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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/21216/radio-host-beware-rothbard/

Radio Host: Beware Rothbard!

February 28, 2012 by

Radio host Mark Levin, who positions himself as a conservative, went on a tear last week, in particular going after Murray Rothbard (whose criticisms of Ronald Reagan Levin cannot abide). I’ve responded:


Ryan February 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Read him anyway, and start with this: http://mises.org/daily/1544

Go get ‘em, Tom!!

Dick Fox February 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm


Your response was very disappointing. I anticipated a strong analysis of Levin’s criticism of Rothbard and instead it was a litany of repeating book dust jacket comments. Where were any quotes form Levin being wrong?

Rothbard is one of the best economic historians every, but his comments on Reagan demonstrate someone who is a failure at politics. Rather than seeking to understand that Reagan took more conservative action than any president since Calvin Coolidge, was the only president since FDR to actually reduce the pages of regulations in the congressional record, and created one of the greatest economic recoveries in American History, Rothbard criticized. It is like a team winning a game by 100 points and the guy sitting in the stands criticizing them for not winning by 200. And perhaps the most striking thing about Reagan is that he did all that he did with the leftist Democrats controlling the House for 8 years and the Senate for all but 2 years of his presidency.

I dont’ support Levin, sometimes he is a real jerk, but I was hoping for more from you.

Matthew Swaringen February 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Your response was also disappointing. Having read Rothbard’s criticism of Reagan I’m inclined to think your response to it doesn’t provide answers to the very real problems of his presidency. For a very annoying rhetorical example don’t you love hearing the Democrats bring out Reagan’s push for higher taxes on the rich? Unfortunately he really did say it. He was definitely no Ron Paul.

David Bond February 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I agree with Matthew. I saw a video presentation a while back on CNN by a liberal who was working on a Reagan doc. He was remarking on points I had remembered Rothbard bringing up. The presenter, however, seemed to be allowing fellow liberals to not look too badly on Reagan as a result. That being said, I think Mr. Fox is on to something about tactfulness which we liberty lovers sometimes abandon (though many times righteously) but flies and honey wut.

Marissa February 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm

“took more conservative action” Please define conservative and elaborate.

“reduce[d] the pages of regulations in the congressional record” He added two new cabinets and increased the size and spending of the federal government exponentially.

“created one of the greatest economic recoveries” He created the worst deficit in American history up to that time (Bush and Obama must look back at him with admiration). Also, politicians don’t “create” anything economically.

David Bond February 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm

excellent point Marissa, I would recommend people read ‘Inflated’ by Chris Whalen among others for a cure to the ‘Reaganomics’ myth. Or the Clinton economy myth for that matter.

Dick Fox February 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm


It is easy to criticize someone. But please, name one President since Hoover who was a better president.

Thomas E. Woods February 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Dick, respectfully, I think you are really missing the point. Phinn, below, is 100% correct. Levin’s gripes do not rise to the level of a coherent objection. The point of the video was to show that eminent authorities, respected by conservatives, thought highly of Rothbard without necessarily adopting all his views. Levin, on the other hand, does not even understand Rothbard’s significance, yet he wants to attack and ridicule him in front of conservatives. THAT is the point, and that is what I was addressing.

Dick Fox February 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm


Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I would have had a different reaction if you had said this in your rebutal to Levin. I felt that you criticized him for attacking Rothbard but you never told us what he said that you objected to and you did not respond to what he said.

As I said I have great respect for Rothbard as an economic historian, perhaps the best. I have little respect for Levin.

Dick Fox February 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm

P.S. I seldom listen to Levin so I had no idea what he said.

jmorris84 February 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Tom would have probably interested more people in Rothbard had he made some specific arguments against what Levin had said.

Phinn February 28, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I happened to be driving home late that night, and heard Levin on the radio. Maybe there’s more to it, but Levin’s comments seemed to be limited to, “I know what they’re all about — they’re neo-confederates.”

That went on for 10-20 minutes.

Not exactly deserving of a point-by-point rebuttal.

If there was something more substantive to rebut, I didn’t hear it.

Thomas E. Woods February 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm

See my comment above, and Phinn’s below.

Jonathon Hunt February 29, 2012 at 12:10 am

If anyone cares, I posted this on another site discussing the Levin rant. Half of what Levin said was so ignorant that it was hard to take him seriously, but the only notable points he made I dealt with below.

