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Libertarian Vs Republican Compare and Contrast

Updated on February 5, 2012
wingedcentaur profile image

The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


Good Day Brenda Durham. As I understand it a Libertarian is the most purist in form of "liberal," in the eighteenth century sense of that word. Classic 18th century liberalism is different from modern-day liberalism (particularly in America, which seems to be a bit out of step with the rest of the world in terms of the usage of political terminology). Eighteenth century liberalism has to do with negative liberty -- the right of individuals to be totally free from the coercive control of anyone else. That is all. It means that no one can make you do anything and no one may encroach upon your person or property. Libertarians see this path as the one leading to the most ideal kind of liberty. Modern-day liberalism, once upon a time used to be associated with the Democratic party... It has to do with positive or affirmative features built upon a certain, I say, a certain amount of negative liberty -- modern-day liberalism sees this as the more ideal path to liberty. This is because this philosophy believes that one cannot truly be free if she does not have equal access to eduational opportunities, economic opportunities; she cannot truly be free if she faces gender, sexual orientation, or racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination -- she cannot even adequately protect herself from coercion (of the volatility of the "free market," for example, plant closures, etc.) without some infrastructure like that in place. The American Republican party, mainstream "conservatism" in the United States is actually a kind of hybrid of 18th century conservatism and 18th century liberalism. Now we have to ask: what is conservatism; what does it mean to be a conservative? Modern-day conservatism is a derivative of 18th century conservatism. Eighteenth century conservatism is about the maintenance of social stability. Crucial to this was the maintenance of the social structure, the hierarchy. This kind of conservatism viewed excessive social mobility as a threat to social cohesion. If people did not know their place, anarchy might break out and lead to the ruination of all civilization. In America, elements of these two ideologies made an alliance -- much like the Unitarian and Universalist churches made an alliance to form the single Unitarian Universalist organization.

Why did 18th century conservatism and 18th century liberalism make an alliance? Conservative realized that the stance of negative liberty of "liberals," with respect to economic matters and private property, would be very useful in maintaining  what was, in their view, social stability. "Liberals" realized that the insistence on status quo of the conservatives provided a nice symmetry with their "live and let live" position, their insistence that no one have coercive control over you.

If you oblige people to remain in their particular socioeconomic spheres, in perpetuity, generation after generation -- you severely restrict the number of actors who can exercise any restraining, restrictive, coercive control over you whatsoever -- this might be especially useful to you if you are a member of the upper classes. This fusion of liberalism and conservatism is one reason people might say that George W. Bush would have been called a liberal in another time -- and we might add that from the point of view of some "movement" conservatives, the administration of Bush was indeed far too "liberal." This label is used against him with respect of the huge amount of government spending (on military and national defense) and big budget deficit his regime accrued.

A Libertarian is an undiluted liberal in the 18th century sense. She is "live and let live" across the board, from economic matters (deregulation, war against taxes, etc.), constitutional issues (particularly on Bill of Rights they take an absolutist position of things like right to bear arms, freedom of speech [note the case of Citizens United in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations may spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns]); I believe they are against any law that restricts freedom, as they see it -- they are not fans of such things like the Patriot Act and so forth; they are for gay rights, I think, and they believe that homosexuals should be allowed to serve "openly" in the military, etc., so on and so forth.

Remember, a libertarian is "live and let live" across the board; and they are against anything that might limit freedom as the see it (negative liberty). Conservatism is comfortable limiting freedom (negative liberty) if the policy serves the greater good, from their point of view, of maintaining social stability. So, a conservative (more or less mainstream Republican) will be more comfortable with, say, something like the Patriot Act.

Yes, it might be said that the legislation limits freedom (negative liberty to be free from coercive control); however, from the point of view of the conservative, the international threat of fundamentalist, extremist, Islamic-driven terrorism is a far, far greater threat to the American and Western European civilization and the world than some invasions of privacy here and there. The act serves the purpose of social stability, in their opinon, and this is paramount over preserving certain privileges.

Therefore, there is not a perfect alignment between Libertarians and Republicans, but there are some areas of natural cooperation.



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    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 5 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day BanneGeek! Thank you for taking the time to comment on my unworthy hub. I'll just make one or two points, if I may.

      A) The jogging example

      1. Government regulation might be helpful in preventing the factory from polluting in the first place. I mention this because, in truth, none of us know how fragile our ecosystem is. We depend on it for our lives. So, it seems to me by over-democratizing the issue, as it were, we put ourselves at great risk.

