Paleolibertarianism was a consciously devised mutation of Austrian-influenced libertarianism, concocted by the late-20th century’s most prominent devotee of Austrian dogma, Murray Rothbard (and his fawning cohorts).
Libertarianism today draws on several sources. Ayn Rand is the best known, but the more influential is arguably Murray Rothbard. (Rothbard’s attitude to Rand fluctuated.) Rand is more influential for her ‘ideas’. Rand is more accessible, despite putting up a superficial show of intellectualism. Rothbard is harder to get a handle on. Unlike Rand, he is a genuine intellectual – which is often a question of how one couches ideas rather than the ideas themselves. And he develops. And he writes long, involved, serious articles (though they get less serious-minded as he gets older). I would argue that his influence is less in actual ideas and more in the surrounding spheres of aesthetics/style and tactics/strategy. After all, in fusing libertarianism with conservatism to create paleolibertarianism, the libertarians consciously submerged certain libertarian ideas. What succeeded – from the libertarian point of view – was arguably less the fusion than the style: the strategic attempt to use populist reactionary politics to further the ends of liberal economics.
Paleolibertarianism aimed to promote the relatively unpopular extreme free-market dogmas of libertarianism by joining them tactically to America’s powerful trends of post-60s reaction. It succeeded to a great extent. It pandered to, and (as far as possible) absorbed, extreme American cultural conservatism, racism, sexism, etc. It took a powerful place in the ecology of American reaction. It fed on the discontents of neoliberalism, and US imperialism, to achieve a quasi-rebellious presence in the mainstream of US politics, most of all in the person of Ron Paul.
We’ve talked about Ron Paul in previous instalments, and mentioned the publication under his name, or at least his ‘brand’, of infamous racist newsletters. People familiar with the content of those newsletters will have been unsurprised by Paul’s recent slip up on Twitter, when he explained the troubles of modern America with a cartoon which featured racist caricatures of various ethnicities (Jew, African American, etc) uniting to punch Uncle Sam with one massive fist made of ‘Cultural Marxism’.
Some libertarians have defended Paul over the years, but others have denounced him, asserting that the contents of the newsletters is paleoconservative rather than libertarian, and that it has no connection to the great pantheon of libertarian thinkers. There is certainly some truth to this. Our own Daniel Harper has suggested to me, in discussion, that Paul is actually not a libertarian but rather a paleoconservative (if, I’d say, an eccentric one) with an opposition to federal regulation rather than regulation per se. So, he’s maybe ideologically inclined towards a ‘states’ rights’ perspective which paleolibertarianism has, in my view, tended to flirt with opportunistically. Paul, of course, formally rejects the contents of his own newsletters and new tweets. But then a great many racists these days formally claim to not be racists. (I often wonder if the people citing that fake Churchill quote about “the fascists of the future… call[ing] themselves anti-fascists” have ever listened to the leading lights of today’s fascist movement steadfastly and indignantly deny that they are fascists.) Of course, it isn’t the case that all components of the alt-right are as shy about admitting their fascist leanings. Some, including some of the most prominent, are open about them to a greater or lesser extent. And certainly, once you wade into the crowds, the swastikas and runes fly quite proudly. Trouble is, this doesn’t really help the cause of absolving either Paul personally or libertarianism generally… because, as we’ll see, even a great many of the most openly fascist are admirers, or alumni, of Paul fandom and libertarianism.
