Is this something that you experience as well? Many conservatives that I interact with react with a bit of apprehension or suspicion when I tell them I’m a libertarian. They tend to automatically assume that libertarians are on the left, either politically, socially or both. I then have to try to explain that, although my political philosophy is staunchly libertarian, there is a decent chance that I’m more conservative than them in realms of economics, social issues and even religious theology. I don’t get frustrated when this happens either, I actually enjoy it.
I enjoy getting to explain the differences between a political philosophy and full fledged, philosophical worldview. Political philosophy only answers the question of when it is okay to use physical force, or the threat of physical force, against another individual. Libertarianism insists that no one is allowed to initiate aggression upon another peaceful person. This statement is generally described as the Non Aggression Principle (NAP). This means that force is only justified if it is used in self defense, the defense of someone else or in the execution of some kind of punishment on an individual who has violated the rights of another individual in the past. That’s it. That is the function of the service of governance.
Historical conservatism is more of a social philosophy, and is concerned with protecting traditional values, institutions and voluntary associations that allow society to function properly. They believe that order in society occurs naturally through voluntary associations, and not from top-down force or coercion. It follows that whatever political position the conservative takes, its purpose is to protect these traditional values. Often times, this means favoring a smaller, weaker State, because most government policies interfere with the voluntary nature of a traditional society.
What all this has transformed into today is the misconception that Democrats are, “liberals” and Republicans are, “conservatives.” The libertarian, however, rejects this formula and rightly sees the divide as being between those who favor State intervention and those who favor voluntary association. It can be clearly seen today, that many Republicans and Democrats both favor a larger, more powerful government that interferes with nearly every aspect of life. The libertarian adheres to the NAP, and when taken to its logical conclusion rejects all forms of State intervention.
To conclude then, one can indeed be a conservative and a libertarian.