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On Murray Rothbard


By the time he gets to foreign policy, Rothbard has been on such a jihad against the state, and the U.S. government in particular, that he goes berserk and accuses the United States of being the bad guys in the (then ongoing) Cold War. In the First Edition (1973) he went so far as to attribute to Stalin a libertarian foreign policy, alleging the USSR practiced non-interventionism. When it was pointed out to him that the USSR invaded Finland, Rothbard added to his Second Edition a defense of Stalin’s attack, arguing that Stalin only wanted to reclaim traditionally Russian Karelia and liberate all the Russians supposedly living there. All of that is a-historical nonsense and Rothbard simply invented it. The Soviets planned to capture all of Finland and had even assembled a new Marxist government they hoped to install in Helsinki. The areas Stalin invaded are not “traditionally Russian.”  But even if Rothbard’s interpretation were true, how can Rothbard justify on libertarian grounds the bloodiest dictatorship in history attacking a free country in an effort to get “its” land and people back? It makes no sense, but Rothbard’s only concern is to defend his indefensible claim that the United States surpasses the rest of the world in doing evil. Unfortunately for Rothbard, long before the First Edition came out there was ample evidence that the Stalin and other Soviet leaders engaged in interventionism all around the world, often quite bloodily (Katyn Forest anyone?) Rothbard’s “libertarian” defense of Stalin is despicable and intellectually dishonest — and that’s the real problem with this book. Rothbard pretends that he’s doing careful analysis and finds the state wanting while showing that his own anarcho-capitalist system shines. But in fact, no argument is so bad, no intellectual sleight-of-hand too dishonest, if it will get Rothbard to his pre-chosen conclusion.

Charles Steele.

How often do we see the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” error among even pretty smart people – and Rothbard was not a stupid man. I have come across some libertarians who, out of an entirely rational desire to be wary of state adventurism, moral panics and so on, bend over backwards to play down threats and problems that statists talk about even when those threats and problems might actually be real. (This can be seen sometimes on issues such as Islamic terrorism or, for that matter, on environmental issues.) This can undermine the credibility of the argument. Far better for the libertarian to say: “Yes, I agree that X or Y is serious and cannot be ignored but a free society such as the one I favour is a far better position to deal with it than your Big Government-model one.”

Rothbard, it also should be said, was also an enthusiastic stirrer and practical joker: I think he enjoyed being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous; his pranksterism sometimes became an end in itself. (Sometimes those on the receiving end deserved it.) But this sort of behaviour carries its costs. It also leaves one with a sneaking sense that the joker might use the “but I was only joking!” defence as a ploy in case he or she was actually serious.

As Charles Steele writes in the same piece, this is all a great shame given that Rothbard could also be right on a lot of issues. I can recommend Brian Doherty’s Radicals For Capitalism, which gives Rothbard a lot of detailed treatment.

I think it was Rothbard who once came out with the crackerjack line: Say what you like about Marx, but at least he wasn’t a Keynesian.

79 comments to On Murray Rothbard

  • Mr Ed

    It was thanks to heroic men like Simo Hayha, a Finnish sniper, that Stalin stopped before he could defeat Finland in 1940. Rothbard wrote some good books and articles, but he was often infantile, and a jerk. That is all that there is to be said about the man.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    His equivalent on the left for wilful blindness to the crimes of tyrannies so long as they “defend his indefensible claim that the United States surpasses the rest of the world in doing evil” is Noam Chomsky, with the difference that, unlike Rothbard, Chomsky has hardly any other issues where he is right.

    Among the comments on Brian’s recent thread about elephant rights, I felt some comments were too quick to dismiss the possibility that certain higher animals might be intelligent enough to have rights, and I have often seen the same tendency elsewhere among libertarians and similar people. This impatience may well arise because the vast majority of those who talk about “animal rights” are sentimental statists, a particularly dangerous combination, and it is difficult to give arguments that sound like theirs a proper hearing.

    I don’t want to derail the thread, which should be about Rothbard, but I put it forward as another example of the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” error.

  • The likes of Justin Raimondo are very much Rothbard’s children, arguing that people were better off under the psychotic Saddam Hussain’s Ba’athist Socialism that under US occupation.

    As I have grown older I have taken a steadily less sanguine view of the net pluses and minuses of the US in the world, but to argue the US is more baleful that the world’s assorted full blown collectivist communist/fascist/islamist tyrannies is simply bonkers.

  • Paul Marks

    From 1917 the Soviet regime was a jihad of its own – a war (fought by every practical means) to take over the entire world for Marxism. It is no accident that the name “Union of Soviet Socialists Republics” did not include the word “Russia” – this was NOT a Russian Empire (people such as “Lenin” and the Georgian Marxist “Stalin” had Russian nationalists shot) this was intended to be a global Marxist federation.

    The activities of such people as Willi Munzenberg (the German Communist who was he first commander of the Soviet international effort (see, for example, the first section of Jack Cashill’s book “Hoodwinked” – on Soviet subversion efforts in the United States and the, unwitting?, help this subversion effort received from the American “liberal” elite). Over a HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION PEOPLE around the world (see “The Black Of Communism”) were killed for the cause of Marxism (the cause of Stalin and the others) NOT as some “defensive” thing and it was naught to do with “Russian nationalism”.

    In short what Murray Rothbard claimed was not just wrong – it was actually wild nonsense. Utterly ignoring the Marxist threat to the entire world (and the United States does not exist on some other planet), from terrorism (such as the Marxist “Weathermen”) in the United States to the Communist invasion of South Korea and South Vietnam. A global war – fought in battle fields as varied as the frozen ground of Korea to halls of the Harvard Law School) which could only be defended against by world wide response led by the United States.

    Rothbard also ignored the threat of National Socialism – and Hitler world wide desires, just as he ignored the ideology of Imperial Germany (which not only desired to dominate Europe – but even to take over Latin America and to TAKE AMERICAN LAND ITSELF, the one thing that even Rothbardian libertarians are supposed to be concerned about)

    Again and again Ludwig Von Mises (who had direct knowledge both of Imperial Germany and Nazi Germany) tried to open the eyes of Rothbard – and again and again Rothard refused to accept the truth. Just as Mises tried to open the eyes of Rothbard to the Soviet threat – and again Rothbard made a choice to ignore reality.

    There is nothing in libertarianism that commits someone to be blind to reality – for example the libertarian leader (and ex Marxist) Frank Meyer understood the Soviet threat – and also understood that (for example) the Rothbardian account of the Korean war, or the Cold War in Europe, was either wild fantasy or blatant lying depending on whether Murray Rothbard really believed the things he said.

    The Rothbardian approach (say anything no matter how false, as long as it is “anti government”, and ally with any enemy of the United States government – even the Marxists) did vast harm to the libertarian movement in the 1960s (and is still undermining it).

    All the above being said – there is also a incredibly positive side to Murray Rothbard. Philosophically he had good grasp of the basics (the objective nature of the physical universe, that the mind the “I” is also real and that choice is not an “illusion”, and that good and evil are also real NOT just “boo and cheer words”) whether one calls these basics “Aristotelian” or “Common Sense” or neither of these (for example Ralph Cudworth did not call himself an Aristotelian, far from it, and worked before the Scots Common Sense School – just as Harold Prichard and our late friend Antony Flew worked long after it) they are important, indeed vital.

    Rothbard grasped these basics of philosophy whereas Hayek (and perhaps even Mises) never really freed himself from the philosophy fashionable in Vienna (and elsewhere) in the late 19th and early 20h centuries (philosophy that denied the dignity of human beings – indeed denied that humans were beings at all).

    If humans are not beings (just predetermined in their actions – like clockwork mice) then smashing up these flesh robots is not a moral outrage (so the activities of the Nazis and Marxists become something of little or no moral importance), and if good and evil do not “really” exist then the activities of evil people are not “really” evil anyway (nor is this just European philosphers – William James and the Pragmatists denied objective right and wrong, just as they denied the existence of objective truth). And, “of course”, the Nazis and Communists did really choose what they did – as no one “really” chooses their actions (the “I” being an “illusion” – belief in real choice being belief in some “supernatural” power, how dare anyone believe in the existence of the soul…. actually, as Rothbard pointed out, Ayn Rand and others have shown that one can believe in the existence of human BEINGS without believing in the supernatural). And on and on into the bottomless pit of horror and absurdity that is fashionable philosophy.

    Rothbard was also a great economist (especially on money and banking – historically the most difficult area of economics). And had the gift of explaining things in terms that were understandable to people who had not been educated (i.e. he did not tend to write in jargon).

    Rothbard was sometimes unreliable as a general historian (because when faced with the choice of writing something that did not favour the libertarian cause but was true, and writing something that favoured the libertarian cause but was not true – he tended to choose the latter approach), but as an historian of economic thought (of economics) Rothbard was incredible – without doubt the greatest historian of economics there has even been. His works on this are classics – and it is a terrible tragedy that he never completed his history of economics.

    Lastly Murray Rothbard was actually what he claimed to be – a libertarian.

    Rothbard was an enemy of the view that the collective is like a kind father dividing up income and wealth according to some rule of “fairness” – he was an enemy of “social justice”.

    There are two great opposed traditions of what “justice” (legal right) is in the history of thought.

    The libertarian view (and the view of both Roman Law and Common Law) is that justice (legal right) is “to each their own”.

    But this view has always had enemies (as far back as one can look – for example the collectivist Plato attacks it in in his works – such as what we call the “Republic”).

    To collectivists income and wealth belong to the collective and should be “distributed” according to some rule of “fairness” (the Christian version of this is the idea that God gave the world to humans IN COMMON and that anyone who “keeps more than he needs” is “guilty of theft”- the Decretum in the Middle Ages contains such stuff, hence the justification for “compulsory charity” dry water, square circles – other Christians deny these doctrines just as they deny the theological basis for using force in matters of religion in regard to the persecution of people with different religious opinions).

