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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4995/the-great-conservative-hoax/

The Great Conservative Hoax

May 4, 2006 by

The conservatives denounce their presidents for the same reason that the left denounces Stalin: they want to evade responsibility for the results of the policies imposed by monsters that they themselves created. When the left does this, we know not to take it too seriously. If you give the state the right to expropriate all private property, you can’t be too surprised when dictators take over.

Similarly, when the whole of your intellectual enterprise has been wrapped up in celebrating the nation-state and its wars, condemning civil liberties, casting aspersions on religious liberty, and heralding the jail and the electric chair as the answer to all of society’s problems, you can’t complain when your policies produce tin-pot despotic imperialists like Bush. You have no intellectual apparatus with which to beat them back.



Keith Preston May 4, 2006 at 9:24 am

Excellent comments, Mr. Rockwell!! The legacy of post-WW2 “conservatism” (or “military socialism” to use a term Misesians should be familiar with) has been to serve as an intellectual apology for the warfare state while doing absolutely nothing to roll back the state domestically. If anything, George W. Bush governs to the left of Lyndon Johnson and most of the intellectual leadership of the present mainstream right are former Marxists, Trotskyites or their ideological offspring. The “old Left” of 1930s Commies, Trots and social democrats is now the de facto “right” while the cultural Marxism of the 1960s radicals is now the center-left. Rothbard had it right in the 60s when he argued that anti-state radicals needed to position themselves as a revolutionary movement, “beyond left and right” and opposed to militaristic, nationalist, theocratic right-wing conservatism.

Here are some of my own writings on this question:

George Gaskell May 4, 2006 at 9:57 am

I wholeheartedly agree, but the problem is not merely discredting the Right-wing socialism propounded by conservatives, but doing so while also not empowering the Left.

The Left has done a masterful propaganda job of equating, in the public mind, two things that in truth have nothing to do with each other: (a) their particular flavor of collectivism and (b) basic human decency.

That’s why, I believe, so many actors and other fable-peddlers, whose careers depend on broad-based popularity with soft-headed people, are so eager to espouse Leftist prattle — they believe that it makes them appear to be generous, benevolent, kind, caring, etc.

That’s why Bush felt the need to moderate “conservatism” to include “compassion,” since so many people have already accepted the idea that compassion means injecting some watered-down-but-still-Left-leaning policies into the Republican platform.

What surprises me is not that these people, either conservatives or liberals, are so in love with government and controlling people’s lives. I have come to accept that they are emotionally unbalanced control freaks who are also painfully ignorant of history. What surprises me is how shocked they are when the other side advances its agenda. After all, since each side works so very hard to expand State power, why should they be surprised when someone else then uses that power to do something they don’t like? Can’t they see that coming? How can they not see their symbiotic relationship?

Or do they see it but they just don’t care?

Roger M May 4, 2006 at 10:40 am

Be careful what you wish for. Conservatism may die with Bush, but libertarianism won’t replace it. There are just two few libertarians in the country. More likely, the left will rule for a few presidential cycles until voters become disgusted with their excesses. Remember what happened after Reagan? We got the left-leaning first Bush, followed by Clinton. Whoever follows the current Bush will probably be someone to the left.

Reactionary May 4, 2006 at 10:58 am

And after Lew and the Revolutionary Guard have seen conservatism destroyed, what will be its replacement?

Their allies to whom they are junior and very disposable partners, will cast them aside as lunatic fringe reactionaries and continue to proceed with the Cultural Revolution, unabated.

Roger M May 4, 2006 at 11:29 am

Right! The ally of the libertarians in this case is the Left and they’re far more numerous.

Paul Edwards May 4, 2006 at 12:46 pm

“and thinks it is better to impose truth…”

That is, “their version” of truth. I don’t think these conservative statists have a great deal of respect for truth. But how could they, the statist mentality grows and feeds off of lies and corruption; from there it derives the love of coercion, and an aversion towards truth and justice.

steve May 4, 2006 at 1:46 pm

With little exception, socialism of the red color or the brown or the green is the same. They all are crooks, and they all are killing the West one law and one war at a time.

Keith Preston May 4, 2006 at 2:25 pm

Just because the Right is worthless doesn’t mean that we need to kowtow to the reactionary Left, either. Rather than join the Left, we need to develop an entirely new kind of radicalism that attacks the Left with the same kind of venom with which we also attack the statist warmongering imperialists from the Right. The Left has as its ambition the creation of a totalitarian therapeutist-socialist dystopia ordered on the basis of a new kind of race, gender and sexual orientation based caste system based on the ideology of victimology.

I very much respect the paleo-Right but unfortunately that is the very faction of the Right with the least amount of influence. Nearly all of the mainstream Right is dominated by the neocons and the jingoistic fools who comprise their grassroots support base. The Right is too easily coopted with appeals to nationalism and militarism.

