Paleoconservative is a term that describes conservatives who support strong restrictions on immigration, a rollback of multicultural programs, the decentralization of the federal polity, the restoration of controls upon free trade, a greater emphasis upon economic nationalism and isolationism in the conduct of American foreign policy, and a generally revanchist outlook upon a social order in need of recovering old lines of distinction and in particular the assignment of roles in accordance with traditional categories of gender, ethnicity, and race. As such, paleoconservatives differ from mainstream conservatives.
The most prominent paleoconservative is TV commentator and author Pat Buchanan.
Many paleoconservatives identify themselves as "classical conservatives" and trace their philosophy to the Old Right Republicans of the interwar period, which helped keep the U.S. out of the League of Nations, reduced immigration with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, and opposed Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. They were isolationists who opposed entry into World War II.
The term paleoconservative was first used by paleoconservative historians Thomas Fleming and Paul Gottfried, with the "paleo" prefix meaning "old" in opposition to the "neo", or "new", conservatives. The term is now routinely used by both its proponents and its detractors.
Gottfried wrote in his entry to American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia: "Paleoconservative" becomes a conceptual and political counterpoint to "neoconservative" in "The Conservative Movement" by Thomas Fleming and Paul Gottfried (1988). Here the term no longer refers merely to conservative traditionalists of the 1950s and 1960s, e.g., Southern Agrarians, Catholic anticommunists associated with "National Review", and Taft Republicans who rallied to the Cold War. Instead, the term is now applied to embattled conservatives who opposed the growing influence of anticommunist New Deal Democrats on the Reagan presidency and on the conservative movement on the 1980s."
Unlike most conservatives today, paleoconservatives are against the Iraq War. They are highly critical of the Bush administration and the mainstream conservative movement. Paleoconservatism vocally distinguishes itself in its opposition to neoconservatism. However, what really sets them apart from other conservatives is much deeper than just policy: they generally reject the Enlightenment in whole or in part; they reject Lockean "contract theory"
Most controversially, they reject the concept of "natural rights" outright. Dr. Donald Livingston, Professor of Philosophy at Emory University, has argued that natural rights are a "philosophical superstition," and that "Whatever they might be, natural rights are universal and apply to all men. Further, they are known by reason, independent of any inherited moral tradition... It follows, therefore, that the doctrine of natural rights must be in a condition of permanent hostility to all inherited moral traditions. Any such tradition, no matter how noble the goods of excellence cultivated in it, can always be seen as violating someone's natural rights under some interpretation or another."
Paleos agree with mainstream conservatives on issues like opposition to secularism, abortion on demand and gay marriage, while supporting capital punishment, handgun ownership and an original intent reading of the U.S. Constitution. Paleocons also often argue that modern managerial society is a threat to stable families.
Paleos strongly oppose American membership in the United Nations. They also seek to limit the power of the Federal Government, while strongly supporting State's Rights. Paleos believe America was founded as a Constitutional Republic and support this form of government instead of pure democracy. Unlike other conservatives, they take a critical view of Abraham Lincoln and a view that the Confederacy was on the right side of the war. Some paleos in the Neo-Confederate movement, support the secession of the Southern States.
Paleoconservatives differ from neoconservatives on immigration, affirmative action and, unlike mainstream conservatives, paleos generally oppose miscegenation (multicultural integration). Paleoconservatives also question the supposition that European culture and mores can ever be transplanted or forced upon non-Western cultures, due to separate cultural heritages. As a result, paleocons are most distinctive in their emphatic opposition to open immigration by non-Europeans, and their general disapproval of U.S. intervention overseas for the purposes of exporting democracy.
Paleoconservatives are Conservative Christians, like Protestant Fundamentalists and Traditionalist Catholics. They oppose religious pluralism and support orthodoxy of the doctrine within the respective denominations. They stress the importance of the need of America to return to its Christian Heritage.
