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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7630/has-john-gray-returned-to-classical-liberalism/

Has John Gray Returned to Classical Liberalism?

January 9, 2008 by

Has John Gray come back? Once a classical liberal admired by Murray Rothbard, Gray many years ago abandoned the defense of the free market. Herbert Spencer, he now claimed, was a precursor of fascism; and Friedrich Hayek, no longer in his view a great thinker, was now just another ideologue. To pin down Gray’s ever-changing views was no easy task. When one did manage to understand him, the result hardly repaid the effort. His latest book, though, is in parts much better.

In Black Mass, he has not repented and returned to the classical liberal fold. But he applies his principal criticism of the free market to a much worthier target: the war policy of the Bush administration, aided and abetted by neoconservative ideologues. FULL ARTICLE

{ 6 comments }

Paul Marks January 9, 2008 at 9:28 am

Anyone who thinks that J.M. Keynes was a “more penetrating thinker” than F.A. Hayek is not worth reading (although, of course, Hayek’s writings have their faults).

“Too harsh on John Gray”.

Not at all. I met John Gray years ago, when he was still claiming to be a Classical Liberal, and it was clear that he was a weak and confused thinker even then.

I do not see what Murry Rothbard saw in Gray. I have often not agreed with the writings of Murry Rothbard (and with your own writings Dr Gordon), but I have never found them either weak or confused. Writings that are weak and confused are a waste of time.

Just because someone opposes the policies of President George Walker Bush does not mean that they are worth reading.

Inquisitor January 9, 2008 at 10:20 am

Another great article by Dr Gordon. At some point I am going to have to devote some time to Strauss.

Lester Hunt January 9, 2008 at 10:59 am

David, Something seems to be wrong with your server. Your FULL ARTICLE link has stopped working. I want to see what you have to say about John!

fundamentalist January 9, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Gordon: “As the neoconservatives saw matters, once American arms dislodged the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqis would joyously set about to establish democracy. Of course, the chief result of our ill-starred intervention has been lethal ethnic and religious warfare, as well as an increase in terrorism.”

I’m not a neo-conservative, but for the sake of accuracy, I think libertarians should be careful with such statements. We all know the problems that too much aggregation of the data can cause in economics, but we should be aware that similar aggregation of history can cause errors as well.

As I remember it, the original reason for invading Iraq did not include democratization. In fact, the military expected to leave Iraq by Christmas 2003. They intended to hand control of the country to a re-organized Iraqi army. Bremer came up with the democratization plan and apparently sold it to Bush. Then Bremer disbanded the Iraqi military and cut the legs from under the US military’s plan.

As for the ethnic/religious warfare that followed, the invasion didn’t cause it, and it was not inevitable. Those of us who paid close attention to developments remember that the first six months in Iraq were relatively quiet. The insurgency consisted of Sunnis devoted to restoring Saddam Hussein, or at least the Baath party, to power, and Al Qaeda. The ethnic warfare did not begin until Al Qaeda in Iraq realized that they were losing the military battle and decided to rescue their cause by starting a civil war. So Al Qaeda began murdering Shia civilians with large bombs, hoping to provoke the Shia militias into attacking Sunnis. But the Shia didn’t respond. They waited for US troops to rein in Al Qaeda. When it became clear that the US couldn’t, or wouldn’t rein in Al Qaeda, the Shia decided to defend themselves.

The chaos after the invasion didn’t come for several months afterwards and was not a result of the invasion, but of thousands of incredibly stupid decisions on the part of Bremer, Bush and Rumsfeld.

Iraqis have the potential for democracy, however thanks to other stupid decisions by Bremer, that may not happen. Bremer insisted on giving Sunnis proportional representation in the government whether they won an elected seat or not. The Sunnis responded by stepping up their combat efforts and obstructing the newly elected government because they realized that they didn’t need to win votes with policy or cooperate with anyone, since they had guaranteed power. The current deadlock in the Iraqi government is a direct result of Bremer’s stupidity.

Lester Hunt January 9, 2008 at 3:18 pm

At last I was able to access the whole article. A very good review, it even inspired me to start reading John Gray once again. … He told me some years ago that my writing style differs from his in that mine involves the “slow buildup.” I think he meant that I aim at thorough analysis and careful argumentation. Those are not John’s style. He’s a Big Picture kind of guy.

Arend January 9, 2008 at 4:20 pm

@ Paul Marks who said “Anyone who thinks (…) is not worth reading (…)” and “Just because someone opposes the policies of President George Walker Bush does not mean that they are worth reading.”

I disagree with you on these point for several reasons.
First, both are subjective statements which cannot claim universal truth. They can be true for you, but not for others or even no other people whatsoever. It has to do with time valuation and taste. Of course this is a rather obvious and silly point.

Second, I think it indeed is valuable to read books that have confused thinking in them. Especially when the author of the book has some respectability among scholarly scenes that are not libertarian and/or have afinity with Austrian economics. Acknowledging and reading the book can be a nice way to promote libertarian and Austrian ideas while debunking the confused thinker’s ideas.

Third, comparing weak and confused writers with strong and clear writers can be the key in becoming a better writer oneself. Anyone should read at least one book of Keynes and even Marx. Just as reading Mises and Hayek and Rothbard themselves can be enlightening, reading Keynes and Marx can be as much or even more enlightening in order to know what the “enemy” is thinking and writing. But maybe Gray isn’t as bad as Keynes and Marx and therefor you could have a point in not reading him.

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