The Alt-Right Has More in Common With Economic Leftism Than Salon Wants You to Think

Journalist Donna Minkowitz of The Nation was brave enough to venture into an alt-right conference hosted by prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer a couple of months ago. Some of what she found was to be expected, such as how the individuals there were fueled by racism and hatred. Yet, when the conference’s attendees began to speak about economic issues, they started to sound a lot like leftists. Though some on the left have moved quickly to dismiss this as a cynical attempt to pick up recruits from the left, there is more to the commonality between the economic views of the left and the alt-right. Rather, the alt-right’s economic views jell so smoothly with those of the left because the ideological underpinning is so similar.

A few days after Minkowitz’s article came out, writer Conor Lynch wrote in Salon characterizing the alt-right’s economic leftism as “anti-Semitism wrapped up in an economic veil.” The alt-right, Lynch claims, is simply jumping on the anti-capitalist bandwagon to try to appeal to the left. Yet Lynch ignores the very real illiberal impulses at work behind anti-capitalism of all stripes.

To be clear, I do not mean to compare the left’s social views to those of the alt-right. However, in terms of economics, there is little to separate the underlying philosophy of the left from that of the alt-right. In fact, the alt-right’s economic philosophy looks a lot like leftism repackaged specifically for white males.

Once stripped of racial rhetoric, the underlying economic logic is hard to distinguish from leftist thought.

Take the thoughts of prominent alt-right thinkers on welfare. Spencer, alt-right media personality Mike Cernovich and others have expressed strong support for a universal basic income and single-payer healthcare system. Mike Enoch, host of the alt-right and virulently anti-Semitic podcast The Daily Shoah once said at a rally that “Jewish brainwashing” was encouraging Americans to be “useful idiots for the systems of international finance, capitalism and war.” In Europe, members of the far-right such as National Front party leader Marine Le Pen have embraced a generous social safety net --- albeit paired with restrictions on immigration. Once stripped of racial rhetoric, the underlying economic logic is hard to distinguish from leftist thought.

The alt-right is also strongly opposed to free trade. Steve Bannon, former head of alt-right “news” website Breitbart, has advocated for a trade war with China. This is just one portion of his agenda of “economic nationalism,” or scaling back of trade in order to protect domestic jobs. Uneconomic as these views may be, Bannon’s comments also expose a lack of belief in economic freedom. By wishing to restrict trade, Bannon argues for preventing Americans from buying cheaper or better-valued goods simply because of their origin.

Even Spencer’s critique of the Republican tax reform plan looks like it could have been lifted off of a Bernie Sanders Twitter screed. Spencer calls it “stupid...Reaganite nostalgia” and mocks it for benefiting large corporations (ignoring benefits to small businesses and individuals in the process). Substitute in “Jewish interests” for “the one percent,” and voila: easy-bake economic philosophy.

Fundamentally, the alt-right does not believe in the importance of the individual in economic relationships.

Fundamentally, the alt-right does not believe in the importance of the individual in economic relationships. Minkowitz writes how Spencer argues that “We need to be willing to take care of people and not simply think of ourselves as individuals who can acquire as much wealth as possible.” The most important form of economic organization to the alt-right is race, just as class is the most important form for the left. To those who defend economic freedom, it is the individual.

Proponents of economic freedom argue that the protection of the rights of the individual should be the foundation of a society. Individuals, unrestricted by excessive taxes or rules preventing them from engaging in mutually beneficial trade relationships, are best able to create economic prosperity. This fundamental principle is antithetical to alt-right beliefs.

Instead, the alt-right would find far more in common with the left’s view that a society should aim to maintain liberal thinker John Rawls’s goal of “distributive justice,” or just allocation of goods throughout society. A great deal of the anger and hatred that fuels the alt-right is the belief that goods are unjustly stolen from whites by an “other” --- be it immigrants or Jews. As Joe Carter of the Acton Institute points out, it’s not a coincidence that the term “alt-right” came into use in 2008 --- the phrase became more widespread as the alt-right attracted economically disaffected white males in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

The alt-right is yet another unfortunate incarnation of socialist economic thinking.

Those on the left would do well to give the overlap between their economic views and those of the alt-right more consideration than Lynch does in Salon. It is not a simple matter of the alt-right cynically targeting lost and sometimes left people, there is genuine commonality between their economic views. This, in itself, does not repudiate leftist economic beliefs, but it illustrates how the alt-right is yet another unfortunate incarnation of socialist economic thinking. May it never reach the heights of Stalinism, Maoism or Chavismo.


Andrew Wilford is a Young Voices advocate and policy analyst residing in Maryland. He writes primarily on economic issues such as regulation, trade and tax policy. Follow him on Twitter @PolicyWilford. Opinions presented here belong solely to the author.

Reform Conservatism and Reaganomics: A middle road?

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Senator Marco Rubio broke Republican ranks recently when he criticized the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by stating that “there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker." Rubio is wrong on this point, as millions of workers have received major raises, while the corporate tax cuts have led to a spike in capital expenditure (investment on new projects) of 39 percent. However, the Florida senator is revisiting an idea that was front and center in the conservative movement before Donald Trump rode down an escalator in June of 2015: reform conservatism.

