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The Libertarian Alliance (UK): “Paleoism and the Traditional Britain Group”

Here is an interesting article from The Libertarian Alliance blog, a libertarian organization based in England. The article is really about small l libertarianism rather than Libertarian Party matters, but it does a good job of chronicling the “paleolibertarian” phenomenon of the ’90s. Paleolibertarianism seems to mystify some people, so I thought it was worth posting.

In January 1990, Lew Rockwell wrote in the magazine ‘Liberty’ on ‘The Case for Paleolibertarianism’[1]. In this manifesto, he argued that while libertarians are often correct in their criticisms of conservatives, conservatives are often right in their criticisms of libertarians. He cites people like Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet, with the latter claiming that libertarians were drifting so far from conservatism that they were coming to view the “coercions of the family, church, local community and school” as almost as corrosive of liberty as that of the state.

In this paleolibertarian manifesto, Rockwell states that if libertarianism is to make any real progress, then it must do away with its “defective cultural framework”, stating that Western civilisation is worthy of praise and that social or ‘natural’ authority – like the authority of the family, the church, the local community and the school – is essential to a free society. Libertarianism’s cultural framework had become a blend of moral relativism, egalitarianism, modernism and libertinism with the modal libertarian often conflating legality with morality. In addition to the error of assuming that because X must be legal, X must also be moral, the modal libertarian had conflated freedom from aggression with freedom from social authority, tradition, and bourgeois morality.

See more here…

Hat tip to my FaceBook friend Rex May, whose post directed my attention to this article.

7 Comments

  1. Gene Berkman Gene Berkman January 16, 2014

    Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell attempted to forge an alliance of libertarians and paleoconservatives primarily because the Libertarian Movement had outgrown Rothbard, and he was no longer seen as the undisputed leader and theoretician.

    Rothbard had long attacked other libertarians for “cultural leftism” – marijuana, feminism, acceptance of cultural diversity and alternative sexuality. He preferred a different form of leftism -support for Soviet foreign policy in the name of anti-imperialism.

    Attacking “modal libertarians” for not respecting western civilization is not only factually incorrect. It comes with ill grace from someone who spent many years attacking America and Israel as the main threats to peace and freedom in the world.

    Part of the Paleo strategy was a conscious attempt to appeal to the white backlash. The Ron Paul newsletters from 1990 and 1991 – produced by Rothbard and Rockwell – were the low point of the Paleo strategy, and the one lasting legacy.

    I understand British libertarians often look to older US libertarian strategies, but the Paleo alliance strategy properly belongs in the dustbin of history.

  2. Jared King Jared King January 17, 2014

    “…someone who spent many years attacking America and Israel as the main threats to peace and freedom in the world.”

    That’s because they are. The Soviet Union used to be a major threat to peace and freedom in the world, which every libertarian and paleoconservative was vocal about during the time it was relevant. But now they’re no more, so to whip the laughable accusation that Rothbard had “support for Soviet foreign policy” is like something from Cold War-era National Review.

    Though you are correct in saying paleolibertarianism was an attempt to appeal to white backlash, since Rothbard and Rockwell were specifically focused on “outreach to rednecks” and viewed David Duke and Pat Buchanan as the ideal politicians. Not to mention, Rothbard wrote praise of that piece of trash The Bell Curve. Basically Rothbard was the same as the Reason crowd, just reversed. One side says “I support the free market candidate but I’m not a fuddy-duddy social conservative, I like sex, drugs, and rock and roll!” (barf) while the other side says “I support libertarianism, but I’m not one of those hedonistic hippie bums who doesn’t have taste!” (double barf). Ultimately paleolibertarianism was never much of an ideology because it was nothing more than Rothbard and ilk sticking their tongues out at the “left” libertarians.

    That being said I don’t really see much of a contradiction between paleolibertarianism, and “libertine” libertarianism. One just kind of advocates church going, old fashioned, culturally conservative stateless society, while the extreme opposite side advocates the ‘Godless’ libertine stateless society.

    Then again what do I know.

  3. paulie paulie January 17, 2014

    The article is really about small l libertarianism rather than Libertarian Party matters

    So why is it at IPR? I can post small l articles all day every day, not to mention all the different ideologies advocated by all the different alt parties and independent candidates when being discussed without any association to those parties/people (socialism, environmentalism, centrism, etc, etc, etc).

    Jill even posted an extra open thread specifically to discuss articles like this.

  4. Gene Berkman Gene Berkman January 17, 2014

    Jared,

    If you want to know the views on foreign policy that Murray Rothbard promoted for several decades, you can read old issues of “The Libertarian Forum” and “Left & Right” at the Mises Institute website – http://www.mises.org.

    They are actually entertaining because the perspective is so exotic. Dr Rothbard went beyond antiwar libertarianism to praise “anti-imperialist” parties & regimes. An editorial in “Left & Right” in 1967 for example refers to “new anti-imperialist regimes in Iraq and Syria…” for example. And he wrote an obit for Che Guevara, also in “Left & Right” in 1967.

    I have been an active libertarian since the 1960s and read most of Rothbard’s polemical work on foreign policy, as well as the writings of his associate Leonard Liggio.

    Or you can just read “Betrayal of the American Right” by Murray Rothbard, published by the Mises Institute, in which he delineates his views on foreign policy, imperialism and Stalin’s “…vain attempt to appease the American agressor.” (page 181)

  5. Jared King Jared King January 17, 2014

    I was aware of the Che obituary, and none of the other stuff would surprise me (except maybe that last part).

    His opposition to American foreign policy unsurprisingly lead him to speaking positively of individuals and governments that resisted the empire. I’m not defending him, I’m not a Rothbard man, but even in his Che obit I recall him making it clear he didn’t think highly of any of his ideals outside of anti-imperialism. Not my approach but if he were to say in his defense, that his business was first worrying about his own government, I would agree to that.

  6. Gene Berkman Gene Berkman January 17, 2014

    Jared,

    If you get a chance to read “Betrayal of the American Right” I think you would find a number of things surprising.

    Dr Rothbard was very antiwar, and considered joining SANE, a group that campaigned for nuclear disarmament, but he objected to their policy of excluding Communists. They did so because you cannot convince Americans to cut down the military establishment if they think you are on the side of totalitarian enemies of America. But Rothbard opposed even the antiwar anticommunism of SANE.

    In “Betrayal” Rothbard gives a brief history of his involvement in the New York Peace & Freedom Party. Rothbard, Liggio and their little group of libertarians allied with the Progressive Labor Party – a Maoist group – against the Independent Socialist Clubs, which were dominant in PFP. ISC is splinter from the Schachmanite faction of the Trotskyist movement; the Schachmanites including the ISC took a “third camp” position, opposing both the western “imperialist” powers and the Soviet bloc. Dr Rothbard specifically attacked them for their third camp position, even though most antiwar libertarians would find the third camp position most inline with the libertarian opposition to war and statism.

    Before I ever met Dr Rothbard, other people who knew him told me about his pro-Soviet views on foreign policy, and I subsequently read every issue of “Left & Right” at the Rampart College library. Fortunately as a California libertarian I was outside the Rothbard sphere of influence.

  7. paulie paulie January 30, 2014

    GB,

    Interesting…I did not know that.

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