The Libertarian Militia

The other day I posted a link to Ilya Somin's post at The Volokh Conspiracy about the conservative-libertarian relationship that is questioned after every election. Glenn Reynolds caught an interesting comment from someone named "Splunge." It's rather profound and I'm posting it here in full:

Well, Somin, in the first place I think you need to distinguish between libertarians and mere narcissists. A lot of the latter masquerade as the former, e.g. pretty much the entire crowd at slashdot.org, substantial slices of the Reason potheads, and lawyers eager to fling monkey wrenches into the persecution (I use the word advisedly) of public enemies so long as it brings them personally some bankable fame.

For these folks, "liberty" pretty much means I get what I want, even if it puts everyone else into chains. They believe in "liberty" in the same degenerate sense that a Stalinist believes in "sharing." (Oy! Comrade, if you share with me your bread, I will share with you my slogans to educate your stupid peasant mind.) No one following in the philosophical steps of Madison should give these fraudsters the time of day, let alone indulge the illusion of meaningful alliance. They belong to the party of ego and self.

The remaining core of principled libertarians, who really do believe strongly in live and let live, should be regarded as a militia, not a standing army. They'll rise up when sufficiently enraged to defend their liberty, but between active threats they disperse to their actual lives. I mean, the principled libertarian is nauseated by the necessity of government, and tends to loathe every application of it with which he cooperates. It's like taking out the garbage. Who prolongs it? You run for the dumpster, get it over with as fast as possible.

So the notion of some extended mutual NATO alliance-building, complete with cultural exchanges, is kind of unlikely. True libertarians are going to just zone out, thinking about skiing or sex, during your logistics and strategy meetings. A better idea would be to fashion some kind of skeleton structure of conservatism, into which the libertarian militia could comfortably slot itself when an existential threat arose.
That means, on the conservative side, conservatives have to carry the ball for libertarians when the latter are off-duty. You can't neglect those principles -- small government, property rights -- when you're at peacetime strength, because it's like stripping off the insignia. When you call for libertarian reinforcements, they don't recognize you any more as their ally.

From the libertarian side, there needs to be some appreciation for the fact that conservatives do form the standing army. Libertarians tune in for crises, then drop out and go on with their lives. But somebody has got to keep watch all the time, and that tends to be conservatives. Libertarians need to give them credit for that, make accommodations to some of their reasonable claims for leadership. You can't reserve the right to refuse every marching order, parachute in and out of the party as you please, and expect to wield the same level of leadership as those who are full-time and fully loyal soldiers.

They also need to practise a little strategic deafness. Conservatives like to talk about values and sin a lot, and it grates on the libertarian ear, because the libertarian fears such talk leads to oppressive action. But very often it's just talk, a form of mere community bonding -- ghost stories over the campfire -- that libertarians don't quite get, not being that fond of community bonding in the first place. Frequently enough, if you merely let conservatives have their talk, and nod appreciatively I see what you mean, yes, an interesting and valuable point then they're happy enough.