Paleoconservatives support free market capitalism, but many are ardent opponents of free trade, citing disintegration of America's manufacturing base, and American dependence on imports as adverse effects of free trade. They strongly oppose all forms of socialism or communism. They seek to replace Federal Reserve System with a Constitutional monetary system. They are deeply concerned with the United States' loans of large amounts of money from the World Bank and the huge trade deficit the country is experiencing. Unlike mainstream conservatives, paleos oppose the continuing US financial support of Israel. Like other conservatives, they emphasize the importance of creating jobs for the working class and the slashing of taxes and spending.
In the March 2004 edition of Chronicles magazine, Samuel Francis defined paleoconservatism versus conservatism as: "What paleoconservatism tries to tell Americans is that the dominant forces in their society are no longer committed to conserving the traditions, institutions, and values that created and formed it, and, therefore, that those who are really conservative in any serious sense and wish to live under those traditions, institutions, and values need to oppose the dominant forces and form new ones."
Journalist Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News outlined what he called the "Crunchy Con Manifesto", which summarizes most paleoconservative principles:
- "We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
- Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
- Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
- Culture is more important than politics and economics.
- A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship — especially of the natural world — is not fundamentally conservative.
- Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
- Beauty is more important than efficiency.
- The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
- We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”
- Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives."
The leading publications of the paleoconservatives includes The American Conservative and Chronicles (magazine). Perhaps the most well known paleoconservative is Patrick J. Buchanan. Other paleoconservatives include Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, Peter Brimelow, Thomas Fleming, the late Samuel Francis, Peter Hitchens, William S. Lind, Scott McConnell, Charley Reese, Paul Craig Roberts, Steve Sailer, Clyde Wilson, U.S. Congressman and 2nd Chairman of the John Birch Society, Larry McDonald, passsenger on Korean Airlines Flight 007 shot down by the Soviets on Sept. 1, 1983. The term has also been applied to the three key intellectuals in post-war conservatism: Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, and Robert Nisbet.
- The John Birch Society
- The Conservative Caucus
- Constitution Party
- Council of Conservative Citizens
- Institute on the Constitution
- League of the South (Neo-Confederate)
- Rockford Institute
- Gottfied, Paul Edward. Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right (2007) excerpt and text search
- Michael Foley (25 October 2007). American credo: the place of ideas in US politics. Oxford University Press. Retrieved on 18 January 2012. “Against accusations of being pre-modern or even anti-modern in outlook, paleoconservatives press for restrictions on immigration, a rollback of multicultural programmes, the decentralization of the federal polity, the restoration of controls upon free trade, a greater emphasis upon economic nationalism and isolationism in the conduct of American foreign policy, and a generally revanchist outlook upon a social order in need of recovering old lines of distinction and in particular the assignment of roles in accordance with traditional categories of gender, ethnicity, and race.”
- Euan Hague, Edward H. Sebesta, Heidi Beirich (1 December 2008). Neo-confederacy: a critical introduction. University of Texas Press. Retrieved on 18 January 2012. “The major ideologues of the recent revial of neo-Confederacy are, as we outline in Chapter I, almost all activists who identified themselves as paleoconservatives, decided to split from mainstream U.S. conservatism, and solidified their views around a vision of the South as "a priceless and irreplaceable treasure that must be conserved." Hostile towards organiztions such as the League of the South and Council of Conservative Citizens, neo-Confederacy can also be said to inform more mainstream organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy and, arguably, prominent politicians such as Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond.”
- Phillips, Dan "What the Heck is a Paleoconservative and Why You Should Care" (2006) Intellectual Conservative. Accessed 26 December 2007.
- Phillips, Dan "What the Heck is a Paleoconservative and Why You Should Care" op cit.
- Phillips, Dan "Understanding the Paleoconservative Perspective on Life" (2006) Intellectual Conservative. Accessed 26 December 2007.
- Dreher, Rod "A Crunchy Con Manifesto" National Review Online. Accessed 26 December 2007.