Richard Spencer is Editor of Radix Journal, a biannual journal on culture and critical theory, and the host of Vanguard Radio, a weekly podcast. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at The American Conservative magazine and Executive Editor of Takimag from 2008 to 2009. In 2010, he founded AlternativeRight.com and he edited it for its first two years. In this brief discussion, radicalism and tradition, race, and the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are covered.
Keir Martland: Thank you very much, Richard, for agreeing to take part in this interview at ‘The Libertarian’. To begin, could you tell us what ‘radical traditionalism’ is and how it is linked to what many of us call libertarianism?
Richard Spencer: The word radical is often disparaged; it is associated with bomb throwing and the like. Its root is, in fact, ‘root’: in this sense, radical is the root of words like “radish” and also “race.” A radical, in the proper sense, is someone who gets to the heart of the matter, someone who uncovers and reveals the essence of something. In this proper sense, many libertarians are radical.
Tradition is, in one sense, the whole of which the individual is a part. As I see it, there are two (likely more, though) strands of libertarianism: one could be called Left-libertarianism and the other Right or traditionalist libertarianism. The latter (Right) seeks to remove the welfare state from aspects it should never be involved with, like: the family, culture, free association, free trade, etc. Right libertarians want smash the state so that they can experience more traditional ways of life. They want, for example, parents to have authority and not welfare bureaucrats. The other libertarians are essentially leftists by other means: they don’t like authority of any kind; they seek atomization of society. A right libertarian doesn’t want the welfare state to dictate gay marriage to them whereas the left libertarian believes that gay marriage is a positive good and that no one has the right to question it.
Being a traditionalist is having a respect for the whole, not just the individual. One should recognize that something doesn’t come from nothing, that is, that an individual is a product of a family, an extended family (i.e., race or people) and a shared culture. In that sense, I’m a traditionalist. That doesn’t mean that I’m an antiquarian or I simply worship old things for the sake of their being old. One could also say that to be a radical is to be a traditionalist; and to be a traditionalist is to be a radical.
Keir Martland: How would you describe your political views in terms of other ‘mainstream’ ones? For instance, are you more conservative than libertarian? And many would find it odd that you still use the term ‘right’ – as in Alternative Right – when the terms ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ are now almost completely devoid of meaning.
Richard Spencer: You make a good point. In some ways, I regret associating myself with the “Right” at all. In American, “Right” means George W. Bush: war-mongering, crony capitalism, vulgar Christian religiosity, etc. That said, I think there are eternal aspects of Left and Right. In fact, these long-standing impulses were evolutionarily beneficial: the Left stood for “equality” in the sense of group cohesion; the Right stood for the predominance of the strong. One needs both impulses for successful group evolution. There must be leadership; that said, there also must be a strong sense of togetherness. The Left (in the sense of this communal impulse) has become completely poisonous.
It has actually served to destroy the cohesion of the group, by promoting globalism and the advancement of people outside the extended family.
Keir Martland: For those reading who may not be familiar with ‘Alternative Right’, could you explain just what it is and what its core beliefs, to put it crudely, are? And also why you think that a site like ‘Alternative Right’ was and is still needed?
Richard Spencer: I founded AltRight in early 2010; I’m still involved with it, but much less than I was. AltRight was very much a “big tent,” in the sense that lots of different types of traditionalists and radicals were invited to write there. I also felt that a forum was needed for people who came from a drastically different starting point than the so-called “conservative movement.”
The right in America is generally oppressive and monolithic. It has very little concern for rightist elements in Europe and its ideology is little more than classical liberalism. In practice, it’s worse: war-mongering, vulgar religiosity, and support for “capitalism” in the form of American “big business.”
Keir Martland: Many claim to have been instantaneously converted after reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’, others seem to be wary of the state after reading ’1984′ - for me it was Murray Rothbard’s ‘Ethics of Liberty’ combined with a loathing for the doctrine of political correctness that turned me into a ‘paleolibertarian’. What was it that convinced you of ‘alternative rightism’?
