James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ron Paul, The Paleo Fusion, and Partisan Bias at The American Conservative

Over 20 years ago, Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard sought a "fusionism" between "paleo-libertarians" and "paleo-conservatives." (http://www.unz.org/Pub/RothbardRockwellReport-1991jan-00001)

I didn't read the full url above. But the shorthand for paleo-libertarianism seems to be a radical, non-coercive, antiwar libertarianism that nevertheless relies on property rights and traditional moral values to enforce social norms, while paleo-conservatism opposes an imperialist foreign policy and relies on states rights and federalism to enforce traditional social values.

Did this fusionism work?

Yes and no, but maybe the Yes outweighs the no.

On the one hand, it established a consistent non-interventionist foreign policy, and in most cases it provided a united front against the Welfare State, for gun rights, for property rights, and opposition to federal violations of civil liberties.

On the other hand, it seemed to tolerate if not endorse draconian morals legislation at the state level, and perhaps even racist police tactics at the local level.

In other words, as long as the federal government was very limited, paleo-libertarians were able to live with whatever injustices and tyrannical measures the states would bring.

Is this a mixed message? Yes. Is it confusing? One would think so.

The fusionism was personified in Ron Paul, who would use the both/and strategy to make most Constitution Party AND Libertarian Party activists want to endorse him in 2008. And yet, throughout his career, Paul and his advisors made some bad mistakes that would muddle and confuse the word "libertarian" in the eyes of many.

But in the end, which side got the better of the paleo "fusion," libertarians or conservatives?

What attracted young people to Paul, his anti-war, pro-liberty message, or his anti-abortion, states rights views?

Did those who knew nothing about politics become more libertarian after listening to Paul, or more conservative?

Was it more likely that Paul's campaign led hard-core libertarians to become more conservative, or hard-core paleo-conservatives to become more libertarian?

The American Conservative magazine was originally inspired ten years ago by the ideas of Pat Buchanan, namely a realist-based non-interventionist foreign policy that would oppose the Iraq War. But it would also take on the tone of Buchanan's other hobby horses of social conservatism and opposition to free trade and immigration. The Constitution Party holds on to these views.

This is anecdotal, but what does the American Conservative look like now? I did a search on the site for the Constitution Party's nominee for President, Virgil Goode. He's no slouch; he served several years in Congress.

Then I did a search on the site for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's nominee for President who, though a two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, could scarcely be called a conservative on any level.

Searching "Virgil Goode" produced nine results. One was penned by him in March, 2011, and all other mentions were earlier than that.

Searching "Gary Johnson" produced 54 results (click "Older posts" on each page to get the full count).

More significantly, there's been no discussion of Goode's nomination as President from the Constitution Party, yet at least some discussion of Johnson's nomination.

Why is this the case?

I surmise that those who continue to read and like The American Conservative, such as myself, like its general Paulian bent, and its editors know this. They also know that Johnson's libertarian views are more the "heir" to Paul than are Goode's social conservative views.

Maybe the investment was too long and too large, and depended too much on one man, Ron Paul. But I think the "fusion" with paleoconservatives led to more net gains for libertarians. That's more than could be said to other libertarian outreaches to the Left or New Right.

Also, and I'm no Burkean scholar, but American Conservative editors are Burkean if they are anything, and it seems that Burke would have, in the long run, favored more liberty for more people rather than less. And once liberty is unleashed, it can't be rolled back. It is one thing to stand athwart history and yell stop; it's another thing to roll back what history has already done. That isn't conservatism, that is reactionaryism.

1 comment:

  1. Those that desire Freedom are always a minority. Slaves would rather be taken care of. Ron Paul has become a money making Czar. So we will have to pump more money into the Paul Machine to get the most boring man on earth, Paul's son Rand elected again. Not me.

    I keep telling people it is going to take the form of insurection, as presented as an Essay on the Stages of Revolution (available free on request) before changes will start to occur. The governments will do what they always do--repression, which escalates the situation. History proves this statement. We have a fascist economic system. Classic from Mussoline in the 1930's and later adopted by Hitler, who became a fascist dictator and a one man party, called the Nazi Fascists. Spain was in on that gag too.

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