The modern libertarian movement is about 50 or 60 years old,1 although its origins have been traced to previous intellectual eras and movements such as classical liberalism (and the US Founding Fathers, the Constitution, etc.), the “Old Right,”2 and even the anti-state/anarchist left.
Strategically and tactically, libertarians in our fledgling political philosophy have attempted various types of alliances with both the left and the right. On attempts to ally with the left, see, e.g., the journal co-founded by Rothbard, Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, and John Payne, Rothbard’s Time on the Left.
As for attempt to form tactical or intellectual alliances between libertarianism and the right, we can trace three attempts at a so-called “fusionism”.
First, the fusionism associated with Frank Meyer, in the 1960s, which Rothbard in 1991 referred to as the “Old Fusionism“:
- Murray N. Rothbard, “The ‘New Fusionism’: A Movement For Our Time,” Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Vol. II, no. 1, pp. 1, 3–10 (Jan. 1991), in particular pp. 1 & 3; similar to his “Fusionism”, Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Vol. VI, no. 8, pp. 1–5 (Aug. 1995), pp. 1 &3.
- Ralph Raico, The Fusionists on Liberalism and Tradition, New Individualist Review, v. 3, no. 3 (Autumn 1964)
- John Weicher, “A ‘Fusionist’ Approach to Freedom,” New Individualist Review, v. 3, no. 3 (Autumn 1964)
- Murray N. Rothbard, Frank S. Meyer: The Fusionist as Libertarian Manqué, Modern Age, pp. 352–63 (Fall 1981)
- Rothbard, “Frank Meyer and Sydney Hook,” and other essays in Part 1, “A Strategy for the Right,” in The Irrepressible Rothbard
- Rothbard, “Conservatism and Freedom: A Libertarian Comment” [PDF], Modern Age, Vol. 5, Iss. 2, p. 217 (Spring 1961)
- Liberty Fund, “Frank S. Meyer and Fusion of Freedom and Tradition” (conference abstract)
Second: the short-lived paleolibertarian/paleoconservative alliance in the mid-1990s, centered around the Chronicles magazine crowd and the Mises Institute, and the John Randolph Club meetings. Rothbard called this the “New Fusionism“. See, on this:
- Murray N. Rothbard, “The ‘New Fusionism’: A Movement For Our Time,” Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Vol. II, no. 1, pp. 1, 3–10 (Jan. 1991), and his similar “Fusionism”, Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Vol. VI, no. 8, pp. 1–5 (Aug. 1995)
- Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “Realignment on the Right?,” Conservative Review, vol. 1, no. 3 (May 1990)
- Jeffrey A. Tucker & Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Ayn Rand is Dead
- Hoppe, From Nation to Household: The Middle American Illusions of Sam Francis (and Pat Buchanan)
- Hoppe, The Property And Freedom Society—Reflections After Five Years, The Libertarian Standard (June 10, 2010); also published at VDare and as ch. 24 in The Great Fiction; video
- “Paleolibertarianism” section of Wikipedia entry for Rothbard
Third: Since the founding of the Property and Freedom Society in 2006,3 Professor Hoppe has attempted what could be referred to as a third attempt at a type of fusionism between his conservative anarcho-libertarian perspective and some sympathetic conservatives—but a careful one that is aware of the tendency of conservatives to adopt bad economics, as witnessed with the failed paleo alliance. We might call this third attempt “Cautious Fusionism.” As Hoppe noted in The Property And Freedom Society—Reflections After Five Years:
This, then, was the ultimate reason for the breakup of the libertarian-conservative alliance accomplished with the John Randolph Club: that while the libertarians were willing to learn their cultural lesson the conservatives did not want to learn their economics.
Over the years, various interesting conservative speakers have been invited to speak at the PFS and Professor Hoppe has explained the role of cultural conservatism and related pro-family values in any functioning society,4 but he has been careful to criticize conservatives when they advance illiberal ideas, as he had done regarding Sam Francis and Pat Buchanan and the failed paleo alliance, as noted above.
