End the Conservative-Libertarian Alliance
By Pepe Lewis
The year is 1959. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev has landed in the United States for a two week tour that will culminate in a summit meeting with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
As the procession of Stalin’s protege cruises through the streets of New York, one man gives an especially rousing round of applause for the Butcher of Budapest’s motorcade, proclaiming that “Khrushchev had killed fewer people than General Eisenhower.”
That man was Murray Rothbard, prominent exponent of Austrian economics and the godfather of libertarianism, from whom libertarians take after all too well today. Don’t take it from me, take it from William F. Buckley’s unenthused eulogy:
Murray Rothbard, age 68, died on January 7. We extend condolences to his family, but not to the movement he inspired…
Murray Rothbard had defective judgment. It pains even to recall it, but in 1959 when Khrushchev arrived in New York, with much of America stunned by the visit of the butcher of Budapest — the Soviet protege of Stalin who was threatening a world war over Berlin — Rothbard physically applauded Khrushchev in his limousine as it passed by on the street. He gave as his reason for this that, after all, “Khrushchev had killed fewer people than General Eisenhower, his host.”
Now, if you think equating the slaughter of thousands of Hungarians for demanding democracy and freedom to the wartime deeds of General Eisenhower is beyond the pale, you must be new to Rothbard.
While genuine conservatives preoccupied themselves with quaint ideas, like conserving and reaffirming the spirit of this nation as envisioned by the founders, Rothbard slandered the ratification of the Constitution as a “statist coup d’etat” over the Articles of Confederation, and painted our first president as the villainous “Generalissimo Washington” — no doubt Rothbard imagined Washington as a colonial Castro — and was open of his repulsion at the United States he loathed to call home:
Still others, extremists such as myself, would not stop until we repealed the Federal Judiciary Act of 1789, and maybe even think the unthinkable and restore the good old Articles of Confederation.
Rothbard felt the Articles of Confederation were a statist contrivance, though preferable to our repugnant, oppressive Constitution. Have you ever wondered why your staunchly libertarian pals are quick to label you or anyone who they disagree a “dirty statist”? Now you know! They got it from grandpa Murray.
Ronald Reagan, Herbert Hoover, and yes, Milton Friedman — all statists! Remind me why Rothbard and his paroxysm prone libertarian acolytes are considered part of the American Right? Ah, yes. I remember now, it was the bright idea of “Fusionism,” as coined by Frank Meyer for the National Review, and the Cold War that necessitated it… maybe.
There was a time when Communism posed a material threat and the pathogen with which it is transmitted, Marxism, spread virulently throughout the West. This threat brought three unlikely camps into an uneasy alliance: conservatives (or “traditionalists”), classical liberals-libertarians, and anti-Stalinist Trotskyites who would form the intellectual vanguard of neoconservatism.
Of course, it wasn’t long before Rothbard began caustically attacking the National Review and resumed slandering conservatives, all the while claiming he and his spastic dogma represented the “real” American Right. It’s hard to reconcile that claim to fame with vehemently disdaining George Washington and the Constitution of the United States.
According to Rothbard, the founders “perceived civil and moral liberty, political independence, and the freedom to trade and produce as all part of one unblemished system.” Wunderbar! Murray must have held in the highest regard the traditions that gave us our civil and moral liberties, political independence, as well the freedom to trade and produce. Well, not really:
I have nothing to say to the so-called “traditionalists” (a misnomer, by the way, for we libertarians have our traditions too, and they are glorious ones. It all depends on which traditions: the libertarian ones of Paine and Price, of Cobden and Thoreau, or the authoritarian ones of Torquemada and Burke and Metternich.) Let us leave the authoritarians to their Edmund Burkes and their Crowns of St. Something-or-other…
It was here Rothbard found he could go no further on the road to Damascus with his conservative pals, whose greatest modern exponent was Russell Kirk writing for the National Review.
No conservative intellectual was truer to the heritage and traditions of this nation than Kirk, whose conservative ideals were based on the empiricism and pragmatism of Edmund Burke. Like Rothbard, Kirk was wary of fusionism and warned against it, but remained civil, unlike his colleague and libertarian crank.
