Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
The political history of the United States has been the chronicle of the Hamiltonian rout over Jefferson. Indeed, it could be said the adoption of the constitution itself was the first example of this. The Jefferson credo of “governments deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” had been usurped by a document that initially instituted a government that denied the ability to express consent or dissent to roughly 90% of the people. In a constitutional framework, the Jeffersonians would further sow the seeds of their own destruction, practicing American expansionism while holding national power, yet representing States who enforced chattel slavery. Land expansionism and technological progress would bring the issue of chattel slavery to the fore, with the end result being the violent subjugation of the South to the North. Jeffersonianism was effectively dead.
Historically, libertarianism originates out of French radicalism and the radical French liberal tradition that had developed as a consequence of the rife political corruption that had long plagued both Aristocratic and revolutionary France. In post civil war America, the birth of the original American libertarian movement was the consequence of the intellectual synthesis of French radicalism with “consistent Jeffersonianism,” resulting in a social/political philosophy known as “individualist anarchism.” The primary exponent of this philosophy was the “Boston Anarchist School,” led by Benjamin Tucker. It should be noted that “individualist anarchism” was a subset of a more general radical, anarchist politics that festered in the late 19th century America in the aftermath of the civil war. What distinguished the american libertarians from the other radical movements was, in large, the superb scholarship of Tucker’s periodic journal, Liberty, which not only promulgated a consistent philosophical critique against the State, but published and translated the works of some of the finest literary and philosophical minds in the world at the time.
The Individualist Anarchist critique the State is centered around a radical class analysis of 4 State-privilege monopolies:
1) The Money Monopoly
2) The Land Monopoly
3) The Patent Monopoly
4) The Tariff Monopoly
It should be noted that Tucker considered individualist anarchism to be a form of socialism and viewed the 4 monopolies as the root of the “labor problem.” In the libertarian scheme, get rid of the monopolies in money, land, patents, intellectual copyright, and trade protectionism, and the conditions of the workers would be greatly improved. However, it is also obvious that the “libertarian movement” was in variance with the “reform movements” that would eventually gain political power in late 19th century and early 20th century America. If you read this post a Freedom Democrats, I discuss how the initial “reform movement” was the Bourbon democrats who were able to interrupt post-civil war/reconstruction Republican rule by the defection of the so-called Mugwumps. Although the reign of Grover Cleveland is typically presented as the apex of laissez faire capitalism, it was, in actuality, a part of a reform movement against the perceived political corruption and political patronage. As I also discuss, the Bourbon Democrats eventually gave way to reformist movements in both political parties that could be defined as “progressive.” Libertarianism didn’t survive long into the 20th century either. The Liberty Periodical ceased publication in the early part of the century and Benjamin Tucker would emigrate to France, never to be heard from again for the most part.
It would be a mistake to view “progressive reform” as a unified movement at the turn of the 20th century, but it would be fair to say that the end result of the two global wars and the New Deal was a unified ideology of “Corporate Liberalism.” By the end of WWII, radicalism was dead in the United States. The other curious phenomenon was the shift of the exiled Bourbon Democrats to the the GOP, forming a “classical liberal wing” of the GOP, the so-called “Old Right.” The Old Right was never a dominant political faction in the GOP, but as a network of intellectuals, writers, politicians, and private businessmen, it did keep alive the published writings and ideas of the old 19th century radicals. But libertarianism, to call it that, became a right-wing subsidiary to a burgeoning conservative movement in post WWII America.
Whereas libertarianism can be defined as the marriage of consistent Jeffersonianism with the radical French liberal tradition, National Corporatism, as an ideology, can be defined as the marriage of consistent Hamiltonianism with the Prussian conservative tradition.
more coming soon…