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Opening Arguments

When worlds collide

This should be an interesting debate:

In the next American Enterprise Debate, cosponsored with America’s Future Foundation, AEI Fellow Jonah Goldberg will argue that libertarians are part of the broader American conservative movement’s push for limited government. Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason, will counter that libertarians offer a unique understanding of political life that makes libertarianism incompatible with conservatism.

I think Welch probably has the better case. Parts of libertarianism, say cutting spending, are firmly somewhere on the right with conservatism. But parts of it -- like a dislike of drug laws -- are on the left side of the spectrum. When my libertarian and conservative instincts mesh, that's when I write my most forceful editorials; I can't think of a time when I didn't call for a massive cutback of the federal government. When my conservative and libertarian instincts clash, my editorials tend to be more reflective and acknolwdging of alternative possibilities. I'm torn, for example, between thinking gay marriage is a worrisome departure from most of recorded history and a feeling that whatever two consenting adults want to do is none of the government's business.

I know this has been said often, but it's worth repeating here. Conservatives think government should stay out of the boardroom but regulate the bedroom. Liberals think government should stay out of the bedroom but regulate the boardroom. Libertarians think the government should stay out, period.

That does make libertarianism unique. And liberals and conservatives both half-right.