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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7494/national-review-and-the-triumph-of-the-new-right/

National Review and the Triumph of the New Right

November 29, 2007 by

Garet Garrett, writes Murray Rothbard, had called the shots: in referring to the triumph of the New Deal and then of American Empire, he had summed up the strategy: “revolution within the form.” The New Right did not bother, would not rouse possible resistance, by directing a frontal assault on the old idols: on the dead Senator Taft, on the Bricker Amendment, or on the old ideals of individualism and liberty. Instead, they ignored some, dropped others, and claimed to come to fulfill the general ideals of individualism in a new and superior “fusion” of liberty and ordered tradition.

How, specifically, was the deed done? For one thing, by hitting us at our most vulnerable point: the blight of anti-Communism. For red-baiting came easily to all of us, even the most libertarian. In the first place, there were the terrible memories of World War II: the way in which the Communist Party had gleefully adopted the mantle of war patriots, of “twentieth-century Americanism,” and had unashamedly smeared all opponents of war as agents of Hitler. FULL ARTICLE


Curt Howland November 29, 2007 at 8:13 am

Wow! Where did you get that death-mask photo of Buckley?

Fundamentalist November 29, 2007 at 10:39 am

The new right is very disappointing. They have been nothing but socialist-lite for decades.

Kent November 29, 2007 at 12:52 pm

“our main problem was our simplistic view of the ideological-political spectrum.”

He got that right! The neo-con Right has become utterly fascist (not even mentioned)
This is a result of loopy, no-regulation, libertarianism allowing corporate takeover of
society, media, banking, and now ruling elite’s field day in removing the middle class via “free trade.”

George P. November 29, 2007 at 7:53 pm

How sad! Rothbard never quite figured out what happened to the Old Right. Actually it is quite simple, conservatives realized that they had no wish to become Lenin’s American “useful idiots” a role libertarians were willing to do then and apparently still willing to do today. Once libertarians fractured the Right, conservatives were forced to make some agonizing choices. They chose to accept democratic socialism domestically in order to fight international socialism, a.k.a communism, abroad. We are witnessing a replay of this dynamic with the campaign of Ron Paul. When he decides to run as an independent-and he will- the Right wing vote will be split guaranteeing a Socialist victory. I am certain after Hillary Clinton becomes President no libertarian including Ron Paul will take responsibility. They will, like Rothbard, wonder out loud what happened and blame others for their lack of purity. Like I said at the begining, How sad?

Anthony November 29, 2007 at 8:09 pm

McCarthyism, applied to libertarians. Novel.

George P November 29, 2007 at 9:00 pm

It may be a hard truth for libertarians to hear but I believe it to be true. My intention was not to offend but to awaken libertarians to an alternate explanation of what actually happened to the Old Right. Rothbard was right that conservatives and libertarians were natural allies having much more in common than either had with Socialists. Yet libertarians chose to ignore those common interests for the sake of pacifism and anarchism values that were not that popular even among libertarians. The consequence of this split was that democratic socialism gained the advantage it still enjoys to this very day. Unless libertarians recognize the consequences of this feud we will never turn back the welfare state. Are libertarians happy with the current state of affairs? In your hiearchy of values which do you treasure most? Laize-faire economics, pacifism, anarchism? Life is about choices. Austrians of all people should understand this.

Parrotocracy November 29, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Hi George P:

Mises wrote time and time again that in the long run there could only be a free market or socialism, not both. The same goes for libertarianism vs. conservatism. Any “fusion” may seem consistent ostensibly. But further investigation reveals massive praxeological paradox. Ron Paul, since he applies a mythic contractual validity to the Constitution, is very representative of this confusion. Can you really be both libertarian and for a republic? For free trade and taxation? No. But we are human and full of paradox.

Just exactly where do you think compromise could be had between your “conservatives” and “libertarians”? So many conservatives are (were) more aligned to democratic socialists than you think. After all, is it not a social democratic mechanism that fuels the No Child Left Behind Act, the Iraq War and many other “conservative” government monsters on the rampage?

Anthony November 29, 2007 at 10:36 pm

I am for radical laissez-faire, foremost, and all that it entails. I will admit to one thing though – I believe Rothbard was mistaken in pursuing alliances with the left.

George P November 29, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Hi Parrotocracy,

I agree on the Misesian point regarding the ultimate incompatibility between socialism and capitalism. I disagree however that this is analogous to the libertarian-conservative schism. First, I was not suggesting a fusion or a middle-of-the road approach comparable to the mixed economy model of democratic socialism. What I was suggesting was cooperation on common interests while agreeing to disagree on outstanding issues. I believe this approach will yield outcomes far more satisfying to both sides than the status quo. I believe both sides agree on the merits of capitalism while there is disagreement on foreign policy and cultural issues. While conservatives have paid a high price for their victory over communism both culturally and in terms of domestic socialism libertarians have fared worse. Have they achieved anything over the last century? Have we achieved any rollback of big government?

Anthony November 29, 2007 at 10:59 pm

I am somewhat inclined to agree with George. Neocons and theocons notwithstanding, conservatives tend to have a better understanding of economics – with some work they might be converted. Socialists may share some libertarian goals, but they desire the most illiberal means of achieving them. Can they really be educated? I am pessimistic.

