A Tale of Two Conferences

Two groups held conferences in Washington, DC this past weekend, symbolizing both the past and the future of youthful right-wing revolt. As is well known here, the National Policy Institute attempted on Friday to hold a press conference with Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, and Peter Brimelow in the First Amendment Lounge of the National Press Club. This prompted the Press Club for the first time in over a hundred years to cancel the event—and even block NPI on Twitter.

The scene was radically different the next morning. On Saturday, libertarians bedecked in bowties and Rothbard t-shirts joined the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity for its first annual conference near Dulles Airport, to discuss the failures of US foreign policy. Unthinkable as it may be for the shitlords of the alt-right, these attendees came with their families, slapped on name tags sporting their real full names, and did not hesitate to tell strangers where they worked. That’s right: at the Ron Paul Institute, a table-mate asking, “What do you for a living?” is taken as a friendly conversation starter, not a warning of a leftist spy.

The dichotomy between the two conferences is illuminating because it gives the lie to libertarian pretensions about the modern state and our own role in it. Libertarians constantly tell us that the state is a monster that lies, cheats, steals, and kills. They tell us that it grabs power ravenously, that it crushes all who oppose it, and that it leaves only destruction in its wake. What’s more, they claim that only the libertarians can see through the whole charade and expose the state for what it is really is—a “gang of thieves writ large”—while the rest of us persist in ignorant thrall to nefarious “statism.”

One would think that, in standing up to this murderous gang, the libertarians would be condemning themselves to a life of persecution and misery. If I decided to go to Ciudad Juarez and pontificate on how the drug cartels should be immediately abolished, I would at the very least expect some pushback. And yet, our ruling class is utterly ambivalent to the libertarians’ existence. Not only does it not murder or imprison them—as libertarian rhetoric would indicate that it would—but it doesn’t even try to inconvenience them in the smallest ways, say, by stigmatizing their conferences.

Why is this? It cannot just be the libertarians are small and non-threatening. Small as their institutions may be, alt right institutions are even smaller, and more poorly funded. And yet, authentic right-wing groups are subject to outright criminalization in Europe and to the ever-more oppressive whims of antifa mobs, social media censors, and HR busybodies in the United States.

The truth is, what matters to the ruling class is not municipal roads, intellectual property rights, or the war on drugs that libertarians love to blather on about. It is not even our meddlesome foreign policy—important as that may be a source of power to many groups within the ruling class. No; if any of these issues really mattered to the state, then it would move to suppress the people who attack them. But instead, the only dissenters that our rulers actively suppress are those who dissent on race and culture. So race and culture, we must conclude, are the issues that concern our rulers most. They form the one unquestionable dogma of the ruling class.

Accepting these principles does not necessarily require a departure from orthodox libertarianism. A libertarian could theoretically hold no opinion on cultural issues, but oppose state-sponsored egalitarianism just because it infringes on a person’s freedom to follow whatever cultural mores he prefers. This is close to the position that Murray Rothbard held at the end of his life.

But regardless of what theoretical possibilities remain open, the total freedom under which libertarians may publicly espouse their ideology shows that most have followed a different path. In doing so, they have chosen to live by a glaring contradiction. On the one hand, they claim to radically oppose statism, while, on the other, they side with the ruling class on the single issue that matters to it most.

This may be why intellectually honest people rarely stay within the libertarian movement for long. If they are really seeking an answer to the burning questions of our times, libertarian parlor games provide no satisfaction. They eventually realize that the people actually speaking the truth are those that the liars in power actually care to suppress.