Staff Reviews

A Tale of Two Libertarianisms

The conflict between Murray Rothbard and F.A. Hayek highlights an enduring division in the libertarian world.

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Rothbard vs. the Philosophers, by Murray Rothbard, edited by Roberta A. Modugno, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 168 pages, $14.

If Murray Rothbard—free-market economist, anarchist philosopher, American historian, and inveterate activist—had never lived, the modern libertarian movement would have nowhere near its current size and influence. He inspired and educated generations of influential intellectuals and activists, from Leonard Liggio to Roy Childs to Randy Barnett. He helped form and/or shape the mission of such institutions as the Institute for Humane Studies, the Cato Institute, the Libertarian Party, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute (and wrote a regular column for Reason for more than a decade). His initially unique combination of a Randian/Aristotelian natural rights ethic, Austrian economics, anarcho-capitalism, fervent opposition to war, and a populist distrust of "power elites" both public and private have injected modern libertarianism with a distinct flavor distinguishing it from other brands of pro-market thought. It was a differentiation intensified by Rothbard's bombthrowing polemical style.

Put it this way: When the likes of F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman died, the conservative flagship National Review could and did praise the Nobel Prize–winning economists unreservedly. But when Rothbard died in 1995, his old pal William Buckley pissed on his grave. Rothbard, Buckley wrote, spent his life "huffing and puffing in the little cloister whose walls he labored so strenuously to contract, leaving him, in the end, not as the father of a swelling movement…but with about as many disciples as David Koresh had in his little redoubt in Waco. Yes, Murray Rothbard believed in freedom, and yes, David Koresh believed in God."

Things look a little different now when it comes to Rothbard's influence, though it's unlikely anyone at National Review will note it—except maybe in the context of yet another attack on Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). The rise of Paul and his young and enthusiastic fan base, which Buckley could not have foreseen, contradicts the contention that Rothbard's divisive radical intransigence doomed him to irrelevance.

The Paul phenomena, the largest popular movement in the postwar period to be motivated by distinctly libertarian ideas about war, money, and the role of government, has been influenced far more heavily by Rothbard than by the beliefs or style of any other prominent libertarian intellectual. The Paul movement is the sort of mass anti-war, anti-state, anti-Fed agitation that Rothbard dreamed about his entire adult life.

Rothbard was an influence on his friend Ron Paul, and central to the Paul Internet community are the very Rothbardian websites LewRockwell.com and Mises.org. The latter is run by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which has just issued an interesting collection of unpublished Rothbard writings, edited by the Italian political scientist Roberta Modugno and titled Rothbard vs. the Philosophers.

The pieces collected here are essays, letters, and memos written in the 1940s and '50s to advise various libertarian financing groups (mostly the Volker Fund) on whether specific works or authors were worthy vessels for promoting libertarian messages. Because of this practical purpose, Rothbard's writing here highlights an important faultline in the larger libertarian project, both as an intellectual operation and as an effort to sell ideas.

Rothbard was an intellectual with a populist mission. He learned much from Marx and Marxist movements in terms of strategies for radical politico-economic change, and he agreed with Marx that while "philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it." Modugno's introductory essay spells out the specifics of this project: "the axiom of nonaggression" is "the true cornerstone of the Rothbardian system," and thus Rothbard "morally condemns all forms of statism." States, after all, cannot function without first aggressing against someone, if only to get tax money to fund their activities.

Rothbard was very concerned, in judging the value of other intellectuals, with assessing those thinkers' efficacy in swaying the world toward the cause of total freedom. His critiques here often feature language along the lines of this comment, about his beloved mentor Mises: "Mises' utilitarian, relativist approach to ethics is not nearly enough to establish a full case for liberty."

That spirit of maximizing libertarian advantage, sometimes at the critical expense of fellow libertarians, dominates this book. Rothbard is the most entertaining of the major libertarian thinkers: sharp, witty, mean, funny, at times abrasive, almost always colloquial. Those qualities shine through these advisements on whether a foundation would want to support or distribute the works under discussion.

His flayings of Leo Strauss and Karl Polanyi here thus should not be read as nuanced and charitable philosopher-to-philosopher engagements. Rothbard is writing as an ideological polemicist about what thinkers are good for the team. This aspect of the philosopher, evident not only in these previously private memos but in much of his journalistic criticism of other thinkers and activists, is sometimes used to attack him as an unserious thinker, but the criticism isn't fair to the purpose of this sort of polemic. If Rothbard doesn't capture the full nuances of Karl Polanyi's history or analysis in The Great Transformation, he is nonetheless doing what he was asked to do: sniffing out a detectable set of beliefs about modern civilization, currency, and markets that make Polanyi an ineffective ally for radical libertarians.

Portions of this book show Rothbard presciently lining up on sides of intralibertarian arguments whose significance wouldn't become obvious until much later. Ayn Rand's theories of the "virtue of selfishness" and her tonal elevation of the rights of the great over helping the downtrodden became highly influential in libertarianism from the 1960s on, laying the groundwork for the now-common notion that this uncharitable aspect of Rand is "bad for the brand" of libertarianism. In a 1948 entry here, attacking an essay in praise of "rugged individualism" by Colgate University President George B. Cutten, Rothbard was already arguing that stressing the "ruggedness" of individualism (especially linked to a pop-Darwinianism that sees moral and absolute value in the survival results of blind evolution) would be a bad road for libertarians to take. "I consider it a tribute to the moral qualities of an individualist society," he wrote, "that private charity and philanthropy helps the unfortunate people in our midst."

And while praising Leo Strauss, later credited as philosophical godfather to the neoconservatives, for agreeing that there are ethical absolutes discoverable by reason, Rothbard points out some amusing curiosities in Straussian thinking, mostly focusing on his famous "esoteric" readings of the likes of Machiavelli and his numerological obsessions, which Rothbard finds "really so absurd as to be almost incredible" and "excruciatingly crackpot."

