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Fusionism No More

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During the 1950’s, the threat of Soviet communism and an overweening domestic state as typified by the New Deal, brought together a very diverse coalition on the American right: fiscal conservatives, religious conservatives, national defense hawks, and what would eventually become known as libertarians.  Frank Meyer, an editor at National Review, was perhaps the most ardent proponent of the concept know as fusionism, which attempted to bring these unlikely allies into a single philosophical framework.  The idea was that, even if we disagreed on the destination, for the moment we were traveling in the same direction.

Despite Meyer’s efforts, libertarians were always, at best, uneasy members of the coalition.  After all, Frederick Hayek, one of the most important libertarian philosophers, famously wrote an essay entitled, “Why I am not a Conservative.”  Even so, libertarians have long been broadly identified as part of the American Right. 

For most of my political life, I was comfortable with this.  Of course, I had my differences with conservatives, but the right seemed like a reasonable default home.  I wrote for National Review and other conservative outlets and tended to vote Republican if there was no Libertarian on the ballot.  Long ago, I even ran for office as a Republican.  I took seriously Ronald Reagan’s statement that “Libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism.”

Whether or not those sentiments were once justified or I was just politically naive, it is clearly no longer the case. Today’s conservatives no longer have even a tangential relationship with libertarianism. The slide from traditional small government conservatism, even with its baggage on social issues, to Trumpism, with all its nationalism, jingoism, racialism, and the rejection of the values of enlightenment liberalism, has made the break complete.   Even on traditional conservative issues involving taxes, spending, or reducing the power of the federal government, today’s conservatives have abandoned the field.

After all, what does it mean when I agree with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on as many if not more issues than I do with even a so-called “liberty conservative” like Rand Paul.  No, I haven’t lost my mind. AOC and her colleagues on the left still have little to no understanding of — or appreciation for — economics.   They need to be kept far away from the federal budget. They too often believe that government power can be used for good if only they are in charge of it.  But on important issues like immigration, civil liberties, racial justice, women’s rights, LGBQT issues, police reform, war and peace, Trump’s legacy, and many others, AOC is more libertarian than many self-professed libertarians.

I am a libertarian because I believe in certain basic values: chief among them individual liberty, free markets, limited government, and peace.  I believe that these values are essential to human flourishing, and I believe that big government is generally inimical to those values. I believe that low taxes and tolerable regulations are the key to wealth creation and that wealth creation is necessary (if not sufficient) to reducing poverty.  I believe that most government programs are counterproductive and that entitlements are bankrupting the country.  None of that has changed.  I’m not going to turn into an AOC clone any time soon.  

But I no longer believe that there is any natural affinity between libertarianism and conservatism.  We are no longer headed in the same direction.  Fusionism is dead.



  1. kata says:

    AOC is a socialist, she is not more “libertarian” on those issues, she wants to use the state to enforce the leftist view on those issue. To simplify this so a blue pilled cato moron can understand it:

    You say she is more “libertarian on issues like women’s rights, police reform, lgbtq and sigh “racial justice”. What this actually means is that she is gonna tax you 40% since biden is taxing corporations effectively 30% now…. and all of your taxes will be redistributed in those issues and the force of the state will be used to promote the leftist morality on those issues. For example:

    womens rights? Not performing an abortion even after birth is now illegal and its a “human right” guaranteed and paid by the state WITH YOUR MONEY. Ron paul and Rand paul woud go to prison for not performing an abortion.

    Police reform? Mandatory critical race theory anti white training for cops like it happened in UK, so the police can beat up white people and ignore non white people commiting crimes to a point that muslim grooming gangs that raped thousands of little girls go unpunished till this day out of fear of being called racist. Essentially the police is turned into a “Red guard” with racial characteristics and no you cant fight them because she is gonna ban guns and any person that holds a gun to protect themselves from illegal mexicans or violent black riots matter domestic terrorists goes in prison. Kyle Rittenhouse for example who is hispanic is branded as a “white nationalist terrorist for merely defending himself from a violent mob. Protecting private proprety from mostly middle upper class white communists and a bunch of black looters is effectively illegal. Let them burn your property down to the ground. During the blm riots there was a picture of cato institute with a broken window, no matter how much you virtue signal it wont save you from the commie racist mob.

