The libertarian movement is in a state of crisis. If we are to survive as a serious movement, if we are to continue to have any relevance, we must begin to advocate what Sean Gabb calls “grown-up libertarianism.” I prefer Rothbard and Rockwell’s term “paleolibertarianism.” What is a paleolibertarian?
A paleolibertarian is someone who believes in the rights to life, liberty, and property, but who is also mindful of the kind of environment required for libertarian philosophy to be fully realised. This environment is a homogenous society where the degree of time preference is low, and self-restraint high.
A paleolibertarian, like Burke, believes in both liberty and in order. The two are not mutually exclusive, but instead depend upon each other.
A paleolibertarian recognises that just as conservatism is parasitical on the concept of private property and a small state, libertarianism is something unique to Western Civilisation, and moreover libertarianism cannot survive in a moral vacuum.
A paleolibertarian is not ignorant of the fact that the libertarian philosophy grew out of, and is parasitic upon, Thomistic Natural Law on the one hand, and the English Common Law on the other.
A paleolibertarian recognises that libertarianism only makes sense within the confines of Western Civilisation, and particularly so within the Anglosphere. In other cultures, codes of decency which we take for granted simply do not exist. Why else would the German State have begun a poster campaign in January of this year to keep sexual abuse, rape, and public defecation to manageable levels?
A paleolibertarian believes in the nation, and not the modernist idea of the “propositional nation”, but the proper definition of the nation, being a people who are come together based on ties of blood, shared history, and soil.
A paleolibertarian recognises that a policy of Open Borders is one of national suicide.
A paleolibertarian further recognises that in England, the homeland of libertarianism, this spells trouble for the cause of liberty.
And yet the prospects for liberty are rather worse than just that. For, as I said in my opening sentence, the libertarian movement itself is in trouble. It is tragic that now, when the need for a serious libertarian movement has never been greater, the movement should be in such a state.
The libertarian movement is no longer primarily libertarian, but is instead a consortium of cultural leftists and big business-corporate interests. Instead of simply libertarians, most libertarians, including myself, though as a reaction to this, are now hyphenated libertarians.
While it is obvious that if libertarianism is to flourish, there must be high levels of personal responsibility, respect for private authorities, strong intermediary institutions between the citizen and the state, you would not hear this from the modal libertarian. It would be nice if all libertarians recognised this need for what we might call “private government” or “self-government”, rather than endorsing hedonism and cultural suicide, but alas, it is unlikely.
Perhaps a more optimistic view of these libertarians may be that it is the best we can expect from them. In other words, it is surely better for them to be cultural leftist libertarians than full-blown statists. It might further be argued that cultural leftist libertarians are, “transitioning”, so to speak. In other words, they may grow up in the future.
Yet I do not think that they will grow up. As Rothbard said, the libertarian philosophy attracts weirdos, outcasts, and oddballs. People who want to practice an obscene lifestyle of some kind quite like the "live and let live" and "respect no authority" version of libertarianism. Once a cultural leftist, always a cultural leftist; it's only their political views that change. Yet, of course, their cultural leftism isn’t confined to producing only cultural errors; the egalitarian who believes in multiculturalism almost always believes in democracy, too.
The ultra-leftist so-called “Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism”, which seems to have taken root in at least one think tank in the United Kingdom, for instance, is certainly not a “gateway drug” to grown-up libertarianism. Those who are Bleeding Hearts are usually confirmed Bleeding Hearts. Left-libertarians are of the Left before they become libertarians and therefore being of the Left is a stronger part of their identity than being libertarian.
In addition to the egalitarians, the libertarian movement also contains a surfeit of corporatists, and of course the two are not mutually exclusive; most corporatists are keen to profess their love of all things LGBTQQIAAP and all things multicultural. However, the corporatists tend to be found in the well-funded libertarian think tanks. The libertarian movement is quick to denounce other movements for their special interest and lobbyist group funding, while being paid handsomely by Koch Industries, Inc. In the United Kingdom, funding is also an interesting issue, with one think tank having taken a large sum of money from Blair’s New Labour on at least one occasion. The same think tank may well be funded by, and if not funded by at least associated with, a thoroughly corporatist-statist outfit which lists among its services “Public Administration Reform, Public Financial Management, Infrastructure Development, and Justice, Security, & Peacebuilding.”
In return for corporate and state funding, whether direct or indirect, these organisations argue for tax cuts for the rich, mass immigration, and drug legalisation, and very little else of fundamental importance. They also have a tendency to needlessly revisit old arguments such as that of socialism versus capitalism, and while doing it imply that the existing order is indeed free market capitalism.