    If “theft” is “keeping more than you need” – and justice is about a kind father state dividing up the “pie” to the benefit of the “least favoured” then libertarianism is dead (as dead as religious toleration if it is a religious duty to persecute people with different religious opinions).

    “Paul – you are stating the obvious”.

    I am (I am an East Midlands hobbit, even down to my big hairy feet, we like to state the obvious), but there are now “libertarians” who deny the obvious.

    There are now “libertarians” who honour the doctrines of John Rawls (the leading modern justice-as-distribution person of the late 20th century). The very thing that political libertarianism is about (justice as TO EACH THEIR OWN) is now denied.

    It makes no difference if these people call themselves “classical liberals” rather than libertarians – as their doctrine (of Social Justice) is the opposite of what such people as Gladstone or Grover Cleveland believed – no just what Murray Rothbard or Ayn Rand believed.

    Some of these “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” are stupid (such as the fool I watched trying to smear libertarians (and pro traditional definition of justice people generally) as “sexist” and “racist” with a photograph of the Jewess Ayn Rand on a screen behind his head), but many are far from stupid – they are highly intelligent – as intelligent as Willi Munzenberg.

    A century ago Richard Ely and others corrupted American liberalism – turned it from a movement concerned with rolling back government, to a movement directed against “the rich” and “the corporations” (ironically there has always been plenty of money from rich people and from corporations for Progressives – but they do not like to talk about that) with government (government in “Progressive” not “Reactionary” hands) seen as a liberating force for the “least favoured”.

    A similar thing is now happening to libertarianism – these people (these Social Justice supporters) are a clear-and-present-danger and must be opposed by all necessary means. On this at least Murray Rothbard would have agreed.

    The doctrine that the interests of “the poor” justify the destruction of the traditional meaning of justice (to each their own) are at the root of the political (the civilizational) crises of the world. Social Justice is at the heart of all totalitarian movements (National Socialism and Fascism, see Father C.s journal “Social Justice” in the 1930s, as well as Marxism – “Liberation Theology”, and even Islamism) it must be fought by all necessary means.

  • Paul Marks

    I should point out that the “Bleeding Heart” useful-idiot put the image of Ayn Rand on the screen (the screen behind him) himself (it was not there by chance), before he tried to smear supporters of the traditional definition of justice (as to each their own) as “sexists” and “racists”. If all of the “libertarian left” were as stupid as this man there would be no problem, but they are not (I repeat – some of them are highly intelligent – far more intelligent than a tired broken down creature like me). Just as many of the Marxists that Rothbard (unwittingly) handed young libertarians to in the 1960s (in his terrible “left and right join hands” effort) were (and ARE – because many of them are still alive and they, and those they taught, are more powerful than ever in the United States) highly intelligent.

    The correct response?

    Fight – fight till you can not fight any more, because you are dead.

    There have been situations in the past where defeat seemed inevitable and victory came unlooked for. It may happen again.

  • Mr Ed

    Let’s say if the Soviets turn up on your doorstep, with a hungry GULAG to repopulate, rapist soldiers to satisfy and with general bloodlust, would you wish to have the assistance of Simo Hayha or Murray Rothbard, at their respective peaks?

  • Kevin B

    So Paul, is it a compliment that the ‘long march through the institutions’ has finally reached libertarianism, or an insult that it took so long.

    Or is attempting to march through libertarianism an excercise in futility that makes herding cats seem easy.

    🙂 (or whatever the smiley is that indicates tongue in cheek).

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – Simo Hayha.

    Although, as you know, Mises was a competent artillery officer – there is no rule that says a writer has to be no good at killing.

    Kevin B. we shall have to see.

  • bloke in spain

    History would appear to judge Rothbard both wrong & right. Russia didn’t just have an historical claim to Finnish Karelia but to the whole of Finland. It was a Russian Grand Duchy until the Russian revolution of ’17. See also Finnish civil war of ’18 & the ongoing Red/White tensions which were still in evidence up to the Winter War of 39/40.
    “How often do we see the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” error among even pretty smart people”
    Well, if the Finns hadn’t made some sort of pact with Germany, it’s unlikely Finland would have survived as a country at all. And it later made a pact with the Soviets against the Germans, for much the same reason. So Finland survived due to some fairly smart Finns, one could hazard.

  • Mr Ed

    tio-en-espanha – It wasn’t Russia that was attacking Finland in 1939/40 but the USSR. Lenin let the whole ‘Empire’ go in Brest-Litovsk, and if Russia (USSR) had a claim to Finland, then so did Sweden whose Grand Duchy Finland was before that.

  • Sigivald

    I recently read Man, Economy, and State. The economics seemed to be perfectly sound Austrianism.

    But the bits about Why Only Anarchy Can Be Just were … weaker. Far weaker. In exactly the way mentioned.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Compare the chapter “National defense: the hard problem” in D.D. Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom, with the chapter “Private defense” in Bob Murphy’s Chaos Theory; then, in my arrogant opinion, you’ll know all what you need to know about Rothbardians (Murphy being a Rothbardian).
    David Friedman is cautious and offers tentative arguments, recognizing their weaknesses; by contrast, Murphy makes some good points but mixes them with blustering propaganda.
    The problem is, i got the same impression from pretty much everything i read from Rothbard and his cultists. Of course i might have been unlucky in my selection.

    That brings me to what i see as the fundamental dichotomy in political thinking: not individualism vs collectivism, and certainly not “left” vs “right” (whatever that means). The fundamental dichotomy, or rather the fundamental spectrum, ranges from the Machiavellians to the insane. Closely related is the dichotomy between political science and political propaganda.

    It is interesting that, at the insane end of this fundamental spectrum, we find the full range of another spectrum, from extreme individualism (such as the Rothbardians) to totalitarianism (such as the Khmer Rouges).

    By contrast, at the Machiavellian end, the range of opinions is more restricted: even the most individualists recognize the need for some constitutional constraints to prevent or slow down the growth of the State, and some defense structures to avoid being incorporated into another State; and even the most collectivists, such as Lenin, are ready to ditch their principles and adopt a New Economic Policy to survive.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Good to see Simo Häyhä honored in this blog; but let’s not forget Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland.

  • Snorri Godhi

    A further remark comes to mind about the difference between the Machiavellians and the insane.
    A major symptom of political insanity is the inability of distinguishing between the world as it is, and the world as it should be.
    (Aristotle’s Politics seems to me more relevant than Hume’s is/ought dichotomy, in this context.)

    WRT Rothbard: he correctly recognized that war is the health of the State*, and if there is no need for national defense, then there is little or no need for government.
    His problem was his inability to distinguish the world as he wished it to be (no need for the State) and the world as it is (need for national defense). Hence his insane denial that US foreign policy was ever necessary, or even desirable.

    * or was, before the invention of the welfare state.

  • Snorri, what makes you mark Rothbardians as extreme individualists? Also, is cooperation between individuals for the purpose of collective defense in some way incompatible with individualism?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Hi Alisa: maybe Rothbardians are “false” individualists by Hayek’s standards (as in “Individualism: true and false”); but in this context i call them extreme individualists, because they are most radically opposed to anything that can reasonably be called a State.

    WRT your 2nd question: i have said nothing against “anarcho-capitalism”. (But i say now that the expression has an unpleasant sound to my ears.) My complaint is that, in general, Rothbardians do not think *seriously* about how defense can work in a private law society.

    I hope that i have answered your questions.

  • Yes, I am also having trouble with that expression – with both parts of it, truth be told. That said, I feel rather comfortable with the theoretical(?) social order to which this semantic handle is usually attached.

    I happen to think of myself as a very extreme individualist of a rather social variety. I don’t know how radically I am opposed to anything called a ‘State’ – for me it would depend what that State does, exactly. If it does nothing more than defend its citizens from violence (from within and without), then I have absolutely no problem with it.

    I don’t know about Rothbardians (self-described or otherwise), but myself, I can certainly outline plausible solutions for defense problems in a private-law society. IOW, the fact that Rothbard may have not thought through the defense issue (I don’t know, have not read him), does not mean that his proposed social order (whatever one may call it) necessarily precludes a practical solution.

  • I am one of the Rothbardian cultists Snorri refers to. I favor him because he was my kind of guy. No apologies, no doubts about the end goal, no equivocations for the sake of unity. He felt that the individual, for all his failings, is the center of the universe, so to speak; that government of any size, at any place or time, given any power will use that power to accumulate even more power so that at some point in time all power ends up vested in it. He was correct, by my observations.

    I am currently in the middle of Gordon Wood’s The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787 and a fascinating read it is. What has struck me most is that exactly the same issues that we Americans are facing today with regard to our government were worried about and fretted over 240 years ago. The Founders hoped that they had solved certain problems relating to the growth of government power by creating a structural cage. They did not. We still have them. Their failure is directly the result of believing that you can tame a wolf. Rothbard’s intuition, in my own words, was that if one cannot tame a wolf, one shouldn’t keep a wolf.

    Anarcho-capitalists are thinking seriously (whatever the quotes are supposed to mean) about defense. Like him or not, H-H. Hoppe is a serious man and central government-controlled standing armies haven’t lost their bad smell after all these centuries, not to mention the militarization of local and state police forces making them a bit like standing armies in reserve directed internally. The A-C label doesn’t bother me too much. The reactions I generally get from the use of “Libertarian” and “Anarcho-capitalist” are only slightly different. Reactions to both are born of ignorance; but that’s the whole point of engaging others, isn’t it?

    Rothbard’s impish humor may put some off but I think it was one characteristic that permitted him to keep going as he did for decades, trying and often failing to build a lasting movement that could communicate the simple idea of liberty to millions of clueless people. A man without a sense of humor would just have packed it in.

