ILANA Mercer is a libertarian writer based in the US, author of the forthcoming (June, 2016) Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed, and the seminal Into The Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011). Ilana is currently a columnist for The Unz Review, America’s smartest webzine. For 15 years, she penned WND’s popular, weekly, paleolibertarian column, “Return to Reason,” which was begun in Canada, circa 1999. Ilana also contributes to the British Libertarian Alliance and Quarterly Review (the celebrated British journal founded in 1809 by Walter Scott, Robert Southey and George Canning), where she is contributing editor. She has also featured on RT with the “Paleolibertarian Column,” and Junge Freiheit, a German weekly of excellence. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Ilana is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank).
Beginning in the late 1990s, Ilana has written for The Financial Post, The Globe and Mail (Canada’s National Newspapers), The Vancouver Sun, The Report Newsmagazine, London’s Jewish Chronicle and Quarterly Review, The American Spectator, The American Conservative, and The New Individualist. Her work has appeared in The Ottawa Citizen, The Orange County Register, The Colorado Gazette, and in other Freedom Communications, Inc. newspapers across the United States, including The Valley Morning Star, The East Valley Tribune, Jacksonville Daily News, Washington County News, Holmes County Register.
Ilana’s work has also been published in The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Free Life: a Journal of Classical Liberal and Libertarian Thought, the Foundation for Economic Education’s Ideas on Liberty and in Insight On the News (an affiliate of The Washington Times), for which she has penned essays in symposia debating intellectual property. Ilana has written weekly columns for the conservative Calgary Herald, Vancouver’s North Shore News, and for Taki’s Magazine, the premier paleoconservative webzine. As was she an analyst and commentator for Free-Market News Network, founded by the late Harry Browne, one-time libertarian presidential candidate.
Ilana’s commentary has been mentioned in the European edition of Time (see “Trading Places” by Peter Gumbel, appeared in the print edition of March 28, 2005), cited in the Boston Globe (“The Downside of Diversity” by Michael Jonas, August 5, 2007); the New York Times’ Economix blog (“Are Federal Workers Overpaid?” by Prof. Nancy Folbre, October 13, 2009), and featured on web sites such as the Ludwig von Mises Institute, LewRockwell.com, The Hudson Institute, The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Laissez Faire City Times, Rational Review, Antiwar.com, VDARE.COM, Frontpage Magazine, and Jewcy.com, an acclaimed “online ideas-and-culture magazine.”
Ilana, who supported Ron Paul for president in 2008 and 2012, was asked by the Paul campaign for a written endorsement. Here it is:
“Ron Paul stands alone among the presidential contenders for a solvent, sovereign America—he has the will to stop the squandering of men and matériel in Iraq and the intellectual wherewithal to salvage an ailing currency, fortify forsaken borders, and restore individual liberties.”
John Derbyshire, formerly of National Review Online, called Ilana’s case for the Texas Republican “Pauline Gospel at its best”:
“The most persuasive Paul booster remains the ravishing, brilliant, and eloquent Ilana Mercer. I don’t say you’ll agree with her, only that this is the Pauline Gospel at its best. If you won’t buy it from Ilana, you won’t buy it from anyone.”
Ilana is the founder, editor, and creative force behind IlanaMercer.com. This aesthetically pleasing thematic website, on which ilana’s essays are archived conveniently, reflects her particular tastes, standards and vision, transformed into pixels. IlanaMercer.com was ranked by the Intellectual Conservative as number 61st out of the top 131 conservative-cum-libertarian political websites of 2007. She is also the proprietor of the weblog, Barely a Blog (BAB), to which prominent thinkers such as Tibor Machan, George Reisman, and the late Thomas Szasz have contributed. (Mercer contributed a dust-jacket blurb to Professor Szasz’s book, Coercion As Cure.)