The most interesting part of Rothbard vs. the Philosophers, and most important to libertarian intellectual history, is a memo Rothbard wrote in 1958 regarding F.A. Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. That book, which eventually came out in 1960, is Hayek's extended explanation and defense of what he called "the ideal of freedom which inspired modern Western civilization." In Rothbard's memo, unpublished until now but discussed for years in shocked whispers among libertarians who had seen or heard of it, he advised the Volker Fund that the book should not be supported—indeed, that it should be vehemently attacked upon publication.

Accidents of intellectual and institutional history have linked as "libertarian" a set of thinkers with deep disagreements on important questions of both the preferred role for government and the intellectual justification for their political and ethical beliefs. All of them were bound by opposition to the post–New Deal Keynesian consensus of government spending and planning; all were linked in a community of affinity and intellectual engagement, through organizations such as the Volker Fund, the Mont Pelerin Society, and the Foundation for Economic Education. But as Rothbard makes abundantly clear here, very important differences exist between the fallibilistic, utilitarian, limited-government thinking of Hayek (and Friedman, and to a great degree Mises) and the natural rights–based anarchism of Rothbard. (Rothbard, along with Hayek and Mises, did believe that a free society would be the richest and most option-filled of arrangements, and thus defendable on pragmatic grounds. But he also believed, like Rand, that there was an objective moral order discoverable by reason that made human liberty right, whether or not in any particular case it would tend to work out for the best in some practical sense.)

In words that he never intended to make public in his lifetime, Rothbard calls Hayek's most monumental statement of beliefs and recommendations about liberty and political order "surprisingly and distressingly, an extremely bad, and, I would even say, evil book." The "evil" part comes from the blow Rothbard thinks the text will inflict on the libertarian movement. Hayek, then as now seen as one of libertarianism's most respectable and brilliant exponents, chose in his writings to endorse liberty only for instrumental reasons ("if we want to convince those who do not already share our moral suppositions," he explained, "we must not simply take them for granted"), and he did not take his opposition to the state nearly as far as Rothbard did. Rothbard thus felt the book would create a rhetorical "Even Hayek admits…" problem for more radical libertarians. (To an extent, this fear has proven true.) 

Rothbard's arguments against Hayek are not in themselves strictly pragmatic; he maintains that Hayek misunderstands the rational arguments for liberty and misstates the importance of rights arguments in classical liberal history. In a later, more conciliatory but still negative memo, he lists at many pages' length the concessions Hayek makes to state power that Rothbard finds illegitimate, from subsidies for public goods to compulsory unemployment insurance to minimum income guarantees.

The uneasy relationship between Rothbard and Hayek is echoed to this day, with modern Hayekians such as Will Wilkinson and former Reason editor Virginia Postrel publicly lamenting the conflation of their worldview with Rothbard-style beliefs. Writing on his blog, Wilkinson has complained that when he defends "something like the arguments for an economic safety net [Hayek and other] giants of libertarian thought actually set forth, lots of libertarians accuse me of not really being libertarian at all. And many liberals act surprised, as if I'm being saucily iconoclastic by wandering so far off the reservation." Postrel once wrote in Cato Unbound that "to an outsider, official libertarianism…does indeed look like a doctrinaire sect with a well-rehearsed catechism.…Everything flows from a single principle: self-ownership or non-aggression. It's political philosophy as simple algebra." She then notes that such a definition of libertarianism leaves no room for the Hayekian style she embraces, since its advocates do not "adhere to the deductive reasoning promoted by Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard. They aren't 'principled' or 'hard core.'?" All sorts of intra-libertarian internecine squabbles follow along the same rough lines of the split between the hardcore, no-compromise, anti-statist Rothbardian and the more classical liberal, utilitarian, fallibilist, and prudential Hayekian.

Those are ideal types, and a variety of distinct arguments and feelings shadow the battleground between the tribes—especially when Rothbard the contentious and controversial person, as opposed to Rothbardianism the philosophy, is in the mix. For example, Rothbard's late in life turn toward cultural conservatism, including support for Pat Buchanan in the 1992 presidential campaign (on the grounds that he was the most populist, anti-establishment, and antiwar candidate in the running), make it hard for many libertarians to accept the idea that Rothbard resolutely refused to compromise with statism. Rothbard never took the tack that many younger libertarians influenced by him did, of rejecting electoral politics altogether. He always thought, and talked about, better and worse choices in the political environment we were faced with. From the New Left in the 1960s to the Buchananite Right in the 1990s, he tended to throw his weight behind the most prominent political force against war.

The differences in ultimate political ends are often reflected in differences in tone and willingness to engage, as opposed to railing against, the standard bastions of mainstream power and influence. The sort of outsider anger that can attach to Rothbard-style argumentation, apparent in parts of the Ron Paul movement today, strikes others in the libertarian orbit as conducive to a cultish circling of the intellectual wagons that makes it harder for radical ideas to pierce the arenas of real political and social power. For Rothbard and his successors, meanwhile, "the arenas of real political and social power" are an enemy to be fought, not a potential source of allies.

"Rothbard's intention is to make his own argumentation in support of freedom more persuasive," Modugno notes. As it happens, despite Rothbard's dire warnings to the Volker Fund, Hayek's work clearly was persuasive, and it was mostly persuasive about the areas where Rothbard and Hayek were in agreement. Hayek is so successfully remembered for his critique of central planning, his defense of a free-market price system, and his demolition of the concept of "social justice" that many people familiar with him more as icon than as a thinker are surprised to learn that he believed the things Rothbard slams him for here. 

