Nationalism vs. Libertarianism: Can You be Both?

Is this nationalism?

Written by: Derek Campbell

So here’s a thought, how compatible are nationalism and libertarianism? Labour are admitting that they allowed too much immigration when in power and UKIP and the Conservatives wish to place restrictions on the numbers coming into Britain. Most of the main parties are claiming to be looking after the “national interest”. But hang on, does a libertarian perspective fit in with this nationalistic fervour? Or does libertarianism have a distinctive alternative message? Or maybe any tension between nationalism and liberty is more imagined than real?

The first and most obvious point is that concern about the nation is a collective rather than an individual perspective. The national interest is a collective interest, so to put the interests of the nation first must mean putting the interests of the collective first. Furthermore, the nation in contemporary, political usage presupposes the state. Libertarianism, on the other hand, even at its most accommodating extreme would be cautious about the state; a necessary evil might be the most charitable assessment that a libertarian could provide for the continuance of the state. This unease about the state is a point on a continuum that extends towards those advocating a minimal state (minarchists) and beyond to those who envision a society with no state at all (anarchists). Although anarchy is often associated with “the left”, with decentralised control, collective self management and rejects the capitalist economic approach, there is also a strand of anarchy that is sympathetic to free trade, free markets and capitalism. It contends that the state and big business have colluded to fashion corporatism which restricts trade and distorts markets. 

It is perhaps obvious that there would be a difficulty reconciling anarchy and the nation state from both the left and the right. But can libertarianism (anarchy lite, anyone?) sit comfortably with the concept of nationhood?

Well there are political views that see trade liberalisation, the return of powers from the EU to the UK and the consequential loss of bureaucracy as distinctly libertarian. The supra national institution of the EU is seen to usurp the sovereignty of parliament. However, it seems to be obvious (using an equine analogy) that taking a horse from a stable and turning it out into a paddock is distinctly different from setting it free. In other words for a libertarian, and almost certainly for an anarchist, there is no substantive difference between government from Westminster and government from Brussels.

This leads to a second observation, that the concept of nationhood provides privileges for one set of people, Britons in this case, over another set of people, non Britons. Put another way nationalism attempts to erect a barrier between “us” and “others”. Now this has dangers in itself as it has a clear path to xenophobia, but this is not the main point. The bigger issue, surely for libertarians is that the individual is of secondary importance

There is a tension between libertarianism and nationalism. It is most straightforward to dismiss the libertarian claims of small state Conservatives and UKIP. Indeed for these there is a straightforward trade-off between individual liberty and the advantages of collectivism. They may not want to draw too much attention to this feature, and even less to debate the philosophical foundations or logical conclusions of their point of view, but it does at least have the benefit of pragmatism over ideology. The anarchist position is somewhat more straightforward in theory, although the practicalities are less so, in that eschewing the state obviates the need to even consider the nation as a significant political factor. But for avowed libertarians there appears to remain a difficult circle to square: how to reconcile individual liberty with nationality.

Martial Law America: Posse Comitatus Suspended

military police

Military soldiers peered around corners and into cars with automatic rifles drawn. Door to door inspection of homes commenced.  Armored vehicles with gun turrets spun around anxiously on a hair trigger. Posse Comitatus was suspended, the military policing the streets, as crowds of armed men clad in black and camouflaged uniforms walked suburban neighborhoods. A state of lock down, “shelter-in-place” and martial law was declared in Boston and the suburb of Watertown, Massachusetts on Friday. If someone had been ignorant of the outside world for the past week, looking out the window must have been a terrifying scene reminiscent of an invasion of a foreign military. But alas, this massive show of force was all for one man, suspected of perpetrating the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Posse Comitatus Suspended

Martial Law in Boston

Posse Comitatus Suspended

Military Police Roll Out

Posse Comitatus Suspended

Hordes of Black Clad Men

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was eventually found hiding inside a boat and was “smoked and gassed out”, with chilling resemblance to the Dorner case. He was taken into custody in critical condition. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, brother and suspected accomplice of Dzhokhar, was gunned down the previous day in an apparent shootout with police. According to the power vested in the FBI by a Justice Departments memo’s “safety exception”, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Miranda rights will not be read to him before questioning, if he ever wakes up again.

