Paleoconservativism vs Libertarianism

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    What is the difference between the two?

    As far as I know the two are frequently confused and mixed up together, but I know that there are some basic differences. I just don’t know what they are.

    I always thought that they were fairly similar in most ways.


    Paleoconservatives believe the nation is made of blood and soil. They are traditionalist for the most part. They are pretty standard conservative as far as I can tell. I think Tom Woods has said of Patrick Buchanan that he simply holds the views that exists pre-social revolution of the 60’s. (not negatively meant btw)

    They cherish private property but not to extent that libertarians do. They are based in history while libertarians are based in universal principles that hold for all people at all time. They are more focused on community. They are localists whereas neocons are globalists. This is also partly why you see some hostility from them towards the market although I’m not sure it is as representative of the movment as one would gather from the presence of Buchanan.

    While paleoconservative can resemble libertarians the opposite is not true. Libertarians are for the most part left-libertarian from my experience. What is often (falsely)said about libertarianism(atomistic, etc) is quite often true of libertarians. Many libertarians are also very economistic. The best case is immigration which is a pretty good way to seperate left-libertarian from a right-libertarian.

    Murray Rothbard used to employ the test of what one thought of Martin Luther King or Lincoln(and by extension the civil war). In the 90’s we saw right-libertarianism or paleo-libertarianism but it died out.


    Thanks for your input. Sorry its been a while I havw been busy. I personally classify myself as a paleoconservative, most specifically rooted in the Catholic faith. I dp however relate myself towards libertarianism as well though.

    The only aspect I don’t agree with the ideology that I believe libertarians have is that we own ourselves. Is that true? If it is I can’t personally hold it myself.


    Are you suggesting that we do not own ourselves?

    Anyway, the main difference I have seen is that the paleo-conservatives are more likely to support war and foreign intervention.


    I’m inclined to agree with you. To be more specific I would be somewhere between a right-libertarian and a paleo-conservative.

    That is not the only difference. Most libertarians don’t tend to have any problems with open borders and if they do it is mostly because we have a welfare state. Other than that they don’t see any problem. Also the libertarian view on abortion as expressed by Murray Rothbard is abhorrent to me although I don’t personally fault Rothbard for trying to think logically about what libertarianism implies. I just can’t support. Then again Ron Paul has argued against this interpretation and stated his own libertarian justification of libertarianism.

    Also I should add that Paleo’s tend to be against legalizing drugs but I suspect they would agree with libertarians that the War on Drugs is bad.


    Most libertarians don’t tend to have any problems with open borders and if they do it is mostly because we have a welfare state. Other than that they don’t see any problem.

    They are incorrect, though.

    That is, they are only looking at one facet – the economic facet of voluntary exchange.

    However, libertarianism, especially anarcho-libertarianism, also requires a community of consistent understanding of natural law, or at least libertarian principles. Any specific libertarian society’s legal code, even if that community has multiple competing protection agencies and courts, the legal code will have particularized expressions/understandings of what the libertarian principles entail. That is, as the great David Gordon mentioned, they will be worked out through convention.

    A “common law” will develop and the precise details of this could and would vary from libertarian community to another. The common law system of governance in Somali anarchism is different from that of Irish anarchism will be different from North American anarchism. David Gordon mentioned in one of his recent Mises lectures that any given libertarian community will require a common understanding of the law and common conventions in interpreting and applying the principles of libertarianism.

    Which is to say, Hoppe is rather correct on this point. People from different cultures will – and it is completely acceptable for them to do so – have different means of governing even under libertarian principles and a libertarian society will have to maintain itself by not having absolutely open borders. Free trade and free exchange, but not absolutely free entry for permanent residency and membership. Joining the community would thus be subject to certain stipulations including to agree to accept the rules/legal conventions as worked out in that particular libertarian society rather than insisting upon the ones from one’s own community (“multicultiralism” in the strong, leftist sense; – something that is not possible anyhow).

    Libertarian communities cannot be “neutral among conceptions of the good” anymore than progressive-statist liberalism can be, in practice. Though it can be tolerant of a certain amount of exceptions living among them (say an 80-20 rule; that is to say, 80% cohesion, 80% of people essentially agreeing within any particular libertarian community/society, with 20% being “resident aliens,” metics, holding whatever outlandish beliefs they may want to hold – including a perverse belief in welfare-statism progressivism).

    This is not to say a libertarian community will have to be a mind control state insisting upon conformity of belief and conformity of opinion; – it is just to say that if there is wide disagreement, it will break down. Then one will get the “bad” (prototypically-understood) anarchism, the sort of anarchism that is the popular definition of anarchism (Beirut in the ’80s “anarchism”), with factions fighting because they hold widely differing conceptions and beliefs.

    Thus, as I have said before; – and so far this is my fullest (but still badly put) expression of why this is – to the extent to which libertarians (including the otherwise great Bob Murphy) have supported “open borders” in the now, under the current welfare-state-multiculturalism system, they have taken themselves out back behind the barn and shot themselves in the back of the head.

    They have guaranteed the exact opposite of what they might want.

