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Anarcho-conservatism or conservative anarchism or tory anarchism is a political philosophy and ideology that combines anarchist politics and conservative values. Anarcho-conservatism opposes the state and all government control, while supporting social conservative policies. Anarcho-conservatives advocate the abolition of the state and the wholesale replacement of state law by moral laws. Differently from social anarchists and individualist anarchists, anarcho-conservatives don't oppose all authority, but in consonance with them, they oppose the authority of the modern nation state, which they deem artificial.
For instance, conservative anarchists might oppose abortion, drug use and pornography, on moral grounds, while at the same time opposing their prohibition through government. This absolute rejection of the state legislation is what differentiates anarcho-conservatism from libertarianism conservatism. As conservatives typically do, conservative anarchists support traditional family structures and, much like all right-libertarian orientations, support gun and property rights. These however take a backseat to traditional and religious morality, if a conflict between them arises. In particular, this differentiates anarcho-conservatism from anarcho-capitalism.
Like all libertarians, conservative anarchists oppose state coercion, and like all right-libertarians, they don't oppose natural, traditional or socioeconomic hierarchies. In fact, they typically welcome them. Anarcho-conservatism has much in common with paleolibertarianism, except for the support of right wing populists in political elections. Christian anarchists, Orthodox Jewish anarchists and religious Muslim anarchists are anarcho-conservatives. Like all anarchists, they may recognise them, and live under their rule, but reject and resist their authority in every instance they can.
Anarcho-conservatism is closely associated with libertarian conservatism and anarcho-capitalism. Writing in the World Policy Journal, NYU professor James Nolt noted that anarcho-conservatism is becoming "increasingly fashionable."
Jacques Ellul, a French philosopher and Christian anarchist, notes that the final verse of the Book of Judges (Judges 21:25) states that there was no king in Israel and that "everyone did as they saw fit". Subsequently, as recorded in the first Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 8) the people of Israel wanted a king "so as to be like other nations". God declared that the people had rejected him as their king. He warned that a human king would lead to militarism, conscription and taxation, and that their pleas for mercy from the king's demands would go unanswered. Samuel passed on God's warning to the Israelites but they still demanded a king, and Saul became their ruler. Much of the subsequent Old Testament chronicles the Israelites trying to live with this decision.
Anarchists will often be against the revolution precisely because they distrust political or military means, because they see the possibility of organising through the civil or economic means, and gradually letting the state wither. The subjugated English did not need to rebel against their Norman despots: they outlasted them, living in ways the Normans could not be bothered with, of trade and and the common tongue. Perhaps it was a device the English had borrowed from the Welsh, the older British: why isn't Welsh a Romance language, like French or Spanish? Is it that the British were too deeply enslaved even to learn the Roman tongue, or is it that they waited the Romans out, and thereafter remembered only as a distant Emperor whom the British, in fantasy, defeated? The British do like to fantasise about empire, but the great mass of them are very ill-disposed to bother about running such a thing. The betrayed and dispossessed inhabitants of the American continent could similarly make no serious fight of it against a tyrant state, and had better keep their customs quietly and engage in private, economic means. All such anarchistically inclined peoples, in fact, are best called anarcho-conservatives.
The Young England movement of the 1830s and ‘40s argued that the more feudal models of traditional aristocracy and land ownership within the framework of communities which are self-policing (i.e. each community is autonomous rather than imposed by the state) was the best path to liberty, rather than mainstream liberal models. In short, tory anarchists might have defended traditional and hereditary institutions like monarchy and aristocracy, but they had anarchist sympathies in the sense that they did not believe in a centralised, unitary government, and sometimes saw a reactionary counterrevolution as the only path to political success.
The idea of a tory anarchist was first coined by Orwell to describe both Jonathan Swift and himself, and at its broadest it describes someone who is both a radical and a traditionalist. To be a Tory anarchist, then, is to embrace all manner of contradictions. It is a defence of good manners, good grammar, local customs and practices, respect for the individual and for privacy and an overwhelming hostility to the expanding power of the modern state. … Orwell saw Tory anarchism as a part of Britain's, mainly England's, rich social history, manifesting itself in particular figures at different times and places. These figures include not only Swift but Parson Bull, William Cobbett, Bishop Phillpotts and Richard Oastler.
There’s not a tory anarchist tradition exactly, but the label has been applied, with good reason, to writers like Albert Jay Nock, Evelyn and Auberon Waugh, Mencken, Florence King, Dwight Macdonald, even Orwell and Max Beerbohm.
