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HandWiki. Paleolibertarianism. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 17 June 2024).
HandWiki. Paleolibertarianism. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 17, 2024.
HandWiki. "Paleolibertarianism" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 17, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, October 24). Paleolibertarianism. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Paleolibertarianism." Encyclopedia. Web. 24 October, 2022.

Paleolibertarianism is a variety of libertarianism developed by anarcho-capitalist theorists Murray Rothbard and Llewellyn Rockwell that combines conservative cultural values and social philosophy with a libertarian opposition to government intervention.

paleolibertarianism social philosophy cultural values

1. Tenets

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"[1] and distinguished themselves from "neo-libertarians" and from "Beltway Libertarianism, Left-Libertarianism, and Lifestyle Libertarianism".[1] (Beltway libertarianism is a pejorative term used by hardline libertarians to describe libertarians who have gained traction in the Beltway, i.e. Washington, D.C.)[2] 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 social progressivism of mainstream libertarianism. In his essay "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism", Rockwell charged mainstream libertarians with "hatred of Western culture".[3] 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".[3] Of paleolibertarians, he wrote "we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste".[3] After explaining why cultural conservatives 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".[3]

2. Early History

In the essay "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement", Rothbard reflected on the ability of paleolibertarians to engage in an "outreach to rednecks" founded on social conservatism and radical libertarianism. He cited former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and former U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy as models for the new movement.[4]

In the 1990s, a "paleoconservative-paleolibertarian alliance was forged", centred on the John Randolph Club founded by Traditionalist Catholic Thomas Fleming.[5] Rockwell and Rothbard supported paleoconservative Republican candidate Pat Buchanan in the 1992 U.S. presidential election, and described Buchanan as the political leader of the "paleo" movement.[6] In 1992, Rothbard declared that "with Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy".[7]

Three years later, he said Buchanan developed too much faith in economic planning and centralized state power, which eventually led paleolibertarians to withdraw their support for Buchanan.[8] 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".[9]

Rothbard died in 1995, while in 2007 Rockwell stated he no longer considered himself a "paleolibertarian" and was "happy with the term libertarian".[10]

3. Controversy

Political scientist and lesbian feminist activist Jean Hardisty describes paleolibertarianism as entailing "explicit racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism".[11] She notes Rothbard's praise of The Bell Curve, a controversial work which presents the intelligence of black people as statistically inferior to other races, and the Rothbard-Rockwell Report's publishing of an article, written by Sam Francis, which asserted that "of the two major races in the United States today, only one possesses the capacity to create and sustain" suitable levels of civilization.

3.1. Ron Paul Newsletters

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." Rockwell denied it.[12]

4. Revival

4.1. United States

In 2012, former National Review writer John Derbyshire argued that "since Lew Rockwell joined La Raza" (referring to Rockwell's open-borders advocacy)[13] Hans-Hermann Hoppe was the last real paleolibertarian standing. Yet paleolibertarianism had hardly disappeared from America, with Karen De Coster[14] and Justin Raimondo both continuing to use the term to describe themselves both during and after Ron Paul's presidential campaigns.[15]

Rebutting Derbyshire, philosophy professor Jack Kerwick brought up Ilana Mercer as "unquestionably the most visible, the most widely read", paleolibertarian writer who "articulates as systematic an account of paleolibertarianism as any to be found". According to Kerwick, "No paleolibertarian... has nearly as much exposure when it comes to scholarly and popular audiences alike as does Mercer."[16]

In a move similar to his and Rothbard's support for Pat Buchanan, Lew Rockwell has been sympathetic to celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, particularly for his stance on Mexican immigration,[17] along with Justin Raimondo, who voted for Trump on the basis of his foreign policy.[18] In June 2016, Mercer published a book titled The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed,[19] arguing in the introduction that "In the age of unconstitutional government—Democratic and Republican—the process of creative destruction begun by Trump can only increase the freedom quotient." Austrian School anarcho-capitalist economist Walter Block, in a 2016 preelection debate with editor Nick Gillespie, 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.

Jeff Deist, President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a right-libertarian think tank for promoting Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism and the Austrian School of economics, said of the Alt-right that he found their writings "interesting...and somewhat refreshing".[20] In 2017, Deist concluded a speech at the Mises Institute titled 'For a New Libertarian' with the words, "In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance."[21] This led to criticism from 'Bleeding Heart Libertarian' Steve Horwitz. Horwitz argued that libertarianism was not about 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."[22]

Popular political and cultural blog The Right Stuff also exhibits features of paleolibertarianism.[23] One post has criticised the mainstream right in the following terms, "While they lost or ignore topics like race, nativism and the culture war, they have an obsession with neoliberal economics and neocon geopolitics."[24] They have also been largely supportive of Rockwell, yet have criticised his "move away from inflammatory newsletters".[25]

4.2. Canada

Controversial voluntaryist blogger and podcaster Stefan Molyneux circa 2014 started to become more culturally conservative than he had been previously. He has released podcasts of his Freedomain Radio show addressing topics such as Western culture,[26] immigration,[27] and group differences in cognitive ability.[28] He, like Rockwell, has supported Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States .[29]

