of thought (which later becomes what we call a tradition) out of practices that have proven themselves historically. The epistemological basis of conservatism is thus empiricism (as opposed to rationalism).


thett3 dismisses many of the statist positions conservatives hold by claiming that conservates cannot be statist. Besides the obvious circularity of his argument (conservatives can't be statists because conservatives can't be statists?), thett3's argument completely ignores the historical origin of conservatism (which was explicitly statist and theocratic). As of yet, thett3 has not made a single argument that proves conservatism is inherently incompatible with statism.

As I argued in the previous round, conservatives believe we require the direction of parents, teachers, our community, and the government. Why? Because conservatives believe, unlike liberals or libertarians, that human beings have involuntary social attachments, picked up during the course of our upbringing.

We do not choose our parents, the neighborhood we grow up in, or the people in our country. Yet each of these facts creates an involuntary social attachment which plays a fundamental role in our life. While liberals and libertarians oppose the state because of our free rational choice, conservatives believe free rational choice is an illusion.

The most essential social attachment we have is with our parents, our family, and this attachment is not a choice. Richard Daley, the mayor of Chicago, was attacked for directing the city's insurance business to his son's agency. Daley responded: "isn't that what fathers are supposed to do, help their children get a start in life?" [4]

A liberal/libertarian would be categorically opposed to Daley's actions, but a conservative might understand that Daley felt a moral imperative to help his son, even if it hurt his reputation (it had no practical effect on the city's wellbeing).


The fundamental difference between libertarianism and conservatism is an epistemological one: libertarians derive their principles through abstract rationalism, conservatives derive their principles through pragmatic empiricism. The other central difference between the two emerges as a result of this initial epistemological opposition: conservatives believe we have involuntary social attachments (first and foremost to our family), libertarians don't.

thett3 falsely claims libertarians value the family unit. The logic of thett3's argument rests on a false dichtomoy, as witnessed by the following sentence: "If one does not rely on the state, they have to rely on their family, and if one does not rely on their family they must rely on the state."

There is no reason to assume an individual who does not rely on their family "must" rely on the state (the individual could rely on friends, his religious community, or some other social attachment). In fact, thett3's false dichotomy exposes the incoherence of his position by admitting that conservatives believe we depend on others (a point thett3 both contests and affirms).
Debate Round No. 3


Many thanks to fourtrouble for debating me on this issue. I can not properly express my gratitude.

Rather than do a full scale rebuttal, for this final round I'm going to clear up a few major issues, then crystalize my vision of what the three conflicting ideologies are, and why I believe I have proven them as true.

I will first clear up the issue that fourtrouble calls the "incoherence of [my] position", which is that individuals ultimately rely on either the state or the family rather than themselves, exposing that individuals are unable to care for themselves as I previously claimed to be contrary to conservatism. Nevermind the fact that he asserted it was a false dichtomy without actually showing another option, his objection seems to, on its face, hold merit. However when scrutiny is applied, the objection falls to peices for one simple reason: individuals can voluntarily leave their families. That they will likely face hard times and rely on their families does not show that they cannot make decisions for themsleves given that remaining within ones family unit is a voluntary, non aggressive action. State intervention, on the other hand, is compulsory. This is, of course, the ultimate flaw of liberalism: since the state is composed of individuals, it is susceptible to the same weaknesses people are-it's just inherently aggressive, unlike families.

Thus both libertarianism and conservatism HAVE TO value families. Given that fourtrouble has not properly disputed the logic that it's a choice between families and the state, I'll just extend that all the way across.

For some reason, Fourtrouble puts a lot of emphasis on this idea of a libertarian government "emptying history of it's meaning". This is really irrelevant, but even so it makes no sense. Telling events as they happened still gives history meaning-for example, the Holocaust resulted in the comlete destruction of the private property of over 13 million individuals, self evidently evil under the libertarian ethic. I doubt any of us rationally believe that the state needs to tell people that something is wrong for it to be so. If that is the case, than all debates are a non-starter given that governments could just change the ethics we follow. Dont vote off this red-herring.

