Libertarians, Conservatives, and Fusionists

Steve Bainbridge responds to the recent talk about a liberal-libertarian (or “libraltarian”) convergence, explaining both the forces that made it possible and why it will likely not happen.

He’s right, I think, that the natural American position combines “traditional conservative emphasis on value, virtue, and order” with “a minimal state in which individual freedom had the widest range of potential expression.” Big-L Libertarians ignore the former, relegating themselves to fringe status. Conservatives have a tendency to forget the latter, while liberals pay too little attention to the former.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Eric Dondero says:

    All these people pushing the “libertarian Democrat” idea need to answer one question:

    How is it that more libertarians were elected to public offices at all levels this year running as Republicans?

    Four libertarians were elected as Governors alone: Palin in AK, Sanford in SC, Crist in FL, and Otter in ID. That’s a record!

    At the precise time when the Republican Liberty Caucus (libertarian wing of the GOP) is more organized, has more influence, and has experienced more success than ever before, some libertarians want to throw in the towel?

    Ron Paul is a former Libertarian Party Presidential candidate. He is now a Republican Congressman from Texas. Show me please the Democrat version of Ron Paul?

    List of elected libertarian Republicans at

  2. Eric Dondero says:

    Steve, please note that “Big L Libertarians” do not represent in any way the majority view of the overall libertarian movement. The vast majority of libertarians these days are Republicans. Even many ex-Libertarian Party members have switched to the GOP.

    Most libertarians recognize our historic ties with our conservative friends. We just wish the cons would be a little nicer to us, not doing crap like passing idiotic internet gaming bans.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Eric: Presuming you mean Steve Bainbridge, he’s on the other side of the link.

    I agree that most small-l libertarians have picked one of the two major parties, mostly the GOP. And I’m with you on the gaming ban and such.

  4. jpe says:

    Hmm. Color me skeptical of the level of generality re: value & virtue. Conservatives aren’t for values and virtue; they’re for specific v&v, namely straight male ones.

    That’s a glib response, but it’s adequate to Bainbridge’s glib comments.

  5. What conservatives forget is that behavior can’t be truly virtuous unless it is voluntary. Nor can you coerce someone into valuing something.

  6. MattG says:

    I think recent exploitations of our Civil Liberties are causing a split with Libertarians. MSM seems to be branding Civil Libertarians as liberal. My concern over Civil Liberties has pushed me to the middle.

  7. floyd says:

    Stormy Dragon;You do mean liberals, don’t you ? Where liberals rule EVERYTHING is either taxed or against the law. Liberals are the true haters of private morality. And NO, you liberals will not coerce everyone into valuing your irresponsible plans for corporate morality or the theft of their paychecks to fund them.Liberals view American Citizens as only American Subjects, thereby tacitly embracing slavery! [mind, body, and soul.]

  8. steve says:

    Floyd, take an aspirin. You’ll be OK in the morning.

  9. floyd says:

    steve; **profound, very profound**

  10. MattG says:

    Just my very late and comments that will most likely not actually be read.

    I’m no longer a Libertarian. I have decided to be Anti -Neo Liberal & Anti -Neo Con. Where that takes me (?!?) most likely to the democrates.

    I’ll just hope for the old days where America came first, not through wars and corporate protection.

    But, instead through American protection of rights, wills, and god. I won’t support your communist overlords or a push for corporate protection of their explotiotation.

    Something I had to say -I’ll try not to comment again.