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Ilana Mercer

Ilana Mercer

Ilana Mercer is a paleolibertarian writer, author of The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed (2016), Into The Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) and a columnist for The Unz Review. She was born in South Africa and raised in Israel, where the family decided to move after her father's anti-apartheid activism led to harassment by South African security forces. [-1] She lived in Canada before becoming a permanent resident of the USA.

For fifteen years, Mercer wrote WorldNetDaily' s longest-standing, exclusive, paleolibertarian weekly column, “Return to Reason,” which was started in Canada circa 1999. She is a contributing editor at *Quarterly Review * (the celebrated British journal founded in 1809 by Walter Scott, Robert Southey and George Canning), and also contributes to the British *Libertarian Alliance * and Praag, devoted to Afrikaner self-determination.

For a number of years, Mercer's "Paleolibertarian Column" was a regular feature on Russia Today and in the German weekly *Junge Freiheit *. Her articles have also appeared in *FrontPage Magazine *, *Globe and Mail *, *Calgary Herald *, *Ottawa Citizen *, *Vancouver Sun *, *The Financial Post *, *Orange County Register *, *The American Spectator *, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and others.

Mercer is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, an independent, non-profit, economic policy think tank. Her online home is at IlanaMercer.com and BarelyABlog.com. [-1]


Mercer's first book, Broad Sides: One Woman's Clash With a Corrupt Culture, was published in 2003; a second edition with new material was issued in late 2009.

It is a collection of essays, offering a "wide-ranging exploration of contemporary life through the filter of timeless principles."

Mercer described it as a "personal manifesto... aimed at rolling back the modern Leviathan State and reclaiming civil society".


Mercer's second book, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, was published in June 2011.

Reviewers have described it as "well-written, courageous, and [...] clearly a strong socio-political tract on South Africa" (Irving Louis Horowitz) and "interesting, important, well-written and well-documented book that informs the reader but is likely to upset, perhaps even anger, some or many of them." (Thomas Szasz) Professor Clyde N. Wilson described Mercer as the "feisty, independent-minded libertarian columnist" who chronicled the "drawn-out murder of civilization in her native South Africa," while Jed Donahue of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute called it an “unflinching take on South Africa." [-1]

Her third book, The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed was published in June 2016.

It is presented as a real-time chronicle of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, whom Mercer describes as “a political Samson that threatens to bring the den of iniquity crashing down on its patrons,” identified as “an entrenched punditocracy, a self-anointed, meritless intelligentsia, oleaginous politicians, slick media and big money.”

Mercer writes that by “drastically diminishing” this machine, Trump “might just help loosen the chains that bind the individual to central government, national and transnational.”


Political philosophy

Mercer adheres to the philosophy of libertarianism, [-1] which recognizes the individual's rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. She argues that governments exist to protect only those rights, without violating the rights of foreigners to their lives, liberty, and property. [-1] As a result of this philosophy, Mercer argues for secure U.S. borders and against intervention in foreign nations which do not threaten U.S. national interests. [-1] Her first editorial against the proposed U.S. invasion of Iraq appeared in 2002, [-1] and she has strongly opposed the war in Iraq since that time.

Contributions to paleolibertarianism

A proponent of ordered liberty in the Burkean sense, Mercer differs from libertarian anarchists who see the state as the root of all evil and theorize that its dissolution will bring about utopia. Rather, she notes that social determinism ("The State made me do it") [-1] runs counter to free will and human agency, and therefore, against the principle of individualism upon which libertarian philosophy is based. [-1] Therefore, she should be properly considered a paleolibertarian. This viewpoint is reflected particularly in Mercer's commentaries on crime and illegal immigration. [-1] [-1]