Fourtroubles entire argument violates the framework of the round, which he calls " flawed" and " inconsistent with most ideologies" disregarding that this is just a bare assertion, it's still illogical. Political ideologies are based on morals, given that they're an expression of what the state ought to do to maximize human wellbeing. If morals are subjective to change than every political debate is a non stater given that no opinion is more valid than any other. This defeats his position which puts great emphasis on "meaning" and "positive evolution"-subjective morals give no birghtline to assess meaning or positive evolution.

His position is self refuting anyway. An ideology is a worldview, not a set of given examples. For instance, a modern libertarian would not oppose the Spanish-American war because it is no longer an issue, but that does not change the fact the libertarians are fundamentally opposed to wars of aggression. Fourtroubles position posits that conservatism is just adherence to the status quo and then "positive evolution", but without a compelling set of values to measure what is positive (IE and ideology) no changes can be made. Fourtrouble is therefore not advocating an ideology, and failing to represent conservatism leads to his defeat in this debate. He protests that human understanding is limited, but if that is so than there still no brightline to establish what is or isn't good, making his entire position self refuting.


Fourtrouble misrepresents my position by trying to portray it as circular logic. This is unfair given that the debate is not about the validity of libertarianism and its goals, but rather than if its goals are compatible with conservatism. His argument that initial coercion is required to keep people from violating the non-aggression is logically flawed given that it isnt an act of aggression to prevent aggression, but it isnt remotely relevant anyway. I fail to understand why he clings to the argument that libertarianism establishes a framework that throws out all values, when it hold the non aggression principle and self ownership (values) as sacred.

It is irionic that he derides libertarianism for failing to value philosophy and ethics, when his own idea of conservatism is based soley on a subjective analysis of what is or isn't a positive upward change.

He's dropped the fact that private property is inherently discriminatory and un-equal (equality being liberalisms highest value according to him), meaning that his entire argument about libertarianism being liberal is a non-starter. Even so, libertarian doesn't operate under the harm principle, it operates under the non aggression principle. He givs no reason to view them as equivalent.


Fourtrouble justifies statist conservatism by the following statement: "Because conservatives believe, unlike liberals or libertarians, that human beings have involuntary social attachments, picked up during the course of our upbringing." however this does not justify the state in any way, it justifies a society. There is, of course, a difference between the two. In fact, I will go so far as to turn this argument given that a state destroys minority societies within its jurisdiction. If society gives individuals duties to follow, than conflicting duties from the state negates those values. Just because one does not choose the culture they grow up in does not mean they have some obligation to that culture; in fact this serves to further my point about fourtroubles conservatism not actually being an ideology-its perceptions are not dependent on transcendent values. As illuminated in previous rounds, his position doesn't make sense. He says that conservatives draw conclusion through empirics, then immediately says that conservatives cannot prove any philosphical doctrine as valid. Again, without morals ideologies cannot coherently be held.
Without a coherent definition of conservatism from the Con, the round is obviously taken by the Pro.

The welfare state is responsible for much of the decline of conservative values. This has gone undisputed, and causes the ballot to skew Pro.


Fourtrouble, for good reason, never tries to refute that conservatism is the ideological foe of liberalism, nor that liberalism HAS TO BE funamentally opposed to private property if it is to uphold equality as the highest good. He can state that liberalism supports capitalism and property all he wants, but it's self evident that private property is inherently unequal since some people have more than others. As such, libertarianism and conservatism must be allied against liberalism since it is fundamentally against the values they both hold.


This was a great debate, but I have to urge a Pro vote. Fourtroubles definition of conservatism is not articulated bery well, indeed it is not an ideology at all. His position has been shown to be self refuting, and given that he's completely dropped that both ideologies must oppose the welfare state, the resolution can be affirmed. To win, he would've had to prove that libertarianism and conservatism are not only incompatible ideologies but also that they have inconsistent goals ("my opponent needs to show that on balance, the goals of Libertarianism and Conservatism are too far apart to be treated as actual allies."). His version of conservatism has no long term goals since it changes along with the status quo, and as such he's failed to meet his burden of proof.

