The Libertarian to Fascist Pipeline Could be Shorter Than You Think

Though opposing ideologies, Libertarians can swing toward Fascism quickly

Cameron C.
Dialogue & Discourse
8 min readJun 3, 2020


Libertarian Party | Swastika

Libertarianism and fascism are polar opposite ideologies. It seems like quite a reach to suggest libertarians would find themselves going down the pipeline to fascism. I thought the same thing until I read a quote from Mike Enoch, an alt-right podcast host and neo-Nazi who marched in the streets of Charlottesville at the Unite the Right rally and chanted “Jews will not replace us.” On his podcast, Enoch said “we were all Libertarians back in the day. I mean, everybody knows this.”

The libertarian to fascist pipeline is rooted in three things: Populism playing to emotions, protecting capital and maintaining hierarchies. But the scary part isn’t that the pipeline exists, it’s that the pipeline is much shorter than you may think.

(Note: Not all libertarians become fascists nor were all fascists once libertarians.)

Defining the Ideologies

A video that once perfectly encapsulated the libertarian party was when Gary Johnson got booed for not opposing the need for a government driver’s license. Libertarianism is a philosophy promoting Laissez-faire capitalism — or unfettered capitalism. They are non-interventionists and strong advocates for property rights, free immigration, legalizing all drugs and prostitution. Libertarians are against taxes, any form of social benefits and believe everyone must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. The core tenet of libertarianism is that one’s liberty and right to own property should never be infringed upon.

Roger Griffin, a professor of modern history and political theorist at Oxford Brookes University defines fascism as palingenetic ultranationalism. Fascism is an authoritarian ultranationalism usually ruled by a dictator of a single-party state with forcible suppression of oppression. Fascism has complete control over society and the economy. Fascist regimes tend to promote militaristic expansionism from leaders who obtain power either by a coup like Mussolini or are elected like Hitler.

To understand who goes down this pipeline of polar opposite ideologies, we have to look at the type of people that belong to libertarianism to see where it melds with fascism.

Who are Libertarians?

Libertarianism came to a rise under the Reagan presidency. The Koch family — who are known for having the second largest privately-owned company in the United States and known for their political activism — were some of the most popular self-identifying libertarians. Under Reagan, and through the use of trickle down economics, the United States saw one of the greatest wealth divides in our nation. The Koch family used populism to promote economic policies that directly benefited business and the upper class — promising it would benefit everyone though the evidence pointed to the contrary.

The vast majority of libertarians are middle and upper class white males who are born into a position of privilege. With strong views on property rights, libertarians are going to protect their property and capital at all costs. They justify supporting an economic system that contributes to wealth disparity because they’re maintaining their hierarchy because they think they’ve earned it — even if that wealth comes from inheritance.

Libertarians believe if the market has the least amount of regulation possible, attaining any amount of wealth must be possible. So, if they have property and capital — regardless of how it’s acquired — it’s because they’re deserving, and those who don’t have any are undeserving and/or didn’t work hard enough. This is why historically they have favored such policies as trickle-down-economics as it directly benefits them. Anything that makes wealth flow up is earned, while anything that makes wealth flow down is unearned.

Libertarians have historically been socially left-leaning, thinking that the government should have no say in things such as a person’s right to marriage or abortion as they think it would hinder one’s liberty. However, a new wave of libertarians has been on the rise — Neolibertarians — who combine libertarian principles with conservative views. These neolibertarians have mingled with the conservative party with such figureheads as Rand Paul abandoning more and more of the traditional libertarian values while embracing conservatism.

Rand Paul supports strong border security, something fundamentally opposed to libertarian ideology as libertarians believe in the free movement of labor — therefore open borders. Neolibertarians usually support a bigger and militarized police force even though police oftentimes infringe upon one’s liberty. Neolibertarians turn their cheek to this infringement because police protect capital. And because the law is designed by capital, police maintain the hierarchy.

Self identifying libertarians such as Ben Shapiro (for the record here, I’m not calling him a facsist. I do not think he is one) do not support the legalization of all drugs or the right to an abortion, things libertarians think the government should stay out of. Libertarians seem to be okay with government intervention only when it suits them and — like fascists — use the boogieman of communism, cultural Marxism and socialism to fear monger when government overreach doesn’t suit them.

We can start to see some of the similarities between the two ideologies though on paper they’re polar opposites. While social stances can cause a snowball effect toward the pipeline, social stances aren’t what makes the pipeline so appealing. Libertarianism’s economic fueled ideology is what lays down the welcome mat.

The Pipeline

With economic policies that don’t promote egalitarianism and have been proven to contribute to a wealth divide, there’s going to be some libertarians who will not benefit from Laissez-faire capitalism. Where people start to point the fingers is one of the first steps in going down the pipeline. Economically anxious individuals tend to find the alt-right and adopt their finger pointing exclusionary philosophies and conspiracies before they find the left.

