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Now Playing at Reason.tv—Jerome Tuccille on Rand, Rothbard, and the LP's big moment

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In 1972, Jerome Tuccille published It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, his memoir of the libertarian movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Palling around with the likes of economist Murray Rothbard, former Goldwater speechwriter Karl Hess, and others, Tuccille sought to fashion a left-right coalition between elements of the New Left and and the Old Right.

It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand is at once whimsical and moving, poignant and penetrating in its insights about political movements and personal failures. Re-released last year in a new and expanded edition, it remains required reading for anyone interested in the libertarian movement—or the American political scene of the past 40 years.

Since 1972, Tuccille has kept busy writing books such as Trump; Alan Shrugged: Alan Greenspan, the World's Most Powerful Banker; and Heretic: Confessions of an Ex-Catholic Rebel. His latest volume is the new and eminently readable Gallery of Fools: The True Story of a Celebrated Manhattan Art Theft, which follows the author's unlikely and unwitting participation after-the-fact in a major New York art heist.

The always outspoken and controversial Tuccille recently sat down with reason.tv to discuss the influence and reach of Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Milton Friedman. And to talk about how libertarian ideas—and the Libertarian Party—may have a major impact on the 2008 presidential race.

Click below to watch.

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  1. Idiotic.

  2. Guys in my high school used to write books all the time. It was no big deal.

  3. I initially read the headline as “… the LP’s big movement.

    Bob Barr is kind of a shithead.

  4. This guy is a moron. Galt’s Gulch wouldn’t accept gays? Or people with beards? WTF.

  5. Tooch is a pimp!

  6. “If you had a beard or mustache you would not be welcome in Galts Gulch.” What a freak were did he get that?

  7. “If you had a beard or mustache you would not be welcome in Galts Gulch.” What a freak were did he get that?

    It seems he’s referring to Rand’s aesthetics. Her romantic heroes were certainly heterosexual, chiseled and lacking in facial hair. Mozart lovers and casual drug users would probably not have been welcomed, either. I think he basically means that in Rand’s utopia, Galt’s Gulch, people would meet her social and aesthetic parameters, as she seemed to be pretty strict in regards to, oh, everything.

    I enjoyed his criticism of Rothbard. I’m a huge fan, but anarcho-capitalism isn’t perfect and perhaps the gentleman Tooch spoke to didn’t take the obvious route and suggest another private agency that could collect debts and secure some other solution. In anarcho-capitalist theories, adhesive contracts and ones with completely unreasonable clauses pertaining to damages, etc.
    Wendy McElroy, for example, makes excellent points as to how it is theoretically impossible to contract yourself into slavery in an ancap system, as it violates a very basic natural right.

    Some anarcho-capitalists tend to be utopianists, and utopianism is pretty damn terrifying in itself. Rothbard was a great system builder, but he wasn’t a god. I don’t think he would like to have been thought of as one, either.

  8. Milton Friedman failed miserably when it came to money. This was nowhere better shown than after Brenton Woods. Friedman predicted gold prices to fall to their industrial value. He always saw money as a gov’t function for society and not as a derivation of reality and human action.

  9. I have to agree with his take on Rand. Her every word hinted at a desire for a rigidly ordered world. I can’t imagine anyone but the New Objectivist Man? ever inhabiting Galt’s Gulch. Except for the New Objectivist Woman? who praises his perfection.

  10. Tuccille repeats the old canard that libertarians, prior to Rand, didn’t have moral arguments for their position, just “utilitarian” ones. Apparently he didn’t notice that utilitarianism was and remains a moral philosophy. But what he means is that libertarians tended to rely exclusively on “practical” reasons to support liberty. Boy, what a horrible thing, that.

    But nevertheless, the charge is dumb. There are moral arguments in Bastiat, Spencer, Auberon Herbert, and many others. A few of these even advanced sophisticated positions. But Rand was her own publicity machine, and she still warps the minds of her admirers in the libertarian movement. They still buy her press releases.

    Some day the libertarian movement will grow up. My suspicion is that this will happen when the last person who licked the boots of the unlovely egoist dies. Then her influence will be confined to books, and her ideas — some of them just as nutty as her personal preferences — rationally judged.

    His book is a whole lot of fun, though. Unfortunately I read it AFTER I came across a Randian who actually told me, without even the hint of irony, that “Ayn Rand is the greatest philosopher since Aristotle.” That was before she died, and I was ill prepared for such ill-informed nonsense. I just dropped my jaw and let the nutjob yammer on.

  11. Apparently he didn’t notice that utilitarianism was and remains a moral philosophy.

    Utilitarianism is the result of someone with an abstract orientation towards the world contemplating practicality. An actual practical person wouldn’t feel the need to build up an elaborate, all-explaining, non-contradiction-containing philosophical system to justify his practicality.

