Editor’s Note: “Libertarianism and the alt-right” is a series consisting of three parts.
Part 1: Leading libertarians denounce Hans-Herman Hoppe, on Sunday.
Part 2: Ludwig von Mises vs. the Ludwig von Mises Institute, on Monday.
Part 3: Libertarian centrism vs. the alt-right, on Tuesday.
At the mid-Atlantic regional conference of Students for Liberty on October 23, a panel discussion on “Combatting the Alt-Right” with three of the libertarian movement’s leading public intellectuals soon evolved into a discussion about another public intellectual: Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
Hoppe, a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, was not present at the event. The 68-year-old economics professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has variously been described as both libertarian and alt-right, or as a sort of fusion between the two.
The podcaster Tom Woods, for example, has called the German-American Hoppe “one of the most significant libertarian thinkers in the world today.”
And yet in a September 2017 speech of his own on “Libertarianism and the alt-right,” Hoppe endorsed prohibiting immigration of most non-whites, called for a police crackdown on minorities, and expressed enthusiasm the basic tenets of racial separatism and ethno-nationalism.
These themes are touchstones of the subterranean “alt-right” thinking that appears to animate racialists, and who are some of Donald Trump’s most loyal followers.
And hence the question: What does any of this have to do with the “anything that’s peaceful” philosophy of libertarianism?
Is an alt-right influence a growing concern in the liberty movement?
Ever since the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in early August – and Donald Trump’s unique reaction to the alt-right protestors at the event – the relationship between libertarianism and the alt-right has been a subject of discussion in publications from The Washington Post to the Independent Political Report.
The Tuesday following the rally, the Libertarian National Committee, the governing board of the Libertarian Party, issued a statement denouncing white supremacists: “There is no room for racists and bigots” in the party, and that “our membership already knows this well.”
Elsewhere, the alt-right has been a growing concern. Some are wary of certain elements within the broader liberty movement that promote the conflation of libertarian ideas and far-right extremism.
At the Students for Liberty event, for example, the discussion ended up centering not just on the alt-right, but about how to prevent libertarian organizations and groups from being co-opted by it.
The panelists were Jeffrey Tucker, director of content for the Foundation for Economic Education; Tom Palmer, executive vice president of international programs at the Atlas Network; and David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute.
Tucker and Palmer spoke at length about their own interactions with the school of thought that has sometimes been called “paleolibertarianism.”
The Nazi motto of ‘blood and soil’ finds a home in ‘paleolibertarianism’
Hoppe’s September speech, at the 12th annual Property and Freedom Society conference in Bodrum, Turkey, attacked Tucker and Students for Liberty in personal terms.
When it came to embracing the far-right, it was even more explicit than the notorious “blood and soil” speech by Jeff Deist, the president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Much of what Deist chose to leave implicit and unstated in his remarks was proudly outlined in great detail by Hoppe.
Tucker himself was once associated with Hoppe and the Mises Institute. At the October 23 event, he described his own evolution from embracing to repudiating this strain of libertarian thought. His
journey offers a telling insight into the insidious nature of Hoppe’s arguments and how they can corrupt well-meaning young activists dedicated to individual freedom.
The alt-right believes the government should discriminate by race and sexual orientation as a property-holder
Hoppe began with an ostensible desire to abolish the state, a goal which Tucker – a radically-minded anarchist libertarian – voiced agreement.
And then the argument continues that because government exists, it should act as if it were a private property owner. Convinced that private property owners would discriminate against gays, non-whites, foreigners, and other “degenerates,” Hoppe calls for the state to do the same.
I couldn’t see it. It was right in front of me and I didn’t see it. Hans [Hoppe] believes that public spaces should be managed as if they’re private. He has flipped 500 years of [classical] liberal history. He has provided the rationale for the state to do anything it wants!
Hans-Hermann Hoppe has ‘opened the gates of hell’ to the liberty movement
Tucker admitted that it had taken him a while to reach this conclusion and to repudiate past dealings with Hoppe and other paleolibertarians. He also credited Tom Palmer, the Johnny Appleseed of international libertarian movements and think-tanks, with calling Hoppe to account more than a decade ago.
Hans Hoppe has opened the gates of hell. He is alt-right. I am horrified that the name of Ludwig von Mises, the great cosmopolitan and individualist classical liberal, is associated with him.
David Boaz, the longtime executive vice president of the Cato Institute, the nation’s leading libertarian think tank, refrained from direct personal criticisms. But his own similar views were not hard to guess.
Speaking more generally of ostensible libertarians who have embraced Donald Trump, Boaz asked rhetorically:
Do you love liberty, or do you just hate the left?
Will the soul of libertarianism lean alt-right?
Indeed, the rise of Donald Trump – with some support from libertarian elements – poses as implicit challenge to the liberty movement and to all political parties that have any association with it, including both the Republican and Libertarian Parties.
Some want to cast the liberty movement along Hoppean and Rockwellite paleolibertarian or paleoconservative lines.
While not everybody under the umbrella of the Ludwig von Mises Institute is a devotee of Hoppe, he is the most prominent intellectual cheerleader for a fusionism of libertarianism and the alt-right. Others include would-be cult-leader Stefan Molyneux, and the nationally known and ridiculed “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell.
Even explicitly racialist alt-right figures like Richard Spencer have been invited to speak at Hoppe’s “Freedom and Property Society” conferences.
Whether through Hoppe himself or some other similar inspiration, they all share a vision that demands strict prohibition of almost all immigration. They are dismissive of criminal justice and civil liberties issues. And they profess an open hostility towards racial, religious and sexual minorities.
Libertarians are skeptical that nationalism is somehow connected with anti-statism
Most perniciously, protectionism, nationalism, and at times outright segregationist views are all brought together under a misleading banner of anti-statism.
The podcaster and economist Tom Woods, for example, is also the co-founder or the white nationalist League of the South. While Woods had distanced himself fro the League’s turn towards more explicit racism, the group was talking about the idea of an “Anglo-Celtic South” from the start.
Unlike Tucker, who has come to terms with this past, Woods denounces, in hyperbolic terms, the alleged action of “virtue signaling.” In an email to his fans, Woods implicitly singled out Tucker’s denunciations of racism as being a craven sell-out to donors.
Some well-meaning young libertarians are drawn in with anti-authoritarian rhetoric of paleolibertarian figures like Woods and Hoppe, only to later be slipped a noxious dose of far-right populism.
Most unfortunately, some of this is taking place under an umbrella of endorsement of former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, who remains a “distinguished counselor” to the Mises Institute. In his retirement, however, Paul himself tends to focus more on foreign-policy issues, and has remained implacably hostile to Trump.
Both at the Students for Liberty event and in their other writings, Palmer, Boaz, and Tucker defend libertarianism’s place not on the right, but embedded within a classical liberal tradition and its spirit of egalitarianism, toleration, and pluralism.
Theirs is a perspective that puts liberty at the center of the American political experiment, instead of straining to position libertarian principles within a bizarre strand of alt-right anarcho-authoritarianism.
Tomorrow: Will the real Ludwig von Mises please stand up?
(Screenshot of Hans-Hermann Hoppe speaking at the 12th annual Property and Freedom Society conference in Bodrum, Turkey, in September 2017.)