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The Long Overdue End of Fusionism

Patrick Ruffini has a post at Hugh Hewitt's site about the import of Ron Paul's candidacy for the Republican party, but more broadly about the terms of the marriage between libertarians and conservatives, and how it can be reconciled. (Link … Read More

By / November 26, 2007

Patrick Ruffini has a post at Hugh Hewitt's site about the import of Ron Paul's candidacy for the Republican party, but more broadly about the terms of the marriage between libertarians and conservatives, and how it can be reconciled. (Link via Andrew Sullivan.)

Now, one point the Paul phenomenon proves is that Republicans excise libertarians from their coalition at their own electoral peril — even losing 5% of their support would tip the balance in an essentially 50/50 electorate — so it's clear enough why a Republican partisan should want to figure out some way to accomodate libertarian sentiment in their party. What Ruffini fails to provide, however, is any scintilla of a reason for libertarians to welcome reconciliation with conservatives; I say that the marriage is an abusive one and that libertarians should run to the nearest battered wives' shelter as fast as their legs can carry them.

(Incidentally, while ideological labels have a steadily diminishing utility, Ruffini, I think is confused about what libertarianism is. It is not a general instinct to be against welfare programs for the needy, but a thought-through set of principles regarding the relationship between individuals and collective institutions, which really is incompatible, as Andrew notes, with favoring unchecked government authority to spy on citizens.)

To understand why libertarians shouldn't be party to a coalition with conservatives, it's helpful to get a hold of the intellectual history of libertarian-conservative cooperation, which is of relatively recent vintage. The motivation for this cooperation falls under the general umbrella of fusionism, an ideology-cum-political strategy invented by Frank S. Meyer, an editor at National Review, during the early years of the Cold War. The idea was that the threat posed by Soviet expansionism was sufficiently great to warrant a union of the various strands of anti-communist politics, of which libertarianism and traditional conservatism were the most prominent — a kind of right-wing popular front. To paper over obvious points of conflict within the coalition, Meyer and others presented an ideology in which social conservatism was upheld as a model for society to follow without resort to (federal) government coercion, combined with standard economic conservatism. More below the fold.

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