Both Hayek and Rothbard were more than intellectuals; they were advocates. And while what they ultimately advocated was different, in the context of today's ever-growing government, the rest of the world isn't too wrong in lumping them together for practical purposes. In many ways, though Rothbard certainly didn't think so when contemplating the unpublished Constitution of Liberty, their approaches were complementary rather than competitive. In a world of different minds, different sorts of arguments are going to appeal to different people for different reasons. It's the kind of intellectual division of labor that economists such as Rothbard and Hayek should both be able to appreciate.

If Hayek and Rothbard were (unbeknownst to Hayek) at war, it's a war that both won and neither won. That the two tendencies survive is all for the best both for libertarian ideas and the general shape of human intellectual and political history.

Senior Editor Brian Doherty (bdoherty@reason.com) is author of Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (Public-Affairs).

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  1. “If Rothbard doesn’t capture the full nuances of Karl Polanyi’s history or analysis in The Great Transformation, he is nonetheless doing what he was asked to do: sniffing out a detectable set of beliefs about modern civilization, currency, and markets that make Polanyi an ineffective ally for radical libertarians.”

    In other words, “If Rothbard lies his ass off, he is nonetheless doing what he was asked to do: sniffing out a detectable set of beliefs about modern civilization, currency, and markets that make Polanyi an ineffective ally for radical libertarians.”

    Actually, I thought “The Great Transformation” was a lousy book. Apparently, Rothbard was worse. Maybe WFB’s grave pissing wasn’t entirely out of line.

    I relieved myself on Buckley’s grave here: http://avanneman.blogspot.com/…..ll_14.html

    1. Shut the fuck up, Vanneman.

      1. Libertarianisms RoCKKK !!!!!!!!!!

        Dude.. what language.. you shouldn’t do like this… Are you mad because you dont have Nicebigbooty ???

        1. The very simple fact that Ron Paul did not, and probably will not win the nomination is a testament to the immaturity of the populace as a whole. People are moved by talking points, looks, and a variety of other things that have no place in the future.

          Check this out: http://www.captaincynic.com/th…..sident.htm if you want a real grasp of the momentum behind him, small as it may be, is intense.

    2. Apparently, Rothbard was worse. Maybe WFB’s grave pissing wasn’t entirely out of line.

      In other words, you are not familiar enough with Rothbard’s work to make an intelligible comment on it.

    3. There are no lies whatsoever about Polanyi in Rothbard’s book. Believe it or not, arguments about the meaning and implications of serious intellectual history can have arguable nuances without anyone on either side of the argument about the meaning or implications of the work “lying.”

      1. “arguable nuance”? Over and over again you explain, and explain away, the fact that what Rothbard wrote wasn’t, well, all that accurate. It might seem to some that when evaluating an author or a book for purposes of determining whether funding should be offered, an accurate description might be preferred to the effusions of an “ideological polemicist.” And if Rothbard thought Hayek’s book “evil,” why didn’t he say so publicly? If this is a libertarian “giant,” God spare me the pygmies.

        1. Let me repeat: if you found the “lies” about Polanyi in Rothbard, please explain them. Otherwise, it really isn’t something you should be talking about publicly. There aren’t even any “inaccuracies” in what he wrote about Polanyi; there are statements about emphasis and meaning that are arguable, though I think in the end Rothbard is correct; though not, obviously, capturing everything there is to capture in Polanyi’s ambitious, interesting, but very unlibertarian book. Believe it or not, serious people can disagree about emphases and interpretation of heavy intellectual work without either side lying or even being inaccurate.

        2. What is with the pseudo-libertarian trolls on this website?

    4. I know I shouldn’t have read the comments section at all if I didn’t want to get my blood pressure up. I usually don’t read the comment section because it is full of egotistical, rampant stupidity like this Alan guy spouts above. I learned my lesson, I’ll read the article and form my own opinion. You fucktard trolls who think your smart can go to hell.

  2. Was most of this taken from Radicals…? I got a feeling of deja vu.

    1. Yes, I seem to remember an H&R post about NRO responding to Doherty’s claim of WFB pissing on Rothbard’s grave.

  3. I read the article on Mises maybe a week ago or so. Funny thing, they attributed its origin to Reason, though I’m seeing it here for the first time.

    1. To Lew, anything that doesn’t treat Rothbard as the epitome of libertarian perfection is attributable to (t)Reason.

      1. Rothbard was far from perfect, but the Liberventionist NeoCon shills and people who don’t even qualify as classical liberals yet have the nerve to call themselves ‘libertarians’ are either deceitful or idiots.

  4. An earlier version of the article was published here on reason.com earlier this year. A revised version then ran in Reason’s print edition. Now we’re putting the contents of that issue online, and the circle of life continues.

    1. I’m sure all the enviromentalists are glad you’re recycling those electrons.

  5. Kinda OT but not really:
    I was speaking with a Dr. Ridpath of York University in Toronto over the weekend (He was a speaker at a decidedly neo-con event attended by about 40% liberty minded folks…very mentally tiring for me). He is an ‘expert’ on Objectivism and Rand. Now help me out here…I know that Rothbard and Rand had issues, and I know that Rand patently rejected the term libertarian (big L even more so than small l). BUT I made the point that the Rothbard segment of the LP and the Randian segment were the two closest and the most associated with anarcho-capitalism. NOW I know that Rand was NOT an AC per se…but my point was that the LP/libertarian movement (for the purposes of this comment being similar enough) was LESS AC than Rand/Rothbard. The prof. vehemently defended Rand as NOT libertarian, began to decry the fact the two are ever associated in conversation, thinks the l philosophy is far removed from Randian Objectivism, and would no longer discuss the topic. Now, what the hell am I supposed to think of that?

    Are you serious?

    1. You should think that the prof did not know whereof he spoke.

      Since he found much common ground with objectivism, Rothbard DID meet with Rand, but found her cult offputting.

      See http://www.lewrockwell.com/rot…..rd23.html.

