July 12, 2019

rIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING (profanity alert):

The Forgotten Man: On Murray Rothbard, philosophical harbinger of Trump and the alt-right (John Ganz, 12/15/17, The Baffler)

True, Trump may not be a man of ideas, but his presidency and political style were imagined by one man: the libertarian economist and philosopher Murray N. Rothbard, who died in 1995. Not long before his death, Rothbard rejoiced when he saw in the emergence of David Duke and Pat Buchanan, in 1992, his long-held vision for America's right and concluded that what was needed was more of the same:

And so the proper strategy for the right wing must be what we can call "right-wing populism": exciting, dynamic, tough, and confrontational, rousing and inspiring not only the exploited masses, but the often-shell-shocked right-wing intellectual cadre as well. And in this era where the intellectual and media elites are all establishment liberal-conservatives, all in a deep sense one variety or another of social democrat, all bitterly hostile to a genuine Right, we need a dynamic, charismatic leader who has the ability to short-circuit the media elites, and to reach and rouse the masses directly. We need a leadership that can reach the masses and cut through the crippling and distorting hermeneutical fog spread by the media elites.

Despite the eerie accuracy of his vision, Rothbard's name is not widely known.

Despite the eerie accuracy of his vision and his prolific writing on every subject from contemporary cinema to the Federal Reserve system, Rothbard's name is not widely known. It's not likely to be found in bibliography of a contemporary economist's paper, but you will find it scrawled on the seamy underbelly of the web, in the message boards of the alt-right, where fewer voices are more in the air than Rothbard's. One can look at the recent profiles of neo-fascists to find the name Rothbard, and that of his favorite pupil and protégé, Hans Hermann-Hoppe, again and again. In The New Yorker's piece on Mike Enoch, the founder of the "Daily Shoah" podcast, Enoch notes that his path to the alt-right began with reading Rothbard, Ayn Rand, and Ludwig von Mises. When asked how he began to move "so far right," Tony Hovater, the Indiana Nazi from the infamous New York Times profile, "name-drops Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe." Chris Cantwell, the crying Nazi of Vice News notoriety, says he was a "big fan of Murray Rothbard" and then went on to "read Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God that Failed."  Trump backer Peter Thiel's essay, "The Education of a Libertarian," shows the clear influence of Rothbard's apostle Hoppe, who invited Thiel to a conference that also hosted American Renaissance's Jared Taylor and VDARE's Peter Brimelow. For a time before his death, Rothbard had the ear of Pat Buchanan. Paul Gottfried, the erstwhile ally of Richard Spencer, who is sometimes credited with coining the term "alternative right," was a friend and admirer of Rothbard, and he also delivered the Murray N. Rothbard Memorial lectures at the Mises Institute.

Inching more to the mainstream, Andrew Breitbart and Steve Bannon's fusion of libertarianism and populism seems Rothbardian in inspiration. Indeed, Justin Raimondo, Rothbard's disciple and the author of the biography Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard, pronounced in February 2017, "Bannonism is libertarianism." A few days, later Bannon announced his fight for the "deconstruction of the administrative state," a goal that would have garnered Rothbard's enthusiastic applause. Rothbard and Bannon apparently also both share an appreciation for Vladimir Lenin as political sensei, but the latter's familiarity with the Russian revolutionary's ideas might very well have come from the former's writings.

The literature about Rothbard tends to be hagiographic; at times, almost literally so. One biographer, right off the bat, compares him to Saint Augustine and Soren Kierkegaard. Raimondo, sounding like something that might have been written in the nineteenth century about Beethoven or Goethe, is taken by the man's physiognomy: "The high forehead, the nose prominent but finely formed, the half-smile exuding an earnest intelligence." The Mises Institute, named for Rothbard's mentor, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, which served his intellectual home for many years, is almost a personality cult dedicated to the memory of Rothbard the Great; its website is sprinkled with many fond reminiscences of his intellectual and personal virtues. [...]

No matter how abstract the economics he liked were, Rothbard never lost his taste for concrete politics. He was particularly drawn to the first reactions against the early stirrings of civil rights legislation. In 1948, he horrified his fellow Jewish students by leading a meeting of a Students for Thurmond group. He claimed toward the end of his life to have founded the group, but if he did, he did not cop to it in his effusive fan letter to Strom Thurmond's States Rights Democrats in Jackson, Mississippi: "Although a New Yorker born and bred, I was a staunch supporter of the Thurmond movement; a good friend of mine headed the Columbia Students for Thurmond, which I believe was the only such collegiate movement north of the Mason-Dixon line." But he only regretted that Thurmond's movement was too regional, too Southern, saying it was "imperative for the States Rights movement to establish itself on a nation-wide scale" where "[it] could grow into a mighty movement if you have the will and vision. There are millions of Americans throughout the country, Republicans and Democrats, who would flock to your banner."