      2. Remember, we in the United States were not handed a PURE democracy by the 'Founding Fathers.' They handed us a democratic republic -- there's a difference. For instance, theoretically, in a pure democracy we might say: 'Let's string 'em up and hang 'em! All in favor say 'aye.' If the majority say hang 'em, we would hang 'em.

      But our society is a democratic republic, which means that before we string 'em up, we go through a legal due process, with a trial by jury, with the accused having the right to face his accuser and all that. This is much more preferable, in my opinion.

      So, we have science to tell us what the effects of carbon emissions are and so forth. If you accept the idea that global warming is a largely humanmade phenomenon, there is no choice but to act.

      Take it easy and thanks for taking the time.

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      BannedGeek 5 years ago

      I enjoyed your hub and found it nice that you had brought light to the older, traditional definitions of Liberalism and so forth. Very few people today are aware of those old terminologies as they were once known. I think it would have behooved you to add that today the terms "Conservative" and "Liberal" are in the process of a definition change.

      In fact, today there is the prevailing term "neo con" or "New Conservative". The definitions are changing that Conservatives are literally for conservative use of government, however the talking-heads meanwhile push larger military expansion at the same time. Less business regulation, less government programs (welfare, social security, healthcare), but a larger global influence are the theme.

      Meanwhile with Liberals, they emphasize the exact opposite. The definition they go by is literally liberal use of government. The talking-heads however push for more government programs (welfare, et. al), more business regulations, and so forth while limiting the global influence.

      It seems the Conservatives feel that the economy needs fixing by eliminating domestic programs, but our nation's security must be maintained by foreign affairs. Meanwhile Liberals believe the economy can be fixed by staying out of global affairs, and that individual securities such as government safety-net programs are more vital.

    • profile image

      BannedGeek 5 years ago

      Earlier it was mentioned that Libertarianism isn't practical, but in fact it is, when consistently hardline. For example, you want to jog outside but some industry is polluting the air, making it hazardous, infringing on your freedom to jog. In a Libertarian society, the consumers will be wary of this and protest, boycotting the industry until the business must either change its ways or go bankrupt.

      Before there were bailouts and different safety nets for businesses, when a company did something wrong, they would go bankrupt and out of business. There would be no saving grace or judiciary loophole - they would simply no longer exist.

      This is an example of the workings of the flourishing freemarket. When a business is at risk of going under, it was meant to go under. They were doing something wrong, unable to compete, and unable to sell. They no longer of the right to continue business if they cannot fair.

      On top of that, the non-aggression axiom is a great further example as to how hardline Libertarianism can indeed work.

      On the other hand, there is one small downside - Libertarianism suggests that the average citizen is politically conscientious and informed. But... for everyone's personal sake, they really should be. I don't see that as a bad thing.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day!

      Thank you for reading and commenting so complimentarily on my unworthy hub! You have stated your views forcefully and intelligently, in a brief space; so, thank you again!

      Would the "Founding Fathers" have supported gay marriage? It is a question that occupies the mind, isn't it -- especially in light of the recently overturned "Don't Ask, Don't tell"?

      One wonders, though, what interest any government (federal, state, or local) has in whether or not two consenting adults of whatever gender or sexual orientation get married, do in their bedrooms, etc.

      Listen, thanks very much again for stopping by and adding your thoughts to this discussion!

      Take care.

    • profile image 6 years ago from upstate, NY

      Fabulous Hub! The founders certainly favored a small limited government and opposed entangling alliances,an intrusive federal government. But I strongly doubt they would have supported gay marriage, although the federal government probably would have left this matter to state and local governments. The founders actively supported Christianity, Jefferson himself used federal funds to promote the Gospel, hire ministers and build christian schools.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day Jon Ewall!

      Rather a suspenseful question, the way you put it: Da-Da-Da-Da (suspenseful music) "Will President Obama and Congress accept equal blame for the recession??"

      Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel for the revelation to this and other pressing concerns of the day such as... such as.... such as..... Will Brad (Pitt) and Jen (Anniston) ever get back together????

      Time will tell, Jon Ewall, time will tell...

      Thanks. Take it easy.


    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 6 years ago from usa


      You said ''Well, Jon Ewall, is this not what political adversaries do the world over?''

      Things may change since President Barak Obama called for '' civility'', time will only tell.Don't miss the President's '' State of the Union '' speech on Tues. Jan 25th.Will President Obama and Congress accept equal blame for the recession??

