MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Murray Rothbard versus the Progressives

Posted by M. C. on November 3, 2022

If you want to do yourself a favor read some Rothbard.

Not only is social democracy still with us in its many variations, but it has managed to define “our entire respectable political spectrum, from advanced victimology and feminism on the left over to neoconservatism on the right.”4 Make no mistake about it, Rothbard warned, “on all crucial issues, social democrats however they label themselves, stand against liberty and tradition and in favor of statism and Big Government.” Furthermore, social democracy is far more insidious than other forms of statism because it claims “to combine socialism with the appealing virtues of ‘democracy’ and freedom of inquiry.”

https://mises.org/wire/murray-rothbard-versus-progressives-1

Joseph T. Salerno

There has been a radical change in the social and political landscape in this country, and any person who desires the victory of liberty and the defeat of Leviathan must adjust his strategy accordingly. New times require a rethinking of old and possibly obsolete strategies. —Murray N. Rothbard1

Murray Rothbard wrote the above words in 1994, shortly before his untimely passing. They sum up the main theme of a series of brilliant articles that he published in the 1990s calling for a radical readjustment of libertarian strategy to the new political and social realities that had emerged in the aftermath of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In these articles, Rothbard identified both the abstract social philosophy and the concrete political movement that then had emerged as the greatest menace to liberty and society. He also proposed a radical reformulation of the political spectrum and a revised political vocabulary to express the new strategy called for in the altered ideological and political context. 

Before proceeding further, I want to point out that Rothbard’s articles, despite their deep insight and radical implications for libertarian strategy, have been largely overlooked by friend and foe alike for a couple of reasons. First, when he wrote the articles, Rothbard was hard at work on his monumental two-volume treatise on economic thought. Understandably, he wrote the articles quickly as one-off responses to particular events, ideas, and political developments during a period of rapid change, from 1991 to 1994. Rothbard’s new views on strategy were therefore presented as fragments in different articles containing inevitable repetition and overlapping. This obscured the fact that taken together these articles presented a systematic and comprehensive strategy for radical social and political change. Second, the articles appeared in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report a journal of social, political, and cultural commentary. Unfortunately, Triple R’s scintillating polemics and its coverage of an incredibly broad range of topics sometimes diverted the reader from the deep theorizing that informed many of its articles. I confess that I did not appreciate the significance of Rothbard’s articles, and their unity and breadth of vision, until very recently. 

Social Democracy: Identifying the Enemy

After the collapse of communism, and with Nazism and fascism “long dead and buried,”2 Rothbard argued that social democracy was the only remaining statist program, and its advocates were hell bent on making the most of their ideological monopoly. In the “new post-communist world,” Rothbard wrote:

The Enemy of liberty and tradition is now revealed full-blown: social democracy. For social democracy in all of its guises is not only still with us … but now that Stalin and his heirs are out of the way, social democrats are trying to reach for total power.3

Not only is social democracy still with us in its many variations, but it has managed to define “our entire respectable political spectrum, from advanced victimology and feminism on the left over to neoconservatism on the right.”4 Make no mistake about it, Rothbard warned, “on all crucial issues, social democrats however they label themselves, stand against liberty and tradition and in favor of statism and Big Government.” Furthermore, social democracy is far more insidious than other forms of statism because it claims “to combine socialism with the appealing virtues of ‘democracy’ and freedom of inquiry.”5 As shrewd observers of the political scene for a century and a half, social democrats—or left liberals in the American political lexicon—are indeed seriously committed to democracy. As Rothbard explained:

The maintenance of some democratic choice, however illusory, is vital for all varieties of social democrats. They have long realized that a one-party dictatorship can and probably will become cordially hated … and will eventually be overthrown, possibly along with its entire power structure.6

Picking up on the insight of the contemporary political theorist Paul Gottfried, Rothbard noted that the social democrats’ devotion to democracy also serves as a pretext for an attack on those who assert the “absolute” inviolability of the right to free speech and a free press. This assault on free speech, Rothbard presciently pointed out in 1991, 

constitutes an agenda for eventually using the power of the State to restrict or prohibit speech or expression that [neocons and social democrats] hold to be “undemocratic.” This category could and would be indefinitely expanded to include: real or alleged communists, leftists, fascists, neo-Nazis, secessionists, “hate thought” criminals, and eventually … paleo-conservatives and paleo and left-libertarians.7

Progressivism: The Social Philosophy of Social Democracy

See the rest here

Be seeing you

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