    The only way, the absolute only way, however slim the chance would be, to achieve their goals is to get a libertarian system in place first, and then invite anyone who wants to share in it and who pledges to adopt and accept the same understanding/conventions in how it will be governed to join it, but reject anyone who refuses to live under the same understanding (such people can found their own libertarian society/community, however large or small, and put in place their own particular understanding and their own particular conventions, and likewise invite others to join it) – something like the “Utopia” in Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (his much-neglected last chapter). [Take one obvious but non-ethnic/cultural example: I wish Left-Libertarians all the best, I hope it works out for them, but I myself have no interest in living in a economic Left-Libertarian community while, even though I’m a minarchist – mostly for pessimistic reasons – I would love to live in a economically Right/Paeleo-libertarian community.]

    But the problem with libertarians on this score is they focus on one aspect of things here, the economic aspect, and on the “freedom of association” aspect, in a society (any modern Western society) that does not actually allow “freedom of association” (which includes the right not to associate). So, as a compromise for my above, I would suggest that they fight for, and put in place, true freedom of association before insisting upon “open borders.” But they know that will be folly, futile, they will not get that under the current dispensation; the only thing they will get is harangued for being “closet racists” (which they are not) who want to “return to Jim Crow and Sundown Towns,” (which they do not).

    Which again illustrates that while they understand this reality, but continue to push for “open borders” on the grounds of “I should be free to associate with whomever i want, it’s my right – plus it is economically advantageous,” they are doing nothing more than slitting their own ideological throats and lending weight to statists who want nothing more than to reduce liberty to a political nullity. Great job, thanks for playing, better luck next millennium in some other civilization.


    I agree completely. I suppose their thinking is that they won’t compromise on the means.

    The problem is that among mainstream libertarians they don’t even see the problem with allowing free migration in a welfare state not to mention seeing any problem allowing migrants into a society of free association. Steve Sailer has pointed how many libertarian economists can’t apply even the most basic economics to immigration.


    What is the objection to the idea of self-ownership? I imagine a religious response might be: God owns me. But by the same token, then, God would also own your house and your car, and yet you do not say: “I cannot believe in my ownership of my house or my ownership of my car.”


    Thanks Tom Woods for your response. Seeing the following video helped me a bit
    Where do rights come from?

    I have been studying different political beliefs and like another poster I find myself in midrow between Paleoconservativism and Paleolibertarianism.


    Some great posts here, and I greatly appreciate everyone’s input. Porphyrogenitus, or anyone else could please give a description of minarchism?

    Thanks much!


    Minarchism, in brief, is the belief that somehow, via some means not yet devised (but perhaps the Founders were on to something, though their own plan was flawed), The State can be kept limited; it can be constructed such that it keeps to a few functions, and constructed in such a way that it performs them well, or at least not so poorly as anyone would be overly bothered by it (one can see the attraction of this even in non-minarchist, philosophical anarchists, who believe that while the state isn’t morally justified, and it is at best difficult and at worst impossible to limit government, but who nonetheless believe that it would be at least an improvement if we could move in the direction of minarchy, and thus they promote tools and means by which the behemoth of centralized statism can be rolled back).

    In brief, minarchy is a government that sticks to three things: external defense against other states, internal protection against crime, and adjudication. Preferably it has divided responsibility, and not entire responsibility, over at least some of that (localization-federalism).

    One possible idea for maintaining that over time is a somewhat hobbesean one of having the government feel itself secure; this is sort of Hoppe’s argument (though he is not a minarchist or a monarchist); a government that is securely in possession will want “its” lands to be prosperous, and profitable, and thus adopt better policies (less interventionism, less vote-buying, and so on). I’m not sure this works.

    I do tend to agree with Randall Holcombe, despite the critiques (that I do recommend be taken into consideration). I think even on Holcombe’s own terms his article (“unecessary but inevitable”) is misnamed, because in it he argues that people will impose a government upon themselves to perform the above functions (external defense, internal security, and adjudication).

    I respect Robert “Bob” Murphy but have found his arguments for private security (here and here) to not be satisfying. In part because I think it is backwards, indeed IMO many libertarians argue backwards on this: Murphy argues that the difficult thing is internal security (police functions), and once that is overcome, external defense is comparatively easy. Then he makes arguments on external security that IMO may not obtain at all (and if they do, will quite possibly result in…a government; not for Nozickian reasons, but for Rothbardian ones: cartels fail on the free market because they lack an enforcement mechanism. However, the security agencies that he posits will cooperate and obtain interoperability in confronting external threats, will not cooperate and use their armed force to impose their cartel internally. Note this is not a moral objection to anarchism; it does not argue that such a state would be justified).

    Plenty of libertarians also argue that defense against external threats would be easy for a libertarian society because there is no central authority for a foe to target, it would be “hard” for an external force to impose control because they’d have to go door to door, and the like. These things are not problematic at all for an army (especially a ruthless enough one): usually in the “modern” world’s total wars when an invading army conquers an area (say, the Soviet Army moving into Berlin), the opponent’s government does break down, and the conquering army has no real difficulty imposing itself on the population and subduing them.

