Heritage Interns Represent Conservatism in Annual Intern Debate
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Hundreds of Capitol Hill staffers, policy professionals, interns and reporters recently crowded into an auditorium in Washington, D.C., to watch the Cato Institute's annual “Libertarianism vs. Conservatism” intern debate.
This year’s edition of the popular event saw Heritage Foundation interns Mack Andrews from Harvard University and Razi Lane from Hillsdale College representing the conservative side. Taking the libertarian point of view were Cato Institute interns Adrienne Carrier from Hillsdale College and Patrick Holland from Swarthmore College.
The Heritage interns opened the debate with an adaptation of a famous quote from the fourth U.S. president.
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. Those are the words of James Madison. Now Madison was right …,” Andrews said. “But I want to take it a step further. If men were angels, we could all be libertarians.”
Andrews and Lane emphasized the importance of policies that preserve civil institutions such as families, community organizations, churches, and charities that form the hearts, minds, and souls of good citizens.
They highlighted what is widely understood as a main point of contention between conservatives and libertarians: While libertarians believe that civil society will preserve itself organically, conservatives understand that it requires the public recognition and preservation of those civil institutions.
Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, was the debate moderator.
At one point, the Heritage interns asked the audience as well as the opposing interns to imagine walking home late at night and seeing a young woman standing on the edge of a bridge, screaming that she was going to jump.
“Would you let that girl jump, or would you infringe upon her liberty to save her life?” Andrews asked.
Carrier and Holland, the libertarian team, reluctantly admitted that they would infringe upon the young woman’s liberty for the common good, including that of her family.
Conservatives Andrews and Lane had illustrated how allowing unrestrained free choice, which libertarians advocate, could cause individuals to harm themselves and make choices that harm society.
The debaters took questions from the audience on a variety of issues, among them laws on sexual orientation and gender identity in states such as North Carolina, “militarization” of police, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and even President Richard Nixon’s “madman theory” during the Vietnam War.
“President Reagan famously called our American gift ‘a shining city upon a hill,’” Lane said during closing arguments. “Conservatism vigilantly defends not just the principles that define our country, but the spirit in each American that keeps it shining.”
“We are very proud of Mack and Razi,” said Elinor Renner, program associate for Heritage’s Young Leaders Program. “In addition to their regular work, this is a major project that they've worked on since the beginning of the semester."
“Over half the class joined in, either on a research team, as a practice debater, or to give feedback and help the team prepare,” Renner said. “Ultimately, Razi and Mack did a phenomenal job championing conservatism, and they're a credit to Heritage.”