Parrotocracy November 29, 2007 at 11:35 pm

Hi Anthony:

I still support Ron Paul in spite of the contradictions. Even this is a troublesome alliance, never mind tacking with Fred Thompson or Hillary. Should radical laissez-faire types keep their alliances restricted to philosophical agreements rather than practical? Where is the line to be drawn? Noam Chomsky’s views on foreign relations often get posted on LewRockwell.com. How about dumping earthly alliances with the Republican Party and, instead, form treaties with conservatives like followers of Roger Nisbet? There might be a better chance of lobbying for laissez-faire in a society of many communal entities than in a Federalist Buckley model. Or maybe not. Alliances may need to be formed but the choosing should be done more wisely. Please read The Scorpion and the Frog before signing anything…

Parrotocracy November 30, 2007 at 12:00 am


The problem is that many libertarians cannot allow, in good conscience, compromise on many of the issues. For instance, take the war on communism that you say conservatives won. If Mises was right back in 1920 then the Soviet Union et al was doomed to implode. But the Trumans and Buckleys and every president since Truman supported the mass intervention into the Third World- the place where the real war was fought- and wrought unspeakable carnage. Many of the millions of victims were innocents. Not to mention the totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores that dynamically impoverished Americans and eroded their liberties. How can a libertarian ally with a conservative who supported/supports this kind of thing?

David Bratton November 30, 2007 at 2:22 am


“If Mises was right back in 1920 then the Soviet Union et al was doomed to implode.”

That depends on whether or not the Soviet Union was really socialist.

Parrotocracy November 30, 2007 at 8:06 am

True enough, David. Here is Robert Murphy from his Rothbard Study Guide:

“The extent of socialism is overestimated in formally socialist countries
such as the Soviet Union because of black markets and foreign prices for capital goods,
while it is underestimated in formally capitalist countries such as the United States
because of government lending to business. In the present analysis, a centrally planned
economy can be viewed as a centrally prohibited economy.”

The USSR could not survived as long as it did without its mixed economy (this is too banal and benign of a term). Yet were its own internal contradictions more of a threat to its existence than the USA bloc? And were the USA’s internal issues (including Cold War aspects) more of a threat to America than the USSR? I believe so.

Thanks for the point (and Anthony and George for their fine comments.)

George Gaskell November 30, 2007 at 8:12 am

When he decides to run as an independent-and he will- the Right wing vote will be split guaranteeing a Socialist victory. I am certain after Hillary Clinton becomes President no libertarian including Ron Paul will take responsibility. They will, like Rothbard, wonder out loud what happened and blame others for their lack of purity.

You blame the libertarians for not joining the conservatives?

It is just as easy, I suppose, to blame the conservatives for not joining the libertarians. And more honest.

Curt Howland November 30, 2007 at 8:57 am

“Conservatives” do seem to understand economics better than “Liberals”, but conservatives also tend to be wedded to coercion as a way to correct private behavior that they disagree with.

Of course, the liberals are doing exactly the same thing, they simply have a different list of behaviors that they want to use coercion to correct. The actual lists of behaviors are not very different, which is why two supposedly different political parties are in fact a single “party of coercion” whose memberships and policies are in constant flux back and forth in both membership and policies.

Keep in mind the relish with which a Liberal or Conservative says, “There are no regulations concerning that, we have to do something about that.” How can such a statement EVER be reconciled with freedom?

The simple reason why Libertarians cannot align themselves with either Conservatives or Liberals is that fundamental difference in the use of coercion.

Anthony November 30, 2007 at 10:57 am

I simply wonder if our time isn’t best spent on trying to rectify the views of conservatives whose intuitions are at least somewhat better. I am a right-libertarian, hence my inclination.

George P November 30, 2007 at 12:01 pm


I suppose self-delusion is always possible but if you knew me better you would know dishonesty is not. However, your question although fair misses the point. I am not asking libertarians to abandon their principles and join conservatives; I am asking libertarians to cooperate with conservatives because it is in their(libertarian)idealogical interests. Let me explain further. Consider the conservative value scale this way: 1) Interventionist foreign policy, 2) Intrusive social policy and 3)laissez-faire economic policy-capitalism. Consider the libertarian value scale this way: 1) Pacifist foreign policy, 2)anarchist social policy and 3) capitalist economic policy. Now, clearly conservatives have succeeded in their first objective by giving up on their third objective completely and their second objective only partially. Libertarians on the other hand have failed on all three. Now I ask you, is this outcome satisfactory? Can we do better? Consider a different approach. Suppose libertarians would resist the temptation to actively oppose American wars while they are being fought-something that infuriates conservatives- and instead at the very minimum stop cooperating with socialist pacifist pretenders. Do you really believe that there is such a thing as a socialist pacifist? In any event, such cooperation has not changed American foreign policy it has only raised the cost to both conservatives and libertarians. Conservatives for better or worse judge libertarians by the company they keep. When libertarians lend credence to the venomous, vitriolic and anti-American rhetoric of the likes of Chomsky, they are judged by conservatives as either dupes or worse- as stealth socialists. I believe a more enlightened libertarian approach would be avoid any association with socialists on foreign policy not because they are abandoning their principles but because it is futile-it will not and has not chaged the conservative led foreign policy-and worse it also limits any progress on the lower order value, capitalism. Socialists know this and are playing their hand expertly. By exploiting libertarians and also feminists and enviromentalists they get to check both American foreign and domestic policy. Libertarian cooperation with conservatives would not only lead to progress on capitalism but it would also place libertarians in a position to challenge conservative foreign policy. For instance, although conservatives support an interventionist foreign policy in general it does not mean that we all support every hair-brained intervention that is foisted upon us. A libertarian-conservative rapproachment would lead to laissez-faire domestic economy and a more enlightened less interventionist foreing policy. I ask you again, is this not a preferable outcome to what we have today?

