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The Difference Between Libertarians & Conservatives


What are the differences between Libertarians and Conservatives?

Differences between libertarians and conservatives usually come down to issues of personal freedom. Libertarians generally think that individual behaviors should be permitted so long as they harm no other person. Conservatives think that, even though certain behaviors may bring no direct harm to others, said behaviors must be curtailed or forbidden to prevent social decay and decline, not to mention negative secondary effects on society. For example, a libertarian might agree that illicit drug use should be permitted. In contrast, a conservative is likely to think that allowing such behavior risks people destroying their lives with addiction. Whereas libertarians tend to trust individuals to be personally responsible and bear the costs/consequences of their actions, conservatives worry that secondary social costs of such behaviors will invariably be too high. Libertarians are quick to reply that prohibition and the brutal prosecution of the Drug War have created enormous social problems of their own.

How are Libertarians and Conservatives similar?

Libertarians and conservatives tend to agree that entrepreneurship is the primary mechanism for generating prosperity. Both types think people should be free to engage in entrepreneurial activity and keep rewards of entrepreneurial value creation. Both libertarians and conservatives, therefore, support low taxes and limited government.

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More About Libertarians

Libertarians score high on both economic and personal freedom. In other words, libertarians value entrepreneurship and enterprise, often because they think these are the bases of a prosperous society. Libertarians are also keen to protect the individual in his or her pursuit of happiness, however different that pursuit might look to others.

More About Conservatives

Conservatives score higher on economic freedom but lower on personal freedom. For example, conservatives generally support honest entrepreneurship and free enterprise but think that too much personal freedom breeds widespread immorality. Conservatives thus worry that excesses in personal freedom can lead to cultural or civilizational decline.

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