    Really, no Rothbardian worships the man, I think. He wasn’t the kind of man people worship although it is very possible he was the kind of man people can love. No man is perfect. No man is correct about everything he touches every time. No man can write the definitive prescription for what ails the world. What Rothbard expected was for us to confirm him right or prove him wrong then to proceed, eyes on the goal. He didn’t expect success in his lifetime; I don’t expect it in mine. But after each of our passings there will more voices to carry on.

  • Paul Marks

    I think Snorri’s term “blustering propaganda” sums up the problem with Murray Rothbard (and some who follow him).

    It is not the goal of anarcho capitalistis that is automatically wrong (it may be right or wrong – that is not what this thread is about), it is the “arguments” Rothbard uses – to be blunt his habit of saying things that were just flat untrue (wildly untrue).

    For example, if one asked David Friedman during the Cold War how an anarcho capitalism would deal with the world wide Soviet Marxist threat – he would think about his answer and try to give a real response.

    Murray Rothbard would just deny there was a Soviet threat and go on about how the evil American regime was doing blah, blah, blah…… (basically whatever he had just heard on Radio Moscow).

    Yes Rothbard was a great economist and a great historian of economics – and (yes) on the basic philosophical issues (the existence of objective reality, the real existence of humans as beings – the choosing “I”, and the real existence of right and wrong) – but he also said lots of things (in relation to both the Marxist threat and the Nazi threat – oh yes he pretended that World War II was the fault of the evil British and Americans) that were wildly untrue.

    Did Rothbard actually believe the stuff he said – or was he just lying?

    Theologically that matters – for the sake of Murray Rothbard’s soul.

    Politically it does NOT matter.

    If a man tells you that it is safe to step out of cover because there is no enemy there, what matters is NOT whether they honestly believe what they say – what matters is the actual position of the enemy.

    Of course if the guy next to you in the foxhole starts raving about how the enemy are not really the enemy – that is all a plot to justify defence contracts…. (and on and on) hitting him over the head with the butt of your rifle may be the best response.

    An obvious question for anarchocapitalists

    Are you proud of the American (and general Western) defence of Korea during the Korean war?

    An honest anarchocapitalist will say “of course – but private enterprise could of done the job better” and then explain how, in their opinion, private enterprise could have done a better job in the Korean war than Western governments opposing the Communist attack.

    A Rothbardian response would be……

    Well it disgusts me too much to want write about it.

  • Mr Ed

    Rothbard’s mentality is exactly the sort lampooned in the People’s Front of Judea.

  • Well, here it goes.

    “Are you proud of the American (and general Western) defence of Korea during the Korean war?”

    No. The United States was never supposed to be policeman of the world, the successor to the Empire. Ambitious diplomats, politicians and military men, conniving bankers and businessmen, a nation bathed in mindless nationalistic jingoism sending out our young men and women to die in foreign places by the tens and hundreds of thousands at time, and for what?
    Global peace? Defense of Democracy? Loot? Every war we ever fought was a disaster. The temporary cessation of hostilities is not global peace. The country becomes less a democracy each time and never fully recovers. The national wealth is plundered for these operations. But hey, the state gets healthier, bigger, and stronger every time.

    “An honest anarchocapitalist will say “of course – but private enterprise could of done the job better…”

    No. An honest anarcho-capitalist would sat “Why in the world would we do that? We are all for friendly trade, not war.”

    Did I say “pacifist”? No, I didn’t. “If a man tells you that it is safe to step out of cover because there is no enemy there, what matters is NOT whether they honestly believe what they say – what matters is the actual position of the enemy.” What’s important is when I step out from cover I do it with my own senses sharp and my weapon cocked.

    Just sayin’.

  • It comes down to whether you think it is appropriate for an anarcho-capitalist society to cease to trade with a statist society because that statist society is in violent occupation of a 3rd country (e.g. similar to US oil exports to Japan during the occupation of Manchuria)

    Certainly a voluntary embargo would be a consistent approach of an anarcho-capitalist society, but what if a single Oil company persists with exports in isolation.

    There would be no state intervention as there is no state to intervene. The only means to stop it would be a boycott by consumers and counterparties to try and FORCE compliance.

    Not exactly a libertarian ideal is it?

  • Midwesterner

    “An honest anarchocapitalist will say “of course – but private enterprise could of done the job better…”

    No. An honest anarcho-capitalist would sat “Why in the world would we do that? We are all for friendly trade, not war.”

    Who is this “We” ke-mo sah-bee? Speak for yourself. I am for peaceful co-existence, not the unconditional avoidance of war. Mess with my peace you will understand the difference. I’m not Amish.

    I don’t know what the hell the Official Mandatory AnCap Doctrine is, but an individualist knows that if some other individuals want to cooperatively come to the aid of victims of criminal attack, that is their own business. Individualists also tend to associate and come to each others’ defense. The ones that don’t tend to have limited futures.

  • John,
    “It comes down to whether you think it is appropriate for an anarcho-capitalist society to cease to trade….”

    Members of such a society are free to trade or not as they wish. Public opinion might make a difference, it’s hard to say. The problem with your Japan/Manchuria example is that the US didn’t actually care a whit for Manchuria but it did care about Japan becoming a formidable power on an ocean the US thought ought to be an American lake.

    “There would be no state intervention as there is no state to intervene. The only means to stop it would be a boycott by consumers and counterparties to try and FORCE compliance.

    Not exactly a libertarian ideal is it?”

    That is, in fact, exactly libertarian. “Force” by opinion is not force by gun.

    I think you have misread me. Coming out ready for action is hardly unconditional avoidance of war but coming out blazing at a perceived threat is careless and stupid. Your point about individualists helping out is exactly right. There is no prohibition on libertarians forming their own volunteer brigades to help. The difference is in the voluntary nature of it. For a society without a standing army, this sort of thing might even be encouraged for anybody in that frame of mind- an opportunity to learn and hone warfighting skills for home defense- I say again: defense.

  • Paul Marks

    Are you proud of American (and general Western) support for Korea against the Communist invasion.

    Mr Ripley replies “no”.

    In short Mr Ripley’s idea of liberty ends at the borders of the United States – well I have news for you Sir, the United States does not exist on some other planet. Had the world fallen to the Communist powers – an isolated United States would have fallen along with it.

    However, even if this were not true (even if the United States of America could have just carried on undisturbed) your position, of feeling no pride at all at the defence against Communism suggests you are no good. And your further comments – sneering at the defence of liberty as “mindless jingoistic nationalism” “conniving bankers and businessmen” (of course! the war was fought for corporate profits – sub Marxist nonsense) confirms you are simply no good, however intelligent and well read you may be.

    This is the real divide among anarcho capitalists – those who are proud of the defence of freedom around the world but honestly believe that voluntary effort (private enterprise) could have done the job better (against both the Axis powers and the Communists) and those who are prepared to say anything (anything at all) no matter how plain bad it is.

    By the way your statement about Americans not caring about the Japanese invasion of China is false – there was massive sympathy in the United States (Americans had long standing and large scale missionary activity in China). An honest anarcho capitalist would have constructed some sort of argument based on things like the Wild Tigers – voluntary (rather than government) help against the vicious regime that governed Japan and tried to spread itself in both the Pacific and in Asia. I might not agree with such an argument – but I would listen to it.

    But you do not do that – your response to the invasion of China (and it was not “just” Manchuria – have you never even heard of such things as the Rape of Nanking?) is to do a Rothbard – i.e. try and find a way to blame the United States.

    I repeat Sir – you are just no good.

  • Paul Marks

    What sort of person looks at the medal roll (or the death roll) for a war such as Korea and thinks “these men were fools – they believed the lies of the greedy capitalists” (the “conniving bankers and businessmen”) “they were gripped by mindless jingoistic nationalism – for the benefit of the Corporate State…”.

    Well such a person may be intelligent and well read (I admit that) – but they are also clearly no good.

    I am not going to try and “win over” such a person – because I do not actually want to be on the same side as such a person.

    Any more than they would want to be on my side.

    And it is nothing to do with anarcho-capitalism.

    Even if I was an anarcho-capitalist (and I admit that I remain unconvinced by the position – although I am open to being convinced) I strongly suspect that any “Protection Company” I would choose to associate with, would soon be at war with the sort of “Protection Company” that they would choose to associate with.

  • “What sort of person looks at the medal roll (or the death roll) for a war such as Korea and thinks “these men were fools – they believed the lies of the greedy capitalists” (the “conniving bankers and businessmen”) “they were gripped by mindless jingoistic nationalism – for the benefit of the Corporate State…”.”

    Men like me.

    I am not terribly impressed with those craving to save the world from villainy when they first can’t even save themselves from villainy, especially when this world-saving comes at the cost of the lives of other people conscripted or lured out of their homes. I am not convinced of the sacredness of world-saving when even we, the “richest and most powerful, blah, blah” have not been very successful at it. Whereupon I ask the question again: for what?

    Is this the point of libertarianism: that all people should be free to live their lives as they wish, unless when some mighty and powerful should decide their lives will be more useful when their names are pulled out of a hat?

    The men actually involved in the killing and dying were good folk and in large part were volunteers deliberately duped by those who can do that. The others were the modern equivalent of slaves, property to be disposed of at the whim of self-serving criminals. Contra the banners and marching bands, there is nothing glorious in it.

    The library is chock full of the testimony of men from all generations who were present and participating that details the diplomatic machinations, political maneuvering, commercial corruption, etc., etc., that characterize the run-up to all wars of any note. Neither Rothbard nor I invented anything; it’s all there to be seen.

    And I think than anyone of sound character who mounts this vicious an attack during a discussion ought to either recheck his thinking or his meds.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes I was right about you Mr Ripley.

    And a lot of those “conniving bankers and businessmen” lost their own sons in World War II.