George P November 30, 2007 at 12:23 pm

To Anthony,

I found myself smiling when I read your post. As a conservative I am here trying to “correct” your libertarian views:-)

Parrotocracy November 30, 2007 at 1:24 pm

George P, I appreciate your thoughtful response but I won’t take the bait. Free-market libertarianism needs to separate itself from the semiotics of both conservatism and socialism because they are riveted with statism.

Not all libertarians support a pacifist foreign policy. Many would support creating a private expeditionary force through private donations to, for example, defend the weak and helpless in Darfur, or to hunt down and kill Bin Laden. It is the means libertarians are more concerned with. That is why I find the value scales you set down too narrow. By your scale it would seem that most conservatives would ask “How can we do better with the existing governmental institutions?” instead of asking the libertarian question “Is this institution necessary?” Many libertarians do not believe it is possible to have a progressively conservative Military Industrial Congressional Complex, Federal Reserve or state sanctioned marriage. Conservatives who are looking for conservative results and are willing to use the government for those ends essentially subordinate the free market to state capitalism- a weigh station on the road to what you disparage. In that sense the Socialists and Conservatives agree on much- that the only real fight is over control of the government- for “the only gun in the room”.

Simply put, libertarianism has no contradiction in the means and ends like that. A free market is compatible with the conservative values of family, religion, culture, anti-abortion and secure borders- just without all the a priori violence. That it simultaneously may have liberal ends is true too. But how else is a prosperous peace attainable without barbarism?

George P November 30, 2007 at 3:09 pm


I am afraid by not taking the bait you are evading a little bit. The difference between conservatives and socialists is not semantics. Comparing the conservative attitude towards goverment to the socialist attitude is like comparing a surgeon’s attitude toward a scalpel to that of serial killer. You are right, both socialists and conservatives accept the need for government. But that is where it ends-hardly informative.

To your point regarding my value scales you are correct that they are necessarily an oversimpification of the views of probably both camps but nevertheless the point being made still holds up. Let me put it this way. Conservatives are willing to work with you in eliminating the Federal Reserve, the Education,HHW,Interior,Labor,Transportation,Energy,Agrculture Departments and a plethora of other agencies and your answer is what? The Defense department too?
You mean to tell me that you are willing to live with the bloated government we have rather than the much smaller one cooperation would create?

For heaven’s sake for all our sake take the deal! What do you have to loose?

Parrotocracy November 30, 2007 at 3:58 pm

Hi George,

Government power is too seductive. Conservatives are all talk when it comes to limiting government. There is just too much morality to enforce and taxes to harvest. There would always be just one more crusade or emergency that serves as the excuse to backtrack on their pre-election rhetoric and even increase the government beyond how they found it. And no matter how much a surgeon’s touch is claimed, government can never be anything but a tool for bludgeoning. Can you name me some conservatives who believe as you do?

George P November 30, 2007 at 6:59 pm


No conservative would disagree with you about the dangers of government power. You are making my point when you rightly point out that conservatives have not been able to reduce the size of government. They have however been quite capable of waging the foreign policy they wanted. The Cold War, Afghanistan and Iraq are the latest evidence. In order for conservatives to succeed in reducing the size of government they need libertarian help. That is the point. We as conservatives would have done it otherwise.
Can I name any conservatives who believe as I do? In office, no. At least not publicly, again no surprise. In private life, how about George Will? A small government, social conservative.

I will leave you with one last thought. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Anthony November 30, 2007 at 8:14 pm

‘To Anthony,

I found myself smiling when I read your post. As a conservative I am here trying to “correct” your libertarian views:-)’

I am radically laissez-faire, but I will welcome any alliances with free market conservatives bent on hacking back at Leviathan’s largess.

gene berman December 1, 2007 at 3:00 am

George P.:

I am afraid tyou’re finding out that there’s simply no chance, even remotely, of a “meeting of minds” on the topic.

It’s, as you’ve observed, a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. But, even more, it’s a case similar to that of a well-known literary example of the type. It’s not the first time I’ve made the observation in this forum nor am I, by any means, the first to make it: the idea of an anarchic existence, whether possible or not (and there are good reasons to believe it not) is not peculiar to libertarians but is shared by the doctrinnaire Marxist. First comes the revolution.
Then comes glorious socialism. And, lastly, comes the “withering” of the State, after which men shall live in perfect freedom. It is in this respect alone that Marx’s ideas are clearly to be characterized as “Utopian” and it is in this aspect in which the similar nature of the anarcho-libertarians’ goal is to be seen.

You can’t “prove” either of these “wrong” (and I know of no one ever unconvinced of either merely by argument). Fundamentally, these convictions are almost religious in nature. And, to a degree, that serves to explain why Mises’ brilliant exposition of the impossibility of “economic calculation in the socialist commonwealth” has had negligible intellectual impact even when dramatically demonstrated by history. Those who seek what you’ve called “perfection” believe that “heaven” can be realized on earth, Some will spend their entire lives believing so; others will change their minds–but only on the basis of personal reflection on life experience.

