ninefruits asked: Both you, and Ron Paul, should read Hayek's "Why I'm Not A Conservative", to see the disrespect he had institutionalised cultural norms (not just state based ones), both philosophically and practically. American libertarianism is very much tied to the nation (particularly Southern nationalism), which is a significant form of collectivism (and a cage that inhibits free trade). One should be careful to make this distinction when commenting on the philosophy as a whole.
I’ve read “Why I’m Not a Conservative” and made brief comment on part of it here.
Grant also responded to an earlier Paul post, and I’ll reproduce his comments in this answer, since I think they’re related:
“Libertarians are not interested in freedom, no matter how loudly or how often they say they are.” I think it’s important to distinguish that Paul is a Paleo-Libertarian. An outlook that marries certain libertarian principles to a deep social conservatism. This is a very American phenomenon, fueled more by America’s national narrative (especially Southern) than consistent political philosophy. It is in constant constant conflict with itself and viewed suspiciously by other libertarians.
I really don’t see the point in filleting libertarianism into ever finer cuts to satisfy the sensibilities of members of what’s a pretty sparsely supported ideology anyway. Of course there is doctrinal disagreement in the sect; there is in every sect. There’s nothing substantive enough in the disputes for me to care though.
David Atkins has it:
The only problem for libertarians is that they cannot point to even a single current or historical example of a government that functions as they imagine it should. They have no concrete, real world examples, so they ply their arguments in a theoretical construct.
Each and every example of places with little centralized government is dismissed by libertarians as an anarchistic situation, not a “true” Libertarianism. It’s the “no true Scotman” fallacy, Ron Paul edition.
Libertarianism, in other words, is infallible. Wherever it fails, it does so because the people weren’t ready for it, or there was too much violence to allow it to work, or because the government wasn’t powerful enough to protect people from harm.
I really don’t see the point of talking about American libertarianism as something unique, either. Libertarianism, if it can be said to exist anywhere, exists most strongly in America and its political tradition has been shaped there. Where else is there any real kind of libertarian movement? I know these dudes like to talk about Austrians, but as far as I can tell, the Austrian polity hasn’t shown much enthusiasm for the ideas of the economists that use their name.
But, for what it’s worth, here’s the rap on Paul and paleo-libertarianism:
Rockwell explained the thrust of the idea in a 1990 Liberty essay entitled “The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism.” To Rockwell, the LP was a “party of the stoned,” a halfway house for libertines that had to be “de-loused.” To grow, the movement had to embrace older conservative values. “State-enforced segregation,” Rockwell wrote, “was wrong, but so is State-enforced integration. State-enforced segregation was not wrong because separateness is wrong, however. Wishing to associate with members of one’s own race, nationality, religion, class, sex, or even political party is a natural and normal human impulse.”
The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled “Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement.” Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an “Outreach to the Rednecks,” which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an “unholy alliance of ‘corporate liberal’ Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America.”
Certainly this coalition does not encompass every libertarian in America, but that’s neither here nor there. I’d call paleo-libertarianism a tactic, not an ideology in its own right. And it’s a tactic that can’t be excused by pointing to its cynicism. Ta-Nehisi Coates:
It is comforting to think of racism as species of misanthropy, or akin to child molestation, thus exonerating all those who bear no real hatred in their heart. It’s much more troubling to think of it as its always been —a means of political organization and power distribution. Such a definition makes the “I’m a good person” defense irrelevant.
I could easily believe that Ron Paul holds no more particular disdain for blacks than George Wallace or John Patterson. These were not evil men. They were good people, who consented to evil in the pursuit of power.
It doesn’t matter whether Paul is a racist; what matters is that he’s happy to use racism to his political advantage. I imagine the Texas Congressman thinks he is speaking truthfully when he says libertarians cannot be racist, but the reason he thinks this is true is exactly the reason racists have cloaked themselves in libertarianism for decades: libertarians think of relationships exclusively in economic terms, and so have no interest in the cultural forces that can sideline economics.
This from Michael Lind is also relevant:
Some libertarians concede the legitimacy of government coercion in protecting property rights. But in doing so, these libertarians, like Ron Paul, give up any principled objection to government coercion. They simply want government coercion to be used for some purposes—protecting property rights—and not others—enforcing civil rights.
This is the libertarian fraud on freedom: they think liberty exists entirely within the narrow confines of property rights.