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Paleolibertarianism (also known as the "Paleo strategy") is a libertarian political activism strategy aimed at uniting libertarians and paleoconservatives. It was developed by American anarcho-capitalist theorists Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell in the American political context after the end of the Cold War. From 1989 to 1995, they sought to communicate libertarian notions of opposition to government intervention by using messages accessible to the working class and middle class people of the time. They combined libertarian free market views with the cultural conservatism of paleoconservatism, while also opposing protectionism. The strategy also embraced the paleoconservative reverence for tradition and religion. This approach, usually identified as right-wing populism, was intended to radicalize citizens against the state.[1][2][3] The name they chose for this style of activism evoked the roots of modern libertarianism, hence the prefix paleo. That founding movement was American classical liberalism, which shared the anti-war and anti-New Deal sentiments of the Old Right in the first half of the 20th century. Paleolibertarianism is generally seen as a right-wing ideology.

The paleolibertarian strategy was expected to shift the libertarian movement away from the influence of public policy-oriented libertarian organizations based in Washington, D.C. (who were accused of giving up on communicating the complete libertarian message and of adopting the political and cultural values of the Beltway to gain acceptance among the political elite[1][4]); and to simultaneously shift American right-wing politics away from the neoconservative movement and its promotion of hawkish or interventionist foreign policy usually characterized as imperialist by libertarian thinkers.[2][third-party source needed]


According to Rockwell, the paleolibertarian movement hearkens back to such thinkers as "Ludwig von Mises, Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett, and the entire interwar Old Right that opposed the New Deal and favored the Old Republic"[5] and distinguished themselves from neo-libertarians, Beltway libertarianism (a pejorative term used by hardline libertarians to describe libertarians who have gained traction in the Beltway, i.e., Washington, D.C., who are accused of surrendering libertarian values to the Beltway values in order to have better public relations with the Beltway elite), left-libertarianism and lifestyle libertarianism.[5][6] According to Rockwell, paleolibertarianism "made its peace with religion as the bedrock of liberty, property, and the natural order".[third-party source needed]

Paleolibertarianism developed in opposition to the link between social avant-garde and libertarianism as if they were indivisible issues. In his 1990 essay "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism", Rockwell charged mainstream libertarians with "hatred of Western culture".[3] He argued that "pornographic photography, 'free'-thinking, chaotic painting, atonal music, deconstructionist literature, Bauhaus architecture, and modernist films have nothing in common with the libertarian political agenda—no matter how much individual libertarians may revel in them".[3] Of paleolibertarians, he wrote that "we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste".[3] After explaining why libertarians friendly with conventional culture could make a better argument for liberty to the middle classes, Rockwell predicted "in the new movement, libertarians who personify the present corruption will sink to their natural level, as will the Libertarian Party, which has been their diabolic pulpit".[3][third-party source needed]

In short, according to Lew Rockwell, the motivation of this "paleo" libertarian movement—in contrast with the "modal" libertarian movement of the Beltway and the Libertarian Party as it existed in the early '90s—was the application of the libertarian principles in ways that lead to the radicalization of the middle classes against the state.[1][third-party source needed]


In the 1992 essay "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement", Rothbard reflected on the ability of libertarians to gain the disaffected working and middle classes using right-wing populism methods to deliver libertarian ideas.[7][8]

In the 1990s, a "paleoconservative-paleolibertarian alliance was forged", centred on the John Randolph Club founded in 1989 by traditionalist Catholic Thomas Fleming and Rothbard.[9] Rockwell and Rothbard supported paleoconservative Republican candidate Pat Buchanan in the 1992 presidential election and described Buchanan as the political leader of the "paleo movement".[10] In 1992, Rothbard declared that "with Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy".[11] The Rockwell and Rothbard intention with this alliance was to rebirth an anti-war and anti-welfare right-wing and to fight the neoconservative leadership of the Republican Party in the context of the end of Cold War.[2]

Three years later, Rothbard said Buchanan developed too much faith in economic planning and centralized state power which eventually led paleolibertarians to withdraw their support for Buchanan.[2] In addition to Buchanan's economic nationalism, Paul Gottfried later complained of a lack of funding, infighting, media hostility or blackout and vilification as "racists" and "anti-Semites".[12] The paleolibertarian strategy did not produce practical results and generated little external sympathy. John Randolph Club was disintegrated in 1995 due to incompatibility of ideas and personalities between libertarian and conservative factions.[13][third-party source needed]

Rothbard died in 1995. Rockwell asserted in 1999 that with Rothbard's death the paleolibertarian organizing had ended.[1] In 2007, Rockwell stated that he no longer used the term "paleolibertarian"—because it was distorted by its past association with the term paleoconservative as "some kind of socially conservative libertarian", something that "was not the point at all" of paleolibertarianism—and that all libertarians should be "happy with the term libertarian."[4]