To Rothbard, Burke’s unforgivable sin was that he had opposed the French Revolution despite having advocated the American Revolution — something Thomas Paine famously took issue with in Rights of Man. Paine, like Murray, believed that people have the right to overthrow their governments on an offended whim; while Burke believed that established governments should be reformed, not violently disposed of.
Burke supported the American Revolution because American colonists had no real government of their own — unlike the French — and were being abjectly tyrannized by a foreign monarchy; thus Burke supported the American fight to achieve sovereignty and self-government. Burke opposed the French Revolution because he believed (rightly so) that gradual, procedural reformation should enact change within established governments, rather than mob violence.
A cursory look at the absolute disaster that is French politics — with its all revolutions, protests, and convulsions — confirms Burke’s radical pragmatism was spot on. Carl T. Bogus writes for the American Conservative:
He believed that society was a complex organism that evolved to its present condition for reasons that were not always evident. Burke believed that changes are often desirable — and a constant process of improvement essential — but those changes should be made carefully, with respect for tradition and a concern for unintended consequences. “We must all obey the great law of change,” he wrote. “It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.”
Compare society as a “complex organism” to the Rothbard-libertarian reduction of life, in all of its nuance, to transactions and aimless individualism.
The reduction of society to rigid universal absolutes, “free trade” and individualism, makes for a movement of followers with a solid grasp of economics, but “marvelously ignorant about much else, having no clue why a flourishing state requires a cohesive nation, or how such bonds are established through family and religious ties,” as president of the Jerusalem-based Herzl Institute, Yoram Hazony, writes.
Hazony further affirms Burke-Kirk conservatism over libertarianism and the liberalism from which it is descended:
For centuries, Anglo-American conservatism has favored individual liberty and economic freedom. But as the Oxford historian of conservatism Anthony Quinton emphasized, this tradition is empiricist and regards successful political arrangements as developing through an unceasing process of trial and error. As such, it is deeply skeptical of claims about universal political truths. The most important conservative figures — including John Fortescue, John Selden, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton — believed that different political arrangements would be fitting for different nations, each in keeping with the specific conditions it faces and traditions it inherits. What works in one country can’t easily be transplanted.
On that view, the U.S. Constitution worked so well because it preserved principles the American colonists had brought with them from England. The framework — the balance between the executive and legislative branches, the bicameral legislature, the jury trial and due process, the bill of rights — was already familiar from the English constitution.
With tradition in mind, it is peculiar to see the likes of Ben Shapiro advocating for libertarians while shouting down genuine conservatives as ephemeral right-wing populists. For all of his moral posturing, Shapiro should know that libertarians are noticeably mute on a particular conservative cornerstone: faith.
Nothing gets you slammed as a fascist or a statist by libertarians quicker than reminding them that this nation was founded upon Judeo-Christian values and that a dominant — Western — culture is imperative to maintain national cohesion. Tocqueville admired that faith and freedom had been inextricably entwined in America, calling religion the “first of [our] political institutions.” Even as an agnostic, I understand the imperative of this root.
So, why is Shapiro advocating for conservative bashing libertarians over conservatives? Shapiro recently retweeted an article entitled, “Time For A New Conservative/Libertarian Alliance?”, by Austin Petersen. In his call for rearmament that opens with, “In Every Crisis… An Opportunity!”, Petersen claims “President Trump threw a mammoth sized bone to the traditional conservative wing of the GOP” when he announced his decision to send a troop surge to Afghanistan.
I can’t tell if Petersen is being dishonest or if he actually thinks the GOP establishment represents “traditional” conservatives, or conservatism at all.
Trump has a strong “traditionalist” (to quote Rothbard) base because he poses a threat to the GOP establishment which has long since ceased representing traditional conservative values. Helmed by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, Petersen’s claim that Trump is pandering to the establishment — in spite of his public and hilarious feuds with GOP leaders — is simply misguided.
As well, only a libertarian could be so misjudging to think pulling out of Afghanistan right now is sound logic, when there are nearly two dozen regional and international Islamic terrorist groups willing to work together to take “Afghanistan and turn it into a sanctuary for international terrorism, and to expand the criminalized economy with narcotics, use its proceeds to finance terrorism.”