Richard Spencer: In some way, I always had these instincts, since I was kid, though I was not always able to articulate them.
Nietzsche has had the profoundest influence on my outlook. Believe it or not, I have profited by my exposure to Critical Theory. Paul Gottfried jokes that he’s a “right-wing” critical theorist. I, too, think of myself as belonging to a right-wing Frankfurt School, in a way. When I was just out of college, I was fascinated not just by Nietzsche, but by German Romanticism and Idealism in general. These are the kinds of thinkers that form the basis of my outlook.
I, too, have a great admiration for Rothbard. Rothbard makes an excellent argument for why libertarians must be realistic about race.
Keir Martland: Another libertarian to use neo-Marxist analysis to his advantage is Dr. Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance in the UK. In his conservative-libertarian manifesto, ‘Cultural Revolution, Culture War’ he uses terms like ‘the ruling class’ to great effect. He coincidentally, too, has attended the Property and Freedom Society organised by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. In Sean Gabb’s interview, the topic of ‘English reactionism’ was discussed; to what extent would you say that Americans are the ‘chosen people’ for libertarianism or conservatism, rather than the English?
Richard Spencer: You could say that Americans are “chosen people” for libertarians in the sense that they lack a certain rootedness. Even though America is older as a nation-state than many Europeans ones (e.g. Germany), it feels younger in that in terms of architecture and visible culture, it lacks the “deep history” one finds on the continent.
In this sense, Americans are always “starting over.” They are more willing push aside traditional forms in favor of the new. All nations and races think of themselves as “chosen” in some sense; Americans no longer believe in this in any kind of “white supremacist” way. They no longer talk about “conquering” the continent or expanding their power. They do believe in “choseness” in the sense that Christianity has become wrapped up in universal equality, global democracy, and representative government. Jesus was an American, in the symbolic sense in which Americans conceive themselves. America is the end of history, in the sense that it is what all people around the world are apparently striving for.
In my view, as America declines, and perhaps even flirts with collapse, due to a massive debt mountain and its demographic disaster, many true-believing Americans will suffer a crisis of faith.
Keir Martland: You mentioned Murray Rothbard on race. I recall he wrote an article on ‘The Bell Curve’. You’ve also spoken here and there about ‘Human Biodiversity’ or ‘HBD’; until then, I’d never heard of it as anything other than ‘sociobiology’. Could you explain what it is and what its significance is to libertarians?
Richard Spencer: HBD is simple really: Human Biodiversity means that people are different. Also, that we can use evolutionary theory, and evolutionary clues, to help us understand society, culture, and even politics.
HBD has immense explanatory powers, particularly with regard to heritability, general intelligence, and the failures of countless social programs to “close the gap” between individuals and between races with regard to intelligence and life outcomes. Rothbard convincingly argued that libertarians must grasp the power of heritability.
If a miracle occurs and libertarians are actually able to create a free society, the power of HBD would rear its head. Indeed, many of the “gaps” that liberals worry about would widen. Without state-sponsored affirmative- action, the cherry-picked women and minorities would vanish from many sectors.
Regardless of intelligence, it’s clear that people like to associate with other people who are like them: Churches and back-yard Bar-B-Qs are tightly segregated; American cities are segregated by race, quite starkly in fact. A free society would be a more “racist” society in the sense that, left to their own devices, people would associate with people like them; and state-sponsored “Diversity” would vanish. Thus, someone would say, “Look, freedom has failed! Freedom is racist! The gaps have widened!”
And many libertarians now make silly arguments about how the real victims of affirmative action are Blacks, or bad bureaucrats and social programs create the great divergence in educational outcome and economic success. Libertarians need to have a firm grasp of human nature-as well as human differences-for in a more stateless, anarchic environment, these realities will be intensified. At least since the Second World War, the welfare state has been at war against human nature.
Keir Martland: Thank you, Richard, once again for taking part and I hope our readers will take a look at Alternative Right, listen to Vanguard Radio and check out Radix Journal.
Richard Spencer: Thank you! It was a pleasure.