The best intellectual framework for attacking the neocons and the reactionary Left simultaneously would probably be something similar to the European New Right. This includes a variety of overlapping tendencies that are hostile to all of the factions of the establishment.

The short-run triumph of the Left is inevitable but in the long-run the Left is going to fall apart because of its intellectual bankruptcy. The Left hasn’t come up with any new ideas since the 60s. I think we should adopt for ourselves a mentality similar to that of dissidents living under leftist dictatorships like the former Soviet Union. There the Left were the de facto “conservatives” while defenders of things like free speech, private property and religious liberty were “radicals”. As they did, so should we.

M E Hoffer May 4, 2006 at 3:46 pm


“How can they not see their symbiotic relationship?”

I’ll posit that you’re seeing the real-world incarnation of “useful idiots” at work.

This Left/Right schism, grandly acted by our political players, is nothing more than a show played for, and paid for, by the great many to be enjoyed by the too few.

The fear that “even worse” Statists will take over if we don’t elect “our” Statists(whose language we Believe to understand) has long been paralyzing the American Polity/Economy/Society.

Mr. Preston, again, points to the solution: Keep it simple: “defenders of things like free speech, private property and religious liberty were “radicals”. As they did, so should we.”

Compare these currently empowered Misfits to the iconography they hide behind and the obvious becomes readily and widely see-able.

Michael May 4, 2006 at 4:52 pm

I refuse to believe that there is no fundamental difference between those who advocate a night watchman type of government and those who advocate full government control over every aspect of our lives. Libertarians who think that the misguided conservatives of the Goldwater ilk are more our enemies than the Feinsteins and Boxers and Kennedies and Ginsburgs are quite simply ignorant.

George Gaskell May 4, 2006 at 5:00 pm

Since when does a night watchman build and (pretend to) maintain a levee system? Or dole out evacuation and rebuilding subsidies like they are going out of style? Or try to rebuild an entire country (Iraq)? Last I checked, night watchmen weren’t in charge of “nation building.” Show me a night watchman that assumes control over all prescription drugs sold to persons over age 65. Or one that calls for Congressional investigations into oil company profits and gas prices.

Vince Daliessio May 4, 2006 at 5:02 pm

Michael sez;

“Libertarians who think that the misguided conservatives of the Goldwater ilk are more our enemies than the Feinsteins and Boxers and Kennedies and Ginsburgs are quite simply ignorant.”

I think it’s important to remember that Goldwater had a libertarian streak, and that many of his key people were libertarian as well;


His speechwriter Karl Hess was one of the great left-libertarian tax-resisters;


“Conservatives like me had spent our lives arguing against Federal power — with one exception. We trusted Washington with enormous powers to fight global Communism. We were wrong — as (former senator Robert) Taft foresaw when he opposed NATO. We forgot our old axiom that power always corrupts the possessor.”

Paul Edwards May 4, 2006 at 5:40 pm


Good quotes. I like this one:

“with one exception…” famous last words of the naive and fatally inconsistent.

and this:

“We forgot our old axiom that power always corrupts the possessor.”

LOL. We forget our keys, or our grocery list. Do we also forget our fundamental guiding principles? Perhaps this is why consistency is so crucial. It helps us to avoid knowing the truth and yet thinking a lie.

R.P. McCosker May 4, 2006 at 9:22 pm

Keith Preston:

The “paleo-Right,” presumably by which you mean the paleoconservatives, are a mixed and dubious lot. Buchanan actually favors this Patriot Act/police state stuff, and supports the continuing wars against Iraq and Afghanistan on the basis that, while it was a mistake to go there in the first place, we can’t America look wimpy by pulling out. *American Conservative* editor Scott McConnell thinks America is dutybound to continue working and paying for Israel in the Mideast, only that invading Iraq was wrong because that was for the benefit of the more hawkish elements in Israel, and we ought to be maneuvering on behalf of the more moderate Zionists. *Chronicles of Culture* editor Tom Fleming also wants America to sacrifice itself for Israel’s well-being, and wants the government at all levels to put an end to chainstores and proactively restore mom-&-pop shopkeeping across America.

I could go on. Yes, coalitions can be helpful, but we’re not going to get anywhere without putting our distinctive pro-property, anti-centralist, neutralist principles upfront on the burner.

Vince Daliessio:

Karl Hess was a watered-down libertarian Republican while working in the Goldwater presidential campaign. It was only in the pursuant years that he became an anarchistic radical.

Keith Preston May 4, 2006 at 10:26 pm

R. P. McCosker,

I agree with everything you said about the paleocons. The fact that they’re one of the right’s leading lights only goes to show how sorry the rest of the right is. This only strengthens my argument that the left and right are both worthless and that anti-statists need to forge out a solidly “beyond left and right” position for themselves.

drs May 4, 2006 at 10:58 pm

Question to anyone who knows is Tom Fleming of Chronicles the same Tom Fleming who wrote New Dealers’ War and The Illusion of Victory, I think they are different people, but I have never confirmed this.

