Wage Walls, Not Wars

A “Big League Politics” Interview about paleolibertarianism


BIG LEAGUE POLITICS: Being a preeminent paleolibertarian thinker today, how would you define paleolibertarianism and how does it differ from standard paleoconservatism?

ILANA MERCER: First, let’s define libertarianism. libertarianism is concerned with the ethics of the use of force. Nothing more. This, and this alone, is the ambit of libertarian law. 

All libertarians must respect the non-aggression axiom. It means that libertarians don’t initiate aggression against non-aggressors, not even if it’s “for their own good,” as neoconservatives like to cast America’s recreational wars of choice. If someone claims to be a libertarian and also supports the proxy bombing of Yemen, or supported the war in Iraq; he is not a libertarian, plain and simple.

As to paleolibertarianism, in particular, and this is my take, so some will disagree. It’s how I’ve applied certain principles week-in, week-out, for almost two decades. In my definition, a paleolibertarian grasps that ordered liberty has a civilizational dimension, stripped of which the just-mentioned libertarian non-aggression principle, by which all decent people should live, will crumble. It won’t endure.

Ironically, paleoconservatives have no issue grasping the cultural and civilizational dimensions of ordered liberty—namely that the libertarian non-aggression principle is peculiar to the West and won’t survive once western civilization is no more. Which is why, for paleoconservatives, immigration restrictionism is a no-brainer.

By the way, the statement is not meant to be culturally chauvinistic. There are indigenous tribal people (say, in Brazil) who’re peaceful and pastoral. I mourn their culture’s near-extinction, as well.  Where such extinction has been brought about by the West’s chauvinism—it must be condemned.

In any event, paleoconservatives would typically grasp that libertarian principles would not endure in certain cultures. Libertarians, on the other hand, have had a hard time linking civilizational issues with the libertarian axiom of non-aggression. What do I mean? Libertarians will chant, “Free markets, free minds, the free movement of people.” Let’s have ‘em all.

They don’t always explain how these principles are to endure once Western societies are overrun by individuals from cultures which don’t uphold these principles. (From the fact that our own societies are turning out liberty hating individuals—it doesn’t follow we should import more.)

On the other hand, paleoconservatives are far less focused on the state as an evil actor and often appear more concerned with culture wars: gay marriage, cannabis, pornography, abortion. The paleolibertarian rejects any attempts by the state to legislate around the issues of:

Abortion: Completely defund it is our position.

Gay marriage: Solemnize your marriage in private churches, please.

Drugs: Legalize them and stop the hemispheric Drug War.

Wage walls, not wars.

As a creedal paleolibertarian, I see the road to freedom, primarily, in beating back The State, so that individuals can regain freedom of association, dominion over property, the absolute right of self-defense; the right to hire, fire, and, generally, associate at will.

Foreign policy—specifically, no meddling in the affairs of other countries!—is the be all and end all of both paleoconservatism and paleolibertarianism. Don’t let any of the radio or TV personalities fool you.  If he or she liked, justified or rationalized Bush’s Middle-Eastern wars or Trump’s dabbling in Niger—he or she is no paleolibertarian. (Tucker Carlson is a fabulous paleoconservative.)

Both variants are for small government and big society. Again, more so than the paleoconservative, the paleolibertarian is radical in his anti-state position, sometimes even advocating a stateless society.

BIG LEAGUE POLITICS: In what ways does your political thought differ from CATO institute libertarianism?

ILANA MERCER: CATO’s political thought is left-libertarianism. I call it “lite libertarianism.”  Lite libertarians equate liberty with abstract, lofty ideas, which—against all evidence, historic and other—purport to work magically when applied to every individual in the world.

You can say that the crucial difference between lite libertarians and the Right kind is that, to the former, the idea of liberty is propositional–a value, an idea that’s untethered from the realities of history, hierarchy, biology, tradition, religion, culture, values.

Bluntly put, the principles of American freedoms were not developed by progressive, libertine ladies, marching in pussy dunce caps; by the suffragettes or the LGBTQ community and their program. Are those significant facts? You bet!

The garden variety libertarian, CATO and Reason types, see liberty as a shared, universal quest. They appear to think that inside every Afghani or Yemeni or Iraqi is a Jeffersonian waiting to break free.

In essence, this left-libertarianism is one that underplays, underestimates or just plain refuses to recognize what I just referred to as “liberty’s civilizational dimension.”

Notice how similar are left-libertarians to neoconservatives in the tendencies just described.

INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY. Lite libertarians also tend to blame governments, principally, less so the individual, for barbarism in certain parts of the world. Your regular libertarian’s attitude to personal wrongdoing often runs to what I’ve characterized as a form of social determinism: “The state made me do it.”

In other words, if for the sins of man the left is inclined to blame society; a lot of libertarians fall into the same methodological error when they implicate the State. The conservatively minded paleolibertarian will recognize humanity’s innate, biblical capacity for evil.

Both factions (left-libertarians and neoconservatives) are short on punishment, individual responsibility and agency, all preconditions for ordered liberty.

RACISM. And this is vitally important: A lot of establishment libertarians have joined the neoconservative and neoliberal establishments in the habit of sniffing out racists. Sniffing out racists is an absolute no-no for any and all self-respecting libertarians.