Brainpolice December 1, 2007 at 4:20 am

I cannot help but view conservatives as little more than rhetorical when it comes to limiting government. The objective content of their positions tend to be about as statist as anyone on “the left”. It isn’t just about foreign policy. Conservatives tend to support free markets in rhetoric while supporting economic fascism in fact. And even the paleoconservatives frankly scare me, with their extreme nationalism and protectionism.

Libertarianism, to me, is a paradime of means. Voluntary means. I cannot help but view “left” and “right” as merely rhetorical positions about what ends one seeks and what one’s cultural preferences are. Either of them can be just as evil as the other insofar as they support political means. Either one of them can also be completely compatible with libertarianism insofar as voluntary means are persued. So I do not by the old “libertarians and conservatives are natural allies” line one bit.

fundamentalist December 1, 2007 at 8:37 am

Gene: “…that serves to explain why Mises’ brilliant exposition of the impossibility of “economic calculation in the socialist commonwealth” has had negligible intellectual impact…”

As Schumpeter wrote, no one can defeat an emotional argument with logic. You make some good points.

Parrotocracy December 1, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Hello Gene et al,

Mises’s discovery of the impossibility of economic calculation in a socialist commonwealth favors free market libertarianism completely. It is the only philosophy compatible with Mises’s “neglected” admonishment. To say that libertarian thought is merely an admixture of utopian Kool-aid inevitably to be served at the United States of Jonestown is to engage in sharp projection. Is not your conservatism, no matter how compromising or nuanced, a form of utopian ideation? Every one has an opinion of the ideal.

Free market libertarianism is the least utopian, meaning, the ideal most based on reason and logic (the tools available to man) of all the major philosophical food groups. It provides for the reasonable adjustment between folks who desire disparate ends- without the amount of violence currently permeating today’s society. It is not saying that it will create a new Garden of Eden. In fact, free market libertarianism assumes utopia impossible and that the threat of violence is necessary to maintain order and justice. It is only a goal that hopefully will reign in the hearts and minds of men. Free market libertarianism merely removes a priori the philosophical contradictions between means and ends that lead to injustice in action in a way that today’s “conservatism” does not.

Yet there is an olive branch to extend. Gary North writes: “Nisbet insists that ‘the philosophy of conservatism has been adamant on the sanctity of property’. He quotes Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver to this effect: property and freedom are linked inseparably. In this sense, libertarianism and conservatism share a common assumption.”

Brainpolice December 1, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Yet I would argue that contemporary conservativism does not value the “sanctity” of property rights so much as property titles. Big difference. There is a constant blurring of the distinction between free markets (which do not exist in the present) and the currently existing property titles as well as class arrangements. I largely see conservatives as using the rhetoric of liberty and free markets to defend the status quo as if it were liberty and free markets.

I would concur that libertarianism does not seek “perfection” but optimality. It is not utopian. What is utopian is the belief that the state can legitimately do that which private individuals cannot. Libertarianism is profoundly realist in pointing out the corrupting nature of power and its ill effects. True utopias, in the original meaning of the word, are attempted to be planned. But a libertarian society is not a “planned” society, it is a voluntarist, spontaneous or natural order.

George P December 1, 2007 at 6:24 pm


Frankly, I am not surprised at the resistance. But I believe the discussion is worthwhile because it at the very least opens the up the possibility of greater understanding if not outright cooperation. I have found the same resistance with my conservative friends who view libertarians with suspicion or worse as zealots.

In fact, when I presented my political assessment to conservatives I got pretty much the same response. Most of them focused on all the ways conservatives and libertarians are different, on how the other side is not genuine in their goals, etc.

But the point of the post was political tactics not ideological differences. What I proposed was a way for both sides to get closer to their objectives.

Nevertheless, I will need to reply to what I believe are misconceptions about conservatism particularly the interventions that libertarians find objectionable.

George P December 1, 2007 at 6:44 pm


I must take issue with you on the “fascism” charge. First, I will confess I am a bit sensitive on this one because it the most frequent charge leveled at conservatives by what I have been calling democratic socialists(US Democrats, European Greens, etc)

First, fascism is nothing more than another flavor of socialism a fact most informed conservatives know but apparently most socialists do not. I cannot tell how many times I encountered a blank stare when I informed an American liberal that the official name of the Nazi party was the National Socialist Party.

Fascism was brought to the United States by FDR not by consevatives. In fact conservatives opposed it but failed to prevent it for the reasons I stated in my earlier post. The isolationism of a good part of the old Right allowed FDR to ram thru the New Deal.

These are the bitter fruits of our “dispute.”

Fascism is abhorent to conservatives so please I would ask you not to go there.

George P December 1, 2007 at 7:17 pm


Conservatives agree with libertarians that in the economic sphere of human life non-intervention or laissez-faire as it was called is the proper approach. Where we part company is the social sphere. Conservatives do not accept the proposition of non-interference in this area of life. Given the reality of life today and that coopeation between libertarians and conservatives would result in a regime closer to the libertarian ideal why not cooperate?

Libertarians confuse the accomodations conservatives have had to make to survive the socialist onslaught as closely held beliefs. Yet even the most rudimentary reading of the literature and public statements of conservative politicians would indicate otherwise.

Brainpolice December 1, 2007 at 7:53 pm

“First, fascism is nothing more than another flavor of socialism a fact most informed conservatives know but apparently most socialists do not. I cannot tell how many times I encountered a blank stare when I informed an American liberal that the official name of the Nazi party was the National Socialist Party.”

