WASHINGTON, July 24, 2015 – In Republican circles the idea of the “conservatarian” is all the rage. Conservatarian is a philosophy that is something of a hybrid between conservatives and libertarians. It doesn’t have a firm ideological statement (any more than conservatism, which can vary from group to group and among individuals), but it does have some guiding principles.
Conservatarians are pro-business and free enterprise, but are opposed to crony capitalism. They are as disgusted as anyone about the government funding of enterprises or the state being behind the choosing of winners and losers.
It is true that, philosophically, conservatives oppose such too, but they are often willing to overlook such actions if they are “good for business.”
Conservatarians put a big emphasis on state and local governments. Conservatives call this federalism, but the conservatarians take it much further. They generally support the idea that things which can be handled by the states, fundamentally should.
As far as social issues, Conservatarians debate the issue of abortion and others, just like many in the conservative and libertarian movement. The same is true in foreign policy, it varies. However, there is certainly more resistance to being the world’s police force that is pervasive among neoconservatives, while dismissing the idea of being an ostrich and abandoning the world’s problems that some libertarians seem to advocate.
This constituency is very important because of the shrinking number of traditional conservatives and the growing number of libertarians who have yet to reach a large enough number of voters to make a difference in a national campaign.
Recently, I interviewed Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY), who is generally considered one of the leading GOP candidates for the nomination. Not only has he taken the mantle of his father, he has taken a decidedly different approach in his campaign, recognizing the limits that Ron Paul’s strong libertarian views have in creating a winning coalition.
Early in the interview — less than two minutes in it — he described his conservatarian credentials, telling the listeners there has “always been an overlap between what is libertarian and what is conservative,” and he used Ronald Reagan as an example of one promoting that philosophy, stating “that even Ronald Reagan said the heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”
Money talks in politics, and Paul is doing extremely well in both number of contributors (over 100,000) and the amount raised (over $7 million in the first quarter of 2015).
Furthermore, according to Politico,
“The $7 million figure doesn’t, however, include the money raised by the libertarian-ish candidate’s super PAC, which is expected to significantly up his total haul.” It goes on to note that “Paul’s overall fundraising numbers are expected to put him very much in the game, and his polling numbers have him in the upper middle of the field.”
It is still fairly early in the race for the White House, with over a dozen candidates already in the campaign and there is still the possibility of more jumping in. A month ago, Donald Trump was a non-entity and in the past week he became the man to beat.
Therefore, this is still a race in flux, but there is little doubt that Rand Paul will be a formidable contender.
Rand Paul is being measured in his words which makes him a safe place for more traditional Republicans, while adhering to the strongest principles of liberty of any of the GOP candidates. He is making an aggressive effort to reach independents with his disgust of crony capitalism and his concerns about justice reform.
Furthermore, Rand is taking a foreign policy approach that seems more grounded in reality than Ron Paul’s.
Regardless of how Rand Paul ultimately fares in this election, it is likely he will forge a place for conservatarian representation in future campaigns. This was accomplished in short order, when you think about it. In 2012, the closest thing we had to such was Ron Paul, who was essentially a Libertarian in Republican clothing.
Rand is clearly different and has become very difficult to marginalize.
That is because his views resonate with individuals who consider themselves traditional conservatives and those who are self-described libertarians. Yet he has done this without compromising his core principles. I think this has the potential of changing presidential races for years to come.