      1. I’d just like to take this opportunity to recommend Mozart was a Red ? to my knowledge the only play about Ayn Rand.

        1. And also… It’s HILARIOUS! +1 Billion!

    2. Boy, do you have a lot of reading and catching up to do. A quick perusal of the Hit and Run blog forums will give you ample evidence of the whim-worshiping subjectivism common to left-wing libertarians. Rand utterly despised such people and such viewpoints, and wanted her philosophy and her movement to be kept entirely distinct from what she considered a political movement that was premature — proceeding as it did without proper philosophical grounding, and in a world where education on rational egoism and capitalism is sorely lacking.

      Google Roy Childs and Ayn Rand to learn more about the origins of the AC/Objectivist schism.

  6. It is interesting to see that apparently someone asked whether Leo Strauss was an appropriate vessel; I think it is nearly impossible to be Straussian-libertarian. Liberal and conservative, yeah, easily, libertarian, not so easy.

  7. BTW, Rothbard’s agreement with Rand comes through a lot in the Burns bio of Rand.

    1. All the great wars are sectarian.

    2. Like New York rent controlled apartments, the smaller the real estate, the greater the stakes.

  8. “In a world of different minds, different sorts of arguments are going to appeal to different people for different reasons.”

    I would also throw out for consideration that a single mind can conceive of more than one basis for the argument for freedom.

    I consider myself a fallibilist, and have often called myself that around here, and yet I’m also often after my fellow libertarians for their utilitarianism.

    I don’t care whether gun ownership or marijuana consumption is good or bad for society, for instance, so long as I have the choice.

    …a society where marijuana is freely available may not be the best thing for teens and Soccer Moms, but I don’t care about that as much as I care about my freedom to choose. Really. And I don’t think there’s any statistical study on any subject that will ever be as effective in bringing about change as engendering that love of freedom of choice in people’s hearts (rather than minds).

    “The sort of outsider anger that can attach to Rothbard-style argumentation, apparent in parts of the Ron Paul movement today, strikes others in the libertarian orbit as conducive to a cultish circling of the intellectual wagons that makes it harder for radical ideas to pierce the arenas of real political and social power. For Rothbard and his successors, meanwhile, “the arenas of real political and social power” are an enemy to be fought, not a potential source of allies.”

    It is interesting that the Ron Paul movement’s ideas seem to hinge on Rothbard, and yet the people who are lining up behind Ron Paul still see an elected politician as the answer to their problems.

    I just can’t get there anymore.

    I appreciate that Rothbard backed whomever he thought was most anti-war, but I can’t get my arms around why someone who so clearly saw the state as the problem would embrace electoral politics (the very fuel that makes the modern state go) as the answer!

    It’s a big part of why I can’t get behind Ron Paul today–if the change I want is a moving away from the state, then how can I support any politician?

    I want to get across to people (the real agents for change) that their politicians are the problem, so how does supporting a politician get that across?

    I mean, the problem isn’t that we have the wrong politicians running the state–it’s that politicians are making decisions for people that people should be making for themselves. …supporting a politician like Ron Paul doesn’t get that idea across! It makes people think we’ve got the wrong politicians!

    And that’s just not the case.

    1. Well until the libertarian fairy comes and redistributes all the guns equally to everyone we have what we have.

      I’m a bit tired of whiny libs who think that more liberty is somehow useless if you can’t have complete liberty.

      If whining and a smug ‘more libertarian than thou’ attitude accomplished anything we’d already be free. Maybe it’s time to engage and educate.

      1. Or you could just take care of your own life and stop wasting your energy on morons and worthless political bullshit.

    2. Yes, but for most people, politics will be the only acceptable method of changing stuff. Open revolt etc just isn’t that appealing for the majority.

      1. Open revolt is one thing. Not supporting the system that oppresses you is another. Supporting the system that’s oppressing you is another still.

        1. This should be easy for you, then. When you go to vote, vote against the incumbent whoever it might be. Not voting just cedes decisions to others. Of course, by doing nothing you’ll *feel* so much more self-righteous by not ‘supporting the system’, which is what matters after all.

          1. I generally vote for the libertarian candidate if there is one, else leave that particular race unvoted.

            A blank vote sends the message to BOTH major party candidates that they left a vote on the table. Enough blank votes makes them really nervous.

          2. “Not voting just cedes decisions to others.”

            Well put.

            Elections are weird. Don’t know if they have a like anywhere else in life. The important (if sad) thing about them is that someone wins whether you participate in the process or not. Always.

            1. “The important (if sad) thing about them is that someone wins whether you participate in the process or not.”

              That’s true, and in Congress, more than 95% of the time, that means the incumbent.

              1. My vote cancels out y’alls.

          3. “This should be easy for you, then. When you go to vote, vote against the incumbent whoever it might be. Not voting just cedes decisions to others.”

            Sometimes this becomes problematic.

            If there’s a referendum to legalize gay marriage, there’s no box I can check that says that gay people shouldn’t have to ask me for permission to do anything, so I’m not voting.

            …but that’s not true when people are voting for someone for office. And you know, it might not take a whole lot of libertarians to make a difference. About a third of the American electorate is already on our side! ; )

        2. Just curious. How would you describe the region of “withholding support”? It seems very fuzzy to me. I’m not sure I could draw completely away from a description of supporting the system without stumbling into the realm of open revolt.

          1. How would you describe the region of “withholding support”?

            The clearest way to me seems to be not voting. And when you look at incumbency or get out the vote campaigns in either party, people not showing up to vote seems to be what they’re all most afraid of.

            If politicians use elections to legitimize their right to make the decisions they inflict on us, then it makes sense for people who don’t want to be subjected to their decisions to refrain from participating in electoral politics. It’s as simple as that.

            Tea Party stuff may have been a great opportunity for this kind of thing–especially when it wasn’t clear that the Republicans might figure it out and try to tap into that. Oh, but they were worried for a while–what if a substantial portion of the electorate were angry enough at both parties, so angry that they weren’t willing to participate in the election process anymore?