What was the reaction to the conclusion of this sad string of events? Citizens all across the North East took to the streets in celebration, hailing the brave work of the police and military and celebrating the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. This entire situation was a disgusting display of events on both sides. The Tsarnaev brothers allegedly committed a heinous and cowardly act of terror, killing three people and injuring many more. What was just as troubling is the roll out of the true face of America’s Police State. Few are decrying the suspension of the Constitution under the NDAA and Patriot Act. No one in the cheering crowds care they were under a state of de facto military control. No one cares that an America citizen has no Bill of Rights protection tonight, regardless of his alleged crime. No one cares that gang bangers in poor urban areas of America frequently have shoot outs and bloody bodies lay in the streets. Where are the hordes of black and camouflaged uniforms to bring law and order to those areas? Or does no one care about the dark skinned people?

I used to think that most Americans were against the NDAA and Patriot Act. I thought that the politicians that voted for the suspension of the Constitution were still in office because voting is a scam. I was wrong. Politicians are there because they represent exactly what the people want, a big daddy government to take care of them. Can I really blame the people of Massachusetts? It is one of the strictest gun control states in the US. I speculate that many homes in the Boston area had no way of defending themselves if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did try to harm them. Ultimately, they voted, and therefor, asked to be disarmed.

The amount of liberty Americans are willing to sacrifice for the State to provide “protection” is astounding. I am not condoning the alleged acts of the Tsarnaev brothers nor am I criticizing the police and military for stopping the supposed ongoing criminal acts of accused and dangerous individuals. What I am baffled at is that the people of Boston are not only tolerating such a reaction, but they are cheering it on. This is a very slippery and gradual slope that Libertarians have recognized for a long time. I see a brewing discontent, disconnection and dissent among many areas of the American public if this continues to be the new norm. The Tsarnaev brothers have not be convicted of anything, but are already suffering punishment. I fear we will see huge fallout after the incidents of Dorner, Aurora, Newtown and now the Boston Bombings. I do not know what is coming next from the State, and that scares me more than any bomber or shooter could.

Follow me @SlavLibertarian

For more pictures visit The Lew Rockwell Blog:

Ron Paul in 10 Great Quotes

Here is just a selection of 10 quotes from Ron Paul on a variety of issues that in just a few lines highlight the libertarian position. If you have a favourite Ron Paul Quote then post it below…

What all Americans dream of, will best be achieved through liberty;

I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas.

Crime is only crime if you define it as such;

You wanna get rid of drug crime in this country? Fine, let’s just get rid of all the drug laws.

Lets abolish 1913! ;

1913 wasn’t a very good year. 1913 gave us the income tax, the 16th amendment and the IRS.

Ron Paul on pre-emptive War;

Another term for preventive war is aggressive war - starting wars because someday somebody might do something to us. That is not part of the American tradition.

Ron on the contradiction between a strong economy and fiat money;

A system of capitalism presumes sound money, not fiat money manipulated by a central bank. Capitalism cherishes voluntary contracts and interest rates that are determined by savings, not credit creation by a central bank.

Ron Paul on a ridiculous law;

I would like to restore your right to drink raw milk anytime you like.

Traditional Republican values were what were campaigned on and won in 2000. They can win again;

How did we win the election in the year 2000? We talked about a humble foreign policy: No nation-building; don’t police the world. That’s conservative, it’s Republican, it’s pro-American - it follows the founding fathers. And, besides, it follows the Constitution.

And Ron Paul on the dangers of getting into bed with government;

When one gets in bed with government, one must expect the diseases it spreads.

Ending the FED is not an extreme position, it is the only position;

Of course I’ve already taken a very modest position on the monetary system, I do take the position that we should just end the Fed.

The logic of saying that soldiers lives will be wasted if we pull our troops out early is true. But the point is that if we don’t, then more lives will be wasted;

Cliches about supporting the troops are designed to distract from failed policies, policies promoted by powerful special interests that benefit from war, anything to steer the discussion away from the real reasons the war in Iraq will not end anytime soon.

What’s your favourite Ron Paul quote? Comment below

For more Ron Paul visit his website;

Libertarian Philosophy


In my first essay at The Libertarian, I promised to establish, over the course of several essays, a now conception of both libertarianism and the struggle between the libertarians and our opponents.  I must confess now, though, that the conception I plan to offer is not entirely new.  In fact, I will argue that what divides the statist from the libertarian is that the two are on opposite sides of the largest divides in all of philosophy.  We must realize that libertarianism, even non-anarchist libertarianism, is not simply a flavor or variation among policy options.  A picture many of us, libertarian or not, carry, of philosophy containing, as a subset, political theory, and political theory containing points labeled, variously, “fascist” “conservative” “libertarian” etc. is utterly mistaken.  Rather, one should, if one insists on the use of Venn diagrams, picture a larger circle into which conservative, liberal, and the rest will fall (each being a small circle, not a point), and a second larger circle, having no overlap with the first, into which a small circle for libertarianism may be placed.