Nock’s short-lived but provocative monthly provided perhaps the only intelligent and consistent critique of Fascism from the American Right. Unlike so many champions of “American individualism,” Nock was one of the few to see that Fascism posed a threat to free enterprise as great as that of Communism. Watching the Fascists maneuver to change Italy's electoral system, he observed that replacing majoritarian for plurality representation would only return the country to the authoritarianism of the Bourbon age. “The Fascisti are right, of course, when they say that democracy will not work in a great centralized State,” declared one of the last sincere Jeffersonians in America; “but does it follow of necessity that democracy must be sacrificed, in order that the State may survive? There is an alternative possibility which promises something better than a return to the tyranny of the past.” In another instance, when Judge Elbert Gary was quoted as having asked “whether we don’t think we need a man like Mussolini” in America, Nock concluded that businessmen secretly lusted after a powerful state in order to crush organized labor. “In Italy today political government fulfills its natural coercive function more frankly and directly than under the old fashioned parliamentary forms; and to Americans of a certain type the system may seem well worthy of emulation." Unfortunately other spokesmen for the intellectual Right lacked Nock's anarcho-conservative suspicion of the centralized state.
Hoppe generally describes himself as libertarian or anarcho-capitalist, but I cannot see that he would reject the ultra-conservative label, or I certainly do not see how can do so consistently, since he prefers monarchy to democracy. That is he prefers rule by one hereditary individual to rule by a representative assembly, or by direct democracy, and clearly regards the global move from monarchy to democracy as regrettable. His explanation is that a hereditary ruler has a great interest in maintaining the state since it belongs to that ruler and the descendants of that ruler in perpetuity. The hereditary ruler’s interest in maintaining the state is certainly greater than that of elected politicians, as these politicians are temporary and have a greater interest in extracting resources from the state than in maintaining it’s long term existence.
Let us explain what we mean by the term anarcho-conservatism . Readers familiar with Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty probably remember that Hayek discusses in his book two distinct types of liberalism: there is a continental brand of liberalism, which is concerned with positive freedoms; and there is an Anglo-saxon stream of liberalism, which is concerned with negative freedoms. Dietze's liberalism, like Hayek's liberalism, was concerned with negative freedom, which is the freedom from coercion, the freedom to say no. The anarchic component of Dietze's anarcho-conservatism derived from his commitment to negative freedom.
Shmaayah (c. 100 BCE)
Shmaayah was a rabbinic sage in the early pre-Mishnaic era.
Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government. (Avot 1:10)
Gamliel III (c. 177 – 225)
Gamliel III, son of Judah ha-Nasi the redactor of the Mishnah, and his successor as Nasi (patriarch).
Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress. (Avot 2:3)
Petr Chelčický (c. 1390 – c. 1460)
Petr Chelčický was a Christian and political author in 15th century Bohemia (now the Czech Republic).
He who obeys God needs no other authority.
Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)
Leo Tolstoy was a Russian writer regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, best known for his novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction.
Government is violence, Christianity is meekness, non-resistance, love. And, therefore, government cannot be Christian, and a man who wishes to be a Christian must not serve government.
For a Christian the oath of allegiance to any government whatever — the very act which is regarded as the foundation of the existence of a state — is a direct renunciation of Christianity. For the man who promises unconditional obedience in the future to laws, made or to be made, by that very promise is in the most, positive manner renouncing Christianity, which means obeying in every circumstance of life only the divine law of love he recognizes within him.
Christianity in its true sense puts an end to government. So it was understood at its very commencement; it was for that cause that Christ was crucified. So it has always been understood by people who were not under the necessity of justifying a Christian government. Only from the time that the heads of government assumed an external and nominal Christianity, men began to invent all the impossible, cunningly devised theories by means of which Christianity can be reconciled with government. But no honest and serious-minded man of our day can help seeing the incompatibility of true Christianity — the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness of injuries, and love — with government, with its pomp, acts of violence, executions, and wars. The profession of true Christianity not only excludes the possibility of recognizing government, but even destroys its very foundations.
Christ says, "Do not resist evil." The sole object of courts of law is – to resist evil. Christ enjoins us to return good for evil. Courts of law return evil for evil. Christ says, "Make no distinction between the just and the unjust." Courts of law do nothing else. Christ says, "Forgive all. Forgive not once, not seven times, but forgive without end." "Love your enemies." "Do good to those who hate you." Courts of law do not forgive, but they punish; they do not do good, but evil, to those whom they call the enemies of society. So, the true sense of the doctrine is that Christ forbids all courts of law.
