Thanks to the fusioniss whereby National Review back in the 1950s brought together traditional conservatives and libertarians, American conservatism is very different from conservatism elsewhere in the world. To begin with, American conservatism grew mostly out of Whig roots. It is no accident that Russell Kirk began his book "The Conservative Mind" with Edmund Burke, England's great Whig political philosopher. The Tory roots of English conservatism hold some influence, but are overwhelmed by the Whig roots. The more authoritarian strains of continental conservatism are thankfully generally subsumed by Whiggery.
The second great influence on American conservatism is of course libertarianism. Libertarianism has as a root the individual anarchist of the 19th Century. It is ironic of course because in theory, conservatism is the opposite of anarchy. My cousin, who probably could have been considered a Marxist in her youth, was surprised that I mentioned Spooner in conversation, she thought Spooner was only a hero to the left.
So where does that leave me, a conservative libertarian the day before Election Day, 2008? I think the words of President Reagan, turned the Winthrop's "city on a hill" to a "shinning city":
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how
I saw it and see it still.
So that is how I see it. I believe in the ingenuity and commerce of the American people. I believe that yes the city has walls, but also gates, and that those gates remain open. Reagan supported amnesty for illegal aliens, and while he believed in defending America, he never wanted to shut it out from those who sought her out. He believed in trade but most of all, in believed in the American people.
That is what I believe.