During the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries and the campaign for the 2016 United States presidential election, several figures active in 1990s paleolibertarianism expressed levels of sympathy for the messages of then-candidate Donald Trump. Lew Rockwell was sympathetic to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign because of his message against the Republican Party and Democratic Party establishments,[14] as was Rothbardian Justin Raimondo, who voted for Trump on the basis of foreign policy.[15][better source needed] In a 2016 pre-election debate with Reason editor Nick Gillespie, Austrian School anarcho-capitalist economist Walter Block advised libertarians living in battleground states to support Trump rather than cast their votes for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, citing the Trump campaign's foreign policy.[16][17]

In line with these views, libertarian columnist Ilana Mercer authored a book in June 2016 about presidential candidate Trump titled The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed, a critical examination of then-candidate Trump from a libertarian perspective.[18][better source needed] In discussing Mercer's book, Objectivist-libertarian scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra observed that Mercer endorsed "not necessarily the policies of Trump, but 'The Process of Trump'".[19][self-published source?] Scabbarra further noted that "[t]he most interesting of her arguments is the bolstering of liberty by Donald J. Trump [...] smashing an enmeshed political spoils system to bits: the media complex, the political and party complex, the conservative poseur complex. In the age of unconstitutional government—Democratic and Republican—this process of creative destruction can only increase the freedom quotient".[19][self-published source?]

Following the 2022 Libertarian National Convention, the Mises Caucus, a paleolibertarian faction, became the dominant faction on the Libertarian National Committee.[20][21]

Notable proponents and organizations

See also


  1. ^ a b c d «The word "paleolibertarian" was mine too, and the purpose was to recapture the political edge and intellectual rigor and radicalism of the pre-war libertarian right. There was no change in core ideology but a reapplication of fundamental principles in ways that corrected the obvious failures of the Reason and National Review crowd. [...] To some extent, I would say the present decline in the moral legitimacy of the executive state represents a paleoization, if you will, a systematic radicalization of the middle class. [...] all the real political dissidents and radicals, the people who are raising fundamental objections to the status quo of the American civil project, are on the right.» Libertarianism and the Old Right, Lew Rockwell (2006), Mises Institute.
  2. ^ a b c d Lew Rockwell, "What I Learned From Paleoism", at, May 2, 2002.
  3. ^ a b c d e Rockwell, Lew. "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" (PDF). Liberty (libertarian magazine) (January 1990): 34–38. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?, Kenny Johnsson interviews Lew Rockwell for The Liberal Post, LewRockwell.Com, May 25, 2007.
  5. ^ a b "Paleolibertarianism" Archived September 27, 2018, at the Wayback Machine by Karen De Coster,, December 2, 2003
  6. ^ "The Importance of Beltway Libertarianism". 20 March 2017.
  7. ^ Murray Rothbard. "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement" Archived 2018-11-20 at the Wayback Machine. 1992.
  8. ^ Sanchez, Julian; Weigel, David (16 January 2008). "Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?". Reason Foundation. Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes
  9. ^ Martland, Keir (2016). Liberty from a Beginner:Selected Essays (Second ed.). Lulu Enterprises Incorporated. p. 62. ISBN 9781326524715.
  10. ^ Gottfried, Paul (1993). The Conservative Movement. Twayne Publishers. pp. 146. ISBN 0-8057-9723-8. OCLC 16804886.
  11. ^ Lee Edwards, The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America, Simon and Schuster, 1999, p. 329.
  12. ^ Martland, Keir (2016). Liberty from a Beginner:Selected Essays (Second ed.). Lulu Enterprises Incorporated. p. 64. ISBN 9781326524715.
  13. ^ The Property And Freedom Society – Reflections After Five Years. Presentation of 2010 of the annual meeting of the Property and Freedom Society, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Here the author explains the characteristics of John Randolph Club and the Mont Pelerin Society.
  14. ^ "The Trump Phenomenon" The Tom Woods Show
  15. ^ "Do You Have 'Trump Derangement Syndrome?' | Alan Colmes Radio Show". Archived from the original on December 31, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  16. ^ Gillespie, Nick (29 October 2016). "Should Libertarians Vote for Trump? Nick Gillespie Debates Walter Block on Nov. 1". Reason. Reason Foundation. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  17. ^ Epstein, Jim; Gillespie, Nick (2 November 2016). "Should Libertarians Vote For Trump? Nick Gillespie vs. Walter Block". Reason. Reason Foundation. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  18. ^ Kerwick, Jack (20 July 2016). ""The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed": A Review of the First Libertarian Case for the Trump Process". Townhall.
  19. ^ a b "Notablog | the Blog of Chris Matthew Sciabarra".
  20. ^ Doherty, Brian (2022-05-29). "Mises Caucus Takes Control of Libertarian Party". Reason. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  21. ^ Mas, Frederic (2022-06-01). "United States: the libertarian party veers to the right". Contrepoints (in French). Retrieved 2022-06-07.