This is an interesting discussion to have because as a Liberal myself who actually understands liberalism it burns me when I hear people who aren’t Liberals get called Liberals. And I’m think of the MSNBC talk lineup or Far-Left publications like The Nation and many others, Salon and AlterNet would be others. And when I hear liberalism being talked about like it is some big statist ideology that is socialist or communist in nature and even has things in common with what is called Islamism a big government ideology supported by radical Islamists and I’m know that is not liberalism at all.
I’m sure Libertarians get tired with being lumped in with people who are supposed to be Conservatives. Even though they really aren’t that conservative at all and I’m thinking of the Religious-Right and other rightists on the Far-Right. Libertarianism is very different from conservatism even, but similar. And it is sure as hell different from fundamentalist Christianity or the Bible Belters who claim to be real Conservatives. Even though aren’t interested in conserving freedom, but taking the country back to a certain way of life from the 1940s and 50s.
If you are talking about real Conservatives like Barry Goldwater and today Rand Paul they have a lot in common with Libertarians, but not everything. They are not so much interested in eliminating the safety net or welfare state as they are decentralizing it. And getting it out of Washington even though they wouldn’t of created it. Where of course the Classical Libertarian wants to eliminate it all together, Ron Paul comes to mind. And the Conservative Libertarian tends to have things in common with Classical Libertarians on social issues. That this is not the business of the Federal Government.
What separates libertarianism from liberalism and I mean real liberalism not what MSNBC puts up, which is supposed to be liberalism, but actual liberalism, is Liberals do have a role for government in the economy. But a limited role to protect workers and consumers from predators and to help people who can’t for whatever reasons take care of themselves. But also help them get on their two feet so they can take care of themselves instead. And we are much different on foreign policy, but we are very similar on personal issues. Civil liberties and other personal freedom issues.
The main differences between Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals and even Socialists has to do with the role of government in people’s lives. Libertarians would give you the smallest government and Socialists the biggest government. With Conservatives and Liberals somewhere in the middle. But with different roles for government. And if even these governing philosophies are similar, they are different enough where that should be acknowledged as well.