Ilana Mercer

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Ilana Mercer is a paleolibertarian[1] author, columnist, blogger and thinker. She is the author of three books, including Into the Cannibals Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) and The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed (2016), which was "the first libertarian defense" of the Donald Trump candidacy.[2]

Early life

Ilana Mercer was born in South Africa.[3] Her father, a rabbi and "vocal opponent of apartheid,"[4][5] was "harassed by the South African security forces"[4] and, consequently, moved his family to Israel.[3] Later returning to the country of her birth, Mercer earned degrees at the University of South Africa,[3] before immigrating to Canada and finally settling in the United States.[3]


Mercer's weekly column began in 1999, in the now defunct Canadian North Shore News,[6] and currently appears on,[7] the Unz Review,[8] Townhall,[9] Quarterly Review,[10] and American Greatness.[11]


Mercer is the author of three books. Her first, Broad Sides: One Woman’s Clash With a Corrupt Culture (2003), is a collection of essays which cover culture and art, economics, crime, immigration, foreign policy and more through a paleolibertarian lens.[12] In his review of Mercer’s first book, Broad Sides One Woman’s Clash With a Corrupt Culture (2003)[13], Nelson Hultberg, executive director of “Americans for a Free Republic,” commented on Mercer’s “libertarian politics and traditional values.”[14] “Mercer brings us back to Jefferson,” Hultberg said, in that “She passes judgment,” rejects “the madness of relativism,” and champions “a natural aristocracy among men composed of virtues and talents.”[15]

Peter Brimelow of said, "This volume appears at a moment of peculiar crisis for libertarians in general," noting that, while libertarian orthodoxy tends to avoid issues of immigration, Mercer is a libertarian who is “sensible about immigration.”[16]

Her second book is Into The Cannibal's Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011). Writing for The National Review, Josh Gelernter referred to Mercer “as a writer with anti-apartheid chops.”[17], while columnist Jack Kerwick wrote that, “With an intimacy only a native is capable of supplying, Ilana escorts her reader through the history of her native homeland to the present day,” and that the book is also “in a sense, an obituary,” and in many ways a warning for the USA, nothing that, “Ilana is at great pains to insure that her new love [America] is spared the same murderous folly that befell her old [South Africa]. Thus far, though, things are not looking that promising for America on this score, for it is the pursuit of universal abstractions at the cost of neglecting concrete contingencies -- an enterprise that consumes the entire Western world generally and the USA specifically -- that imperiled South Africa in the '90s and America today.”[18]

Writing for, South Africa’s foremost online news site, writer Claudia Meads calls “Into The Cannibal's Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa” “probably the most complete dissertation on post-Apartheid South Africa.”[19]

Mercer’s third book, The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed (2016), was “the first libertarian book about the Trump phenomenon.”[20] In his review, Ayn Rand scholar Chris Sciabarra[21] concluded that “It is a testament to Mercer’s muscular writing and clever reasoning that I was able to read her book in a single sitting,” and that ideologically Mercer is completely correct that much of what corrupts our political economy is the role of the state.[22] About the general thesis of the book, Dr. Sciabarra observed that Mercer “is no fan of Obama or The W who came before him,” but she thinks that "Trump is likely the best Americans can hope for." She’s “not necessarily for the policies of Trump, but for the process of Trump.” This, in itself, is the most interesting of her arguments in a well-constructed book of essays that builds the case for that process.”[23]

In a review in Chronicles Magazine,[24] Clyde Wilson, a retired professor of history at the University of South Carolina, called “The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed,” the “best extended analysis yet published of the Trump phenomenon,” commenting on Mercer’s “Menckenesque” turn of phrases.[25]