Indeed, the last time I was in Germany just months ago, there were two Islamist attacks within the first 24 hours of my arrival, one of which was just minutes from my family’s home. Abandoning Afghanistan as it is on the precipice of becoming an exporter of terrorism the likes of which we have never seen, well, that just doesn’t seem prudent.
What waits in the wings if Islamists take Afghanistan will make the ISIS of today seem tempered, and there should be no doubt that they will export their malignancy full-tilt to the West, because they are already doing so.
In his Afghan address, President Trump made it very clear the United States “will no longer use American might to construct Democracies in foreign lands,” rather we are simply “killing terrorists.” Perhaps Petersen believes, true to libertarian fashion, that if we would just teach the Afghan people of free trade and Austrian economics, centuries old sectarian conflicts would come to an end. Petersen writes,
In a newly rare stand, Trump’s base stood arm in arm with libertarian Republicans in near total opposition to the troop increase. Trump’s base being composed mostly of paleoconservatives and populists found common cause again in a brief moment that reminded this liberty activist of the old coalitions of the Old Right, and the Remnant, when paleocons and libertarians worked together to denounce unfettered militarism.
Since when are libertarians interested in republics and since when is it rare for paleocons, old school conservatives, to oppose interventionism? Not that the Afghan plan is interventionist, it is pragmatic.
As well, “populists” are those disenfranchised traditionalists who no longer say they are “conservative” because, as Rush Limbaugh says, “The Republican Party isn’t conservative.” What has the GOP conserved? What have our “conservative” leaders conserved? Populists are, in fact, fed up traditionalists asking, “where is conservatism in Washington, they’re asking. Where is it?”
Conservatives and Trump supporters don’t care so much about lower taxes, free trade, free enterprise and smaller government as they care about “taking back” their country.
This may come as a shock, though it shouldn’t, but conservatism is far more than free trade dogma concerned solely with tax free production and consumption. This has been agreed upon since the time of Pat Buchanan and Sam Francis. Francis, who saw populism as the natural response of traditionalists when establishment conservatives acquiesced into alliances with their adversaries:
[S]ooner or later, as the globalist elites seek to drag the country into conflicts and global commitments, preside over the economic pastoralization of the United States, manage the delegitimization of our own culture, and the dispossession of our people, and disregard or diminish our national interests and national sovereignty, a nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives.
Why are we implored to believe Trump’s decidedly conservative presidency is less-than-conservative or somehow negatively populist, when Trump’s “administration [is] arguably more conservative than Ronald Reagan’s,” as Steven F. Hayward writes for the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Bill Bennett, secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan, agrees and said Trump has a “more conservative cabinet” than Reagan.
That’s not a shot at the Gipper, it makes sense that Trump would be further to the right today than Reagan was, considering how much further to the left America has gone since Reagan’s time.
Just imagine Reagan being around for an America in which half of millennials think socialism is a great idea, Che’s ugly mug is back in vogue, and our mainstream media defends communism with shameless pieces like, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism.” If I had to guess, it was because they were starving to death and anything to take their mind off the reality of their hellish existence must have been great… but I digress.
If Trump’s presidency is closer to the heart of traditional conservatism than we have come in generations, why would we want to spoil it with a renewed and unnecessary alliance with a camp that has, by insistence of its progenitor, slandered the American founders and traditions which conservatives wish to actually conserve?
The only appeal — I use “appeal” lightly — of libertarianism is its reduction of all things complicated, from politics to society, to voluntary transactions and absolute liberty. Yet this simplification of life to absolutes is as unrealistic as it is blatantly utopian, David Azerrad writes for The Heritage Foundation:
The question is whether such a marvelously simple and self-indulgent worldview constitutes an actual political theory. Can it justify, explain, and sustain political life? Can it account for citizens, countries, and deliberations about the common political good (which is not a mere summation of all individual private goods)? Or does it inexorably point to an anarchic utopia along the lines envisaged by Murray Rothbard and his followers?
The answer is “No,” and this is why you’ll hear libertarians harp about the imperative of the “consumer” over the citizen. Consumers are faceless citizens of the world, cosmopolitan successors to citizens and their arbitrary nations. You don’t have to explain to a “consumer” why their job was exported, just tell them that it will benefit the “consumer” (but not themselves, as also a “consumer”) and that if they don’t like this sort of progress, they’re a repugnant statist.