I agree with this. However, since I do not buy into the idea that only “the left” can be socialists, I have no problem calling conservatives socialists. It’s just a socialism with culturally traditionalist, nationalist and pro-buisiness overtones.

“Fascism was brought to the United States by FDR not by consevatives. In fact conservatives opposed it but failed to prevent it for the reasons I stated in my earlier post. The isolationism of a good part of the old Right allowed FDR to ram thru the New Deal.”

And in the 50′s and 60′s, “conservatives” expanded FDR’s fascism beyond his wildest dreams.

“Fascism is abhorent to conservatives so please I would ask you not to go there.”

I am going to go there because the fact of the matter is that the majority of people who call themselves “conservatives” today support a mixed economy in which the government indirectly controls the means of production and buisiness colludes with state. And they try to call it a “free market”.

I actually tend to think that there are some “leftists” out there who are far more free market oriented than many conservatives. I would go so far as to say that Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (properly interpreted) is more free market oriented than today’s conservatives.

Brainpolice December 1, 2007 at 8:02 pm

“Conservatives agree with libertarians that in the economic sphere of human life non-intervention or laissez-faire as it was called is the proper approach. Where we part company is the social sphere.”

But I reject this premise. Conservatives do not, in terms of the objective content of their political positions, agree with libertarians that laissez-faire is the proper approach. Laissez-faire is to be abandoned in the persuit of particular cultural goals precisely in the name of this “social sphere”.

And I do not believe in the separation between the social and economic sphere. It’s a false dychotomy. As soon as this “social sphere” allows coercion and monopolism, it effects the “economic sphere” as well. The two stand or fall together. Laissez-faire cannot exist if the government can intervene in the name of these social preferences.

“Given the reality of life today and that coopeation between libertarians and conservatives would result in a regime closer to the libertarian ideal why not cooperate?”

To my knowledge, overtly close alliances with conservatives has not lead to a regime closer to the libertarian ideal. Rather, it has effectively hijacked the libertarian movement itself with nationalist, nativist, pro-war and protectionist sentiments in my estimation.

“Libertarians confuse the accomodations conservatives have had to make to survive the socialist onslaught as closely held beliefs.”

Incorrect. The problem has to do with means, not beliefs or ends. It’s that conservatives, in my estimation at least, are often willing to support extremely political means in the name of anti-communism/anti-socialism and their cultural preferences.

“Yet even the most rudimentary reading of the literature and public statements of conservative politicians would indicate otherwise.”

Rhetoric is rhetoric is rhetoric is rhetoric. True, conservatives have rhetorically sounded libertarian for years. This does not mean that their positions are particularly libertarian. Their rhetoric sometimes is. But it’s just a ruse, a dupe.

Geroge P December 1, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Obviously you are free not to accept my characterization of the conservative movement or its goals. Like any movement it is not homogeneous and sometimes some conservatives have not been particularly thoughtful. I will repeat yet again that the actions you see as betrayals were the necessary compromises we had to make in order to sustain our war against communism. I know many libertarians thought then and still think today that communism was going to go away or simply destroy itself without any help from us. Conservatives then in order to overcome libertarian naivete and socialist subversion had to look for allies anywhere they could find them. As I wrote before when conservatives have to choose between national security and laissez-faire they will choose national security. There is no ruse involved here just a different set of priorities.

You may find the exertions conservatives have undertaken against these fanatical movements(facism, communism and now jihadism) as unecessary, distasteful, or indeed excessive.

Frankly, libertarian opposition did not stop the first two wars nor will it stop the current one. What it will accomplish is guarantee the continuation of socialism in United States for another generation. Conservatives do not have enough political capital to take on the myriad of interests which defend the welfare state and still defend the country. This dynamic is now being played out for the third time.

Parrotocracy December 2, 2007 at 12:53 am

What is the difference between ‘conservative compromise in order to fight the wars on fascism, communism and jihadism’ and mercantilist imperialism? Nothing really. Read: flip sides of the same coin.

Brainpolice December 2, 2007 at 3:40 am

Right. The attempt to fight these crusades requires such massive expansions and flexings of government power that we ourselves become the socialists in the name of defeating the socialists. Such endeavors require economic control in order to be carried out, and this is why even if the conservatives do not intent to bring about socialism it results from their own use of political means. Particularly military socialism.

Brainpolice December 2, 2007 at 3:43 am

In other words, you cannot have a laizzes-faire economy at home and an interventionist foreign policy at the same time. They are antagonistic in principle. The interventionist foreign policy requires and begats more economic intervention at home.

George P December 2, 2007 at 9:49 am


That is a slipery slope argument. Any government leads to too much government.I know this is the libertarian thinking but the chain of reasoning that establishes that as a fact does not exist.
Even Rothbard admitted that the praxeology of politics is nowhere near as well developed as that of economics. I suspect when the full rigor of praxeology is applied to politics we will find some libertarian dogma falling by the wayside. In this respect libertarians are better equiped than conservatives – they have praxeology as an established epistemology- most conservatives are not even aware of it. How about some thought experiments? How about some Crusoe Politics? How about if Crusoe and Friday can’t stand each other? What happens when Mohammed arrives on the island and he does not care about trade, all he wants to do is convert the other two to Islam? Frankly, as much as I love this web site, and it has been a gold mine for me, I wonder sometimes if it should be called “Rothbard.com” instead of “Mises.com”. It seems to me that the web site represents Rothbard’s views more than Mises’.