    Now go crawl back under the rock you came from.

  • Meds, Mr. Marks. Your meds.

    I’m done, unless someone else wants to join me under the rock.

  • Paul Marks

    I love you to sweetheart.

    And your “libertarian” friends – Togo, the “Great Leader” Kim, Uncle Ho, and the rest of them, are waiting for you back home under the rock.

  • I get it. This is a joke. You are a neocon channeling Bill Buckley. Good impersonation, too.

    Say, can you do Woodward Wilson?

  • Paul Marks

    Allan – you do not even know what a neocon is.

    As for William Buckley (who was not a neocon) – if you had said Frank Meyer, you might have actually been close to the truth.

  • Paul, you are mistaken in this. Buckley was, in fact, the arch-typical neoconservative, Wikipedia articles notwithstanding.

    Doesn’t matter, actually. As far as I am concerned, they are the same as socialists in the things that matter. Libertarians are the ones I identify with, particularly the anarcho- variety. Everything else is an engagement in wishful thinking, to my mind, which I concede is reputed to be bad. But as I said earlier, no apologies, no equivocations. Life is too short and the futures of my grandchildren and great grandchildren too important. You think I inhabit the underside of a rock? Fine. There are plenty of garden variety liberals and no few conservatives on this side of the pond who think so, too. I don’t care. I didn’t join this fraternity to be popular. I joined it to do something important.

  • Dale Amon

    This is why I have never gone the full Monty for the Rothbard view. It ignores the outsiders who are working by a set of rules based on power and what they can get away with. Stalin or Hitler, which ever won in a world without the USA involved in it, would simply have bided their time once the had their secure empire. Knowing that the US would not become involved outside its borders they would have first removed everyone who was willing to challenge them; then they would have simply moved in and taken the weak, just because they could and just because they could deny the trade and resources to the US. Once they had the world, we would have been on the menu. Why? For trade? For resources? No. Just simply for power.

    You really have to recognize that there are people out there who do not think like us. There are people who have no compassion, no normal human feelings. People who can calmly sit around a table and design a newer, better system for killing millions in a production line environment. People for whom nothing but absolute power matters. They exist, they have always existed and they have left trails of millions of dead behind them.

    You can choose to be one of their victims, or you can chose to fight a geopolitical battle to make sure that at the very least they cannot gain a position powerful enough to destroy you.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    As for name-calling, why don’t anarcho-capitalists come up with a better name, such as Free Anarchists? you are anarchists who support Free enterprize, so this would distinguish you from the collectivist anarchists. and it is shorter.
    Q. How many anarchists would it take to change a light-bulb?
    A. True anarchists would just let the lightbulb change itself, thank you very much, you control-freak!

  • I actually like the term anarcho-capitalist. It’s like Ronseal, it says exactly what it is on the tin.

    For myself, I must admit that I have see-sawed between anarcho-capitalism and minarchism for a year or two. I suspect that I will eventually settle down as a minarchist for reasons that Paul Marks alludes to about there being some functions that are irreducible, necessary and only a state (under the full and direct sanction of the people) can provide.

    From my perspective, a minimalist state for defence and possibly regulation, but not administration of justice is appropriate.

    The difficulty that I have with this is that governments, specifically political and bureaucratic fiefdoms are inherently expansionist and what may seem to be a vicious but useful Rottweiler might evolve into a rabid dog intent on killing the owner.

    Thus the only way to prevent the tyranny of the state returning is to shoot the dog and guard yourself.

    Although I am against conscription as a rule, as it is effectively a form of slavery to corrupt states, a Swiss-style armed, trained and regularly exercised “Citizen Army” might be a necessary evil in an otherwise anarcho-capitalist society.

    Allan Ripley’s viewpoint that those who died for their country were fools and dupes is not an assertion I can accept.

    Plenty of good, smart honest men went to war knowing full well that their cause was weak and they were likely to die but still they went, because they believed that principles were at stake and those principles were worth dying for.

    Perhaps Allan Ripley should read the Gettysburg address and reflect upon those words, because although I despise what the US has become at the hands of venal politicians, I will not dishonour the memory of those who died on either side in that great cause.

    Remember that those dupes and fools as you call them Mr. Ripley

    “…gave the last full measure of devotion…”


    Try and remember that Mr. Ripley.

  • Paul Marks

    Allan – I am not a follower of Buckley. Although I certainly prefer him to his son – a man who goes around saying, as a story of how GOOD he is, “as she was dying I told my mother that I forgave her” needs a broken nose and a large reduction in the number of teeth he has. When you mother is dying you ask her to forgive you, (not the other way round) and you do not tell people what you say – let along dine out on it in media land.

    However, I am not aware that William F. Buckley was a supporter of the Welfare State and an obsessive about spreading democracy. That (by the way) is what a “neocon” is – a social democrat (someone who is comfortable with the present situation and wants to spread it around the world.

    I remember a man who was so out of line with the RINO establishment in New York State that he said (when running for Mayor of New York) that if he was elected he would resign.

    Buckley was, in spite of his elite education (and his first book “God and Man at Yale” shows a man who was actually out of sympathy with the “liberals” of both political parties who dominated higher education even in the 1940s – Buckley would have got on better with Noah Porter the original “God and Man at Yale” person, was Noah Porter a “neocon”?) and snooty ways, a fairly ordinary Western man – he understand that neither of the Axis Powers or the Communist threat would just go away (and they were not myths created to boost corporate profits).

    I am (broadly) more like Frank Meyer than William Buckley. Indeed I suspect I would have fallen out with Buckley – I am short tempered man and Buckley enjoyed using subtle put downs on people (to see if they would react) .

    However, in a dangerous situation Buckley could be relied upon – he was, at foundation, a normal Western man.

    Rothbardians can not be relied upon – they may declare that the enemy do not exist, or that the whole thing is a inside job designed to boost corporate profits, or (on and on).

    That means, if anything serious happens, Rothardians are no good – no use. Not someone I want to protect my back.

    I repeat that is NOT an attack on anarcho-capitalism.

    There are anarcho-capitalists (many of them) who I would trust in a serious situation but not Rothbardians – it is not really an intellectual matter.

    And, I also repeat, Murray Rothbard made very impressive intellectual contributions – in his defence of common sense philosophy, in his economics, and in history of economic thought.

  • So in summary, buy his books, but not his arguments and never join the same platoon as him or his followers…

    Good advice I suspect.

  • Jacob

    “Rothbardians can not be relied upon – they may declare that the enemy do not exist, or that the whole thing is a inside job designed to boost corporate profits, or (on and on).”

    So, Rothbard was nuts, unhinged.
    I wonder if this wasn’t reflected somehow also on other topics.

    I think Ron Paul was a true Rothbardian also (i.e. unhinged).

  • Snorri Godhi

    Leaving aside foreign policy, i’d like to add a few more remarks on the Rothbardian inability to look at the real world as it is. (And Paul Marks speaks about Rothbardian commonsense!)

    Let’s start with this from Allan Ripley:
    “The [US] Founders hoped that they had solved certain problems relating to the growth of government power by creating a structural cage. They did not. We still have them. Their failure is directly the result of believing that you can tame a wolf. Rothbard’s intuition, in my own words, was that if one cannot tame a wolf, one shouldn’t keep a wolf.”

    First, it is highly doubtful that the Founders thought that they had invented the political equivalent of a perpetual motion machine: unlike Rothbardians, they were aware of over 2 millennia of previous attempts, theoretical AND practical.

    Second, and more important, is the manner of argument adopted by Allan:
    * mention of ONE failure to contain the growth of government and forget about all other attempts (what about the Venetian Republic? more than a millennium of limited, constitutional government)
    * no mention at all of any failure of stateless societies to avoid being turned into, or absorbed into, a State, in spite of this kind of failure being one of the most prominent features of human history.

    Rothbardians occasionally mention historical facts, but only when the facts support, or can be twisted to support, their preconceived notions.
    That includes H.H. Hoppe apparently, or else how could he get away with the claim that absolute monarchy would be a better guarantee of freedom than constitutional government is?
    Yes, yes, i understand Hoppe’s argument about incentives of the monarch, but guess what? that argument was already made by Machiavelli; with this difference: unlike Hoppe, Machiavelli did not claim that we can trust the Prince to respond to incentives and act in his enlightened self-interest. Unlike Hoppe, Machiavelli was not an apologist for absolute monarchy.

  • John Galt, I am very comfortable with what the term ‘anarcho-capitalist’ represents, but I do have a semantic problem with it, and I don’t think that it describes the contents of the tin accurately enough.

    Semantics aside, like you I used to find myself oscillating between minarchism and anarchism. I have finally settled on the simple realization that I don’t have to decide at all, and that the oscillation was taking place on almost entirely emotional level. On a rational level, am I likely to ever find myself in a situation where I’d have to choose between a minarchist and anarcho-capitalist system? Right. What matters to me now is the process: a succession of small (and hopefully not so small) steps towards more personal liberty in any area of life where such steps can practically be taken. When we get to that happy (albeit admittedly imperfect*) situation where the State is reduced to a mere night watchman, we may begin arguing on whether the armed forces should be privatized or not.

    *Not that there is such thing as ‘perfect’ in any system designed by human beings – as much as I may favor an ancap system on a purely emotional level, it will by no means be without its own vulnerabilities.

  • John,

    “Allan Ripley’s viewpoint that those who died for their country were fools and dupes is not an assertion I can accept.”

    I did assert the terms “dupes” and “lured”. Unfortunately “fools” was part of Paul’s assertion that I objected to in general. I can distinguish between “to be fooled” and to be a fool.

    “Plenty of good, smart honest men went to war knowing full well that their cause was weak and they were likely to die but still they went, because they believed that principles were at stake and those principles were worth dying for.”