R.P. McCosker May 4, 2006 at 11:59 pm


I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure they’re different writers.

drs May 5, 2006 at 12:07 am

R.P. McCosker:

Thank you, I thought so.

Tom Woods May 5, 2006 at 1:29 am

I’m 100% certain that the two Tom Flemings are different people.

Keith Preston May 5, 2006 at 9:59 am

Strategic matters are one of the areas where libertarian thought is the most underdeveloped. The fifty year project of the conservative/libertarian alliance is a miserable failure and alliances with the reactionary left are at best perilous. It’s time for a different approach. We need to work on building strategic coalitions among those who oppose both the neocon/imperialist right and the statist-therapeutist-cultural Marxist left. Here are some sites that address this question:


D. Saul Weiner May 5, 2006 at 1:17 pm


I would have to say that I agree that your previous statement is right on target:

“Strategic matters are one of the areas where libertarian thought is the most underdeveloped. The fifty year project of the conservative/libertarian alliance is a miserable failure and alliances with the reactionary left are at best perilous. It’s time for a different approach.”

There is an article on LRC today by Rothbard which talks about resisting evil (circa 1993) where he seems to believe that conservatives and libertarians were fellow travelers in that venture. Now 13 years later we have his partner from that same Rothbard-Rockwell report basically denying that our movement has anything to do with conservatism.

Equally troubling from Rothbard’s analysis was his attack on “retreatism”. In his view, we all need to mount a frontal assault for liberty a la 1776. However, if the original colonists who fled persecution and poverty decided to stay in their original lands to fight against all that was wrong, we never would have had an America, much less an American Revolution. One could say much the same about later immigrants too. Generals learn that there is a time and place for retreat, so that they can fight another day. However, that strategy was only deserving of scorn in Rothbard’s book.

R.P. McCosker May 5, 2006 at 2:36 pm

I haven’t seen this Rothbard piece as of yet, but in general I think Rothbard had a tendency to put too much stock in his allies of the moment. There’s a distinction to be made between forming a temporary coalition on some issue — and marching arm in arm with those partners into the unknown future.

Libertarians might do well to use the issues of the moment to at least soft-pedal the larger claims of freedom. And taking to heart that, as the Chinese proverb tells us, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

M E Hoffer May 5, 2006 at 2:38 pm

If we are to retreat, to where?

It brings to mind the apochryphal scene of our rat-like mammal forebears patiently awaiting the coming of the asteroid, to do “their” work for them, wiping out the dinosaurs in their midst.

The idea, akin to The Stockholm Syndrome, that if we placate our captors, well enough, we will be free, is foreign to me. Rothbard’s idea, that the ideal of Liberty should be enjoined, in the main, strikes me as rational in the extreme.

I’m not sure if I can understand how, after reading that LRC post, one can posit appeasement.

Vince Daliessio May 5, 2006 at 2:51 pm

Paul said;

“LOL. We forget our keys, or our grocery list. Do we also forget our fundamental guiding principles? Perhaps this is why consistency is so crucial. It helps us to avoid knowing the truth and yet thinking a lie.”

I think that power makes people, even principled people loopy and irrational. Easy to forget even your name under the influence of such a strong drug.

RP McC sez;

“Karl Hess was a watered-down libertarian Republican while working in the Goldwater presidential campaign. It was only in the pursuant years that he became an anarchistic radical.”

Which is why I posted that quote, which was a later Hess quote said in retrospect. But it calls out the fact that the ONE difference between conservatives (many liberals too) and anarchists of any substance is this – ALL conservatives think there is SOME area of existance where government power is justified, wheras any anarchist worthy of the appellation doesn’t. This is both an insurmountable barrier between the two movements, and an opening to individual principled conservatives.

Paul Edwards May 5, 2006 at 3:19 pm


I agree with you when you say that “power makes people, even principled people loopy and irrational”. It in fact corrupts them. But this truth takes on a most spectacular dimension when one sees even those who expound that power corrupts, still pursuing political power for their exceptional need, and in the process being corrupted too. It’s predictable I guess, but also kind of ironic.

Paul Edwards May 5, 2006 at 5:32 pm


I enjoyed quite immensely your article “Beyond Conservatism: Reclaiming the Radical Roots of Libertarianism”. I thought you made some great points and I agreed a lot, with a lot that you said. At the same time, I found a section that struck me as weaker, so because I find this so interesting, I thought I would bring it up for discussion. Below I include the few paragraphs that I find unconvincing, and I have inserted my thoughts.