I believe you are generally on the right track, Mark. Modern day conservatives and libertarians do differ, especially when it comes to social issues. However, conservatism was very much closer to libertarianism back in the glory days of the Old Right. There still existed some differences, but not to the degree that exists by the modern approaches to these philosophies. Anyways, Paul hopes that Santorum gets the nomination. It will explode the GOP into two factions after Santorum inevitably looses the election in 2012; he is undeniably too socially conservative to receive any votes from anyone other than hardcore Republicans. Who’s going to be there to pick up the pieces? The faction that characterizes liberty and applies it consistently; it’s going to be the libertarians.

Test you? Sure will. What would Reagan say about Libertarianism?



REASON: Governor Reagan, you have been quoted in the press as saying that you’re doing a lot of speaking now on behalf of the philosophy of conservatism and libertarianism. Is there a difference between the two?

REAGAN: If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are travelling the same path.


Regardless, what is with your repeated implication that whatever Reagan does is the manifestation of conservatism? Is the biggest budget deficit up until that time “conservative?” Is your “drastic” income tax cuts, that were more than made up by increased Social Security taxes aided by bracket creep, “conservative?” Reagan was a failure by even a conservative standard, especially when it comes to economics.

You’re committing the association fallacy by saying that just because Paul’s mentors were anarchocapitalists, then Paul must be an anarchocapitalist himself. Sorry, Mark but it does not work that way. Paul is not an anarchocapitalist but is a minarchist, which involves the government taking a role known as the “nightwatchman state.” He believes in very limited government; i.e., his views are actually closer to Rothbard’s mentor, Ludwig von Mises. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.



Stossel: What should government do?

Paul: Protect our freedoms. Have a strong national defense. Look at and take care of our borders. Have a sound currency. That was the responsibility of the federal government, not to run our lives and run everything in the economy and extend the interstate-commerce clause and the general-welfare clause to do anything they want to do.

Stossel: So defense, the military, police forces enforce contracts, and that’s about it?

Paul: That’s it. We would have a court system to enforce contracts, and when people do harm to others, when they take property or injure property, or pollute a neighbor’s air, I think there’s a role for government to protect our environment through private-property rights.

Stossel: So keep us safe, enforce contracts, run the courts, pollution rules and otherwise butt out? Leave us alone?

Paul: Basically that, which would mean if I’m elected, I should immediately take a pay cut. You know, because I wouldn’t have so much to do.


For what it’s worth, the funniest part I heard was that Paul was somehow an “establishment” candidate but also a “libertarian anarchist.” You seriously just said, “I love the government and want to use it (establishment)! I also want to get rid of it (anarchist).” Good God, and people like this have their own radio show.

Michael Mahon February 29, 2012 at 1:48 am

I can’t stand Levin when he goes on his anti-libertarian rants, but I’ve got to disagree with Prof. Woods. Levin is coherent if you view him as a truly hateful neo-con and nothing more. They never make much sense with respect to history or economics, only ideology. They often fail to make consistent arguments in a logical sense, but they are consistent in their venomous opposition to classical liberal thought.

John Curran February 29, 2012 at 2:54 am

Quite nice discussion is going on. From above discussion and video it is clear that it quite difficult to agree with Prof. Woods. Because what he is focusing is not in logical manner. Some of the thoughts of Levin are quite opposite to Prof. Woods.

Walt D. February 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Mark Levin and many other talk show hosts do not understand the difference between between the Libertarian and Conservative philosophy.

Bob March 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I wonder why that might be an affliction peculiar to MSM personalities? LOL!

Ohhh Henry February 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Levin makes sense when he’s attacking Democrats for being big-government-loving, constitution-shredding socialists. But of course he changes his tune whenever it is Republicans who are wielding power. In other words, like Limbaugh and Hannity he is nothing more than a partisan hack and probably a paid shill.

The pronouncements of a hack and a hired puppet would not worth considering, except he made the blunder of introducing the arguments of a great opponent. Perhaps the name “Rothbard” was sneaked into his discourse by a young assistant or researcher who does not feel that he or she is being paid enough to toe the Republican party line absolutely, and who was told to surf lewrockwell, mises and ronpaul websites looking for vulnerabilities. If this hypothetical researcher was truly interested in finding chinks in the armor of libertarians (or should say I “libertarians”) then they might have persuaded Levin to concentrate on the wishy-washy positions of Hayek or the pronouncements of modern-day economists who claim to be libertarian in a lukewarm or hypocritical way. Instead they set up Levin against one of the strongest possible anti-government opponents.

For those who haven’t listened to Levin before, I highly recommend getting at least a small dose of his rhetorical style. He has a way of carrying on for a while in an exaggeratedly low, calm voice, until he comes to his punch line and then switches into a hysterical scream. Imagine Adolph Hitler ranting about Obama in a corpulent, nebbish-sounding Brooklyn accent and you will get the idea.

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