“My fellow panelist (Doug Bandow) will speak better for libertarians than I can, but I think it is fair to say that in their view, the reason we choose to live together in political association rather than as hermits in the woods is so that we can enjoy the benefits of mutual defense and commerce. Thus, all the government we really need is a military to protect against external threats, police to protect against internal ones, and maybe courts to enforce contracts between individuals.
Social conservatives, in contrast, line up more or less with Aristotle, who insisted that political life is about more than just mutual defense and commerce. Instead, political associations exist to enable us to develop a civic friendship whereby we will discover moral excellence as a community.
For social conservatives, that Aristotelian civic friendship means there is value in turning the law to certain moral purposes beyond things like mutual defense and enforcing contracts. Instead, we hope to make law in such a way that it promotes human flourishing and prevents or discourages things that lead to decay and decline.”
I appreciate Hunter offering Aristotle’s thought, not Edmund Burke’s, as representative of social conservatism; however, I would parse the divergences with Libertarians this way:
1) The nature of freedom. Libertarians are concerned ONLY WITH exterior freedom-meaning they are worried about the pressure the state can apply. Social Conservatives, on the hand, are concerned with a deeper understanding of freedom, interior freedom. There are things other than the state which can enslave you e.g. your appetites. A drug addict or alcoholic is free according to a Libertarian, but not according to a Social Conservative.
2) Human nature and Bioethics. The Libertarian values Autonomy so he recognizes no authority outside of the self. In this scenario, redesigning human nature through biotechnology is permissible. The Social Conservative values Human Dignity and which requires a transcendent reference point. Tampering with human nature then would be playing God.