A recent exchange at Taki’s Magazine between two of my favorite writers, Justin Raimondo and Paul Gottfried, prompted me to consider ways in which the thought of anarcho-libertarians and traditional conservatives might be reconciled or at least overlap. For many years, I was involved in the left-wing anarchist milieu, and I still consider Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Chomsky, Goodman, Bookchin, et.al. to be among my primary influences. Yet over time, I developed a strong appreciation for writers and thinkers of the traditional and not-so-traditional Right as well, including Rothbard, Mencken, Nisbet, Kirk, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Pareto, Junger, De Benoist and others. I’ve also come to strongly admire the American populist tradition beginning with Jefferson and extending through contemporary paleocons and alternative Rightists. Consequently, my ideological leanings have come to be an eccentric “left-anarcho-libertarian, populist-nationalist, decentralist-pluralism.” Odd? Perhaps, though I suspect the fact that Kropotkin’s daughter Alexandra was a Goldwater Republican indicates more continuity than radical departure within the context of her family’s ideological heritage.
Because the source of the disagreement between Gottfried and Raimondo was an earlier piece by Jared Taylor, and because the majority of the persons within the left-anarchist milieu from whence I came are known for their hysterical “anti-racism,” I should probably note that while I agreed in part with Raimondo’s criticisms of Taylor, I also recognize Taylor as someone who dares to ask provocative questions that ought to be given a fair hearing, but are forbidden by the self-appointed censors of political correctness. Surely, libertarians can do better than that. Furthermore, Taylor has publicly advocated only two policies: complete freedom of association in racial, ethnic, religious and cultural matters; and a moratorium on Third World immigration. Contrary to what many of my anarchist compatriots, themselves in the grip of political correctness, would have us believe, neither of Taylor’s proposals are in violation of traditional anarchist articles of faith. In fact, the Webster’s dictionary defines anarchism in part as “advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups.” Historically, anarchists have opposed the monopolization of power, wealth, land and resources by states or by state-connected plutocratic elites, and have argued for self-managed communities and a wider dispersion of ownership. But ownership implies the right of exclusion. Whether one is a leftist-syndicalist-communitarian anarchist or a rightist-proprietarian anarchist, it certainly does not follow that either collectively owned communes or associations of private property owners are obligated to admit all comers, regardless of beliefs, behavior, or individual contributions. Consequently, immigrants do not have any “right” to immigrate into the communities or proprietary associations of others, and while public areas (streets, lands, amenities) might consitute a kind of commons where individual citizens (such as street vendors or skateboarders) should not be arbitrarily excluded for the gratification of others, it does not follow that those from elsewhere have a “right” to enter or squat on such properties.
But what is even more interesting is Gottfried’s dissection of Raimondo’s Rothbardian “anarcho-capitalist” ideology. Says Gottfried:
The real source of Justin’s outrage lies in the contradiction between his ideology and Jared’s emphasis on cultural and biological specificity. The world as conceived by Justin is a collection of self-determining individuals, who should be free to work out their social and economic affairs, providing they do no physical harm to anyone else. In this ideal society, all humans, at least adults, however one defines them chronologically, will be free to develop themselves on the basis of their feelings and self-interests. Personally I couldn’t imagine how such a chimerical society could come into existence, let alone sustain itself, except in the minds of libertarian intellectuals or on a very provisional basis among likeminded ideologues. Such ideas are the modern counterparts of nineteenth-century utopian communities, all of which were attempts to restore a natural human condition that as far as I can tell never existed.
Historically, there have been more anarchist communities than many recognize, and while it is true some of these have lasted only for a few decades, or even a few years, others, such as the Icelandic Commonwealth and Gaelic Ireland, have lasted longer than the United States has been in existence.
Without authority structures, whether created by traditional hierarchies or by the modern managerial state, human beings have never lived together for any length of time. This generalization would apply to, among other societies, early America, which was a stratified and family-focused place.
I would dissent from the claim that political libertarianism necessarily implies either a radically egalitarian society or some kind of alteration of human nature from what it is at present. Certainly that is not the case for someone like myself, whose views on political science and social science are heavily influenced by the likes of Lawrence Dennis and James Burnham. Indeed, some of the most essential insights of elite theory like Michels‘ “iron law of oligarchy” and Pareto‘s “80/20” principle tell us that human organizations of any size will be dominated by the few rather than the many, and with a natural ranking of persons in even the most liberal circumstances. These principles are no less true for, say, an anarcho-syndicalist labor federation or an anarcho-capitalist private defense agency than for a conventional business firm or university. Nor does libertarianism, even in its more anarchistic forms, imply doing away with non-state social institutions such as family, religion, community, education, commerce, charity, or professional, cultural, and fraternal associations. Indeed, the elimination or massive reduction of dependency on the state should actually serve to strengthen such institutions.
Our sharp difference of views is reflected in the divergent ways in which Justin and I define the American Old Right. From his perspective, that American Right, about which he wrote an entire book, featured radical individualists resisting societal pressures and state authority. On my reading the interwar Right stood for a small-town and predominantly Protestant America faced by bureaucratic centralization and the rise of the modern culture industry.
Is it really a case of either/or? Surely, it would not be wholly counterfactual to suggest that Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, H.L. Mencken, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Jay Nock, or Lawrence Dennis were indeed “radical individualists resisting societal pressures and state authority,” particularly Dennis, who was placed on trial for sedition by the sinister Roosevelt regime. However, there is certainly no denying that the American Right, whether in its “old” or “new” forms, has traditionally “stood for a small-town and predominantly Protestant America faced by bureaucratic centralization and the rise of the modern culture industry,” at least at the rank and file level.
Are libertarian-individualist anti-statism and rural, small-town, Protestant conservatism really all that incompatible? Not that I can tell. As one who wants to see government stripped down to the level of city-states, counties, communities, and neighborhoods, it would seem to me that some kind of libertarian-anarchism would potentially be the political salvation of the entire spectrum of the authentic political and cultural Right, whether cultural conservatives, moral traditionalists, religious fundamentalists, ethnic preservationists, immigration restrictionists, family advocates, racial separatists, property owners, firearms owners, homeschoolers, tax resisters or hard money advocates. It is these forces that are the most under attack by the centralized, managerial-therapeutic-multicultural-welfare state. Surely, the death of the state is at least the partial victory of social and cultural forces such as these. Surely, those most under attack by the heavy hand of totalitarian liberalism will have more to gain through the obtainment of sovereignty for their own communities and institutions than through the perpetual expansion of the state.
Now, to be honest, I would make the same argument to the Left as well. I have long believed that the ultimate settlement to the culture wars will have to be some kind of Peace of Augsburg rooted in pan-separatism. Surely, the blue counties could have all the single-payer health care, affirmative action, gun control, same-sex marriages, smoking bans, publicly subsidized transgender surgeries, institutionalized animal rights and wacky environmental laws they wished if only they did not have to share a political roof with those nasty, fascist conservatives, Nazi Republicans and Christian Talibanists! Traditionally, conservatives have argued for such principles as states’ rights, local sovereignty and community standards with regard to social and cultural matters. I agree with them. So it would seem that the demise of the state would essentially solve many of these conflicts, as the various sides would simply go their own way. To some degree, everyone would win, especially those who are most likely to suffer escalating attacks as political correctness becomes ever more deeply entrenched in state and state-connected institutions.