Alt Right versus Socialist Left (Keith Preston)


Keith Preston says this, “Having observed trends in libertarianism for decades what I have noticed is that while the Ron Paul thing generated a serious growth spurt in libertarianism, since then libertarians have largely split into three different directions. Some have become social justice warriors, some have joined the “Libertarianisn, Inc” division of the D.C.-based neocon/GOP alliance, and others have become alt-rightists or neo-reactionaries… The Mises Institute oriented groups have stuck to the Rothbardian line obviously. That’s what they exist for. But they seem to be more of a sect than a movement. I think the drift of many libertarians to the alt-right is signified by the fact that Trump rather than Rand Paul has become the heir to the populism of the Ron Paul movement.”

Eric Field says this, “To a degree I think it’s the LvMI crew willing to consider a paleo 2.0 strategy that everyone pretended hadn’t happened after 2010 or so.”


  1. “The Mises Institute oriented groups have stuck to the Rothbardian line obviously.”

    Not exactly.

    The problem with Rothbard is that he had so many lines over so many decades that it’s easy to pick and choose between them to come up with damn near any composite “line” wants to pin his name on.

    Under Rockwell and Hoppe, for example, Rothbard’s line on “no particular orderism” has been thrown overboard vis a vis immigration, because that line is inconvenient to the “we can’t have a welfare state AND unlimited immigration” argument they like to throw around.

    I’d say that Preston is right, however, that Trump has become heir to the sick and wrong “paleo strategy,” which was neither libertarian nor populist, let alone both, but merely opportunist.

  2. “The problem with Rothbard is that he had so many lines over so many decades that it’s easy to pick and choose between them to come up with damn near any composite “line” wants to pin his name on.”

    That point is certainly well-taken given Rothbard’s many phases as far as associations and alliances go: Old Right, New Left, Kochs, paleoconservatives, etc.

    But it seems that Rothbard always had a consistent set of fundamentals that he never compromised on, i.e. absolute Lockean property rights, private defense agencies, and foreign policy isolationism.

    It seems that’s the line the circle around Lew Rockwell continues to push, even if they’re paleos during a Democratic administration and leftists during a Republican administration.

    • Keith,

      If LRC/Mises stuck to those Rothbardian fundamentals, they might be right-sectarians, which, Rothbard’s disapproval of same notwithstanding, isn’t necessarily a bad or evil thing.

      But the paleo strategy was, and continues to be, simply opportunism of the right-wing variety (the opposite wing Rothbard feared falling into vis a vis opportunism). If it was sectarianism it would still be incredibly stupid, of course, but not nearly as slimy.

  3. The video seems to be about tactics and strategy for right-libertarians. I am not well-schooled in the internal politics of the libertarian community and the different strands of thought, but if I understand correctly, the argument seems to be that by provoking both sides of the conventional political spectrum, this will cause more people to come over to libertarian ideas. This is based on an assumption that right-libertarianism stands outside the ideological war between the Right and Left. That premise wouldn’t hold in my country, Britain, but I suppose in an American context, where libertarian-type thinking is deeply interpolated into the public consciousness, right-libertarianism can be presented as the non-ideological Centre.

    I’m sure somebody will come along to correct me on this if I am mistaken (I am not an expert on all these different strands of right-wing anarchoid/libertarian thought), but my understanding is that Mises and Rothbard were firmly against mass immigration and would have accepted the need under present conditions for Western societies to collectively defend themselves. We are, after all talking about the very existence of libertarian ideas. This, as I see it, is the Knappian Paradox. Accusing others of horrible ‘racism’ and ‘nazism’ while failing to acknowledge the need to defend the very civilisation that gave you the freedom to believe in nice things does present rather a dilemma if your ‘libertarianism’ leads to the destruction of any possibility for the practical realisation of those principles.

    That’s not to say that non-Western societies are incapable of sustaining liberty. I know a few contributors to this blog believe that to be so, but I don’t myself hold that view. I think it’s true that in many non-Western countries, what appears to us to be liberty and an absence of repressive linguistic correctness and all the other trapping of the European censorious Left, is in fact just expediency and government weakness. However, I see no inherent reason why non-whites cannot build and sustain comparably free societies. The real issue, as I see it, is who the society is being built for. It is the ‘Who’ question that is being ignored.