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day Jon Ewall

      Thank you for your second return visit to my poor, hopeless, little unworthy hub. You clearly have a passion for politics. Let me compliment you on your sincerity, earnestness, eloquence, and civility (I do think it best to hold extended discussions in the comment section of hubs rather than in the forums, especially on political and religious issues; the quality of the discourse is vastly superior beyond compare to that which may be found in the forums -- the accursed forums! The incoherent, rambling, mean-spirited jumble one finds there is.... is.... is.... Well, you know!).

      That wasn't too subtle, was it? :D

      You and I are clearly of different personal political philosophies, Jon Ewall. Yes, there is a real difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, though some of us from my political province would say that the "neoliberal" and "neoconservative" movements, originating out of the University of Chicago, have exercised what I think of as a "homogenizing" effect on both parties, making them both more conservative, moving both parties to the Right.

      We would say that "neoconservatism" and "neoliberalism" have served to make both parties more prone to overstretching our military with foreign interventionism, as well as making them both more stingy with the coin specifically as it pertains to giving help to those, in our society, who need the help the most.

      I'm talking about social services, which both parties refer to, revealingly, as "entitlements," with a bit of disdain for the poor. They never talk about the "entitlements" the government rains down on big business, defense contractors, oil companies, and don't forget big campaign contributors. Anyway...

      As to your question: "Why is it that the Democrat majority seem to always blame the Republicans for the Economy and the country's shortcomings?"

      Well, Jon Ewall, is this not what political adversaries do the world over?

      Listen, thank you so much for stopping by again, Jon Ewall.

      Take it easy!

      See ya!

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 6 years ago from usa


      There is a real difference in both parties today.

      On Jan 25 ,2011 President Barak ’’ I ’’ Obama will speak to the nation on the ‘’State of the Union’’ . The Democrats still control the Senate, the Republicans now control the House and a Democrat, Barak Obama is the President. For the past 4 years , the Democrats under Pelosi and Reid have controlled the government and Congress. The Republicans ‘’ Party of No ‘’ and obstructionist have been literally shut out of governing for the past 4 years.

      Why is it that the Democrat majority seem to always blame the Republicans for the Economy and the countries short comings?

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day JON EWALL

      Thank you for the return visit to this poor old hub. Thank you for your contribution to a stimulating post-hub, if you will, discussion.

      Take care.

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 6 years ago from usa


      AN interesting REPLY on ones thoughts and beliefs.

      ''Some people view Obama as a politician who finds the center.'' In my view President Barak 'I ' Obama is a far left progressive liberal with a socialist agenda.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day JON EWALL

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my unworthy hub. Let me say, first, as is frequently the case with me, I wrote this hub in response to a question posed by the hubber Brenda Durham in the Q & A forum -- the original purpose of that section, I understand. Her question asked for a comparison and contrast of Libertarians and Republicans (their guiding political philosophies).

      I addressed the question on the technical basis that I thought it was asked.

      As to the specific point you made in you comment here, I would agree that today's Democratic Party never even rhetorically claims to be fighting for the poor. It seems to me that the last nominally Democratic President of the United States to actually make that commitment and fight for the poor (and actually use the word 'poor' folks) was Lyndon Baines Johnson in the 1960s.

      Though during this past 2008 presidential campaign there was John Edwards who indeed made a rhetorical commitment to mitigating poverty (actually helping 'poor' people).

      The thing is, both parties, the Democrats and Republicans have moved to the Right on economic and social issues (i.e., Clinton's "welfare reform," advocacy of school vouchers, and the like) over the last thirty-five years. As far as I can tell there have been at least two movements, over this period, that have had what I think of as a "homogenizing" effect on both parties.

      Neoconservatism (which had its origins in the fifties with University of Chicago Professor Leo Strauss) moved both parties to the Right in terms of national security issues, defense, global geo-strategic matters, and some "cultural" issues at home.

      Neoliberalism moved both parties to the Right on economic and some social matters.

      The Democrats and Republicans are not the same though they have many areas of overlap.

      As for the ".. huge difference in being a liberal and a conservative.." I would agree. But the American Democrats and Republicans's basic underlying philosophies each rests on different versions of liberalism. The original eighteenth century "liberalism" was about negative liberty (no one can coerce you to do anything).

      This is not the same as modern liberalism, which believes that the individual cannot really be free from coercion unless the state puts in certain features which give people a shot at a decent life, to oversimplify.

      Libertarianism is this, more or less, undiluted eighteenth century liberalism (negative liberty) in both economic and social terms.

      The Democratic Party rests on the foundation of modern liberalism (the idea of the state needing to provide resources to allow people actual freedom).