Thus, in 2010, for example, Richard Spencer gave a talk about the alt-right, when this movement was still in its infancy and he was just launching his Alternative Right magazine. When the contours of the alt-right became clearer later, Professor Hoppe criticized this movement and Spencer in particular in “Libertarianism and the Alt-Right: In Search of a Libertarian Strategy for Social Change (2017)“. As Hoppe writes there:
The Alt-Right movement is essentially the successor of the paleo-conservative movement that came to prominence in the early 1990’s, with columnist and best-selling author Patrick Buchanan as its best-known representative. It went somewhat dormant by the late 1990’s, and it has recently, in light of the steadily growing damage done to America and its reputation by the successive Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama administrations, reemerged more vigorous than before under the new label of the Alt-Right. Many of the leading lights associated with the Alt-Right have appeared here at our meetings in the course of the years. Paul Gottfried, who first coined the term, Peter Brimelow, Richard Lynn, Jared Taylor, John Derbyshire, Steve Sailer and Richard Spencer. As well, Sean Gabb’s name and mine are regularly mentioned in connection with the Alt-Right, and my work has been linked also with the closely related neo-reactionary movement inspired by Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug) and his now defunct blog Unqualified Reservations. In sum, these personal relations and associations have earned me several honorable mentions by America’s most famous smear-and-defamation league, the SPLC (aka Soviet Poverty Lie Center).
Now: How about the relationship between libertarianism and the Alt-Right and my reasons for inviting leading representatives of the Alt-Right to meetings with libertarians? Libertarians are united by the irrefutable theoretical core beliefs mentioned at the outset. They are clear about the goal that they want to achieve. But the libertarian doctrine does not imply much if anything concerning these questions: First, how to maintain a libertarian order once achieved. And second, how to attain a libertarian order from a non-libertarian starting point, which requires a) that one must correctly describe this starting point and b) correctly identify the obstacles posed in the way of one’s libertarian ends by this very starting point. To answer these questions, in addition to theory, you also need some knowledge of human psychology and sociology or at least a modicum of common sense. Yet many libertarians and fake libertarians are plain ignorant of human psychology and sociology or even devoid of any common sense. They blindly accept, against all empirical evidence, an egalitarian, blank-slate view of human nature, of all people and all societies and cultures being essentially equal and interchangeable.
While much of contemporary libertarianism can be characterized, then, as theory and theorists without psychology and sociology, much or even most of the Alt-Right can be described, in contrast, as psychology and sociology without theory. Alt-Righters are not united by a commonly held theory, and there exists nothing even faintly resembling a canonical text defining its meaning. Rather, the Alt-Right is essentially united in its description of the contemporary world, and in particular the US and the so-called Western World, and the identification and diagnosis of its social pathologies. In fact, it has been correctly noted that the Alt-Right is far more united by what it is against than what it is for. It is against, and indeed it hates with a passion, the elites in control of the State, the MSM and academia. Why? Because they all promote social degeneracy and pathology. Thus, they promote, and the Alt-Right vigorously opposes, egalitarianism, affirmative action (aka “non-discrimination”), multiculturalism, and “free” mass immigration as a means of bringing multiculturalism about. As well, the Alt-Right loathes everything smacking of cultural Marxism or Gramsciism and all “political correctness” and, strategically wise, it shrugs off, without any apology whatsoever, all accusations of being racist, sexist, elitist, supremacist, homophobe, xenophobe, etc., etc. And the Alt-Right also laughs off as hopelessly naïve the programmatic motto of so-called libertarians such as the Students for Liberty (which I have termed the “Stupids for Liberty” and my young German friend Andre Lichtschlag as “Liberallala-Libertarians”) of “Peace, Love, and Liberty,” appropriately translated into German by Lichtschlag as “Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen.” In stark contrast to this, Alt-Righters insist that life is also about strife, hate, struggle and fight, not just between individuals but also among various groups of people acting in concert. “Millennial Woes” (Colin Robertson) has thus aptly summarized the Alt-Right: “Equality is bullshit. Hierarchy is essential. The races are different. The sexes are different. Morality matters and degeneracy is real. All cultures are not equal and we are not obligated to think they are. Man is a fallen creature and there is more to life than hollow materialism. Finally, the white race matters, and civilization is precious. This is the Alt-Right.”