Ilana has been a guest on ABC Radio (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), and on radio stations across America. These include “Talk Back,” the nationally syndicated show of the late, legendary George Putnam, The Mike Church Show (aka the “King Dude”) on the Sirius Patriot Channel, and Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio show, on which she appeared to defend NFL quarterback, Michael Vick. About Ilana’s work, Mr. Hannity had this to say:
Having read your columns throughout the years, I think I know you a little bit—I know you come from a very intellectual point of view, an intellectually honest point of view—you have given the most articulate argument I’ve heard [‘In Defense of Michael Vick’‘] on the other side of this, one that is consistent with many of the views you have. (August 17, 2007)
Ilana has appeared on Russia Today (RT), most recently to mine the legacy of Mandela, and on the Public Network’s television series, “America at War” (#434), where, in 2003, she debated the media’s dereliction of duty during the invasion of Iraq. Her analysis of Martha Stewart’s legal travails, “Convicted for Fearing Conviction,” was voted among the best Mises.org articles of 2004. In the same year, she received the “Ron Paul Liberty in Media Awards (LIMA)” for the essay “Wartime Socialism.”
Ilana was born in South Africa, which her father, Rabbi Ben Isaacson, decided to leave pursuant to harassment by the South African security police on account of his anti-apartheid preaching and activism. (Ilana herself fought petty apartheid tirelessly.) The family departed in the 1960s for Israel, where Ilana spent her formative years. She returned to South-Africa in the 1980s, married and had a daughter. The family emigrated to Canada in 1995, and then went on to settle in the US.
Described as an engaging, iconoclastic polemicist by National Post editorial writer Lorne Gunter, Ilana typically marshals powerful analytical argumentation in support of her case.
“All I can tell you is that you can’t win an argument with this woman. I’ve tried and failed,” said Victor Niederhoffer, Ph.D., in May of 2012. Dr. Niederhoffer is a noted stock-market investor, a former business partner to George Soros, and founder of the New York City Junto liberty forum.
In a review titled “The Passion of Principles,” the Objectivist magazine The Free Radical called Ilana’s first book, Broad Sides: One Woman’s Clash With a Corrupt Culture “a perfect mix of reason and rhetoric.” (Here are part 2 & part 3 of the review.) Maryland’s Ron Smith of WBAL Radio has described her as “a refreshingly original writer on the issues of our time.” Others have praised Ilana as a particularly strong stylist, with “no less powerful an intellectual punch as Ayn Rand, only wickedly funny.” (Citations are here and here).
Ilana’s latest book, released in June of 2011, is Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from post-Apartheid South Africa. Into the Cannibal’s Pot is a polemical work anchored in history, reality, fact, and the political philosophy of classical liberalism. It is a manifesto against mass society, arguing against raw, ripe democracy, here (in the US), there (in South Africa), and everywhere. “Into the Cannibal’s Pot” follows Russell Kirk’s contention that “true freedom can be found only within the framework of a social order.” It is intended as a reminder that, however imperfect, civilized societies are fragile. They can, and will, crumble in culturally inhospitable climes. The tyranny of political correctness, so unique to the West—plays a role in their near-collapse. Advanced societies don’t just die; they either wither from within, or, like South Africa, are finished off by other western societies.
All is not grim. Ilana does pause to turn the arrows in her epistolary quiver away from the state—the Thing the inimical Sir Humphrey Applebee of the British satire “Yes, Prime Minister” called a disorganized criminal organization. She covers popular culture, mainstream media, Hollywood, and pseudo-science. From sex to music, it’s all here, minus the unpalatable pabulum served by the mummified media.
When she is not expatiating upon the issues of the day, Ilana enjoys running outdoors. She has been a long-distance, recrational runner since the mid 1990s.
Parrots are another passion—in particular, the plight of psittacines in captivity and in the wild. Ilana supports parrot rescues in the community. So too is the cause of the near-extinct Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus) close to her heart. Ilana is owned by an adorable hookbill called Oscar-Wood (Poicephalus fuscicollis).