It would seem inevitable that we must repudiate one of the two, either Christianity with its love of God and one's neighbor, or the State with its armies and wars. Perhaps Christianity may be obsolete, and when choosing between the two — Christianity and love of the State and murder — the people of our time will conclude that the existence of the State and murder is more important than Christianity. Perhaps we must forgo Christianity and retain only what is important: the State and murder. That may be so — at least people may think and feel so. But in that case they should say so! They should openly admit that people in our time have ceased to believe in what the collective wisdom of mankind has said, and what is said by the Law of God they profess: have ceased to believe in what is written indelibly on the heart of each man, and must now believe only in what is ordered by various people who by accident or birth have happened to become emperors and kings, or by various intrigues and elections have become presidents or members of senates and parliaments — even if those orders include murder. That is what they ought to say! But it is impossible to say it; and yet one of these two things has to be said. If it is admitted that Christianity forbids murder, both armies and governments become impossible. And if it is admitted that government acknowledges the lawfulness of murder and denies Christianity, no one will wish to obey a government that exists merely by its power to kill.
David Lipscomb (1831–1917)
David Lipscomb was a religious minister, Christian pacifist, author and leader in the American Restoration Movement.
All the wars and strifes between tribes, races, nations, from the beginning until now, have been the result of man's effort to govern himself and the world, rather than to submit to the government of God. … God has always kept on earth a government of his own. … In Eden the government was direct, individual and personal. God spoke directly to man and gave specific commands to be obeyed. … Every one who honors and serves the human government and relies upon it, for good, more than he does upon the Divine government, worships and serves the creature more than he does the Creator. … Human government, the embodied effort of man to rule the world without God, ruled over by "the prince of this world," the devil. Its mission is to execute wrath and vengeance here on earth. Human government bears the same relation to hell as the church bears to heaven. … It is the duty of the Christian to submit to the human government in its office and work and to seek its destruction only by spreading the religion of Christ and so converting men from service to the earthly government to service to the heavenly one, and so, too, by removing the necessity for its existence and work. No violence, no sword, no bitterness or wrath can he use. The spread of the peaceful principles of the Savior, will draw men out of the kingdoms of earth into the kingdom of God.
Heber Newton (1840 – 1914)
R. Heber Newton was a prominent American Episcopalian priest and writer.
Anarchism is in reality the ideal of political and social science, and also the ideal of religion. It is the ideal to which Jesus Christ looked forward. Christ founded no church, established no state, gave practically no laws, organized no government and set up no external authority, but he did seek to write on the hearts of men God's law and make them self-legislating.
Albert Jay Nock (1870 – 1945)
Albert Jay Nock was the editor of The Freeman and The Nation.
Everyone knows that the State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime that I spoke of a moment ago, and that it makes this monopoly as strict as it can. It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants, whether the property of citizen or alien. There is, for example, no human right, natural or Constitutional, that we have not seen nullified by the United States Government. Of all the crimes that are committed for gain or revenge, there is not one that we have not seen it commit — murder, mayhem, arson, robbery, fraud, criminal collusion and connivance.
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 – 1973)
J. R. R. Tolkien was Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University, and the author of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) — or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! … Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people … The most improper job of any many, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity … There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamating factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
Martin Niemöller (1892 – 1984)
Martin Niemöller was a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, best known for his widely-paraphrased statement "First they came…".
I began my political responsibility as an ultra-conservative. I wanted the Kaiser to come back; and now I am a revolutionary. I really mean that. If I live to be a hundred I shall maybe be an anarchist, for an anarchist wants to do without all government.
Sayyid Qutb (1906 – 1966)
Sayyid Qutb was an Islamic theorist and leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This religion is really a universal declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men and from servitude to his own desires, which is also a form of human servitude; it is a declaration that sovereignty belongs to God alone and that He is the Lord of all the worlds. It means a challenge to all kinds and forms of systems which are based on the concept of the sovereignty of man; in other words, where man has usurped the Divine attribute. Any system in which the final decisions are referred to human beings, and in which the sources of all authority are human, deifies human beings by designating others than God as lords over men. … The way to establish God's rule on earth is not that some consecrated people - the priests - be given the authority to rule, as was the case with the rule of the Church, nor that some spokesmen of God become rulers, as is the case in a 'theocracy'. To establish God's rule means that His laws be enforced and that the final decision in all affairs be according to these laws. … This universal declaration of the freedom of man on the earth from every authority except that of God, and the declaration that sovereignty is God's alone and that He is the Lord of the universe, is not merely a theoretical, philosophical and passive proclamation. It is a positive, practical and dynamic message with a view to bringing about the implementation of the Shari'ah of God and actually freeing people from their servitude to other men to bring them into the service of God, the One without associates.
Ivan Illich (1926 – 2002)
Ivan Illich was a Roman Catholic priest, and critic of the institutions of modern Western culture, particularly compulsory mass education as in his 1971 groundbreaking book Deschooling Society.
Jesus was an anarchist savior. That's what the Gospels tell us.
