Libertarians criticize CPAC conservatives

Press release via and email:

WASHINGTON – As the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) holds its annual conference, Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict offered the following statement:

I’m sure we’ll hear an awful lot about "limited government" from the mouths of CPAC politicians over the next few days. If I had a nickel every time a conservative said "limited government" and didn’t mean it, I’d be a very rich man.

Unlike libertarians, most conservatives simply don’t want small government. They want their own version of big government. Of course, they have done a pretty good job of fooling American voters for decades by repeating the phrases "limited government" and "small government" like a hypnotic chant.

It’s interesting that conservatives only notice "big government" when it’s something their political enemies want. When conservatives want it, apparently it doesn’t count.

  • If a conservative wants a trillion-dollar foreign war, that doesn’t count.
  • If a conservative wants a 700-billion-dollar bank bailout, that doesn’t count.
  • If a conservative wants to spend billions fighting a needless and destructive War on Drugs, that doesn’t count.
  • If a conservative wants to spend billions building border fences, that doesn’t count.
  • If a conservative wants to "protect" the huge, unjust, and terribly inefficient Social Security and Medicare programs, that doesn’t count.
  • If a conservative wants billions in farm subsidies, that doesn’t count.

It’s truly amazing how many things "don’t count."

Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh can’t ever be satisfied with enough military spending and foreign wars.

Conservatives like Mitt Romney want to force everyone to buy health insurance.

Conservatives like George W. Bush — well, his list of supporting big-government programs is almost endless.

Ronald Reagan, often praised as an icon of conservatism, signed massive spending bills that made his the biggest-spending administration (as a percentage of GDP) since World War II.

Some people claim that these big-government supporters aren’t "true conservatives." Well, if a person opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, opposes the War on Drugs, opposes border fences, and opposes mandatory Social Security and Medicare, it’s hard to believe that anyone would describe that person as a conservative at all. Most people would say that person is a libertarian (or maybe even a liberal).

Obviously, most liberals don’t want limited government either. It’s just that their support for big government leans toward massive handout and redistribution programs.

The fact is, liberals and conservatives both want gigantic government. Their visions sometimes look different from each other, but both are huge. The only Americans who truly want small government are libertarians.

An article posted at CNS News, linked prominently from the Drudge Report, noted that the Obama administration is on track to beat the Franklin Roosevelt administration in terms of average federal spending as a percentage of GDP. However, the article failed to note that the Reagan Administration already beat the Franklin Roosevelt administration easily. Roosevelt’s average was 19.4 percent of GDP, while Reagan’s average was 22.3 percent of GDP. (Source: White House OMB data)

Wes Benedict will be observing the proceedings at the CPAC conference on Saturday, February 20. For more information, or to arrange an interview, call Benedict at 202-333-0008 ext. 222.

The LP is America’s third-largest political party, founded in 1971. The Libertarian Party stands for free markets and civil liberties. You can find more information on the Libertarian Party at our website.


45 thoughts on “Libertarians criticize CPAC conservatives

  1. Green Party fan

    Thanks for the story…many Green Party folks are writing similar things on the blogs…

    As a Green Party conservative, and veteran, and oftent attending CPAC, I remain more of the attendees will join the Green Party and run as real, credible fiscal conservatives.

  2. libertarianblue

    Our Libertarians in the media (Judge Napalnatano, Stossel, etc) need to do a better job calling out conservatives on their hypocritical ways or in 2012 we will be back were we started.

  3. Brian Holtz

    The question I wanted to ask Wayne Root at the LPCA convention lunch banquet was: “How do you explain to advocates of limited government that they should give up on the Republican Party?”

    The press release above is a very good start. However, it fails to mention the Bush spending crime that dwarfs the rest: Medicare part D (prescription drug benefit), which has $9 TRILLION in unfunded liabilities over the next 75 years. That was a 25% increase in the unfunded liability of the entitlement programs that Bush inherited.

  4. Solomon Drek

    “Ronald Reagan, often praised as an icon of conservatism, signed massive spending bills that made his the biggest-spending administration (as a percentage of GDP) since World War II.”

    How dare you criticize the idol of the presumptive LNC Chairman and presumptive LP presidential candidate Wayne Root, the self-described “Reagan Libertarian”.

    BTW, I think Root named one of his kids after “Reagan” (or was it his dog).

  5. Trent Hill

    The LP had a booth at CPAC last year. Also, let’s be careful to criticize the conservatives in general, not CPAC specifically–CPAC this year has a “Liberty Row” with organizations like Campaign for Liberty, Young Americans for Liberty, Oathkeepers, etc.

  6. HumbleTravis

    “The Libertarian Party stands for free markets and civil liberties.”

    I think this phrase works better than the more common “fiscally conservative, socially tolerant”.

  7. George Phillies

    That’s a superb critique. For another way to show that Republican Conservative is the opposite of us, note these quotes on another CPAC speaker,-thats-a-winning-strategy

    Libertarians have some very different reasons for rejecting Republican bigotry, but rejecting bigotry against African-Americans, gays, pagans, women, not to mention scientists and engineers, is a nice difference between them and us.

