How the paleolibertarians went left on race and nationhood
In an article
published May 14 at Vdare, “Lew Rockwell and the Strange Death (or At Least Suspended Animation) of Paleolibertarianism,” Arthur Pendleton shows how the paleolibertarian movement shifted to anti-nationalism and anti-Americanism and ended up as allies of the anti-American left. That move to the left has been apparent for years, and I have often condemned the anti-American “right” because of it (see this
, and this
). But, having ceased reading the paleolibs some time ago, I did not know that they have also gone radically left on race.
In the last few years Rockwell and his LewRockwell.com circle have come full circle and embraced much of the leftist agenda that they once bemoaned.
In the process, they have essentially abandoned “paleolibertarianism,” the once-promising intellectual movement that stayed true to libertarian principles while opposing open borders, libertinism, egalitarianism, and political correctness.
Pendelton quotes the rabidly anti-American paleolibertarian writer Justin Raimondo’s defense of Jeremiah Wright’s statements on race:
We do have more black men in prison than in college—way more. Racism is alive and well; driving while black is still a dangerous pastime. This country was founded with a near-fatal flaw in the constitutional order, one that permitted slavery to continue for another hundred years.
LRC now publishes pieces from Hispanics that denounce “racism from people like the Minutemen and other self-armed vigilantes” and say that any “attempt by the majority to assimilate us or to only speak English because we’re in someone else’s country” is “only a milder form of racism and xenophobia.”
He quotes a writer at lewrockwell.com named Ryan McMaken who defends the Mexican conquest of the United States:
Go back to Boston! Go back to Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims! Get out! We are the future. You are old and tired. Go on. We have beaten you. Leave like beaten rats. You old white people. It is your duty to die … Through love of having children, we are going to take over.
The McMaken quote goes for several more paragraphs, sadistically and gleefully invoking the death of white America.
Pendleton’s article is useful and disturbing in bringing out the shocking degree of the Rockwell circle’s anti-white and anti-American radicalism. But does Pendleton explain what it is about libertarianism, even the “right-paleo” kind, that has led it in this direction? He mentions the paleolibertarians’ opposition to the Iraq war, which had the effect of making them hostile not just to specific imperialistic acts by the American government but to the American government as such (as I also explained in my 2004 article at FrontPage Magazine, “The antiwar right’s bent view of the world”). He also observes:
[W]e must face the sad fact that [LRC, Antiwar.com, and The Mises Institute] are now completely useless on that National Question. Their opposition to the state has turned to an opposition to the nation.
This contains a hint of the answer we’re looking for. To oppose the state, which is the political expression of a people by which they come into existence as a political society, is indistinguishable from opposing that people. But why
do paleolibertarians oppose the state, and thus the people?
The answer is that libertarianism, of whatever stripe, is a species of liberalism, and the highest principle of liberalism is the equal freedom of all human beings. To a consistent liberal, and thus to a consistent libertarian, there can be no justification for any kind of unequal or exclusionary treatment. If a country comes into existence by the use of force (as all countries throughout history have done), well, the use of force is a form of inequality and oppression, meaning that the country is illegitimate. If a country simply exists as a country with borders, its very existence distinguishes between members and non-members and thus it violates the equal freedom of all humans and is illegitimate. If a country has a state, that represents a further inequality in which some people exercise power over others. If a country elects its government through democratic elections, that means that the majority has more power than the minority, which is also a violation of equality.
As I’ve said many times, liberalism, consistently applied, is incompatible with the existence of any organic, self-governing institution or society, since all such societies and institutions violate the liberal principle of the equal freedom of all human persons.
Further, the right-liberal belief in the equal freedom of all humans morphs into the left-liberal belief in equal outcomes for all humans, and thus into the belief that all human groups have the same abilities. After all, how can people be truly equally free if some human groups are less endowed in intelligence, moral self-restraint and other civilizational traits than other human groups? Thus Justin Raimondo, who started out as an anti-statist paleo-libertarian who was skeptical of minority complaints, now adopts the left-liberal view that if more blacks are in prison than whites, it’s because of white racism rather than because of greater black criminality. The deeper reason that Raimondo adopts such a view is that he hates America; and therefore he hates the historic majority people of America; and to express that hatred he now sides with black leftists against America.
