Michael Lind: Why Do Conservatives Hate Freedom?





Michael Lind’s new book, "Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States", will be published in April and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com.

Why do conservatives hate freedom? The question may be startling. After all, don’t conservatives claim they are protecting liberty in America against liberal statism, which they compare to communism or fascism? But the conservative idea of “freedom” is a very peculiar one, which excludes virtually every kind of liberty that ordinary Americans take for granted.

I distinguish conservatives from libertarians, who, on issues of personal liberty, tend to side with liberals. Since World War II, mainstream conservatives have opposed every expansion of personal liberty in the United States.

During the Civil Rights era, the leading conservative politician, Barry Goldwater, and the leading conservative intellectual, William F. Buckley, Jr., along with most of their followers opposed federal laws banning racial discrimination. To their credit, they later admitted they had been mistaken; indeed, both Buckley and Goldwater supported gay rights late in their careers. But at the time that conservative support for a color-blind society might have made a difference, the leaders of American conservatism sided with the Southern segregationists. They claimed they did so, not because of racial prejudice, but because they feared federal tyranny — a weaselly stance which, in practice, made them side with white supremacist tyranny at the state level. If they had truly believed in their own propaganda about federalism, conservatives could have opposed federal civil rights legislation while campaigning for civil rights laws at the state level. They didn’t....



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