    I think some kind of anarchy is the destiny of any civilised, high-trust society. This will probably take the form of global socialism, relying on automation for most labour and distribution needs. A civilised people have no use for a ‘state’, private property or formal hierarchies and will probably want to be rid of such things in time, but that’s just my preference. I accept that certain of these things could survive in an advanced society with a market or capitalist basis, along the lines supported by Hoppe, among others.

    The fundamental problem for people who have this sort of vision is that in order for libertarian and anarchist priorities to survive, these have to be subordinated to the civilisational questions of race, culture, borders and immigration, which are among the overarching issues of our time. The paradox, then, is that you must be prepared in practice to abandon or weaken your principles in order to preserve any chance that they might one day become reality.

    The Alt Right and other similar intellectual currents, such as national-socialism, have to be seen as the antibody that protects the civilisation. Building a border wall between the United States and Mexico is, from one perspective, firmly illiberal and anti-libertarian, and libertarians can also fairly argue that the existence of such a wall might contribute to a more intrusive climate within American society. But there is another perspective on this, which is that if you want American society to evolve in a more libertarian direction, then you need to have a culture that favours libertarianism, which in turn means you need to have some control on who enters the country. Libertarianism that destroys libertarianism isn’t libertarian. Libertarianism that acknowledges the hard realities within which society has to work, potentially could be.

    From where I’m sitting, libertarianism at this stage appears to be more akin to a luxury parlour game and is of no practical use. Sure, I’d like a libertarian or anarchist society. Wouldn’t we all? It’s a bit like saying you like chocolate ice cream or burger and chips. I’d like to lose five stone too, but the problem is, I have to make a choice between one or the other. I can either kill myself or I can live. Libertarianism might help to create a freer society, but Quixotic libertarianism will kill us.

    I’m not saying libertarianism is childish or utopian. I accept it has a realist basis to it. What I am suggesting is that to advocate libertarian or anarchoid philosophies now as anything other than a possible long-range aim or goal is to be impractically idealistic. It can’t work unless the people themselves are politically conscious in some comparable way, which they are not, and the prospects for this will diminish unless the civilisation itself that gave rise to these ideas is defended. For that reason, I would actually question whether libertarianism – of anything other than the most realistic kind – can be regarded as a distinct political tradition at all. I think under present conditions it is just a disposition in most cases, and where organised, as in the United States, amounts to a disguised ginger group for corporate interests.

    • It is certainly true that the kind of libertarianism that most of the people on this blog adhere to is rooted in classical English liberalism or, in the wider sense, the European/Western Enlightenment tradition. This kind of limited government/free market/property rights Mises-Hayek-Friedman-Rand-Rothbard influenced libertarianism only has any real following in the English-speaking countries from what I can tell. Even on the European continent it seems to be fairly uncommon. The libertarian movement has grown in the US in recent years thanks largely to Ron Paul, but I’m not sure that’s spurred a growth in libertarianism elsewhere. Others here would likely have more insight into that than I would. Modern libertarianism of this kind is very similar to the 19th century individualist anarchism of Benjamin R. Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Max Stirner, etc. However, even back then Peter Kropotkin pointed out that this type of anarchism hardly existed outside of America and England, and he thought that had to do with the strong classical liberal roots of those countries as opposed to the more communal traditions of other societies, including European ones.

      However, the wider communal anarchist tradition has actually exercised a great deal of influence outside the West in places such as China and Latin America. The anarchist movement in China in the early 20th century was about as large as the movement in the West. There are certainly many cultural, political, and social traditions in other parts of the world that overlap with anarchist or libertarian ideas of some kind, e.g. China, Latin America, West Africa, Polynesia, American Indians, Russian and Slavic peasant communal traditions. Ghandi’s satyagraha movement in India was very similar to anarchism. You can find anarchistic tendencies within various sub-strands of Islam. Right now, the most interesting quasi-anarchistic social experiment that’s going on anywhere in the world is in Kurdistan with the Murray Bookchin-influenced “democratic confederalism” of the PKK-oriented groups there. Five years ago, I would have thought Kurdistan was the last place on earth where the next anarchist insurgency would take place. But it happened. There are other comparable examples.