“By far the most articulate proponent of the conservative/libertarian synthesis is the eminent libertarian scholar Hans Hermann-Hoppe. Professor Hoppe characterizes a conservative as “someone who believes in the existence of a natural order, a natural state of affairs which corresponds to the nature of things: of nature and man” and as “someone who recognizes the old and natural…and helps to preserve it against the temporary and anomalous”. (27) So far, so good. Libertarians typically do not regard human nature as limitlessly plastic and the libertarian agenda, unlike that of certain shades of utopians or socialists, does not require a reconstruction of human nature. It simply requires the removal of a particular “peculiar institution”, i.e., the state, in the same manner that other institutions, such as slavery, the established church or titles of primogeniture, have been removed in the past. But what broader description of the alleged “natural order” does Hoppe offer? ”


“Just as a hierarchical order exists in a family, so is there a hierarchical order within a community of families-of apprentices, servants, and masters, vassals, knights, lords, overlords, and even kings-tied together by an elaborate and intimate system of kinship relations; and of children, parents, priests, bishops, cardinals, patriarchs or popes, and finally the transcendent God. Of the two layers of authority, the earthly physical power of parents, lords, and kings is naturally subordinate and subject to control by the ultimate spiritual-intellectual authority of fathers, priests, bishops and ultimately God.”(28)


The most immediately obvious problem with this statement is that what is being described here is the medieval feudal order, precisely the same “Old Order” that classical Liberalism, of which modern libertarianism is an outgrowth, succeeded in overthrowing. Indeed, this is the same Old Order that Murray Rothbard regarded as the foundation of conservatism, as Hoppe likewise argues, but as the supreme enemy of libertarianism. The restoration of this Old Order would mark not the victory but the overwhelming defeat of libertarianism. The unintelligible nature of this kind of fusion of radical libertarianism and romantic medievalism should be obvious enough.


I presume when you speak of hierarchical order as the supreme enemy of libertarianism, you are not referring to such things as families, apprentices, children, parents, priests, bishops, cardinals, popes, and God, but rather the servants and masters, the knights, lords, overlords and kings which would be the enemies of libertarianism. I think you are thinking that these things were always inherently coercive entities that existed outside the scope of anything approximating a libertarian ethic. Hoppe’s view, it seems, is that this wasn’t always and necessarily the case; kings in fact were at some point, subject to common law, and common law was the basis of the king’s property the same as it was the basis of respect for all else’s property. Hence, I don’t think you and Hoppe are thinking or speaking of the same old order hierarchy in this case.

Secondly, I would propose to you that it was not classical liberalism that truly succeeded in overthrowing the old order of monarchs, but rather liberalism’s antithesis: democracy. Democracy has in fact marked the overwhelming defeat of libertarianism and it is by no means obvious that a restoration to monarchies would be less libertarian than our present democratic situation is.


“More plausibly, Hoppe argues that the modern welfare state has exercised a corrosive influence over traditionally conservative values, such as family solidarity and individual responsibility.(29) After all, what incentives does one have for responsible behavior when the costs of irresponsibility can be shifted onto the taxpayers at-large via the welfare state? Why cultivate family, community or voluntarily associative ties as a safety net in the event of hardship or emergency when the social bureaucracy is there to fulfill such a role? It is indeed likely that non-state intermediary institutions of the type typically championed by conservatives would be strengthened in the absence of the welfare state. But would these institutions necessarily cultivate values of a traditional conservative, bourgeois nature? Murray Rothbard was fond of the private welfare program operated by the Mormon Church, with its emphasis on self-help and personal responsibility.(30) Yet, the Mormons are notorious for their endorsement of polygamy-not exactly in keeping with the norms of the conventional bourgeois nuclear family…”


That Mormon polygamy is not in keeping with the popularly held notion of the bourgeois nuclear family by no means makes it non-traditional, nor does it imply a disintegrating influence on family. It is the contrary. Nor is it not without historic and religious context. Several patriarchs of the Hebrew Scriptures had more than one wife. But this is irrelevant. You essentially concede the point in the first part of the paragraph, that the abolishment of the welfare state would strengthen conservative traditional values such as family and self sufficiency, which i think is really the point.


Hoppe argues that conservative values would be strengthened through implementation of the libertarian policy of the abolition of anti-discrimination laws. Under such a policy, landlords could evict bad tenants, employers could dismiss troublesome employees, schools could expel unruly students, restrictive covenants within neighborhoods or business districts could exclude undesirables, businesses could refuse service to quarrelsome customers or illegal immigrants and so on.(34) No doubt this is true. Yet, the proposition that mere repeal of anti-discrimination legistlation would usher in a universal reign of bourgeois conformity and moral conservatism appears to be a fairly dubious one.”


I think you’re overstating Hoppe’s argument. The way I interpret his position is that in a state of anarchy, there would be a general natural movement towards moral conservativism. This is because the family unit and kinship relations would necessarily be the prevailing influence on people, and this interdependency would tend to enforce an individual’s conformity to the morals of the community out of necessity.


