Why Libertarians are not Fascists: A Philosophical Inquiry and Comparison of Individualism and Collectivism

Fascism is defined as “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.”

In many ways, the “alt-right” political philosophy has become tantamount to that of fascism. One of the alt-right’s tenets is “racial supremacy,” which, as a form of nationalism, was used by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party in Germany. Since the “Unite the Right” rally organized by many alt-righters last August, the alt-right has – unfortunately, in my opinion – received more attention.

Since this rally, writers for some left-leaning media outlets have posited that libertarians share commonalities with the alt-right. Additionally, other sources have consistently espoused that James M. Buchanan, a late Nobel Laureate in Economics (1986) with libertarian leanings, as someone who touted racism, fascism, and white-nationalism. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth: these claims are epistemologically fallacious and inflammatory.

To prove this, we must not only examine the etymology of fascism, but also analyze it with regard to the metaphysical – or ontological – postulates of individualism and collectivism, and compare them to both the libertarian and alt-right ideologies. An examination of both of these metaphysical postulates will prove that the alt-right and libertarian ideologies could not be more different.

Collectivism and its influence within the alt-right

The Encyclopedia Britannica describes collectivism as any of [the] several types of social organization in which the individual is seen as being subordinate to a social collectivity such as a state, a nation, a race, or a social class.” It continues by stating that “Collectivism has found varying degrees of expression in the 20th century in such movements as socialism, communism, and fascism.” (Italics supplied)

As previously mentioned, one of the alt-right’s tenets is racial supremacy – which presupposes (and it even admits that) that race, above all else, defines a people. This, in essence, is akin to the nationalism of the Nazi Party, as it also purports one group’s identity to be superior over the other.

As the Encyclopedia Britannica described that both fascism and socialism are species of the genus of collectivism, it is worth nothing that Nazi is short for “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei,” which translates to National Socialist German Workers’ Party. While many socialists may abhor and deny the relation, from a metaphysical and etymological perspective, Nazism is much more connected to socialism – a left-leaning ideology – than it is with libertarianism.

In The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek stated, “Yet, although to most socialists only one species of collectivism will represent true socialism, it must always be remembered that socialism is a species of collectivism and that therefore everything which is true of collectivism as such must also apply to socialism.” (Italics supplied)

In fact, a direct quote from Adolf Hitler illustrates this point: “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”

For those who know the libertarian – or classical liberal – ideology, laisezz-faire capitalism is one of its major tenets. Any rejection of capitalism is a rejection of the entire philosophy itself. Fascism, alt-rightism, or using Hayek’s quote, any form of collectivism, is therefore antithetical to classical liberalism.

Individualism and its roots in “classical liberalism”

Among many of the intellectual influences in classical liberalism, the work of Ayn Rand, in my opinion, is one of the most prolific and widely acclaimed. In her essay, Racism, Ayn Rand espouses a description of an ideology antithetical to that of the alt-right:

“Individualism regards man — every man — as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.

It is not a man’s ancestors or relatives or genes or body chemistry that count in a free market, but only one human attribute: productive ability.” (Italics supplied)

This excerpt from Ayn Rand’s essay – along with its title – illustrates that classical liberals, using the metaphysical postulate of individualism, view people as individuals, despite race, gender, sexuality, or any other group-related identity. Moreover, it proves that classical liberals advocate against fascism and its tenets, NOT for it.

Additionally, many classical liberal political economists such as Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and James M. Buchanan, all touted a system of “abstract rules,” which did not favor or discriminate among different peoples. In particular, in his essay Moral Community, Moral Order, or Moral Anarchy, James M. Buchanan contrasted a system akin to nationalism, as touted by the alt-right, with that of abstract rules, or individualism.

Finally, one of classical liberalism’s modern-day champions, Jeffrey A. Tucker, lambasted the prominent alt-right figure, Richard Spencer, at a bar. The video of this encounter can be seen here.

Classical Liberalism and Alt-Rightism: Two Different and Competing Ideologies

It appears that those who assert a connection between libertarianism and alt-rightism neglect the metaphysical and etymological facts that separate the two ideologies. Additionally, when one examines members of the classical liberal community, it is evident that much of the accusations are repudiated: Deirdre McCloskey, a transgender Harvard-trained economist; Walter E. Williams, an African-American UCLA-trained economist; and Peter Thiel, a homosexual, philanthropist, and millionaire.

Given the facts from this essay, and these aforementioned names, it seems that any attempt to relate classical liberalism with the alt-right is grounded purely in ideological drivel, to attach an ad hominem attack on those with whom they disagree, and a circumvention of the fact that fascists have much more in common with socialists than they do with libertarians. To presuppose anything else is an evasion of the study of logic and reality. If those who espouse that classical liberals have much in common with the alt-right want an ideological debate, they ought to stick to the facts and avoid arguments based on emotional dogma.

 

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