The rightwing movement's extreme individualist ideology has much
to come to terms with in its own intellectual heritage. The
Potowmack Institute provides a few examples:
"Big Sister is Watching You",
Whittaker Chambers reviews Ayn Rand, National Review,
"Libertarians & Conservatives",
National Review, 1979.
"The Libertarian Movement in
America", George Friedman and Gary McDowell,
J. Contemp. Studies, 1983.
There is an "untrammeld libertarianism" in the present rightwing
movement that tends toward the same "anarchy and nihilism" as the
rightwing ideologue Frank S. Meyer saw "in the anarchist wing of
SDS" in the late 1960s. Now we find it in the NRA's
"armed citizen guerrillas" acting
out a childish political fantasy. The difference is that SDS did
not wrap its insurrectionist fantasies in the Constitution and
did not have them embraced and promoted by members of Congress.
Assaulting Jim Zumbo
The NRA on Extremists
NRA scams its members
The Lionel Show
AirAm Radio's ignorant, crude, ugly,
air waves barbarian
Dear John Ashcroft
The armed populace doctrine at the DOJ
The Washington Post
Gun Policy News
news stories compiled daily.
Failing its Mission
NPR's Diane Rehm
Civilized without Substance.
A longstanding dereliction.
Violence Policy Center
The public health agenda
falls in line with the NRA.
Getting it right but
failing its mission in the
Militia Act of 1792
To enroll conscript, register
Return of Militia
Inventory of private weapons in
the early Republic reported to the
President of the US
John Kenneth Rowland
John K. Mahon
The Quotes, the Quotes
Fabricating the armed populace doctrine
Tenn. Law Rev., 1995
Chicago-Kent Symposium, 2000
What does the NRA want?
Libertarianism and Libertinism?
Frank S. Meyer
National Review, 1969
©1969 by National Review, Inc., 215 Lexington Avenue,
New York, NY 10016. Reprinted with permission
Principles and Heresies
The development of contemporary American conservatism has been marked, on the theoretical level, by a continuing tension between
traditionalist emphasis and a libertarian emphasis.
Over the years I have argued that these positions are in fact not
incompatible opposites, but complementary poles of a tension and
balance which, both in theory and practice, define American
conservatism as it has come into being at midcentury. If
anything, I have stressed the libertarian emphasis because I have
felt that unmodified traditionalism, stressing virtue and order
in disregard of the ontological and social status of the freedom
of the individual person, tended dangerously to towards an
authoritarianism wrong in itself and alien to the spirit of
Recently, however, there have been ominous signs that the danger
of a disbalance just as alien to conservatism is arising not from
traditionalist quarters, but from an untrammeled libertarianism, which tends as directly to anarchy and nihilism as unchecked
traditionalism tends to authoritarianism. This libertarianism can be seen at its most extreme in such dropouts from the Right as Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess and their handful of followers. While their position has become
indistinguishable from that of SDS, there are increasing signs of a more
widespread, if more moderate, development in this direction, primarily among the young, but by no means restricted to them. The essential rationale of this position is so far removed from the rationale of libertarian conservatism, and so completely ignores the proper foundations of liberty in the actual circumstances of the human condition, that, like the position of the anarchist wing of the SDS, its proper denomination is not libertarianism but libertinism.
A true libertarianism is derived from metaphysical roots in the
very constitution of being, and places its defense of freedom as a
political end in the context of moral responsibility for the
pursuit of virtue and the underlying social necessity for the preservation of order. The libertine impulse that masquerades as libertarian, on the other hand, disregards all moral responsibility, ranges itself against the minimum needs of social order, and raises the freedom of the individual person (regarded as the unbridled expression of every desire, intellectual or emotional) to the status of an absolute end.
The underlying issue between conservative libertarianism and
libertine libertarianism is at bottom a totally opposed view of the nature
of destiny of men. The libertineslike those other products of the
modern world, ritualistic liberals, socialists, Communists,
fascistsare ideologues first and last. That is, they reject reality as it has been studied, grasped, understood, and acted upon in five
thousand years or so of civilized history, and pose an abstract
construction as the basis of action. They would replace God's
creation of this multifarious, complex world in which we live,
and substitute for it their own creation, simple, neat and
inhumanas inhuman as the blueprints of the bulldozing
The place of freedom in the spiritual economy of men is a high
but it is specific and not absolute. By its very nature, it
cannot be an end of men's existence. Its meaning is essentially
freedom from coercion, but that, important as it is, cannot be an
end. It is empty of goal or norm. Its function is to relieve
men of external coercion so that theY may freely seek their good.
It is for this reason that libertarian conservatives champion
freedom as the end of the political order's politics,
which is, at its core, the disposition of force in
society, will, if not directed towards this end, create
massive distortions and obstacles in men's search for their good.
But that said, an equally important question remains. Free, how
are men to use their freedom? The libertine answers that they
should do what they want. Sometimes, in the line of the
philosophers of the French Revolution, he arbitrarily posits the
universal benevolence of human beings. He presumes that if
everyone does whatever he wants, everything will be for the best
in the best of all possible worlds. But whether so
optimistically qualified or not, his answer ignores the hard
facts of history. For it is only in civilization that men have
begun to rise towards their potentiality; and civilization is
a fragile growth, constantly menaced by the dark forces that suck
man back towards his brutal beginnings.
Reason and Tradition
The essence of civilization, however, is tradition: no single
men can of itself discover the proper ends of human existence. At
as understood by contemporary American conservatism, the
view accepts political freedom, accepts the role of reason and
and criticism; but it insists, if civilization is to be
preserved, that reason operate within tradition and that
political freedom is only effectively achieved when the bulwarks
of civilizational order are preserved.
Libertine libertarianism would shatter those bulwarks. In its
opposition to the maintenance of defenses against Communism, its
puerile sympathy with
the rampaging mobs of campus and ghetto, its contempt for the
wisdom of the great producing majority, it is directed towards
destruction of the civilizational order which is the only real
foundation of a real world for the freedom it espouses. The
first victim of the mobs let loose by the weakening of
civilizational restraint will be, as it has always been,
freedomfor anyone, anywhere.
© Potowmack Institute