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Calvin Freiburger

I Hate to Break It to You, Libertarians…

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Posted on August 11 2010 2:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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But Rand Paul says he isn’t one of you. Sort of. He told Sean Hannity yesterday that he doesn’t really consider himself a “libertarian,” but rather a “constitutional conservative.” But don’t worry; if his new USA Today op-ed is any indication, Paul probably doesn’t mean it:

It’s often repeated in stories about me or my race for U.S. Senate that I am a “libertarian.” In my mind, the word “libertarian” has become an emotionally charged, and often misunderstood, word in our current political climate. But, I would argue very strongly that the vast coalition of Americans — including independents, moderates, Republicans, conservatives and “Tea Party” activists — share many libertarian points of view, as do I.

I choose to use a different phrase to describe my beliefs — I consider myself a constitutional conservative, which I take to mean a conservative who actually believes in smaller government and more individual freedom. The libertarian principles of limited government, self-reliance and respect for the Constitution are embedded within my constitutional conservatism, and in the views of countless Americans from across the political spectrum.

Our Founding Fathers were clearly libertarians, and constructed a Republic with strict limits on government power designed to protect the rights and freedom of the citizens above all else. Our deep respect for these principles of liberty and the laws that protected them are what allowed America to become the greatest, most prosperous nation in human history.

In other words: libertarianism is wonderful—even the Founders were libertarians!—and I can’t give you any ways in which I’m not a libertarian, but I want to call myself something else because the poor word has bad connotations these days. Real profile in courage, there, Rand.

In all honesty, if Paul’s going down this road at all, it’s probably wise to keep away from specifics, as his entire career thus far would be hard to square with more overt flip-flopping. The son of Patron Saint of Libertarianism Ron Paul (who Rand says is simply more “forthright” in presentation than he is) aped his father’s foreign policy extremism before the general election, kicked off his post-primary career with criticism of the freaking Civil Rights Act, and seems to share his dad’s anti-Lincoln nuttiness…these are all hallmarks of his father’s brand of libertarianism.

But the problems with Paul’s editorial don’t stop there. Our Founders were not “clearly libertarians.” Despite the Paul crowd’s endless screeching to the contrary, the Founders’ words and deeds do not lead to modern libertarians’ crackpot foreign policy views. And though the Founding calls for a far more limited government than what those on Capitol Hill are currently giving us, that doesn’t translate to libertarian: our forefathers saw a public interest in religion and morality that many libertarians would find intolerable. The same goes for Ronald Reagan, who Paul also invokes. “Peace through strength” didn’t mean isolationism, and it’s hard to see Reagan’s views on homosexuality and drugs as anything other than major libertarian no-nos.

Lastly, I have a big problem with the label “constitutional conservatism.” It reeks of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” Social conservative, fiscal conservative…we have too many bloody modifiers on the Right these days as it is. Putting a modifier before “conservative” seems to suggests that the word itself doesn’t already have that quality. If we simply adopt a healthy, coherent definition of “conservatism” as carrying the principles of the American Founding to their logical conclusions, most of the rest would take care of itself. Such a conservatism would be constitutional, compassionate, fiscally-sound, defense-minded, and culturally-engaged, all at the same time. This divided movement desperately needs clarity—not further confusion.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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