Paul Weyrich (1942 – 2008)
Paul Weyrich was the co-founder of The Heritage Foundation, The Free Congress Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
I believe that we probably have lost the culture war. That doesn’t mean the war is not going to continue, and that it isn’t going to be fought on other fronts. But in terms of society in general, we have lost. This is why, even when we win in politics, our victories fail to translate into the kind of policies we believe are important. Therefore, what seems to me a legitimate strategy for us to follow is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies of our traditional culture. I would point out to you that the word "holy" means "set apart", and that it is not against our tradition to be, in fact, "set apart". You can look in the Old Testament, you can look at Christian history. You will see that there were times when those who had our beliefs were definitely in the minority and it was a band of hardy monks who preserved the culture while the surrounding society disintegrated.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe (b. 1949)
Hans-Hermann Hoppe is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Senior Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and founder and president of the Property and Freedom Society.
Many libertarians hold the view that all that is needed to maintain a libertarian social order is the strict enforcement of the non-aggression principle (NAP). Otherwise, as long as one abstains from aggression, according to their view, the principle of “live and let live” should hold. Yet surely, while this “live and let live” sounds appealing to adolescents in rebellion against parental authority and all social convention and control (and many youngsters have been initially attracted to libertarianism believing that this “live and let live” is the essence of libertarianism), and while the principle does indeed hold and apply for people living far apart and dealing with each other only indirectly and from afar, it does not hold and apply, or rather it is insufficient, when it comes to people living in close proximity to each other, as neighbors and cohabitants of the same community.
A simple example suffices to make the point. Assume a new next-door neighbor. This neighbor does not aggress against you or your property in any way, but he is a “bad” neighbor. He is littering on his own neighboring property, turning it into a garbage heap; in the open, for you to see, he engages in ritual animal slaughter, he turns his house into a “Freudenhaus,” a bordello, with clients coming and going all day and all night long; he never offers a helping hand and never keeps any promise that he has made; or he cannot or else he refuses to speak to you in your own language. Etc., etc.. Your life is turned into a nightmare. Yet you may not use violence against him, because he has not aggressed against you. What can you do? You can shun and ostracize him. But your neighbor does not care, and in any case you alone thus ‘punishing’ him makes little if any difference to him. You have to have the communal respect and authority, or you must turn to someone who does, to persuade and convince everyone or at least most of the members of your community to do likewise and make the bad neighbor a social outcast, so as to exert enough pressure on him to sell his property and leave. …
The lesson? The peaceful cohabitation of neighbors and of people in regular direct contact with each other on some territory – a tranquil, convivial social order – requires also a commonality of culture: of language, religion, custom and convention. There can be peaceful co-existence of different cultures on distant, physically separated territories, but multi-culturalism, cultural heterogeneity, cannot exist in one and the same place and territory without leading to diminishing social trust, increased tension, and ultimately the call for a “strong man” and the destruction of anything resembling a libertarian social order.
Daniel McCarthy is the editor of Modern Age, director of the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program at The Fund for American Studies, and former editor of The American Conservative (2010 – 2016).
Conservatism and anarchism share some historical background, as reactions against liberalism, and they share some critiques of liberalism. It’s not that liberalism — broadly construed to include the “classical” variety in practice as well as the modern version — is the worst socio-political system imaginable. The various totalitarianisms of the 20th century were far worse, and anarchists and conservatives alike have to be careful that in making a deep critique of liberalism they’re not opening the door to something far deadlier. But liberalism is not the end of history, and it’s not the final picture of justice. Under the guise of democracy and markets, and human rights, various kinds of powers and interests are able to run quite unchecked.
Alexander Salter is Assistant Professor of Economics in the Rawls College of Business, and the Comparative Economics Research Fellow at Texas Tech University's Free Market Institute.
Embracing anarchy does not require conservatives to embrace violent revolution, or even civil disobedience. But for their own sake, as well as the sake of the civilization which they love, conservatives can and should deny the state’s legitimacy, on the grounds that it is destructive of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Affirming sovereignty in the hopes it may someday fall within conservative hands is a siren song that must be resisted.
Tripp York is a Mennonite writer who teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, VA.
Christian anarchism is not a revolutionary politic for it denies the legitimacy of revolution. This is a call for something far more subversive than the replacing of one regime with another. Regime change has been the model of worldly power since its inception. Instead, Christian anarchism rejects the very presuppositions that make the idea of revolution, and, perhaps, even liberation itself, intelligible. Jesus is neither exemplified in Che Guevara or Simon the Zealot. He had no desire to destroy or replace the kingdoms that surrounded him with a different ruler; instead, he established a community of believers who developed and reside in the altera civitas on earth: the church.
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the ideology of increasingly fashionable anarcho-conservatism,
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The anarchic component of Dietze's anarcho-conservatism derived from his commitment to negative freedom.
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