Great job to Fourtrouble, and whatever the result I hope that this exchange of ideas was beneficial to all who read it. Voters, please read this debate carefully because it contains a larg amount of information.


I'd like to thank thett3 for this debate, it has been a pleasure. In closing, I will briefly respond to each point thett3 brought up in the final round. Because each of these establishes a foundational difference between conservatism and libertarianism, it should be clear by the end of this debate that conservatism and libertarianism are not ideological allies.

Family and State

thett3 claims conservatives are opposed to the position that "individuals are unable to care for themselves." Then, thett3 claims conservatives believe individuals "HAVE TO" rely on their family. As such, thett3's position is incoherent.

thett3 admits the weight of my objection, and attempts to defend his position with the following statement: "remaining within ones family unit is a voluntary, non aggressive action." But this defense fails because it, too, is incoherent.

First, thett3 says "remaining within ones family unit is a voluntary, non aggressive action." Then, thett3 claims individuals "HAVE TO" rely on their family, which suggests that our obligation to our families is involuntary.

In light of an irreconcilable difference between conservatism and libertarianism (the conception of the self as a free rational agent as opposed to a situated agent), thett3's response exposes the same false dichotomy as before. The dichotomy is false because libertarians believe individuals are not forced to rely on anyone, whereas conservatives believe individuals pick up involuntary social attachments during the course of their upbringing.

The key difference is that conservatives believe these involuntary attachments entail a moral obligation, whereas libertarians do not. Hence, a libertarian would not take any issue with a person who abandons their family (it's voluntary, isn't it?), but a conservative would generally see that same action as impermissible.

Therefore, I'd like to extend my argument from previous rounds: libertarians believe the individual is the fundamental unit of political life, whereas conservatives believe the family is the fundamental unit of political life.

History and Morality

The following statement is the crux of thett3's argument: "I doubt any of us rationally believe that the state needs to tell people that something is wrong for it to be so."

A public morality in and of itself does not make an action right or wrong. The question at stake in my argument is, should the government reflect or condemn a particular moral doctrine? Consider the example of abortion: most conservatives believe abortion should be illegal, but a libertarian would say morally controversial issues like abortion should be resolved in the private sphere, not the public one.

The problem with the libertarian position is that it neglects the symbolic importance of an official political concern with moral issues or problems. This empties history and morality of its meaning because it refuses to pass judgment on it.

Evolution and Subjectivity

thett3 mispresents my argument, as I never said conservatism is "subjective." I explicitly stated that humans are not in a position to determine which moral doctrine is correct. Hence, my conception of conservatism is clearly opposed to a subjective (human-centered) morality, because conservatives look at what happens outside themselves to discover the truth.

The objectivity of conservatism is established by a gradual, bottom-up social evolution. In R2, I gave the example of gay marriage: gay families happened. It was the result of a bottom-up social evolution. Therefore, the proper conservative response is to gradually legalize gay marriage.

thett3 claims my position is self-refuting because there is no "brightline." But the lack of a brightline does not mean an objective truth does not exist - it means humans do not have access to the truth. Only God can have a complete understanding of nature (which explains why many conservatives believe in God, although personally I'm atheist).

Because humans cannot see the world from's God's vantage point, conservatives combine empiricism with pragmatism - look at history to figure out what works. Historically, this is how conservatism was initially established: an empiricist epistemology developed by Hume (a conservative) as opposed to a rationalist epistemology developed by Kant (a liberal).


thett3 misrepresents liberalism. As I pointed out in R3, liberals do not believe in "total" equality, they believe in "procedural" equality. This allows for substantive differences in private property, as long as each individual is treated equally under the law (that is what procedural means). The procedures of government applied to each individual must be the same. Hence, liberals uphold equal opportunity laws and non-discrimination laws, because their goal is to create equality under the law. Liberalism is not opposed to private property.