  8. Andy

    “David F. Nolan // Feb 18, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    This is very good, in contrast to the crap that was coming out of LP National when Shane Cory and Donny Ferguson were there!”

    I agree.

  9. Tom Blanton

    Wes Benedict seems to be the best thing going for the LP. Maybe it’s because he is a libertarian as opposed to being a conservative like Cory or Root.

  10. Michael H. Wilson

    Show some love baby and send Wes a check.

    Y’all write those checks and show Wes how much we appreciate the improved message.

  11. JT

    GP Fan @ 1,2: Assuming you think the label “conservative” means anything similar to what most people think it means, then the Greens revile you. Post 3 is right–your comment makes no sense.

  12. Volvoice

    …If a conservative wants to spend billions building border fences, that doesn’t count…..

    Anyone seen the RENO 911 show where they are building the fence, wind up paying the mexicans to build it, and then when its finished they shoot off their pistols hollerin USA USA…only to realize they are on the mexican side of the fence?
    That’s what I’m talkin bout. ROTFLMAO!

  13. Chuck Moulton

    I was repeatedly asked by many different friends to attend CPAC. My response each time was “I’m not a conservative. I’m a libertarian.”

    Still, I watched Ron Paul’s CPAC speech on C-SPAN and caught the previous panel. The audience seemed pretty packed with libertarians. Alex McCobin of Students for Liberty spoke praising CPAC for inviting GOProud to attend the event. The very next speaker was hatemongering anti-gay demagogue Ryan Sorba who was loudly booed off stage.

    Of course the pre-Paul crowd demographics was probably at its most libertarian of the weekend.

    Sadly in Ron Paul’s speech I never heard him mention the word “libertarian”. He kept casting his views as “conservative”… specifically “true conservative” and “old conservative” as distinguished from the neo-cons.

  14. Pingback: Bob Barr Stands Against Torture, Booed at CPAC | Independent Political Report

  15. Melty

    all good! tremendous!
    Now if the website would delete “Lower Taxes, Smaller Government, More Freedom” and replace it with something good, like maybe “Cut Spending! Live Freer!” oh, how sweet would it be?
    Tightwad though I am, I’m startin to get a hankerin to take out my wallet for the LP for the first time several years.

  16. Melty

    What Humble Travis said. This “stands for free markets and civil liberties” talk is super. The words “conservative” n “liberals” are light on meaning and heavy on partisan angst. Wes illustrates that well. Next take it a step further. Libertarians would do well to not even use “liberal”/”conservative”. More substantive words are worth wielding.

  17. Erik Geib

    This release is one of the many, many reasons I love having Wes as our Executive Director.

    For those of you who haven’t had the chance to know/meet him, he’s an incredibly impressive person with a thorough understanding of what it takes to run our national office. He’s also the least-condescending libertarian I’ve ever met (and possibly the least-condescending person I know) and is always open to suggestions for improvement.

    Hopefully, the Rootites in the LP won’t try to claim Wes’s success as WAR’s in the coming months. While Wayne’s busy fear-mongering and catering to conservatives, Wes is rolling up his sleeves at National to get membership and donation numbers on the rise.

  18. Melty

    I like what Erik Geib is saying with “Peace, Prosperity, Freedom” . . . that on the top of the LP website would be tits.

  19. Thomas L. Knapp

    Wes is a gem, and most of the reason for that is that he keeps his focus resolutely on party-building and avoids getting bogged down in the ideological/issues arguments that so many of us (mea culpa) get so obsessed with.

    I’m sure he has strong convictions, and I bet he even has some lines in the sand, but we won’t know what those lines are unless we cross them. Until that happens, he’s happy just putting his shoulder to the wheel and letting others try to sort out the arguments.

  20. Trent Hill

    “Further proof that libertarians don’t belong there: Bob Barr gets one (mostly) right, and gets little support.”

    Barr got quite a lot of support. My understanding is that SFL and YAL activists made some “I support Barr” buttons last night and are wearing them today.

  21. Trent Hill

    “Sadly in Ron Paul’s speech I never heard him mention the word “libertarian”. He kept casting his views as “conservative”… specifically “true conservative” and “old conservative” as distinguished from the neo-cons.”

    This is the nature of the beast, Chuck, as I know you know. Everyone knows Ron Paul is a libertarian, but what he was trying to show was that in the 1950s and 60s, he would’ve been considered a “true conservative” by Republicans. Indeed, he is quite right. Paul is speaking to the concerns of the Demographic, and he is smart to do so. He betrays nothing in the meantime except a useless label (libertarian) with lots of baggage.

    And I think the McCobin/Sorba/Frazee episode proves that libertarians can attend CPAC, be pleasant, but still stick out and challenge the conservatives. Ron Paul’s speech was NOT the only event, CFL and YAL hosted or were involved (as panelists) in 20 events total.

