In Revolutionary times, there was Paine’s Common Sense, serialized in all the best newspapers. In the New Deal, there was Mencken’s American Mercury and later the Chicago Tribune. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was Rothbard’s Left & Right, and later The Libertarian Forum. In the late 1980s and 1990s, there was, above all, The Rothbard-Rockwell Report.
Each was born at the beginning of a new era, and led a counterrevolution against the State and its apologists of the moment. Each spoke out ferociously and fearlessly against the powers that be. Each changed history. And when the job was done, the major players moved on.
So it is with RRR, born as the Cold War was ending to lead a new movement into a new era in which anti-statists of all stripes could lock arms against the overriding threat: the DC welfare-warfare state. That apparatus now stands with its credibility seriously eroded. There is still much work to be done, but, as Burt says, we have some exciting ideas on how it can be done even more effectively.
I would like to write an official history of the RRR, because it is the one publication that completely anticipated and even formed the present moment in politics. Barring that, let me give you an outline.
Why it was founded. At the end of the Cold War, three forces conspired to keep the State propped up. First, there was the usual enemy: the left, whose ideological agenda was becoming increasingly insane (see, e.g., environmentalism, state-subsidized transexualism, etc.). They controlled the Democrats. Second, there were the neoconservatives, social democrats in disguise whose love for war and imperialism knew no bounds. They controlled the Republicans. Third, were was the feckless libertarian mainstream, compromised after years of nuzzling with statist elites, unbearably politically correct and morally libertine, and blind to the dangers of US foreign policy.
What it stood for. The RRR stood alone in carving out a new direction entirely, one that saw that the proper turf of the culture was the ideological battle between liberty and government despotism. We rebuked enemies left and right, broke every political taboo, and championed the pure position Rothbard held all his life: against the State and its apologists in all their forms. The RRR was anti-war, anti-welfare, anti-tax, anti-Nafta, anti-gun control, anti-Waco, anti-president, anti-civil rights. The RRR was pro a lot of things too: pro-militia, pro-gun, pro-peace, pro-rebellion, pro-secession, pro-bourgeois, pro-religion, pro-liberty. Unswervingly.
Who hated us. That’s an easy one: the groups we targeted for extinction. Recall that in those days, Norman Podhoretz was considered a leading conservative intellectual, the Cato Institute was backing Nafta, the Libertarian Party was in full-scale meltdown, and Newt Gingrich was the most sought-after speaker on the Republican circuit. We exposed every one of these absurdities, and about ten thousand others, hurling cat after cat into the temple of the pro-government partisans. We were the anti-war, anti-GOP right before it became mainstream to hold these views.
Who loved us. It turned out that the writers and editors of RRR were hardly alone. The masses were ready for full-blown Rothbardianism, which reached an entirely new audience with its natural home among the Christian right, the pro-gun activists, the Southern agrarians and secessionists, the anti-war activists, the home-schoolers, white males generally, and a whole lot of marginalized and alienated taxpayers who rose in revolt against the State during that decade. Nowhere else was this phenomenon so clearly predicted, chronicled, and egged on at every step.
The triumphs. Breaking taboos, and telling the truth, served its purpose. At every point, we shoved all the neocons, the left-libertarians, and even the Republicans toward the true party of liberty. We fomented an internal rebellion within foundations and think tanks, and scared the daylights out of tired old institutions that had become intellectually lazy. We became the authentic voice of the 1994 takeover of Congress, and were also the first to chronicle the betrayal. Leading figures of the conservative movement were discredited, and new intellectuals raised up. The RRR was the paradigm of the age.
The tragedies. The meltdown of Pat Buchanan—from paleo-radical to anti-capitalist Fulanian—was awful to watch. He was our champion before 1992. Then we were forced to become his most severe critic (and the only one he paid attention to). In many ways, his apostasy hurt the structure of the paleo movement, and we saw the formal movement fracture. But no tragedy compares with the shock of Murray Rothbard’s death in January 1995. We had no business continuing after that, but we did because we knew he would want it that way, if only to show that his vision would outlive him.
With the help of the smartest people on the right, the RRR made it all the way into the days of the internet, when we saw the paleo message explode onto computer screens around the world and Rothbardianism permanently archived in a world-wide library. It was phenomenal to behold. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t reflect on our past victories, and think of the promise the future holds. Being a part of the RRR revolution has been one of the graces of my life. I look at our political culture today and see a war between huge social forces that represent the RRR-position and those of an old, dying order.
As we turn our attention to new venues, on the web, in publications, conferences, books, and intellectual entrepreneurship generally, we thank you for your past support, and look forward to our new future together. At last, history is on our side. Murray believed it always was.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., president of the Mises Institute and editor of LewRockwell.com, was for ten years the co-editor and then editor of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, published by the Center for Libertarian Studies. This editorial is taken from its last issue, December 1999.