He did not find himself at home with the New Right rallying around William F. Buckley's National Review.

But it was Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism that provided Rothbard with one of his main political inspirations. In 1954, when Roy Cohn was forced to resign as McCarthy's counsel, Rothbard wrote a speech for Students for America's George Reisman to give at what would be a raucous goodbye fete for Cohn at the Hotel Astor. With McCarthy in attendance, Reisman declaimed Rothbard's words:

There's been only one thing wrong with the famous methods of you or that other great American Senator Joe McCarthy: You have been too kind, too courteous, too considerate, too decent to realize in the fullest sense the viciousness and venom of the left's smear bund that's dedicated to drive every effective anti-communist from public life. The communists and their New Dealer cousins may have their family quarrels at times, but essentially they have been united, united for 21 years in a popular front regime of the left. [...]

The other big idea that Rothbard cooked up during his years at the Volker Fund was to borrow from a particular tradition on the left, one that would've been very familiar from his Bronx boyhood. In a 1961 memo entitled "What Is To Be Done," after Lenin's 1901 pamphlet of the same name, Rothbard outlined a strategy for the movement:

Here we stand, then, a "hard core" of libertarian-individualist "revolutionaries," anxious not only to develop our own understanding of this wonderful system of thought, but also anxious to spread its principles--and its policies--to the rest of society. How do we go about it? I think that here we can learn a great deal from Lenin and the Leninists--not too much, of course--but particularly the idea that the Leninist party is the main, or indeed only, moral principle.

What Rothbard thought the libertarian movement needed to copy from Leninism were professional cadres of dedicated ideologues to organize cells and spread the faith. After an abortive attempt to woo the New Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was almost certainly the vision Rothbard brought to Charles Koch, when he inspired him to found the Cato Institute at the Koch's ski lodge in Vail. Justin Raimondo illustrates the scene vividly: "Over the course of a weekend, in the winter of 1976," Raimondo writes, "Rothbard and the heir to one of the largest family held corporations in the nation talked into the night. As the roaring fire in the elaborate stone fireplace, burned down to flickering embers, Rothbard outlined the need to organize and systematize the burgeoning libertarian movement and bring order out of chaos." [...]

The writing Rockwell produced on behalf of Ron Paul in the 1980s and early 1990s is quite frank in its racism, homophobia, and paranoia about AIDS--part of what Rothbard described as an "Outreach to the Rednecks." By 1990, the Ron Paul newsletters started discussing David Duke in favorable terms. But it was in 1992, after David Duke's failed presidential run, that Rothbard in an article entitled "Right Wing Populism," from the Rockwell-Rothbard Report, fully puts Duke's politics in the context of his earlier articulated "populist short-circuit" strategy. There he encourages emulation of Duke:

It is fascinating that there was nothing in Duke's current program or campaign that could not also be embraced by paleoconservatives or paleo-libertarians: lower taxes, dismantling the bureaucracy, slashing the welfare system, attacking affirmative action and racial set-asides, calling for equal rights for all Americans, including whites: what's wrong with any of that?

Ultimately it was Pat Buchanan who was to be Rothbard's man in 1992.

Rothbard applauded The Bell Curve for destroying "the egalitarian myth" that "has been the major ideological groundwork for the welfare state."

But the clearest expression of Rothbard's racism comes in his review of Charles Murray's and Richard Herrnstein's book The Bell Curve in 1994. As far back as his undergraduate years Rothbard believed that the statistical regularities expressed in bell curves were a load of bulls[**]t: "Well, what is the evidence for this vital assumption around a normal curve? None whatever. It is a purely mystical act of faith." He stayed remarkably consistent in his review of Murray's book: he thought there was entirely too much reliance on boring numbers and evidence, that it doesn't get to the good stuff fast enough: ". . . the Herrnstein-Murray book almost drowns its subject in statistics and qualifications, and it tries to downplay the entire race issue, devoting most of its space to inheritable differences among individuals within each ethnic or racial group." He applauds the book for destroying "the egalitarian myth" that "has been the major ideological groundwork for the welfare state, and, in its racial aspect, for the entire vast, ever expanding civil rights-affirmative action-set aside-quota aspect of the welfare state. The recognition of inheritance and natural inequalities among races as well as among individuals knocks the props out from under the welfare state system." Rothbard continues:

If and when we as populists and libertarians abolish the welfare state in all of its aspects, and property rights and the free market shall be triumphant once more, many individuals and groups will predictably not like the end result. In that case, those ethnic and other groups who might be concentrated in lower-income or less prestigious occupations, guided by their socialistic mentors, will predictably raise the cry that free-market capitalism is evil and "discriminatory" and that therefore collectivism is needed to redress the balance . . . In short; racialist science is properly not an act of aggression or a cover for oppression of one group over another, but, on the contrary, an operation in defense of private property against assaults by aggressors.

Here what Rothbard meant when he talks about non-aggression and self-defense is made plain: the ideological rampart of the post-welfare order against egalitarian attacks would have to be scientifically dressed up racism, defending the "property rights" of the rightful masters, sorted to the top by the ineluctable logic of the market. At this point his appeal to the alt-right shouldn't be much of a mystery.

Justin Raimondo was the gay, ferociously anti-war precursor to Donald Trump (Curt Mills, July 11, 2019, Spectator USA)

Justin Raimondo is dying. It's October 2018 and I am headed to the 'Raimondo Ranch', in Sebastopol, northern California, to visit the home of the founder of Antiwar.com, the cult website that kept the faith in the early days of the net as Bill Clinton mindlessly bombed Yugoslavia, and George W. Bush leveled Iraq. No one cared, of course. And everyone else was wrong.

Raimondo is a legend. The 'ranch' is no paleoconservative plantation. It's a quaint shack with a garden that looks like it's used to grow marijuana, but charmingly probably isn't. The property will go to Yoshi, who Raimondo describes as his boyfriend, though in fact the pair are married. Raimondo wouldn't like such talk: if you want a spouse, get a wife, seems to be his sentiment, but he will bend the knee for those he loves.

Raimondo cuts an ascetic figure: wiry, chain-smoking, dressed punky but plainly. His reputation is the same to friends and enemies: warrior-monk and a[***]hole.

There is no God, Raimondo says. This is it; this is all there is. 'My country's f[***]ed up,' he tells me, through tears. Time is short. [...]

Like a lot of people who encountered him, I am still grappling with what to make of Justin Raimondo. He was a conservative, of sorts, committed at his death to the new Republican party as a vehicle of national salvation. When I asked him if he considered himself an intellectual, not merely a brawler, he answered hesitantly: 'I would say yes.'

As a tween reader of Antiwar and kindred publication The American Conservative, anti-Bush staples, I found meeting Raimondo reminded me of that scene in Almost Famous, when the green reporter protagonist, William Miller encounters underground rock journalist Lester Bangs. Bangs tells Miller: 'It's just a damned shame you missed out on rock 'n' roll. It's over.'

Proto-Trumps are dropping like flies. Raimondo's demise was followed this week by the death of Ross Perot, the anti-Bush populist, whom acolytes Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, remarkably for any viewer with long-term memory, paid moving tribute to on primetime Fox News Tuesday night. Justin Raimondo may be dead, but the sentiment that the country is to the dogs and the wars are very much to blame is alive as it's ever been.

Raimondo's death comes at an inflection point for Trumpism. On the one hand, if Trump leaves office today, he will be the first American president of my lifetime to not push the union into a new war. On the other hand, Trump's been maddeningly sluggish on the promise of the 2016 campaign: we're still in Syria, we're still in Afghanistan, and we've riskily turned up the heat on Iran. Tehran's already 120 degrees in the summer.

Consider Raimondo as a dying optimist - at least on Donald Trump - however. He was also, oddly for a libertine, a culture warrior.

It's common nowadays to wonder what happened to the conservatism that gave us Ike, Reagan and the Bushes that we have been stuck with the open racism of Donald, but the ideological Paleocons/Libertarians always lurked under the movement and periodically popped their heads out: Wallace, Perot, Buchanan, etc.   As much good as W did, his failure to lance the immigration boil, followed by the election of a black man and the threat of a woman president, allowed a disease of the extremities to infect the brain.

Posted by at July 12, 2019 8:26 AM