Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reagan on Conservatism and Libertarianism

I was never a huge fan of Ronald Reagan. Still, as I've gotten older — and read more — I've learned to appreciate his good points. This 1975 exchange with Reason magazine brings out one of them very nicely: namely, his more than typical (for a politician) depth of understanding of political philosophy.
REASON: Governor Reagan, you have been quoted in the press as saying that you’re doing a lot of speaking now on behalf of the philosophy of conservatism and libertarianism. Is there a difference between the two?

REAGAN: If you analyze it, I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals. If we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories.

The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy.

I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves.

But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path.
It's tragic, not to say revolting, that even this small tip of the hat to liberty should be so rare among politicians today, but that's where we are.

The candidate field looks pretty weak right now, but with the right kind of continued commentary and public pressure, we just might be fortunate enough to find his like — or better — for 2012.


realconservative said...

How ironic then that Reagan would eventually tear out the heart of conservatism and sell its soul in his quest to expand the military industrial complex funded by tax increases aimed at killing off the middle class. Let's not even begin to talk about his shamnesty of illegal immigrants.

Ken said...

I was sorely disappointed when Fred Thompson mailed it in in 2008. I ended up voting for Ron Paul in the Ohio primary.

gregster said...

Ronald read his Rand .. and sometimes talked it.