It might be argued that, by pointing out these deficiencies, I am engaging in infighting. I would like to see less infighting, but it really does tend to only be people like myself who want less infighting. The Leftist and the corporatists are quick to call any criticism of their own arguments "unproductive infighting", but if an argument is wrong then it is wrong.
Infighting is the result of often irreconcilable differences. The "Libertarian Movement" is starting to be revealed for what it is: non-existent. Instead, we have numerous factions who all either dislike or misunderstand each other and whose definitions of the word "libertarian" are all radically different.
If we continue as we are for much longer, then the result will be that nobody will use term “libertarian” any more.
The various splinter groupings of libertarianism are so numerous as to lose count and lose interest in keeping up with them. The left-libertarians, the geolibertarians, the environmentalist libertarians, the black anarchists, the mutualists, the agorists, the national anarchists, the feminist anarchists, the libertarian-leaning white nationalists, etc. etc. etc.
All of these have one thing in common: their overriding loyalty is not to "liberty", but to the other thing in their name. The economically leftist-libertarians are more concerned with the rights of labour and the well-being of the poor. The geolibertarians are more concerned with imposing a land value tax on the population. The environmentalist libertarians are more concerned about saving the planet. The black anarchists and the white nationalists put racial particularities before the universalities of natural rights. The agorists are anti-market. The feminists are feminists.
But there already exists a better funded, better recognised, longer established anti-liberty and anti-property movement, funded by either big business interests or by Marxist interests, that corresponds with all or most of the loyalties of the above "libertarians." The State and its agents would probably like to impose a land value tax on us. They also like the class warfare that results from employer versus employee conflict. They also like to impose environmentalist restrictions on us. And they like to create needless conflict by pitting men against women through the maintenance of an extraordinarily powerful feminist movement.
My prediction, then, is this: that most, if not all, so-called libertarians will drift back to the movements which more clearly represent their own group identity.
To take an example of this, look at the pathetic campaign of Rand Paul for the GOP nomination. He failed for two reasons. First, he became part of the establishment. Second, and more fatally, he attempted to appeal to the Black Lives Matter-type voter that is more naturally attracted to Bernie Sanders. These people are not libertarian or conservative by inclination.
Ron Paul was fantastically successful because he listened to Lew Rockwell and went after the white middle-class traditionalist vote, which is a significant part of the American electorate and which, more importantly, are inclined to libertarianism. In politics, even the libertarian candidate has to take identity politics into account. Libertarianism has only ever been successful politically when it has appealed directly to the Anglo-Saxon, i.e. the descendants of the founders of the Tory, Whig, and liberal traditions.
Ron Paul was basically paleolibertarian in that he was uncompromising in his libertarianism, but didn't try to appeal to cultural leftists and corporatists by putting any special emphasis on drugs or tax cuts for the wealthy. Ron Paul's libertarianism was about restoring the old American liberty, not creating a special modern kind of liberty, a Brave New World, as it were. Rand Paul could have built on the Ron Paul movement, but he chose not to. Whether he will be seen as instrumental to the slow decline in libertarianism that will now result, or whether he will be seen as a symptom of it, I do not know. But since the world's political movements are parasitic on those of the United States, it seems that this slow decline will be mirrored the world over.
The nub of my argument is not at all pessimistic. What I am saying is that we have, in the libertarian movement, experienced an artificial boom of interest, so to speak. The feminists, neo-Marxists, neoconservatives and others who have sought, some of them sincerely and others less so, to use libertarianism for their own ends will ultimately give in and return to their natural movements, i.e. the movements that represent their primary loyalties. Feminists, Marxists, Black Anarchists, Environmentalists, etc. are not natural libertarians and as such they will never grow up. Instead, they will only run away screaming once they realise what libertarianism is, and what it is not.
And then that leaves those of us who believe in libertarianism, and recognise all of its implications. It leaves, in other words, the paleolibertarians. The result will be that we shall have our word back—whether we want it back will be another matter entirely. We will then have to decide where to go from there. But in the meantime, to differentiate ourselves from those who are not serious about liberty, but only about themselves, the word “paleolibertarian” will have to do.
I go further. For the time being, while the mainstream libertarian movement whines about Donald Trump being a “fascist” for raising the most important issue of our day—immigration—the paleolibertarian must dissociate from these people and instead forge a working relationship with those of a paleoconservative or nationalist bent. For those libertarian purists out there, this will be nothing short of treason. But to quote the evil John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind; what do you do, sir?”