Even so, we should acknowledge that libertarianism doesn’t equal racism and fascism in any simple way. Rand, for instance, formally rejected racism – though she did so by framing it as a form of collectivism. But all this misses certain things. It’s a simple disavowal representing a complex reality. The very liberalism advocated by libertarians is inherently based on capitalism, which is inherently based on racism. The pantheon includes people like Mises who, while he denounced the Nazis, also initially praised fascism, considered it preferable to Bolshevism, collaborated with Dollfuss the ‘Austrofascist’, etc. Hayek inspired and collaborated with the fascist regime of Pinochet in Chile, and drew influence from the work of the Nazi thinker Carl Schmitt. The Enlightenment thinkers in the liberal tradition – Locke, Kant, Mill, etc – were among the founders and promulgators of scientific racism. The libertarian pioneer Herbert Spencer was also a founder of Social Darwinism. And so on. Most pertinently here, Rothbard co-founded paleolibertarianism as a tactical fusion of libertarian economic imperatives and paleoconservative social politics. This wasn’t an outlier, the product of one man’s idiosyncrasy. This was possible precisely because, though it is possible to conceptualise libertarian economic theory as liberatory, and this is often the ideological consciousness of its propagators, its actual content – being wedded to free movement of capital – is dependent upon the very class hierarchies capitalism creates and relies upon, themselves dependent on racial hierarchies. (Not to mention many other types of oppressive hierarchies.) This is also why the ostensible anti-war politics of libertarians is generally spurious. Libertarianism is fundamentally a defence of capitalist private property and liberty, which is – as history shows – inherently founded on imperialism, which is in turn both a generator and product of racism.
We can see the actual import of libertarianism, whatever the liberal and even left currents within it, in the long term effect it has had. It is now, as many have noticed, effectively a pipeline for many into far-right politics. It has been one of the major feeding tubes for the growing alt-right and alt-lite (less a distinct group than an aesthetically-distinguished support structure). After Rothbard’s death, the supposed retirement of the paleolibertarian strategy, and the ascendancy on the US Right of neoconservatism, paleolibertarianism went undercover and seethed online… where, in the aftermath of the crash of 07-08 and the subsequent long slump, it seems to have bred with its close neighbour, American fascism. Different species can’t breed.
We can thus trace a line directly (if crookedly, and sometimes faintly) backwards from Charlottesville to the Austrian School, owing to the Austrian School’s role in forming what we might call ‘actually-existing libertarianism’. This is not to say that the two are the same, or that the alt-Right ‘is’ Austrian, or the ‘fault’ of the Austrians, or that the alt-Right wouldn’t exist in some form if Menger had never been born. We don’t need to engage in that kind of crude, genetic fallacy reductionism. The chain of events I’ve outlined is not the whole or sole explanation for the existence of today’s alt-Right. But it is undoubtedly an important and neglected part of the story, from which we can draw some lessons.
In an article at BleedingHeartLibertarians dot com, Steve Horwitz, Austrian economist and professor at St. Lawrence University, writes:
The paleo-libertarian seed that Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell planted in the 1990s has come to bear some really ugly fruit in the last couple of years as elements of the alt-right have made appearances in various libertarian organizations and venues. Back in February , alt-right hero Richard Spencer stirred up a fuss at the International Students for Liberty Conference in DC after being invited to hang out by a group of students calling themselves the “Hoppe Caucus.” Hans-Hermann Hoppe, long associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute as well as a panoply of racists and anti-Semites, is perhaps the most popular gateway drug for the alt-right incursion into libertarianism.
Horwitz is, amongst other things, an alumnus of George Mason University, an Affiliated Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center, affiliated with the Institute for Humane Studies, and a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. (At least, to the best of my knowledge, at the time of writing.) So, whatever his scruples, they clearly don’t preclude his involvement with a right-wing lobbying machine soaked in Koch money. Even so, mentioning his affiliations will help us avoid accusations of reductionism or of engaging in the genetic fallacy. There are no necessary mechanical principles in how people interpret ideas.
To his credit, Horwitz is uncomfortable with the way some libertarians are actively courting the alt-Right, and recounts with distaste the example of Jeff Deist. As it happens, it’s a very revealing example.
Deist is the current president of the Mises Institute and a former Chief of Staff for former Congressman Ron Paul. Not long before the Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville, Deist delivered a speech to the 2017 Mises University (the Mises Institute’s annual conference) entitled ‘For a New Libertarian’. The speech included an attack on left-libertarianism during which Deist said it was a “disastrous mistake” for libertarians to appear “hostile to family, to religion, to tradition, to culture, and to civic or social institution — in other words, hostile to civil society itself”.
In the speech he explicitly says that libertarians should champion such things because they are the things people will fight for, whereas they will be reluctant to fight for more abstract libertarian positions. He even acknowledges that people are relatively unlikely to fight for “property”. Most strikingly, Deist ends his speech with the following words:
In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.