The same analysis explains how Llewelyn Rockwell can publish an article sadistically championing the elimination of white America by Mexicans. Why the double standard? Don’t Rockwell’s libertarian/liberal principles require him to oppose any power-wielding and power-seeking people backed by a state, such as the Mexicans? No. Because the highest liberal principle is equality, which requires the degradation of those who are more successful and have more power, and the raising up of those who are less successful and have less power. Therefore Rockwell’s call for the dispossession of Anglo-Americans by Mestizo Mexicans does not represent a double standard but a single standard: the destruction of the good, in the name of equality.
While it may have been their fury over the Iraq war that brought out the leftism, the anti-Americanism, and ultimately the nihilism of the paleolibertarians, that is only the proximate cause. The fundamental cause is that the paleolibertarians are liberals.
- end of initial entry -
Robert in Nashville writes:
That is the most sudden, eye opening description and exposure of libertarians as only another form of wealthy liberalism I have ever read. It opened up the connection in a way I had not seen and explains why a libertarian like Neal Bortz seem to have little or no interest in nation, and seem interested only in limited government, individualism and his “fair tax.” On its face the latter would just mean lower taxes for the wealthy—whose consumption needs comprise a small ratio of their income and capital wealth. In fact, I am going to print your thoughts out and think about it more as this relation sinks in. Those we once thought of as comrades … this puts left libertarians and paleos as nearly of one mind.
Alan Levine writes:
Don’t Paul Craig Roberts, and some other paleocons, also sound almost sadistically pleased about our imminent downfall? And PCR has been ranting along far left lines, at least when discussing the history of American foreign policy and wars, for quite a while. Some comments on Takimag, in addition to those by paleolibs like Raimondo, sound like that; there may even be a touch of this in some of Buchanan’s recent blogs.
Shrewsbury would like to hear a model modern paleolibertarian attempt to draw distinctions between his political philosophy and anarchism.
Gilbert B. writes:
I have read How the paleolibertarians went left on race and nationhood and I am a bit surprised because the paleolibertarian Hans Herman Hoppe defends in his book Democracy: The God That Failed, a libertarian system or conception commonly referred to as “anarcho-capitalism” which he alternately decribes as “private property anarchy”, “natural order” or “private law society”.
Such a natural order, according to the author, is “characterized by increased discrimination, segregation, spatial separation, uniculturalism (cultural homogeneity), exclusivity, and exclusion.
In addition, whereas states have undermined intermediating social institutions (family households, churches, covenants, communities, and clubs) and the associated ranks and layers of authority so as to increase their own power vis-a-vis equal and isolated individuals, a natural order is distinctly un-egalitarian: “elitist,” “hierarchical,” “proprietarian,” “patriarchical,” and “authoritorian,” and its stability depends essentially on the existence of a self-conscious natural—voluntarily acknowledged -aristocracy.”
In the same vein Rothbard developed the idea of the NATION as a collective identity based on language, etnicity, race, and religion and this point of view is stated approvingly by Lew Rockwell in his book Speaking of Liberty (on page 447)!
Pendleton’s article is about how Rockwell, who is the leader of the paleolibertarian movement, and his circle have changed over the last ten years or so. I was attempting to explain this change, and I did so by saying that it represents an unfolding of potentialities that were always there. I was not saying that all people called paleolibertarians have changed in the same way.
Terry Morris writes:
Great article! You wrote:
“Thus Justin Raimondo … now adopts the left-liberal view that if more blacks are in prison than whites, it’s because of white racism rather than because of greater black criminality.”
But of course. The consensus libertarian view, if I’m not mistaken, is that much of crime is illegitimately so-called anyway. Hard-core drug use and drug distribution as one example off the top of my head. Blacks are particularly prone to commit many of these (non) crimes while whites are not as prone to them, and therefore it must be white racism that causes us to enact and enforce laws which we know will ultimately result in the incarceration of a greater number of blacks than whites, which is our goal as racists—to ensure that we retain our power and dominance over blacks, our inferiors. The underlying motive that drives us is the retention of our power and dominance over blacks and peoples of color. That’s why we form our societies and laws and governing institutions on a basis that automatically gives us a crippling advantage over people of color, given that what we call “crime” and what we’ve thereby made “criminal” are things that we as a race do not generally engage ourselves in. So-called “greater black criminality” as you call it, therefore, has to be a direct result of white racism, the only real and legitimate crime; the only real and legitimate basis on which modern enlightened society can be formed.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 25, 2008 06:24 PM | Send
… libertarianism, of whatever stripe, is a species of liberalism, and the highest principle of liberalism is the equal freedom of all human beings. To a consistent liberal (and thus to a consistent libertarian) there can be no justification for any kind of unequal or exclusionary treatment. If a country comes into existence by the use of force (as all countries throughout history have done), well, the use of force is a form of inequality and oppression, meaning that the country is illegitimate. If a country simply exists as a country with borders, its very existence distinguishes between members and non-members and thus it violates the equal freedom of all humans and is illegitimate. If a country has a state, that represents a further inequality in which some people exercise power over others. If a country elects its government through democratic elections, that means that the majority has more power than the minority, which is also a violation of equality.
