When libertarians and conservatives divide: war and immigration – or abortion?

Are conservatives most passionate where they are least libertarian?

Jeff Malet Photography / Newscom / File
While the tea party includes both, libertarians differ from social conservatives in their attitudes towards the role of government in immigration control. At this April 15, 2010 rally near the Washington Monument, one tea party activist chose to highlight immigration and border control.

I’ll be interested in seeing how this discussion turns out: Bryan Caplan hypothesizes that a lot of conservatives are most passionate about the issues on which they are least libertarian: immigration and war. This is a case where vivid experience is suggestive but not conclusive; hence, he opens the door to bets and empirical tests. Bryan admits that he doesn’t know many religious conservatives, and my car radio is tuned to a local Christian talk station (AM 640). While AM 640 offers a lot of great programming, it also offers an unfortunate amount of political programming that consists of fear-mongering about immigrants, fear-mongering about homosexuals, and nationalistic drum-beating about war.

My impression and experience suggests that if there is one issue in conservative evangelical politics that is absolutely untouchable, it is war. My impression about evangelical nationalism is supported by some of the stories and data reported in Gregory Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation and unChristian by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons. Evangelical apathy (or outright antipathy) toward foreigners is one of the themes of David Platt’s recent Radical. Laurence Vance has written a lot on this, and Norman Horn at LibertarianChristians.com has turned Vance’s Christianity and War into a podcast/audiobook. Here’s Norman Horn’s “An Open Letter to American Churches for Peace.”

Again, I will be interested in seeing how this turns out. My expectation is that Caplan is correct about war, but for religious conservatives abortion would take the place of immigration as an issue that gets people really exercised.

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