Quarantine Protesters Don’t Represent All Conservatives. Here’s Why.
Published in The Washington Post
on May 13, 2020
Movement conservatives are increasingly decrying stay-at-home orders and calling for the economy’s rapid reopening. This is, alas, yet another example of how the movement’s devotion to liberty as an overriding value is out of step with mainstream American opinion.
It is difficult to understate how deep this devotion runs throughout movement conservative thought and action. From the stirring call of William F. Buckley Jr.’s mission statement for the conservative magazine National Review to the 2016 convention speech from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the individual’s freedom from government has been the hub of the movement wheel. Whether it opposes new government action, as it did in opposition to Obamacare, or seeks to pare back previous government acts, as when it supports entitlement reform, movement conservatism does so in the belief that expanding freedom for its own sake should be public policy’s primary goal.
This belief is what links movement conservatism to its more extreme cousin, libertarianism. Devout libertarians and movement conservatives disagree about much, especially in matters like foreign policy and the role of religion in public life. They are like squabbling family members who agree on principles and argue over their application. This is why libertarians often work within the Republican Party rather than the Democratic Party, and why libertarian economic principles find a welcome home in the GOP.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.