Mercer notes that in the condition of anarchy desired by many libertarians, different and competing notions of justice will arise, some likely contravening common standards of right and wrong based on the natural law. She argues that while anarchists wish to see the current justice system replaced by one in which restitution for a crime is made according to the prerogative of the victim or his agent, some crimes, including murder, must be punished by society. The right to life, she argues, cannot be alienated, not even by an individual or his proxies. [-1] and the potential to reduce justice in such crimes to a "negotiated deal" is "moral relativism if not a recipe for nihilism." [-1] She concludes that the current, broken state of the justice system does not constitute "a sufficient reason to support a state of affairs, where, as a matter of principle, proportional, moral retribution will not necessarily be the goal of justice." [-1]

Though agreeing with John Derbyshire's praise of Hans-Herman Hoppe, [-1] Jack Kerwick disputed Derbyshire's description of Hoppe as "the last paleolibertarian", noting that Mercer and a few others definitely belong in that category. According to Kerwick, Mercer upholds the paleolibertarian ideal by "forever cautioning readers against succumbing to the contemporary Western temptation to indulge in abstractions" and reminding them that liberty is "as dependent upon historical and cultural contingencies as is any other artifact. And it is just as fragile.” [-1]

Criticism of neoconservatism

Mercer has argued that “Inviting an invasion by foreigners and instigating one against them are two sides of the same neoconservative coin;”[-1] traditionalist Lawrence Auster noted that this concept was “first articulated by Ilana Mercer and then turned into a neat slogan by Steve Sailer.” [-1] Mercer views neoconservatives as having corrupted the constitutionally-prescribed use of the American military, employing it as a force “to patrol the borders of Kosovo, Korea, and Kurdistan” while “our own borders remain perilously porous.” [-1] These “conservative poseurs,” she notes, seek to remake America into “a disparate people, forced together by an abstract, highly manipulable, coercive, state-sanctioned ideology,” in effect, a “propositional nation” that overrides the traditional nation in which Americans shared language, customs, faith, and culture. [-1] Mercer states that an aversion to the concept of nationhood arises from “an inability to distinguish the nation from the State,”[-1] the common values, culture, and traditions of the former having once been conducive to liberty in the U. S..“[T]he real individualist,” she adds, “ knows who he is and whence he came.” [-1]

Views and criticism

On the U. S. trade deficit

Mercer’s position on the U. S. trade deficit differs from that of many libertarians, including economist Don Boudreax whose “typical libertarian post-graduate cleverness”[-1] she rebutted.

Countering the argument that an aggregate, negative balance of trade is insignificant as an economic indicator, Mercer argued by analogy that while there is nothing wrong in the short term with running a deficit with one’s hairstylist or car dealership, economic damages accrue when credit-based purchases are not paid for—a condition she sees as typical of the spending habits of U. S. consumers.

She argued further that libertarians who laud consumption do not often account for the fact that this consumption is, in general, supported by debt.

In this context, a trade deficit represents “not an increase in wealth, but an increase in indebtedness.”


Mercer believes that dismissal of trade deficits as economic indices arises from a view of the economy as “a series of discrete parts” rather than an “ineluctably interconnected” whole, whose most prominent characteristic is “debt—micro and macro; public and private.”

[-1] Because of this, Mercer disagrees with libertarians who dismiss the trade deficit by pointing to the U. S. trade surplus during the Great Depression, arguing that the trade surplus during those years does not invalidate the nation’s current trade deficit as an economic indicator.

Rather, she suggests that fundamental economic indicators may be worse today than they were in the 1930s, “since this country has never before been so deeply in hock as it currently is.”


On Immigration and the U.S.–Mexico border

As a result of her stand against an open U.S. border, Mercer has argued against welfare payments and other assistance for those who cross the border illegally.

[-1] Libertarian Tibor Machan replied by noting that "Refusing to extend welfare to illegal immigrants will amount to an arbitrary, indeed mean-minded policy based on nothing more than nationalism or even worse, such as preference for members of one's own race or age group or some such nonsense." [-1] While noting that Machan was the only libertarian to respond to her argument, Mercer countered by stating that while his reply appeared predicated on "egalitarian treatment (of the world)", her stance as a strict propertarian was to "limit theft, not extend its spoils fairly". [-1]

Mercer has remained opposed to open borders, arguing that restricting immigration doesn’t conflict with classical libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism: “…the meandering case for open-borders is based on the positive, manufactured right of human kind to venture wherever, whenever.