True libertarians don’t, or should not, prosecute thought crimes or persecute thought “criminals.” Period.

BIG LEAGUE POLITICS: Which conservative thinkers resonate most with your beliefs?

ILANA MERCER: John Roanoke, John Calhoun, Edmond Burke, Russell Kirk, Frank Chodorov, Felix Morley, James Burnham (once a leftist), Paul Gottfried, Clyde Wilson, Samuel P. Huntington.


 This interview was conducted by correspondent Seth Segal for Big League Politics. A version was published on Nov. 23, 2018.





  1. Ilana Mercer advances one of the most perverted definitions of ‘libertarianism’ I’ve ever read.

    She appears to think that ‘libertarianism’ in the exact opposite of what it actually is.

    Ilana Mercer is NOT a ‘libertarian’. She’s a nationalist. She favours all sorts of arbitrary ‘freedoms’ as long as she values them for herself or they fit on to own view of social control, but favours all sorts of restrictions on human activity provided that they are imposed by the State or Quasi State under terms of which she approves.

    ‘Libertarianism’, however is a political philosophy that takes INDIVIDUAL liberty to be the primary political value.

    Those who seek to give the philosophy practical application, do so in the context of how much of it can be achieved with the minimum trade off of law imposed by a State or Quasi State.

    Contrary to what Ilana Mercer dictates, ‘libertarianism’ is NO MORE concerned with the ‘ethics of the use of force’ than it is about ANY ‘ethics.’

    And there is no obligation upon any ‘libertarian’ or upon anyone else, to follow her dictat that we ‘MUST respect the non aggression axiom’.

    What constitutes ‘aggression’, is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s ‘aggression’ might, to him or to any rational observer, be no more than ‘pre emptive defence’.

    ‘Paleolibertarianism’ is not ‘libertarianism’ at all. It’s no more than an (often ultra statist) ultra conservatism, which attempts to fossilise the worst elements of human nature, e.g. paranoia, unreasonable suspicion of strangers, protectionism, collectivism by dictat, racism, nativism, culture war, cultural dictats, etc. etc. etc, into a defeatist political creed.

    Mankind is tribal so all these these things are unavoidable features of human nature, but there’s no need to elevate them, as Ilana Mercer does, into a collectivist political creed.

    Had people like this had their way, mankind having walked out of Africa, would never gone on found umpteen different religions economic and social models. And none of these models would ever have evolved, changed, or died out.

    We’d still be persecuting Christians, and if we’d managed to advance beyond that, burning Protestants as ‘Heretics’.

    One of the deficiencies which leads the likes of Ilana Mercer down this dead end is that they have little knowledge and no concept of (often very recent) human history.

    Ilana Mercer talks about ‘indigenous’ tribes of the Brazil. There are however NO ‘indigenous tribes’ in Brazil.

    The tribes who have lived in Brazil for the longest are the descendants of those who first arrived in South America as recently as 12,000 years ago.

    Mankind is ‘indigenous’ to the East African Rift Valley region and walked out of Africa to inhabit the whole world. Every single social grouping which has emerged in the world since then, exists in defiance of Ilana Mercer’s ‘paleolibertarian’ dictat.

    What sort of ‘libertarian’ wants to ‘wage walls’? What Ilana Mercer is advocating is global apartheid.

    If Americans did what she wants, Ilana Mercer herself would never have been admitted in to the USA. In fact the USA wouldn’t exist at all, and no one of European racial descent would be living in the Americas.

    The present ‘realities of history, hierarchy, tradition, religion, culture, values, etc etc’, to which Ilana Mercer refers, are, in ‘the West’, recent constructs, The entire UK set up, is less (vital parts of it VERY much less), than 1000 years old. The presently constituted United Kingdom is 91 years old, and the US set up ,is a very recent construct indeed.

    The UK is inhabited (and the property within it owned) by people whom’s ancestors arrived here in the past few thousand (mostly in the most recent 1000), and the United States by people who arrived there in the past 300 or so years.

    All land ownership in the UK derives from, it having been seized by act of brutal force, by William of Normandy, starting in 1066, and in the USA, either directly or indirectly, from the ‘rights’ provided for in the 1776 Constitutional settlement and laws passed thereafter.

    So in both cases, title to the land is all in the gift of the State itself.

    • Matthew says: title to the land is all in the gift of the State itself. Yes, that’s exactly what the statist system does. According to libertarian theory, any individual or society has the right to control access to his, her or its property. That means the right to reject, or to accept, any other individual on to that property. “Right-wing” libertarians, including most of the denizens here, only accept one half of this right; the right to reject. They ignore your right to accept on to your property anyone you wish to, under whatever conditions you choose to set. But does the UK state allow me to invite a nice Indonesian lady, say, to live with me as my companion and my love? Hell, no; they would stop her at the border, and then they would accuse me of “people trafficking.”

      If you cannot “legally” invite on to your property whomsoever you wish, then you do not have full property rights. Such “property” can only be a lease or, as Matthew says, a gift of the state. In my view, no libertarian worth the name can accept such a restriction.

  2. Ms. Mercer routinely enlightens millions with her insightful, laser-focused and articulate missives. May she ignore self-absorbed hair-splitters of the Old World and continue to explain and differentiate for the benefit of all us youthful colonists. We love the lady and her courage.

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