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The earliest known published use of the term was in an article authored by Lew Rockwell for the January 1990 edition of Liberty magazine. He wanted it to refer to pre-war, traditional libertarianism as opposed to the more socially progressive "Beltway libertarianism".
In the late 1980s Rockwell and his mentor, Murray Rothbard, had broken away from the Libertarian Party and aligned themselves with a group of dissident Republicans called paleoconservatives, led by Pat Buchanan. Rothbard explained the move in the May 1990 edition of the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, a newsletter edited by both Rockwell and Rothbard:
“”...the libertarian world has been sunk, for years now, into torpor at best and advancing decay at worst...And as for the Libertarian Party, most of us have left it in body and all of us in spirit...The point of the new paleo movement, including the designation, is to separate ourselves out of the broader movement, to find and inspire other paleos, and to form our own separate and self-conscious movement...We have said that a certain cultural matrix is essential to liberty.
Keep in mind that though paleolibertarians are opposed to a large federal government by being strongly in favor of state's rights, many are in favor of social authoritarianism on a state and local level, meaning that they may be considered, like Ron Paul, more anti-federalist than "small government" libertarian. (Indeed, one of the primary beefs many of them have with the federal government is that said federal government is seen as interfering with their God-given right to lord it over their local subalterns as they see fit.) The degree of social authoritarianism they are in favor of varies from paleolibertarian to paleolibertarian, though some are even more extreme than some of the Republican Party by tolerating or even encouraging anti-Sodomy laws or being sympathetic to the Lost Cause of the South.
Known individuals within the liberty movement to have shown tendencies towards paleolibertarianism include failed Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and Mark Dice, activist Julie Borowski, historian Tom Woods, and anarcho-capitalist political philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
In the 1990s both paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives placed some emphasis on race in their writings and policy advocacy. This matter came to prominence in 2008, during then Congressman Ron Paul's candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination.
Paul was closely aligned with Rockwell and Rothbard in the 1990s and, at this time, newsletters were published with various titles containing Ron Paul's name, for example "Ron Paul’s Freedom Report", "Ron Paul Political Report", and "The Ron Paul Survival Report", some issues of which contained attacks on civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. and bigoted or inflammatory statements about crime rates and welfare dependency in black communities.
Libertarianesque and very, very paleo
Libertarians believe strongly that the federal government should stay out of everyone's personal affairs. Some in the paleolibertarian camp believe this includes the idea that the federal government legally cannot (a la the 10th amendment) and that the state government should not outlaw or restrict corporal punishment in the home, and that, more broadly, the head of the household should be free to run the affairs of the household exactly his way without the government having any right to restrict him in any way.
Many paleoconservatives, like Phyllis Schlafly, believe that a husband has the right to rape his wife because a married man has the right to demand sex from his wife. Necessary for this "freedom" is the legal inability of the government to criminalize married rape.
- "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism", Liberty January 1990, p. 34
- "Why Paleo?", Rothbard-Rockwell Report May 1990, p. 1