Libertarianism under intellectual scrutiny — and a call for papers
Rand Paul’s Senate candidacy has been a godsend to the liberals. Jonah Goldberg puts it this way:
Indeed, it’s worth noting that the only people who are really jazzed to reopen the argument about the Civil Rights Act are liberals. And they have good reason: They won that argument, politically and morally. This is a fact liberals never stop reminding us, and themselves, about. Like a paunchy middle-aged man who scored the winning touchdown in the high school championship, nostalgic liberals don’t need an excuse to bring up their glory days (which were not the Democratic Party’s glory days, by the way). Give them a living, breathing politician who suggests, no matter how imprecisely or grudgingly, that the Civil Rights Act wasn’t perfect, and they’ll talk your ear off like a drunk uncle at a wedding.
I’d have to agree with Goldberg that the liberals won the argument politically — hence the liberals’ glee at finding a really fat target. But it’s not at all clear that the liberals won the argument intellectually, or even morally. Goldberg himself is quite confused about what Rand Paul is saying — conveniently, as it turns out, because he comes up with a clever argument that he seems to think absolutely destroys Paul’s position:
For the record, Paul and [Barry] Goldwater were both wrong. The libertarian position is not to defend Jim Crow but to condemn it, and not just because of its unjust bigotry but because of its economic folly that served to entrench that bigotry.
Paul weeps for the lost right of white businessmen to refuse black customers (even though he rejects the practice himself). But he fails to appreciate the perverse irony that one of Jim Crow’s greatest evils was its intrusion on the property rights of whites. Jim Crow wasn’t merely some “Southern tradition” undone by heroic good government. Jim Crow laws were imposed by government. And they banned white businessmen from serving blacks.
Based on his interview with Rachel Maddow, Rand is well aware of the distinction between private discrimination and government laws that would force people to discriminate. Paul stated quite clearly that he supports the aspects of the Civil Rights bill that struck down government laws that enforced segregation, but he opposed the parts of the law that made it illegal for private individuals or companies to discriminate on the basis of race.
So Goldberg is managing to go along with the liberals in bashing Paul, without really confronting the intellectual issue of whether the rights of individuals should include the right to personal discrimination. (Incidentally, one wonders whether Israel apologist Goldberg would condemn Israeli apartheid. I assume he would rationalize or ignore all the official and unofficial ways that Israel discriminates against Palestinians in Israel and especially in the occupied territories, doubtless citing the “Israel is our democratic ally” mantra.)
So the intellectual and moral issues remain. I have recently become editor of the Occidental Quarterly. (Formal announcement and plea for subscriptions TOQ later, but you can subscribe now, if you want.) Greg Johnson, the previous editor, initiated a contest for the best essay on “Libertarianism and Racial Nationalism.” (The deadline is June 1, but it will be extended to July 1. $1000 to the winner!) Great topic.
Libertarianism is a strong tradition in American history — the tradition of unfettered individualism. Eric Kaufmann’s treatment emphasizes the idea that 19th-century libertarians saw their freedom-loving ideology as an aspect of their Anglo-Saxon ethnic heritage, and as an evolutionary psychologist I agree that there is an ethnic basis to libertarian tendencies.
But Kaufmann also notes that this libertarian tendency became part of the culture of Western suicide in the 20th century. One of the things I noticed in writing the chapter on the Frankfurt School for The Culture of Critique was that these very Jewish (and therefore profoundly anti-libertarian in their own commitments) former Marxists had nothing but good things to say about individualism. “In the end, the ideology of the Frankfurt School may be described as a form of radical individualism that nevertheless despised capitalism—an individualism in which all forms of gentile collectivism are condemned as an indication of social or individual pathology.”
So it’s not surprising that Goldberg as a Jewish neocon presents himself as true to libertarianism — while ignoring the more difficult issue of personal discrimination. But for us White advocates, the problem is even deeper. On the one hand, there is good reason to think that we Whites have a natural tendency to want to live free from intrusive governments and not have to march in lock step with others. That’s not to say that we can’t organize as a collective, it’s just that it’s harder for us to do.
Indeed, White advocacy is essentially a plea that Whites have collective interests and a right and an interest in organizing in order to achieve their interests in what has now become a cauldron of competing ethnic interests. Ethnic competition is always the death knell of individualism, as people organize themselves into competing groups. (That’s the real point of the Arizona ethnic studies law: The last gasp of American individualism.) Any putative White homeland would necessarily discriminate on the basis of race, if only to secure its borders against the sort of invasion that we are now undergoing. Are Whites really so principled that that they would fail to see a moral imperative in preserving themselves, their culture, and their institutions, even if it meant that they had to discriminate on the basis of race.
It seems clear to me that libertarian individualism is indeed a culture of White suicide given the current political landscape. As Whites become a smaller and smaller percentage of the population, libertarianism will become an “okay” ideology for Whites — an officially approved harmless palliative to make them think they are intellectually honest while they sink into the sunset.
But I am open to all sorts of ideas on this topic and am definitely looking forward to reading the contributions to the special contest issue of TOQ.
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