James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, September 24, 2005


I'm on the Libertarian Republicans yahoo group, though the messages are so numerous that I delete many posts unread.

So I missed this gem from Anthony Gregory on "paleo-liberalism," but fortunately Logan Ferree at Freedom Democrats came across it. The whole piece is great - too good for just an e-mail - but I will just excerpt this:

I am a classic, old liberal, not in the Rooseveltian sense, but further back. I
am a liberal the way FDR's arguably misnamed Old Right opponents were liberals, the way Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine were liberals, and the way that everyone who is a libertarian is a liberal.

I like the term "paleo-liberal" because it puts "paleo-conservatism" in some
context. Paleo-conservatives, though they have some libertarian leanings here and there, are not nearly as clearly libertarian as a paleo-liberal would be, since conservatives in the old days were never as libertarian as the classical liberals were.

The paleo-liberal tradition is one of individual liberty, free markets, freedom
from state persecution and privilege, cultural tolerance, private property, freedom of association and peace. This is my political program, my ideology summed up in bullet points, my agenda.

Gregory goes on to distinguish his views from what is often called paleo-libertarianism, which combines anarchism with social conservatism. It made me think of what people mean when they identify themselves as "paleo-."

It seems to me that paleos - liberal, conservative, libertarian - agree not on an older understanding of morality, or culture, or philosophy. But they do agree on their understanding on the power of the federal government and the rights of Americans. This is a pre-FDR understanding of the Constitution, our political system, and its purpose:

1. A literal understanding of the Constitution. It doesn't mean only what we wish it to mean, authorize what we want it to authorize, or prohibit what we wish it to prohibit;
2. Congress's powers are limited and enumerated;
3. Congress can not delegate law-making powers to agencies or the President, and it can not delegate war-declaring powers to the President;
4. The Bill of Rights limits the powers of the federal government, not of the states.
5. Fundamental change or increases in the powers of the federal government requires a Constitutional Amendment.
6. Working for a restoration of Constitutional restraints on the federal government, of this older understanding of the Constitution, is a means of reversing America's slide to tyranny. This does NOT require deifying the Constitution's authors, or pretending it's flawless. This will NOT result in a return to older social conditions and living standards. It DOES mean that limited government is superior to unlimited government.
7. Ideological crusades, entangling alliances, and treaties that undermine the sovereignty of the United States, are a threat to our freedom.

There is still a lot of room for diversity of opinion. On the military budget, trade, immigration, faith, culture, on the laws that the individual states ought to have, and other issues. Even on the desirability of the Constitution, or of any government at all.

But when you hear the word "paleo," think of a person who holds on to the old understanding of the nature of our government and the rights of the American. Who believes in a non-interventionist foreign policy, the rollback of most federal programs, and the repeal of most federal laws. Left, right, liberal, conservative, or libertarian, paleos have much in common. Despite many disagreements, just about any "paleo" is more reliable than any "progressive" or "neo." If nothing else, they are more reliable in opposing undeclared, non-defensive wars.


  1. paleo-neo-quasi nombreless nonsense - but it doesn't matter what you call it. Good to see you back blogging - i was gone for 10 days and was going to send out the cavalry if aug 26th was still the date on-screen.

    call it what you may , but after some real thought - serious brain cell burning, i decided that i would run for county commissioner rather than congress in 2006. Check howdt Carl F. Warden http://www.thepriceofliberty.org/arc_worden.htm for congress in OR2 - he sometimes publishes at the ecologic site.

  2. That's weird, I've been blogging steadily for the past several weeks.

  3. it may be that my explorer version has taken to being lazy and picking up the last remembered page instead of refreshing. hmmm indeed. my desktop was also messed up upon my return, so i think i'll renew all the virus programs. (yes - i didn't say anti-virus - they just give us what they call a beneficial set of viruses (yeah right - wanna buy a bridge). other sites worked fine. hmmm