“A country, however, is not just a market. And politics cannot be reduced to economics, however much economics may explain some aspects of modern administrative politics,” writes Azerrad. In a nod to Nathan Schlueter’s attempt to get to the heart of conservatism in the provocatively titled “Selfish Libertarians and Socialist Conservatives?”, Azerrad applauds Schlueter for,
…reminding conservatives to eschew their libertarian tendencies and think about the ends to which liberty is used. He reminds us that the Declaration of Independence speaks not only of individual rights, but also of the collective “safety and happiness of the people.” Schlueter is also to be commended for repeatedly emphasizing the importance of prudence in determining how to apply his conservative principles to particular situations. He sees that “the attraction of libertarianism is its clarity and simplicity” but rightly resists the temptation to reduce conservatism to a set of simplistic axioms applicable to any and all circumstances. Schlueter’s conservatism grows from a recognition that “Life is messy, and so is political life.” The founders, no less than Burke, would surely agree.
There is irony in the fact libertarians regularly slander conservatives as dirty “collectivists,” when their own ideology demands dogmatic, single-minded adherence to universally applicable concepts that must be consumed as gospel, rejecting empiricism in exchange for smug intuition. Libertarians are individualistic in many ways except in thought, it seems.
By now, I’m sure libertarian readers are cocking an arm back to toss F. A. Hayek’s “Why I Am Not A Conservative” at my head. To take the old adage of, “libertarians are people who misread Hayek”, one step further, I would argue that Hayek misrepresented himself. Consider this passage from Hayek’s anti-neoconservative essay:
… by its very nature [conservatism] cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing
This only makes sense if you never read Kirk. Kirk, to quote Arthur Bloom,
… [had] done great work identifying conservatives across the ages by a common disposition, but they all had political ideas that were integral to their worldview too. To say conservatism cannot offer an alternative is to invite the question, “well, which one?” It just isn’t a programmatic ideology like libertarianism is; conservatives have defended everything from constitutional liberty to the divine right of kings. And, actually, so have libertarians.
Bloom notes the following pillars of the conservatism Hayek longed for and believed far gone:
- Anticommunism — Hayek shared the opposition to communism that is the je ne sais quoi of postwar conservatism.
- Preservation of tradition — Hayek writes America’s founding established a tradition of liberty, which he wishes to continue (there’s a contradiction here, in which he’s claiming to be preserving something that he repeatedly emphasizes has been lost). As much as Hayek favored radical change, ripping society up by its roots and redesigning it is not what he had in mind.
- Spontaneous order — The idea of civil society as the undirected substrate of any political arrangement seems quintessentially conservative, even Burkean, a term he invoked later in life to describe himself.
- Hayek’s prominent defenders were all on the right — Thatcher, Reagan, etc.
Libertarians love to claim ties to Hayek’s intellectualism while simultaneously condemning Burke as a vile traditionalist — as Rothbard did — and blatantly overlooking the fact Hayek rejected the label of “libertarian”, calling himself a “Burkean Whig.” Edward Feser writes in the Journal of Libertarian Studies:
Hayek contrasts his own views with conservative ones because of his openness to some change. An openness to change of precisely the Hayekian sort we’ll be examining has characterized Anglo-American Burkean conservatism from the time of Burke himself, who held that “a state without the means of some change is without the means of its own preservation.”
If you’re confused, so is every intellectual from Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand who Rothbard’s toadies have attempted to latch onto for legitimacy; presumably to conceal the fact that they have no legitimate political theory of their own. Yes, even Ayn Rand rejected libertarians, though her “Objectivism” was just a radicalized, even more selfish-form of libertarianism, Rand openly hated libertarians and claimed her theory of Objectivism was hers and hers alone. Rand said in 1971:
For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either. Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs.
Rand warned of “the ‘libertarian’ hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.” At the Ford Hall Forum where she often spoke, Rand was asked, “What do you think of the libertarian movement?” Her response was as incisive as it was pointed:
All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies who are anarchists instead of leftist collectivists; but anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet libertarians combine capitalism and anarchism. That’s worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. Anarchists are the scum of the intellectual world of the Left, which has given them up. So the Right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the libertarian movement.