Blood and soil. In the summer of 2017.
Horwitz is disapproving. Most of the rest of us, I’d hope, feel our blood running cold.
In a piece published at Mises dot org just after Charlottesville, Deist strikes a glumly patronising tone. His response to a series of events which resulted in an anti-fascist being murdered in the streets by a fascist is to bewail the state of modern US politics across the board, in what amounts to a pompous reiteration of Trump’s belligerent blithering about polygons.
But Deist used Nazi rhetoric just before Nazis marched and murdered on the streets of America. He must’ve known what he was doing. And if he didn’t know, he had no excuse for not knowing. His speech amounts to the Mises Institute courting a nascent fascist movement. A nascent fascist movement that, as it happened, was just about to explode out into a new form, to take its first serious and deadly steps off the internet. A nascent fascist movement that is, at least in part, as Horwitz says, the fruit of paleolibertarianism… and, more than that, the specific Austrian-tinged Rothbardian paleolibertarianism fostered by the Mises Institute and its network of friends and financiers. A nascent fascist movement that Mises dot org – having just encouraged it and then it seen commit murder – pointedly refused to repudiate.
The anti-political platitudes Deist offered fell short of support for the fascists, and included criticisms of them – but, for reasons which I might be able to cast some light on below, no savvy fascist reading Deist’s words would imagine that any doors were being closed on them.
Libertarianism, especially paleolibertarianism, may not be the primary route by which raw young men end up in, and creating, the alt-Right – I don’t believe there is any such ‘primary’ route – but it is certainly one route, and a disproportionately important one.
This is not exactly an obscure connection. Various people and outlets in the liberal mainstream have made it, from Salon.com to the Washington Post.
As Salon puts it:
Paleo-libertarianism was, in other words, a thoroughly reactionary ideology that combined the very worst aspects of both libertarianism and right-wing populism. This makes it distinct from the broader libertarian movement, which tends to be more socially liberal or at least socially tolerant. The “alt-right” was an outgrowth of this unholy alliance.
As it happens, we know of some very high-profile – and illustrative – outgrowths.
(The section that follows was mostly written late last year, so may be out of date in terms of more recent developments.)
There’s Mike Enoch, for instance.
Enoch spoke at the Charlottesville rally. He has been praised by the Rothbard-admired ex-KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who spoke after him at Charlottesville. Enoch is a friend and ally of Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell (the crying Nazi). He founded The Right Stuff website (TRS), which plays host to many extreme Right podcasts, including the one Enoch himself hosts, the Daily Shoah. (Yes, that’s what it’s called. I learned about a lot of this sort of stuff initially from Daniel. Daniel has conscientiously – and somewhat masochistically, or so it sometimes seems to me – made himself an expert on this entire nasty subculture, and I await his writing on the subject with great anticipation, as should you.) To listen to Enoch, there is no doubt what he is: a fascist, a white supremacist, an anti-semite, a nazi.
The alt-Right is not ‘just’ neo-nazism rebranded, but that is certainly now a major part of what it is. And people like Enoch are why. His site – once a “post-libertarian” blog – cultivates the distinctive tone of the alt-Right: bilious, handmade, self-consciously wacky yet also brazenly vicious, and self-amusedly pseudo-meta. The podcasts are the same. They get downloaded by tens of thousands of listeners. On them he opines about how the Jews are trying to destroy the white race by replacing or breeding us with “savages”. Everything he doesn’t like is a Marxist conspiracy organised by the Jews. No euphemisms or dogwhistles for him nowadays. But there is something often forgotten about euphemisms and dogwhistles, namely that they effect people rather than just attracting their attention. Enoch got where he is partly via euphemisms and dogwhistles. A one-time Ron Paul supporter – like so many of them – he got where he is via libertarianism.
In the words of the Southern Policy Law Center:
Before founding TRS and fully committing to the Alt-Right, Peinovich [Enoch’s real surname… I’m not doxxing him, this is widely known] ran in libertarian circles. His radicalization followed a familiar trajectory among those affiliated with the Alt-Right. Peinovich progressed from the libertarian fringe to race realism and eventually extreme anti-Semitism, which he partially ascribes reading Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique.
