Before continuing, I know I am going to have some detail with defining the Right because there are many types of conservatism. Portraying conservatives as a monolith is not something I like to do just because I am aware of the variations of conservatism, but nevertheless will have to do so in order to illustrate why I am in the camp of libertarianism, as opposed to conservatism.
I certainly see how many people don't see the difference between a Right-leaning libertarian and a conservative. The biggest similarity is advocacy of the free-market. This will cover a wide range of issues upon which I will agree with conservatives, from the growing entitlements to taxation to wasteful government spending to health care. Economic issues is what brought the libertarians and conservatives together during the Reagan era, and considering this recession, could reunite the two if the Republican Party truly puts its focus on the fiscal issues. I also grew up with certain values, such as frugality and prudence, personal responsibility, respect for tradition, and a strong work ethic, that many in modern-day America would consider antiquated. There are also issues like gun rights and affirmative action that I truly believe that the government should have very little to no business in. I even believe that the amount of evidence for climate change is insufficient to merit the amount of government intervention that the Left is attempting to use.
You would think that based on the previous paragraph, I would be a bona fide conservative. Alas, that is not the case. Here is list of political topics in which I would disagree with your "typical conservative" as of date:
- Religious freedom: There is no "separation of church and state" clause. The clause in the Constitution is to not establish religion. In spite of that distinction, I surprisingly agree with the secular Left, albeit for different reasons, on these issues. I find that trying to bring prayer back in public schools would be a violation of the First Amendment. Based on a technicality, displaying the Ten Commandments would be unconstitutional. I would not have a problem with children learning Intelligent Design in school. I find that a "higher power" that created the universe is a plausible explanation. However, my issue is that many in schools in this country would attribute the title "Intelligent Designer" to Jesus, which would be a violation of the First Amendment.
- Marriage: Marriage is nothing more than a contract. As long as the individuals are consenting and doing this of their own volition, I do not care what you do behind your bedroom doors, whether you are gay or straight. Gay marriage would simply be a contract between two consenting individuals of the same sex saying they want to commit their lives to one another. To deprive consenting individuals from entering such a contract is a deprivation of contract rights, to say the least. The conservative's aversion towards gay marriage, whether brought on by religion or ignorance, gets in the way of a typical conservative viewing the issue clearly. With that in mind, I will go as far as saying that with that argument, I would also be pro-polygamy, providing that the individuals within the polygamous marriage are all consenting individuals. I know that this is a widely unpopular view in America because "marriage is between one man and woman." It has even been codified in American law under Reynolds v. United States. Aside from arguing contract rights, I will say that Jacob, King David, and King Solomon all had more than one wife in the Bible. From a Jewish standpoint, I will say that until very recently, polygamy was acceptable and practiced within the Sephardic world.
- Marijuana: On a personal level, I am anti-marijuana. I don't want to smoke the stuff, and I don't plan on doing so anytime soon. Any individual I have met who has admitted more than one-time usage seems debilitated and stymied to grow as an individual. In spite of personal opposition, I think that states' rights should fight it out, which is why I was disappointed at Proposition 19 last year. If some states try it out and it turns out poorly, other states would have the empirical data to prove that marijuana reform might not be the best idea.
- Defense spending and National Security: I'm with Doug Bandow and other Cato Institute experts. We're spending too much on defense spending. Written by Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble in 2010, Cato Institute put out a superb policy analysis about how we can cut the defense budget and still be just as effective. I can see how a conservative can see this as unpatriotic or viewing this as not being pro-defense or have a sense of national security. Nothing could be further from the truth! I have had immediate family service in the Armed Forces and have great respect for those who serve. However, much like with any other facet of the budget, I am an stalwart advocate of cutting out unnecessary spending to help avoid fiscal ruin in the long-run. Since the Department of Defense has the third largest budget (#1 and #2 are Health And Human Services and Social Security respectively), it's not exactly a minute part of our budget. Since America does a majority of the global military spending, it might not be the worst idea to have other nations share some of the burden while we figure out how to spend more effectively. Although I believe in preventing further terrorist attacks, I find the Patriot Act to be a blatant violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Just because the government hasn't used the Patriot Act to do search and seizure without a warrant on "everyday Americans" or search databases for private information doesn't mean the government can't. After all, they have the carte blanche to do so with the Patriot Act. On a side note, what are we doing in Afghanistan? I'm no peacenik, but there is no valid reason that America should be using its limited resources on a lost cause.
- Life Issues: I'm not 100% in accord with conservatives on life issues. I know that the one place where we would essentially agree is abortion: I'm anti-abortion, and yes, a libertarian can still be anti-abortion and maintain their libertarianism. I have become more sympathetic to the pro-euthanasia side, particularly since our medical technology can better gauge an individual's probability of "making it." Let's just say that I am for passive euthanasia, but still have an issue with active euthanasia. As for the death penalty, that's more ambiguous. Nothing says 100% deterrent like capital punishment, especially when we are living in a time with such lax criminal laws. However, my ambivalence primarily comes in when you give the state that much power, especially if there's a prolonged issue of executing innocent people.
- Immigration: I figured that I would save this one for last. Although my views on this topic used to line up perfectly with Right-winged mouthpieces, I have come to [appreciate] a more nuanced view on the topic. I agree with conservatives that we should enforce our immigration laws in the name of national security. I also find that the root of the problem is not the immigrants themselves, but the animosity is based off the entitlement programs that Big Government provides. If we attacked welfare programs at its most base core, anti-immigration sentiment would subside, which is something we need considering that about 30% of immigrants have a Bachelor's degree or higher.