The Association for Psychological Science examined a study about varying wealth gaps. The results suggest that the growth in support for populist leaders who are happy to abandon democratic principles to achieve particular outcomes may partly be due to increasing levels of economic inequality. The same wealth inequality that stems from their own economic philosophy.

Karl Marx, a German philosopher and economist, recognized that capitalism directly incentivizes businesses to pay their workers the lowest amount possible to ensure the highest amount of profit. He claimed capitalism would eventually lead to such a wealth divide the working class will rebel and instate socialism. And because Marxism and socialism are two ideologies that advocate for the abolition of private property and democratization of the workforce — it’s expected that some libertarians would partake in the pipeline toward fascism out of fear for their capital.

Liberalism recognizes capitalism’s hypocrisy and advocates for government policies to promote a more egalitarian society. It is no secret that capitalism leads to wealth inequality with the top 1% owning nearly 50% of American wealth, productivity in the workplace is at an all time high while wages are stagnant and for the first time ever in U.S history, children are doing worse than their parents.

So it’s reasonable to believe that lifting our current policies that allow government overreach to promote egalitarianism would only speed up the wealth divide and downward mobility. People who own capital would accrue more at a faster pace. It would also be increasingly difficult for people to get out of the class which they were born into. And from there we’re only a few steps removed from feudalism.

Neolibertarians have strong stances on border security, criticizing the current immigration policies claiming they allow undocumented workers to come to America and work for lower wages than American citizens would — a direct contradiction to the free market and the free movement of labor. So when a president openly calls undocumented workers ‘rapists and drug dealers’ a lot of libertarians will find themselves pointing the finger and nodding in approval — adopting the us vs. them mentality in the same fashion in which they support a militarized police force — there’s us, the hard working and/or capital owners, and ‘them,’ the ungrateful and undeserving. They believe the system works for them, and if it’s not working for others it must be their fault. Or they believe the system would work if it wasn’t for ‘them.’

These economically anxious people find the alt-right and look at America’s leaders for help — leaders that point the finger at immigration, utilize nostalgia by reminiscing about how great America used to be.

Two of Reagan’s campaign slogans were ‘Let’s make America great again’ and ‘Are you better off now than four years ago?’ M.D Heidi Moawad of Neurology Times explains how the brain responds to nostalgia and the good feelings it brings us from the self-directed memory recollection. It’s easy to look to the past and remember the good. There’s a reason advertisement and marketing firms use nostalgia — it’s an incredibly powerful selling tool. Conservatives like President Donald Trump adopted this strategy to great success — as did a certain fascist leader in 1933 Germany.

Neolibertarians are susceptible to populism, conspiracies and fear mongering in efforts to maintain their place at the top of the hierarchy — the only place most libertarians have known, the place they believe they have earned and belong.

From here it isn’t hard to see how many libertarians and neolibertarians will easily practice some cognitive dissonance and look the other way as long as it protects the three things that are most important to them — their property/capital, their liberty and their place in the hierarchy. It’s not difficult to see why neolibertarians are increasingly in support of a militarized police force, trickle-down economics, the profiteering of the military industrial complex, resource extraction from the developing world and policies that enforce their place in the hierarchy. When wealth or their place in the hierarchy is the slightest bit compromised, some will side with fascism to protect it.

Have you wondered why libertarians are not speaking out against Donald Trump’s reach toward authoritarianism? Whether it be the executive order he signed just days after being censored on Twitter for falsely claiming mail-in ballots are easily susceptible to fraud — which is a direct assault on the first amendment — or the times he threatened various journalists and reporters with jail time — they were silent. Or the time he asserted United States Attorney General William Barr could intervene in any criminal case — they were silent. When Trump orchestrated the firings of many citizens who testified against him in his impeachment trial — they were silent. And most recently, after Trump’s deployment of the unmarked federal officers and threat of active duty military deployment to quell the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder — they were silent.

As long as injustices do not directly affect them or their property they will close their eyes and pretend the system works. But for some it won’t be pretend. When they open their eyes and there’s tanks rolling through the streets — they’ll likely still be silent.

Libertarianism is appealing because it’s much more palatable than conservatism in the Trump era. On a surface level it’s rooted in principles like liberty, freedom and anti-authoritarian — all things people would have a hard time disagreeing with. But with a slightly deeper look at it, an increasing support for socialism and anticipating the growing populism that continues to have neolibertarianism on the rise with its melding of conservative views, leftists may not want to dismiss libertarians as a fringe third party anymore. We should be aware that the pipeline from libertarian to fascist is much shorter and accessible than we may have previously thought.