Recently a liberal--sorry, I meant progressive--friend of mine, who had not previously had the misfortune of engaging me in a political discussion, accused me of being a conservative. His hurtful ad hominem came after I went off on one little rant about high taxes and profligate federal spending. For the record, I'm against them. More damningly, I suppose, I am also against nationalized health care and gun control, and I am reluctant to think that we brought 9-11 on ourselves. Sometimes I even catch myself thinking that poor people might do a little better if they would try a little harder. But despite all the hard evidence against me, I am not a conservative.
A conservative is a guy who talks about limiting the size and role of government, but he's not really buying it. Oh, he'll mouth some good words about getting the government out of people’s lives. He might even believe it. But then the guy down the street teaches evolution, starts a religion, smokes a joint or talks with a pronounced lisp, and government becomes a conservative's last best hope to save America.
So I have been forced to conclude that a conservative only wants the government out of people’s lives if those people choose to live productively, raise wholesome children, and defend the world from communists/terrorists. And I guess what makes conservatism so seductive is that these are all good and decent things to do, and most of us hope that somebody does them. In fact, it's hard to argue that the world wouldn't be a better place if everyone worked hard to support themselves, didn't go around oppressing others, and believed in a tough-loving God with a long memory. Or, more correctly, it'd be better if everyone else did. And that is the sine qua non of conservatism: live and let live, so long as everyone lives a reasonable approximation of my grandfather's life.
Alas, a lot of us don't. Some of us would rather spend the weekend wearing our Che Guevara underoos in a THC induced stupor watching Rent. Again. And that's why a conservative, bless his heart, must impose upon the rest of us his sodomy laws, drug prohibition, military conscription, and Walker, Texas Ranger in syndication.
But maybe my socialist--sorry, I meant progressive--friend wasn't too far off the mark. If I were to define libertarianism for those unacquainted with the concept, I might start by calling it a consistent conservatism. A conservative wants the government out of his life; a libertarian wants the government out of your life, too. Yeah, sometimes it's hard to be consistent. As Emerson wisely said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Ok, I don't really know what that means. Should I be offended? Maybe. Or maybe I'm being way too consistent on this proper-role-of-government thing. After all, my libertarianism means that I must stand idly by while the latest owners of my childhood home paint it a mind-searing hot pink that would only be appropriate if it were attached to sequins and flaccid dollar bills. But if I'm going to shoot deer, watch NASCAR, and teach my children that the savior of mankind looked remarkably like Chuck Norris, I have to allow my neighbors a little leeway. And if I choose instead to snort marijuana, convert to Islaam, and bugger my like-minded friends, the government should be the least of my worries. Emerson and his hobgoblin notwithstanding, if freedom is good, it's good for us all.
*Note*: I don't really watch NASCAR. That was just poetic license.