A libertarian ideology is fundamentally liberal. A libertarian government does not dictate the opinions of its citizens (the premise of liberalism, as I highlighted in R2 and R3).

thett3 exposes other inconsistencies in his position when he says the non-aggression principle is a "sacred" value. The non-aggression principle is not a moral value, it is a procedural principle just like the procedural equality of liberalism.

Think about it: nothing substantive follows from the non-aggression principle. Unless "aggression" or "force" has already been defined (in which case it has been defined by a set of values separate from non-aggression), the non-aggression principle is an abstraction with no content. It is the libertarian equivalent of John Stuart Mill's harm principle (a fundamental principle of liberalism).

thett3 claims the harm principle and non-aggression principle are not equivalent. I disagree - they are ethical equivalents because both are substantively empty, which is to say, they don't actually say anything about what is and is not moral.

How do you determine when someone has been harmed? How do you determine when aggression has been initiated? Either way, you have to appeal to a set of values that stands apart from these abstract principles. As such, both principles are substantively empty, as neither principle establishes whether an action is right or wrong without appealing to a set of moral values outside itself.

Hence, the irony of the non-aggression principle is that it doesn't actually say anything - it is the moral equivalent of saying 2+2=4 or of saying we should drive on the right side of the road as opposed to the left side.

The point is, conservatism is diametrically opposed to libertarianism insofar as conservatives believe the government should establish an official political concern with moral issues, whereas libertarians believe the government should establish a procedural framework that removes morally controversial issues from the public agenda.


thett3 has not provided a single reason to believe conservatism is incompatible with statism. I pointed out countless conservative positions that are explicitly statist, so on this point alone, I think it can be established that conservatism and libertarianism are not ideological allies.

thett3 claims the "welfare state is responsible for much of the decline of conservative values." Consider the bizarre implications of thett3's logic - if atheists and theists both oppose agnosticism, does that make them ideological allies? No. Just because conservatism opposes one thing that libertarianism opposes does not mean the two are,
on balance, ideological allies.

Out of room, so here is a final point: conservatives believe in an involuntary moral hierarchy. The point is, we have a greater moral obligation to our families than to our country, and a greater moral obligation to our country than to other countries. This is a fundamental part of conservatism. But libertarians do not believe in a moral hierarchy - on the contrary, they only believe in the non-aggression principle, the moral obligation to not initiate violence.
Debate Round No. 4
56 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by babyy 5 years ago
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Posted by miketheman1200 5 years ago
" conservatives look at historical facts to determine what has worked and what hasn't." LOL not at the moment.
Posted by rosafarnandis 5 years ago
It's cool to read this out.
gifts for business
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
Fourtrouble, be prepared for a law suit! Beating me in a debate. You'll pay for that.
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago

F you auto correct!!
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
Wait do I'm a socialist?
Posted by buckIPDA 5 years ago
I can't wait to read this!
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
Wait do am I socialist?
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
I'l read and vote when I have more time.
Posted by CiRrK 5 years ago
Fantastic so far. :D
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by royalpaladin 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I thought that the Con cleanly won this debate; his strongest arguments stemmed from the analysis of conservatism as an extension of tradition/history. He was correct in his analysis that traditional conservatism is derived from statism and theocracy. I also liked his argument about how libertarian philosophy upholds free choice while conservatism argue that we have involuntary attachments and obligations. His arguments were also more clear. PM me if you have questions . . .
Vote Placed by ScottyDouglas 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Was a good debate. I thought it was even really.
Vote Placed by CiRrK 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This was an awesome round, though I find that many of the arguments turned into misconceptions and 2 ships passing in the night. That being said it is 3:2 for Con. I believe Con wins in showing that Thett really never proves the inherent connection between property rights and conservatism, but rather showed at times property rights may be best choice for conservatives. As such, Con wins because conservatism may (for pragmatic reasons) need to accept some statism. If you have questions, just ask.
Vote Placed by TheOrator 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro was not able to uphold his BoP
Vote Placed by Jake2daBone 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Great debate! I agree that statist conservatism (or statist anything) doesn't make sense, and thett3 defended that really well. Unfortunately, he did also have some spelling errors.