Susan Lee On Libertarianism And Conservatism

Bravo! to Susan Lee for her articulation of the important distinctions between conservatism and libertarianism, particularly in cultural dimensions. An excerpt:

To push my argument further, libertarian thought, with its fluid cultural matrix, offers a better response to some of the knottiest problems of society. It is, especially when contrasted with the conservative cultural matrix, a postmodern attitude. In fact, it is precisely this postmodernism that enrages conservatives who are uncomfortable with a radical acceptance that, in turn, promotes change and unfamiliarity. Yet no matter how scary (or irritating), libertarian tolerance provides a more efficient mechanism in dealing with those places where economics, politics and culture clash so intimately.

Although libertarians tend toward an annoying optimism, no reasonable observer would venture a prediction on the winner of the conservative-libertarian debate. The outcome depends crucially on where societies ultimately fix the locus of coercion between liberty and authority for politics, and between tolerance and conformity for culture. One can imagine, though, how discouraged F.A. Hayek must have felt in 1944 when he sat down to write “The Road to Serfdom.” Now, few doubt that Hayek has won and that the economic argument has been settled in favor of free markets. What remains is the battle over politics and culture. One down, two to go.

This is precisely why I bristle when someone tries to label me “conservative” or “right-wing”. I refuse those labels. And it’s the lack of toleration and the resistance to dynamism, a la Virginia Postrel’s articulation of The Future and its Enemies, that particularly indicates why I am not a conservative.