No such thing!...

Whether they're armed with bombs or bacteria, or guilty of the intent to commit welfare—stopping weaponized individuals from harming others, intentionally or unintentionally, falls perfectly within the purview of the 'night-watchman state of classical-liberal theory'."


On Israel

Mercer has argued against U.S. foreign aid for all countries, including Israel.

[-1] She has also noted that Israel's struggle for self-defense and the U.S.-led War on Terror should not be seen as the same phenomenon, particularly by Israelis.

[-1] During the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, she noted that "Israel's pulverizing of Lebanon—blowing the place to kingdom come, killing hundreds of civilians, and displacing thousands—threatens to sunder its moral superiority."

[-1] Nevertheless, she has been characterized as reflexively pro-Israel by some libertarians.

In response to Mercer's support of Israel's construction of a border fence on the West Bank, [-1] Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, responded saying it is not Israel, but its "American amen corner, typified by La Mercer", whom libertarians despise, also characterizing Mercer as "an intellectual street-walker". [-1]

Despite this characterization, Raimondo later welcomed Mercer as a contributor, and published 20 of her columns.

“Ilana is a principled longtime libertarian, and literally an international figure: she’s an ex-Israeli, ex-South African, and ex-Canadian, now a permanent resident of the U.S.

And it isn’t only her prose that’s beautiful.

She’s opinionated, she can write, and she’s a lot of fun,” Raimondo wrote in October 2004, welcoming Mercer to Antiwar.com.


Mercer has noted that members of the European right are far more likely to defend Israel against Hamas than are American paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians. Objecting to Mercer's use of the term "Judeo-Christian West", [-1] Razib Khan argued that between 500 and 1800 C.E., Jews were not major players in Western civilization. [-1] Mercer responded by pointing to the biblical Hebrews' "ethical monotheism, developed centuries before classical Greek philosophy". [-1]

On the other hand, Mercer has condemned the Israeli conduct in Gaza in late 2012, arguing that Hamas starting hostilities "does not give Israel the right to kill innocent non-combatants, not even unintentionally," adding that "murder is not ‘unintentional’ when you know it is inevitable.”

[-1] She has also criticized American Jews for double standards: "For America, leftist Jews advocate a multicultural, immigration free-for-all, pluralist pottage.

At the same time for Israel, most Jews claim the right to retain a creedal [sic] and cultural distinctiveness and a Jewish majority."


On Jews and neoconservatism

Responding to paleoconservative academic and writer Kevin B. MacDonald, who argued that Jewish leaders in movements such as neoconservatism promote exclusively Jewish interests including mass immigration into the U.S. from the Third World, [-1] Mercer noted that "Jewish activism, if anything, is self-defeating as a group strategy". [-1] She has argued that while many Jewish organizations promote liberal causes such as multiculturalism, a contradiction exists between the "leftist ideology so many Jews embrace, with its indifference to assimilation and its extreme tolerance for alternative lifestyles, and the survival of the Jewish religion and people", [-1] also referring to MacDonald's work on Jews as "The MacDonald Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum Science" of Jews. [-1]

Mercer responded to Pat Buchanan's argument that the push to invade Iraq in 2003 came from a Jewish neoconservative "cabal" advising George W. Bush and acting in the best interests of Israel, rather than the U.S., [-1] by noting that in fingering Jewish neocons specifically, Buchanan was "seeing causal connections where none exist" while failing to note the influence upon Bush by inner-circle gentile neocons such as Condoleezza Rice and William Bennett. [-1] In addition, she noted that Bush's own vision for U.S. intervention in the Middle East was in place before the September 11 attacks. She also argued that many Jews strongly opposed the Iraq War from the outset, including George Soros, Robert Reich, and Michigan senator Carl Levin, [-1] and she attributed Jewish prominence in both pro- and anti-war circles to the tendency of Jewish individuals to rise to the top in many fields of endeavor.

