July 6th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

A Passion for Justice - Murray Rothbard and the Hope of our Youth

     "Our elders are always optimistic in their views of the present, pessimistic in their views of the future; youth is pessimistic toward the present and gloriously hopeful for the future. And it is this hope which is the lever of progress - one might say, the only lever of progress."
      - Randolph Bourne
Wrong Capitalism
In an impassioned speech to the leaders of the Cato Institute Murray Rothbard defended the Libertarian movement against those who saw it no more than an intellectual game or were pessimistic about its prospects of offering any substantial message that could have an impact on the political climate: "Holding the victory of liberty as one's primary goal is only likely in those persons whose libertarianism is motivated and molded by a passion for justice: by a realization that statism is unjust, and by a desire to eliminate such glaring injustice as swiftly as possible." That liberty and a "passion for justice" go hand in hand with a knowledge of the injustices of Statism is at the heart of Rothbard's vision. That his belief in the youth of our nation and world was the best hope for liberty is a core principal that guided his mental efforts from beginning to end. His belief in Property Rights and the State as the enemy of those rights was the kernel of his philosophical view of life and liberty.

Rothbard grew up in New York City within a milieu of eccentric left-wing Jewish immigrants: "I had two sets of Communist Party uncles and aunts, on both sides of my family." From his grandmother, father, and mother he gained a deep appreciation of individualism and the need for assimilation with American values and culture. As he states: "A belief in free enterprise is basic with my father, and has remained with me ever since I have formed a political philosophy." Along with Fredrich Hayek he believed that socialism destroys the private individuals incentive and "inevitably leads to a great concentration of power in the government, which leads irretrievably to totalitarianism." He also was a great antagonist of the Old World religious ideologies which had been a part of that ancient regime of power centered in Church and State that had ruled western civilization up to the Age of Liberty.

 The belief that public education was becoming the ruination of youth rather than its liberator grew out of his own fateful experience. After ill-treatment within the public educational system with its inequality and peer pressure conformism his parents decided on a private school. It was here that Rothbard found a new since of liberty, meeting peers of equal intelligence and interests where he was able to "become an indissoluble unit of the class, without, however, losing my individual identity."

One of the key things he learned in school was a deep distrust of statistical analysis: the idea that truth can be inferred from a statistical sampling based on the alleged infallibility of the normal curve, or "bell curve." This is the idea that knowledge of  everything from unemployment to political opinions can be apprehended through a distributed symmetrical bell-shaped curve of population analysis seemed absurd and a falsification to Rothbard. As he says: "What is the evidence for this vital assumption of distribution around a normal curve? None whatever."

Rothbard's avowed antagonism of both militarism and globalist visions of domination and imperialism grew out of his experience of FDR's authoritarian wartime regime. But it was a series of articles by William Fulton in the fifties that awakened Rothbard's deep distrust of the State and its intellectual harbingers for a global internationalism. In a 1951 article, entitled "Rhodes' Wards Hawk Global Scheme in US," subtitled "Peddle Propaganda for 'One World.", Fulton describes this system of education:

""New York, July 20 - American Rhodes scholars, who are spoon-fed doses of internationalism a la mode British imperialism at Oxford University, England, are prominent back home in the affairs of the big foundations doling out funds toward Globalist schemes and one world propaganda. Higher echelon offices in Carnegie, Rockefeller and other privately-endowed foundations are held by Rhodes scholars. This is in keeping with the aims of the late Cecil Rhodes, British empire builder. He left his fortune for the conversion of scholars who would promote his dream of an Anglo-Saxon federation to dominate the world. In this way Rhodes hoped to return the United States to the empire. So far the Rhodes will has underwritten the education and indoctrination of 1,400 Americans at the English university since 1904. The annual output is 32. They have fastened onto key positions in the state department and other governmental agencies, just as Rhodes hoped it would happen. Both-the Carnegie and Rockefeller institutions have contributed heavily toward 'international' studies to further the United Nations and other supra-governmental plans designed at chipping away American sovereignty. They have also financed organizations and students which according to congressional sources, smack of communism, in itself a form of internationalism. The foundations have been the big moneybags for Globalist propaganda through the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, World Peace Foundation, Foreign Policy Association, Council on Foreign Relations, and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Former president for the last-named, it will be recalled, was Alger Hiss, the state department adviser for Roosevelt at the Yalta conference. Hiss is now serving sentence in a federal prison for perjury involving war time espionage for the Russians. Two Carnegie top executives are Rhodes scholars. They are Whitney H. Shepardson, director of the Carnegie Corporation British and Colonies fund, and O. C. Carmichael, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching."

The history of this sordid dream has been well documented in such works as Professor Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope and The Anglo-American Establishment. It was against such dreams of tyranny and domination by the rich elite that Rothbard defined his political and social ideology of political and economic libertarianism. A staunch defender of classical liberalism - as against the left-wing liberalism of his day - with its core belief in economic liberty and a minimalist state structured the main works of his later years.

Ludwig von MisesThe other deep influence on Rothbard's thinking came from his involvement with Ludwig Von Mises, the Austrian economist, whose Human Action centered on the praxeology (the study of human action) as the base of any economic theory. Rothbard felt that along with Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Carl Menger, Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, and Leon Walras that Mises was the only economist of the twentieth-century to speak the plain truth about economics.

I'll take up more on Rothbard in future entries.... The conflict/resolutions between Rothbard/Chomsky forms of libertarian political and economic theory is at the heart of my own inquiry. The need to understand the hidden convergence/divergences within a libertarian socialist and a libertarian capitalist anarchistic vision.