      The Republican Party (which needs to be distinguished fro The Conservative Party -- while some of their aims and ideology appears to be similar and compatible, nevertheless these two entities are not necessarily the same thing) in America, has a foundational philosophy which is actually a hybrid of 18th century conservativism and 18th century liberalism (of the negative liberty variety).

      This puts Republicans into aligment with Libertarians on economic issues; but these two entities are quite out of frame with each other on social and cultural issues. You see, Libertarians are, more or less, "live and let live" across the board. Republicans, as a whole, are not -- their negative liberty is tempered by their conservatism which prizes social order and security almost above everything else, even the "free market," when push comes to shove.

      In the American context, then, when we say a 'liberal' we are usually talking about a (modern) liberal with all that means. When we speak of a 'conservative' we are talking about a Republican or someone on the Right ideologically, whose philosophy is part 18th century liberalism (negative liberty).

      Some people think Obama is susceptible to pressure. Some people view Obama as a politician who finds the center. Who knows? Perhaps something of a progressive agenda may yet be won if there is enough popular pressure moving the center of American politics to the Left.

      Thank you for the input.

      See you around! :D

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 7 years ago from usa


      There is a huge difference in being a liberal and a conservative in the mentality of both parties The battle going on in the 111th Congress regarding the Bush Tax Cuts for the so called rich and the middle class is an example in the way that the people in the country are defined. President Barak ‘’ I ‘’ Obama and Democrats position was that they are fighting for the middle class. Democrats continually proclaim that they are fighting for the middle class. What struck me was that they never never say they are fighting for the poor. Never mention that they fight for the poor to get out of poverty to better themselves. The reality is that the Democrats in charge are actually hurting the poor. The poor needs to get by the propaganda that the Democrats care about the poor, it’s the middle class that they are fighting for in today’s society.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day Freeway Flyer

      Like the hubber known as Jewels you are a rare return visitor to one of my unworthy hubs, and I thank you for that! Yes, you must certainly post as a hub, your blog post concerning the way you see both Liberals and Conservatives as Contradicting themselves. I will certainly be among one of the first to read it.

      As a history professor, its practically your duty, is it not?

      Take care.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 7 years ago

      I wrote a blog post a while back called, "How Both Liberals and Conservatives Contradict themselves?" I tried to show how liberals want limited government in some cases and more activist government in others, and the same is true for conservatives. In the end, they both recognize both the potential danger of and the need for strong government. I'll have to post it as a hub soon.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day Freeway Flyer

      You're quite welcome. This hub was a response posed by one Brenda Durham (I'm sure you've heard of her) in the Q & A forum.

      George W. Bush was never a libertarian, as any true libertarian would tell you. Its tricky but both the Democrats and Republicans follow derviations of 18th century liberalism. They both start from a basis of negative liberty, in that no one has undue coercive power over you.

      In America the libertarians came to exemplify 18th century liberalism at its purest.

      I learned from the young man at the YouTube channel centerleftliberal (Sven) that American Republicans and Democrats built upon that foundation and went in different directions. American conservatism (roughly coinciding but not necessarily synonymous with the Republican Party) is really a hybrid of 18th century liberalism (negative liberty) and 18th century conservatism, which then sought to preserve the aristocratic order.

      Even today conservatism values order and stability. Conservatism fears great social change because they believe it will bring anarchy. According to CLL conservatives and economic liberals made an alliance since they saw that their interests coincided.

      This is why an American Republican will support something like the Patriot Act. His conservatism, which clashes a little with his liberalism (negative liberty) and trumps it. Security and law and social order are paramount, and for this he is willing to sacrifice liberties; perhaps he believes you can't have freedom without security. This is why you always hear "small government" conservatives saying that the most important duty of government is to protect its citizens.

      Conservatives invariably put this concern at the very top of their list; and this of course gets mixed in with let us say, a hardy nationalism and patriotism.

      American liberals (some of which at least used to be mainstream Democrats) built upon 18th century liberalism and took it in a different direction and developed what might be thought of as modern liberalism. This is basically an ideology that says that not even negative liberty can be assured without the positive action of government to put in certain infrastructure for education, transportation, regulation in various areas, etc.

      Suppose I want to build up my body and improve my health by embarking on a regular routine of jogging. But suppose that when every time I go out I come back wheezing and coughing. Now suppose its because of the neighborhood iron smelting plant, which in addition to giving jobs also gives a whole lot of pollution.

      Regulating him will bring about the charge of tyranny because government is supposedly interferring with his (economi) "freedom." By what about my freedom? This used to be the space in which American Republicans and American Democrats contested politically. I say "used to" because several movements in contemporary American history have homogenized those two parties so much!

