What Exactly Is a ‘Conservatarian’?

No one seems to know what the new buzzword means.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) attends a press conference with House Republicans on proposed greenhouse gas standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency September 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Emma Roller
July 16, 2014, 5:50 p.m.

This week­end, Sen. Rand Paul will head­line a “con­ser­vatari­an” con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco. So, just what is a con­ser­vatari­an? Hard to say.

The con­fer­ence, called Re­boot, is sponsored by a group foun­ded by three young Re­pub­lic­an op­er­at­ives-turned-tech en­tre­pren­eurs. The event, or­gan­ized by a group called Lin­colnLabs, is sponsored by Gen­er­a­tion Op­por­tun­ity, a branch of the Koch broth­ers’ polit­ic­al net­work that tar­gets young voters. (They’re the group be­hind those Creepy Uncle Sam ads.)

Lin­colnLabs was star­ted in 2013 by three Re­pub­lic­an op­er­at­ives, who left the Belt­way for Sil­ic­on Val­ley as a way to re­cruit tech tal­ent to the right side of the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum. Gar­rett John­son, one of Lin­colnLabs’ founders, formerly worked for Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Richard Lugar of In­di­ana. And des­pite be­ing one of the first people to use the term, let alone or­gan­ize a con­fer­ence around it, John­son is cagey about what ex­actly makes a con­ser­vatari­an.

“My full-time fo­cus is not fig­ur­ing out the ideo­lo­gic­al ten­ets of con­ser­vatari­an­ism,” John­son told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “We are not fo­cused on talk and the­ory. We’re fo­cused on ac­tion and res­ults, and that’s something that really sep­ar­ates Wash­ing­ton, D.C., from Sil­ic­on Val­ley.”

Lin­colnLabs is try­ing to tap in­to the net­work of more liber­tari­an-minded tech en­tre­pren­eurs who pop­u­late Sil­ic­on Val­ley and the Bay Area. And it’s work­ing — they’ve at­trac­ted sup­port from Alex­is Ohanian, a Red­dit cofounder and a part­ner at the ven­ture-cap­it­al firm Y Com­bin­at­or. In 2012, For­bes de­clared Ohanian — a vo­cal op­pon­ent of on­line reg­u­la­tions — “may­or of the In­ter­net.”

The Re­boot con­fer­ence this week­end will fea­ture speeches from Paul and Rep. Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, along with re­cor­ded missives from Bush and Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er. Co­in­cid­ent­ally, Net­roots Na­tion — a con­fer­ence for lib­er­al blog­gers and act­iv­ists that grew out of the web­site Daily Kos — is also hap­pen­ing this week­end. But John­son is quick to stress that un­like Net­roots, Re­boot is a tech con­fer­ence, not a polit­ic­al one.

“In polit­ics, ar­gu­ments win the day,” John­son said. “In Sil­ic­on Val­ley, to the greatest ex­tent pos­sible, data and met­rics settles the ar­gu­ment. We’re fo­cused on be­ing res­ults-driv­en. We’re fo­cused on ac­tion that’s meas­ur­able rather than just rhet­or­ic.”

Over the past year, Lin­colnLabs has hos­ted “hack­a­thons” in cit­ies like Miami and Chica­go, gath­er­ing tech-minded at­tendees to work­shop data-driv­en solu­tions to is­sues like on­line vot­ing, lan­guage learn­ing in schools, city plan­ning, and gov­ern­ment trans­par­ency.

Lin­colnLabs isn’t the only con­ser­vat­ive group try­ing to make head­way in Sil­ic­on Val­ley. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce — the largest pro-busi­ness lobby in the coun­try — just opened its first ma­jor of­fice out­side of Wash­ing­ton in San Jose. Its task: to con­vince Sil­ic­on Val­ley en­tre­pren­eurs that their ideo­logy aligns with the cham­ber’s agenda, and to lobby on their be­half. “The U.S. Cham­ber’s agenda IS the tech­no­logy agenda,” a pro­mo­tion­al bro­chure in­sists.

“Our job is to tell the story that busi­ness is the an­swer, not the prob­lem,” Dav­id Chav­ern, the cham­ber’s ex­ec­ut­ive vice pres­id­ent and pres­id­ent of its Cen­ter for Ad­vanced Tech­no­logy & In­nov­a­tion, told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “And this eco­sys­tem out here in the Bay Area is the per­fect evoc­a­tion of that.”

But that could be a tall or­der for the con­ser­vat­ive Cham­ber of Com­merce. On one hand, des­pite be­ing one of the fast­est-grow­ing en­tre­pren­eur­i­al hubs in the U.S., Sil­ic­on Val­ley re­mains polit­ic­ally lib­er­al. And cul­tur­ally, Sil­ic­on Val­ley may be squeam­ish about the type of in­sti­tu­tion­al power the cham­ber rep­res­ents. The cham­ber ad­vert­ised its new headquar­ters with an il­lus­tra­tion of Pres­id­ent Taft — who in­spired the cham­ber’s cre­ation in 1911 — wear­ing Google Glass. (U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce)

“I do have some brand is­sues to get over,” Chav­ern said. “The cham­ber is viewed as part of the es­tab­lish­ment, and if you’re in the tech sec­tor you’re used to think­ing about dis­rupt­ing the es­tab­lish­ment.”

Dav­id Boaz, the ex­ec­ut­ive vice pres­id­ent of the liber­tari­an Cato In­sti­tute, agreed that the fisc­al con­ser­vat­ism offered by the cham­ber will be a harder sell in Sil­ic­on Val­ley com­pared with oth­er busi­ness hubs.

“There are a lot of busi­ness people in Sil­ic­on Val­ley who aren’t in­ter­ested in play­ing the Wash­ing­ton game, and they see the Cham­ber of Com­merce as the stuffy part of the Re­pub­lic­an Party and the cronyist part of busi­ness,” Boaz told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “I don’t know wheth­er the cham­ber lob­by­ists in Cali­for­nia will go around in shorts and T-shirts, but they may very well re­lax their dress code from what I’m guess­ing it is on H Street.”

But even Boaz — the lead­er of the premiere liber­tari­an think tank in the coun­try — had nev­er heard of the term “con­ser­vatari­an,” and threw some cold wa­ter on the idea that this type of liber­tari­an­ism is a nov­el idea for Cali­for­ni­ans.

Which brings us back to the ori­gin­al ques­tion — is “con­ser­vatari­an­ism” a new, tech-minded branch of liber­tari­an­ism, or is it the same old philo­sophy with a shiny new buzzword? The term seems to be just an­oth­er ad­di­tion to the lex­icon of polit­ic­al fla­vors — are you a techno-uto­pi­an, a Ran­di­an ideal­ist, or a run-of-the-mill ni­hil­ist?

“Liber­tari­ans have been on the cut­ting edge of tech­no­logy for 30, 40 years,” Boaz said. “Liber­tari­an­ism was strongest in Cali­for­nia back in the late ‘70s when tech­no­logy was get­ting un­der­way there. At this point I think we’re past the early ad­op­ter stage of liber­tari­an­ism. You can no longer be really cut­ting-edge by be­ing a liber­tari­an.”

Boaz poin­ted out that in 1978, Ed Clark — a liber­tari­an can­did­ate for gov­ernor of Cali­for­nia — won an im­press­ive 5 per­cent of the vote. Des­pite los­ing, Clark went on to run for pres­id­ent two years later. His run­ning mate? Dav­id Koch.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
23 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×