On China and Sinophobia

Mercer has argued that the mainstream American commentary on China, both liberal and conservative, is strongly influenced by Sinophobia : “Sinophobia is sanctioned among American opinion makers, and is seen as falling within the realm of perfectly respectable economic theory... Accordingly, the Chinese have levered themselves out of poverty not through industry, frugality, and ambition, but by manipulating their money and stealing American intellectual property." [-1]

She sees China as trending away from Communism and towards capitalist, free-market practices: “While America is becoming more militaristic; China is growing increasingly capitalistic….The Chinese have money on their minds; murder, not so much.”[-1]

In a WorldNetDaily.com column from February 29, 2008, Mercer made several notable observations about how China compared to the United States. As the American society became "increasingly silhouetted by the State", U.S. schools engaged in the “unproductive business of graduating lawyers,” while Chinese schools were in the “productive business of graduating engineers.” The sheer volume of individual economic activity in China, Mercer argues, is overpowering the state: "...the current crop of Chinese commissars is weak; power is no longer concentrated in Beijing." She further argues that the U.S. should be as honest as the Chinese concerning its economic system, and properly call it “Socialism with American characteristics” instead of free-market capitalism. Mercer concludes that, “China is becoming freer, America less free. The devil is in this detail.” [-1]

In January 2011, while addressing the phenomenon of Sinophobia in American politics, Mercer commented on Donald Trump’s presidential bid, still in its infancy, characterizing Trump’s agenda as a “plan to reclaim global greatness and glory,” using “a strategy America has yet to try: the use of force.” Mercer observed that “Strutting around on the world stage, showing those Saudis and Chinese who is boss … may serve as a perfect panacea for the deficiencies in Trump's persona, but is hardly a solution to US woes, at home or abroad.” [-1]

Since Trump’s latest campaign, starting June 2015, Mercer has declared support of what she terms “the positive process" that is Trump.

"The Constitution is a dead letter.

In this post-constitutional jungle, the law of the jungle is what prevails,” she argues.

“Do we get a benevolent authoritarian to veto Obama’s legacies, or do we continue to submit to Demopublican diktats?

That’s the best we can hope for in a post-constitutional jungle.”


On foreign policy and the military

Mercer has consistently expressed criticism of U.S. adventurism abroad.

She called the intervention in Libya, "A product of the romantic minds of women—Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice—who fantasize about an Arab awakening... estrogen-driven paternalism on steroids."

[-1] Mercer condemned as crass Hillary Clinton’s reaction to the murder of Moammar Gadhafi – a paraphrase of Caesar’s “Veni, Vidi, Vici”.

[-1] She later contrasted that with Clinton’s “total dismay” over U.S.

Marines filmed urinating on dead Taliban fighters.


Mercer termed the Arab Spring another manifestation of "color-coded, plant-based revolutions, blessed and backed by baby Bush and his non-identical, evil ideological twin, Barack Obama." [-1] Following the 9/11/12 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, she criticized the mainstream media coverage, which entirely ignored the question what the U.S. was doing interfering in Libya to begin with. [-1]

In Into the Cannibal's Pot, Mercer has argued against the imposition of democracy from the outside, noting that, "Democracy is especially dangerous in ethnically and racially divided societies, where majorities and minorities are rigidly predetermined and politically permanent."


Commenting on the sex scandal involving Gen. David Petraeus, Mercer described the U.S. military as “manacled by doctrinaire mediocrity, multiculturalism, feminism, affirmative action… and every postmodern pox imaginable. And this is only the froth on the top.” [-1]


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Aug 11, 2016, 3:21 AM