      Anyhoo... One more thing, as Columbo used to say.

      ("Is there such a thing as a public good, or should all things be subject to private ownership?")

      In America, anyway, there has never been so great a division between public (government) "good" or sponsorship and so-called "private" ownership, if by that you're thinking of corporations.

      There has always been the very heavy hand of government intervening in the American economy (mostly to redistribute wealth upwards, of which Reagan "supply side, trickle down" economics was only the most openly gross example). After all, what are corporations but government-granted monopolies?

      Thanks for the great feedback, FF!

      Take it easy.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 7 years ago

      When George W. Bush said freedom, I always wondered what the heck that he meant. After all, in the name of security, many would argue that he restricted the freedom of some Americans.

      In my mind, Libertarianism is not practical, but at least it is consistent. If you are going to emphasize the importance of individual liberty, then you should do so in all facets of life. You can't just emphasize freedom in business matters but then want to restrict people's freedom in social matters (as Republican / conservatives generally do.)

      Is there such a thing as a public good, or should all things be subject to private ownership? This is one of the great political questions of our time (and of all times). And at what point does the exercise of one person's freedom infringe on the rights of others? These are tricky questions, and neither knee-jerk conservatism nor liberalism addresses them perfectly.

      Thanks once again for addressing important questions.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day Daniel J. Neumann

      Thank you for commenting on my unworthy scribblings today. When you say there are ways we can have both liberty and the social safety net, I agree. Just understand that this is the modern version of liberalism.

      The traditional, eighteenth century version, as I said, was all about negative liberty, the right to be free from any external, coercive control. Modern liberalism is different. Modern liberalism says that one can't be truly free (even from coercive external control) without certain infrastructure being put in place by the government to make life better for people.

      For example, suppose I get interested in jogging to improve my health. This is my right, no one can stop me from pursuing my desire. But suppose that industry, being free from any environmental controls, pollutes the air, making it smog-filled and unbreatheable.

      In this case, I'm not really 'free' to jog and improve my health in my neighborhood. So modern liberalism (the kind that the Democratic party used to stand for way back in prehistory) believes that industry has to be controlled to safeguard the health of the citizens, and so forth.

      Thank you for posting.

    • Daniel J. Neumann profile image

      Daniel J. Neumann 7 years ago from Harrisburg, Pa

      Thank you for taking us back to the original etymology, that we so often lose sight of in this charged, political atmosphere. In truth, there are ways to keep both liberty and have social safety nets that help the poor and middle-class. These two ideas do not necessarily contradict.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Evening American Romance

      Its good to see you again, and thank you. I especially take your compliment to heart, as I know you and I don't see eye to eye politically. I venture to assume that you feel I handled the subject fairly. I appreciate that.

      Thanks a lot!

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 7 years ago from America

      I really hate it when people want to talk about your writing style and not the subject. Not everyone is a great writer but may be an excellent thinker! Nice write!

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day Evan G. Rogers

      Thank you for taking an interest in my unworthy scribblings. As to your first point about writing style, you're right, of course. This hub originated as a question I discovered in the Q&A forum.

      As sometimes happens with me, I began to answer the question not realizing it was turning into a hub. When I am not allowed to submit the answer as is, I am forced to hit the 'make a hub of it' button. The lines always come out crammed despite the fact that I do break up paragraphs -- I didn't write the piece the way it looks here.

      I wish HubPages could make some technical adjustment to fix that. I take your compliment on the quality of the ideas expressed here, to heart. You seem quite knowledgeable about the subject yourself.

      You know, I got quite an education about political nomenclature from a YouTube site called CenterLeftLiberal. According to his biography page, the young man hosting it was studying to get his PhD in political economy. He is very passionate, clear, and cogent -- highly recommended.

      I will remember what you said about the "axiom of non-aggression."

      Thanks again Evan G. Rogers!

    • Evan G Rogers profile image

      Evan G Rogers 7 years ago from Dublin, Ohio

      Just a few comments:

      Writing style: the first paragraph is a bit confusing because you actually have numerous paragraphs crammed into one. -- When you talk about modern day liberalism it sounds like you're still talking about old liberalism because you don't have a new "comparison" paragraph.

      Idea: Good stuff. I would add the idea of Libertarian's view of the "Axiom of non-aggression", which basically states that one is free to do what one wants with their property so long as it doesn't interfere with someone else's property rights. Property includes the person's body - so you are free to do what you will with your body so long as it doesn't interfere with other people's rights.

      A good way to think about it is that: Voluntary slavery can exist under libertarianism, but not involuntary slaver.