Paleolibertarians Are Not Libertarians

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Paleolibertarians align themselves with libertarian ideology but also reject much of what is considered to be libertarianism in terms of their philosophy and actions.  The reject basic tenants that most libertarians accept and reject the Libertarian Party as evidenced by Rothbard taking his ball and running away from the Libertarian Party in the 1980s to for the paleo movement in alliance with Pat Buchanan paleoconservatives.

What is Paleolibertarianism? 


Paleolibertarianism is a political ideology developed by Murray Rothbard(whose views on economics I respect) and Lew Rockwell. The movement has economic roots that draw from traditional Austrian capitalist thinkers regarded highly by regular libertarians such at Ludwig Von Mises. It does have its economic roots in anarcho-capitalist/Austrian theories and that is the extent of where it draws its libertarianism from.

Other than economic crossover with right libertarianism that is where the similarities with general libertarianism end. Paleolibertarians’ views on the state, in general, are very nationalistic and right-wing that border fascism. They place heavy emphasis on nationalism and closed borders keeping their Austrian economic system contained within their nation-state. They also place heavy emphasis on racial and cultural identity particularly with many arguing that right-libertarian economics only works among whites of European descent and that European and North American states should be kept largely or exclusively white(European).

At odds with Libertarianism on the Political Compass


Paleolibertarians defer to state enforcement of migration, which is the restriction of the freedom of movement. They also defer to state enforcement of cultural norms and to an extent religious standards. Paleolibertarian cultural standards are greatly influenced by Protestant Christian theology. They are on a fence of sorts between theocracy and fascism. Where they tend to differ from theocracy is in their unwillingness to enforce religiously-based economic theories which oftentimes would be more socialistic in nature.

The tight control they advocate on personal liberty combined with economic ideas that are clearly right-wing (mostly agreeable to most libertarians) place them on the “authoritarian right” of any political compass squarely outside the normal confines of what is thought to be libertarian.

Libertarians Fighting with Paleolibertarians

What approach should mainstream libertarians and thinkers take with paleolibertarians? That is a question with no easy answer. Some will say that libertarians should ignore and denounce paleolibertarians, while others say to work with them on points of agreement. 

I lean toward denouncing them. Their rhetoric on immigration and limits on personal liberty are dangerous for the overall liberty movement. The current alliance of paleolibertarians with Trump and the populist right in the United States lends itself to helping advance specific public policy that is anti-libertarian. This policy includes the border wall, bans on immigration from many countries, and the expansion of state power in the personal lives of the public. Their advocacy also would leave in place much of government power and taxation to pay for it to advance their goals.

For the reasons stated, one can say with sufficient confidence that paleolibertarians sit outside the spectrum of libertarian thought generally and live in right-wing authoritarian ideas. How we deal with them in the marketplace of ideas is up to us individually. Paleolibertarians have a place on the political compass but it is not with libertarians. As libertarians, we should recognize this and not let them corrupt our movement. 

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Tom Bagwell

I have been a Libertarian since I was a teenager. I grew up in Ann Arbor Michigan and while living in Michigan ran for office four times as a Libertarian. I have an undergraduate degree in political science from Eastern Michigan University and am working on a Master's at Liberty University. I now live in Vermilion, Ohio with my significant other. In the past I have served as a local county LP chair and on the board of the LP of Michigan. One of my elected office runs was successful where I served a partial term on the Ypsilanti Township, Michigan Parks Commission. I work in sales and in my spare time like to go for walks and spend time with my family.

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