“Private schools, such as Catholic schools or military academies, are notorious for the large number of juvenile delinquents among their student bodies. Inner-city “slumlords” are known for their catering to transient or unsavory tenants. Independent small businessmen are known for their willingness to employ low-cost vagrant or immigrant labor. Under the old apartheid regime of South Africa, white businessmen would defy the law by employing illegal non-white labor.(35) Employers frequently insist that their employees provide polite and prompt service to virtually all customers, including customers who behave in obnoxious or obstreperous ways.(36)”


I don’t think citing any subset of the problems or situations that arise under the massively invasive welfare state can be useful in refuting what is theoretically likely to be true under anarchy. The points must be argued on theoretical praxeological grounds only. If Hoppe’s arguments are invalid in theory, it would not matter how good the private Catholic schools of today are. And if his arguments are valid in theory, it is irrelevant how bad these same schools of today are.


Brett Celinski May 5, 2006 at 5:37 pm

Well, regarding Keith, us libertarians are going to have a unnecessarily hard time with strategy with the whole “revolution/color red” combination on his site. Not a personal attack or anything, that just screams Left to any joe sixpack generocon who (probably isn’t) paying attention, and gives ammo for the neocons to twist ever more crazy balloon animal logic-twisters against us.

Keith Preston May 5, 2006 at 6:25 pm


Thanks for your feedback. I suppose it’s theoretically possible that something approximating the feudal order of pre-modern times could exist in a state of anarchy. Some anarchists and libertarians like to point to examples like medieval Iceland or Ireland. I’ll often use examples from past societies to illustrate libertarian or anarchist concepts myself. Things like the common law, Roman private law, the practices of traditional or indigenous societies that existed before the rise of the modern state, the Ottoman millet system, etc. And I suspect that the disappearance of the modern state as we have known it would involve the emergence or resurrection of similar institutional arrangements. However, the old order also included religious persecution, despotic kings, pogroms against Jews and other outcasts and many other things libertarians would generally reject. I doubt Hoppe favors all of these things, but the impression he gives his reader is that the triumph of anarchism amounts to the restoration of feudalism. My criticisms of Hoppe in this regard may be overstated, but I think he overstates his own case as well.

My statements concerning liberalism as the antithesis of the old order were drawn from Rothbard’s reconstruction of the political spectrum in “Left and Right: Prospects for Liberty”. Rothbard tended to share with the Marxists the view of the revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as bourgeoise revolutions against the old feudal order, thereby cementing the bourgeoise as the ruling class as opposed to the feudal land barons, the monarchs and the theocracy. As I pointed out in the article, Rothbard actually regarded liberalism and libertarianism as being to the left of socialism, with socialism being a type of confused middle of the road movement “trying to achieve liberal ends by conservative means” or something to that effect. I may be arguing more with the Bakuninist rather than Rothbardian side of my thinking here, but I don’t think I’ve misrepresented Rothbard’s views.

Historically speaking, liberal-republicanism seems to have been a rather brief transitional phase towards modern mass democracy (kind of like Kerensky’s intermediate phase between czarism and Bolshevism). Limited government with limited franchise seems to have led very rapidly to unlimited government with unlimited franchise. I think this actually strengthens Hoppe’s anarchist arguments against “minarchism”. Perhaps Hoppe disagrees with Rothbard’s reconstruction of the spectrum. I don’t know that he’s ever said one way or the other. I do agree with you that it is not necessarily a given that monarchies in the modern world would, all things considered, be less libertarian than present-day democracies. I actually review Hoppe’s work on some of these questions favorably:

I agree with everything you said about Mormon polygamy. Perhaps Hoppe does too, though that’s obviously not what most present-day “family advocates” mean by “family values”. I’ve chided members of the religious right before by responding to their tirades about “traditional family values” with quips like: “Oh, you mean polygamy, arranged marriages, extended families, dowries and the suttee?” I asked of “moral conservatives” before: “Explain to me exactly how Hugh Hefner is any more of a libertine than the Hebrew kings of the Bible with their harems of hundreds of wives, concubines and slave mistresses?”

The kind of behaviors I described as occurring in Catholic schools, slums, etc. in the present society may or may not diminish in a state of anarchy. I tend to think that vagrancy, juvenile delinquency, et. al. are simply endemic to human nature and will always be here. The state may encourage such things in some instances, but the state can also have the effect of reducing such behavior in other instances. I suspect there was a lot more of than kind of thing in Weimar Germany than in Nazi Germany and things like homelessness or common crime seem to have increased in the former communist countries since the fall of the Iron Curtain. I’m certainly not taking the totalitarians side here. I’ll take annoying panhandlers over a Hitler or a Brezhnev any day. But I do think some libertarians occasionally fall into the same error as Marxists who attribute any and all social ills to “capitalism”. Only with libertarians it’s all the state’s fault. I think it’s more human nature than anything else.

