American Libertarianism Is Fascism-Friendly

Rand Paul - Libertarian FacismJonathan 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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

11 thoughts on “American Libertarianism Is Fascism-Friendly

  1. I remain disappointed that leftists (both the centrist and the far- types) have not attempted to reclaim these very meritorious values, hard work, responsibility, justice. They don’t have to mean the law of the jungle. The Freedom Riders worked hard; they saw their responsibility as citizens to ensure the justice of the nation.

    We’ve let them have these values for free. Take them back to where they really belong, leftism.

    • I agree. Add also ‘family’, a word that does a lot of work in many ways for the evil purposes of the christian right. However, who is “we” and who is the arbiter that settles the matter? Bloggers ranging from Frank to Driftglass, Digby, et all, are making this case and have been for some time. If you mean the paid media, you have Charlie Pierce, Matt Taibbi, Thomas Frank, and co doing their bit. The problem is that the arbiters are gone. Or bought. Gone, like Phil Donahue who was fired from his highly rated show for criticizing the Iraq war. Bought like everybody else who likes that TV money too much to pull a Mann & Ornstein.

      • These words are not in the mainstream of leftist discourse, anywhere. Maybe some of these authors talk about them some of the time. Not enough. They should be primary. Now Matt Bruenig – he’s on the case all the time.

        There are even leftists who discourage use of these concepts.

        I’m not claiming to be an arbiter. I’m saying that these things are not said very much. I read Pierce, etc. and I don’t see much of it. This strikes me as a massively-underutilized outreach strategy. Maybe there’s lots of this talk and I’m just not noticing. But I don’t think so.

        • Pierce is just a very witty, intelligent political reporter. For what you’re talking about, I think Thomas Frank is your man. His books especially.

          He writes a lot about how the left, particularly Democrats, turned away from labor. How they moved towards a worship of meritocracy instead. Their solution to wage stagnation for working people was more access to higher education. Everybody can get those office jobs!

          Except everybody can’t. Somebody’s gotta stock the shelves & clean the bathrooms. And there’s only so many “Associate Assistant Personnel Data Management” positions to go around. Those made-up jobs have about hit their growth limit. David Graeber, a fine anthropologist, talks about that in this long but entertaining piece:

          There are Democrats moving away from this and back to improving conditions for real working people. Our blog buddy Elizabeth, and everyone’s favorite wacky old poli sci teacher, Senator Sanders, have both declared that service jobs should be the new factory jobs. With the same protections those old union factory jobs once had.

          So I think the party is coming around to what you’re advocating; work, responsibility, justice. But it’s gonna take a little while and a lotta organizing. I tell ya, though, there’s a ton of college grads slaving away at menial jobs who’d happily get on board with valuing hard work again.

          • Perhaps elements of the Democratic Party are coming around to ‘what I’m advocating’. But are they coming around to advocating for responsibility and justice? I wasn’t complaining about the Democratic Party really, but leftists generally. I’m not concerned with whether leftists are asking for something likepersonal responsibility, justice, etc. What I want people to do is to ask for those things directly, by name.

            By the way, if you are an active member of a leftist wing of the Democratic Party, you are going to have to negotiate for your position. You will need large numbers of people to say, “take our policies or we walk”. To primary incumbents. To be a little realpolitik at times. You don’t have to be nasty, but you will have to be willing to fight a little. Even friends sometimes have to negotiate with each other.

            • I’d say a friend you never negotiate with is hardly a friend at all; they’re walking all over you, taking you for granted. I think we’ve all had “friends” of that sort. It’s a painful lesson to learn. If you’re gonna watch someone’s dog while they’re on vacation, they should at least put beer in the fridge!

      • I’ve long thought we can peel away some of the Christian right. Not the sanctimonious assholes, to be sure. But the ones who’ve suffered hardship, and looked to their church community for support.

        Because here’s a dirty little secret about fundamentalists, one that few people who didn’t grow up in that world are aware of. Yes, if poverty or bad health or addiction afflict your family, your church community will help.

        But they’ll also be kind of snobby dicks about it.

        There’s an underlying assumption that these things happened to you because you aren’t righteous enough. This isn’t provable, naturally. But I know that I’m righteous and nothing bad is happening to me. I’m not saying … I’m just saying.

        I think there’s an opening here. If we did more reaching out to our religious sisters and brothers. And helping them take care of their families. They can still believe in whatever Higher Power they want. But we could show them that the values of community don’t have to be tied to any church. It can just be your neighbors.

        Did you see that thing where a huge California dam was in danger of breaking, recently, and thousands of rednecks downstream had to evacuate? A Sikh temple converted itself into a refugee center for families.

        Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

  2. The one thing that always strikes me about libertarians is how they believe that people will always act in a perfectly logical way. Which is absolute nonsense since humans are a bunch of irrational primates who barely managed to achieve decent sewer systems in the past 150 years after losing it for nearly 2,000 because of how illogical we are.

    I also notice that because of the fact that STEM relies heavily on logic and consistency, most libertarians are in the STEM fields. Kind of hard to assume humans are logical when you are a social worker who just had a woman go back to her abuser for the third time or a father pick getting high over helping take care of his kids. In both situations the logical thing isn’t going to work out because people can’t always control themselves.

    • STEM and small business owners, in my experience. Which is absurd stuff. Maybe there’d always be folks like Frank playing around with math, but tech stuff usually started with huge government funding. And small businesses rely on sound government policy; smart zoning, road repair, ensuring a living wage so customers have money to spend, etc. It’s human nature, I suppose, to feel full of ourselves when we’re successful at some venture and blame others when we fail.

      That supposed logic is the core of it. In libertarian writing they call it “rational self-interest.” Which, in their conception, is determined by outcomes. That, to me, exposes how shallow libertarian philosophy is. Let’s take your example of the abused partner. Maybe her husband is rich, and has a heart condition. His wife hopes that eventually, in a fit of rage, he’ll have a heart attack and die. Let’s say this happens. To a libertarian, she made a wiser choice than the woman who leaves and has to work at Target. Therefore the woman working at Target deserves to be poor and miserable. If she has children her husband abused, well, leaving him means they should be poor and miserable, too.

      Any good libertarian will counter this by saying, well, individual choices may be irrational and rewarded, or rational and fail. But overall, when millions and billions of people are making choices, it will tend to be the smart who come out on top. (Note how they focus on supposed “smartness,” not any concept of amiability or decency. They clearly don’t grasp how evolution works.)

      So what about these accumulated decisions leading to rational self-interest? Every investment bubble, ever, proves the fallacy of this notion. It is in your self-interest to invest in the bubble, and sell right before it pops. Hence inflating the bubble. Rational through and through. Except it’s madness.

      Oh, well. Trump (who loves bragging about his genetic superiority) is good buddies with Silicon Valley zillionaire Peter Theil — a staunch libertarian, of course. Surprised?

        • There you go. No-one expects the invisible hand! That’s why it’s such a badass superpower. It’s invisible!

          I keep trying to use it for unbuttoning cute people’s shirts on the bus, but they sense something is up and swat it away. And when I shoplift with it, store employees see items dangling in midair. I suppose I could do magic tricks, but that would be lazy.

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