There has been a lot of hooting and hollering lately in libertarian circles, particularly as it relates to the Ron Paul campaign. This seems to be representative of a broader conflict between "culturally left" and "culturally conservative" libertarians. It is becoming commonplace for critics and opponents of Ron Paul, as well as people who are simply neutral to him, to be labeled "CosmoBeltwayCentralistTarians". It is important to note that this is a cluster-concept or a package deal term. It lumps multiple distict ideas together into one: cosmopolitanism, association with the beltway and support for centralization. But it is disingenous to imply that all of these things inherently imply the other. It is even more disingenous to imply that libertarian critics and opponents of Ron Paul inherently must be on the pro-war bandwagon. Lumping pro-war, cosmopolitanism, centralization, association with and criticism and opposition to Ron Paul together into one package deal is simply unfair. Especially as it relates to anarchist and anti-voting critics who see the Ron Paul crowd as being the true "beltway libertarians".

What exactly is cosmopolitanism anyways? Philosophical cosmopolitans are moral universalists: they believe that all humans, and not merely compatriots or fellow-citizens, come under the same moral standards. The boundaries between nations, states, cultures or societies are therefore morally irrelevant. Based on this understanding of cosmopolitanism, how can any libertarian possibly object to it? Is libertarianism not based on the non-aggression principle, and does the non-aggression principle not apply consistantly to all human beings? If the non-aggression principle is only applied to certain nations or other such groups of human beings, then it no longer is being consistantly applied. Cosmopolitanism can be seen as a logical extension of individualism in that moral standards apply to individual human beings, not exclusively to group-identities.

Some would have us believe that cosmopolitanism (and the opposition to nationalism and political borders that comes along with it) inherently implies support for global government, but this is not necessarily the case. It is true that some cosmopolitans may come to the conclusion that there needs to be a global government, but under logical examination their conclusion is actually inconsistant with cosmopolitanism because a global government will be run by an exclusive and small group of individuals who are not held to the same moral standards as everyone else. Even a global government would lack universal application of moral principles. No, the logical conclusion of cosmopolitanism is not global government, but the exact opposite: no government. To the philosophical anarchist, governments are illegitimate in part precisely because they represent an inconsistant application of morality. Along with reasons having to do with the problem of territorial monopoly, the anarchist may very well oppose political borders because they represent artificial divisions that allow moral inconsistancy.

On the question of centralization and decentralization, it is often implied that left-leaning libertarians and libertarian opponents of Ron Paul object to decentralization and favor federal dictation when it comes to certain issues. But this is also fallacious. Take the issue of abortion for example. Sometimes pro-choice libertarians are accused of supporting the idea that the federal government should essentially mandate abortion everywhere, and therefore favor centralization. But at least for this pro-choice libertarian's perspective, that's not exactly how it works. Once again, we are trying to consistantly apply principles. Many pro-choice libertarians would not support a federal ban or federal subsidization of abortion. But the point is that the same principle should apply to the states and localities. If it is true that the state has no legitimate authority to decide on the issue in either direction, then in principle no level of government may outlaw or subsidize abortion. Principles must apply consistantly.

It is of course true that a state's rights approach to the issue would be preferable to a federal approach, but a state's rights approach is still not entirely consistant. In short, from the fact that centralization at the federal level is potentially much worse then state's rights, it does not follow that states or localities may legitimately have carte blanch to do just about everything that the federal level is prohibited from doing. Decentralization, taken to its logical conclusion, leads to individual sovereignty. State's rights is actually a rather moderate form of decentralization. At least from an anarchist libertarian perspective, states of any sort don't have any rights. Individuals do. So the point is: go ahead and leave such issues to the states, but don't just stop there. Keep pushing for consistancy. Keep pushing for more and more decentralization. Don't just transfer governmental powers to the state or local levels and then suddenly fully support those powers.

Another disingenous set of claims is that "left-libertarians" and libertarian opponents of Ron Paul are erroneously defining libertarianism as a lifestyle, making it seem as if libertarianism requires one to personally support alternative lifestyles and "culturally left" causes. But strangley enough, I have yet to meet a left-libertarian that actually has made such a claim. On the one hand, this accusation is fallacious in that it equates support for the liberty of people to engage in such "culturally left" activities with active support for and participation in those activities. Someone may radically support someone's right to engage in all sorts of activities that they do not actually personally favor. On the other hand, this charge could easily be leveled at "culturally conservative" libertarians who appear to imply that cultural homogeniety, traditionalism and religiosity is a requirement for a functional free society. In the atempt to achieve such things, there is always a dangerous temptation to use political power. What many left-libertarians fear is not the freedom of people to hold and practise culturally conservative lifestyles, but the possibility that they will be enforced through political means. But this does not mean that culturally left libertarians are themselves going to support political means in order to deliberately attack things such as religion and racism.

