Ron Paul and the Libertarian Moment

Ron Paul and the Libertarian Moment

Walter Block’s Self-Hating Libertarian defense of Ron Paul is not compelling. The “Self Hating X” argument is nothing more than an accusation that the consequences of rejecting a claimed premise necessary for X implies you hate X. It originates with the derogatory label, “self-hating jew,” a label that could be applied to both Block and Rothbard.1

I have no idea idea why Block would wish to re-package that garbage label as a libertarian accusation, other than the fact he has no real libertarian defense of Paul against a logical critique. Indeed, Block’s accusation of Stephen Molyneux being a “State lover” because of his critique of Paul’s constitutional apologetics is nonsense. That claim is something that needs to be demonstrated, and not supposed.

The following Block claims can be readily challenged:

  • We are now at a point in time where, thanks to Dr. Ron Paul, people are hearing of libertarianism to a degree that possibly never before occurred in our entire history.
  • Ron Paul is from “flyover” country. He is not “sophisticated.” He is a rube. If you look closely, he has hay on his suit. Our sophisticated libertarians thus see him as an embarrassment.
  • Historically, I view libertarianism as three wings–capitalist(Bastiat), Socialist(Proudhon), and Communist(Déjacque)–that emerged from radical French liberalism. Immediately, we would have to qualify what “our history” means since there is an unequivocal case that from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century what we would call “social anarchism” was by far ascendant over what we would call liberal or individualist anarchism. Social anarchism was the “mass movement”(a labor movement) while liberal anarchism was much more of an intellectual movement(literary and journalist). It would be social anarchism that would challenge and rock the foundations of Western governments; liberal anarchism was more or less relegated to the east coast “literati”(to borrow a recent Newt Gingrich term).

    So let us dispense with the rube that we are in the midst of some unprecedented libertarian moment and drop the pretension of a “populist” appeal against “east-coast libertarianism.”

    Today, liberal anarchism is far ascendant to social anarchism as the primary challenge to the State. Social anarchism, which can be identified as a radical labor movement, was expropriated and assimilated into the progressive corporate liberal borg. Progressivism destroyed social anarchism. Social anarchism has never recovered from this and likely never will.

    Now, can we credit Ron Paul for the rise of today’s liberal anarchism? Hardly. This ascendancy is not rooted in liberal economic argument. Rather it is cultural, and we can perhaps best summarize it by the term, “lifestyle anarchism.” Lifestyle anarchism provides a path back to liberal individual autonomy, but the modern genesis of this was the 60s counter-culture movement, which itself was not a self-conscious libertarian movement.

    I credit the likes of Murray Rothbard for hooking a New Left class critique of American progressivism on top of the momentum of lifestyle anarchism to forge a second self-identified libertarian movement in the US. However, I also credit Murray Rothbard with attempting to later unhook libertarianism from lifestyle anarchism with the pursuit of the so-called “Paleo phase,” which was a disaster.

    In terms of Rothbardian proteges, I would associate Karl Hess with the earlier Rothbard and Ron Paul with the second, “Paleo” Rothbard.

    Paul represents a legitimate dilemma for liberal anarchism. He is not source of liberal anarchism’s rise but he is certainly capitalizing from it. On one hand, his non-interventionist challenge to the Orwellian Double-think of American Empire is invaluable. But on the other hand, his “sanctity of life” union with the libertarian principle, as means to gain majority traction within the GOP, utterly undermines the very lifestyle anarchist underpinning of modern liberal anarchism.

    The “Ron Paul Revolution,” as it pertains to assimilation into the GOP Borg, promises to do to liberal anarchism what the “progressive revolution” did to social anarchism.

    So, two cheers for Ron Paul, but death to the GOP. The consequences of the latter development do not finger me as a “self-hating libertarian.” Quite the contrary…

    1 Specifically, the term “Self-Hating Jew” refers to a baseless accusation that the consequences of rejecting Zionism means you hate Judaism. Certainly,Rothbard qualified as being guilty of this accusation.

    4 thoughts on “Ron Paul and the Libertarian Moment

    1. There is no such thing as “liberal anarchism”, that’s an oxymoron. Anarchism isn’t just any ideology that advocates voluntarism or a stateless society, it’s a specific form of a voluntary stateless society, namely a socialist one.

      Them, anarchism can be split into two socialist camps: social anarchism and individualist anarchism.

      Socialism anarchism encompasses collectivist and communist anarchism.

      Just sayin’

      1. Thanx for the comments.

        There is no such thing as “liberal anarchism”, that’s an oxymoron. Anarchism isn’t just any ideology that advocates voluntarism or a stateless society, it’s a specific form of a voluntary stateless society, namely a socialist one.

        Of course, I disagree. From my other posts regarding “moral foundations,” you are essentially arguing that anarchism requires a meta-ethical foundation. I would argue that is a recipe for totalitarian moral claims.

        Liberal anarchism essentially is American individualist anarchism. Here, I would point to Benjamin Tucker, who divorced it from any moral foundation.

        In the end, anarchism simply means what it’s Greek etymological origin means: “no ruling class”

    2. But on the other hand, his “sanctity of life” union with the libertarian principle, as means to gain majority traction within the GOP, utterly undermines the very lifestyle anarchist underpinning of modern liberal anarchism.

      I don’t see how. Paul is not an anarchist, and his argument against abortion is that the Federal government should not be involved with it. Since he’s running for Federal office, this is adequate for me. I understand how people might not _trust_ him by extrapolating from this value to some basic lack of libertarian purity, but that’s a totally different matter with respect to libertarian principle than what we can reasonably be expected to use the ballot to realize.

      But I’m more alarmed by the use of “lifestyle anarchist” as anything more than a pejorative term. I mean, really: is there one lifestyle that all anarchists must subscribe to? If there is, I suppose I have to find another word to describe my political tendencies.

      1. But I’m more alarmed by the use of “lifestyle anarchist” as anything more than a pejorative term. I mean, really: is there one lifestyle that all anarchists must subscribe to?

        Means quite the opposite, actually. I’m not sure how you are arriving at the conclusion that “lifestyle anarchism”=one lifestyle…

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