            We won’t get what we want until people stop thinking of politicians as the solution to problems anyway, so just to get started, why don’t we stop supporting politicians? Again, our political problems aren’t due to having the wrong people in powerful positions; our political problems are the inevitable result of powerful positions. We need to get rid of those powerful positions. …we need to suck the power out of those positions.

            And we can’t even really get started on that journey until we stop participating in the process that legitimizes those positions. That’s more or less all I’m saying.

            I’d love it that’s what people thought of libertarians…

            Voter One: “Yeah, those are the guys that don’t believe in politicians–they think everybody should make decisions for themselves! Isn’t that crazy?”

            Voter Two: “Why is that crazy?”

            1. I agree, Ken. We need an Ignore the State movement. If enough people simply refused to abide the intrusions of authority, the state would eventually whither away. I’m afraid though, that a revolt would be forced upon us by the violent protestations of a state scorned.

    3. BTW, Ken, did you see that Ron Paul was entirely justified to comment to Ben Bernanke about the Fed’s role in bankrolling the Watergate break in and Saddam Hussein? Will there be an apology from you?

      1. I’ve seen no such thing. …and something tells me that whatever you’re talking about isn’t what you’re making it out to be.

        1. Re: Ken Schultz,

          Somehow I knew you would weasel out. Here are the links:

          http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/123737.html

          http://www.economicpolicyjourn…..-paul.html

          Oh, and I am going to post them wherever you comment, Ken, all day.

          1. Oh, I’m so frightened!

            If that’s what you got, you got nothing.

            My position was and is that Ron Paul made a fool of himself in front of the cameras and the world, and he made his supporters look bad for supporting him.

            And until going on national television, talking about how the fed was secretly involved in Watergate and Saddam Hussein’s phantom nuclear reactor really doesn’t make middle of the road people cringe like they’re listening to a truther or a birther, then that will remain my position.

            And if you go through thread after thread talking about how Ron Paul was right–that the fed really was behind Saddam Hussein’s phantom nuclear reactor and the Watergate break in too? Then you’re gonna continue to make yourself and Ron Paul look weird.

            Have at it! Be my guest.

            1. He made a fool of himself by showing the Fed uses it secretive power to send dirty money to fund homicidal dictators? I think that was a good deed Ron Paul did.

    4. Spot on and dead right Ken, couldn’t have said it better myself.

    5. Because eliminating 90+ percent of the state is much better than increasing it.

  9. NOW I know that Rand was NOT an AC per se

    Ayn Rand was a minarchist, and had great contempt for anarcho-capitalists, because with her, either you agreed with everything she said or you were a real bastard.

    Objectivists generally get all up in your grill when you point out how to move toward a functioning A-C society.

    1. because with her, either you agreed with everything she said or you were a real bastard.

      Of course, Rothbard was nothing like this.

      1. Thanks that gave me a lol:)

        That said MR was a bit more of an engaging person than AR.

  10. If Murray Rothbard … had never lived, the modern libertarian movement would have nowhere near its current size and influence.

    So, true. The libertarian movement would be bigger and more influential.

    He worked hard to fuck up the Libertarian Party. He did such a good job, it’s never recovered.

    Things look a little different now when it comes to Rothbard’s influence … The rise of Paul and his young and enthusiastic fan base, which Buckley could not have foreseen, contradicts the contention that Rothbard’s divisive radical intransigence doomed him to irrelevance.

    Not really. We libertarians are proud (or were proud, before the racist newsletter revelation) of Paul for getting unprecedented levels of public recognition, for a libertarian. But, note the low expectations that come with, “… for a libertarian.”

    1. And the sad thing is, Murray was the sane one down in Auburn. Imagine if Hans were the visible face of libertarianism. Sigh.

    2. Re: Mike Laursen,

      We libertarians are proud (or were proud, before the racist newsletter revelation) of Paul for getting unprecedented levels of public recognition, for a libertarian.

      Before flinging innuendo like a chimp angry at whatever, can you explain what was written in those newsletters that was clearly, overtly and unequivocally racist?

      Because the geist of your comment does not ring true (i.e you are a goddamned liar), considering the newsletters are almost 20 years old.

      1. Wait, are you arguing that what was published under his name wasn’t racist or that it might have been, but there’s some sort of statute of limitations that applies?

        1. Re: Mike Laursen,

          No. I am challenging your assetion that people stopped being proud of being libertarians after the newsletter assertion came out. The newsletters are 20 years old, so your argument sounds disingenuous.

          The other part is: SHOW where these newsletters said anything that was clearly, overtly and unequivocally racist – the ONLY thing you have most likely is an assertion from the National Review, which published a very few excerpts which actually said NOTHING.

          1. I am challenging your assetion that people stopped being proud of being libertarians after the newsletter assertion came out.

            Sorry, there was an awkwardly-constructed sentence on my part. I should have written, “We libertarians are proud of Paul (or were proud, before the racist newsletter revelation) for getting unprecedented levels of public recognition, for a libertarian.”

          2. As for the other part, let’s take this quote: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

            The writer just called 95 percent of the black males in Washington, D.C. criminals. I rest my case.

            1. Are you autistic? The sarcasm is pretty obvious.

            2. OR, it means that the DC “criminal justice” system is so incredibly bad that it has successfully classified 95% of black males in Washington, D.C. as criminals or semi-criminals, or pushed law-abiding citizens into a semi-criminal status, despite the majority of these people being innocent. It could mean several things. I’m not sure where that quote came from or what context it was in, but when I first saw the “racist” allegations from the mainstream media, using quotes out of context, my first response was “Oh my! they’re right!” – but when I later saw the quotations in context I realized that they were definitely NOT racist and hardly even controversial. Don’t buy into the media lies.