A couple of other points,
Merchantilist Imperialism may be an objective of an interventionist foreign policy but the two are not the same. As far as I can tell the United States has not imposed trade restrictions in Europe, or more recently in Afghanistan and Irag. In fact, in Afganistan it is fighting an opium war in “reverse.” The US is trying to end the poppy cultivation not ensure that the Afghans stay addicted.

The alleged antagonism between an interventionist foreign policy and laissez-faire is a claim libertarians make but it has not been established as a matter of praxeological fact. Again, this goes back to my opening point that libertarians paint with a broad brush. They assert propositions as axiomatic that frankly have not been established as such.

Finally, I am concerned when I read terms like “military socialism” or leftist laissez faire because it indicates to me a difference of definition of basic terms.

If in your political taxonomy you define doctrines according to the degree of government authority they support or require and you use socialism as a benchmark for that assessment than I suppose your use of the terms above make sense. I also concede that to an anarchist’s value scale the only axis that matters is state authority. However, it is confusing to apply that definition to ideological traditions that have their own value scales.

To be fair to socialists- I can’t believe I am writing this- their goal is not a grand state per se but rather equality. They are willing to use various means to achieve that goal which in fact defines the various socialist strains(communism, fascism, and what I have been calling democratic socialism).

Similarly, the libertarian value scale is based on liberty. In one respect, and I know you will find the comparison unflattering, socialists and libertarians take a dogmatic view regarding their values. Both traditions assert that their values trump other consideration or other values.

In the conservative point of view both values are important even though most often we would side with libertarians in that we believe that liberty trumps equality in most situations. In addition conservatives believe there are other values as important to consider.
Of course that is a much longer conversation.

Brainpolice December 2, 2007 at 5:12 pm

Explain to me how you can have a modern warfare state without resorting to more spending, more taxation, more borrowing, more inflation, more bereaucracy, socialist benefits for the soldiers (education, healthcare, etc.), government-buisiness collusion, corporate contradicting, nation building and so on.

The claim that you cannot have a warfare state without economic interventionism at home is not just up in the air without evidence, it is blatantly obvious that this is one of the most expensive and intrusive endeavors a government can persue. Conservatives simply have to face up to the contradictions inherent in their separation between principles in foreign and domestic policy.

“We must tolerate these evils in the present. Once the war is over and the evil (insert here) conspiracy is defeated, we can then scale the government back to laizzes-faire”, says the conservative. But this never occurs. There is always a new “common enemy” to rally against and the cycle repeats itself. An enemy is constantly being purposely seeked out.

Parrotocracy December 2, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Hello George P,

Here is a response to a few issues you brought up.

Even if we use the ideal of Misesian limited government instead of the Rothbardian anarchic model the historical interpretation supports the free market alternative to war: All of the state run wars, every one indeed, had mythic qualities that hid the ambitions of narrow interests. The US involvement in World War I was agitated for by banking, armaments, racial and statist interests on both sides of the Atlantic. Of these entities, which were serving higher conservative values? For the choice of means for fighting this war meant the destruction of conservative civilization at home as well as abroad. Conscription, state control over industry, media and dissent, and other authoritarian beasts were unleashed. The unintended consequences led directly to WWII, which led to the Cold War and the War on Terror etc.

Mises wrote: “History has witnessed the failure of many endeavors to impose peace by war, cooperation by coercion, unanimity by slaughtering dissidents. . . . A lasting order cannot be established by bayonets.”
But this is exactly what today’s “conservatism” is doing, killing so to save.

But in returning to the topic of WWI let’s quote Historian Ralph Raico on the Wilsonian era: “In fact, `democracy’ was already beginning to mean what it means today-of a government legitimized by formal majoritarian processes to dispose at will of the lives, liberty, and property of its subjects”. Militarism, even if rested on noble aims, found its best vehicle yet.

Quite frankly, the slope has been slipped for some great while now. This is the Misesian point: It is not the ends sought being judged, it is the means chosen. It is not merely that the means chosen by “conservatives” are militaristic, it is that the results are necessarily detrimental from the conservative perspective itself. So in essence by defending the so called “conservative” actions of fighting these wars you are really fostering the things you say you are against, like democratic socialism. So much for your “value scale”.

George P December 2, 2007 at 9:07 pm


Actually, more spending, taxing, inflating, etc. is not required. Consider for a moment that the United States spends more on defense than any other country and does it on about 3-4 percent of GDP. Furthermore, the historic trend of defense spending as a percentage of GDP is downward. This mimics what happens in private industry. This suggests that defense spending is being driven by real needs and not rent seeking. On the other hand consider health care or education which are not only keeping up with the economy but are actually becoming a larger piece of the pie – a classic sign of rent seeking and monopolistic behavior. It is hard to see how defense spending rhetorically justifies the Post Office or how it justifies social security and the rest of the federal budget. In this respect you sound like the gun-ban advocates who want to ban all guns for law-abiding citizens simply because some people abuse the freedom. You want to ban government because you object what many people do with it.

A conservative regime would finance defense and law enforcement starting at about 5% to 6% of GDP and rapidly declining after that since a laissez faire economy is bound to grow a heck of a lot faster than the 2%-3% we have been getting.

Finally, a robust defense and a foreign policy of engagement would deter agression leading to fewer wars not more.

