I believe in free markets, lower taxes, a strong national defense, generally oppose abortion, free trade, strongly support the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, Federalism, and a much smaller government than what we have. According to the left-right political spectrum, I am probably what you call a conservative. However, that would not be an accurate description of my political beliefs, and here’s why.
I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for my conservative friends. My political background is almost exclusively in the Republican Party and I still, generally, vote for Republican candidates in most races. I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh and discussing politics with my staunchly conservative Republican family. My political roots are solidly in the conservative movement, but I’m not a conservative anymore. The reason why is that even though I did learn the language of liberty as a conservative, advancing it has become my main political goal.
American conservatism is something of a contradiction. To simplify, it seeks to preserve the liberties handed down by our Founding Fathers and to preserve traditional Judeo-Christian values and norms. It does not take a rocket scientist to see how this is contradictory. With two seemingly opposite goals, one of the two has to be sacrificed. For example, in order to promote traditional families, many social conservatives support special tax incentives for children. However, this creates a distortion in the tax code that unfairly penalizes childless couples and it can be a perverse incentive to reward illegitimacy. The concept of equality under the law is sacrificed in an attempt of social engineering that will likely backfire, like all social engineering does.
Libertarianism is a morality based political ideology, like conservatism. The libertarian believes that the only role of government is to protect the life, liberty, and property of individuals. Most conservatives would agree up to this point. However, where conservatism and libertarianism differ is that conservatives usually want to include a role for government to preserve the culture. The problem with that is that conservatives usually want to adopt means that the left uses with the economy, such as social engineering through taxation and legislation, to deal with the cultural issues. The same “solutions” usually have the same results for conservatives as they do for the left on the economy. Whereas libertarians believe that the way to address cultural and moral issues is with the individual and the family and their personal conscience. This does not necessarily mean that everything will turn out well in the end, but that it is the best approach to maximize individual liberty.
Finally, change is the one constant in the universe and in life. The libertarian seeks to adapt to that change to preserve individual liberty. We believe that maintaining a dynamic, free society will result in a more responsible, virtuous people. Whereas the conservative it seems to want to try to stop the change and try to revert society back to a virtuous quasi utopia that really never existed. I’m sure things like premarital sex, homosexuality, and various immoral things existed back in the “good ol’ days”. The only difference is that we know more about them thanks to mass media and the Internet. Ultimately, because man is a fallen creature, there can be no perfect or even Great Society that is built by man.