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Paleoconservatism is a branch of American conservatism, sometimes called the "Old Right" or "Traditionalism". It stresses tradition, civil society, classical federalism and the heritage of traditional Christian civilization. It opposes libertarianism as too permissive and ignorant of tradition. Dwight D. Eisenhower's "New Deal" and anticommunism had too much baggage of large government, as does neoconservatism. Liberal internationalism opposes its emphasis on national sovereignty.

Jack Hunter referred to Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind, to contextualize this faction among the many current views that call themselves conservative. Kirk, he says, described the "Old Right" as literally based on conserving:

environmental stewardship and "agrarian" values, believing that the bottom line should never take precedent over the most conservative of material goods — the land itself...Today, many of these concerns would place the Old Right on the contemporary left. The modern mainstream right no longer poses any serious challenge to big government — in fact, it often aids the expansion of big government. It also considers the advancement of corporate capitalism to be more important than protecting the community or the environment and sees war and never-ending military expansion as the greatest of American ideals"[1]

Patrick Buchanan is one of the more prominent paleoconservatives. Ron Paul is sometimes considered a paleo and sometimes a libertarian.

Culture wars

Much of paleoconservatism is waged in culture wars. Traditional values are to be respected even if not politically correct. For example, the Confederate flag and southern traditions are seen as racist by others, but a legitimate part of American history by many paleoconservatives such as Sam Francis. [2] Racist and White nationalist groups, confusingly, may adopt that same flag, but for different reasons. Paleoconservatives often oppose immigration, especially from other than Europe, but are not inherently racist.

They do tend to be Christian and object to such things as the "War on Christmas", but their emphasis is on preserving the culture rather than introducing morality.

Conflict with other conservatives

Some argue paleoconservatism died in the 1990s, but, if so, there are some very politically active ghosts. [3] James Lubinskas saw its peak as associated with Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns, and discussions in the journal Chronicles. It diversified, and in Lubinskas' opinion began to fragment, when joined by "paleolibertarians" centered around the Ludwig von Mises Institute, such as Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo and Hans Hoppe. The newcomers created the John Randolph Club in 1990, which featured annual debates between the conservative and libertarian factions.

Lubinskas' article brought counterarguments.[4] "The apparent re-evaluation of the conservative establishment’s immigration position is but one sign. People who think about immigration understood that Dubya’s pandering would draw few poor Mexican voters into the GOP. But to most standard Republicans, such an outcome was easy and tempting. Now the illusion is shattered... On foreign policy, it has long been clear that rank and file Republicans are far more isolationist than The Weekly Standard would like. During the bombing of Serbia, Bill Kristol became so exercised by the lack of war enthusiasm in the GOP Congress he seemed nearly to toy with leaving the party... Few Republicans may want to, pace Pat Buchanan, rethink U.S. involvement in World War II. But, short of that, their instincts are more Chronicles than Commentary."

National security conservatism

The Old Right considered Wilsonian interventionism to be "a utopian fantasy, which betrayed the Founding Fathers' intentions and radically altered American life forever." While there are differences from Wilsonianism, Hunter sees neoconservatism as clashing with paleoconservatism in the same way. He tracked the transition in the journal Human Events, where, at first, Richard Weaver and Ludwig Von Mises were representative of the Old Right, until William F. Buckley Jr. rephrased the discussion with a 1956 essay.

Buckley started as a paleoconservative, but the strength of his anticommunist views led him to accept a large national security state and become a national security conservative. His strong Catholicism always made him a religious traditionalist. "conservatives should accept big government, military expansion, and the modern state inherited from Roosevelt and others in order to defeat the Soviet Empire."[1] With the fall of the Soviet Union, many believe he returned to paleoconservative roots. Others, such as Hunter, believe he repackaged Wilsonian liberalism as conservatism:

The "new" Old Right, paleoconservatism, is alive and well in journals like Buchanan's The American Conservative, Chronicles magazine, and popular websites like, but you would never know of their existence by reading magazines like National Review or neoconservative journals like The Weekly Standard, or by watching their media cohorts on Fox News.


Paleoconservatives will often accept a governmental role in enforcing morality and protecting symbols; libertarians do not consider this a task of government. Libertarians may be part of mixed ideology coalitions against foreign interventionism, where they may join with paleos and with leftists (e.g., see


While they do not necessarily use the term Weinberger-Powell Doctrine, paleos regard military action as to be taken only in response to direct threats. They tend to be opposed to international organizations on a national sovereignty basis, and to peace operations as outside the necessities of their concept of defense.


Paleoconservatives, in their goal of conserving the social fabric, often are American nationalist and sometimes are nativist. This often means they are cautious about immigration and foreign alliances. McConnell referred to a "skeptical resistance to multiculturalism, support for immigration reform."

The Anti-Defamation League, for example, tends to consider some individuals "extremists" when they are not supportive of a close alliance with the State of Israel, while others reserve antisemitism for active discrimination inside the United States. Some prominent paleos have appeared at forums that are widely considered extreme, such as Political Cesspool, but a great many paleos are fully supportive of Americans of all types.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jack Hunter (12 March 2008), "William F. Buckley and the damage done: A Tale of Two Rights", Charleston City Paper
  2. William T. Work (Fall 2007), "(book review) Shots Fired: Sam Francis on America's Culture War", Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies
  3. James Lubinskas (30 November 2000), "The End of Paleoconservatism", Frontpage Magazine
  4. Scott McConnell (3 December 2000), The End of Paleoconservatism? Not quite…,