Jonathan Chait wrote a short article last week, Fox News Congratulates Rand Paul For Being Loyal Trump Stooge. In it, he notes the apparent irony, “Every authoritarian requires spineless lackeys who will attack his dissidents. In Trump’s Republican Party, the authoritarian’s best friend is the libertarian.” The thing is: there is nothing surprising about this.
Purely on a practical level, Rand is not his father (Ron). Ron Paul at least is principled in the very limited way that American libertarians tend to be. But Rand Paul has always been willing to cast aside principle for furthering his career. So I think of Rand Paul as more libertarian-ish. But it isn’t the practical aspect that I think is interesting here.
The Foundation of Libertarianism
Libertarianism itself is fundamentally fascistic. The foundational idea of libertarianism is that the strongest thrive and the weakest don’t. I know, I know: most internet libertarians will tell you it is all about the non-aggression principle (NAP). It isn’t, of course. As Matt Bruenig has shown, Non-Aggression Never Does Any Argumentative Work at Any Time.
What it comes down to is Social Darwinism. You probably remember the Ron Paul fans applauding and cheering the idea that society should just let a 30 year old die because he acted stupidly and didn’t have health insurance when it turned out he needed it. Regardless of what utopia any given libertarian may have in mind, ultimately, it is “personal rights and personal responsibility.” And that is just a nice way of describing law of the jungle.
“Rights” Trump Lives
Now some people may push back on this and claim that libertarians don’t think that people should be able to kill other people. Except they do. We ultimately get back to the NAP. And in the libertarian utopia, if you decide some plot of land is yours and another person insists upon camping on it, you have the right to do what must be done to “protect” your property.
So what you get in the libertarian utopia is not any kind of equality, but the powerful getting more powerful and weak getting weaker. This is considered a good thing. And if you scratch this concept just the slightest, you end up with eugenics. You can trust me on this: I spent about a decade of my live committed to the Libertarian Party — for a couple of years, going to weekly meetings. And I’ve spent the last decade thinking, reading, and writing about libertarianism.
Libertarianism Is Fundamentally Racist
When it turned out that Ron Paul’s libertarian newsletter was filled with racism, it wasn’t surprising. The libertarian movement itself is quite racist. Of course, it doesn’t come off as blatantly as it does with fascists, for example. And there are libertarians who fight against it. But there really isn’t much difference between a libertarian and a neo-confederate.
The best spin you can provide is that libertarians tend to say (in public anyway) that they think if the government just got out of the way the races would be equal. Now like I said: I know that most of them don’t believe this. There are basically three reasons people have for being a libertarian: (1) they don’t want to be taxed; (2) they want to use prohibited substances; (3) they are racists. I would say the percentages are about 15, 5, and 80. But even if you accept that libertarians just want to let people compete, they are still in favor of eugenics — just not one based on “race” — which is at best a slippery concept anyway.
The Romantic Hero Archetype
What this all means is that libertarians see the world very much as it is presented in an Ayn Rand novel: Romantic heroes and the unwashed masses (as well as the Evil Ones who get power by pandering to the weak — still a Romantic archetype). And this is the basis of fascism: the idea that there are “betters” who the rest must follow.
With fascism, you get some kinds of notions of the will to power. With libertarianism, you get the perfect market. But it hardly matters what the mechanism is by which you create an authoritarian class. So libertarian Rand Paul is a great ally of authoritarian Donald Trump. It makes perfect sense.
Note that in the discussion above, I was talking about the way society would be as libertarians themselves portray it. What would happen in practice is that libertarianism would degenerate into straight-up fascism, because the powerful would just take control by force and you’d already have the Romantic hero archetype. That’s getting a bit in the weeds, but basically: (1) lack of government would create a vacuum that would be filled with an authoritarian government; (2) the heroes libertarians worship are the same as the heroes fascists worship, so you would get the other stuff too.
For a bit more discussion of this topic, I recommend checking out my article, Why Ayn Rand Was a Proto-Fascist.