(MacDonald, by the way, was asked by Holocaust denier David Irving to testify as an ‘evolutionary psychologist’ at his (Irving’s) 2000 libel action against Deborah Lipstadt. Had he appeared, MacDonald would have supposedly testified that Jews are genetically predisposed to stick together, which would supposedly provide evidence of the massive Jewish conspiracy Irving imagined was trying to destroy him.)
The SPLC also notes that, during his conversion to the alt-Right, Enoch “published an article titled ‘Burning Down the House’ under his byline in the Mises Daily, a publication of the Ludwig von Mises Institute”.
In an informative (if psychobabbly and overly sympathetic) profile of Enoch which appeared in the New Yorker, Andrew Marantz writes
He began reading books by Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Ludwig von Mises, the grandfather of libertarianism. For a few years, he was an enthusiastic and doctrinaire libertarian. He started a blog called the Emptiness, where he wrote posts such as “Socialism Is Selfish” and “Taxation Is Theft.”
Within a few years, he started to wonder whether libertarianism was too tepid. After all, its premises pointed toward a starker conclusion: if the state was nothing but a hindrance to freedom, why not abolish the state altogether, leaving only the unfettered market? From there, he went even further. What if you couldn’t account for people’s behavior without considering their cultural background, and even their genetic makeup? “Slapped in the face by the reality of human bio-diversity,” he later wrote, “I had to come to grips with the fact that libertarianism isn’t going to work for everyone, and the people that it isn’t going to work for are going to ruin it for everyone else.” Human biodiversity: the idea that people are different, that they differ in predictable ways, and that some people—not just individuals but groups of people—might be inherently superior to others.
He thought he had carefully examined each of his beliefs, reducing them to their most fundamental axioms. But here was an axiom so fundamental that he hadn’t even articulated it to himself, much less subjected it to logical scrutiny. Now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure why he should assume that all people were equal. Maybe they weren’t. If this was a textbook definition of racism, then so be it—maybe racism was true.”
Even more explicit is the journey taken by one Christopher Cantwell. The Crying Nazi himself.
Christopher Cantwell became notorious after his appearance in the Vice documentary about the Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville. (There really should be a better word in English for someone whose notoriety involves both disgust and schadenfreude.) He subsequently became known as ‘the Crying Nazi’ after weeping into his webcam about the warrant for his arrest for pepper spraying protestors. (I won’t call the anti-Nazis ‘counterprotestors’ the way the media do because I don’t consider the Nazis to be ‘protestors’; they were aggressors, as behaviour such as Cantwell’s – and worse – clearly shows.)
Cantwell was an unsuccessful libertarian comedian with a lengthy arrest record for petty crime in New York. (One wonders if he was ever arrested by Anthony Bologna, NYPD officer who… um… pepper sprayed peaceful Occupy Wall St protestors.)
He was also a one-time MRA. As noted, the so-called ‘Men’s Rights Movement’ is yet another pipeline to the alt-Right, and is itself a cult soaked in extreme reactionary libertarianism by the way. (As a 2013 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found, the vast majority of the alt-Right is young, white, and male.)
During his libertarian phase (which, according to what he says at least some of the time, never actually ended), Cantwell was enthusiastic about the ‘Free State Project’ (FSP), a planned political migration of at least 20,000 libertarians to a state with a low population (they eventually settled on New Hampshire) in order to create a utopia of small government, low taxes, etc. Volunteers were required to sign a contract to move to New Hampshire as soon as the minimum number of recruits had been achieved. The irony of loads of libertarian right-wingers migrating, under contract, to forge their own state, doesn’t seem to have occurred to them. Nor to Ron Paul, or the Austrian economist Walter Block, or the Austrian-supporting businessman Peter Schiff, or… here we go again… LewRockwell dot org and the Mises Institute… all of whom praised the scheme. Cantwell was later expelled from the FSP for advocating the murder of police officers, a stance he justified by pointing out (in yet another example of the right-wing capacity to be spectacularly wrong by virtue of being so nearly correct) that the police are using ‘violence’ by enforcing the law. (We recently saw police doing just that in Portland – unfortunately they were doing it on behalf of fascists.) (Cantwell later repudiated his support for cop-killing… just after he discovered he was wanted for the pepper spraying thing, coincidentally enough.)
