I promised myself I wouldn’t fall back on stereotypes and cheap shots. I swore I wouldn’t take the easy way out. But when the first things you see at the International Students for Liberty Conference, held February 13-15 in Washington D.C., are two dudes in fedoras groping each other and a desperate looking guy asking where the LGBT party is, it’s hard to resist.
The conference was not exactly a “safe space” for your typical FoxNews Republican. The most popular speaker was Edward Snowden, a man neoconservatives consider nothing less than a traitor [Libertarian Students Honor Their Chosen Hero, Edward Snowden, by Robby Soave, Reason, February 15, 2015]. “Conservative” Senators like Marco Rubio were objects of contempt, rather than reverence [Justin Amash Chastises Marco Rubio Over PATRIOT Act Reauthorization Stance, by Stephanie Slade, Reason, February 14, 2015].
And, true to Ann Coulter’s famous taunt, delegates shied away from issues like Affirmative Action, freedom of association and property rights to giggle about drugs, homosexuality, and other issues that wouldn’t offend your local Dean of Multicultural Affairs. The choice to present former Mexican President Vicente Fox as some kind of new libertarian hero speaks for itself [Vicente Fox Stumps to Legalize All Drugs Worldwide, by Fergus Hodgson, PanAm, February 16, 2015].
And the break between the Beltway Right and the young libertarian movement is actually overstated. Both groups are committed to Open Borders. Both groups are indifferent or actively hostile to any nationalist, National Conservative or Identitarian movements. And most importantly, both groups are against any attempt to reverse the Left’s social engineering project. While the typical Republican simply wants to avoid the Left’s Social Justice Warriors, the libertarians want to join them.
Ron Paul learned this the hard way at the conference, where the one-time libertarian idol was heavily criticized. Paul delivered a rambling address about the universal appeal of liberty and the need to renounce aggression, but he didn’t receive the kind of rapturous reception he would have gotten even three years ago.
Mackenzie Holst, a student from Texas Christian University who claimed to be linked to the “Center for a Stateless Society,” read a condemnation of Paul for his refusal to condemn his supposedly racist “Ron Paul Newsletters” and everyone tied to them [Edward Snowden and Ron Paul Kick Off Libertarian Student Conference With a Little Kerfuffle About Russia, by David Weigel, BloombergPolitics, February 13, 2015] This is rich coming from an organization dealing with the revelation that one of its founders was a self-admitted child molester [Freedom of Disassociation: Regarding Brad Spengler, Center for a Stateless Society, January 24, 2015]
To his credit, on this occasion Paul did not back down completely, stating, “For me to disavow everything I ever wrote in a newsletter, I mean, that’s foolishness” [Ron Paul: ‘I’m not pro-Russian. I’m pro facts’ by Ashley Killough, CNN, February 15, 2015]. (See how easy that was, Republicans?) A “no true libertarian” debate then erupted on Twitter over whether the questioner—who has since deleted her social media—was actually a libertarian or simply a Hillary supporting interloper.
More than one speaker asked critical questions of Paul regarding his perceived pro-Putin stance, especially one attendee from Kiev. Of course, as Paul said, he is not actually “pro-Putin” (although his Ron Paul Institute sometimes sounds like it). He simply does not want the U.S. to become actively involved in the dispute between Russia and Ukraine. However, as Putin is now seen by many as an “authoritarian”—especially because of Russia’s hostility to homosexual activism, an unspoken element in the libertarian movement—many self-described libertarians and classical liberals are pushing for an aggressive challenge to Putin’s Russia. For libertarians, Ron Paul is simply no longer a unifying figure.
(His son Senator Rand Paul also spoke at the conference. The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher reports reviews of the younger Paul “were generally supportive—but with some concerns” [Rand Paul and his Ron Paul conundrum, February 16 2015]).
So what does unify contemporary libertarians? It isn’t opposition to the state as such. State power used in defense of Leftist social policy, as in the case of gay marriage, was widely accepted. “Paleo-libertarianism” was almost entirely absent, as is discussion of concepts like local control or states’ rights.
