Nick Schulz weighs in on the liberaltarianism debate:
The original fusionist project of Frank Meyer and others was predicated on a belief that libertarians and conservatives (social/religious/paleo) actually agreed on some basic philosophical principles, not just shared goals such as opposing Soviet communism (as important as that was). Two of these have always been paramount: The importance of protecting individual liberty, and an appreciation for the vital role played by civil society and traditional mediating institutions that made American culture and ordered liberty possible.
This seems completely wrong to me. Conservatives care about “protecting individual liberty” for some people, but the conservative movement includes many people who are indifferent, if not hostile, to the liberty of foreigners, immigrants, drug users, gays and lesbians, women who want abortions, broadcasters, sex workers, criminal defendants, Muslims, publishers of pornography, atheists, and so forth. It’s true, of course, that you can compile a similar list (gun owners, business owners, etc) on the progressive side. But I see no reason to think the progressive list is longer, or that the people on that list are somehow more important, than the people on the conservative list.
What libertarians and conservatives share isn’t a shared commitment to freedom so much as a common way of talking about freedom. Conservatives and Republicans like to invoke the Founding Fathers, talk about free markets and limited government, quote Hayek, and so forth. But political rhetoric is a lagging indicator of ideological commitments. A lot of fusionist slogans have become so shopworn that they’re what Orwell called dead metaphors. The fact that they’re often combined with calls to “keep your government hands off my Medicare”, promote “energy independence”, and build a police state along our Southern border suggests that these slogans are little more than empty rhetoric. When the typical Republican politiician says he cares about limited government, his purpose isn’t so much to express support for a specific policy agenda (most of the Republican policy agenda involves expanding government) so much as to signal membership in the fusionist political coalition.
Because libertarians and conservatives share a political vocabulary we find it relatively easy to communicate with each other. Liberals and libertarians obviously “agree on some basic philosophical principles”—that’s why many libertarians still call themselves classical liberals. But many libertarians talk about liberty in a right-wing way that most liberals find off-putting. And liberals, for their part, talk about liberty in a way that’s alien to most libertarians. This “language barrier” exaggerates the degree of disagreement between us. Without a shared vocabulary, it’s challenging for liberals and libertarians to recognize and build on areas of shared agreement.
This is why I think it’s important for this kind of debate to move beyond manifestos to actually discovering and working on areas of shared agreement. Conservatives and libertarians feel an emotional bond because libertarians spend most of their time working on “conservative” issues, not the other way around. To develop a similar rapport with liberals, libertarians need to focus more on issues where they can count liberals as allies. As they do, they’ll find that there are actually lots of liberals who care about freedom, they just talk about it in a different way than conservatives (and most libertarians) do.