Insofar as the culture question is concerned, no particular cultural views or practises are a requirement for a libertarian society. This is libertarianism in a narrow sense, as a political philosophy in which whatever is voluntary gets a green light. However, libertarianism as a broad philosophy may very well be seen as being compatible with certain cultural causes, and that some cultural sentiments and practises may be more conductive to a free society then others. It is important to emphasize the difference between cultural views or practises being a requirement and being compatible and/or conductive. No serious left-libertarian would claim that you have to be an anti-racist and secularlist in order to be a libertarian. However, they would quite likely see such views and causes as being compatible with libertarianism. They may very well approach libertarianism in a broad sense in which there are non-governmental forms of coercion or oppression that deserve opposition. Afterall, states are not the only institutions that violate the non-aggression principle. Why should private organizations that engage in fraud and coercive usury, along with religious institutions that instigate conflicts, be given a free pass?

While there may certainly be some legitimate criticisms of libertarian deviations towards the "left", deviations towards the "right" deserve close scrutiny. If there are "CosmoBeltwayCentralistTarians", there are also "PaleoConservaNationalistTarians". There is of course nothing inherently wrong with a libertarian holding "culturally conservative" views, but some of these people hardly can be described as consistantly keeping them personal and not supporting political means towards their ends. A "PaleoConservaNationalistTarian" may harbor any combination of the following traits: nationalism, populism, opposition to immigration, support for protectionism, constitutionalism, pro-family, sympathies for monarchy, anti-abortion, anti-secularism and racism. To the "PaleoConservaNationalistTarian", the white anglo-saxon is America's persecuted majority. Behold the white proleteriet's burden! Multiculturalism and secularism are viewed exclusively as being a political system that is enforced onto the persecuted majority of white Christians. Opposition to government mandated religion is equated to persecution of Christians. Accordingly, we must close and secure "the borders", deport the evil Mexicans who are "stealing our jobs", buy American products only, fight toothe and nail for conservative judges, try to get abortion illegalized at the state (or federal) level and support theocracy on the "local level".

While many of these libertarians quite likely have wonderful track records on questions of war and foreign policy, it seems that they have a tendency to reconcentrate such militartistic means into domestic police powers. Since they are nationalistic, they may very well see a "proper role" for the military and paramilitary forces on our own domestic soil: to stop people from entering the territory and to monitor those who do enter the territory for drugs, disease, criminal records, citezenship and visas. According to these people, if an individual does not have the explicit permission of the government, they may not own property, have a job or possess any negative rights whatsoever within the territory. Without such permission, the government has free reign to kidnap you and forcibly exile you from the territory. Additionally, allegedly there is nothing wrong with the government using the tax-payer's money to fund gigantic border fences and maintain a massive immigration beureacracy to keep track of who is who and where they are. Oh, and you can kiss the free market in language goodbye, since the government must mandate uniformity in language all across the country. "National sovereignty" is a high priority, higher then individual sovereignty apparently.

Some of these same people who would gladly do away with the federal department of education simultaneously have no problem with local school boards dictating the curriculum to be taught children. Indeed, all things that the federal government is not supposed to do, "the community", or what in reality is more local state bodies acting in the name of "the community", may legitimately decide. Collectivism (which always is imposed by what amounts to an oligarchy in reality) at the federal level is bad, but apparently collectivism at the more homely level has free reign. This approach may be more libertarian then having the federal government do such things, but it certainly is not consistantly libertarian. There are many double-standards that may be supported in a more local way. Forced integration bad, forced segregation good. Government-enforced secularism bad, government-enforced religiosity good. Clearly, the "PaleoConservaNationalistTarians" are not innocent when it comes to the use of political means towards their ends, particularly if the means are not federal.

Then there is their support for constitutionalism and the "rule of law". The problem here is that the "rule of law" is a myth and libertarian theory has long since debunked the common conception of the social contract. Of course, there's also the problem that enforcing the law for the sake of it being the law is not consistant with any libertarian conception of law. Libertarianism involves an independant theory of justice that whatever the law happens to be must be held up to. There is also a post-ponement arguement often made, which essentially states that because the current system and certain set of laws exist, it should be enforced for the time being until certain things are done away with first. Only when certain things are gone, such as the welfare state, can we move on to persueing other goals, so claims the "PaleoConservaNationalistTarian". Strategically, this only keeps the system in place. Such an attitude in itself post-pones change. Such gradualism is perpetuity in practise. Libertarianism is "radical" in that it always keeps pushing for the ultimate goal, it does not post-pone one section of its own goals by putting them to the side until other goals are first met, or it does not obtain (partially or fully) a goal and then stop there and be content with the status quo when there are other goals to be met or the goal is not fully met yet.

The problem with "PaleoConservaNationalistTarians" is that in the attempt to preserve traditions and create homogeniety they sometimes end up supporting political means. PaleoConservaNationalistTarians hold onto a historical view that is conservative in that they glorify the past. Tradition is to be preserved at all costs, while deviations are to be opposed toothe and nail. PaleoConservaNationalistTarians wish to "restore the Republic". But clocks cannot be turned back. In the attempt to turn clocks back, however, a lot of damage can potentially be done.