We can’t even say that SFL is really upset by socialism as such. The presence of Oliver Stone as a speaker, the same Oliver Stone who was recently promoting his Hugo Chavez hagiography Mi Amigo Hugo, is self-discrediting and requires no further comment [Oliver Stone’s Disgraceful Tribute to Hugo Chavez, by Jeffrey Tayler, Foreign Policy, May 13, 2014].
What does upset Students for Liberty is any kind of national solidarity. Insofar as any issue was taken for granted, it was Open Borders. Bryan Caplan, Andrew Napolitano, David Boaz, and just about every other speaker wants more immigration.
The European contingent from overseas Students for Liberty chapters was chiefly distinguished for fighting against the nationalist movements in their own countries. The “Student of the Year” went to a feminist in Serbia whose activism consists of gay pride parades and standing up to “Nazis” in defense of drug use. It’s not surprising that self-designated libertarians now pen tributes to the “libertarian” influence of institutions like the nation-crushing European Union and its “achievement on behalf of liberty” [Two Nationalisms: Why Pro-Liberty Is Not Anti-EU, by Christoph Heuermann, AtlasOne, July 24, 2014].
The truth is that the libertarianism—especially the “millennial libertarianism” or “second wave libertarianism” that Students for Liberty is determined to promote— privileges cultural liberalism above restricting the state. You can't take concepts like Leftist buzzwords like "privilege" and "normativity" seriously and still defend limited government. Once you accept these kinds of concepts, the inevitable performance gaps between racial groups, nations, and sexes become evidence of "oppression" rather than of objectively existing inequalities.
Of course, libertarians like Murray Rothbard recognized this, which is why he openly defended concepts like racial differences in average intelligence. Whatever name-dropping contemporary libertarians practice, it’s doubtful that the author of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature would even be allowed on the stage at something like Students for Liberty.
Just as leftists no longer bother with the economic theories of Marx and look down on the white working classes they used to champion, contemporary libertarians are less offended by the Labor Theory of Value than the Ron Paul-supporting Christians of the John Birch Society. What Steve Sailer observed about Marxists is now true of libertarians—the people they champion are not the working masses but the transgender CEOs.
Thus, despite a massive organizational presence and huge amounts of money, the libertarian student activists on campus mean nothing. They are simply a redundant appendage to the already-existing status quo.
For example, take Students for Liberty’s Campus Coordinator at Duke University, Miriam Weeks. She’s best known as porn star “Belle Knox,” and is a proudly advertised guest speaker for the supposedly more conservative leaning Young Americans for Liberty [YAL@UNC-Chapel Hill Off To An Amazing Start, by Alex Johnson, Young Americans for Liberty, September 12, 2014]. Personally, I’m less triggered by her being a porn star than being a supposed libertarian whose “idol” is Gloria Allred [Porn Star Belle Knox Is Remaking Herself As A Libertarian Activist, by Hunter Walker, Business Insider, January 28, 2015]
The worst part of all of this is that this faux libertarian student activism will only grow because of the statist policy of mass immigration. As President Obama revealingly put it, mass immigration will turn the country into a “hodgepodge” devoid of identity and incapable of self-government. As there will still be a need for an American “Right,” why not a group of atomized, culturally progressive, and excruciatingly PC activists to lobby for tax cuts and free trade?
We may not get limited government, but the Beltway Right’s corporate donors will still get theirs. You might even call it Grover Norquist’s model political movement – which is probably why this pillar of Conservatism Inc. felt free to attend.
The new libertarian movement isn’t new, isn’t libertarian, and isn’t really a movement. It’s simply an AstroTurf lobbying effort that carefully guides students onto a path of pointless posturing. It reinforces the status quo. It undermines what resistance to the System already exists.
It’s less a challenge to the Beltway Right than an indispensable support working to ensure that a real alternative can never emerge.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.