    • Tom,

      You have articulated (I am way only I can dream of) some if my intellectual dilemmas I find myself in the last few months.

      I have always had a firm belief in free association of people and used to lean towards the belief that immigration is acceptable and often good for a society. I still believe entirely in free association, but I find the idea of open borders in our current welfare state system hard to align with due to the individuals that have contributed to that system for decades being forced to pay for those who have never paid for the services they will receive. I believe this leads to bankruptcy and also the opportunity for non-liberal/libertarian ideology to works it’s way in to the culture.

      I am also completely and morally opposed to the cultural Marxism that has shaped into what seems to be every aspect of our mainstream society. I feel like this is something many libertarians don’t wish to address because their minds are almost aligned as right leaning SJW’s.

      I have also begun to find myself believing that many libertarians believe in a sort of moral relativism that is so hell bent on non-aggression that it sometimes refuses to hold a position on a topic in order to maintain that principal. For example, let’s take the issue of the very real threat of islamization of Europe. There are clear dangers to the very principles the west has thrived under and claimed to value, but I feel like all many libertarians are willing to do is simply declare their belief in freedom of religion and not offer up any solutions to fight this intellectual contagion.

      I notice there is a bit of denial of history and current political situations in the idealism of the movement. We are creeping to left more so every day it seems, but the purity factor of the movement prevents it from becoming relevant as it is seems to be unwilling to believe that small steps can be made in our move back towards liberty without having honest discussion about the process it will be to peel off the layers of the hulking state the left has created.

      I find Trump abhorrent, but I am of the view that at least some version of a shift to the right will be better than to continue on our leftist path.

  4. The problem that I have with mass immigration of that kind that we are now experiencing is simply that I don’t think it is a form of organic migration of the kind that has always existed and always will. The evidence is overwhelming that it is something that is being engineered by power elites in the West (and perhaps elsewhere) for political, economic, and social purposes. I described how this works in a lecture a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyQPlCJxtEE and I’ve since discovered this work which seems to confirm my suspicions: http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100627270

    Mass immigration is not merely a matter of the state simply not enforcing borders between nations in the same way as there is no border being enforced between two adjacent towns. A vast array of state and corporate policies have been put into place that generate mass immigration, and this is something that power elites wish to exploit for their own benefit.

  5. The US still has the largest, most powerful and most technologically advanced military in the world.

    That will almost certainly remain the case for the foreseeable future.

    Every Republican candidate except for Rand Paul wanted to dramatically increase military spending.

    Paul wanted to cut down on the increases in military spending, perhaps even a little more than Obama (whose “draconian cuts” proposal consisted of only increasing military spending by 10% rather than by 18% between 2013 and 2018).

    The only even nominally credible “major party” presidential candidate who has proposed any cuts at all to US military spending is Bernie Sanders. He hasn’t been specific on that proposal, but given his past support for US military adventurism in e.g. Kosovo, odds are what he actually means by “cuts” are the same “reductions in the amount of increase” as Obama.

    If the US was to cut its military spending by 50%, as likely Green Party nominee Jill Stein proposes, the US would still be the biggest military spender on the planet.

    If the US was to cut its military spending by 60% or more, as the Libertarian Party’s “candidate pledge” specifies, the US would still be the biggest military spender on the planet.

    If the US was to cut its military spending by 75% over ten years, as my own campaign platform calls for, the US would still be the biggest military spender on the planet.

    If the US was to cut its military spending by 90%, then it would be getting down into the same general neighborhood as Russia and China.

    Given that the US has no militarily significant enemies in the western hemisphere, and given that there’s absolutely no likelihood whatsoever that US military spending will be reined in at all, let alone cut, in the next four years, the idea that the US military is in “serious danger” of lack of “maintenance” is not just wrong, but so flagrantly idiotic as to defy description.

    • “Given that the US has no militarily significant enemies in the western hemisphere, and given that there’s absolutely no likelihood whatsoever that US military spending will be reined in at all, let alone cut, in the next four years, the idea that the US military is in “serious danger” of lack of “maintenance” is not just wrong, but so flagrantly idiotic as to defy description.”


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