# Ron Paul » PaleoConservaNationalistTarians said on 30 January, 2008 06:05 AM

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# Ron Paul » PaleoConservaNationalistTarians said on 30 January, 2008 06:10 AM

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# Ron Paul On The Issues said on 30 January, 2008 06:26 AM

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# Ron Paul » PaleoConservaNationalistTarians said on 30 January, 2008 06:41 AM

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# occasionalreader said on 03 February, 2008 06:28 PM

I think there's some truth to both sides' assertions.  I'm going to have to agree with the paleos that a large number of "cosmo-libertarians" have obvious pro-war and pro-police-state sympathies, even if they don't openly admit it.  The reason most of them oppose Ron Paul is because of the things he's good on, not bad on.  They also tend to move above and beyond anti-racism, into the realm of PC hysteria.

Likewise, many of the paleos obviously have some sympathies for far-right bigotry, even if they also won't openly say it. They say that they oppose "libertinism."  I think nearly everyone opposes "libertinism" in the sense that nobody wants to live in a society based entirely on unbridled hedonism.  But for some of the paleos, it seems that simply being a sexual, racial, or religious minority is an act of "libertinism" (it isn't).

# jtucker said on 04 February, 2008 07:36 AM

I don't really recognize these sides of the debate. All fantasies aside, the Mises Institute stands for a wide tradition of thought that ranges between classical liberalism of the Bastiat/Jefferson school and radical libertarianism of the Rothbardian variety. The brouhaha of late traces entirely to a beltway variety of pseudo-libertarianism with a gravitational pull toward the state. I really don't think it is any more complicated than that. All the talk about culture and nationalism and etc. etc. is just a distraction.  

# Brainpolice said on 04 February, 2008 06:17 PM

Just to clarify for Tucker: I'm not necessarily critisizing the Mises Institute here. Just the claims or implications I've seen made by certain individuals on Lew, some of whom are associated with the institute. I do think that the Mises Institute is diverse in that its members and associates range from people such as Roderick Long ("left") to Hans Hoppe ("right").

I'm simply not comfortable with some of the more paleoconservative influenced libertarians because I see some potentially negative implications. This isn't to say that some of the more "leftish" ones don't deserve criticisms of their own, but I think libertarians too often turn a blind eye to some of the negative things that sometimes creep through on the "rightish" side of things.

In this little writting, I tried to remain relatively respectful and in some ways even neutral. I do not mean to imply that simply holding culturally conservative views is a deviation from libertarianism in and of itself. But I do mean to imply that ideologically supporting or employing political means in the persuit of such cultural concerns is a deviation.

# jtucker said on 06 February, 2008 09:24 PM

Right, oh I understand. I also appreciate your points and agree with them. I don't know anyone at the institute who would disagree. I really do think that was is really at issue here is radical antistatism of the LvMI variety vs. a kind of <a href="">Libertarianism of the Chair</a>

# jtucker said on 07 February, 2008 09:29 AM

I mean to say Libertarians of the Chair. You might think I would know that comments don't accept HTML.

# Michael S Costello said on 07 February, 2008 02:15 PM

Not exactly right on the latter, or at least you seem to imply more than is strictly espoused by the Paleo side of things.  Sure, there are white supremacists, and white christian fundamentalists that feel persecuted on that side of things, a distinct and perhaps very vocal minority of a majority might feel that way, I don't know as I haven't met one personally lately.

I think you're magnifying and characterizing  the deportation stance of Paleos and perhaps Paul with a bit more animosity than is indeed required to deal with the issue.  Border control is a duty of the existing government, lax border controls justify an increased police state presence and invites resentment based on limited resource allocation and perceived cost.  Much like other aspects of the overall welfare state.

If you have worker amnesty, you still get a bumped up police state and a bureaucracy for instance, somehow your assertions otherwise ring hollow.

My argument is, stem the flow, and fix the legal immigration process so that it is *not* bureaucratic so that it can allow documented entry and keep a minimal state immigration system present to (again minimally) ensure that infrastructure people pay for is used by the people who pay for it.  Not to say that our economy doesn't benefit from illegal immigration, it does, but it sets a bad moral and ethical precedent to have a law you don't enforce.  Why not be genuine and honest and work to change the law so that it is fairly applied?

Pro choice, well, hard to say, I definitely don't want my money buying abortions willy-nilly, just as much as I don't want my money buying bombs for interventionist wars or propping up of petty dictators.  

I say, make donations to your local planned parenthood to make contraception available to all.  Some will still disapprove of this but I wouldn't.  Reproductive Choice isn't all about mass tissue removal and the violent destruction of a fetus for the sake of a change of plan or a poorly laid plan for that matter.

On Racism and Nationalism,

I'm white in appearance but not white (entirely) and I have no great love of a nation that slaughtered Indians and enslaved Blacks over it's history, but I do have a great love of certain core principles of Natural Law.  Does that make me a racist?  I find the concept alien in a way, being of mixed racial background and cultural identity, so I find your Politically Correct moral-ism to be overblown and saccharine.  I guess I wouldn't count myself in the Cosmo-Tarian wing, but I  wouldn't exactly count myself entirely apart from it either.

I guess the moral of the story is, overall: Don't let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good.