George P December 2, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Hello Parrotocracy,

“Mises wrote: ‘History has witnessed the failure of many endeavors to impose peace by war, cooperation by coercion, unanimity by slaughtering dissidents. . . . A lasting order cannot be established by bayonets.’”

I am not sure where Mises wrote that or what the context was so I will only answer to the use you are putting it.

I wish it were true that order does not require force. But that sentiment ignores human nature. The longest period of peace Europe has ever known is called Pax Romana. If I remember my history correctly, 200,000 Roman legionaires policed an empire of millions. Why do you think that was? The Greeks-the most belicose people in the region- had more peace under Roman occupation than they had known in their entire history. In China, warfare was constant until an emperor came along and established it by force.

Time and time again we see that there is no such thing as spantaneous order in human societies. If you still have any doubts about this witness a sports event when a few hoodlums realize the police are not around. What characterizes human societies is not spontaneous order but spontaneous instability. In fact, it is remarkable how quickly human societies come undone.

Parrotocracy December 2, 2007 at 10:33 pm

OK George P.

True, the emperor system, Pax Romana, and the democratic imperialism a la Churchill, that you seem to espouse, all provide certain kinds of order. True, they rest on force and threat of force to a certain degree. But what is more important to recognize is that these systems rely on the public being ideologically in tune, for the most part, with the system. For how else could such a small group of people wield such control over so many? What Mises meant, I gather from elsewhere, is that the more there is an ideological disconnect between the rulers and the ruled, the more force the rulers need to apply, and this extreme minority of masters are no match for the great majority of unwashed over the long haul.

Mises and Rothbard add, although they had disagreements on aspects, is that the free market system provides for a more efficient, productive and peaceful civilization. It is an order that has threat of force- but it recognizes the value of the Division of Labor and competition in a way that all past empires did not. Since entities vying for control (that is what many humans do) are more likely to be in an environment where the opportunity costs and risks for conquest are the highest due to off-setting powers in the market place, and, simultaneously, where the pay-off for cooperation will be the highest, man could actually have a civilization without legal privilege and status. But of course, this form of order, although superior, needs the general nod of the mass of people or it will never come into being or be sustainable.

TLWP Sam December 2, 2007 at 11:24 pm

I think George P makes a good point.

scott t December 3, 2007 at 3:14 am

“a robust defense and a foreign policy of engagement would deter agression leading to fewer wars ”

“In China, warfare was constant until an emperor came along and established it(peace?) by force.”

“The Emperor of China (Chinese: 皇帝; pinyin: Huángdì) refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning since the founding of the Qin Dynasty in —221 BC until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912—.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_of_China
i am not sure what you mean about engagement.

according to info on wiki

“The Han Dynasty was notable also for its military prowess. The empire -expanded westward- (killed lots of people) to the Tarim Basin (in modern Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region), with -military expeditions- (more killing)as far west as beyond the Caspian Sea,…”

“Chinese armies also -invaded and annexed- (killing and stealing) parts of northern Korea (Wiman Joseon) and northern Vietnam toward the end of the 2nd century BC…”

“Continuous insurgence (fed up with dynasties) finally toppled the Qin dynasty (before in 206 BC. The leader of the insurgents was Xiang Yu, an outstanding military commander without political expertise, who divided the country into 19 feudal states to his own satisfaction.”

“The ensuing war among those states signified the 5 years of Chu Han Contention with Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han Dynasty, as the eventual winner.”

maybe the other empororic dynasties were as peacful as a sudoku match – probobly not though.

according to wiki there was enough dissatisfaction with the quin dynasty to generate a continouous han insurgency and voila! a han dynasty and the expansion of it.

“Republicans contribute to the problem with a constant demand to vastly increase military spending, even though at $400 billion per year, the US spends more than six times that of the second largest military power (Russia) and 26 times the combined spending of our most likely adversaries.” http://mises.org/daily/1092

“Robert Higgs has estimated that the true amount spent by the United States on defense during fiscal year 2006 was actually $934 billion. This means that defense-related spending for fiscal year 2008 will actually top $1 trillion for the first time in history, accounting for about one-third of the total federal budget.” an alternative calculation. http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance119.html

i remember calling a buddy, hey, im bored. yeah wanna get high. sure. anybody else? yeah let me call so and so. insta-party!!! whoohoo

George P December 3, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Hello Parrotocracy,

“But what is more important to recognize is that these systems rely on the public being ideologically in tune, for the most part, with the system. For how else could such a small group of people wield such control over so many?”

That observation partially answers the question I asked you earlier. How was it that 200,000 Roman legionaires controlled an empire of tens of millions? Why would a bunch of quarrelsome Greeks except Roman rule? The answer which neither Mises nor Rothbard saw is that human beings instictively desire order. They would prefer the order imposed by a tyrant than the chaos created by anarchy. This is the reason that Greeks preferred one Roman emperor to one hundred Greek kings constantly at war. This is the reason that the Chinese preferred one dynasty to five. What most human beings understand is that anarchy does not bring peace but rather incessant conflict. All human societies operate with and within hierarchy.

There is no such thing as a classless society or a human civilization without some hierarchy of nations. Throughout recorded history human civilization has been dominated by empires. Human societal evolution goes something like this: family, clan, tribe, nation, empire.

This pattern repeats endlessly thru history. When man was small and the world was huge there were many empires. Now we are witnessing a global contest for what will be the first trully global empire. Some have argued that American is that empire but that is not completely true in that there are still challengers. Russia stills has global ambitions and China is rising fast.