    It is all very well to honor brave and sincere men who died in good cause. I do. They, each one individually, deserve it. They do not deserve their sacrifices to be trivialized by conveniently sweeping under the rug the truth of why they were ever called on in the first place, and the political systems that condone, encourage, even insisted upon great slaughters.

    “Perhaps Allan Ripley should read the Gettysburg address and reflect upon those words, because although I despise what the US has become at the hands of venal politicians, I will not dishonour the memory of those who died on either side in that great cause.”

    This is particularly ironic and illustrative. A stirring speech delivered by the man who ripped the guts out of the American constitution. I have no doubt, Mr. Lincoln honestly mourned all those dead, but he did have policies to enforce, didn’t he?

    It is popular to view these great events against the grand sweep of history and there is a certain validity to that. But it is also useful to remember that as you push the lens closer you can see that the events you examine were driven by the actions of a very small number of humans with their own particular incentives.

    And the point of all this is not the existence of evil, which does exist, or the relative merit of this leader or that, or even the rare need to engage in warfare, which happpens. It is this: who decides?

  • Paul Marks

    The Axis Powers had to be opposed as did the Communist powers.

    It is you who are being fooled Allan – fooled by a man (Murray Rothbard) who was told the truth (repeatedly) by the teacher he claimed to revere, Ludwig Von Mises, and yet made a choice to ignore the truth. Indeed choose to use his teacher’s name (after his teacher was dead) to spread the very line that his teacher despised. What sort of man does that?

    Murray Rothbard repeatedly said things that were untrue (wildly untrue) about the situation with Imperial Germany (ignoring everything that Mises told him about German war aims, and the ideology taught by the German academic and political elite before and during the First World War), also the situation with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and Rothbard also wildly (and repeatedly) misrepresented the conflict with the Communist powers.

    Whether Rothbard really believed his own stuff (or whether he was just lying) I do not know. But his line (on all of the above) was false.

    By the way – you now raise a new subject, the Civil War.

    Rothbard actually got his line (the Civil War not really about slavery – but about creating a new type of government and boosting business profits) from Woodrow Wilson (Wilson wrote on the subject – and it so happens that……)

    Do I have to tell you just how unreliable a source Woodrow Wilson is?

    The Federal government was NOT dramatically different in (say) 1880 from what it had been in 1860.

    Indeed even in 1912 the Federal government made up only around 2% of GDP.

    Nor did Lincoln (Henry Clay Whig though he was – and I am not fan of Henry Clay or Lincoln) intend to create a new type of government.

    And the war WAS about slavery – it really started in “Bleeding Kansas” – and would have happened had Lincoln never even been born (as the Slave Power was committed to expansion).

    Woodrow Wilson liked to pretend the war was not about slavery – for his own (utterly vile) reasons.

    You also hint at Lincoln’s war time abuses. Why is there no Rothbardian attack on the war time abuses of JEFFERSON DAVIS?

    The rule of law was abused in the North – it totally broke down in the South.

    Also the statism of the Confederacy was far worse than that of the Union.

    The fiat money inflation – was worse.

    The taxes were higher – and more Progressive.

    The level of regulation – was more extreme.

    Indeed basically all of manufacturing and transport was nationalised in the South.

    The Rothbardian trick (deceit) is always the same.

    Attack America – America is the bad guy, stress the bad things America does (or even just make them up – I had one Rothbardian over at the Ludwig Von Mises site [the real Mises would have hated that site] accusing the United States of “germ warfare” in Korea, propaganda straight from the Communists).

    But the enemies of the United States?

    They always get a pass.

    The Confederacy.

    The KKK (now there is a private protection organisation for you) after the Civil War.

    Imperial Germany.

    Nazi Germany and the weird distorted Shinto (it was not proper Shinto at all) regime in Japan.

    The Communist Powers.

    They always get a pass.

    Rothbardians replace “my country right or wrong” with “AGAINST my country right or wrong”.

    This is not libertarianism – it is nonsense (and worse than nonsense).

  • @Paul Marks:

    In fairness to Mr. Ripley, it was I that mentioned the Civil War, he was just responding.

    Your point about Wilson is pretty spot on, awful little shit of a man. However, even Lincoln himself said that the Civil War was not about freeing the slaves:

    “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.”

    Abraham Lincoln – Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862

    Whether this is actually true or not is debatable, certainly I find freeing the slaves a bit more than an economic measure under war powers to undermine the enemy, but who can know the mind of a man dead these 150 years nearly.

    What is clear is that Wilson distorted these facts to fit his own collectivist political agenda.

  • Paul Marks

    The Irish example may help.

    In his anti British obsession writes as if the IRA were a pro freedom outfit – actually the IRA was (and is) a bunch of far left statists.

    The IRA were indeed a private force – but they were about as pro liberty as the KKK (another private force) were.

    Rothbard also writes as if the anti Catholic property (“Penal”) laws were still in force a the time of the First World War – the last of them was, in fact, repealed way back in the 1790s.

    So what am I supposed to believe?

    That Rothbard really did not know about the politics of the IRA – but choose to write about something he had no knowledge of?

    And that Rothbard had no knowledge of Irish history – but choose to write about it anyway?

    Or that Rothbard did know about these things – but choose to lie?

    They are no other alternatives.

    Ditto with many other subjects.

    To touch on Snorri’s point……

    Rothbard violated one of the basic rules of the Common Sense (and Aristotelian) philosophy that he endorsed.

    That reality is OBJECTIVE.

    That reality is not objective (that there is no such thing as a objective truth – so we can push any useful “Myth” we like) is actually the philosophy of William James.

    Not someone who Rothbard was supposed to favour.

    “I want to push anarcho-capitalism so I am going to construct an historical reality that favours this position” is no good. It is how William James would have gone about things (not that he was a anarcho-capitalist of course).

    History (and the external world in general) exists independently of the person writing about it – he or she does NOT create it.

    Formally speaking Rothbard accepted that (that is why I said he supported Common Sense) but in his words he violates it.

    Anarcho-capitalists must first accept REALITY for example the existence of the threat of Hitler’s Germnany, and then explain how they would deal with it (without needing a state).

    Not “first I will assume away the existence of objective reality – then……”.

    No, no, no.

    Explain how you will defeat (without a State) such things as the Slave Power, or Imperial Germany, or Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan, and the Communist Powers. Or Islamism now.

    Do not say “we will peacefully trade” – because that is B.S., it denies the existence of objective reality (the external world).

  • @Alisa:

    It’s fun being a libertarian, but as you say we’re never likely to see an anarcho-capitalist society in our lifetime so we’re a bit like Thomas Aquinas worrying about “How many angels can sit on the head of a pin?”

    In reality it’s never going to matter, but the anarcho-capitalist versus minarchism divide is a matter of absolutism.

    If as many of us believe, the state itself is an evil then even if the state is just a mere shell as weak and nebulous as fog, it still provides a framework around which a statist bureaucracy could once again arise and therefore must be utterly destroyed.

    The reality though is that while there are external threats to the territory of a nominally anarcho-capitalist society the functions of external defence and internal regulation (but not administration) of justice must exist, therefore you end up with de facto minarchism.

    A gradual transition from our current statist world to even a minarchy is a pleasant daydream, but a daydream none-the-less.

    Personally, I dream about being Batman!


  • Paul Marks

    Now boys and girls – let us not fall for the Thomas and the angels on the pin thing….

    Still to judge by the last film – Batman is about the only nonleftist in Hollywood.

    On the state – let us reduce it in size and scope and try and think up alternatives as things fall apart (which they will if the state is not rolled back), and if we arrive at anarcho-capitalism well “a man never goes so far as when he does not know where he is going” (sorry for quoting Cromwell).

    Lincoln always played a double game on slavery.

    Mr Moderate to some people – Mr End It to other people.

    In the end it did not matter.

    The Republicans opted for the moderate (“moderate” on slavery) Lincoln, not the “extreme” Salmon P. Chase (or someone like him) – but got the war anyway.

  • In fairness to Lincoln, he did play both ends against the middle. However it can be argued that that is true of any successful politician of any character of any era.

    Look at the detestable Cameron on Europe.

    On all other matters I bow to your better knowledge and wider reading. As Murray Rothbard nearly said:

    “Say what you like about Paul Marks, but at least he wasn’t a Keynesian.”

    Tee Hee 🙂

  • JG, you had me literally LOLing with that one:-)))

  • Political (as opposed to ideological) absolutism is what I am wary of. Another thing I am wary of is political labeling, as it is one of the surest ways to lead to political absolutism. I prefer to focus on the ‘how’, rather than on the ‘what’; on the process, rather than on the end goal – that, seeing that life itself is a process, rather than an end (the end being death, really). Plus, to me this approach seems to be the best guarantee against the ‘ends justify the means’ trap.

    Currently, and pending further insights and developments, the political process I favor is decentralization.

  • Interesting that you pick up on decentralisation, because if practiced well, for example by the Swiss and to a lesser extent by the Swedes, it is a means of redistributing the power of the state.

    The difficulty is that where powers are devolved there needs to be an equal-or-better reduction in central government, but all to often the central government department previously responsible for the function (health, EPA, power, etc.) simply transforms into a regulatory/coordination function from the centre onto the devolved authorities, thus the net size of the state actually increases.

  • I want to thank Paul for introducing this subject. I was so distressed by the virulent personal attack on Rothbard, and ultimately me, that I went back to the beginning by reading Steele’s blog post followed by the chapter War and Foreign Policy in For A New Liberty (1978). As I recalled, Rothbard is providing a characterization of events and policies, not as justification for Hitler or Stalin or anyone else, but as contrast to the pronouncements of the “cold-warriors” (remember the times) and their conclusions and programs. The spitting anger, insinuations, and innuendo resulting are not justified.

    The section “Avoiding A Priori History” is particularly clarifying of his motives and intent.

