Why libertarians are not conservatives

No one in 1970 anticipated the internet. No one in 1900 anticipated that autos could safely whiz past each other on two-lane roads at a combined speed of 120 miles per hour. Almost no one in 1800 anticipated that liberalism was about to produce a 3,000 percent enrichment of the West. And almost no one in 1700 anticipated liberalism.

The conservative admires evolution up to a couple of decades before the present, but unlike libertarians he is fearful and angry about any recent or, God help us, future evolution. Adoption of children by gay couples, say. A social democrat, on the other hand, does not admire many of the evolutions up to the present, and unlike libertarians she is quite sure she can lay down a better future by compelling you to give up your stuff and your liberty—for your own welfare, of course. Industrial policy, say.

The true liberal, by contrast, admires some old evolutions—English common law, for instance, though not its enslaving doctrine of femme couverte—and looks with a cheery confidence to a future of unforced evolution from below, not statism from above.