            3. Good Sir,
              If you are going to spread the accusation of Ron Paul being a racist, might I suggest you, and others, take a gander at this article.

              http://goo.gl/TnJ9

              Credit goes to JL for posting this link in the comments section on a previous Reason article.

              1. I should add that the opinions held by the author of this article do not necessarily reflect my own. It is my belief that the focus of the reader should be on the facts presented instead of the opinions expressed that might otherwise create unneeded animosity.

  11. A report on a fight between Rothbard and Hayek is of little interest to me. It was a battle between Hayek, who was a scholar in every sense of the word, and Rothbard, who wasn’t. As for Rothbard’s attacks on Rand (along with his attacks on an endless list of people), he was known to invent claims including the bogus one that Rand told him to divorce his wife. Unfortunately, while he was entertaining, Rothbard was malevolent, vicious, and constantly attacking anyone who wasn’t in tune with his current view of politics, which shifted frequently. He went from siding with racists like Strom Thurmond, to the illusive Old Right, to the bombastic New Left, and then ended his career trying to appeal to a bevy of bigots in the Buchanan/Duke camp.

    1. Re: hlm,

      A report on a fight between Rothbard and Hayek is of little interest to me. It was a battle between Hayek, who was a scholar in every sense of the word, and Rothbard, who wasn’t.

      You have NO idea of what you’re talking about. Just as a historian, Rothbard was top notch. He was every bit a scholar as Hayek and Mises.

    2. hlm before you start spouting unsubstantiated garbage go do some research. I can’t take you seriously, Rothbard WAS a scholar. Get your facts straight, he also at one time supported the Black Panthers, the New Left and Malcolm X, I saw you conveniently left that out of course because it fits the corner you painted yourself into.

  12. More people sticking up the the racist author ( not Ron Paul) of the newsletters. They contained many thoughts were not only bigoted but anti-libertarian. I’m not saying people can’t change. They can and do. But the likely author of the newsletters, who is now considered some “Mr. Libertarian”, also wrote anti-libertarian editorials that did include his name. For such a pure libertarian he was quite a state worshipper and cop sucker at one time.

    1. Re: KRS One,

      More people sticking up the the racist author ( not Ron Paul) of the newsletters. They contained many thoughts were not only bigoted but anti-libertarian.

      For instance???

  13. On Voting, I like the following take by ‘stefbot’:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igbBItLemsM

    I’m in agreement with Ken Schultz’s take in post above.

  14. Personally, I believe that Arius has the right of it. Mani is entirely too … well, pragmatic, for my sense of truth. Gnostic thought is just Greek to me and so we ought to have a canon announced by title and author, arranged in a way presenting the material in what appears to us to be the most appealing.

    See any parallels there? No, of course not.

  15. Hayek was not a libertarian. He was a ‘radical’ conservative of sorts. He wasn’t even a supporter of a minimal government let alone a consistent advocate of freedom.

    1. So, sounds like he could be described fairly as an inconsistent libertarian.

      1. By that sort of reasoning, Alexander Hamilton could be called an inconsistent libertarian. His plan for government wasn’t any more illiberal or delusional than Hayek’s.
        I prefer to describe Hayek as a welfare-statist.

    2. Um, I’m listening to “The Road to Serfdom” on audio for the first time and I have never read it, and I have to disagree. Hayek talks for at least 40 minutes (so far) about the nature of formal law and the difference between these laws and rule by authority. The latter of course is what Hayek argues against. He speaks extensively about freedom and man’s relationship to the state. I’m sorry, have you even read any Hayek?

      1. Anarchists have a whole different agenda.

        1. Yes, the agenda is called ‘freedom’.

  16. I mean, TRTS is primarily about freedom. It’s primarily a philosophical tome, not an economic one. If Hayek was just some pragmatist, it doesn’t show up in his talking points at all, as far as I’ve heard. Maybe he is inconsistent with his beliefs in other works, but so far TRTS has been great.

  17. I can not understand why you fight over such trivial matters?

    I live in a country with a big statist state. I know a lot of young marxist activists in this country, and they also debate with each other over trivial ivory tower constructs in their mind.

    I think this recurring ideological “fights” shows some lack of capability to interact with the world and the problems in it. What a waste. Libertarians has identified the truth, the insight about scarcity, about the importance of sound monetary policies (gold, fiat money under strict policies (yes! it is possible) etc).

  18. What did Rothbard have to say about defense contractors?

    (I’m not asking because I already know. I don’t.)

  19. I think the author overstates Rothbard’s influence on Ron Paul’s supporters. If anything, Ron Paul – as the only honest and honorable politician in Washington – has introduced many young people to Libertarian ideas, and the young people were astonished to find out that Ron Paul was not only honorable but usually correct.

    I think most of the commentary on Ron Paul has ignored the importance of his personal integrity in creating the Ron Paul movement, and is blithely ignorant of the real sources of Ron Paul’s support. Even some of us who love and support Ron Paul think he’s a little goofy and sometimes even a little nuts . . . yet he’s still clearly more sane, dignified, and honorable than any other elected official in Washington.

    1. I am not claiming that most Paul supporters even have heard the name Murray Rothbard, tho I suspect a lot have. I am saying that they are in many significant respects Rothbardian, with the direct line of influence being Rothbard–Rockwell/Mises Inst–Paul.

      1. It’s true here and i’m over 40.
        Took the ‘worlds smallest quiz’ back in college then voted Paul in 88.
        Libertarian if available, then anti incumbent R if if they weren’t a culture war douche, or NOTA.
        Being a lifelong Chicagoan i don’t think my votes really ever mattered.
        Will admit to being lazy outside that and not reading up … at least until the intertubes.