An enlightened foreign policy recognizes human proclivities and informed by history shapes action accordingly. This does not mean that this policy need be militaristic but rather assertive in defending American interests while at the same time recognizing the interests of other nations. One aspect of this enlightened policy is that membership in the American “empire” is largelly voluntary. And this is the reason the word is in quotes. Rome conquered, subjugated and taxed nations, America does not. This is not to say that America does not benefit from the commonwealth. Of course, that is another long discussion. The point of this short presentation is that the Rothbardian anarchist view of the world is that – despite its conceit – actually childish in its sophistication.

Parrotocracy December 3, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Hi George P,

Hans Hermann Hoppe states that proper economic investigation can be done without knowledge of history, but that proper historical interpretation must have economic coherence. Therefore, even if the cycle of “family, clan, tribe, nation, empire” were evident one would still have to inquire into the economic coherence of these particular arrangements within their unique time and place contexts. Is it possible that these constantly warring Greek kings did not recognize the value in the Division of Labor? That their ideologies would lead them to constant war?

True the Romans might have come in and checked these kings’ power. But this plays into the libertarian case. Libertarians want to replace vertical control by emperors with the conscious recognition of the value of property rights for all. The horizontal check on power in the free market system is better than the top-down imperial system in every conceivable way. (example: If you fear invasion, the dynamic coordination that the price system offers provides the opportunity for a stronger defense by more efficiently leveraging resources.)

Let’s let Hayek say it: “Even more significant of the inherent weakness of the collectivist theories is the extraordinary paradox that from the assertion that society is in some sense more than merely the aggregate of all individuals their adherents regularly pass by a sort of intellectual somersault to the thesis that in order that the coherence of this larger entity be safeguarded it must be subjected to conscious control, that is, to the control of what in the last resort must be an individual mind. It thus comes about that in practice it is regularly the theoretical collectivist who extols individual reason and demands that all forces of society be made subject to the direction of a single mastermind, while it is the individualist who recognizes the limitations of the powers of individual reason and consequently advocates freedom as a means for the fullest development of the powers of the interindividual process.”

The free market theory of civilization realizes that man lives with hierarchy. Yet it provides more legitimacy to both the process and evaluation of authority. It invests this authority without formal rule. Of course civilizations will have classes and some folks will exercise more influence than others. Surely, there are natural leaders. Do guitar players follow Jimi Hendrix without being dictated to do so? Do people revere Jesus without command?

Hayek again: “The [classical] liberal, of course, does not deny that there are some superior people — he is not an egalitarian — but he denies that anyone has authority to decide who these superior people are.”

gene berman December 4, 2007 at 8:04 am

George P.:

My first quibble is with the statement that humans “instinctively” desire order (and reject anarchic relations).

While it is certainly true that the human mind and thought itself organize input stimuli and, in that sense, can be said to be “instinctive,” it does not follow (logically) that the necessary product–what we call “behavior”–fit some predetermined pattern according to some scale of “orderliness.” I am not formally learned in logic or rhetoric but believe the underlying fallacy to be the one called “begging the question,”–wherein the statement is claimed correct through the expedient of calling it so.
In other words, one can impute “orderliness” to: a.) whatever one prefers; b.) whatever seems, on the basis of experience, to “work best”; c.) to whatever one wants to persuade others of; or, perhaps, d.) merely to whatever one perceives that one cannot change. In yet other words, it is no more “instinctive” for folks to perceive interference in their economic relations (regulation) as “orderly” than it is for others to see such regulations as disruptions in relations already characterized by orderliness.
It may be interesting to speculate on why so many Greeks accepted Roman hegemony and understanding of economics might help in finding an answer BUT the question is primarily not one of economics but of history.

With that in mind, it becomes “supererogatory” (as the ol’ man himself might have put it) to suggest that someone (whether Mises, Rothbard, or both) didn’t “get” it. Rather than being such a rarity, we note similar occurrences (the British conquering India with 1200 men, Pizzaro and Cortez extinguishing, respectively, the Inca and Aztec regimes, Perry “opening” Japan with a couple of ships, the 1947 Jews/Arabs, etc. Each of these has an explanation, of course, but by no means is illustrative of either some underlying principle either economics or of human instinct.
Short form: where there’s nothing to “get,” don’t be surprised that someone doesn’t “get” it.

gene berman December 4, 2007 at 8:42 am

George P.:

I ought to metion here that Mises was, indeed, intimately cognizant of what was known of history
and was, further, very keenly aware of the degree to which general unawareness of economic science had skewed understanding of history not only by ignorami and undereducated laymen but, as well, by the most serious and respected of scholars.

In three ponderous (though interesting) volumes, Gibbon sought to explain one of the most vexing questions of (relatively modern) history: the reason for the decline of Rome. But one can read and reread that work without ever “getting a
clue”–coming away without the slightest idea of what purported to be its basic content and raison de etre. In contrast, Mises explains the event and process clearly and completely in somewhat under three pages! You can find the passage in HUMAN ACTION (pages 767-9 in my copy). Without casting any aspersions or demeaning your own abilities, I’d strongly suggest that, any time you think that you’ve detected one or another inadequacy in Mises analyses of any kind–check
again. In 35 years, I’ve been able to find only one area (monetary reconstruction and restoration of the Gold Standard) in which Mises’ analysis was flawed but, even there, there is sufficient evidence that he well recognized the principle weakness of policies he advocated.

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