[W]e need to face up to the serious conflict within our ranks, between the neo-Confederates at the Mises Institute on one hand, and what James Kirchik calls “the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine” on the other. … I would like to see the libertarian community as a body repudiate the Lew Rockwellers entirely. They are not libertarians, they are paleo-conservatives who do not share our primary concern with individual liberty and constitutionalism. Ultimately they lack a grounded perspective on what liberty means and why it is important. Their moral and cultural relativism, their traditionalism and their alliances (both intellectual and strategic) with southern-style paleo-cons have misled them in many ways.I am inclined to agree. While I generally favor a big-tent approach to libertarianism, and I think internecine squabbles have damaged the movement, there are some alliances just not worth making. Tolerating racists only poisons the cause.
We should recognize, however, that not everyone associated with the Mises Institute is a horrible person, just a number of bad seeds like Rockwell and Hans-Hermann Hoppe who unfortunately wield a great deal of influence. So we should be careful in how we word our denunciations.
Sandefur also delves into why we haven’t removed this tumor already, and here I think he goes astray. He essentially lays the blame at the feet of the consequentialist/utilitarian strain of libertarian thought:
Pragmatism—that is, the consequentialism of which Mises is the most obvious spokesman—was designed exactly to avoid these questions, because they lead to such conflict. We’ll just create a wertfrei [value-free] libertarianism, Mises thought, and then we can avoid all this morality stuff and just get to designing a free society. The upside? You can convert people of different moral backgrounds to libertarianism. The downside? It collapses at the touch of those who take relativism seriously, and [who] reject the practical arguments for liberty because they’re concerned more with their allegedly moral vision of a totalitarian state. … And then there’s the orneriness—the libertarians who think they’re special because they reject all those old-fashioned moralizers like Rand and Jefferson and whatnot. They’re much too sophisticated and mature, you know, for discussions over morality and objectivity and deontology and whatnot, and if you suggest that there’s something wrong with a libertarianism that is not grounded in ethics, you’re just, like, totally lame.This is almost exactly backward. I’m pretty sure that if you did a quick poll, you’d discover that Cato and Reason are where you’ll find the most consequentialist and pragmatic libertarians, and the Mises Institute is where you’ll find the most deontologists. It’s the Rockwell-types who constantly claim their positions are objectively true and follow directly from a prior reasoning. Now, I’m not claiming there’s a causal connection between deontology and racism/paleoconservatism; it’s only a correlation. But the correlation runs exactly opposite to that posited by Sandefur.
The Mises name is a source of confusion here, because Ludwig von Mises stood on both sides of the divide. On the one hand, he was an a priori economic theorist. But he was also an adamant utilitarian consequentialist, something the Mises Institute folks prefer to ignore. More importantly, Mises was at his core a cosmopolitan, not a nativist. Mises’s views were in this respect diametrically opposed to those held by certain unsavory inhabitants of the Institute that bears his name.