Then there is Music. Chamber music and Bach—any Bach—are her first loves, but she finds the hard core, intricate and masterful brilliance of progressive rock outfits like Symphony X, Dream Theater, Magnitude Nine, and Kamelot (sic) as alluring, to say nothing of neoclassical wizards such as Sean Mercer and Tony MacAlpine.
Ilana on the Issues
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According to syndicated talk-show host Sean Hannity, Ilana was the only writer he knew of to have offered up a rights-based defense of NFL quarterback Michael Vick in his dog fighting suit:
"To PETA, man and beast exist along the same continuum, their faculties and feelings differing in degree, not in kind...Like PETA, I don’t distinguish between the pig farmer and the dogfighter. ... Although people will go to great lengths to distinguish their preferred form of animal use from Vick’s, the distinction is nebulous. One either owns a resource or one doesn’t. Whether one kills animals for food or for fun, the naturally licit basis for large-scale pig farming or game hunting is the same: ownership of the resource....
Rights give rise to legal claims. Ultimately, the more rights animals are granted, the greater the legal lien exercised on their behalf against the liberty and property of people.
The justification for conferring individual rights on humans only is vested in the a priori truth that a human being is "a rational agent, with the gift of consciousness and a capacity to scrutinize his deeds and chart his actions. Man's nature is the source of the responsibility he bears for his actions. It is also the source of his rights. ..."
"Since a right is a legal claim against another," Ilana has urged that the consequences of granting "human" rights to animals be carefully considered, as this would legalize the use of force against human beings. “No libertarian would argue against man's moral duty to exercise his dominion over the earth wisely and well,” Ilana emphasizes, “only that a moral duty is not to be confused with an enforceable legal imperative.”
Ilana has been especially scathing about the propaganda unleashed in response to the rise in animal attacks: “The handful of honest experts left admits such attacks are on the rise because politically correct policies have bred fearless critters. It has been decades since animals were aggressively repelled from human habitat, and they now brazenly make themselves at home in manicured suburbs.” “Men,” Ilana observes, “once killed and hunted encroaching creatures. Thanks to decades of cultural and legal emasculation, they no longer have the urge or license to protect home and hearth. Instead, they robotically intone the Sierra Club's subliminal propaganda: animals are the true homesteaders of the planet.”
Ilana sees the environmental movement as a “philosophical excrescence of Animism, ‘the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls.’ “Primitives worshipped idols and amulets, but also conferred divine honor on the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, trees, and animals; air, fire, and water,” she contends. Nature worship is a species of this fetishism. Since environmentalism is predicated on grand scale central planning, it is quite obvious that the goal of the movement is “not to ‘save’ man, but to subjugate him to Goddess Gaia.” And, in particular, the environmentalist ultimately opposes continued economic progress: be it warming or cooling, the goal is the same: climate Chicken Littles—who not so long ago clucked about global cooling, but now claim the sky is falling because of global warming—want to scale back the market economy that is responsible for the marvelous living standards enjoyed in industrialized countries.”
In the theory of global warming, avers Ilana, these mutant Marxists have created a theory that can’t be falsified—the kind of “theory” Karl Popper condemned as not refutable by any conceivable event, and hence, unscientific.
Ilana describes the method of the climate kooks as follows: “Evidence that contradicts the global warming theory, they enlist as evidence for the correctness of their theory; every permutation in weather patterns—warm or cold—is said to be a consequence of that warming or proof of it.”
Affirmative action, the equal representation of women everywhere (including in sports), progressive teaching paradigms emphasizing group think; the banishing of competition (for which boys are hardwired) and moral instruction (which they generally crave); the demonization of the greatest writers, scientists, and explorers because they were men, the chemical castration of boys via Ritalin, the banning of BB guns and ‘bang-bang you’re dead,’ and the ‘Girls Gone Wild’ of North America”—Ilana credits the woman’s movement for all of these.