    Now i know explaining that all lgbtq interest/activist groups are left wing and will always promote leftism can be a bit taxing for a cato acolyte, so instead i am gonna point out that even an idiot can understand that the term “racial justice” is a dogwhistle for communists and has no bearing in reality or libertarianism. What exactly is racial justice? Who defines what is just? Certainly this isnt about making everyone more free but more equal, at a time that the left is openly legislating with the word “equity” you should be able to understand that racial justice will be about pushing anti white racism in schools with critical race theory and brainwashing an entire generation to hate themselves for being white and becoming slaves to non whites, exactly like “the new soviet man” project in the soviet union which aimed to change man in order to become more communist and naturally practice communism. crt which is paid by your tax payer money is aiming to do the same but with a racial characteristic. Suffice to say none of this is “libertarian” or promotes more freedom, it promotes equity and racism which is the opposite of liberty.

    ” I even ran for office as a Republican. I took seriously Ronald Reagan’s statement that “Libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism.”

    Ron Paul was in a plane with Regan trying to convince him to go back to the gold standard, Regan’s response was ” they dont like it when i talk about gold” meaning his handlers, Regan is the reason california went from the redest state to the bluest. Controlled opposition. At a time in which every dystopian totalitarians movie and every crazy conspiracy theory promoted by alex jones is becoming reality, siding with the left who are doing it isnt the right choice for libertarianism. It will end up exactly like Rand Paul’s 2016 campaign or a better yet example, tulsi gabbard’s 2020 campain. You get less than 1% from the left and the neoliberals. Then again cato acolytes who are literally funded by the state while claiming to speak against it are nothing more than controlled opposition who would rather they burn libertarianism to the ground than paleolibertarians successfully cooperating with republicans to end wars, end gun control abolish the fbi, atc, cia and end income tax, returning america to an era that it actually had freedom before the neocons and the reagans and jimmy carter’s and wildrow wilsons.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. James Anderson Merritt says:

    I believe that fusionism died on 9/11.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allan Walstad says:

    Would the author please identify those of Rand Paul’s positions that are less libertarian than AOC’s on the same issues?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mtannercato says:

      We can certainly start with the first of the issues I listed — immigration. Rand has been an ardent immigration restrictionist, supported the wall, supported TRump’s Moslem ban, and even opposed allowing Afghan refugees into the US. On LGBTQ issues Rand has opposed transgendered to serve in military, generally opposed other protections for LGBTQ, including being slow to support marriage rights, and his rhetoric on trans issues has been especially hateful. On racial justice he’s been better than many Republicans but still has opposed removal of confederate statues and has demagogued Critical Race Theory. On women’s rights, we will give Rand a mulligan for his anti-abortion stance, but I think we can still say AOC is more supportive of women’s equality. And, of course, Rand supported and continues to support Trump, a support that’s hard to square with democratic let alone libertarian values. I’m not saying AOC is a libertarian — she’s clearly not even close — but conservatives like Rand are not libertarian either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Allan Walstad says:

        Thanks for that. I know Rand Paul is not a card-carrying LP member, and I can’t tell you what his position is on every issue, but I was curious what he could have said or done to get compared negatively to AOC. A few responses: Open borders is what you can have in a purely libertarian world, but not now for all kinds of reasons that most people understand, even those of us who think immigration is a good thing. It was Ron Paul who helped me rethink my brittle position there. Unfortunately, the shortest distance between where we are and where we’d like to be is not necessarily a straight line. For the same reason, concerns about gays and trans people serving in the military were/are not necessarily misplaced. I don’t think that questioning the propriety of biological males cleaning up in women’s sports counts as hateful rhetoric, and I sure hope that forcing bakers to bake cakes for people or events that they personally deplore does not count as “marriage rights” in your book. There is no more “racial justice” than there is “social justice”: justice is justice, and it is individual–that’s something I thought all libertarians understood. “Critical Race Theory” is itself demagoguery and deserves all the ridicule it can get. Abortion is purely about women’s rights only if one takes the view that there is no point at which the developing fetus/unborn child acquires some level if rights that we are obliged to respect, and libertarianism per se has no answer for that. If Paul thinks Trump should be president again, I would disagree strongly based on Trump’s behavior following the election, but while he was president, policy-wise he did some relatively good stuff, and as I recall Paul supported him on some issues and opposed him on others, which makes sense. I’ll leave it at that.

        Liked by 1 person

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