Many of us imagine that philosophy began with Socrates.  This is an amusingly narrow-minded worldview, one which can only be the product of the academic imagination.  Minds, in the process of existing, cannot help but philosophize – there can no be more be a time when human beings did not philosophize than there can be one when they did not breathe.  The birth of philosophy is lost in our ancient evolutionary pathways, not the scribblings of a particularly ugly homosexual with dictatorial tendencies.


From the dawn of time, man has been confronted with the existential choice that I choose to locate at the center of all philosophical musings – to seek greatness via a vision of a better life, or to seek safety via fearfully clinging to the advantages of the present.


To demonstrate the existence of this choice of worldviews prior to the birth of formal philosophy, I will illustrate it by pointing to two pre-Socratics.  The two men I will describe in this essay will be the central characters in the grand human drama I will present.  Their forms will reappear in every generation – the struggle between Rothbard and Marx, between Hayek and Keynes, between Mises and Schlitz – is nothing less than Parmenides and Heraclitus reborn to fight another day.  This is not to claim that Parmenides is a libertarian, or Heraclitus a statist – rather, that the worldviews they staked our include these types as subcategories.


The question confronting the pre-Socratics was simple.  The world can be readily observed to be chaotic and ever-changing.  As Heraclitus argued, to step twice into the same river is impossible – the water having flowed on and the river become a new river.  Speaking literally, there is nothing but flux.  To investigate the river more deeply, imagine being a super-scientist of sorts – the ideal ever scientist dreams of is to investigate all problems at deepest, simplest level.  Two rivers, then, are identical only if their atoms are identical.  Having once stepped into the river, the atoms most certainly have changed – hence, a new river.  There is no certainty, no absolute, and no true knowledge, only a bewildering and frightening world of change.  Such a worldview is naturally a fearful one – out of the fact of utter, overwhelming, kaleidoscopic change comes powerlessness, a bitter clinging to islands of stability, and the futile wish for a higher power to ensure our safety and survival.  Ladies and gentlemen – the birth of the nanny state!


The reader will note, of course, that while critical of this view, I started out just above by admitting its obvious truth.  What, then, is the alternative – to deny what is obviously true?  The answer, Parmenides responded, is not to deny what is obvious, but to point out that what is less obvious – less physical, less provable – is true as well.  The physical world is in chaos, but it does not follow that stability, order, and unity are illusions.  What follows is only that, if stability, order, and unity are to be found, they must not be found in the physical world.  Later philosophers spelled out the details in various forms centering around the idea of Idealism.  What is fundamental is that one must look to a created world – to an image to be formed only in the mind, not found in the world – to offer a deep, abiding unity around which the chaos of our world flows.  Stability will be found in this ideal world of thought.  The stability is imaginary, to be sure – and yet what is imaginary is more true than that which is only apparent.


So it was that Pamenides, despite all the evidence to the contrary, claimed that all is one.  So it was that his pupil Zeno argued that, if we insist that appearances are real and true to reason right through them, we derive absurd consequences, such as the impossibility of movement.  We can apply reason only to reasonable things, says Zeno – reason is the backbone, not the flesh.  It is this idealism which can play host to libertarianism.  The libertarian cannot live in a world absent reliable consequences of motion, the libertarian cannot live in a world without rules, a world formed purely the evidence of senses.  To the reality behind the appearance we assign the term metaphysics – libertarianism requires a metaphysical backing in a way that statism does not.  Metaphysical thinking is the refusal to accept that the evidence of the senses is all there is.  The metaphysical thinker can imagine a greater world than what is, while our disciples of Heraclitus are locked into the concretes of what exists.  Only with metaphysics is it possible to lead the life of vision – to release one’s grip on tenuous stability in order to take a leap into what can be.


To sketch out where we will travel together in the future – we will need to examine the creation of the calculus by two men, two representatives of two worldviews – Newton and Leibniz.  We will look at the Austrian school of economics, its philosophical underpinnings, and the struggle between Menger and the German Historical School.  We will look at the Vienna Circle’s denial of metaphysics and the impossible situation such an Austria faced in answering Hitler – we will look at Godel’s response to Vienna, and at Godel’s larger program which, unsurprisingly, included libertarian sentiments on the law and the Constitution.  From Godel we will derive a theory of law and its unsuitability to ensuring the good life.  Finally, we will trace American history, finding shades of Heraclitus in Reconstruction and in the Progressive Era – and shades of Parmenides in the Populist movement.  We will examine the founding and the Constitution for the influences of both.  We will conclude by seeing what this picture of libertarianism offers us by way of strategic considerations.