        Trying to convince most non libertarians one almost HAS to go minarchist consequential 1st otherwise, yer just a nut.
        Then hit em again with the deontological even harder.
        As i’ve get older i go more Rothbardian A/C … loss of any confidence whatsoever in the current political class i guess. Still, talking NO government is a non starter in all practicality, so guys like Paul and Fiengold are rare supportable exceptions.

      2. “I am saying that they are in many significant respects Rothbardian, with the direct line of influence being Rothbard–Rockwell/Mises Inst–Paul.”

        Makes sense to me.

  20. No kidding people are unaware of the sources of Ron Paul’s support: mainly because they’re the defense workers in the Texas 14th district.

    This is just some of the zip codes in his distict and the defense contracts handed out therein 2000-2007 (http://governmentcontractswon.com/)

    * 77590 $67,868,434
    * 77550 $2,112,329
    * 77554 $1,665,942
    * 77539 $883,327
    * 77573 $2,028,275

    Move into Houston, the city center where Paul’s constituents mostly work, and you’re in the southern capital of the defense economy.

    Not a peep from Paul about any of that. Lots of cute grandstanding about the evils of interventionism, though. How nice.

    1. Nice correlation. Now you need to show causation.

      Like the legislation that Paul helped pass to benefit those contractors.

      1. I need to show causation of what? That a shitload of his voters every two years are suckling at the teat of the same military-industrial complex he supposedly opposes? That his pro-business Republican stance says and does nothing about the economic origins of that complex? That he’s kind of profoundly full of horseshit when he claims to oppose government spending on weapons but has nothing to say about his constituents standard of living being overwhelmingly tied to that spending?

        I think his winning the last eight or nine elections is causation aplenty, thanks. You don’t stay in the House if you don’t bring the bacon back to your district: that’s called representative democracy.

    2. What exactly was Ron Paul supposed to do to stop these defense contracts from being handed out, short of voting against the Iraq invasion?

      1. Introduce a resolution to disconnect his district’s economy from military spending. Call on those contractors to give back the money. Talk about the link between empire and his own voters’ standards of living. Risk his seat. You know – the precise things Republicans will never, ever do.

        If someone were serious about military spending, that’s what they’d do. Just like if someone was serious about illegal immigration, they’d advocate putting illegal employers in jail.

        Of course, these are only two things that are far beyond what corporate suckup Republicans can be counted on to do.

        1. Seriously your a blow hard Ron Paul has VOTED AGAINST MILITARY SPENDING AND AGGRESSION AGAIN AND AGAIN! Who gives a flying fuck about the contractors? Or would you have him vote for this military garbage because he is in a district supposedly full of defense contract workers? Getting a bill passed to cut contractors off? Good luck, it will never happen. Ron Paul isn’t a hypocrite your a nit picking idiot.

  21. Rothbard “…tended to throw his weight behind the most prominent political force against war…”? Let’s see, Rothbard sided w/:

    * Hitler in Germany vs. Poland
    * Stalin in Russia vs. Finland
    * Kim Il Sung in North Korea vs. South Korea
    * Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam vs. South Vietnam
    * Nasser/Assad in the Six Day War
    * The IRA in IRA vs. UK
    * Argentina in Argentina vs. UK
    * Brezhnev in Russia vs. Afganistan
    * Milosevic in the Bosnian War.

    If that description of Rothbard were true, then Hitler, Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Nasser/Assad, the IRA, Brezhnev, & the Argentine Generals would all have to have been anti-war. In actual fact, of course, they were all the aggressors. They and their American sympathizers, from the Old Right, the Old Left, to the New Left and the Paleos, weren’t anti-war, they were on the other side.

  22. Brian,

    I have long thought this is one of your best veins as a writer. I’ve learned from your writing, even if I’m not sure how much we’d agree on within this rift you’re discussing.

    As a classical liberal I’m no fan of Rothbard, have no sympathy for those “radical libertarians” who piss and whine and moan for their “freedom” (as if it could be had with no regard to the context required for its survival), and while I admire much of Rand’s writing, in terms of practical politics I’m certain she’d have drummed me out of her camp. So be it. But I have nonetheless learned much from all sides of the debate.

    So pre-emptively, let’s say nobody will consider me “a real libertarian”. I’m really sick of hearing that BS, and the Rothbard types and pure anarchists are by far the worst.

    One thing I disagree with you on Brian, I’d venture that Rothbard has done the libertarian movement roughly equal amounts of service and positive destruction.

    I almost laughed aloud at this line.

    Rothbard…..learned much from Marx and Marxist movements in terms of strategies for radical politico-economic change…

    The pure anarchist utopia is a nice pipe dream, but it’s just as unrealistic as Marxism. Both amount to a wish that human nature was something other than what it is.

    The idea, for example, that we may have “competing” police departments working over the same geographic area is an invitation to perpetual gang war. Anyone who thinks this is not where the nature of competing businesses — much less competing individuals — is going to end up, has never seen the inside workings of a real business that was struggling in the midst of a seriously competitive environment.

    Yet there are almost-bigger issues.

    But he also believed, like Rand, that there was an objective moral order discoverable by reason that made human liberty right, whether or not in any particular case it would tend to work out for the best in some practical sense.

    Perhaps. But while some aspects of this “objective moral order” are easy enough to glean from rational discourse, others are not.

    There is for example substantial evidence that one key anarchist argument is all wet — that wars are a product of The State, and that we would all suffer less from war if The State was done away with. See _War Before Civilization_ by Lawrence H. Keeley for example.

    War is not an invention of The State, but rather something The State inhereted and, to a significant extent tamed. Far fewer people suffer war’s ravages today, than in pre-State times. In this light, it’s not so easy for all of us to see a clear-cut moral argument that we’re better off without The State.

    It is true that there is state compulsion in the conduct of war. But it is also true that anarchist orders, where they have existed over the ages, have proven themselves inferior to nation-states at fielding armies and keeping them out there, until the job was done.

