Paleolibertarianism was a term coined by Lew Rockwell whose purpose, according to Rockwell in 1999, was "to recapture the political edge and intellectual rigor and radicalism of the pre-war libertarian right. There was no change in core ideology but a reapplication of fundamental principles in ways that corrected the obvious failures of the Reason and National Review crowd."[1] Rockwell associate, the late economist Murray Rothbard, also wrote about "paleoism" and paleolibertarianism.[2][3]

In January 1990 Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. published "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" in Liberty magazine. He wrote that paleolibertarianism was "based on a libertarian opposition to "all forms of government intervention – economic, cultural, social, international" combined with cultural conservatism in social thought and behavior. It opposes a licentious libertarianism which advocates "freedom from bourgeois morality, and social authority." Citing drug use by libertarians and the nomination of a prostitute as the California Libertarian Party candidate for lieutenant governor, Rockwell asserted that "the only way to sever libertarianism's link with libertinism is with a cleansing debate." Assailing alleged "hatred of western culture," he asserted 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." He wrote "we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste." 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." [4]

In 2003 Karen DeCoster shared an undated quote by Lew Rockwell:

Paleolibertarianism holds with Lord Acton that liberty is the highest political end of man, and that all forms of government intervention – economic, cultural, social, international – amount to an attack on prosperity, morals, and bourgeois civilization itself, and thus must be opposed at all levels and without compromise. It is 'paleo' because of its genesis in the work of Murray N. Rothbard and his predecessors, including Ludwig von Mises, Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett, and the entire interwar Old Right that opposed the New Deal and favored the Old Republic of property rights, freedom of association, and radical political decentralization. Just as important, paleolibertarianism predates the politicization of libertarianism that began in the 1980s, when large institutions moved to Washington and began to use the language of liberty as part of a grab bag of 'policy options.' Instead of principle, the neo-libertarians give us political alliances; instead of intellectually robust ideas, they give us marketable platitudes." [5]

Justin Raimondo's 1993 book Reclaiming the American Right links paleolibertarianism with the American Old Right.[6] In 2005 Karen DeCoster wrote that some paleolibertarians agree with Hans-Hermann Hoppe who writes that in a world where all property was private, immigration policy would be decided by individual property owners and not the state.[7][8]

Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard briefly supported Republican Pat Buchanan.[9] In 1992, Murray Rothbard declared that "with Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy."[10] Three years later, he said Buchanan developed too much faith in economic planning and centralized state power.[1] In 2000, Rockwell wrote of that period, "The libertarian faction of the [paleo] movement saw that far too many compromises were being made to accommodate Buchanan's increasingly idiosyncratic and statist political views. His anti-free market, pro-trade union bias was now out of the bag; indeed, it became a central theme of his campaign. The idea behind the paleo turn was to decry ideological sellout, not follow some ambitious politician down the same road!"[11]

In a 2007 interview, Rockwell revealed he no longer considered himself a "paleolibertarian" and was "happy with the term libertarian." Regarding "paleolibertarian" he asserted:

This term was designed to address a very serious problem that libertarians in Washington had come to see themselves as a pleading pressure group hoping to find "market-based" solutions to public policy problems but within public policy, and thus do they support school vouchers, limited wars, managed trade, forced savings as an alternative to social security, and the like. Unfortunately, the term paleolibertarian became confused because of its association with paleoconservative, so it came to mean some sort of socially conservative libertarian, which wasn't the point at all – though the attempted definition of libertarian as necessarily socially leftist is a problem too.[12]

During Ron Paul's run for United States Congress, several sources mentioned "paleolibertarianism" in relation to the issue of bigoted language in Ron Paul newsletters circa 1989-1994. The libertarian publication Reason asserted that "a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists—including some still close to Paul" had identified Paul associate Lew Rockwell as the "chief ghostwriter" of the newsletters. Rockwell denied it.[13]

See also


  1. Joe Conason, Rand Paul The roots of Rand Paul’s civil rights resentment, Salon, May 21, 2010.
  2. David Weigel, Slate, December 15, 2011.
  3. Alex Massie, The Spectator, December 22, 2011.

External links

  • The Rothbard-Rockwell Report - paleolibertarian journal, from 1990 to 1998 (featuring articles on paleolibertarianism; including "Why Paleo?" by Murray Rothbard)
  • "Big Government Libertarianism" by Murray Rothbard
  • "A Strategy for the Right" by Murray Rothbard
  • "Libertarianism and the Old Right", 1999 interview with Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Ludwig von Mises Institute website.
  • Brian Patrick Mitchell, Eight Ways to Run the Country: A New and Revealing Look at Left and Right, ISBN 978-0-275-99358-0
  • H. Arthur Scott Trask,, April 12, 2004.
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