Only a few years after its greatest triumph, the Libertarian Party is collapsing, torn apart by an insurgency of alt-right sympathizers with racist tendencies. Libertarianism, the idea that state power must be absolutely minimized, relies on ideas of individual rights that seem flatly inconsistent with racism. And yet libertarian rhetoric has always had powerful attractions for those who wanted to resist racial equality. How is that possible?
There is in fact a connection, but it is one of psychology and political history rather than logic.
I just published a history of libertarianism. The book is a critical introduction to this ideology, which has done so much to shape American politics. I focused on its major thinkers — Hayek, Friedman, Epstein, Rothbard, Nozick and Rand — and sought to address their strongest arguments. None of them were racists, and most rejected racism vehemently, so I largely ignored the linkage with racism. Yet now it presents itself.
In May, the party was taken over at its national convention by the so-called Mises Caucus, a far-right group, some of whose members have been associated with racist and antisemitic ideas. The caucus…Read More
Andrew Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law at Northwestern University, is the author of “Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed” (St. Martin’s Press, forthcoming). Follow him on Twitter @AndrewKoppelman.