The term had already been on the lips of the media, but the recent Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, made alt-right a household name for the first time.
The country was treated to a multi-day spectacle that included a tiki-torch version of a cross-burning, multiple violent altercations caused by ANTIFA (a left-wing coalition of anti-fascist activists), and an act of political terrorism carried out by vehicle.
While alt-right members walked hand-in-hand with modern-day Nazis through the streets, their national leaders denied similarities and professed a desire to join mainstream conservatism and/or libertarianism.
Such a proposal is unacceptable for anyone who actually believes in small government principles.
In addition to their associations with racists, those who make up the alt-right believe in a variety of statist positions that set them apart from supporters of limited government and free markets.
First and foremost, members of the alt-right are economic nationalists. Here’s a brief explainer on the idea from a previous article about the purported merits of buying American:
Economic nationalists would have us believe that saving money by purchasing cheap goods is bad because such money should go to American workers. They’re engaging in the same sort of protectionism that special interests employ. Small groups of workers, such as those that manufacture shoes, will be hurt by Vietnamese manufacturing. But the value of the jobs of 50,000 workers pale in comparison to the value of millions of consumers saving billions of dollars.
These nationalist-protectionists would also have us believe that it’s best for a country to produce all of its own products and export a trade surplus. That’s the thinking of mercantilism, which held mankind’s economic progress back for centuries. Few today would yearn for economic nationalism if they understood that it flows from imperialism and nationally-chartered monopolies.
In addition to their anti-free market beliefs, those who consider themselves alt-right are known for their extreme stances on immigration. Whereas a plurality of Americans would like to maintain current levels of immigration, they seek a dramatic reduction if not complete halt. Instead of making our immigration process smoother they would restrict the free movement of labor and enact punitive measures on businesses that benefit from it. Believers in the free market know better than to support government quotas:
No one disagrees that it’s desirable to attract skilled, English-speaking workers. We need to do that, obviously. But having Congress or Washington bureaucrats pick a number — in this case, an absurdly inadequate 140,000 – of how many immigrant workers U.S. employers can hire, and try to dictate what kind of workers those employers really need, is foolish.
Trump says it will “protect” American jobs. It won’t. It will ultimately cost American jobs, and American consumers will pay the price.
How about the novel idea of letting the marketplace decide how many immigrant workers we need, rather than politicians and bureaucrats…. Quotas and the free market simply cannot coexist. And claiming to curb “illegal” immigration by putting artificial caps in the way of families and the market is idiocy.
These two positions push the alt-right away from mainstream, free-market conservatism and libertarianism and towards statism. Their belief in an all-powerful government that restricts trade in goods and labor conflicts with everything free market supporters hold dear.
Such ideas are irreconcilable. One set of principles must prevail, and small government supporters must ensure that it is theirs that do. Conservatives and libertarians should kick these alt-right trolls out of the broader liberty movement once and for all.
(Photo of a Trump supporter holding up a sign reading “Deplorables and Alt-Right Unite” by Fibonacci Blue used with permission.)