I published a short post here yesterday defending the use of the phrase culture war, and describing how we as Christian libertarians can think of it, especially as opposed to many others who either use it wrongly or reject it completely. It’s important to understand how and in what sense a culture war can be supported, because this site has been critical of some versions in the past.
The reason I posted this is multifaceted. First, it is interesting to peer into the stylism and prose that characterized Murray Rothbard during the “paleo years” (mostly the late 1980s to 1995, the year of his death). He really is a remarkably engaging and punchy writer, full of energy, passion, and excitement. Second, it is interesting to see Rothbard enthusiasm over the 1992 efforts of “Pitchfork Pat” (as they used to call him, in reference to his populist support) Buchanan over against the “world government” candidates Bill Clinton and George HW Bush. Consider too Rothbard’s disparaging remarks about Hillary Clinton, much of which is entirely relevant today! Look how far we’ve come in this country! Back to Hillary.
As Lew Rockwell once pointed out, Rothbard, like Mises before him, was a man of Old World mannerisms and social habits. He loved the Old Republic, the tasteful and cultured Western society of times past. What motivated him to focus on culture and society at the end of his life was the sheer degradation of social life as it had become. Besides the quite important deviations from libertarian principle that the Libertarian Party and beltway libertarian movement took, Rothbard was also disgusted with the moral and social trends that were seeping into the libertarian movement from society at large. He saw culture as an important bulwark against the ever-potential collapse of society and as culture went, so would go our political traditions; private property, self-government, free markets, and all the rest. What we see below is Rothbard at his most enthusiastic; full of optimism, thrill, and delight.
He truly was the joyful old “Tory Anarchist,” a title which he once bestowed on H.L. Mencken and Albert Nock.
Written by Murray Rothbard in 1992. Copy of the original here.
Yes, yes, you rotten hypocritical liberals, it’s a culture war! And high time, too! It is, of course, typical of our liberal “intellectual” and media elite: after having ridden through and captured our culture, after twenty-odd years (at least!) of their cultural conquest of America proceeding almost unopposed, after completing their successful Gramscian (note: much revered Italian Stalinist of the 1920s) “long march through our institutions,” liberals were just about ready to sit down and treat us as their conquered province. When suddenly, some of us beleaguered provincials began to fight back – rallied, of course, by Pat Buchanan’s speech at the Republican National Convention.
And then, oh the geschrei and oh the gewald! Once again, doffing the few shreds that remain of our Respectable Media’s guise of objectivity, the wailing and the whining blared throughout the country: Buchanan is “dividing us,” he has “exposed the dark side of America,” and once again everyone referred to Pat’s perpetual “scowl.” (Who, by the way, has ever seen Pat scowling? No social observer or political figure has been more sunny, or more good-humored – in the face, of course of unparalleled viciousness and perpetual smear.)
Gee, since when has politics ever “divided” us? I thought, and until the twentieth century it was gloriously true, that the whole point of politics is to “divide” people, to separate people by principle and ideology and to have them slug it out, each trying to gain a majority support of the population. Isn’t that the point of democratic politics, of a more-than-one party system?
No: of course not, not in the view of the liberal ideologues and sleaze-merchants who dominate our culture. To them, the point of being radical in politics is indeed to divide, and then to gain control; but, after left-liberalism has gained that control, then the point is to drug the country and the political system, then the point is to unite everyone, including both parties, under their own rule, then the point is to keep everyone united and to denounce anyone who exposes their errors and sins as terribly and viciously “divisive.”
It’s an old ploy, and yet it seems to work every time. As Joe Sobran put it in his syndicated column (8/30): “The Democrats are the party of economic parasites, using the taxing power to allow one sector of the population to live off the other.” Naturally, Joe adds, “they and their media allies hold ‘divisiveness’ to be a cardinal sin. The parasitical organism doesn’t want the host to think of itself as a distinct entity, with interests of its own. So it tries rhetorically to ‘unify’ the two organisms in the undifferentiated pronoun ‘we’.” Exactly!