    There is also the argument that a libertarian society will become “so rich” they will be able to outspend, and be much more efficient in doing so, any potential enemy. This has some merit but ignores the “transition point” – it is a form of static equilibrium, ignoring the fact that moving from the wealth-state of nonlibertarian society to the wealth of a libertarian society will be a process, not an event; and in the interim there will, at minimum, be a period when it is wealthy enough to be attractive to capture but not wealthy enough to be so powerful as to be immune to attack.

    Another libertarian argument is that “no one will want to attack, precisely because the wealth of a libertarian society is a process, not an event, and capturing it will be useless to any attacker if it destroys that wealth;” however, this possibility has never stopped invaders from coveting wealthy areas before, or indeed benefiting from shearing the sheep on an ongoing basis once they have succeeded.

    Also, the very decentralization of a libertarian society – or, rather, societies – can potentially work against them. As one successful conqueror put it “quantity has a quality all its own”; that is, the Soviet Army may have been inefficient, it may have squandered its soldier’s lives on a massive scale, but it was successful nevertheless. And this is not a unique situation; armies of economically weaker and culturally more backwards areas have not infrequently conquered superior places, including ones with more efficient armies (note they have also lost to such places, and usually do, but the point is: they do not always lose, so that indicates the problem is not so easily dispatched).

    Even in internal security/private security, IMO there are things that trip up the theory. Just the other day Robert “Bob” Murphy had post suggesting that the actions – or, rather, inactions – by the Cleveland PD on the three abducted girls constituted “a point in favor of private competing police services.”

    IMO, while that example did constitute an argument against state/government police forces, it did not necessarily constitute an argument in favor of private ones. After all, if a neighbor heard screams from the house, and called his PDA (Private Defense Agency), on what grounds would the defense agency act? Ariel Castro had not committed any aggression against the neighbor phoning in the tip, and the PDA would not know if anyone in the house was a client of theirs until after the fact (that is, after someone got out). For all they would know someone was engaging in consensual S&M, and the PDA would be committing an act of aggression (trespass) by going on Ariel Castro’s land to investigate the report. The three women, and/or their families would probably have contracts with a PDA, but not necessarily the same one, and again no PDA would know where their client was until after the fact of their discovery. Thus any argument to the effect that PDAs, with their profit motive, would have been more efficient in investigating the crime (while also not aggressing against anyone suspected of being an abductor) is purely hypothetical.

    In closing: none of the above objections I made are dispositive against libertarian anarchism. Only a few of them potentially address the moral justification for a state (in other words: a lot of these critiques have little to do with whether a state is morally justified, and only to do with if it is possible). I myself would be happy to be proven wrong. For better or worse I do not think this will be a problem in our lifetimes, and am happy to be in the company of AnCaps working towards the same goal. I’ll stay on the bus as far as it goes and if it stops in the endpoint they desire, and that enpoint is stable, I will not be unhappy to be proven wrong.

    Thus in general I do not spend too much time arguing against their moral case for anarchy (note again that in the above I point out the practical difficulties, because I do not think they have done enough work on those, and I like to pour encourager les autres).

    One of my personal intellectual projects is to try to come up with a mechanism for keeping a minimal state minimal. That is the distinct problem with my position, and the anarchists can rightly say that all work done so far to devise a system that will prevent the state from growing and transgressing rights (any more than a minimal government already infringes upon them by its very existence) has failed. So we each face our technical-practical problems.

    Which also makes me not much of a “salesman” for minarchy. Overall I think that all the moral arguments against the state, while not necessarily compelling (I mean this in the sense that David Gordon might, about being careful about too quick in dismissing other philosophical positions, even though he himself is a Rothbardian), have a lot of weight and I am thinking them through before concluding, myself, whether they are entirely correct that no state is justified, or if there is a flaw. (I haven’t yet found a flaw, so this is one reason why, in the above, there the central issue is not the moral justification of minarchy). I have concluded that if there is a flaw in the argument for libertarian anarchy, it is in overlooking something: that is, a consideration that is missing, rather than a step that is in error.

    If I were to make a moral case for minarchy it would be Rothbardian in nature, Eudamonist: if humanity can flourish without a state, then it should do so, but if cannot, if a state (government in the conventional sense) is necessary for human flourishing, then a government (in the conventional sense) ought to exist, but involving the least possible infringement upon human liberty (all states/governments-in-the-conventional-sense, involve some infringements upon liberty; which is why libertarians conclude they are not morally justified). Experience, IMO, so far teaches us that some government is necessary (I distinguish “government” from “governance” – Rothbardian anarcho-libertarianism has governance and the rule of law, without the state). But I’m not only willing to be proven wrong, I want to be proven wrong.

    In any case, we’re all on the same page when it comes to reducing it to the maximal extent possible; if that means we end up in minarchy, AnCaps will be unsatisfied, but at least feel their lot has improved compared to what it is now (a Misesian improvement in utility! – greater satisfaction than at present). If it means we end up at libertarian anarchy, great.

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