[Libertarians] are not defenders of capitalism. They’re a group of publicity seekers who rush into politics prematurely, because they allegedly want to educate people through a political campaign, which can’t be done. Further, their leadership consists of men of every of persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Moreover, most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now, I think it’s a bad beginning for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas.
Her hilarious slam-dunking of libertarians aside, it’s hard to argue that Rand’s thinking didn’t at least give libertarians an intellectual cover to appropriate, one under which they could — shamelessly draped in the Gadsden flag — slither toward what Tocqueville cautioned us against — “unbridled individualism driven by the ultimate utility and quest for pure-unenlightened self-interest.”
In their shameless patrioteering, libertarians have attempted to subvert the fundamental tenets of Americanism, insisting that “real” America is one in which virtue is replaced with selfish-interest, “the economy replaced God, the rule-of-man replaced the rule-of-law,” and that we would all be better off ultimately if “anarchy replaced limited-government,” as William J. Upton writes for the American Thinker.
Do Rand and Upton’s criticisms seem too harsh? Consider that Rothbard vilified Adam Smith as “a shameless plagiarist who originated nothing [important] that was new”, a proto-Marxist, and “no true capitalist”, because Smith did not enshrine the utterly free (anarchic) markets Rothbard revered. Paints a good portrait of the libertarian godfather, doesn’t it?
So, besides a mutual hatred of communism and the “heavy hand of bureaucracy”, what else do we conservatives have in common with libertarians? As Kirk wrote, nothing:
What else do conservatives and libertarians profess in common? The answer to that question is simple: nothing. Nor will they ever have. To talk of forming a league or coalition between these two is like advocating a union of ice and fire.
Kirk traced Rothbard’s libertarianism to John S. Mill’s On Liberty and concluded that in true form, Mill’s work had been carried out “to absurdity” by libertarians.
Kirk notes that On Liberty had been thoroughly discredited in 1873 by James Fitzjames Stephen — Stephen found Mill’s work to be an “inadequate understanding of human nature and history” — in Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. In a concise and incisive stroke, Kirk laid out the fundamental differences and incompatibilities of libertarianism and conservatism:
- In any society, order is the first need of all. Liberty and justice may be established only after order is tolerably secure. But the libertarians give primacy to an abstract liberty. Conservatives, knowing that “liberty inheres in some sensible object,” are aware that true freedom can be found only within the framework of a social order, such as the constitutional order of these United States…
- What binds society together? The libertarians reply that the cement of society (so far as they will endure any binding at all) is self-interest, closely joined to the nexus of cash payment. But the conservatives declare that society is a community of souls, joining the dead, the living, and those yet unborn…
- Libertarians (like anarchists and Marxists) generally believe that human nature is good, though damaged by certain social institutions. Conservatives, on the contrary, hold that “in Adam’s fall we sinned all”: human nature, though compounded of both good and evil, is irremediably flawed so the perfection of society is impossible, all human beings being imperfect…
The above considered, it is especially curious that Ben Shapiro should so closely align himself with libertarians over traditional conservatives.
After all, this is the camp that has worked so hard to reduce prenatal life to tenancy and property rights, pushing the pro-abortion theory of “evictionism,” as Rothbard wrote that “no being has a right to live, unbidden, as a parasite within or upon some person’s body.”
Libertarians, as Rothbard did, view pregnancy through the lens of property rights: a mother’s womb is her property, therefore a fetus is a trespasser or as Rothbard says, a “parasite.” The fetus becomes a trespasser against its mother the moment she decides she doesn’t want to carry out the pregnancy, thus giving her the right to “evict” the fetus — a nice euphemism for abortion.
Why would Shapiro endorse proponents and defenders of this morally barren doctrine as allies to conservatives? Not morally barren enough? Consider Rothbard’s libertarian theory of a “free baby market” (slavery):
Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive. (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)? The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum.)
