Monday, November 4, 2013

Libertarianism — The Thin and the Thick of it

I've never heard the terms "thin" and "thick" applied to libertarianism in this part of Oceania, but they seem to be popular over in Airstrip One. As soon as you have an idea, like libertarianism, right away variants of it develop, and it's hard to nail down all the terminology. Now, I think of myself sometimes as a "paleoconservative," and Lord knows what that might seem to mean over in the UK. To me, it simply means that I'm basically a conservative of the "mind your own business" variety that prevailed before the gang of Trotskyites oozed out of the Democratic party back in the 80's to take over the Republican party and call themselves "conservatives," which is to laugh. A rough equivalent to "paleoconservative" that I've adopted is "libertarian nationalist," which is the same thing viewed in a different framework — a belief in liberty somewhat as an end in itself, plus as the path to human progress and happiness, with the acknowledgement that such a condition can only prevail within the parameters outlined by nationalism.  That is, you can't have liberty (or much of anything positive) without a barrier against the things that militate against it.  And a nation being a natural human development (and most especially a development of Western civilization), it's the institution most likely to be successful in maintaining such barriers.

On the other hand, in Keir Martland's system, maybe I'm just a fat libertarian.  This, from the Libertarian Alliance:

Libertarianism: Thick and Thin – and Why Paleolibertarianism is Neither

By Keir Martland

After reading a paper by Jeffrey Tucker and Lew Rockwell, I decided I would put something into words which I heretofore hadn’t been able to: paleolibertarianism isn’t actually a type of ‘thick libertarianism’. For those unfamiliar with the terms, I’ll give a brief explanation of them.

To be a thin libertarian is to be concerned solely with libertarian politics or philosophy, with no views whatsoever on culture. A thin libertarian will respond to anything with the flippant retort “As long as it doesn’t violate the NAP.” Perhaps the best example I could give to you of this would be a libertarian who is also culturally relativist.

To be a thick libertarian, on the other hand, is to be concerned almost totally with cultural matters. To have, for want of a better phrase, a cultural agenda. A thick libertarian will not only run everything past the NAP, but will also try to make sure that people endorse his specific alternative lifestyle. If two people wanted to get divorced, the standard thick libertarian would say “Well it doesn’t violate the NAP”, but would then add “and marriage is an outmoded and sexist institution” or something to that effect.

To be a paleolibertarian, lastly, is to be willing to “defend the undefendable”, to be a libertarian extremist and uncompromisingly intellectually radical (willing to enter the taboo realms). More specifically, a paleo will happily make use of empirical sociobiology and revisionist history in conjunction with his use of deductive Austrian school economics and natural law philosophy to paint a big picture of libertarianism. Trends in paleoism are being anarchist, anti-mass immigration, pro-secessionism, pro-retribution, anti-centralism, pro-propertarian discrimination, anti-egalitarianism, pro-patriarchy, anti-alternative lifestyles, pro-elitism, pro-Christianity, pro-hierarchy, anti-drug abuse and pro-commodity money and full reserve banking.

At first glance, with my listing of what are obviously mostly cultural preferences, one would think that paleolibertarianism is a type of thick libertarianism. I hold that it isn’t. Why? Well, first of all, what I listed were just tendencies and there are deviations from them within paleolibertarianism. But there is something which unites the list I gave above and, more generally, which unites paleolibertarians in their “cultural outlook”: the alternatives to what we tend to talk about in the realm of culture are fundamentally against human nature or human flourishing/wellbeing.

For instance: mass-immigration leads to racial tension and higher rates of crime and welfare dependency; people who lead alternative hippy-type lifestyles tend not to become as well-off as those who participate in the division of labour, get married, and own property; and those who abuse drugs often become ill. On the other hand, discrimination is a natural part of human action (in typing this short post, I’m not doing other things – one could say that I am discriminating against all other alternative actions I could have taken) and elitism is the result of one group of people having relatively greater levels of achievement than another (again, inescapable and totally natural).

“Mises believed that feminism was an assertion of equality, a revolt against nature, and therefore akin to socialism; that the family and marital fidelity were essential to civilization; that it was possible to make broad generalizations and perhaps scientific statements about races and ethnic groups; that apparent racial inequalities ought to be studied, although not used to influence state policy; that “Eurocentrism” was the proper outlook; and that one need not be sympathetic to mass culture or the counterculture, as Mises emphatically was not, to support the free market. So conservative was Mises on cultural issues, in fact, that today he would be regarded as a reactionary.” – The Cultural Thought of Ludwig von Mises, Jeffrey Tucker and Llewellyn Rockwell, 1991

Leftist cultural views, then, are going against the natural order of things: liberty or equality, take your pick. Paleolibertarians have no cultural agenda, but we do proudly assert our bias toward Western civilisation. Why wouldn’t we? – without it, there’d be no such concept as “libertarianism”. The burden of proof is not on us and our defence of the family, property rights and tradition, but on the advocates of moral libertinism and egalitarianism – both “a revolt against nature”. To be a radical, paleolibertarian, one need not robotically repeat “all cultures deserve equal praise” and you certainly ought not to specifically attack bourgeois civilisation; a real libertarian will defend private property and that which effectively produces health, wealth and happiness.


  1. I'm honoured to have been reprinted a third time at Ex-Army.

    Yes, for those who are wondering, there is a typo in the third paragraph. 'Thin', of course should be 'thick.

    1. Fixed! Thanks! And thanks for writing it in the first place!

  2. I support all of Western culture, except the parts I think are utter crap. In this I am identical to every Libertarian and probably most every human on the planet. "Divine right of kings" is as a part of Western culture along with John Locke, after all.

  3. Ironically, "Thick" libertarianism (open borders, the destruction of marriage, etc) would create (is creating) the sort of society in which libertarianism cannot exist.