January 20, 2014

Why I Love Murray N. Rothbard: One Example

By In C.Jay Engel

In my own quest to ensure that cultural conservatism and traditional values are not seen as antithetical to libertarianism, I am proud to count alongside me the great libertarian Murray Rothbard.  Now, I in no sense want to claim that Rothbard held to a Biblical ethic.  Nor did he consider the same things that we would consider right and wrong, as such.  But (and what a powerful but!), I am pleased to be reminded of how aghast he might have been at the current declaration that libertarianism is not libertarianism unless it is thick.  How pleased we ought to be to discover his annoyance with cultural left-liberalism!

Although we must also make note of the fact that it was Rothbard’s later years in which he most bluntly expressed his cultural preferences and his general dissatisfaction with the cultural liberalism –the libertinism — that had infiltrated the libertarian movement.  It is for this reason that some libertarians who generally appreciate Rothbard also clarify that they are not too enthused with “later Rothbard” who spoke on matters of society and culture.

Well, I for one have found some of my most pleasurable reading experiences in “later Rothbard.”  The fact that so many scholars at the Mises Institute and bloggers for LewRockwell.com also enjoy, and largely agree with, “later Rothbard,” (including Ron Paul –which is some indication why many cultural leftists aren’t too thrilled with him), is both the reason why they are my favorite libertarian sources and also the reason that many others (who lean to the moral left) do not see them in as much a favorable light as I.  Of course, what should we expect?  Any movement that begins to accumulate numbers will eventually lose it’s cultural conservatism.  Cultural rightism is always the minority position.

Nonetheless, Rothbard’s take on society makes for happy reading.  From the Libertarian Forum, June 1977, page 7 comes an article called Racism or Sexism: Which Way?  Here, Rothbard writes:

It is always amusing to see their inner contradictions rise up to smite our strident and vociferous Marxoid left-liberals. Their basic view of the world is that there are the Oppressors, who are, inter alia, “racists” and “sexists”, and there are the Oppressed, the victims of this selfsame racism and sexism. More specifically, the Oppressors are whites (racists)-and-male (sexists), and the Oppressed are blacks-and-females. But what happens when these neat class divisions somehow get crossed and, for example, racially oppressed black males begin to oppress sexually oppressed white females? Which way does our left-liberal turn? If he sides with the females, he will stand accused by his peers of racism; and if he sides with the black males, he will equally stand accused of sexism. It is enough, comrades, to take to drink (if liquor has not been abjured as too bourgeois.)

Historically, of course, “racism” antedates “sexism” in the left- liberal’s catalogue of horrors. Left-liberals, in their long-standinghorror of racism, coupled with their coddling-of-criminalsideology, have long been accustomed to excuse and whimper over criminals, be they muggers, bank robbers, murderers, or whatever. Criminals are never at fault; the fault is always “society’s” (whoever that is), for not providing high enough incomes, unbroken homes, unconditional love, adequate playgrounds, or whatever. Since “society”, in this peculiar usage, includes the victim but excludes the criminal, this means that the criminal is not at all responsiblefor his evil deeds, but that the victim (at least partially) is. From this stems left-liberal coddling of criminals. Now, in contemporary America there is the added fact that a high proportion of street crimes of violence are committed by black males (generally teen-agers). For left-liberals trained at sniffing out “racism”, this adds an extra motive for cooing over the criminals and for denouncing the victims (especially if the victims happen to be white.)

Well, there is not much to add.  But notice the plethora of unacceptable (in the view of our contemporary liberal thought-police) of phrases and arguments!  Oh the glory!  Makes a struggling rightist libertarian happy indeed.

As a related aside, I will also note Rothbard’s use later in this article, of the phrase “Old Culture.”  Perhaps that is a small bit better than cultural conservatism for the very reason that conservatism implies sort of a “status quo” commitment.  Conceivably, cultural “conservative” is not enough.  Ought we aim to “conserve” the New Culture?  The simple thought disturbs the sensible.  I don’t mind being referred to as a cultural conservative, but we must clarify (always, clarify!) what is meant.  Lew Rockwell once said of Rothbard:

on culture, [he was] a man of the Old Republic and the Old World.

That is what I love about Murray N. Rothbard.  He was the chivalrous anarchist.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com