She has also pondered whether the discovery of late that testosterone levels in men are falling might be linked to “the feminization of society over the past 20 to 30 years.” As she puts it, “Feminists once aimed to unseat men, now they are actively engaged in queering them.” Ilana observesthat “the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is a delicate homeostatic feedback system, intricately involved in regulating hormones and stress.” She then wonders out loud whether “it [has] become the axis of evil in the war on men.” Indeed, the feminization of society, brought about just as well by “Y chromosome carriers,” is a theme Ilana frequently returns to: “CNN’s Anderson Cooper is a major culprit in changing the face of news. Forehead furrowed into a perpetual I-feel-your-pain frown, Cooper’s broadcasts are an interminable kvetch that elevates feelings above facts.”
“The Silly Sex?” is how Ilana, controversially, titled an essay explaining “women’s relatively scant accomplishments in the second half of the 20th century, as quantified objectively by Charles Murray.”
Ilana opposes mass immigration. “Immigration policy by definition,” she notes, “amounts to top-down, statist, central planning. But the least invasive policy is one that respects a nation’s historical and cultural complexion and the property rights of its taxpayers.”
To Ilana, unfettered immigration and the interventionist state cannot coexist. "The reality is that the American welfare state is accreting, not shrinking," she writes. The reality is that the more libertarians support the importation of impoverished minorities, with a tradition of aggressively manipulating the political apparatus to obtain property not theirs—the more intractable the welfare state will become. How better to diminish property rights and accelerate wealth distribution and, with it, the death of the republic, than to add to the 'union' each year the equivalent of a New Jersey, powered by identity-politics, and peopled predominantly by tax consumers seeking to indenture taxpayers? She further observes that, “It’s especially absurd for libertarians to assert that the multitudes streaming across the Southwestern border at a rate of one immigrant every 30 or so seconds are here with the consent of American private property owners, simply because many find employment once in the US.”
As Ilana sees it, “the sole emphasis of late on border security has helped open-border advocates immeasurably”—leading to a consensus whereby “the security risk newcomers pose is the only permissible topic for conversation. Americans will thus never be allowed to assert their right to determine the nature of the country they live in and, by extension, the kind of immigrants they welcome,” she avers. Indeed, to Ilana, the debate over immigration is meaningless without reference to “borders and to the thing they bound—a nation, to wit, the voluntary bonds that unite members of a civil society in common purpose.” She accuses George W. Bush of being oblivious to this glue, and sums up the President’s “borderless” worldview as one that “Invites an invasion by foreigners and instigates one against them.” These “are two sides of the same neoconservative coin," she quips.
Ilana is in favor of a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border: “If you really want to see an immigration liberationist rise on his hind legs,” she taunts, mention such a fence. “Hysterical yelps of ‘tear down this wall’ will ensue. Irrational minds have transformed a defensive wall à la the Emperor Hadrian’s, intended to keep the ‘barbarians’ out, into the Iron Curtain or the Berlin Wall, constructed to keep people in.”
"Ilana Mercer presents one of the best refutations of liberventionism I have read. Mercer demonstrates how support for global crusades for ‘human rights’ are fundamentally incompatible with a belief in small government, individual rights and a skepticism about state power. Particularly good is Mercer’s argument that war is a giant redistribution program.”
Indeed, “at bottom, ‘philanthropic’ wars and nation-building are transfer programs—the quintessential big-government projects,” Ilana expatiates:
"Smart and principled conservatives understand, moreover, that top-down central planning—economic or political—is always doomed to fail. The inverted, perverse incentive structure that invariably characterizes such endeavors guarantees failure. To wit, as a government project, the multi-billion enterprise in Iraq is bankrolled indefinitely by taxpayers and shielded in perpetuity from bankruptcy. Wrongdoing and incompetence in government are rarely punished, but are, rather, rewarded with budgetary increases. Government departments and fiefdoms accrete through inefficiency. Failure translates into ever-growing budgets, powers and perks—for the top dogs, not for the grunts on the ground.”