If you’ve read this far and you’re thoroughly incensed, you’re either a libertarian — and I’m glad you’re upset — or a conservative who has identified as such until now, because, you know, the label has “liberty” in it. Catchy! To you the latter, I present Kirk’s prescient response penned in anticipation of your confounded ire:
But surely, surely I must be misrepresenting the breed? Don’t I know self-proclaimed libertarians who are kindly old gentlemen, God-fearing, patriotic, chaste, well endowed with the good of fortune? Yes, I do know such. They are the people who through misapprehension put up the cash for the fantastics. Such gentlemen call themselves “libertarians” merely because they believe in personal freedom, and do not understand to what extravagances they lend their names by subsidizing doctrinaire “libertarian” causes and publications. If a person describes himself as “libertarian” because he believes in an enduring moral order, the Constitution of the United States, free enterprise, and old American ways of life — why, actually he is a conservative with imperfect understanding of the general terms of politics.
Eureka! All has been illuminated at last, by the man who has been tragically overlooked despite his monumental contributions to conservative intellectualism. I implore you, the “libertarian-minded” conservative, to shed the “libertarian” and rediscover Russell Kirk, as we traditionalists so badly need to do so.
The time has come to draw battle lines, not renew tenuous alliances. Libertarianism is anarchic economic theory masquerading as universally applicable political philosophy, forever attempting to jump on the coattails of legitimate thinkers to bolster their shoddy, ironically collectivist conceptions, and yet have been consistently rejected as illegitimate, unbridled contrarians.
It is the Burkean conservatism Kirk advocated for nearly a quarter of a century with which conservatives should realign and reaffirm — not the deranged novelty of libertarians.
I can only assume Petersen and Rothbard’s sycophants are grasping at straws, trying to implore conservatives back into an alliance, because Trump represents a powershift back to the Middle American Radicals of the Buchanan era, the people the GOP establishment has abjectly abandoned in the name of globalism and crony capitalism.
This is “The Return of the Middle American Radical,” and Trump is winning over the forgotten man. Not FDR’s intentionally misconstrued, politically motivated forgotten man, but the man William Graham Sumner wrote of at Yale in 1867: “He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays…”
The GOP establishment has at last begun to erode thanks to President Trump and in this historic moment, we should not further conflate our traditions — those fought for by titans like Pat Buchanan and Russell Kirk — with those radical convulsions of libertarians.
The libertarian call to break bread is muted by Rothbard’s behest to followers to leave conservatives out to dry, as he had done so in his 1969 letter — “Listen YAF”:
This letter is a plea that you use the occasion of the public forum of the YAF convention to go, to split, to leave the conservative movement where it belongs: in the hands of the St. Something-or-others, and where it is going to stay regardless of what action you take.
That letter had been penned following the purge of hardcore Rothbardian Ron Paul from the board of advisors of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The reason for Paul’s ouster? YAF cited his naïve foreign policy and loyalty to Murray Rothbard’s ideals that violated the Sharon Statement’s provisions for national defense, national interest, and maintaining internal order. Upton writes for the American Thinker:
Rothbard criticized the police crackdowns during the riots of the late 1960s, when angry radicals burned entire sections of major American cities to the ground. Rothbard reveled in anarchy.
It is not an easy thing to ask that an entire faction of a political movement be driven into the sunlight and exposed as being antithetical and hence requiring ostracism — but it must be done. Libertarians, though seemingly at home on the Right, may better be categorized as being of the Left.
Upton believes ties between libertarians and conservatives — the traditionalists, the paleocons, the “populists” — must be severed, for if not they will “smash up our house” and we “will lose tradition, we will lose virtue, we will lose conservatism.” I happen to agree.
If all we have to gain from libertarians is perennially oppressed patrioteers who incessantly espouse Austrian economics as the word of god, insisting there is a statist under every bed, then we gain nothing.
Worse yet, we risk further legitimizing a camp that will use paradoxical titles like “libertarian Republican” to slander traditional conservatives as statists, Marxists, and fascists; the new McCarthyism as perscribed by libertarians to chase us out of our own house.
To conservatives considering a renewed alliance with a movement that is at its core antithetical to Americanism, I will quote Rothbard’s closing remarks of his 1969 letter to YAF:
“Leave the house of your false friends, for they are your enemies.”
Originally appeared in Shield Society.