And then, the hypocritical liberals, led by my least favorite McLaughlin Grouper Eleanor Clift, mockingly whined: “How can you conservatives who are against government treat culture as a political issue?” Simple. It’s because you liberals have used government massively to take over our culture. Therefore, government has to be used to get itself out. Consider the items:
Victimology: government has been used to create a phony set of “rights” for every designated victim group under the sun, to be used to dominate and exploit the rest of us for the special gain of these cosseted groups. Go down the list: black “rights,” gay “rights,” women’s “rights,” lesbian “rights,” handicapped “rights,” Hispanic (or more P.C., “Latino”) “rights,” “Senior Citizen rights,” and on and on. Hillary Clinton (see below) is a specialist in the special “rights” of another “victim” group: children. On and on the assault grows: and in every case government, technocrats, official “therapists,” and the malignant New Class grant themselves and accredited victim groups ever-increasing power to exploit, dominate, and loot an ever-dwindling group of: middle-aged, white, English-speaking, Christian, and especially heterosexual male parents. Culture war? It was launched decades ago and liberals were almost into the mopping-up stage before the oppressed finally woke up.
Want some more examples of government in culture? The monstrous and swollen public school bureaucracy, ever-widening its grip, inculcating the helpless young charges in its care, not only in statism and the “virtue” of obedience to the state and the dominant elites, but also: infecting them with the culture of nihilism, feel-good hedonism, anti-Christianity, topped off by the distribution of free condoms over the objection of parents. As even President Bush noted it’s a “rum” world where kids can’t pray in school voluntarily, but condoms are distributed coercively by the state. And there are continuing lessons in stamping out hate-thought, with any kid or teacher suspected of hate-thought subjected to compulsory “sensitivity training” and brain-washing “therapy” sessions. Culture separate from government? Don’t make me laugh.
In my many decades of “extremist” political writing, probably the least inherently controversial was my column in the Los Angeles Times, “Hold Back the Hordes for Four More Years” (July 30), in which I reluctantly but firmly advocated Bush over Clinton in November. I had thought it was one of my most innocuous writings. I did not, after all, invent the concept of “the lesser of two evils.” And yet, go figure. It was reprinted in dozens of papers across the country, drawing an unprecedented number of angry letters, some published, more anonymous and written in the usual crayon.
Vituperative? Wow! A “disabled Holocaust survivor” wrote that, as such, he is trained to detect Nazis, and he knows, from this column, that I would have been a top Nazi commandant at a gas chamber. My office at Las Vegas was defaced several times.
Less frenetic was a published letter protesting my attack on “lesbian rights,” and asking rhetorically: would I also object to the term “Jewish rights?” The answer, of course, is Yes. I am against all “rights” for special groups, because these “rights” are simply unjust claims on the pocketbook, on the status, and on the trumped-up guilt feelings of all those not in these specially privileged groups. The only rights I favor are the rights of each individual to his person and property, free of the vicious assaults of phony “rights” creators.
In this view, I am not being original. I am in the “radical Lockean” tradition of the founders of the American Republic, of the Common-wealthmen, of the American Revolutionaries, of the Anti-Federalists, the Jeffersonians, etc. These are the “natural rights” for which the Founding Fathers fought against the statism of the British Empire. And, as Richard Tuck makes clear in his excellent book on Natural Rights Theories, these are the “active natural rights” of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Dominican Order, where each man has dominion over his own person and property free of molestation, as against the “passive rights” or claims-on-everyone-else pushed in the thirteenth century by the Dominicans’ great rivals, the Franciscans. Unfortunately, while the Catholic Church sided with the Dominicans by the fourteenth century, the latter-day “Franciscans” seem to have won out.
