Yes, I know that to identify a group as somehow being libertarian and neocon at the same time is something of a contradiction. However, I believe that there is emerging within the libertarian movement a group that is best understood as attempting to advocate a type of libertarianism that also requires that baggage be carried for what best can be described as a kind of social-issues neoconism.
Jeffrey Tucker's recent essay, Against Libertarian Brutalism, is an example of this type neocon-libertarian view.
In his essay, Tucker divides libertarianism into two camps. He generously calls his own camp, "humanitarian," while those he sees, as being in an opposing camp, he calls "brutalists." I will argue that what Tucker calls brutalist libertarians are in fact just libertarians, with no adjective necessary to modify the word libertarian, while the camp that Tucker identifies himself with is indeed more than the libertarian camp, it is best described as not humanitarian but social-neocon.
Tucker is a very clever writer who often in his writings will make statements that are not necessarily logically consistent and, at other times, appear apparently to be plopped in the middle of his essays for dramatic distortive effect.
Consider his introduction of the term libertarian-brutalism. He tells us he has adopted this term as a type of reference back to an architectural movement:
What is brutalism? The term is mostly associated with an architectural style of the 1950s through the 1970s, one that emphasized large concrete structures unrefined by concerns over style and grace. Inelegance is its main thrust and its primary source of pride. Brutalism heralded the lack of pretense and the raw practicality of the building’s use. The building was supposed to be strong not pretty, aggressive not fussy, imposing and not subtle.
Brutalism in architecture was an affectation, one that emerged from a theory robbed of context. It was a style adopted with conscious precision. It believed it was forcing us to look at unadorned realities, an apparatus barren of distractions, in order to make a didactic point. This point was not only aesthetic but also ethical: It rejected beauty on principle. To beautify is to compromise, distract, and ruin the purity of the cause. It follows that brutalism rejected the need for commercial appeal and discarded issues of presentation and marketing; these issues, in the brutalist framework, shield our eyes from the radical core.
Brutalism asserted that a building should be no more and no less than what it is supposed to be in order to fulfill its function. It asserted the right to be ugly, which is precisely why the style was most popular among governments around the world, and why brutalist forms are today seen as eyesores all over the world.
We look back and wonder where these monstrosities came from, and we are amazed to discover that they were born of a theory that rejected beauty, presentation, and adornment as a matter of principle. The architects imagined that they were showing us something we would otherwise be reluctant to face. You can only really appreciate the results of brutalism, however, if you have already bought into the theory and believe in it. Otherwise, absent the extremist and fundamentalist ideology, the building comes across as terrifying and threatening.
By analogy, what is ideological brutalism? It strips down the theory to its rawest and most fundamental parts and pushes the application of those parts to the foreground. It tests the limits of the idea by tossing out the finesse, the refinements, the grace, the decency, the accoutrements. It cares nothing for the larger cause of civility and the beauty of results. It is only interested in the pure functionality of the parts. It dares anyone to question the overall look and feel of the ideological apparatus, and shouts down people who do so as being insufficiently devoted to the core of the theory, which itself is asserted without context or regard for aesthetics.In other words, he is objecting to those who hold libertarianism to be simply what is is, an advocacy of the non-aggression principle, though at other times he seems to switch and advance the idea that brutalists are libertarians that, by definition, indeed hold non-politically correct views on gays, Jews, blacks etc.. At other times, he will write in a very clever fashion that is simply off the wall distortive. He drops in this doozy of a statement:
Brutalism can appear in many ideological guises. Bolshevism and Nazism are both obvious examples...What is Tucker trying to say here? What does this have to do with libertarianism? Libertarianism is about the non-aggression principle. It is the opposite of what Nazis and Bolsheviks advocated. If one is to take that ideological brutalism means belief in hardcore principles, right or wrong, then almost any ideologues of any stripe can be labeled brutalists, including a Tucker favorite, feminists (SEE:Was Ludwig Von Mises a Feminist?)
Indeed, attaching the word brutalist to any principled group seems to be nothing more than a redundancy wrapped in a smear. The term libertarian stands alone quite well in getting across the point as to what libertarianism is about, liberty for all. Indeed, Tucker admits as much in his essay at one point:
Liberty is large and expansive and asserts no particular social end as the one and only way. Within the framework of liberty, there is the freedom to love and to hate.Let us now take a look at what Tucker calls "humanitarian libertarianism." Tucker tells us this is an advocacy of libertarianism with "accoutrements." Tucker writes:
An ideology robbed of its accoutrements, on the other hand, can become an eyesore, just as with a large concrete monstrosity built decades ago, imposed on an urban landscape, embarrassing to everyone, now only awaiting demolition. Will libertarianism be brutalist or humanitarian? Everyone needs to decide.What accoutrements does Tucker have in mind? Tucker does not tells us directly, but only indirectly by attacking a basic tenet of those who stick, simply and only, to the libertarian principle that people should be free to do whatever they want as long they do not violate the non-aggression principle.
