A very fine piece by economics professor and writer for The Freeman, Steven Horowitz: How Did We Get Here? Or, Why Do 20 Year Old Newsletters Matter So Damn Much? | Bleeding Heart Libertarians
Horowitz traces libertarianism from its leftist roots in classical liberalism to its unfortunate and disgraceful collaboration with racists during the paleolibertarian movement.[INDENT=2]
Classical liberalism started as a movement of the left, with folks like J.S. Mill being our standard bearers against the forces of reaction and conservatism in England, especially over issues of race. We were the “progressives” of that era, viewing the market as a force for progress for all, especially the least well-off, and as a great equalizer. It was Mill who argued that it was a good thing that markets would lead to racial equality in opposition to people like Carlyle and Ruskin who rejected markets because they wanted to maintain racial hierarchy. The liberal revolution was a revolution against privilege and the old order. It was the radical progressivism of its day.
Unfortunately, classical liberalism never figured out how to respond to the development of socialism, and especially the state socialism of the Soviets and others in the early 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century, in a way that maintained our progressive credentials. By default, we moved from the “left” to the “right,” thrown in with the conservative opponents of the growing socialist wave. From the Old Right of the 1940s through the Reagan era, libertarianism’s opposition to socialism, especially interferences in the market, led us to ally with the forces of reaction. But even with the demise of really-existing socialism, we have been unable to completely break free of that connection to the right, though things are better than they used to be. . .
The paleo strategy. . . was about appealing to the worst instincts of working/middle class conservative whites by creating the only anti-left fusion possible with the demise of socialism: one built on cultural issues. With everyone broadly agreeing that the market had won, how could you hold together a coalition that opposed the left? Oppose them on the culture. . .
The paleo strategy was a horrific mistake, both strategically and theoretically, though it apparently made some folks (such as Rockwell and Paul) pretty rich selling newsletters predicting the collapse of Western civilization at the hands of the blacks, gays, and multiculturalists. The explicit strategy was abandoned by around the turn of the century, but not after a lot of bad stuff had been written in all kinds of places. There was way more than the Ron Paul newsletters. . .What the media has in their hands is only the tip of the iceberg of the really unsavory garbage that the paleo turn produced back then. . .
Through it all though, Ron Paul was a constant. He kept plugging away, first at the center of the paleo strategy as evidenced by the newsletters. To be clear, I am quite certain he did not write them. There is little doubt that they were written by Rockwell and Rothbard. People I know who were on the inside at the time confirm it and the style matches pretty well to those two and does not match to Ron Paul. Paul knows who wrote them too, but he’s protecting his long-time friend and advisor, unfortunately. And even more sadly, Rockwell doesn’t have the guts to confess and end this whole megillah. So although I don’t think Ron Paul is a racist, like Archie Bunker, he was willing to, metaphorically, toast a marshmallow on the cross others were burning. . .
It’s time to reclaim our progressive history from the hands of the right: from the Old Right of the 40s, to the Reagan era LINOs, to the paleolibertarianism of the 1990s. As many of us have argued. . .the heritage of libertarianism is properly a progressive one. Our roots are in the anti-racism and proto-feminism of J.S. Mill and others in the 19th century. We believe in peaceful exchange, voluntary cooperation, progress, enlightenment, tolerance and mutual respect, and openness to change. That is our heritage and that’s the libertarianism that I grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s, and that’s the progressive libertarianism I want to proudly enter into the debate over the future of human social organization.