April 22, 2014

Paleos are We

By In Articles, Society and Culture

Conservatives are reactionaries.  That’s the story anyway.  Some self-described conservatives seek to distance themselves from such a description.  I personally see no reason to; I would be dishonest in doing so.  Somewhere along the way, something has gone terribly wrong. Everyday the state grows and the culture disintegrates a little more.  It’s worse than that though.  People have large grins on their face as they give way to the social rot and the Government-driven decay around us.  One might consider that the world’s next tyrant would rise swiftly but be opposed by masses in Guy Fawkes masks.  This is untrue.  Tyrants in our democratic world are put in place by majority vote.  Democracy is the cause of our demise.  Democracy is politically-institutionalized socialism.

As the society goes, so goes the electorate.  Democracy the sham!

Murray Rothbard once noted that “the conservative has long been marked, whether he knows it or not, by long-run pessimism: by the belief that the long run trend, and therefore time itself, is against him, and hence the inevitable trend runs toward left-wing statism at home and Communism abroad.”  There is a troubling optimism that plagues the new conservatives, or more properly, the neoconservatives, today.  The neocons, who forced themselves in to the conservative movement after proceeding forward from their leftist and Trotskyite roots, are optimists, not pessimists.  But it is my contention that the conservative is properly a pessimist.

The reader might be confused here; especially if he is a Christian. Is not Christ our hope? What better case for optimism exists than that?

Let me then define what it means to be a pessimist in our present context.  The pessimist sees the world getting worse and worse until the return of Christ Jesus.  The pessimist sees the State as having an inherent tendency to grow, no matter the culture and no matter the season.  Governments love power and those in control love to pretend that they themselves are divine; that they are above, and therefore can write, the laws for mankind.  The pessimist has a profound distrust for power, for behind the politicians creative and well-crafted rhetoric, there exists a foolish and radically depraved power-hungry wolf.  Are all political leaders to be categorized like this? There are certainly exceptions, just as it is conceivable that I may win the lottery without even entering.

When one looks out to American society, when he reads the polls and follows the blogs, it is crystal clear that Babylon is falling again.  Don’t just envision the capitol falling to the ground in flames like Rome.  Picture a people who are illiterate, addicted to silly and absurd tv shows, and who spend 7 hours a day on their phone’s Facebook app. Surely mankind wasn’t supposed to live like this.  We hear of innovations and inventions and technological progress by the hour.  But such progress will not save us.  The atomic bomb was the product of brilliant scientific inquiry and investigation; and by it hundreds of thousands have been murdered.

Pessimism is not sadness.  Pessimism is not depression.  Paleo-conservative John Derbyshire wrote in his book We are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism that “there is no necessary connection between a pessimistic outlook and a melancholy temperament.”  Rather, as Derbyshire writes, “the core of a proper conservative pessimism [is] the recognition that there is little hope for improvement in this world; that such small hope as there is should be directed toward the actions of one, or a few; and that most of what governments do is wicked, when not merely pointless and counterproductive.”

To drive this point home: the proper sphere of difference making, for the conservative, is local, community, and family oriented.  For the (modern, American) liberal, the sphere of difference making is national and international.  This gives the Progressive the bigger megaphone.  And one (among thousands) neoconservative mistake was to attempt to take over the megaphone and spout forth the conservative vision of the future, to be pursued by the next Republican administration.  This is inherently unconservative.

Now, such is the conservative mindset: wariness and hesitency toward social progress and government expansion, due to his pessimistic view of human nature.  The libertarian political theory, on the other hand, is not a mood as is conservatism.  That is, the libertarian is not wary of government expansion by virtue of of his view of human nature.  For libertarianism does not require a certain view of human nature.  The libertarian is wary of government expansion because this would necessarily require the dismissal of property rights and the squelching of individual liberty.  Libertarianism is by its nature thin, it is a bare bones philosophy that addresses the use of coercion in society.  Libertarianism then can be coupled with either Progressivism or Conservatism, but does not require either one.

I am a Conservative-libertarian, or a paleolibertarian.  As noted previously, I do not seek here to qualify my libertarianism, but rather to clarify my holistic view of things.  To be sure, I do believe that humans are totally depraved.  But I do not believe this based on the libertarian political theory.  I believe this based on my theological convictions.

I have also written before, in an article discussing Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s paleolibertarian vision, that libertarian’s thinness is coupled well with a conservative mindset:

Beyond this, Hoppe points out that conservatism (which tends to be “empiricistic, sociological, and descriptive”) focuses on “families, authority, communities, and social ranks while libertarianism (which is “rationalistic, philosophical, logical, and constructivist”) focuses on the “concepts of property, production, exchange, and contract.”  And therefore the former is the “concretization” of the latter.  Conservatism needs a theory and libertarianism has practical expressions –that is, a natural and physical order.  If conservatism desires to return to a “moral and cultural normalcy,” it needs libertarianism’s consistent and defensible antistatism.

The more I read, the more paleo I become; so it seems.  Hans Hoppe was once called the last paleolibertarian.  There are others of course, including the enjoyable Ilana Mercer.   Derbyshire writes of paleolibertarianism: “And then there are the paleolibertarians, defined by Arthur Pendleton on VDARE.com as adherents of ‘the once-promising intellectual movement that stayed true to libertarian principles while opposing open borders, libertinism, egalitarianism, and political correctness.'”

These days, the paleolibertarian is so far in the minority that most have no idea of our existence.  Libertarian is a great label to describe us, for we adhere strictly and deductively to individual property rights originating in the individual’s exclusive control of his own independent body.  We are paleos for reasons outside of that.  For instance, we consider abortion as murder, open boarders as forced integration, libertines as morally reckless and socially detrimental, egalitarianism as “a revolt against nature.”  We clarify that we are paleos because the common assumption is that libertarians are socially progressive, and accepting of all sorts of lifestyles and habits that we find troublesome.  We feel no guilt in recognizing wrongs, speaking up against poor behavior, and vocalizing our belief system even though the winds of Political Correctness blow harshly against us.  We are called bigots because we do not see homosexuality as beautiful, racists because we oppose affirmative action legistlation in higher education, and sexists because we consider feminism as an annoyance.

Some say that the above does not seem very libertarian, that is, it does not reflect the spirit of liberty.  But this misunderstands liberty and the libertarianism that was expanded by the likes of Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, and Hans Hoppe.  Liberty is about private property.  Libertarianism recently smacks of Progressivism (and even marxism!) in a way that it never has before.  The label itself is being warred over.  It is being taken over by the libertines.  This is a terrible thing.

But we pessimists knew it would come eventually.  We expect it. The world trends this way.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com