In a blog post published just after Charlottesville, Cantwell wrote that, upon beginning studies of the US Constitution (in response to “legal problems”), he happened upon
a video introduction to this document produced by Michael Badnarik, the 2004 Presidential Candidate for the Libertarian Party. I was radicalized before the presentation was half over, because I found out that the government I live under today bears no resemblance to that document whatsoever.
The founding documents of the USA might indeed be congenial to today’s American defenders of white supremacy and the prerogatives of the propertied. This is not, however, reason to treasure them and demand unchanging and literal obedience to them.
I instantly became fascinated with the history, and economics that libertarianism taught. I later became a big fan of Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand. You might be aware, these people are Jewish. Shocking to some then, that I am today a rather vocal antisemite.
As I say, people like Rand might formally reject racism, yet it is entailed in their entire philosophy because it is entailed by capitalism. Moreover, Rothbard’s own Jewish origins did not stop him being a soft antisemite when it suited him.
Cantwell goes on to sketch his subsequent disenchantment, saying that
whatever the virtues of the philosophy of libertarianism, the libertarian movement of modern day was rather degenerate. Rather than supporting Ron Paul, or learning about economics, most of the “activists” I came into contact with seemed a lot more interested in promoting drugs and deviant sexual behavior as societal virtues, even in instances where the State had no interference in such matters.
Much as the paleolibertarians before him had invented their new ultra-conservative version of libertarianism partly in order to escape such deviant and unvirtuous distortions.
He goes on to cite some familiar names.
As immigration became a leading news story in America and Europe, Lew Rockwell gave a talk titled “Open Borders Are An Assault on Private Property“. From here I decided to read Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s “Democracy: The God That Failed”. From these I realized, that the libertine vision of a free society was quite distorted. The society we sought actually would provide far more order and control than modern democratic governments. It would encourage more socially conservative behavior, and less compulsory association. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, I was once again reminded of my naivety. It would not be the last time.
Cantwell is a fervent admirer of fervent-Rothbard-admirer Hoppe, and draws on his rhetoric. Hoppe once said that in “a libertarian social order” undesirables like “democrats and communists” would have to be “physically separated and removed”. Following this, Cantwell likes to talk about the “physical removal” of anyone to the left of… well, of himself. Cantwell is very fond of that right-wing joke about “free helicopter rides”, a reference to a political murder technique used in Pinochet’s Chile (the model society Hayek inspired and admired). Salon.com quotes him as saying that “[b]asically you have to start making better people in the society, and that might involve doing things like chucking trannies out of helicopters.” (The gentlemanly Hayek, friend of the Pinochet junta, would probably grimace at the vulgarity.)
On his blog, the ludicrous-but-not-incoherent Cantwell goes on to cite YouTube anarcho-capitalist (and liar and ignoramus and pseudo-intellectual and crypto-fascist and con-man and wannabe-cult-leader) Stefan Molyneux as a major influence, specifically regarding a chat Molyneux had with Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, the racist pseudo-science potboiler Rothbard and Rockwell dot org have so admired (and recipient of Koch brothers largesse). Cantwell is no stranger to anarcho-capitalism, having co-hosted the ancap radio show Free Talk Live until he was suspended for calling someone the n-word on Twitter.
Cantwell declares, in as many words, his ‘race realism’. He sees racism as a simple admission of unalterable and undeniable realities, and the acceptance of a racial hierarchy as a necessary first step towards a realistic social policy, one that might bring about law and order and peace, etc. He gets there via libertarianism. Via transcending it, or radicalising it, he says. (This is the rhetorical way a lot of these people spin their evolution out of libertarianism.) Even so, he demonstrates the path from the libertarian embrace of innate difference as an explanation of inequality, to the nazi race principle.
Cantwell explicates the logical connection quite eloquently for a moron. Race realism, says he,
seemed to coincide well with my libertarianism. Libertarians also want to reduce conflict over scarce resources. In libertarian philosophy, nobody ought to be compelled to associate with anyone else. People should be free to exercise complete control over their own person and property. If blacks are committing crimes, or Jews are spreading communism, discriminating against them is the right of any property owner. The fact that he may or may not miss out on good blacks or Jews is a risk he takes, and the merit of his decisions will be proven out by the market. Since a libertarian society would permit this, it seemed foolish that I should be compelled to support a democratic government policy which did not.