[T]he brutalists assert the right to be racist, the right to be a misogynist, the right to hate Jews or foreigners, the right to ignore civil standards of social engagement, the right to be uncivilized, to be rude and crude...[and the right to] revulsion against homosexualityAs I have written before, I have no problems with blacks, Jews or gays. But what of those who do hold such prejudices? Some most certainly are prejudice against other groups because of religious reasons, cultural reasons, a belief in correct, or incorrect, empirical observations about various groups, and based on many other reasons, but so what? (SEE: About My Racist Friends, My Homophobic Friends and My Own Prejudices)
If one experiences a strong pull to be a paid, or an unpaid, PR agent for some or all of these groups, no libertarian, of any stripe, is going to object. But these advocacy positions have nothing to do with the essence of libertarianism. It is a distortion of what libertarianism is about. And the distortions dosen't stop there. There are many other distortions in Tucker's essay and it would take a book to discuss them all, so I will examine only one other important one here, when Tucker writes with condemnation of brutalists because some desire to be among their own. He says:
To them [brutalist libetarians], what’s impressive about liberty is that it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action...Does Tucker have any idea what goes on in the world? Most people like to be around their own kind. This is not limited to "brutalist" libertarians. Does Tucker realize that Greenwich Village in New York City, the Castro District in San Francisco and Provincetown in Massachusetts, to name just three, are pockets of gay tribes? They want to be around each other as much as anti-gays, want to be around their own. What's the problem? And as far as brutalists holding some kind of monopoly on working out "their biases in action," Tucker ought to take a walk down the Castro some Saturday night.
And herein lies the Tucker view as a kind of social-neocon view. Neocons, as we know, consider America "exceptional" and thus desire that the American way of government rule be imposed on the rest of the world. Failed interventions in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Vietnam have shown just how impossible a task this is. But, yet, the neocons don't stop. They want war in Syria, Ukraine and Iran. Interestingly, they will often couch their calls for battle by propagandizing that their demands are "humanitarian" to remove "brutes."
They totally fail to accept the libertarian principle, which is essentially "live and let live." Only by trade and voluntary exchange do people, over time, observe what works and, perhaps, adopt free market policies. In otherwords, the best way to live is by example, not by meddling in the affairs of others.
It is the same on the social front. To convert the world to a "live and let live" philosophy is a difficult enough task but to attach "accoutrements," is nothing but neocon-type meddling on the social spectrum. It is going beyond the advancement of liberty and, at the same time, bucking up against many religions, cultures and individual beliefs. One has to ask,what politically correct accoutrement will come next? There seems to be no identifiable line to be drawn to stop advocacies of almost anything? Will a call come out to "be civil" and advocate the wearing of Murray Rothbard-type bowties, as part of libertarianism? A Rothbard-type bowtie wearing practice Tucker seems to have adopted.
If someone wants to advocate for any group based on their race, religion, sex, sexual preferences, color of their skin, or anything else, they would be free to do so in a libertarian society, but to tie libertarian principle in any way, with any specific views on such matters is meddling with a basic principle and contradictory to what libertarianism calls for: liberty for all, regardless of what any specific person will attempt to do with his liberty--as long as there is no aggression. It is impossible to attempt to squeeze anything out of the fruit of liberty, except freedom. The liberty fruit does not contain meddling juice. Neocon libertarians are attempting to muddy this fact.
The only question that needs to be asked is if gays, Jews, blacks, fundamentalists, atheists, Catholics, homophobes and racists can be libertarians and the answer is, "Yes." Beyond this, any attempt to isolate any of these groups relative to other groups, in the context of libertarianism, is meddling with libertarianism in a manner that is contradictory to the very essence and inclusiveness of libertarianism. It is social-issues neconism.
If neocon libertarians want to live in an area where blacks, Jews and gays freely mix they should simply do so. If the area becomes more vibrant than other areas, people will notice, but we also should keep in mind that others may not want such vibrancy. Live and let live.