Property and Freedom Society member Christian Robitaille has argued for an alliance of libertarians and traditionalists in Quebec.[30]

4.3. United Kingdom

Since late 2013, High Tory organisation the Traditional Britain Group has been influenced by paleolibertarian ideas. In March 2014, it hosted a seminar including a track led by Dr Andrew Linley, 'Politics: destroyer of natural order'.[31] The Vice President of the Traditional Britain Group, Professor John Kersey, describes himself as a 'radical traditionalist and paleolibertarian'.[32] In October 2014, former UKIP MEP and Mises UK President Godfrey Bloom gave a speech to the annual conference of Traditional Britain entitled "Why Traditionalism and Libertarianism are Not Incompatible".[33]

The former Director of the Libertarian Alliance, Sean Gabb, is a close friend of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, attending his Property and Freedom Society conferences every year in Bodrum. Gabb is a conservative in some respects and a critic of mass-immigration.[34] Gabb has addressed Traditional Britain Group conferences in efforts at classical liberal outreach to traditionalists.[35] Gabb's successor, Keir Martland, has written favourably about the prospects for a new "paleo-alliance", arguing that "a conservative society cannot exist under an oppressive state just as much as a libertarian society cannot exist in a cultural and moral vacuum".[36] In an essay 'On Left and Right, Libertarianism, and The Donald', Martland, like Jeff Deist, is sympathetic to the nationalism of Donald Trump: "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."[37]


  1. "Paleolibertarianism" by Karen De Coster,, December 2, 2003
  2. "The Importance of Beltway Libertarianism". 
  3. Rockwell, Lew. "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism". Liberty (libertarian magazine) (January 1990): 34–38. 
  4. 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" 
  5. Martland, Keir (2016). Liberty from a Beginner:Selected Essays (Second ed.). p. 62. ISBN 9781326524715. 
  6. Gottfried, Paul (1993). The Conservative Movement. Twayne Publishers. pp. 146. ISBN 0-8057-9723-8. OCLC 16804886.–sfUZz6GqGA0AHz3YDABQ&id=4lTuAAAAMAAJ&dq=Fleming+Gottfried+The+Conservative+Movement&q=Rothbard#search_anchor
  7. Lee Edwards, The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America, Simon and Schuster, 1999, p. 329.
  8. Lew Rockwell, "What I Learned From Paleoism", at, May 2, 2002.
  9. Martland, Keir (2016). Liberty from a Beginner:Selected Essays (Second ed.). p. 64. ISBN 9781326524715. 
  10. "Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?", Kenny Johnsson interviews Lew Rockwell for The Liberal Post, as posted on LewRockwell.Com, May 25, 2007.
  11. Hardisty, Jean (1999). Mobilizing Resentment, Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. pp. 165–67. Author holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University.
  12. Reason: Matt Welch, "Old News"? "Rehashed for Over a Decade"?, January 11, 2008 and Sanchez, Julian and Weigel, David, Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?, January 16, 2008. Joe Conason, Rand Paul The roots of Rand Paul’s civil rights resentment, Salon, May 21, 2010. David Weigel, Our Odd Ron Paul "Moment", Slate, December 15, 2011. Alex Massie, Ron Paul's Newsletter Problem, The Spectator, December 22, 2011.
  13. "On Hans-Herman Hoppe – The Last Paleolibertarian", 24 September 2012; Derbyshire was referring to the fact that Rockwell advocated an open-borders position at the time.
  14. "About" Karen De Coster
  15. "Ron Paul and the Prospects of Paleo-Libertarianism" Justin Raimondo
  16. Kerwick, Jack. "Missing "Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism"". Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  17. "The Trump Phenomenon" The Tom Woods Show
  19. "The Trump Revolution" Ilana Mercer website, 29 June 2016.
  20. "Alt-Right vs. Socialist Left" Mises Institute
  23. "About Us". Archived from the original on 30 August 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  24. "Why the Weak Right is Wrong". Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  25. "Après Paul, Le Déluge". Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  26. "The Impending Collapse of Western Civilisation" Stefan Molyneux
  27. "The Truth About Immigration" Stefan Molyneux
  28. "IQ and Immigration" Stefan Molyneux
  29. "The Untruth About Donald Trump" Stefan Molyneux
  30. Robitaille, Christian. "Pourquoi libertariens et traditionalistes sont des alliés naturels". Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  31. Linley, Andrew (March 2014). "Politics: Destroyer of Natural Order". Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  32. Kersey, John (October 2013). "Preserving the substance of a nation". Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  33. Bloom, Godfrey. "Why Traditionalism and Libertarianism are not incompatible". Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  34. "Must Libertarians Believe in Open Borders?". Retrieved 9 July 2017. 
  35. Gabb, Sean (2012). "In Defence of English Civilisation". Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  36. Martland, Keir (January 26, 2014). "Paleoism and the Traditional Britain Group". Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
Subjects: Political Science
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