This was one of the most trenchant paragraphs I have read at VFR, which is saying something. It resonated in two quite distinct ways. First, it came to mind that liberalism and Darwinism are almost perfect analogs. Liberalism won’t tolerate any sort of inequality; Darwinism won’t allow that anything that happens is truly important or valuable. Whether liberals themselves realize it or not, their doctrine insists that every one—and, by extension, every act—is morally equal. Whether Darwinists realize it or not, their doctrine asserts that, because everything at all happens for no reason, is purely random, then therefore everything at all is morally void—and, thus, equal, in the sense of being equivalent (literally—equi-valent). They both therefore, in exactly the same way, make it impossible to prosecute a life, because they make it impossible to justify a decision. They make it impossible to understand that it might be really legitimate to sacrifice one good in favor of another, more important and valuable good. They make every single decision unprincipled, merely random.
Does a woman prefer one man to another, or prefer her own children to those of other women? Does she withhold her sexual favors from anyone? Does she prefer her own survival to that of some alien at the far side of the world, or to that of some fish? Does she kill anything in order to eat? At their absurd logical end, Liberalism says it is unjust for her to do so, and Darwinism says that it doesn’t matter.
At the same time, I was thinking as I read this paragraph, “Holy Smokes, isn’t this really the end of democracy as a project? Could monarchy be really better?” Here’s how I got there. If Darwinism is erroneous, and theism is true, then some things, some acts, and some people, really are more valuable than others, and more important (this is why both liberalism and Darwinism hate God—his existence would entail the real risk, to them personally, of the outer darkness). We ought properly to dignify them more than others. This is all that we do when, e.g., we decide to choose one mate over all other candidates, or to enter a business partnership with three particular men and no others, or to join one church but not another, or to cast a vote of any kind, at the cash register or the ballot box.
And this is what we did when we decided that some men are noble, and ought to be given special privileges. Note the etymology of “noble.” It derives from the proto-Indo-European “gno,” whence also “knowledge.” Nobles were originally those among us who knew the most—great strategists, warriors, hunters, scholars, builders, wizards, priests, shamans (Priest and King were different offices held by the same man); this earned for them our respect, and also our devolution of power to them, so that we could all benefit by their guidance. Recognizing that there are nobles whom we ought to dignify above others follows from the obvious fact that some people are just better than others. It would be stupid to pay no more attention to our betters than we do to the village idiot. And we do still dignify people, although differently than in older days, because it is not possible to organize human activity without doing so.
Democracy—or rather, the original American Republic—was a way of amplifying the velocity of the churning of the population of nobles, so that the up and coming nobles of humble origin could have a shot at joining the Senate, and so that no family could continue to enjoy the privileges of rule even as it reverted to the mean—and, not coincidentally, so that the churning could be systematic, organized, and nonviolent. The franchise was then limited to those noble enough in the conduct of their lives to have become—or, in the case of those who had inherited, to remain—landowners, and thus ipso facto successful businessmen. But under the weight of the liberal principle, the original Republic has now almost completely devolved to democracy, which as Plato fairly early on in the game pointed out is a form of government by mobs, and thus marvelously vulnerable to the suasions of scoundrels and propagandists.
I am unsure where this latter train of thought leads me. But I am reminded of something I wondered in an earlier comment (I can’t remember whether it was ever posted to VFR): should we not perhaps look to medieval society, from which we have only just finished falling (God send that we are done with the falling), for some guidance on what a post-Revolutionary, post-Enlightenment traditional society should look like? I don’t know enough about medieval society to answer the question. But, at a minimum, it would seem wise to revert to that form of government established by the Founding Fathers, who did know a lot about medieval society, being much closer thereto. Limiting the franchise would seem to be a good step, and ending popular election of senators another.
This is a desultory comment—sorry about that. Great saltations in thought are the natural result of paragraphs that reach to the heart of any phenomenon—for if we live in a truly coherent world, then all things are linked together, so that if you delve to the heart of any one of them, all of them are in some sense there also present. If I had enough time, I could work music and the laws of logic into this comment, too …