    It was a pleasure to reread this small part of his work which reinforces my understanding of him and our shared goals. I remain a “Rothbardian”, if such a label is even necessary or useful.

  • JG: of course, but then it is not really a decentralization, is it – just a mere cosmetic change.

  • Paul Marks

    Allan if a person said things that are not true (that are blatantly false) it is a DUTY to point out that this is what he (Rothbard) did. It does not matter if you call it a “personal attack” or not.

    Does the anarcho-capitalist case need blatant falsehoods to back it up? If “no” then do not engage in blatant falsehoods.

    Explain how private companies (or charitable foundations or whatever) would have defeated the Slave Power in war in the 1860s, Imperial Germany in the early 1900s, the Axis Powers in the 1940s, and the Communist powers in the world wide Cold War – for example in the Korean war, the anniversary of the armistice is this month. Perhaps they could have done – I am not saying that this is impossible.

    However, do not come out with BS about how we would “peacefully trade” with these expansionist powers, and do not pretend the bad guy was really the Britain and the United States (front persons for the evil businessmen – or whatever).

    You imply that Rothbard did not support the economic policies of Stalin, Hitler and the rest – I never said he did.

    But those who would hand the world over to the totalitarians (which is exactly what Rothbard would have done) do not get a pass by saying “but I think the policies the totalitarians are following are really bad – I wish they would not gas Jews and so on, it is a really bad thing to do”.

    Still less do they get a pass for SMEARING the people who actually resisted the totalitarians – as the untrue “personal attacks” are actually from ROTHBARD against anyone who resisted the take over the world by the totalitarians.

    If anarcho-capitalism is a serious position it should not need the crutch of lies.

    John Galt – quite so, and the best writer on money and banking is…….

    Murray Newton Rothbard.

    He really is.


    The key test of real (as opposed to fake) Federalism and so on is……

    Who pays for what is done?


    Who decides what is done?

    In Britain the central government provides most of the funding for local government.

    And (since way back in 1875) decides most of what local government does.

    So decentralisation is fake in Britain.

    In many nations (including Switzerland) money is taken from “rich” areas and given to “poor” areas.

    Thus undermining real local autonomy – and producing perverse incentives.

    For example, the worse a local economy becomes – the more money will arrive from the national government, to pay for the army of government dependents (who are also voters).

    The “Curley Effect” ((Mayor Curley’s antics in Boston in the early 20th vcentury) has a limit upon it, if the antics go too far then the city itself is undermined.

    However, with State and Federal subsidies the antics can go on for much longer (and do far worse damage) before bankruptcy (social as well as economic) finally arrives.

    These subsidies can be open (as in the case of the 1960s subsidies that ruined Detroit – by funding wrong headed policies that might well have not happened without the subsidies), or hidden.

    A classic case of hidden subsidies is the monetary support to the banking and financial system by the Central Banks (the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve….)this has the “knock on” effect of subsidising the city the financial services industry is based in.

    This is why (for example) London and New York City have an appearance of prosperity – in spite of neither city any longer being a sensible place to have a manufacturing business.

    The financial services industry is there – and the financial services industry gets massive subsidies.

    However, when this subsidy system finally stops things will go very bad in cities such as New York.

    And the change would happen very fast.

  • RogerC


    A major symptom of political insanity is the inability of distinguishing between the world as it is, and the world as it should be.

    Sounds suspiciously like the post-modern/modern clash, to me. Could an argument be made that this is the major political divide of our times?

  • Snorri Godhi

    RogerC: it’s not just postmodernism: Chomsky emphatically opposes postmodernism, and yet when it comes to concrete issues, he displays the same inability to recognize that the world is not as he wishes it to be.
    As Paul Marks said, what does it matter whether Chomsky or Rothbard actually believed what they wrote?
    And yet there is room for speculation on whether their distortions of reality are a symptom of evil, or of insanity. I favor the latter hypothesis (if not for Chomsky and Rothbard, then for their followers) for reasons which i leave as an exercise to the reader.
    Mr. Ripley might call this a “personal attack” but it has nothing to do with the private lives of Chomsky and Rothbard, and everything to do with what they wrote.

  • Julie near Chicago


    Tom Palmer in his piece “Apologetics for ‘Death of a State'” wrote:

    When Rothbard made his arguments, there was precious little international media. His irrational and untenable claims about how peace loving Stalin was (the dictator with the “passion for peace”) were not intended for people living in the USSR. I think his claims were disgraceful regardless, but on his terms and at that time more defensible (possibly) than they would be now. (I was present when he cheered on the North Vietnamese conquest of South Vietnam and I shudder to think that I did not speak out at the time about what a monstrous attitude that was; Rothbard was completely indifferent to the fate of millions of people, about whom he cared not one fig.) We should indeed be more judicious in finding out about and expressing opinions about political movements around the world.


    See also Mr. Palmer’s comment, same place, at March 26, 2005 09:27 PM ….

    As a subtitle to his piece “Apologetics for ‘Death of a State,'” Mr. Palmer writes: “This Was No Cause for Rejoicing: It Matters Which State Replaces Which.” Indeed it does. There are times when I wish Samizdata allowed the posting of entire articles; this is one of them. Anyway, see


    Cato and LvMI are not, of course, the most undying of friends. However, there is evidence that Rothbard and the truth were also not on the best of terms. He is responsible for some of the nonsense going around about Ayn Rand and the Objectivists; see, for instance, his article “The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult” at


    Admittedly was written in 1972. Had he changed his story some 23 years later? Maybe, but if so I haven’t heard about it.

    I’ve seen it said that (paraphrase) “Historians find that Rothbard’s history isn’t all that reliable, but they assume he gets various other matters right. Experts in other areas say the same about him with respect to their own fields.” I assume they’re not talking about his writings on the history of economics.

  • Paul Marks

    Julie sums it up.

    Someone who cheers the victory of evil (for example the Communist conquest of Indochina – which led to millions of murders) is, at best, in such a state of mental confusion as to rule themselves out of serious discussion.

    Karl Hess also made lots of weird statements in this period – when later challenged about them his excuse was “I was on drugs at the time”.

    As far as I know Murray Rothbard did NOT have that excuse. He “reasoned” himself into a position where enemies (such as the Communists) had become friends, and his own country (the United States) and the principle ally of the United States (the United Kingdom) were to blame the problems of the world (and had been for centuries( that these powers were not trying to hold back the forces of evil (the threats, Allan please not, to THEMSELVES – not just to other countries), but were themselves the forces of evil.

    Was Rothbard formally mentally ill? Probably NOT – but he was in such a state of mental confusion that his statements alienated ordinary Western people (people who understood who the enemy were in such conflicts as Korea and Vietnam). And his statements did NOT win over the drug using “hippies” and others – who were far more attracted to ideologies that offered them the chance to “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and be critical after dinner – without anyone being a hunter, fisherman or critic, for society will organise production….”

    As Ayn Rand correctly noted – the only “freedom” the mobs of students were interested in was freedom from objective reality (the “freedom” offered by Rousseau and Karl Marx). Such people could never be won over for libertarianism (for a society based upon thrift, hard work and self discipline) and to send out young libertarians to join leftist groups (as Rothbard did) was an act of almost insane folly – what happened to these young people (i.e. how they would become degenerate themselves) could have been predicted by anyone of average intelligence (perhaps only an intellectual, such as Rothbard, would have the ability to “reason” themselves to a position where they could not understand the obvious situation).

    It would be like sending out young libertarians to join the “Occupy” movement now – and then being surprised when they became degenerates themselves, destroying private property, sexually attacking female members of their own movement, supporting total collectivism in the name of “freedom”…. of course such young people would still have the choice of not doing these things, of breaking away from the evil that is “Occupy”. But that would involve breaking with the “libertarian guides” who had urged them to join such movements in the first place.

    The world has long faced what Edmund Burke called “armed doctrines” (collectivist movements seeking to impose themselves on the world by force – such as Jacobinism, National Socialism, Marxism, Islamism….).

    And it is perfectly reasonable for the weak to say “I have not the strength to oppose such evil – someone else will have to do it”. No one expects, for example, Switzerland to send mighty armies to hold-the-line in places like Korea (or even Germany).

    But those who say “we are not the policeman of the world” better hope that someone else IS. Or they will find themselves isolated and destroyed.

    John Adams was not deluded (as Jefferson was) about the nature and desires of the French Revolution – but he held that Britain would deal with the problem (so America did not need to).

    But that was NOT Rothbard’s position. Even if Britain has still been strong enough to hold back the enemy around the world – he would have been AGAINST such efforts. And he would have SMEARED them.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I guess it’s time for me to take a qualified stand in favor of Rothbard.
    The reason i guess so, is Julie’s last link: Rothbard’s essay on Objectivism as a cult has too much the ring of truth to be dismissed out of hand. If you want to dismiss Rothbard’s claim, then i feel that the burden of proof is on you to show that Rothbard is wrong on the facts.

    I am especially prone to think of Objectivism as a cult because of:

    a. a post on PJM offering a backfiring defense of Objectivism:

    b. reactions to my comment to that post.

    c. David Ramsay Steele’s article on Objectivism:

    See also Rothbard’s brilliant one-act play:

    –Mind you, i am inclined to think of Objectivism as an adequate philosophy for the average human being.
    It has its flaws, in particular Rand’s epistemology would be a serious hindrance for practicing scientists (especially so since their colleagues ain’t gonna correct their misconceptions: most practicing scientists are unable to articulate a sensible epistemology in my experience).
    But what does it matter for the man in the street?

    The main flaw in Objectivism is not so much the message: it’s that it teaches you WHAT to think, not HOW to think.