Absent any unifying theory, however, there is far less agreement among the Alt-Right about the goal that it ultimately wants to achieve. Many of its leading lights have distinctly libertarian leanings, most notably those that have come here (which, of course, was the reason for having invited them here), even if they are not 100%-ers and would not identify themselves as such. All Alt-Righters that have appeared here, for instance, have been familiar with Rothbard and his work, all the while the most recent presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party had never even heard of Rothbard’s name, and all of them, to the best of my knowledge, were outspoken supporters of Ron Paul during his primary campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination as presidential candidate, all the while many self-proclaimed libertarians attacked and tried to vilify Ron Paul for his supposedly (you already know what’s coming by now) “racist” views.
However, several of the Alt-Right’s leaders and many of its rank and file followers have also endorsed views incompatible with libertarianism. As Buchanan before and Trump now, they are adamant about complementing a policy of restrictive, highly selective and discriminating immigration (which is entirely compatible with libertarianism and its desideratum of freedom of association and opposition to forced integration) with a strident policy of restricted trade, economic protectionism and protective tariffs (which is antithetical to libertarianism and inimical to human prosperity). (Let me hasten to add here that, despite my misgivings about his “economics,” I still consider Pat Buchanan a great man.)
Others strayed even further afield, such as Richard Spencer, who first popularized the term Alt-Right. In the meantime, owing to several recent publicity stunts, which have gained him some degree of notoriety in the US, Spencer has laid claim to the rank of the maximum leader of a supposedly mighty unified movement (an endeavor, by the way, that has been ridiculed by Taki Theodoracopulos, a veteran champion of the paleo-conservative-turned-Alt-Right movement and Spencer’s former employer). When Spencer appeared here, several years ago, he still exhibited strong libertarian leanings. Unfortunately, however, this has changed and Spencer now denounces, without any qualification whatsoever, all libertarians and everything libertarian and has gone so far as to even put up with socialism, as long as it is socialism of and for only white people. What horrifying disappointment!
Given the lack of any theoretical foundation, this split of the Alt-Right movement into rival factions can hardly be considered a surprise. Yet this fact should not mislead one to dismiss it, because the Alt-Right has brought out many insights that are of central importance in approaching an answer to the two previously mentioned questions unanswered by libertarian theory: of how to maintain a libertarian social order and how to get to such an order from the current, decidedly un-libertarian status quo. The Alt-Right did not discover these insights. They had been established long before and indeed, in large parts they are no more than common sense. But in recent times such insights have been buried under mountains of egalitarian, leftist propaganda and the Alt-Right must be credited for having brought them back to light.
See also Professor Hoppe’s speech delivered at the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the PFS:
Thus, the early attempt to explore common ground with the alt-right largely failed due to the alt-right’s failures, Cautions Fusionism still seeks to inform libertarianism with various “right” insights, such as those noted in Hoppe, “A Realistic Libertarianism,” LewRockwell.com (Sept. 30, 2013), but with a refusal to overlook the unlibertarian deviations of some on the right, especially the alt-right.
I welcome any comments or suggestions on my breakdown of these three fusionisms.
- See Kinsella, “Foreword” to Chase Rachels, A Spontaneous Order: The Capitalist Case for a Stateless Society (2015). [↩]
- See, e.g., on the old right, Murray N. Rothbard, The Betrayal of the American Right. [↩]
- See Hoppe, Welcoming Remarks: The Property And Freedom Society—Reflections After Five Years; PFP046 | Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Property And Freedom Society—Reflections After Five Years (PFS 2010). [↩]
- See Hoppe, “A Realistic Libertarianism,” LewRockwell.com (Sept. 30, 2013); Democracy: The God That Failed. [↩]