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Paleolibertarianism is a right-wing populist political strategy and variety of libertarianism developed by American anarcho-capitalist theorists Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell that seeks to deliver the libertarian ideas of opposition to government intervention to working- and middle-class people, using friendly messages with their common cultural norms.[1][2] With these methods it is expected to reconnect the modern libertarian movement with its historical anti-socialist, anti-war and popular roots found in the American classical liberal movement of the first half of the 20th century that was part of the anti-New Deal Old Right (hence the prefix paleo). It seeks to move it away from the influence of public policy libertarian organizations based in Washington, D.C., who are accused of giving up communicating the complete libertarian message while adopting the political and cultural values of the U.S. capital to gain acceptance among the political elite.[1][3]


According to Rockwell, the paleolibertarian movement hearkens back to such thinkers as "Ludwig von Mises, Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett, and the entire interwar Old Right that opposed the New Deal and favored the Old Republic"[4] and distinguished themselves from neo-libertarians, Beltway libertarianism (a pejorative term used by hardline libertarians to describe libertarians who have gained traction in the Beltway, i.e. Washington, D.C., who are accused of surrendering libertarian values to the Beltway values in order to have better public relations with the Beltway elite), left-libertarianism and lifestyle libertarianism.[4][5] According to Rockwell, paleolibertarianism "made its peace with religion as the bedrock of liberty, property, and the natural order".

Paleolibertarianism developed in opposition to the link between social cosmopolitanism and libertarianism as if they were indivisible issues. In his 1990's essay "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism", Rockwell charged mainstream libertarians with "hatred of Western culture".[2] 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".[2] Of paleolibertarians, he wrote that "we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste".[2] After explaining why libertarians friendly with conventional culture 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".[2]

In short, according to Lew Rockwell, the motivation of this "paleo" libertarian movement —in contrast with the "modal" libertarian movement of the Beltway and the Libertarian Party of the beginnings of the 90s— was the application of the libertarian principles in ways that lead to the radicalization of the middle classes against the state.[1]

Early history[edit]

In the 1992's essay "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement", Rothbard reflected on the ability of libertarians to gain the disaffected working and middle classes using right-wing populism methods to deliver libertarian ideas.[6][7]

In the 1990s, a "paleoconservative-paleolibertarian alliance was forged", centred on the John Randolph Club founded in 1989 by traditionalist Catholic Thomas Fleming and Rothbard.[8] Rockwell and Rothbard supported paleoconservative Republican candidate Pat Buchanan in the 1992 presidential election and described Buchanan as the political leader of the "paleo movement".[9] In 1992, Rothbard declared that "with Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy".[10] The Rockwell and Rothbard intention with this alliance was to rebirth an anti-war and anti-welfare right-wing and to fight the neoconservative leadership of the Republican Party in the context of the end of Cold War.[11]

Three years later, Rothbard said Buchanan developed too much faith in economic planning and centralized state power which eventually led paleolibertarians to withdraw their support for Buchanan.[11] In addition to Buchanan's economic nationalism, Paul Gottfried later complained of a lack of funding, infighting, media hostility or blackout and vilification as "racists" and "anti-Semites".[12] John Randolph Club was disintegrated in 1995 due to incompatibility of ideas and personalities between libertarian and conservative factions.[13]

Rothbard died in 1995. In 2007, Rockwell stated that he no longer used the term "paleolibertarian" —because it was distorted by its past association with the term paleoconservative as "some kind of socially conservative libertarian", something that "was not the point at all" of paleolibertarianism— and that all libertarians should be "happy with the term libertarian."[3]


Ron Paul newsletters[edit]

The libertarian publication Reason asserted that "a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists—including some still close to Ron Paul—all named the same man as Paul's chief ghostwriter: Ludwig von Mises Institute founder Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr.", although Rockwell denied it.[14][15][16][17][18]


In 2012, former National Review writer John Derbyshire argued that "since Lew Rockwell joined La Raza" (referring to a article with a soft open-borders advocacy), Hans-Hermann Hoppe was the last real paleolibertarian standing. Yet paleolibertarianism had hardly disappeared from America, with Karen De Coster[19][unreliable source?] and Justin Raimondo both continuing to use the term to describe themselves both during and after Ron Paul's presidential campaigns.[20][unreliable source?]

In a move similar to his and Murray Rothbard's support for Pat Buchanan, Lew Rockwell was sympathetic to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, particularly for his stance on illegal immigration,[21] along with Justin Raimondo, who voted for Trump on the basis of his foreign policy.[22] In a 2016 pre-election debate with Reason editor Nick Gillespie, Austrian School anarcho-capitalist economist Walter Block advised libertarians living in battleground states to support Trump rather than cast their votes for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, citing critical foreign policy differences between the Republican and Democratic frontrunners.[23][24]

In line with these views, paleolibertarian columnist Ilana Mercer[25][26] authored a book in June 2016 about presidential candidate Trump titled The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed, the first critical examination of then-candidate Trump from a paleolibertarian perspective.[27] In discussing Mercer's book, Objectivist-libertarian scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra observed that Mercer endorsed "not necessarily the policies of Trump, but 'The Process of Trump'".[28] Scabbarra further noted that "[t]he most interesting of her arguments is the bolstering of liberty by Donald J. Trump [...] smashing an enmeshed political spoils system to bits: the media complex, the political and party complex, the conservative poseur complex. In the age of unconstitutional government—Democratic and Republican—this process of creative destruction can only increase the freedom quotient".[28]

Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute, an organization for promoting Mises and Rothbard libertarianism and the Austrian School of economics, said of the alt-right that he found their writings "interesting [...] and somewhat refreshing".[29] In 2017, Deist argued in a speech at the Mises Institute titled "For a New Libertarian", that: "In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance." and indicating that libertarianism doesn't need a new theory but "better libertarians", activists friendly with common people norms and with non-state institutions of civil society.[30] This led to criticism from bleeding-heart libertarian Steve Horwitz, who argued that "the invocation of 'blood and soil' as something that libertarians should recognize as a valid concern and should appeal to should be chilling. That phrase, which has a history going back at least to the 19th century, was central to the Nazi movement and was at the core of their justification for eliminating those people who did not have connections to the German homeland". Horwitz ultimately concluded that libertarianism was not about a narrow view of family, religion, culture and civil society, but instead "liberal tolerance, universalism, and cosmopolitanism, putting the freedom and harmony of all people ahead of the supposed interests of any parochial sub-group, and especially ones defined by the artificial boundaries of nation-states and their subsets".[31]

Sean Gabb, the former Director of the Libertarian Alliance in the United Kingdom, is a close friend of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, attending his Property and Freedom Society conferences every year in Bodrum. Gabb is a libertarian critic of mass immigration.[32] Keir Martland, Gabb's successor, has written in the essay "On Left and Right, Libertarianism, and The Donald" about the nationalism of Donald Trump, writing: "When compared with rule by a socialist mob or rule by a hostile oligarchy of globalists, neither giving a damn about the Nation but only about plunder, nationalism comes off comparatively very well indeed".[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c «The word "paleolibertarian" was mine too, and the purpose was to recapture the political edge and intellectual rigor and radicalism of the pre-war libertarian right. There was no change in core ideology but a reapplication of fundamental principles in ways that corrected the obvious failures of the Reason and National Review crowd. [...] To some extent, I would say the present decline in the moral legitimacy of the executive state represents a paleoization, if you will, a systematic radicalization of the middle class. [...] all the real political dissidents and radicals, the people who are raising fundamental objections to the status quo of the American civil project, are on the right.» Libertarianism and the Old Right, Lew Rockwell (2006), Mises Institute.
  2. ^ a b c d e Rockwell, Lew. "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" (PDF). Liberty (libertarian magazine) (January 1990): 34–38. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?, Kenny Johnsson interviews Lew Rockwell for The Liberal Post, LewRockwell.Com, May 25, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Paleolibertarianism" Archived September 27, 2018, at the Wayback Machine by Karen De Coster,, December 2, 2003
  5. ^ "The Importance of Beltway Libertarianism".
  6. ^ Murray Rothbard. "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement" Archived 2018-11-20 at the Wayback Machine. 1992.
  7. ^ Sanchez, Julian; Weigel, David. "Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?". Reason Foundation. 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
  8. ^ Martland, Keir (2016). Liberty from a Beginner:Selected Essays (Second ed.). p. 62. ISBN 9781326524715.
  9. ^ Gottfried, Paul (1993). The Conservative Movement. Twayne Publishers. pp. 146. ISBN 0-8057-9723-8. OCLC 16804886.
  10. ^ Lee Edwards, The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America, Simon and Schuster, 1999, p. 329.
  11. ^ a b Lew Rockwell, "What I Learned From Paleoism", at, May 2, 2002.
  12. ^ Martland, Keir (2016). Liberty from a Beginner:Selected Essays (Second ed.). p. 64. ISBN 9781326524715.
  13. ^ The Property And Freedom Society — Reflections After Five Years. Presentation of 2010 of the annual meeting of the Property and Freedom Society, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Here the author explains the characteristics of John Randoph Club and the Mont Pelerin Society.
  14. ^ Matt Welch, "Old News"? "Rehashed for Over a Decade"?, Reason, January 11, 2008.
  15. ^ Julain Sanchez and David Weigel, Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?, Reason, January 16, 2008.
  16. ^ Joe Conason, Rand Paul The roots of Rand Paul’s civil rights resentment, Salon, May 21, 2010.
  17. ^ David Weigel, Our Odd Ron Paul "Moment", Slate, December 15, 2011.
  18. ^ Alex Massie, Ron Paul's Newsletter Problem, The Spectator, December 22, 2011.
  19. ^ Karen De Coster, "About" Archived November 3, 2018, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Justin Raimondo, "Ron Paul and the Prospects of Paleo-Libertarianism".
  21. ^ "The Trump Phenomenon" The Tom Woods Show
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 31, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Gillespie, Nick (29 October 2016). "Should Libertarians Vote for Trump? Nick Gillespie Debates Walter Block on Nov. 1". Reason. Reason Foundation. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  24. ^ Epstein, Jim; Gillespie, Nick (2 November 2016). "Should Libertarians Vote For Trump? Nick Gillespie vs. Walter Block". Reason. Reason Foundation. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b
  29. ^ "Alt-Right vs. Socialist Left" Mises Institute
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Must Libertarians Believe in Open Borders?". Mises UK. Archived from the original on July 19, 2017. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  33. ^

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