    –Now, to be fair and balanced, let’s turn Rothbard’s criticism against himself.
    In Julie’s last link, Rothbard proclaims:
    “many ex-cultists remain imbued with the Randian belief that every individual is armed with the means of spinning out all truths a priori from his own head – hence there is felt to be no need to learn the concrete facts about the real world, either about contemporary history or the laws of the social sciences. Armed with axiomatic first principles, many ex-Randians see no need of learning very much else. Furthermore, lingering
    Randian hubris imbues many ex-members with the idea that each one is able and qualified to spin out an entire philosophy of life and of the world a priori.”

    Rothbard could not have given a better analysis of his own philosophy.

  • Laird

    I’ve never been a big Rothbard fan but haven’t read enough of his works to offer knowledgeable criticism so I won’t. But I have to say, Paul, that I for one am sick and tired of being the world’s policeman and want it to stop. I want the US to bring all its troops home, wherever they are, withdraw from NATO (an outdated military alliance in desperate search of a mission) and from the UN (as corrupt and ineffectual an organization as it is possible to imagine), and concentrate on defense of our own shores. I don’t believe that we would be either “isolated or destroyed”, but I’m prepared to take that risk.

  • Paul Marks

    On judge people on the policy suggestions – and mainstream Randian Objectivists (not fake Objectivists – for the “Bleeding Hearts” have set up a fake Ayn Rand journal to trick people) tend to make sensible policy suggestions.

    Perhaps there was a cult like atmosphere around Ayn Rand (I do not know). But the “cult” did not cheer in response to the Communist victory in Indochina. And they did not cheer on the far left organised riots in American cities either.

    Laird – yes it may be time to withdraw the legions(as the Repbublic is bankrupt), but there will be consequences from that (as no one else can step into the gap).

    Also, as you know, the real threat to American finances is not the military budget (which has been a declining proportion of the economy for many decades) – it is the entitlement mess.

    Still the UN and so on are useless (at best) and should be withdrawn from.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – it was not “isolated or destroyed” in the case of the Axis Powers or the Communist ones.

    It was “isolated AND destroyed” – an important difference.

  • hennesli

    To be honest I would take a Rothbardian foreign policy over an Objectivist one any day.
    In terms of body count, Randians such as this guy would make a pygmy of Hitler if given any real power.


  • Paul Marks

    A “Rothbardian foreign policy” is, in practice to leave the world to the totalitarians – the unspoken assumption being that that the United States exists on some other planet.

    However, it is not “just” a matter of foreign policy – as the groups that Rothard (the 1960s and early 1970s) suggested that libertarians ally with were just as Marxist in their domestic policy as their foreign policy.

    The SDS and so on may not have supported the bomb and bullet methods of the “Weathermen” and others, but their OBJECTIVE (a socialist America) was the same.

    As for the Islamic world…..

    The great difference with both the Axis powers and the Communist powers is one of TIME.

    The Islamic world has had an Islamic culture for centuries – there is no other culture one can break through to.

    That is why I always believed that those who thought of Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of post World War II Germany, Italy and Japan were utterly wrong.

    I also oppose “wars for democracy”.

    I am not interested in spreading political systems by war.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Here is Christopher Hitchens, speaking to a specific application of a general principle he holds. :>)



  • Paul Marks

    But notice that “Hitch” did not apologise for his own comments on Vietnam.

    There is a vast difference between protesting against as specific tactic of a war (as Bishop Bell protested against “Area Bombing” in World War II) and wanting the enemy to win – and in Vietnam Christopher Hitchens crossed that line.

    On Iraq – the charge of Western Imperialism is indeed absurd, as there was no independent Iraq when British forces arrived during World War One. Iraq was under the Ottoman Empire (an Empire that had made a choice to ally with Germany against Britain).

    The intention never was to make Iraq a British province – it was to try and create some sort of order there (a difficult, perhaps impossible, task – as the various ethnic groups hated each other). Yes aircraft were used – but only in response to terrible crimes that the “British crimes in Iraq” crowd carefully leave out of their histories. The real tragedy of Iraq is the fall of the monarchy in 1958 (the only possible institution that might have been above ethnic and religious hated) the crimes of pre 1958 pale in comparison to the crimes of the various dictators after 1958 (although I would not expect Hitch to be pro monarchy).

    In East Timor – the way to prevent the Civil War and the Indonesian invasion would have been to support the Portugese Empire, to somehow prevent the Revolution in Portugal in 1974 (which gave Portugal its insane labour code and welfare commitments – that doom this land to the bankruptcy it now faces) However, I do not expect the late Christopher Hitchens to have any sympathy for the old Catholic Portugal.

    However, “Hitch” was quite correct – Bin Laden and the Islamists around the world (including in Iraq) explicitly condemn the West for supporting the independence of East Timor.

    One can not have it both ways (although many try to) – one can not condemn the West for the mass killings of Christians in East Timor (by the Indonesians) and support the independence of East Timor – and then say one will live in peace (around the world) with the Islamists.

    As the Islamists make it quite clear that they regard even VERBAL support for independence of East Timor as justification for killing – for example for blowing up the UN H.Q. in Iraq.

    And what would Allan “peacefully trade” Ripley do with the First Amendment.

    The Islamists have made it quite clear that if even one allows a cartoon that is critical of Muhammed – then a state of war exists.

    So (unless he is willing to throw the First Amendment under the bus) Allan Ripley would find himself at war with Islam – whether he wants to be or not.

    And the Islamists are only following the example of Muhammed himself.

    Unlike Jesus, Muhammed personally ordered murders – for example of an old blind poet who had mocked him (followers of Muhammed arrived, pretending to be friends, and them murdered the old blind man).

    And when a female poet protested against the murder (for the murder of a poet was against the customs of the Arabs) Muhammed had her murdered as well.

    Christians have committed terrible crimes – crimes totally against what Jesus taught.

    But there is no contradiction between the actions of the Islamists and the actions of Muhammed himself.

    So, I say again, Allan Ripley would find himself at war with them – regardless of what he wants.

    Although one should pick the battlefield.

    Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is (I have long argued)fighting in the home field of Islam – it is a mistake, a fundamental mistake.

    Fighting may well be unavoidable – but where one fights is still important.

  • Julie near Chicago

    It seems that Hitch, while dissociating himself from hard-Leftism etc., never did achieve full-bore libertarianism (still less “conservatism,” which nobody seems to understand anyway, she said sourly). And I’m not so sure about some of that “war-crimes” rhetoric at the beginning. Be that as it may.

    Paul — Part of the reason for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was, indeed, “so that we won’t have to fight them [A-Q, or Islamic terrorists generally]] here.” For you this will be a hypothetical question, I realize, but: Given that reasoning, where, if not on their “home field,” would you have fought what we know as “the Iraq-Afghanistan War,” i.e. the effort to destroy both A-Q and the “State sponsors of terror”? :>)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Rothbard. Here is a comment by George Reisman, to be found on Pp 1-2 of his mammoth treatise Capitalism. Footnote 13 is on P. 11.

    …Rothbard, who was widely regarded as the intellectual leader of the younger gener- ation of the Austrian school and of the Libertarian party as well, was a self-professed anarchist and believed that the United States was the aggressor against Soviet Russia* in the so-called cold war. [fn 13]

    13. Cf. Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty (New York: Macmillan, 1973). In that book, Rothbard wrote: “Empirically, the most warlike, most interventionist, most imperial government throughout the twentieth century has been the United States” (p. 287; italics[*] in original). In sharpest contrast to the United States, which has supposedly been more warlike even than Nazi Germany, Rothbard described the Soviets in the following terms: “Before World War II, so devoted was Stalin to peace that he failed to make adequate provision against the Nazi attack. . . . Not only was there no Russian expansion whatever apart from the exigencies of defeating Germany, but the Soviet Union time and again leaned over backward to avoid any cold or hot war with the West” (p. 294).

    *Since the block-quote html presents the quotes in italics, I replaced the italics in the original with boldfaced type. –J.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul — I do realize that the most obvious answer to my question is, “I wouldn’t have.” *g*

  • Laird

    Julie, in response to your question two posts up, my answer is different than yours. I do not object to the “the Iraq-Afghanistan War” per se. We were violently attacked by A-Q and there is clear and abundant evidence that both nations harbored those terrorists and permitted their training camps to be sited there. We were perfectly right to destroy those camps, search out and destroy A-Q, and bring down the regimes which aided and abetted them. Such actions by those regimes were tantamount to a declaration of war and absolutely merited a military response (and if one is going to respond militarily it is foolish in the extreme for that response to be anything other than overwhelming if you have the capacity to do so). My only objection is to remaining in both countries for so long after the objective was achieved. After bringing down the Taliban and Saddam Hussein regimes our work was finished and we should have left. I don’t particularly care that both countries were then in shambles; that was their own fault and their problem. Not my concern.

    And of course I do object to our apparent military meddling in Syria and elsewhere, and to maintaining a significant military presence Germany, Japan, South Korea, and nearly everywhere else in the world. That’s what I mean when I complain about being the “world’s policeman”. Responding militarily to an overt attack is not the same thing at all. Rather, it is one of the primary responsibilites of a government.

  • Laird

    Um, I guess that was three posts up, wasn’t it?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Laird — That “most obvious answer” would be Paul’s, given his stated current opinion; not mine. I happen to agree soundly with you. I will say there’s room for debate over what is the “overwhelming force” required. I certainly don’t go along with certain parties who apparently would like to nuke Iran and other worthies out of existence and “let Allah sort it out,” even if they are named “Peikoff” and “Brook.” (And I imagine you don’t either.) But short of that, yes, “if ’twere done when ’twere done,” so forth.

    As for staying once Saddam was down, my own thought has always been that leaving a power vacuum in Iraq would amount to letting the Islamics take over Iraq, which would almost certainly result in needing to go back later on and root out the next batch at a minimum. And it would strengthen the Islamic hold on the region. So it seems to me that something needed to be done to forestall that possibility.