It was only after all this that Donald Trump seemed worth taking seriously.
Not strictly relevant at this point, that last bit. But hey, who am I to censor a connection he himself makes for me?
Salon.com notes that
Cantwell still considers himself to be “foundationally” a libertarian. In a March interview on YouTube, the white supremacist said that he is a libertarian at heart and believes that “everything should be done through property rights and contracts.” He came to the conclusion, however, that “the idea that most of the people we live around today would be property owners in the absence of the state is hysterically, obnoxiously stupid.”
“Those people are not fit for survival in the absence of the state,” continued Cantwell. “So I don’t argue with people who call me a fascist anymore, because essentially these people are products of the democratic state.”
The fascist belief in racial hierarchy has subsumed the anarcho-capitalistic idea of the stateless society. Authoritarianism wins, via the logic of racism. Yet it would be wrong to see this as the ‘defeat’ of anarcho-capitalism or paleolibertarianism (or whatever you want to call it) because the fascist belief in innate racial hierarchies is essentially supported and promoted by such Right-libertarianism, as we’ve seen. It is clearly a major part of how Cantwell got here. It’s an irony, but not a surprising one. And it’s not even especially ironic if you don’t believe that anarcho-capitalism was ever really about trying to abolish the state.
So. Enoch and Cantwell – two of the most prominent stars of the alt-Right in its radicalised, offline, openly-fascist form – are both clear examples of the same line. The line traces directly from the anti-statist, anti-socialist libertarianism of Rand, Rothbard, and Mises, to neo-nazism. Inevitable? No. The only such line? No. But a clear and – in its own terms – logical line, all the same. The logical terminus of the ideas accepted by libertarianism, and aggressively embraced by paleolibertarianism, is fascism.
(And yes, I know Rand said she hated libertarians. It doesn’t matter; she hated everyone and got off on doing so. That is the basis of her ‘philosophy’, far more than Aristotle or objectivity or capitalism – none of which she understood. And, as we’ve seen, libertarians claim her when it suits them.)
Enoch and Cantwell are not isolated specimens. Though many points of ideology separate libertarianism from the alt-Right they are outweighed by the areas of agreement, including the most fundamental, the one which practically negates almost all the disputes the various flavours of reaction like to indulge in (see below).
A lot of alt-Righters have identified themselves as libertarians at one time or another. The YouTuber Kevin Logan, who has trawled through the darkest recesses of YouTube’s MRA-MGTOW tendencies in his ‘Descent of Man-osphere’ series, and in the process inevitably found himself constantly confronted by people who are also part of the alt-right and alt-lite, has also concluded that libertarianism is a “gateway drug” to fascism. The Daily Beast runs through a few of the most prominent libertarians-turned-alt-righters in an article entitled ‘The Insidious Libertarian to Alt-Right Pipeline’. They cite Milo Yiannopoulos (though he has flip-flopped on this, being the unprincipled little opportunist and liar that he is); Tim Gionet, who was once a Ron Paul supporter; Gavin McInnes (another of Richard Spencer’s “entry points”); Stefan Molyneux (of course), etc.
The article actually makes a very acute and key observation:
It is… true that many of today’s alt-righters are disaffected conservatives. However, there are many more conservatives in this country than there are libertarians, which suggests a disproportionate number of today’s prominent alt-righters began as libertarians.
That isn’t to say everything is peaches and cream on the right. A lot of people on the far-Right consider libertarianism dead, or bankrupt. Peter Brimelow’s far-right website VDARE (named for Virginia Dare, the first white person born on the American continent) considers LewRockwell dot org far too left-wing these days. Someone called Geoffrey Hood – writing at the peculiar, pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-respectable white-nationalist website Counter-Currents – says that Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party are helping support the mainstream rather than actually opposing it. But Hood also says that
[t]hinkers such as Hans-Herman Hoppe, Murray Rothbard, Joseph Sobran, and others who we could call paleolibertarians didn’t just say “freedom works!” Whatever their failings from the viewpoint of those of us who put race first, these men and those like them at least honestly approached the question of how one can achieve and maintain a libertarian society. And their work made an important contribution to Neo-Reaction, which also helped lead to the emergence Alternative Right. You can’t talk about the Alt Right without acknowledging how so many libertarians and former libertarians understand there should be a government helicopter program.