  22. Brian Holtz

    Re: “Peace, Prosperity, Freedom”

    These are all nice things, but they far from the best brand differentiation we can achieve. Every party promises prosperity. Every party says they favor freedom. Every party but the Republicans says they favor peace, and some of them even seem to mean it.

    Our central message should always emphasize that voting Libertarian is the only way to say you are neither Left nor Right.

  23. paulie Post author

    Aaron – thanks for the news.

    Trent – since Ron Paul was the Libertarian nominee in ’88, I think this may be good to cover on IPR. Any objection?

  24. Pingback: Former Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Ron Paul wins CPAC Presidential Straw Poll | Independent Political Report

  25. Looking for Answers

    Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:32 am Post subject: Questions for the libertarians/ classic libs


    It seems these days the libertarian/classical liberal movement seems to be growing and there are plenty of you on this forum. Some of the ideas and positions I’ve seen advanced from this ‘side’ do seem to be fairly reasonable and I definitely am in agreement on several issues (end of the ‘war on drugs’ and scaling back of military adventurism etc.)

    However there are some issues which I think I’m unsure of exactly where some of the libertarians/classical libs lie and which bother me so I’m starting this thread with the hope that some of you may be able to clarify some of these positions.

    I understand not all libertarian/classical libs march in lockstep so there could be a wide variance in your answers and that no policy positions are ‘set in stone’ but I would still be interested in your answers, so here goes:

    1) Do you believe the government should sell off all public libraries? If private companies bought the libraries and started charging people for using them would you consider this a progressive step towards a better society?

    2) Should all national parks be sold off? If private companies or wealthy individuals bought popular national parks and closed them off completely to the public for their own use and/or started strip-mining and polluting in them would you consider this an acceptable outcome?

    3) Do you think there should be no government regulation to prevent pollution and that private ownership of all land alone would be enough to stop it from harming people’s health? What about air and sea pollution? How could private land ownership prevent this?

    4) What about the companies and individuals who have benefited hugely from current ‘corporatist’ policies? If we switched to a libertarian/ classical liberal society tomorrow wouldn’t they have a huge, unfair advantage over the rest of us because of their ability to buy up all the valuable government assets that would have to be sold off?

    5) If government is not to regulate companies in any way what protections are there for consumers if companies, who together have a virtual monopoly of a particular market, decide to collude with each other and fix prices at a level that is far more than optimum on a product which people have practically no choice but to buy (ie oil, electricity)?

    6) Do you think that libertarian/classical liberal policies would ultimately lead to a more or less egalitarian society? Would increased polarization of rich and poor be a necessary evil of such a system?

    So, all you libertarians, please bring your views to another corner of the net. Sorry, you’ll have to register and get a password:

  26. Brian Holtz

    1) Government libraries should be privatized by incorporating each of them and distributing the shares among the residents (ideally, the landowners) of the neighborhood/community it serves. If local landowners agree that the library’s contribution to their property values is worth its operating costs beyond its usual fees and donations, they can vote to be assessed an ad valorem tax on their land, which re-captures the value the library allegedly adds. If a library is not-for-profit and open to the public, then it would be exempt from the land-value taxes that finance most of government in Libertopia.

    2) Along the same lines as government libraries, each government park should be privatized by distributing shares to the residents/landowners of the area it serves. Conservation groups could buy up shares of parks they are especially interested in preserving. Not-for-profit parks open to the public would be exempt from land value taxes. Government land that is not already serving as a park should be opened up for homesteading, with homesteaders bidding for leaseholds and subsequently paying a land value tax based on their lease. If someone offers them more than their current basis for their land-value tax, they either have to sell or raise their land-value tax basis to match the offer. This of course is the general model of land-value taxation in Libertopia.

    3) Pollution is aggression, and should be policed at the most-local practical level of government with Pigovian taxes. Also, depletion of a natural commons — oil, minerals, wildlife, aquifers, streams, lakes — should require a fee paid to the most local level of government that represents the people most impacted by the depletion.

    4) There would be no such advantage for wealthy corporations as long as 1) existing assets are distributed as shares to the members of the relevant community and 2) the natural commons is protected with taxes on pollution, depletion, and site monopolization. (Taxing “site monopolization” means a land-value tax.)

    5) Artificial monopolies, e.g. on oil, are not sustainable and never last. Natural monopolies — on physical networks like streets, pipes, and wires — should indeed be regulated by local associations of the landholders that those monopolies serve. The distinction between “government” and homeowners’ associations will then be — and indeed should be — quite blurry.

    6) According to the geoist analysis, much of existing inequality stems from 1) appropriation/pollution/depletion of the natural commons without adequate compensation to those whose access rights are thus impaired, and 2) labor being taxed to fund public goods/services that increase the value of land which is mostly owned by non-laborers. Depending on how the transition is done, the standard anarcholibertarian scenario would indeed very likely bless and exacerbate these two kinds of inequality. By contrast, the geolibertarian policies described above are designed expressly to restore everyone’s equal liberty and equal right of access to the natural commons.

    For more on geolibertarianism, see

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