Keith Preston May 5, 2006 at 6:37 pm


I rarely get anything but positive feedback from hard-core libertarians and anarchists. Most of my hate mail comes from leftoids who regard me as a type of neo-fascist or from jingos who wouldn’t agree with much that I say anyway. The “extreme” flavor of that site is something I use as bait and filter. Bait for radicals looking for new directions and filter to scare away all of the Tom Palmers, Neal Boortzes and Virginia Postrels of the world. Who wants ‘em?

Keith Preston May 5, 2006 at 7:34 pm

R. P. McCosker,

I think you’re on the right track. Too many anti-state radicals seem to have a type of “evangelistic” approach in that they try to find converts to a particular philosophical system like libertarianism or anarchism. The problem with this is that most people are not intellectuals or interested in ideology and even fewer are ever going become anarchists. Most people are simply not that averse to state authority. Most people are creatures of the herd. Like it or not, that’s just one of the sad facts of human nature that we have to contend with. The question is: How can anarchists become influential given their small numbers and how can the state be attacked given that most people aren’t really inclined towards serious anti-statism?

I suspect the best method is for anarchists and other anti-state radicals to position themselves as the leadership corps of larger populist coalitions organized around anti-state issues or whose victory would mean a de facto significant reduction in the overall amount of statism. There are those who are opposed to the state for philosophical reasons (anarchists, libertarians, classical liberals, egoists, etc.) and then there are those who see the state as opposed to their own respective economic, cultural, ethnic, religious or environmental interests. The latter groups typically do not oppose the state on principle. They may oppose some or even all aspects of the present state but that’s about it. However, it is also true that those who feel themselves under attack by the state of the moment tend to be the most receptive to anti-state rhetoric, at least for a time.

One core weapon we need to utilize is the concept of secession and self-determination for populations under the Iron Heel of one or another state. In the last decade or so, a good number of secession-oriented movements have popped up in the US. The ideological nature of these groups varies considerably from the fundamentalist Christians of the Christian Exodus Project to the ideological libertarians of the Free State Project to the green-populists of the Second Vermont Republic to the militia-oriented Republic of Texas. A simultaneous insurgency by each of these would have the effect of weakening central power, in spite of the differences among the insurgents.

This principle can be applied on a global scale. Think of the myriad of ethnic, cultural, religious, national, economic or ideological groups who would prefer to be out from under the boot of one state or another, whether the US, China, India, Russia, the Latin American countries, continental Africa or whomever. A global trend towards secessionism or decentralism could only have the effect of weakening the state-systems that currently rule virtually all nations. As Hoppe says:

“Rather than supranational political integration, world government,constitutions,courts,banks, and money,global social democracy,universal and ubiquitous multiculturalism…new liberals pursue the logic of secession to its end…the unrestricted proliferation of independent free territories, until the state’s range of jurisdiction finally withers away…they promote the vision of a world of tens of thousands of free countries, regions and cantons, of hundreds of thousands of independent free cities…and even more numerous free districts and neighborhoods, economically integrated through free trade…”

But the question is how to get there from here? The day is never going to come when millions of people all over the world start running about putting up posters of Rothbard (or Bakunin or Chomksy or Bookchin) all over the place. Instead, it would have to come about by all kinds of diverse and distinct groups agitating for independence from their present regime. As Joe Hadenuff puts it (here’s his site: http://www.folkandfaith.com)

“Anarchism isn’t an ideology which makes one agree with every single thought or concept to be a part of such. You have different stripes and colors of anarchism and have always had such.”

And as Troy Southgate puts it:

“Within the New World Order, we must agitate for European autonomy; this must be succeeded by a campaign for an independent England; followed by the quest for regionalism and village communities…I’d like to see devolution right down to the level of the village settlement. Anarchism is already working all over the world.”

Here’s some more articles of mine that deal with strategic issues:


Here’s the text to a speech by Martin Van Creveld that is highly relevant to the above quotation from Hoppe:


Keith Preston May 6, 2006 at 10:04 pm

Here are some more of my thoughts concerning Paul’s earlier responses to my critique/criticisms of Hoppe’s cultural conservatism:

I don’t want to tread too lightly over these issues because they are central to some of the broader arguments that I make and, given that I am neither a cultural conservative nor a cultural leftist, my views are often widely misunderstood.

If indeed all of the world’s nation-states were to disappear in the manner Hoppe (and myself) would hope for (as reflected in the quotation from Hoppe in my ealier post), what do you think would happen? All sorts of cultural, ethnic, ideological and religious factions, some of whom most Westerners have never even heard of would start coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, and claiming sovereignty for themselves. How would this advance the kind of Euro-Christian, modern bourgeoise cultural conservatism Hoppe espouses? To quote Hoppe (from his criticisms of allegedly “left-countercultural” libertarians”):

“…that vulgarity, obscenity, profanity, drug use, promiscuity, pornography, prostitution, homosexuality, polygamy, pedophilia, or any other conceivable perversity or abnormality, insofar as they were victimless crimes, were no offenses at all but perfectly normal and legitimate activities and lifestyles?”