    The context that liberty must survive in — if we are to have any at all — is that there will always be another Attila the Hun. I’ve read enough history to know, the question is not if but when the next Huns will come along, or Hitler (which you may next time be unfortunate enough to live next door to). And there usually isn’t a lot of advance warning.

  23. “As a classical liberal I’m no fan of Rothbard, ”
    That’s because you don’t know what classical liberalism is :

    http://praxeology.net/GM-PS.htm

    1. You can call Rothbard an anarchist. But he absolutely in not THE definition of “classical liberal”.

      Unless you live in some alternate reality which is possible.

      The Democrats already pulled this crap with the term “liberal”.

      1. Oh Scrooge you are so fuckingly ignorant. Go learn who was the first guy who came up with the idea of libertarian anarchism. I even did your homework and provided a link. Hint : it was not Rothbard but a 19th century CLASSICAL LIBERAL.

  24. “War is not an invention of The State, ”

    What a fucking asshole you are, my dear. I suggest you learn the ABC of classical liberalism, especially the part when classical liberals explain the connection between war and statism.

    1. I suggest you read the book I cited above before spouting any more bullshit in my direction.

      You know now what the fuck you babble of.

      1. “not”, not “now”

        1. Uh Scrooge r wasn’t saying there wasn’t war before the state, r was saying that classical liberals have always tied war and the state together, you denying this and saying your a “classical liberal” is pretty ridiculous.

    2. The idea of war being the invention of the state is an example of the pervasiveness of the myth of the noble savage.

      many different stripes of utopians have trouble accepting that we are a violent species that clawed our way to the top through our ability to coerce, dominate or annihilate our natural competitors.

      War existed before the state, war exists with the state, war will exist after the state is long dead.

      I am not quite sure why some people have such a problem accepting this.

  25. If only the Rothbard and Hayek divide was that which distinguished statists from non-statists! Ah, the dream.

  26. Didn’t Ayn Rand call Rothbard “an angry little man”?

    A little bit too much alike, I’m guessing.

  27. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke.

  28. I don’t got your point. But thank you all the same.

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  32. War is not an invention of The State, but rather something The State inhereted and, to a significant extent tamed. Far fewer people suffer war’s ravages today, than in pre-State times. In this light, it’s not so easy for all of us to see a clear-cut moral argument that we’re better off without The State.

  33. It is really a good thing the two libertarians do not live at the same time, or there would be criticisms of each other’s theories. Personally, I agree with all libertarians that people should have absolute freedom of speech, thought and act provided this does not affect other people.

  34. I mean, er, awesome thoughts, Liz – I need some time to think about this!

  35. If Murray Rothbard?free-market economist, anarchist philosopher, American historian, and inveterate activist?had never lived, the modern libertarian movement would have nowhere near its current size and influence.

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  41. War is something that the State inhereted and, to a significant extent tamed. Fewer people suffer wars ravages today. In this light, it’s not so easy for all of us to see a clear-cut moral argument that we’re better off without The State.

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    The theme of your wedding party would be an significant place when choosing that unique dress. have you been obtaining married for the beach? If so, you may pick a gentle airy style. Have you made the decision on the formal affair? Then by all means, go all out and put on a light attire covered in silk and lace. what ever kind of celebration your wedding party will be, your attire will perform among the most significant roles in it!With the cost of weddings, some couples attempt and minimize back again by creating their personal flowers, or purchase some wedding dress in a specialized dress shop at a high price, but why don’t you try to buy a cheap wedding dresse online directly. Where you can also purchase your ideal wedding dress and some new fashions. whatever style, colour or cost variety you sooner or later choose on when deciding on your wedding party dress, don’t neglect that it’s you your fianc? fell in adore with, not your dress. The attire adds towards ambiance from the day, however it isn’t the genuine centerpiece.

    After you have selected your wedding party attire hang it inside bag it arrives in and don’t display it to everybody. Give company a thing to start looking forward to once they see you for your initial time walking along the aisle. And unless it is really unavoidable, don’t allow your potential husband see your attire whatsoever prior to the wedding. They say it’s poor luck as well as if that’s merely a superstition, it definitely does spoil his surprise!

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  91. am pretty happy that i uncover the webside in the English research room this noon .

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  95. Apparently someone asked whether Leo Strauss was an appropriate vessel; I think it is nearly impossible to be Straussian-libertarian. Liberal and conservative, yeah, easily, libertarian, not so easy.

  96. Does anybody know if Roberta Modugno is related to the wonderful singer/songwriter of the 50s and 60s, Domenico Modugno?

  97. Such political musings has no use in places where the most basic needs are not met.

  98. Just remember Who is John Galt ?

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  99. Advertisers can engage in bad behavior, but there are checks to their power, like anti-fraud laws and competition from other companies that can subtly (or non-subtly) point out the problems with the competition.???? ????? ??? ???????
    And there are non-market competitors to the market – things like religion, or opinion journalism (which isn’t really a profit-making business these days, is it?).

  100. free-market economist, anarchist philosopher

  101. rrent size and influence. He inspired and educated gene

  102. Party, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute (and wrote a regu

  103. Party, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute (and wrote a regular column for Reason for more than a decade). His initi

  104. titute for Humane Studies, the Cato Institute, the Libertarian Party, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute (and wrote a reg

  105. everyone desires freedom,some pursue it in a lifetime.
    ChaiJing(a famous journalist in China)said:you should learn how to be independent before get the freedom.you’ll still be a slaver if you get the it but not be independent.

  106. everyone desires freedom,some pursue it in a lifetime.
    ChaiJing(a famous journalist in China)said:you should learn how to be independent before get the freedom.you’ll still be a slaver if you get the it but not be independent.almasdar
    masr news

  107. Murray Rothbard was an anarchist who thought that fractional reserve banking was a form of theft and should thus be illegal. This still seems to be a common thought in libertarian circles and he is to blame.

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