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Paleolibertarianism is a form of libertarianism that was developed by anarcho-capitalist theorists Murray Rothbard and Llewellyn Rockwell that combines cultural conservatism in social thought and behavior with a radical libertarian opposition to government intervention.[1]

Tenets and history[edit]

Paleo-libertarianism developed in opposition to the social progressivism of mainstream libertarianism. The ideology was presented in Murray Rothbard's essay "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement", in which Rothbard reflected on the ability of paleo-libertarians to engage in an "outreach to rednecks" founded on social conservatism and radical libertarianism.[2]

In his essay "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism", Rockwell charged mainstream libertarians with "hatred of western culture". He argued that "pornographic photography, 'free'-thinking, chaotic painting, atonal music, deconstructionist literature, Bauhaus architecture, and modernist films have nothing in common with the libertarian political agenda - no matter how much individual libertarians may revel in them." Of paleolibertarians, he wrote "we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste." After explaining why cultural conservatives could make a better argument for liberty to the middle classes, Rockwell predicted "in the new movement, libertarians who personify the present corruption will sink to their natural level, as will the Libertarian Party, which has been their diabolic pulpit."[1]

Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard supported paleoconservative Republican candidate Pat Buchanan in the 1992 U.S. presidential election, and described Buchanan as the political leader of the "paleo" movement.[3] In 1992, Murray Rothbard declared that "with Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy."[4] Three years later, he said Buchanan developed too much faith in economic planning and centralized state power, which eventually led paleolibertarians to withdraw their support for Buchanan.[5]

Rothbard died in 1995, while in 2007 Rockwell stated he no longer considered himself a "paleolibertarian" and was "happy with the term libertarian."[6]


Paleolibertarianism has sometimes been identified with racism. Political scientist and lesbian feminist activist Jean Hardisty describes paleolibertarianism as entailing "explicit racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism".[7] She notes Murray Rothbard's praise of The Bell Curve, a "paleo-libertarian" work which argued that black people are genetically inferior to white people with respect to intelligence, and the Rothbard-Rockwell Report's publishing of an article, written by Sam Francis, which asserted that "of the two major races in the United States today, only one possesses the capacity to create and sustain" suitable levels of civilization.

During Ron Paul's run for the U.S. Presidency in 2008, paleolibertarianism was identified by several sources as the ideological influence behind the racist sentiments and language expressed in the Ron Paul newsletters circa 1989–94. The libertarian publication Reason asserted that "a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists—including some still close to Paul" had identified Lew Rockwell as the "chief ghostwriter" of the newsletters. Rockwell denied it.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" in Liberty, January 1990, 34-38.
  2. ^ Sanchez, Julian; Weigel, David. "Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?". Reason Foundation. Rothbard pointed to [the strategies used by] David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as part of an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes 
  3. ^ Gottfried, Paul (1993). The Conservative Movement. Twayne Publishers. pp. 146. ISBN 0-8057-9723-8. OCLC 16804886. 
  4. ^ Lee Edwards, The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America, Simon and Schuster, 1999, p. 329.
  5. ^ Lew Rockwell, "What I Learned From Paleoism", at, May 2, 2002.
  6. ^ "Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?", Kenny Johnsson interviews Lew Rockwell for The Liberal Post, as posted on LewRockwell.Com, May 25, 2007.
  7. ^ Hardisty, Jean (1999). Mobilizing Resentment, Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. pp. 165–167. Author holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University.
  8. ^ Reason: Matt Welch, "Old News"? "Rehashed for Over a Decade"?, January 11, 2008 and Sanchez, Julian and Weigel, David, Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?, January 16, 2008.

External links[edit]