The Danger Of Central Banks

Now, money is "legal tender."

Written by: Jeff Magee

Since 2007 central banks have flooded the world economy with over 11 trillion dollars and the result has not been a stabilization of the economy, in fact it has been the opposite; the Euro is in free-fall, the dollar has lost 96% of its value since the creation of the Federal Reserve. Continue reading

Confessions Of A Recovering Neocon

An angry neocon.

I was a neocon. The year was 1999 and the race was on between Al Gore and George W. Bush for president. Actually we had gone through the dot com bubble and I suffered the pangs of loss in my meager portfolio. Global Warming was off the radar. I was reacquainting myself with politics after spending a few years examining the court system from the inside while enjoying a particularly nasty four year divorce.

By the end of the next year we found ourselves embroiled in the battle for the office of president. As a Neocon I was rooting for Bush and hanging on to every word the news saw fit to broadcast. Fast forward another year and I watched in horror as the second plane struck the World Trade Center south tower, the north already being hit.

Patriot Act

Like many I cheered the Patriot Act, thinking we had to have a way to hunt down the terrorists. After all, I had nothing to hide. My lovely fiancée called it the Gestapo Act, being of a more liberal leaning, or maybe given the history of her parents in a German work camp during WWII she just understood tyranny better than I did. I would argue the need for a crack in basic privacy to keep us safe. I hadn’t read history, finding it boring trying to memorize dates and places, and never being introduced to the stories themselves.

What was done in the name of neoconservatism started to worry me

My eyes started to open when statutes passed that forced me to buy bulbs that leak mercury vapors. How could that great defender of freedom, George W. Bush sign such a thing? Had I been wrong about him? Had I bought into the theater being played out in my government? I had, past tense. It was time to really see what was going on. It was time to get involved.

I joined the local 9-12 group, spurred on by Glenn Beck and a burning desire to learn the history I never knew. I joined a local Tea Party to feed on other’s opinions, only to watch as the group worked to elect another lying politician. I held my nose and voted for “Maverick” McCain, not because I thought he was any better than Obama, but because there was a 24/7 Obama channel on the dish and I wondered where the money came from to fund that. I took the Foundations of Liberty course through Monticello College , forcing me to read amazing stories of Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and George Washington. I read about the Roman Empire, Communism in China and Hungry, the Fascism of Mussolini and the National Socialism of Hitler. I read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. My eyes were opening.

The scales fell from my eyes when a friend gave me an excerpt from “The Creature from Jekyll Island” and I spent the next three days researching central banks and the history of the Rothschild family. I felt like Neo in the Matrix having swallowed the red pill. There was no going back; this Neo-Con was waking.

As I proceeded on this journey I realized the solution to this problem of dictatorial government and fiat money lay in the People. The People needed to be taught, not to pass some test, but to think for themselves. Using the greatest tool of enlightenment available, the internet, I studied the Frankfurt School of thought and the damage it has done. I learned the true meaning of a classical liberal. I devoured the works of people like Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell and other prominent Libertarians.

This rabbit hole goes deep and I implore everyone to take the red pill and follow it. Learn to be better People that we might have better government; of the People, by the People and for the People.

The Weekly-Free-for-All Debate: Animal Rights?


Are you a libertarian that believes in animal rights? Do you think that we should treat animals as we would treat a mentally handicapped person or do you think that, as we can’t communicate with animals, we have no way of knowing how to respect their rights? You can participate in the debate by commenting below or on our Facebook page, which is a source of many other interesting discussions.

The Outlines of a Logical Set of Ethics


While I am a private property anarcho-libertarian who uses the praxeological method of argumentation ethics to justify a libertarian legal code, I rarely speak of actual ‘ethics’.  Argumentation ethics says nothing about morality and it is certainly not a set of ‘oughts’, but instead an account of what rights we have and what laws are appropriate. Many libertarians, not wishing to sound like a Randroid, often resort to abandoning all talk of morality and instead say that they ‘believe’ in the nonaggression axiom. This simply will not do, and in this piece I shall attempt to convince you of a few moral rules, non of which are original, without using the phrase ‘rational self-interest’.

Continue reading

Sign up for The Libertarian Newsletter

* = required field