    Ayn Rand, Rothbard, and the folks who are really into them, feel the need for that all-explaining philosophical system.

  12. Her every word hinted at a desire for a rigidly ordered world.

    Notice the nearly total absence of New Objectivist Kids?, or any other kind of kids, in Rand’s novels.

    Hmm. One day Buffy and Jody, the adorable, newly-orphaned twin children of Rand’s brother, show up at her penthouse door. The little scamps bring chaos and heart-warming laughter to the Rand household. I’d watch that!

  13. Ayn Rand, Rothbard, and the folks who are really into them,
    feel the need for that all-explaining philosophical system.

    The unexamined life is not worth living.

  14. Oedipus might disagree 🙂

  15. I like all of Tuccille’s books and think he is a great guy. If I had only seen this interview I’b be a little turned off by him…Rothbard and all the anarcho-capitalist I know are pretty clear abou the idea that they certainly don’t/can’t predict how things will work out if we get rid of government…if we could predict what systems and institutions would be in place and how they would work then that would be the BEST argument for advocating for a role for government.

    This being the case, Rothbard set about to show a lot of ways that government makes things worse for the people they rule over. He made some pretty good moral arguments for why we shouldn’t get involved in wars like this Iraq quagmire. If you really think he was utopian…try reading chapter 14: War and Foreign Policy of his most utopian book”Libertarian Manifesto”

    Rothbard just worked tirelessly fighting the government on every front and produced dozens of great books and articles skewering government actions and explaining the benefits of individual liberty. He was also happy to talk about “hypotheticals”, this opens up plenty of room for any jerkoff to chime in with why this or that idea is not to his liking, but to say that Friedman is superior because he used his political accumen to suck up to Federal Reserve supporters and stay away from controversial issues is a little silly.

    If Friedman’s world ever comes about then I’ll be ecstatic…in the meantime…we still need the indefensable rothbard intellectual attacks on the federal reserve system and foreign policy. The taboos need to be confronted or else gay marriage and what kind of cap and trade carbon market we should have will continue to dominate the political debate.

  16. The unexamined life is not worth living.

    I kinda see a couple of different ways that your reply may have related to my comment. Please say more.

  17. Friedmanite system, somewhat limited government was and failed.

  18. “Some anarcho-capitalists tend to be utopian…”

    I love how people criticize anarcho-capitalism as being utopian… as if democracy somehow isn’t.

  19. Im so tired of Reason allowing people to bash anarcho capitalism by mischaracterizing everything Rothbard or Mises said.

    This guy has NO CLUE what he is talking about.

    Limited Government? Speaking of utopian…. Tried and failed.

    Both of these subjects are well addressed here by Hoppe – I was blown away by this artice and this guy obviously didnt care enough to do any research on anarcho capitalism (an audio version is also available)

    http://mises.org/story/2874

  20. Lessee:

    Believed in an objective reality.

    Believed that people should be rational.

    Believed that people own their lives and property and should be the ones to decide how those are used.

    Believed that the initiation of violence was universally wrong.

    Believed that only voluntary social interactions among peaceful individuals were proper.

    Believed that art should uplift rather then degrade the human spirit.

    Yup. What a horrible person AR was to believe and promote such sick ideas. Insane. Crazy.

    And what idiots so many people are for accepting such nonsense.

    Yup.

    Right.

    Oh. Also. I feel sorry for anyone who confuses the nature and goals of _fiction_ with the nature and requirements of _reality_.


  21. It seems he’s referring to Rand’s aesthetics. Her romantic heroes were certainly heterosexual, chiseled and lacking in facial hair. Mozart lovers and casual drug users would probably not have been welcomed, either. I think he basically means that in Rand’s utopia, Galt’s Gulch, people would meet her social and aesthetic parameters, as she seemed to be pretty strict in regards to, oh, everything.”

    Galt’s private gulch? Maybe some of that would apply to his (Or I should say, Rand’s, he’s just a spokesman for her for our purpose ) PRIVATE PROPERTY, (though not in regard to Mozart, her heir was a Mozart fan and she knew such :D) Nevertheless, there would be no problems for any of these people on their own property, or that of their friends.


    Notice the nearly total absence of New Objectivist Kids?, or any other kind of kids, in Rand’s novels.”

    There were a few “New Objectivist Kids” so to speak in Atlas Shrugged. And you obviously never read We the Living, whose protagonists were all teenagers.

  22. He’s bullshit on Rothbard. “The neighbor is spewing filth on your property” Of course, he should be sued and forced to stop. And, no, Donald Trump isn’t going to win all the time. Lawsuits cost money and must have merit. Loser pays in a libertarian society. And, no, the loser isn’t going to be enslaved to the winner. What nonsense.

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