In the ramp-up to war, Ilana argued that in “mere months” the Bush administration managed to “break down and even invert certain civilizing precepts, which only a short while ago united” Americans. As is evident from her many essays on the topic, she was referring to a respect for the natural law and the prohibition against unprovoked aggression, the Constitution (it prohibits the President from declaring war), Just War Theory, and what “the Founding Fathers provided.” To wit, “a limited, constitutional republican government, by definition, doesn't, cannot, and must never pursue what Bush is after, … a sort of ‘21st-century Manifest Destiny.’"
Ilana has responded to what she terms the “creativepost-hocarguments… made to justify the unnecessary war, waged on a sovereign nation that had not attacked us, was no threat to us and was certainly no match for us,” first with facts. She has pointed out repeatedly that, “there were many experts—credible ones—who absolutely rejected the contention that there were WMD in Iraq. They were as numerous as the loud voices who promoted this lie. However, the media shut us out.” Next, Ilana has galvanized analytical arguments to dispel falsities about the invasion: “To say that Saddam may have had WMD is quite different from advocating war based on those assumptions,” she reasons. “It’s one thing to assume in error; it’s quite another to launch a war in which thousands would die based on mere assumptions, however widely shared.”
Ilana rejects accusations of pacifism leveled at her: “I supported going after al-Qaida in Afghanistan,” she ventures. “That was a legitimate act of retaliation and defense, accommodated within St. Augustine's teachings, whereby a just war is one ‘that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects.’”
Finally, Ilana characterizes the stay-the-course prescription as tantamount to “persisting in what is impossible to accomplish. Faction fighting in Iraq is as old as the sand dunes, and tyrants as ubiquitous as the Tigris,” she states, adding that, “Hussein’s reign was one of the more peaceful periods in the history of this fractious people. What a shame it’s too late to dust Saddam off, give him a sponge bath, and beg him to restore law and order to Iraq.”
Ilana, who grew up in the Middle-East, rejects the “religion of peace” appellation. “Our adventurous foreign policy might be a necessary precondition for Muslim aggression but it is far from a sufficient one,” she argues. The reason why “Muslims today are at the center of practically every conflict in the world—and were slaughtering innocent, pacifist Jews in Israel well before the Jewish state was a figment in the fertile mind of Theodor Herzl”—can be found in the Qur’an, she states.
“The Muslim holy book,” moreover, “doesn’t brook interpretation or reformation, because, as the Islamic tradition has it, the Qur’an is not Mohammed's word; it is God’s eternal word, seen as something sent from Heaven, never to be adapted or altered,” Ilana explains.
“The Qur’an counsels conquest, not coexistence, especially in its later edicts, which override the earlier ones,” she observes. In an essay for The New Individualist, Ilana concludes that, if anything, “Osama bin Laden has heeded, not hijacked, Islam.” In the same piece she also argues that “[t]he Quran’s ruthless particularism runs counter to the universal concepts of justice and love of the Hebrew and Christian bibles.”
Naïve Westerners, who’ve been raised to believe The Other is just like them, don’t understand Islam and its adherents. Or, for that matter, the meaning of “Taqiyya—the seldom-discussed Islamic practice of lying to non-Muslims in order to win political battles and protect Islam.” As Ilana demonstrates, media “malpractitioners” uphold “this Scheherazade-worthy charade.”
As both a libertarian and a Zionist (a position for which she has been attacked), Ilana argues that Israel does itself no favors by conflating America's unlimited worldwide war on Islamic terror with its own narrowly delimited and legitimate battle for survival, conducted since that country’s inception.
