Libertarians are frequently confused with conservatives in mainstream discourse, and proponents of “fusionism” see libertarians and conservatives as natural political allies. But, are the two philosophies really as similar as many seem to believe?
For the last several years, the Cato Institute intern coordinators have extended an invitation to the Heritage Foundation to pick among their best and brightest interns to join two of Cato’s in an annual debate on the virtues of libertarianism versus conservatism, and the differences between the two ideologies.
It should be noted that the interns who debate do so in their private capacities and don’t necessarily represent the views of either organization, but the competition to be chosen is nonetheless fierce one, with Cato interns, at least, going through multiple levels of qualification to be picked. The resulting debate is an engaging and fun conversation about the meaning of individual liberty, limited government, free market, and policy that has quickly become a popular social event of the D.C. summer season.
This year the debate, which took place on July 23rd, attracted a live audience of over 330 people (filling Cato’s main auditorium and spilling into an overflow room), while the livestream was watched by an additional 385 viewers.
The popularity of the event has been reflected online as well. In both 2013 and 2014, the hashtag for the annual intern debate (#LvCdebate) was a sidebar trend on Twitter. This year’s debate, generating 1,134 tweets overall and 1,061 tweets on the day of the debate itself, solidified that trend, locking in the number one spot early on and maintaining it throughout the event.
The debate itself went on to inspire several blog posts and articles, both before and after the actual event. Perhaps most interesting, however, are the results of a survey released today by my colleague, Emily Ekins.
The survey, which polled debate attendees, identifies important similarities and striking differences between self-identified conservative and libertarian attendees. According to the data, libertarian and conservative attendees were similar in skepticism of government economic intervention, and regulation, but were dramatically different in their stances toward immigration, LGBT inclusion, national security, privacy, foreign policy, and perceptions of racial bias in the criminal justice system.
So, are libertarianism and conservatism really that similar? Watch the debate below, read the results of the survey, and decide for yourself. Then, let us know what you think on Twitter using #LvCdebate.