Referring to Mercer’s book, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,[26] Ben Mathis-Lilley, a writer for Slate[27] accused Mercer of racism, in August of 2018, referring to her as "a real piece of work, racism-wise! ...Mercer thinks that getting rid of apartheid has been bad for South Africa—and that, broadly, white people shouldn’t support democracy in countries in which they’re a minority population, because they will be exterminated by nonwhite savages."[28] (Mercer had been invited to the 2016 Mencken conference,[29] but had not attended it, with Robert Wenzel taking her place.[30]

Mercer countered the Slate accusation in a Quarterly Review[31] column[32], noting that “Into the Cannibal’s Pot” condemns apartheid, calling it “one of the world’s most retrogressive colonial systems (p. 65).” “Apartheid showed a gross disrespect for human rights and international law (p. 222).” Mercer further explained that what she condemns in the book is not democracy per se, but “unrestrained majoritarianism” or “simple majority rule.”[33]

On July 7th, 2020 a Twitter exchange arose between the editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, Geoffrey Ingersoll,[34] and “Sleeping Giants,” a left-leaning account that supports the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The latter accused the former of publishing the works of “White Nationalists.”[35]

Ingersoll responded by denying said claims, specifically calling out Ilana Mercer by name claiming that she “never stepped foot in our office,”[36] after which conservative commentator Patrick Howley interjected, mocking Ingersoll and stating that “Ilana is out of your league, pal.”[37]

The dust-up is a clear reference to a 2017 article for the SPLC’s “Hate Watch,” titled “The Daily Caller Has A White Nationalism Problem,” that asserts that The Daily Caller, a right-wing website, has a history of working with and publishing White Nationalists and Alt-Right figures such as Peter Brimelow, John Derbyshire, Jason Kessler, Scott Geer and Ilana Mercer among others.[38] In referring to a 2017 H.L. Mencken Club conference, the SPLC failed to mention that Mercer was not even in attendance.[39]

Political Philosophy

Mercer is a paleolibertarian. She defines that as someone who “grasps that ordered liberty has a civilizational dimension, stripped of which the libertarian non-aggression principle will crumble and won’t endure.” She says that “the libertarian non-aggression principle, by which all decent people should live, is peculiar to the West and won’t survive once western civilization is no more.” [40]


A long critic of democracy, Mercer gave a talk at the Mises Institute’s Circle in Seattle titled, “How Democracy Made Us Dumb.”[41] In the talk she argued that a “dumbing down” was “inherent in democracy,”[42] and drew on a wide range of observations from “The Founding Fathers and the ancients,” to support her thesis.[43]

Noting that “A tenet of the American democracy is to deify youth and diminish adults,”[44] Mercer began by discussing the Athenian philosophers and their disdain for democracy, arguing that among the “ancients who mattered there was a keen contempt” for democracy. Observing that although subversive, anti-democratic thinking was the aristocratic gospel in Athens.”[45]

She added that “Socrates was the intellectual leader against democracy and for the even-then hated aristocratic philosophy,” and concluded: “The proof of the foolish, violent and cruel nature of the crowds is that the crowds, not the judges, insisted on making Socrates the first martyr of philosophy. He drank the poison at the behest of the people.” [46]

Moving onto Plato, whom she refers to as “Socrates’ most gifted student,”[47], she points out that he harbored such scorn for democracy and hatred for the mob—so extreme that it led this controversial genius to resolve that democracy must be destroyed, to be replaced by his planned society.”[48]

In comparison with the philosophy of libertarianism, Mercer states that of the ancients, Aristotle was “the most agreeable to libertarian thinking,” saying that he “ventured that democracy is based on a false assumption of equality.” For this, Mercer draws on William Durant’s The Story of Philosophy: “those who are equal in one respect (under the law) are equal in all respects. Because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.”[49]

On the subject of the United States, Mercer shifts her focus to Alexis de Tocqueville and Friedrich Nietzsche, stating that the former was “not sold on the idea of American democracy,” and the latter “saw nothing good in democracy,”[50] but reiterating that “For their part, America’s founders had attempted to forestall raw democracy by devising a republic.”[51]


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