The Palestinian Authority, she notes, has established itself as an anarcho-terrorist territory.Left-liberal, root-causes thinking blames the thriving society (Israel) for the dysfunctions of the “savage” one adjacent to it (PA). But asIlanaputs it, “human action is the ultimate adjudicator of moral worth;societies are only as good as the individuals they comprise.” No amount of words, maintains Ilana, is going to change that Palestinians don’t live under the rule of enlightened Western law, don’t have a free and ferociously critical media or liberal courts, canonize suicide murderers, sanction the ‘honor killings’ of women and their subjugation, and are more likely to approve when their coreligionists strap on belts of nails and dynamite and blow up innocents.”
By making concessions to such an entity, Ilana argues, Israeli leaders have abandoned the national interest and their obligation to ensure the nation endures.
Conversely, Ilana strongly condemned Israel’s recent “leveling of Lebanon” and the “collective punishment of innocents” during that operation. She advised, instead, that Israel “consider stationing on the borders the best of its special-operations units … trained in precision, deep-penetration operations.”
Ilana categorically opposes foreign aid handouts to Israel. Israel ought to stop sacrificing its sovereignty and cease being a US satellite state. Independence, she observes, means cutting the Gordian Knot once and for all.
“Patriotism,” writes Ilana, “is a very modest thing. Here’s what it’s not: it’s not an allegiance to the government of the day, or to its invariably un-American policies. It’s an affinity for your community; it’s an understanding of the great principles upon which this country was founded—which have been excised by successive governments, Republican and Democratic alike. And it’s a commitment to restoring the republic of private-property rights, individual freedoms, and radical decentralization.”
The Theraputic Society
In her book, Broad Sides , Ilana underscores that “a free society cannot function unless its members assume or are made to assume full responsibility for their actions.” Indeed, an abiding theme in her work is individual free-will and the exploration of causality and culpability vis-à-vis crime, misconduct, and immorality. In particular, Ilana opposes and exposes the "medicalization of misbehavior.""In the progressive’s universe, evil actions don’t incriminate, they mitigate."The pop “experts,” she says, “work to place bad behavior beyond the strictures of traditional morality, making it amenable to ‘therapeutic’ interventions. The Drew Pinskys of the worldconjure so-called mental diseases either to control contrarians or to exculpate criminals.”
In “Mel’s Malady; Foxman’s Fetish,” Ilana writes this, with reference to Gibson’s alcoholism:
"The Delphic oracles of the disease theory of delinquency (the ‘experts’) have slapped all manner of misconduct with diagnostic labels. At the root of this diseasing of behavior is the eradication of good and bad. Placing bad behavior beyond the strictures of traditional morality, moreover, makes it amenable to external, ‘therapeutic’ or state interventions.
Liberals first, and conservatives in short succession, have taken to the idiom of disease like ducks to water. Left and right now insist, based on wispy pseudoscience, that just about every human excess is an illness as organic as cancer or diabetes.
A teacher who seduces her underage pupil has to be ‘sick,’ or else she’d not have indulged her fantasies. The same post hoc illogic is applied to the morbidly obese: if you overeat, you’re diseased!
Are you a dad who dotes on his kids when they are around, but fails to mail them child support money when they return to mom? There’s a Harvard professor by the name of Dr. John Ratey who’ll cheerily diagnose you with ‘Environmental Dependency Disorder’: you remember your kids only when they are present.
And so it goes: the arsonist has ‘pyromania,’ the thief is inflicted with ‘kleptomania,’ and Bill Clinton was not promiscuous, but a ‘sex-addict.'”
No Szaszian thinker will miss the thread that holds “Rah-Rah for Rioters” together:
"Whether the mediacrats are applying their cerebral sinew to individual or group-orchestrated crime; to psychological or sociological ‘causal factors,’ bad deeds are invariably caused—never committed. And they are caused by factors outside the perpetrators. …”
And this from “Coddling Killers”:
Root causes are the rationalizations liberals give—usually after the fact—for their immoral actions or for the immoral actions of others. The paradox at the heart of the root-causes fraud is that causal theoretical explanations are invoked only after bad deeds have been committed. Good deeds have no need of mitigating circumstances.