Yeah, I mean you wouldn’t want to be unfair, would you?
Another admirer of Hans-Herman Hoppe and his book Democracy: The God That Failed is, of course, Menicus Moldbug, software designer and founder of ‘neoreaction’, a minor current within the alt-Right that has punched above its weight in terms of attracting attention, owing to its patina of web-based pseudo-intellectualism and eccentricity.
As our esteemed El Sandifer wrote elsewhere, Moldbug is
best known for the astonishing levels of protest that take place whenever a tech conference invites him to speak, generally based on the accusation that he believes in reinstituting slavery and thinks that black people make especially good slaves. The reason for this is relatively simple: he believes in reinstituting slavery and thinks that black people make especially good slaves.
In a post from 2010 on his Unqualified Reservations blog entitled ‘From Mises to Carlyle: my sick journey to the dark side of the force’, Moldbug says that “before I became a royalist or a Carlylean or whatever, I was a libertarian. Specifically, a Misesian”.
After boasting about how much Mises and Rothbard he’s read, and how much he’s not read, he fawns “Mises is a titan; Rothbard is a giant” and “Mises is almost never wrong”.
Having said that, he’s now clearly one of libertarianism’s discontents. At one point in the post he echoes Peter Brimelow in complaining that Lew Rockwell is too left-wing these days.
Lower down, he writes that
[t]here is actually a very easy means by which a Misesian can go past libertarianism. The means has a name: Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Professor Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed is still one of the best anti-democracy tracts I’ve read, and it was most certainly the first. Professor Hoppe is no Mises, perhaps even no Rothbard, but he is certainly the leading Rothbardian scholar of the post-Rothbard era.
He is irritated with Hoppe for being ambivalent about monarchy. Hacking through the densely overgrown vegetation of Moldbug’s jungular yet remorselessly boring paragraphs, one finds him basically saying that Hoppe looks too Hitlery to be effective because he’s a libertarian anarchist, and the right never does well when it adopts “the weapons of the left” because that makes it look, um, too Hitlery? Something like that anyway. It’s all drivel. He’s basically just spicing banalities with tautologies…as well as missing a pretty crucial point concerning Hitler that cuts deeper than whether his PR strategy will still work nowadays. And this isn’t an isolated incident.
In fairness, he does have a fleetingly-but-genuinely insightful moment a little lower down when pointing out that, though Mises (supposedly) discredited any non-libertarian system of government, he – and libertarianism generally – failed to show why and how and if a libertarian governmental system would work:
Another way to see the problem is to examine that shibboleth of libertarians – limited government. Now, the frustrated English teacher in me notes an interesting fact about this phrase: it is in the passive voice. Who shall limit the government? And how can we assure that they continue to do so? And if some other party does this limiting, who shall limit them? This is, of course, the old quis custodiet problem. To which Rothbard has no better solution than Juvenal.
He has a point, though not a very original one. I think every debunk of anarcho-capitalism asks what power in society will limit power. Should such simplicities really need highlighting?
We needn’t concern ourselves with Moldbug’s non-answer to the problem, in which he declares himself “a third class of libertarian: a royalist libertarian” and longs for a libertarian king who will monarchically enforce statelessness. Oddly, he’s already wistfully mocked the idea that democracy could suppress itself in favour of libertarianism, yet seems to think absolute monarchy will manage it… because if there’s one thing absolute monarchy is famous for, it’s modestly limiting its own power in favour of the liberty of its subjects.
This stuff is basically gibberish, an excuse for a poseurian and fogeyish dismissal of modernity, decorated with glib anti-politics, and ultimately leading to an authoritarianism that constantly peeps at you through its faux-medieval vizard to check if you’re shocked yet.
The point is made. The ‘founder of neoreaction’ got there via Mises, Rothbard, and Hoppe.