Government and Culture: Hillary, who promised to be a virtual co-president before she alienated millions of people, is an expert in the brand-new legal field of “children’s rights.” She is praised as a pathbreaking legal theorist by ultra-leftist Gary Wills in the New York Review of Books. In a Hillarious world, children begin with the presumption of competence, and are encouraged to run their lives without parental control or sometimes even consent: e.g., on such important matters as motherhood and abortion, schooling, cosmetic surgery, treatment of venereal disease, or employment.
In all the welter of talk about “family values” this campaign season, one point is crystal clear: either parents run kids, or the State runs them via its host of New Class lawyers, licensed “therapists,” social workers, counselors, child specialists, and the rest, all in the name of children’s “rights” or “empowerment.” For we know darned well that 12-year-old children going to court to sue their parents are going to be run by shrewd and manipulative lawyers, and the rest of the New Class crew.
The lines are clearly drawn: the defenders of family values are the Buchananites, the Schlaflyites, and the other conservative Republicans who want to preserve, or to recover the traditional two-parent family as it has flourished in the West. Hillary and the army of left-liberals in total control of the Democratic Party and who constitute the intellectual and media elites, aim to pursue the ancient utopian, socialistic dream of destruction of the family, the destruction of private lives, on behalf of the universal State-family.
The model is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a novel published in the early 1930s, which caught the left-liberal spirit of our century: children brought up by the State and its army of professional “helpers,” firmly encouraging each kid to engage in hedonism and polymorphously perverse sexual play, kept content by an opiate drug called “soma,” and kept docile and obedient by the State elite. A frightening and perceptive picture – and a lot closer to reality now, sixty years later.
The culture war has to be fought, tooth and nail, inch by inch, yard by yard. We have got to Take the Culture Back, and that’s what the new kulturkampf is all about.
After denouncing Hillary in his speech, Pat Buchanan pointed out that Hillary has “compared marriage as an institution to slavery,” and then he denounced the “Clinton & Clinton agenda” for America: which includes “radical feminism,” abortion on demand, “homosexual rights,” discrimination against religious schools, and the sending of women into combat. Pat commented that this “is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs.” And, in a thundering conclusion: “it’s not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.”
That Pat’s speech was correct is demonstrated by the orgy of hate the media promptly heaped upon him – and by their friendly reception to Reagan’s absurdly inappropriate repetition of his standard “Morning in America” optimism. For the whole point of the new cultural war is that it is now far from Morning in America. If anything, the time is more like the old atomic clock drawn by the anti-nuclear war scientists: It’s Five Minutes to Midnight in America. Our backs are to the wall.
And so Pat sounded the trumpet call: “My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war…And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.” Yes! Yes!
Pat concluded his great address – this man who has been widely accused of “hating immigrants” – by praising the “brave people of Koreatown.” It is instructive that of all the people at both conventions, Pat Buchanan was the only one to mention one of the defining events of our time, certainly of 1992 and beyond: the L.A. riots. Pat talked about how the youthful federal troops, finally arriving after two days of bloody rioting, “took back the streets of Los Angeles, block by block.” And so, Pat proclaimed, “we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.” Yes, yes, yes!
Furthermore, I, along with other paleos, am convinced that the Old Culture, the culture pervading America from the 1920s through the 1950s, yes the culture of the much-derided Ozzie and Harriet and the Waltons, that that culture was in tune not only with the American spirit but with natural law. And further, that the nihilistic, hedonistic, ultra-feminist, egalitarian, “alternative” culture that has been foisted upon us by left-liberalism is not only not in tune with, but deeply violates the essence of that human nature that developed not only in America before the 1960s, but throughout the Western world and Western civilization.
Since I am convinced that left-liberal, and the now dominant, culture is profoundly anti-human nature, I am convinced that removing the poison, as Mel Bradford put it, and getting government out of the picture, would spark a return to natural law and the Old Culture with much greater speed. If it took the intellectual-media political elites twenty-five years to effect their own Cultural Revolution, then we should be able to lead a successful counter-Revolution in much less time.
But to do so, of course, requires identification of the nature of the problem and of the enemy, and then the willingness of leaders to rise up and provide the call to “arms.”