Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Case for Paleolibertarianism

Posted by M. C. on November 13, 2022

Since the role of the State schools is-as one official put it-to “mold these little plastic lumps on the social kneading board”-then a key part of the State agenda must be subverting the family. Libertarians, on the other hand, should cherish and support it.

Like all bureaucrats, police, prosecutors, and judges have no incentive to respond to consumer demand, in this case would-be consumers of protection against crime or justice against criminals. There is no consumer sovereignty when the State has a monopoly of fighting crime, and when the only crimes it treats seriously are those against itself: counterfeiting, tax evasion, etc

The following was an article by Lew Rockwell, first published in Liberty Magazine in January 1990. Published prior to the first edition of the Rothbard-Rockwell Report.

This marked the beginning of the paleolibertarian movement.

“The conservative crack-up is near,” writes Charles Krauthammer. As Communism unravels, so does … the conservative alliance.” Indeed, old-fashioned conservatives (paleoconservatives) are splitting with statist neoconservatives.

Patrick J. Buchanan argues that America should “come home”: we are not “the world’s policeman nor its political tutor.” Ben Wattenberg, a neocon advocate of what Clare Boothe Luce called globaloney, denounces Buchanan as a “Neanderthal.” Joseph Sobran then notes that democracy is not a good in itself, but only in so far as it restricts State power. Jeanne Kirkpatrick-a former Humphrey Democrat like most of the neocons-says none of these intellectual arguments mean anything because the neocons hold State power and don’t intend to let go.

Despite Kirkpatrick, these intra-Right arguments are extremely significant, and more than foreign policy is involved. As the U.S.S.R. is revealed as a paper bear, good conservatives are returning to their Old Right roots in other areas as well.

Conservatives are questioning not only foreign intervention, but the entire New Deal-Great Society-Kinder Gentler apparatus. This worries the neocons even more, since-like their Svengali Irving Kristol-they give at most “two cheers for capitalism” but a full three cheers for the “conservative welfare state.”

This conservative crack-up presents an historic opportunity for the libertarian movement. The Cold War ruptured the Right; now the healing can begin, for Lord Acton’s axiom that “liberty is the highest political end of man” is at the heart not only of libertarianism but of the old conservatism as well. Many issues separate good conservatives from good libertarians, but their number is lessening and none of them is so broad as to prevent intelligent, exchange, and cooperation.

There have been more than ideological disputes, however; culture has also separated us, and there is no more powerful unifier or divider. So divisive has it been in this case that good libertarians and good conservatives have forgotten how to talk to each other.

For the sake of our common ideals we should restore the old concord. But can we? In my view, not until libertarianism is deloused.

The Conservatives Are Right: Freedom Isn’t Enough

Conservatives have always argued that political freedom is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the good society, and they’re right. Neither is it sufficient for the free society. We also need social institutions and standards that encourage public virtue, and protect the individual from the State.

Unfortunately, many libertarians – especially those in the Libertarian Party – see freedom as necessary and sufficient for all purposes. Worse, they equate freedom from State oppression with freedom from cultural norms, religion, bourgeois morality, and social authority.

In its 17-year history, the LP may never have gotten 1% in a national election, but it has smeared the most glorious political idea in human history with libertine muck. For the sake of that glorious idea, it’s time to get out the scrub brushes. Most Americans agree that aggression against the innocent and their property is wrong. Although these millions are potential libertarians, they are put off by the Woodstockian flavor of the movement. Hair may have left Broadway long ago, but the Age of Aquarius survives in the LP.

The cultural anti-norms that mark the libertarian image are abhorrent; they have nothing to do with libertarianism per se; and they are deadly baggage. Unless we dump that baggage, we will miss the greatest opportunity in decades.

Americans reject the national Democratic Party because they see it as disdaining bourgeois values. If they have ever heard of the LP, they rebuff it for similar reasons.

The Libertarian Party is probably irreformable-and irrelevant even if it weren’t. Libertarianism is neither. But unless we cleanse libertarianism of its cultural image, our movement will fail as miserably as the LP has. We will continue to be seen as a sect that “resists authority” and not just statism, that endorses the behaviors it would legalize, and that rejects the standards of Western civilization.

Arguments against the drug war, no matter how intellectually compelling, are undermined when they come from the party of the stoned. When the LP nominates a prostitute for lieutenant governor of California and she becomes a much-admired LP celebrity, how can regular Americans help but think that libertarianism is hostile to social norms, or that legalization of such acts as prostitution means moral approval? There. could be no more politically suicidal or morally fallacious connection, but the LP has forged it.

With their counter-cultural beliefs, many libertarians have avoided issues of increasing importance to middle-class Americans, such as civil rights, crime, and environmentalism.

The only way to sever libertarianism’s link with libertinism is with a cleansing debate. I want to start that debate, and on the proper grounds. As G.K. Chesterton said, “We agree about the evil; it is about the good that we should tear each others eyes out.”

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