Paleolibertarianism is a school of thought within American libertarianism associated with the late economist Murray Rothbard, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It is based on a combination of right-libertarianism in politics and cultural conservatism in social thought. It opposes a licentious libertarianism which advocates "freedom from bourgeois morality, and social authority."[1]

Austrian economics, anti-federalism, opposition to war, Misesian libertarianism, and anarcho-capitalism heavily influenced the movement's attitudes toward ideas on trade, commerce, immigration and the state.



In January, 1990 Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. published "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" in Liberty magazine. Citing drug use by libertarians and the nomination of a prostitute as the California Libertarian Party candidate for lieutenant governor, Rockwell asserted that "the only way to sever libertarianism's link with libertinism is with a cleansing debate." Assailing alleged "hatred of western culture," he asserted that "pornographic photography, 'free'-thinking, chaotic painting, atonal music, deconstructionist literature, Bauhaus architecture, and modernist films have nothing in common with the libertarian political agenda - no matter how much individual libertarians may revel in them" and stated "we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste." After explaining why cultural conservatives could make a better argument for liberty to the middle classes, Rockwell predicted "in the new movement, libertarians who personify the present corruption will sink to their natural level, as will the Libertarian Party, which has been their diabolic pulpit."[1]

In 2003 Karen DeCoster quoted Lew Rockwell as having written:

Paleolibertarianism holds with Lord Acton that liberty is the highest political end of man, and that all forms of government intervention – economic, cultural, social, international – amount to an attack on prosperity, morals, and bourgeois civilization itself, and thus must be opposed at all levels and without compromise. It is 'paleo' because of its genesis in the work of Murray N. Rothbard and his predecessors, including Ludwig von Mises, Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett, and the entire interwar Old Right that opposed the New Deal and favored the Old Republic of property rights, freedom of association, and radical political decentralization. Just as important, paleolibertarianism predates the politicization of libertarianism that began in the 1980s, when large institutions moved to Washington and began to use the language of liberty as part of a grab bag of 'policy options.' Instead of principle, the neo-libertarians give us political alliances; instead of intellectually robust ideas, they give us marketable platitudes." [2]

In a 2007 interview Rockwell revealed he no longer considered himself a "paleolibertarian" and was "happy with the term libertarian." Regarding "paleolibertarian" he asserted:

This term was designed to address a very serious problem that libertarians in Washington had come to see themselves as a pleading pressure group hoping to find "market-based" solutions to public policy problems but within public policy, and thus do they support school vouchers, limited wars, managed trade, forced savings as an alternative to social security, and the like. Unfortunately, the term paleolibertarian became confused because of its association with paleoconservative, so it came to mean some sort of socially conservative libertarian, which wasn't the point at all – though the attempted definition of libertarian as necessarily socially leftist is a problem too.[3]

Paleolibertarianism is commonly distinguished by appreciation for American limited government constitutionalism and even anti-federalism, sometimes criticizing Abraham Lincoln for leading America toward a centralized, managerial state.[4] Paleolibertarians agree with Hans-Hermann Hoppe who writes that in a world where all property was private, immigration policy would be decided by individual property owners and not the state.[5][6]

Justin Raimondo's 1993 book Reclaiming the American Right links paleolibertarianism with the American Old Right.[7] In Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Hoppe writes that "conservatives today must be antistatist libertarians and, equally important, libertarians must be conservatives". [8]

Divergence from paleoconservatism

Murray Rothbard declared in 1992 that "with Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy."[9][10] Three years later, he said Buchanan developed too much faith in economic planning and centralized state power.[11]

Rockwell wrote in 2000, before himself abandoning the description, that "paleoism" is not dead, but that Buchanan is not the right person to lead a middle class revolt. Rockwell writes:

The libertarian faction of the [paleo] movement saw that far too many compromises were being made to accommodate Buchanan's increasingly idiosyncratic and statist political views. His anti-free market, pro-trade union bias was now out of the bag; indeed, it became a central theme of his campaign. The idea behind the paleo turn was to decry ideological sellout, not follow some ambitious politician down the same road![12]

See also


  1. ^ a b Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" in Liberty, January, 1990, 34-38.
  2. ^ Lew Rockwell as quoted by Karen De Coster. Also see Blog entry
  3. ^ Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?, Kenny Johnsson interviews Lew Rockwell for The Liberal Post, as posted on LewRockwell.Com, May 25, 2007.
  4. ^ See two relevant articles at "King Lincoln" Archives at
  5. ^ Karen De Coster, "Wrong, Pat, wrong", WorldNetDaily, January 30, 2002.
  6. ^ Anthony Gregory, "The Trouble With 'Cracking Down on Immigration'",, June 8, 2005.
  7. ^ Justin Raimondo, Reclaiming the American Right,Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993, 127, ISBN 1-8839-5900-4
  8. ^ Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, Transaction Publishers, 2001, ISBN 0-7658-0088-8, 189.
  9. ^ Gottfried, Paul; Fleming, Thomas (1988). The Conservative Movement. Twayne Publishers. pp. 161. ISBN 0-8057-9723-8. OCLC 16804886. 
  10. ^ Lee Edwards, The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America, Simon and Schuster, 1999, 329.
  11. ^ Lew Rockwell, What I Learned From Paleoism, 2002.
  12. ^ Lew Rockwell, The Paleo Question, 2000.

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