Political labels are difficult to grasp because they're almost never clearly defined. For example, here's how dictionary.com
defines neoconservative: "An intellectual and political movement in favor of political, economic, and social conservatism
that arose in opposition to the perceived liberalism of the 1960s: 'The neo-conservatism of the 1980s is a replay of the New
Conservatism of the 1950s, which was itself a replay of the New Era philosophy of the 1920s' (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.)."
What does that tell you about a neoconservative's convictions? Would he or she support free trade? Abolition
of the income tax? The government's war on terrorism? Are they simply disillusioned liberals who turned to conservatism?
We might expect the neoconservative.com web site to clear up the matter of who they are. Neoconservatism, they tell
us, "is committed to cultural traditionalism, democratic capitalism, and a foreign policy promoting freedom and American interests
around the world."  Their explanation includes two terms dripping with warmth and vagueness -- cultural traditionalism and "democratic"
capitalism -- and an explicit contradiction -- promoting freedom and America's interests.
Perhaps we should step back a little and ask: What is a conservative? Is it someone "favoring traditional views and
values" who tends "to oppose change," as dictionary.com says? Do conservatives also support that great ideal of "democratic"
capitalism, or is that a monopoly of neoconservatives? We need to know differentiating essentials, and no one seems able to
"When labels confuse rather than clarify, they should be dropped," writes Mark Skousen, who concluded that "the political
spectrum has become a rhetorical version of Abbott and Costello's 'Who's on first?' routine." 
But if we look closely, there's one label consistent with our well-being and our founders' philosophy. Political
spectrums arise in a context of fundamental opposition, the most significant of which deals with the role of the state in
the lives of its citizens. Government is about coercion. We create a political spectrum with answers to the question:
Under what circumstances does the state have the authority to exercise its coercive powers?
The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries produced the doctrine of man's rights, which declared that the only justification
for government's existence was as protector of man's life and property. Since the freedom each man is born with can
only be violated by other men, human beings form societies as a means of common defense. And since men have different
interests and skills, society works to the mutual benefit of its members when the division of labor and trade are unimpeded
by coercion. Men create government, therefore, as a means of protecting themselves from external attack and internal
People who adhered to this laissez-faire view of the state were once known as liberals. Our Constitution was an attempt
to express this philosophy in law, but it unfortunately gave Congress the power to provide for the "general welfare of the
United States." To people like Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay, this meant the government should intervene in the
economy through such means as a national bank, subsidies to business, and protective tariffs. Others saw the interventions
as violations of liberty, since the state has no right to plunder some men to benefit others.
Over time, the laissez-faire liberals, who generally prevailed in the early years of our republic, became conservatives,
as ones resisting change. With Lincoln's election, the Hamiltonian view of the state took over, and government became the
agent of special interests and the breeding ground for corruption. After the North's victory in the war, the government
charged ahead with meddling in the economy, creating bank failures, recessions, bankruptcies, and other forms of wrong-doing.
Throughout the latter half of the 19th century it stayed close friends with business tycoons, some of whom found government's
monopoly on coercion useful for exploiting markets and stifling competition.
By the close of the century many Americans saw the abuses of American mercantilism, called it capitalism (a name coined
by Karl Marx), associated it with free markets, and decided the cure was socialism. With the precedent firmly established
that government's compulsory apparatus was up for grabs, the Democrats, once the champions of free markets but now the home
of the burgeoning socialist movement, wanted to use state power to force their agenda on the country. From 1896 to the
formation of the Libertarian Party in 1971, there was no viable political party promoting freedom in the United States.
Once state aggrandizement got rolling politicians found it necessary to court special interests and swap favors in exchange
for votes. Every mess they created demanded a solution, which in turn meant more of the same -- regulations, controls,
taxes, subsidies, agencies, welfare, programs. The fight has been mostly over particulars, not principles. The
bloodbaths and ruinous economic and foreign policies of the 20th century have been brought to us by "compassionate" conservatives
and liberals of both parties.
If people wish to dissect confusing political labels into subcategories of fog, that is their option. It might make
an interesting board game. But voting on the basis of such labels is like adjusting the speed with which we advance
toward statism, without knowing what speed we'll get if a given candidate gets elected. There is one label, fortunately,
that represents our dignity as individuals and supports our right to live free, consistently -- libertarian. Every other
label promotes government intrusion into our lives, to some extent.
The Libertarian Party supports the libertarian philosophy. Libertarians believe that adults are responsible for their
own lives and have the right to live as they wish. Since all men are political equals, no one has the right to initiate
force against others, either directly or indirectly through government. They hold this view across the board, in all
aspects of an individual's life.
How close are you to being a libertarian? Take their test and find out. 
1. Neoconservatism online,
2. No More Political Labels, Please, Mark Skousen,
3. World's Smallest Political Quiz,