The most immediate problem with a statement like this is that it fails to recognize that these kinds of practices did not begin with Larry Flynt or Timothy Leary. Indeed, these have been practiced by many “traditional” societies since time immemorial. Virtually all societies use “drugs” of some sort. Perhaps, like many social conservatives, Hoppe does not consider alcohol or tobacco to be “drugs”. Polygamy was the virtual norm in many past cultures. What of the classical Greek cult of pederasty? What of the cultic prostitution of many of the indigenous cultures of the Near East? Not even the US Supreme Court can agree on a definition of “obscenity”. Some words are considered “profane” is some cultures but not in others.

The views of modern bourgeoise morality on these questions may be as legitimate as any other, but the idea that the worldwide abolition of states would correspond with the universal or near universal proliferation of these views is a fairly dubious claim. Would there not also be an advancement of competing views on these matters, such as those of central African tribemen, Hmong villagers, neo-pagans, Andes coca farmers, Afghan opium growers and so on? In the absence of states, might not homo-centric communities form granting superior status to homosexuals? When the British first went to India they were shocked to find that vagrants and prostitutes had their own distinctive, socially recognized castes.

It’s interesting how I manage to profoundly offend both the left and right with my views on these matters. A few years back I was debating a left-anarchist/anarcho-communist/gay militant who was appalled by my inclusion of “national-anarchists” (some of whom espouse white separatism and “homophobia”) as a legitimate branch of anarchism. He kept saying, “But they’re racists! They’re homophobes!” My response? Well, so what if they are. What, if anything, is inherently wrong with “racism” or “homophobia”? I get the same thing from conservatives: “Legalize drugs and you’ll get a nation of millions of addicts living in poverty!” Well, what, if anything, is inherently wrong with that? The traditional poverty and primitiveness of India was often regarded as sacrosanct by Hindu holy men. In fact, Gandhi once remarked that he wouldn’t so much care if the British remained to provide policing and foreign policy as long as they took away their factories and railways.

The point that I try to make with all of this is that many people seem to equate “freedom” with the universalization of their own preferred economic, moral, cultural or lifestyle views . If anything, the opposite is true. I continuously try to drive the point home to leftoids who equate “straight, white, Christian males” with original sin that the greater influence of the Third World cultures and “people of color” whom they are so enamored with would result in more rather than less “racism, sexism, and homophobia” not to mention religionism or “speciesism”. At the same time, cultural conservatives often do not recognize that a full implementation of what they claim they want (“traditional values”, “faith,family and flag”, etc.) is more consistent with the views of Gandhi (or Osama bin Laden) than Edmund Burke or Alexis de Tocqueville.

I am actually probably more in agreement with Hoppe’s views on the relationship between the rise of the modern state and the disappearance of the “old order” than would appear on the surface. The demise of the state would indeed have the effect of a return to more decentralized or polycentric systems in some ways similar to those of past cultures. What I disagree with is the holding up of these as some kind of idyllic utopian model, or the notion that libertarianism/anarchism equals feudal social arrangments, which Hoppe certainly implies.

To apply what I am saying to modern America, it might well be that an anarchist insurrection against the US regime would be led by techno-phobic anarcho-primitivists in Eugene, Oregon, anarcho-commies in New England, black power anarchists in the inner-cities, white power anarchists in Idaho and anarcho-capitalists in Auburn, Alabama. Radical decentralization would bring with it diversity rather than universalism. Just as many traditional societies would worship different gods on a village to village basis, so might anarchistic civilizations vary considerably from Puritanville to NAMBLAville to Krishnaville to Maoville.

Paul Edwards May 7, 2006 at 1:54 am


I don’t find your arguments offensive at all, and i don’t see why others should either. You are very polite and un-abrasive, just saying it as you see it and trying to be as consistent as you can be. What more can a person ask?

My spin on all of this is that although an anarchist cannot have any political-philosophical objection to the emergence of anarcho-primitives, anarcho-pro-blacks, and anarcho-white-supremacists, anarcho-Marxists (lol), anarcho-homosexuals, anarcho-homophobes and anarcho-puritans, what i would contend is that only to the extent that these communities, for one, were also anarcho-capitalists, and two, had a workable solution to the question of creating new generations of their community that were also capitalistic, can those communities possibly thrive and persist.

It is not just anarchy, but free markets, and capitalism, which will guarantee a community’s civilizational progress and success. And, i think Hoppe’s point is that only a conservative traditional family value lifestyle is truly amenable to a successful anarcho-capitalistic society. Therefore, this is the value that will prevail in anarchy.

Again, as in questions surrounding economics and ethics, it is not a question of what should be and what ought to be, it is a question of what necessarily must be the case under complete freedom, order, and anarchy, given that humans act.