    There is an interesting 2007 article, “Why We are in Iraq” by Rick Richman, at The American Thinker, which argues, among other things, in defense of taking on Iraq and Afghanistan and, by the way, also of Pres. Bush (in that regard). Mr. Richman is reviewing Norman Podhoretz’s book WW IV: The Long Struggle against Islamofascism.


    Here’s a little bit from the article–I’ve put quotes around the material the article quotes:

    When George W. Bush took office, the country may not have recognized it was in World War IV, but there was a strong consensus about which country was the principal threat to the United States: Iraq. The Washington Post greeted Bush’s inauguration with the admonition that:

    “[O]f all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous — or more urgent — than the situation in Iraq. Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade’s efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf [where] intelligence photos . . . show the reconstruction of factories long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons.”

    Because of numerous investigations since 9/11, we now know that this view represented an overwhelming consensus view, shared not only by the CIA (in George Tenet’s “slam dunk” assurance), but in the view of all fifteen U.S. agencies gathering intelligence for the United States. In the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2002, where their collective views were summarized, one of the conclusions offered with “high confidence” was that

    “Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.”

    The intelligence agencies of Britain, Germany, Russia, China, Israel, and France (yes, France) had all agreed with this judgment. In addition, the 2002 NIE had concluded with ‘high confidence’ that:

    “Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.”

    Of course, all that was as of 2007. Subsequent events don’t erase what had arguably gone right up until then.

    As to EVERYTHING done militarily under the Sith, none of it makes any sense at all to me. Libya? Please! Syria? Sheesh. So to me, those aren’t even actions “by the U.S.”–it’s more as if somebody committed a crime with a gun he stole from me. I’m not equipped to opine on whether he’s done anything worthwhile in Afgh. beyond being on the 18th hole when the Seals finally took out b-L; IF that happened roughly as advertised.

    I do think there are security reasons for maintaining a presence in S. Korea. Taiwan and Japan as well, probably, because of China. It seems to me the rulership has definite expansionist plans, and I don’t see how letting them take over either Japan or Taiwan would be a good move for us. Even without existing defense treaties or whatever they are officially.

    As far as “the world’s policeman” theme, you do know that that slogan was dreamed up by the Communists, perhaps as long ago as the ’30’s? (Sorry I can’t give a source for that.) I don’t think any American ever wanted us to be “T.W.P.” (Well…except maybe for a truly-Empire-minded sort of early Progressive.) But if you don’t have a cop on the beat, well, “when you need help in seconds, the cops are only minutes away,” or however the saying goes. The cop on the beat, if there is one, deters a certain amount of crime just by being there (or so it is said, and that sounds reasonable to me). Provided, of course, that the bad guys haven’t learned said cop is essentially toothless.

    (Of course, in the analogy, back in the days before the coppers in the Anglosphere it was allowable for people to look after themselves. The analogy breaks down there.)

    . . .

    About the arithmetic — don’t feel bad. Yesterday I had to count to one, and it was difficult because I couldn’t take my socks off. 😉

  • Laird

    Apologies, Julie; I took your statement “I do realize that the most obvious answer to my question is, ‘I wouldn’t have.’ ” as being your opinion, not merely your guess as to Paul’s. (So I guess that since we don’t actually know that it’s Paul’s opinion you lured me into making a preemptive attack on what may be a straw man. Well played!)

    I somewhat agree with you about S. Korea: it will take some time to extricate ourselves from that mess. But we should be beginning to do so now. I don’t agree about Japan, though; it can certainly take care of itself. Not entirely sure which category Taiwan falls into, but my current feeling is that it can take care of itself, too.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I am a dangerous woman, Laird. LURING gentlemen into pre-emptive attacks on straw men and all!

    I really wondered whether, given Paul’s statement above that we shouldn’t have let the Bad Guys (some ideological thugs, some just plain thugs, but all exceedingly nasty) have the Home Court Advantage, he would have some other suggestion so we wouldn’t have to play on OUR home ground. But he’s stated often that although initially he supported Iraq-Afgh., he came a long time ago to the conclusion that those wars should never have occurred in the first place. It would have helped if I’d said “your” rather than “the” “obvious answer,” etc.

    Anyway, no harm, no foul. You can even keep your socks on! 😉

  • Midwesterner

    A few strong bases across the globe doing nothing but being there and being ready is key to defending America. We live in a world where I can buy a necktie and have it mailed from Hong Kong for a couple of dollars and still arrive in just a week or two. I could probably have container ships of munitions and other hardware sitting in an America port in a not much longer time frame. The world has shrunk until North Korea and the US are closer together than Virginia and New York used to be.

    The problem is not with the military bases, it is with a supine Senate spreading for an Imperial Executive. I blame direct election. If the Senate responsibly obeyed its Constitutional mandate, I doubt any long wars, and few ‘wars’ or whatever we call all of the places Obama has boots on the ground, would be happening at all. If an out-of-control Executive attempted to wage unConstitutional war, then the Senate has the power to make his position untenable and the Senate and House together can remove him. Further, having the guaranteed support of their Senators, States can withhold or recall their troops.

    Disarming or reduced arming not aimed at pork without addressing the structural problem amounts to throwing out the baby and keeping the dirty bath water.

  • Brad

    I recall reading how some fairly staunch libertarian went to alarming lengths to make out that Hitler was actually not so bad of a guy, even dropping leaflets over Washington DC almost promoting him. One always has to be careful not to turn ones beliefs into their own version of reductio ad absurdum and unfortunately mean it. It is logical enough to simply say that foreign intrigues are none of our business, to follow the suggestion of some of the Founding Fathers (speaking from a US perspective). Of course the greater the rationalization of domestic warmongers to get involved in foreign affairs may lead to greater urgency to support staying out, and making public appeals to so, certainly should stop short of pleading the cause of Statist dictators. All of this coming from the anti-imperialist perspective which, of course, is moonbattery to samizdistas.

  • Paul Marks

    Would I have ordered the deaths of terrorists – yes I would.

    I actually defend that Marxist ….. Barack Obama on drone strikes (because it is hypocritical to attack him for stuff I would ordered myself).

    However, would I have committed Zillions of dollars (and thousands of human lives) in a “nation building” effort to try and turn Iraq and Afghanistan into Vermont? The Bush policy… (although formally supported by Comrade Barack in Afghanistan).

    No I would not.

    And nor do such wars prevent the Islamists attacking inside the United States – Fort Hood is only one of many attacks (bombing recruitment centres and all the rest of the things the media do not report).

    “But then why did you never get involved in the anti war movement?”

    Because the anti war movement based its “arguments” on the false idea that the local populations are lovely. That was actually the same false assumption as Mr Blair and Mr Bush (and that is the correct way round – Mr Blair was a neo con long before Bush was). If the local populations were lovely people oppressed by a handful of “extremists” who have “distorted Islam” then the Afghan and Iraq wars would make sense – actually the local populations are not lovely and the “extremists” have NOT distorted Islam.

    Brad – the old Jefferson versus Adams split.

    Thomas Jefferson just did not see the French Revolution (even when he was actually in France) – he only considered the vision of France that existed in his own mind (not the gut turning horrors actually going on), so it was only natural for Jefferson to be baffled by the idea various French Revolutionary regimes represented a hostile (Rousseau influenced) ideology that sought to remake the entire world in its own image – by the use of armed force. It was not that Jefferson was in favour of all this – he just did not “see” it (his intention being concentrated on the wonderful LANGUAGE of the French revolutionaries – which he heard like a literary man, not like a Common Lawyer like John Adams who was alert to what the DETAILS, the loopholes, meant in such things as the “Declaration of the Rights of Man”)

    John Adams (being a Common Lawyer – not a philosopher and literary) looked at Revolutionary Franc as it actually was (there are all these people being hacked to bits, churches being closed, speeches about making all countries like the new France….. and they are even spending money on the subversion of every country they can get at….) and reacted accordingly.


    John Adams did not need to actually go to war with the French Revolutionary regime – because Britain was in armed conflict with it.

    But by the time of Mr Adolf Hitler, Britain was too weak to do the job of dealing with a threat on its own.

    So the United States faced a choice…..

    Back Britain up (in the end – TAKE OVER THE BURDEN) or ….

    Do a Rothbard – pretend the threat (even the threat of the National Socialists) did not exist.

    Now the United States (as Britain was – and it started long before World War II) is being undermined by domestic welfarism. So, even though the military has been in relative decline for half a century, people are saying that America can not afford to be “the world’s policeman”.

    Perhaps that is so – but then who is going to stand for civilisation?

    India? I doubt it.

    Or nobody (the Rothbardian option).

    But, as Marcus Aurelius and others found out, when the barbarians crossed over the line it was not “just” places like Gaul they were interested in – it was everywhere.

    What is the Rothbardian attitude to Marcus Aurelius? Is he seen as just another criminal statist – like Julius?

    “Both dictators – both fought lots of battles for Empire, therefore fundamentally the same” is that the ignorant level of “thought” involved?

    What policy was open to Marcus that did not involve spending his life involved in the wars he HATED?

    Only the choice of watching the civilised world burn to ashes around him.

    Would that have been the libertarian alternative?

    Still there comes a time for retreat – even in Rome itself.

    Pope Hadrian built a wall (perhaps he remembered the history of the Emperor Hadrian) – it covered only a small fraction of the old city of Rome.

    But Rome had become a shadow of its former self – with the canals to the sea and so on long decayed (they still have not been rebuilt), what was left of the population covered a small area – with the rest of the city falling into ruin.

    Given his lack of men and resources Pope Hadrian was correct to retreat into a small fraction of the city and fortify that.

    Perhaps Western Civilisation is collapsing again – and a similar policy to that of Pope Hadrian needs to be followed again.

    But then libertarians should be honest enough to say so.