Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Anti-Imperialist Heritage by Murray N. Rothbard

Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995) was just one man with a typewriter, but he inspired a world-wide renewal in the scholarship of liberty. During 45 years of research and writing, in 25 books and thousands of articles, he battled every destructive trend in this century: socialism, statism, relativism, and scientism – and awakened a passion for freedom in thousands of scholars, journalists, and activists.
Teaching in New York, Las Vegas, Auburn, and at conferences around the world, Rothbard led the renaissance of the Austrian School of economics. He galvanized an academic and popular fight for liberty and property, against the omnipotent state and its court intellectuals.
Volumes one and two of his magisterial history of economic thought appeared just after his death, published by Edward Elgar. Whereas other texts pretend to an uninterrupted march toward higher levels of truth, Rothbard illuminated a history of unknown geniuses and lost knowledge, of respected charlatans and honored fallacies.
A large collection of Rothbard's best scholarly articles appears later this year in the publisher's "Economists of the Century" series. In addition, there are unpublished manuscripts, articles, and letters to fill many more volumes.
Like his beloved teacher, Ludwig von Mises, Rothbard wrote for the public as well as professionals. "Civilization and human existence are at stake, and to preserve and expand it, high theory and scholarship, though important, are not enough," he wrote in 1993. "Especially in an age of galloping statism, the classical liberal, the advocate of the free market, has an obligation to carry the struggle to all levels of society."
Rothbard's theory was his practice. He was involved in nearly every political and social development of his time, from Robert Taft's presidential campaign to the 1994 elections. His last article, appearing in the Washington Post, warned that Newt Gingrich is more likely to betray the revolution than lead it.
Q: Why, in your view, is isolationism an essential tenet of libertarian foreign policy?
A: The libertarian position, generally, is to minimize State power as much as possible, down to zero, and isolationism is the full expression in foreign affairs of the domestic objective of whittling down State power. In other words, interventionism is the opposite of isolationism, and of course it goes on up to war, as the aggrandizement of State power crosses national boundaries into other States, pushing other people around etc. So this is the foreign counterpart of the domestic aggression against the internal population. I see the two as united.
The responsibility of trying to limit or abolish foreign intervention is avoided by many conservative libertarians in that they are very, very concerned with things like price control – of course I agree with them. They are very, very concerned about eliminating taxes, licensing, and so forth – with which I agree – but somehow when it comes to foreign policy there’s a black out. The libertarian position against the State, the hostility toward expanding government intervention and so forth, goes by the board – all of a sudden you hear those same people who are worried about government intervention in the steel industry cheering every American act of mass murder in Vietnam or bombing or pushing around people all over the world.
This shows, for one thing, that the powers of the State apparatus to bamboozle the public work better in foreign affairs than in domestic. In foreign affairs you still have this mystique that the nation-State is protecting you from a bogeyman on the other side of the mountain. There are "bad" guys out there out trying to conquer the world and "our" guys are in there trying to protect us. So not only is isolationism the logical corollary of libertarianism, which many libertarians don’t put into practice; in addition, as Randolph Bourne says, "war is the health of the State."
The State thrives on war – unless, of course, it is defeated and crushed – expands on it, glories in it. For one thing, when one State attacks another State, it is able through this intellectual bamboozlement of the public to convince them that they must rush to the defense of the State because they think the State is defending them.
In other words, if let’s say, Paraguay and Brazil are going to get into a war, each State – the Paraguayan government and the Brazilian government – is able to convince their own subjects that the other government is out to get them and loot them and murder them in their beds and so forth, so they are able to induce their own hapless subjects to fight against the other State, whereas in actual practice, of course, it is the States that have the quarrel, not the people. The people are outside the quarrels of the State and yet the State is able to generate this patriotic mass war hysteria and to call everybody up to the colors physically and spiritually and economically and therefore, of course, aggrandize State power permanently.
Most conservatives and libertarians are very familiar with – and deplore – the increase in State power in the American government in the last 50 or 70 years, but what they don’t seem to realize is that most of these increases took place in giant leaps during wartime. It was wartime that provided the crisis situation – the spark – which enabled the States to put on so-called "emergency" measures, which of course never got lifted, or rarely got lifted.
Even the war of 1812 – seemingly a harmless little escapade – was evil, and also in the domestic sense, in that it ruined the Jeffersonian Party for a long time to come, it established Federalism which means monopoly State-capitalism in essence, it imposed a central bank, it imposed high tariffs, it imposed domestic federal taxation, which never existed before, internal taxation, and it took a long time to get rid of it, and we never really did get back to the pre-War of 1812 level of minimal State power.
Then, of course, the Mexican war had consequences of slave expansion and so forth. But the Civil War was, of course, much worse – the Civil War was really the great turning point, one of the great turning points in the increase of State power, because with the Civil War you now have the total introduction of things like railroad land grants, subsidies of big business, permanent high tariffs, which the Jacksonians had been able to whittle away before the Civil War, and a total revolution in the monetary system so that the old pure gold standard was replaced first by greenback paper, and then by the National Banking Act – a controlled banking system. And for the first time we had the imposition in the United States of an income tax and federal conscription. The income tax was reluctantly eliminated after the Civil War as was conscription: all the other things – such as high excise taxes – continued on as a permanent accretion of State power over the American public.
The third huge increase of power came out of World War I. World War I set both the foreign and the domestic policies for the twentieth century. Woodrow Wilson set the entire pattern for foreign policy from 1917 to the present. There is a total continuity between Wilson, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson and Nixon – the same thing all the way down the line.
Q: You’d include Kennedy in that?

read full article hereOur Anti-Imperialist Heritage by Murray N. Rothbard

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