Recently there was quite a dust up in the libertarian webosphere over an article by Jeffrey Tucker which essentially struck a politically correct pose, and seemed clearly intended to distance himself from his former colleagues at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and LewRockwell.com. Since that time the words “brutalism” and “thick” vs. “thin” libertarianism have been flying around the libertarian universe with each side often questioning the authenticity of the other’s libertarianism. I never got around to discussing the Tucker article at the time, although it is mentioned in the comments of this post I made about another (somewhat related) libertarian squabble.
Enough cyber ink has been spilled on this since then, so I don’t want to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that while I’m not technically a philosophical libertarian, I certainly side with the “thin” “brutalists” associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute and LewRockwell.com. Like so many splits within libertarianism, there is a “cosmopolitan” vs. “populist,” visceral Blue vs. visceral Red, “Beltway” (pragmatic, establishment) vs. Flyover Country (dogmatic, anti-establishment) and Koch axis vs. Rothbard/Rockwell/Paul axis dynamic at play in the dispute.
What I would like to explore here is what the heck happened to Jeffrey Tucker. For those unfamiliar with the minutia of the libertarian sphere, briefly, Jeffrey Tucker used to be an associate of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and his writing frequently appeared there and at the related Lew Rockwell website. He is now, per Wikipedia, “CEO of Liberty.me and publisher of Laissez Fair Books. Tucker is also a Distinguished Fellow of the Foundation for Economic Education, an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and an Acton University faculty member.”
To be honest, until he wrote his now famous/infamous essay, I was not even aware that Tucker had left the von Mises Institute. I was prompted by the squabble to search for news/gossip related to his departure. I found surprisingly little. I am certainly not privy to the inner workings of the von Mises Institute, but I was under the impression that Rockwell and Tucker were personally close, so I presumed the lack of gossip was an indication that the parting had been amicable. When this squabble first broke out, I went to LewRockwell.com to see what they had to say about it. While they addressed the issue, by my memory and by current searches, they did so less than I expected them to. I took this as evidence that the Rockwell crowd might be holding its fire to some extent out of deference to Tucker. (OT: Similarly, I have a hunch that LRC holds their fire at Rand Paul to some degree out of deference to his father.) I couldn’t decide whether to consider this honorable or unwise, since the Tucker article was so clearly aimed at the Rockwell orbit.
With this in mind, it was with interest that I stumbled upon this tidbit at the Austrian Economic Policy Journal. The article is about a separate but related libertarian PC dust up, where some PC suck up lightweight was whining about libertarian racism. Of interest is that Rockwell orbit heavyweight Tom Woods weighs in in the comment section with a direct criticism of Tucker. As best as I can recall, this is the most direct addressing of Tucker specifically that I have seen from them. (Let me know if I’ve missed something.)
To continue in that vein, she would have had to break with Tucker, and that gig is evidently too lucrative to give up.
Meanwhile, Tucker, who from his recent writing appears to be a delicate flower who feels pain at every unkind word or thought entertained by anyone at any time, couldn’t spare three seconds to stand up in defense of Ron Paul, who has done so much for him, or for Walter or the others. Let’s hope this phase passes soon.
Ouch. That stings a bit.
What makes this new iteration of Tucker so bizarre, is that he was there at the height of the hysterical PC attacks on the von Mises Institute and LewRockwell.com, that were associated with, among other things, the publication of Tom DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln, Tom Woods’ Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, David Frum’s “Unpatriotic Conservatives” National Review article, hit pieces from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Ron Paul Newsletters affair, etc.. One would think that Tucker would have developed a thicker skin through all that.
As I said, I am certainly not privy to the inner workings of Mises/Rockwell, but the closest thing to a source I have so far suggested I should simply “follow the money.” Tucker is now with an organization/organizations whose donors might be more sensitive to perceived politically incorrect taint, so he needed to distance himself from his past associations.
Perhaps, but this has the feel to me of so many previous similar episodes of very public professions of rightthink. Might Tucker be loudly and publically proclaiming his dedication to rightthink, so as to personally inoculate himself against future charges of wrongthink? So now if someone says “Ewww… You used to be associated with those wrongthinkers at Ludwig von Mises and Lew Rockwell,” he can say, “But did you not see the paean to rightthink that I wrote? Clearly, I am a rightthinker.”
What makes Tucker’s transformation all the more of a head scratcher is that he appears to be personally quiet traditionalist. He has advocated for a return to more formal styles of dress for men, a downright reactionary position by modern standards. (I say that descriptively, not critically.) He is also a traditional Catholic, and a prominent supporter of the use of sacred music in the Church. Does Tucker not realize that his Church holds some decidedly “brutalist” opinions – on gender roles, on sexuality, on the truth of Christianity, on hierarchy, etc. Does his traditional Catholicism not make him a de facto brutalist? Or has he now denounced the Church’s teachings on sexual morality and embraced gender egalitarianism? A supporter of female priests and sacred music would be quiet the confused specimen if you ask me.
Does Tucker really believe that the Cathedral, as our neoreactionary friends call it, that he is empowering is going to respect his libertarian objections and leave him alone to practice his brutalist Faith as it steamrolls over all “hateful” opposition? Look around. How’s that working out for that baker in Colorado? Whatever Mr. Tucker’s motivations might be, I suspect he will come to rue the day that he decided it would be wise to feed the PC Beast that will eventually devour him, his Church and the libertarianism he espouses. There will be no ear for his libertarian objections when all the cultural holdouts are made to conform or else. The PC Beast cannot be placated. It must be resisted. I’m sorry we have apparently lost Mr. Tucker from that battle.