M E Hoffer May 7, 2006 at 10:17 am


I think you’re correct in positing that the “traditional (extended) family” is the bulwark of a successful anarcho-capitalist society. We only need to borrow a page from our understanding of Evolutionary Biology to see that the extended family has been our Natural, first, last, and always, “social safety-net”. In extension, it is further obvious to understand that, past the role of the multi-generational extended family, the Clan was formed to provide a greater capital base to, among other things, provide the maintenance of potentially useful “social outliers”.
Chanelling Keith: I don’t think the starting point of the various groups mentioned is important. Back to myself: Implicit faith, in the capacity of Man to respond to market signals, need not be a Hail Mary!, but, given the long view of our History, should be a given. If the various groups, given the opportunity to “Roll their own”, wind up constructing self-service Pyres, at least, had a chance to do as they saw fit.

The broadest of Common Denominators: Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness, illumen the strengths of diversity in a marketplace ungoverned from without. It is the apparent appeal of the Appeal to our Least common denominators, that preys on our least, our Fear, that provides entre to a Parent State.

If the axiom: “The regulated mirrors the Regulator”, is tautological, The State, being One, drives diversity out of the former Many.
Thus, legally, and literally, We are left with mere color, not content, to continue the charade of Individuality.

Keith Preston May 7, 2006 at 1:10 pm

I think we may have come full circle to a point of agreement, Paul. For any type of community to thrive, it has to be able to preserve itself over periods of time and across generational boundaries. To do this, it has to retain the allegiance of its most vital members, those who are most intelligent, capable, etc. And to do this, a community cannot make itself so unattractive to this segment of its population (because of poverty, crime, squalid living conditions, a stifling intellectual or cultural environment, etc.) that all of these people flee to other communities.

As M.E. Hoffer says, there are principles of sociobiology that eventually come into play here. Actually , I believe Hoppe makes some similar arguments as well.

Reactionary May 9, 2006 at 9:08 am

Keith Preston: “For any type of community to thrive, it has to be able to preserve itself over periods of time and across generational boundaries.”

In other words, it must adopt a conservative ethos and support traditional institutions.

Keith Preston May 9, 2006 at 1:58 pm

But traditions vary considerably across different kinds of societies, nations, religions and ethnnic groups. The traditions of modern America, historic India, ancient Greece, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Cherokee, and many other groups are different from one another. The suttee is traditional to Hindu society, but regarded as barbarism to most Westerners. Muslim traditions imply that Westerners are infidels.

My point is that what many modern conservatives defend as “traditional” (the bourgeoise nuclear family, monogamy, individualism, lassez faire economics) is actually subversive to many if not most traditional societies. An uncircumcised woman is considered immoral in some African traditions, but few if any Western conservatives defend this point of view.

Virtually all traditions evolve and change to some degree with time. Evolution is the source of traditions in the first place. Traditions don’t just pop out of thin air.

Reactionary May 10, 2006 at 9:30 am


The free market begets MTV and internet porn. Where are you going to get your traditions once Lew and the Revolutionary Guard have overthrown conservatism?

Keith Preston May 11, 2006 at 9:16 am

Well, I’m not so sure that any particular tradition, culture, religion, race, etc. that cannot survive without subsidy or regulatory privilege from the state deserves to survive just as a business, bank, union, university or individual that cannot survive without state-welfare does not deserve to survive.

If a particular set of cultural arrangements or traditional values (however defined) cannot survive a little bit of competition from MTV, is this not a reflection of the inherent weaknesses of those traditions or cultures? And should not the weak be weeded out for the sake of the survival and advancement of the superior?

It’s interesting how you and Hoppe different on this question. He thinks that the free market tends to lend support to traditional values. Apparently, you would argue the opposite.

Julien Peter Benney May 26, 2009 at 6:52 am

The question of whether the free market will lend support to traditional values is one that I think of a very important.

The model I use to answer this question and is derived from Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen’s 1996 book “Culture of Honor”. Using their explanation for culture in which violence is used to settle disputes, I will argue that cultural values are determined by four values (which one can pair):

1a) resource scarcity
1b) resource portability (whether theft is possible)
2a) population density
2b) size of government

Highly traditional values will occur when all those four values are lowest, and antitraditional values when they are high.

One can thus see that small government is a necessary, but in no way a sufficient condition to maintain traditional values. Under a free market, those nations where traditional civilisations are longest and most firmly established will industrialise because of the high population densities creating a major concentration of potential buyers for new products. When industrialised, these nations becomes extremely resource-poor because the geological factors that given them highly fertile soils invariably destroy key industrial resources like bauxite and iron ore. As a result, these societies lose their traditional values and become secularised. their focus in a free market would become confined to being the headquarters for big business and specialised goods like underground music where a concentrated market is vital. At the same time, a small number of newly settled areas where minerals and farmland are abundant (Australia, parts of Red America) maintain the old values of their former colonists in religiosity, sharply differentiated gender roles, and strong families.

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