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The "reformicons," like Rubio, supported moving away from conservative or supply-side orthodoxy and toward policies such as the expansion of the child and earned income tax credits. On the other hand, longstanding conservative economic theory indicates that corporate tax cuts, by lowering disincentives on investment, will lead to long-run economic growth that will end up being much more beneficial to the middle class than tax credits.

But asking people to choose between free market economic orthodoxy and policies guided towards addressing inequality and the concerns of the middle class is a false dichotomy.

Instead of advocating policies that many conservatives might dismiss as redistributionist, reformicons should look at the ways government action hinders economic opportunity and exacerbates income inequality. Changing policies that worsen inequality satisfies limited government conservatives' desire for free markets and reformicons' quest for a more egalitarian America. Furthermore, pushing for market policies that reduce the unequal distribution of wealth would help attract left-leaning people and millennials to small government principles.

Criminal justice reform is an area that reformicons and free marketers should come together around. The drug war has been a disaster, and the burden of this misguided government approach have fallen on impoverished minority communities disproportionately, in the form of mass incarceration and lower social mobility. Not only has the drug war been terrible for these communities, it's proved costly to the taxpayer––well over a trillion dollars has gone into the drug war since its inception, and $80 billion dollars a year goes into mass incarceration.

Prioritizing retraining and rehabilitation instead of overcriminalization would help address inequality, fitting reformicons' goals, and promote a better-trained workforce and lower government spending, appealing to basic conservative preferences.

Government regulations tend to disproportionately hurt small businesses and new or would-be entrepreneurs. In no area is this more egregious than occupational licensing––the practice of requiring a government-issued license to perform a job. The percentage of jobs that require licenses has risen from five percent to 30 percent since 1950. Ostensibly justified by public health concerns, occupational licensing laws have, broadly, been shown to neither promote public health nor improve the quality of service. Instead, they serve to provide a 15 percent wage boost to licensed barbers and florists, while, thanks to the hundreds of hours and expensive fees required to attain the licenses, suppressing low-income entrepreneurship, and costing the economy $200 billion dollars annually.

Those economic losses tend to primarily hurt low-income people who both can't start businesses and have to pay more for essential services. Rolling back occupational licenses will satisfy the business wing's desire for deregulation and a more free market and the reformicons' support for addressing income inequality and increasing opportunity.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality.

Tax expenditures form another opportunity for common ground between the Rubio types and the mainstream. Tax deductions and exclusions, both on the individual and corporate sides of the tax code, remain in place after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Itemized deductions on the individual side disproportionately benefit the wealthy, while corporate tax expenditures help well-connected corporations and sectors, such as the fossil fuel industry.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality. Additionally, a more complicated tax code is less conducive to economic growth than one with lower tax rates and fewer exemptions. Therefore, a simpler tax code with fewer deductions and exclusions would not only create a more level playing field, as the reformicons desire, but also additional economic growth.

A forward-thinking economic program for the Republican Party should marry the best ideas put forward by both supply-siders and reform conservatives. It's possible to take the issues of income inequality and lack of social mobility seriously, while also keeping mainstay conservative economic ideas about the importance of less cumbersome regulations and lower taxes.

Alex Muresianu is a Young Voices Advocate studying economics at Tufts University. He is a contributor for Lone Conservative, and his writing has appeared in Townhall and The Daily Caller. He can be found on Twitter @ahardtospell.

Is this what inclusivity and tolerance look like? Fox News host Tomi Lahren was at a weekend brunch with her mom in Minnesota when other patrons started yelling obscenities and harassing her. After a confrontation, someone threw a drink at her, the moment captured on video for social media.

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On today's show, Pat and Jeffy talked about this uncomfortable moment and why it shows that supposedly “tolerant" liberals have to resort to physical violence in response to ideas they don't like.

President Donald Trump has done a remarkable job of keeping his campaign promises so far. From pulling the US from the Iran Deal and Paris Climate Accord to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the president has followed through on his campaign trail vows.

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“It's quite remarkable. I don't know if anybody remembers, but I was the guy who was saying he's not gonna do any of those things," joked Glenn on “The News and Why it Matters," adding, “He has taken massive steps, massive movement or completed each of those promises … I am blown away."

Watch the video above to hear Glenn Beck, Sara Gonzales, Doc Thompson, Stu Burguiere and Pat Gray discuss the story.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar brings white fan onstage to sing with him, but here’s the catch

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Rapper Kendrick Lamar asked a fan to come onstage and sing with him, only to condemn her when she failed to censor all of the song's frequent mentions of the “n-word" while singing along.

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“I am so sorry," she apologized when Lamar pointed out that she needed to “bleep" that word. “I'm used to singing it like you wrote it." She was booed at by the crowd of people, many screaming “f*** you" after her mistake.

On Tuesday's show, Pat and Jeffy watched the clip and talked about some of the Twitter reactions.

“This is ridiculous," Pat said. “The situation with this word has become so ludicrous."