Murray Rothbard wrote this essay one week after the November 1994
election. It circulated privately as a Confidential Memo.
In a famous
lyric of a generation ago, Bob Dylan twitted the then-dominant
"bourgeois" culture, "it doesn’t take a weatherman
to know the way the wind blows." Indeed, and the significance
of this phrase today has nothing to do with the group of crazed
Stalinist youth who once called themselves "the Weathermen."
The phrase, in fact, is all too relevant to the present day.
this: you don’t have to have to be a certified media pundit to
understand the meaning of the glorious election of November 1994.
In fact, it almost seems a requirement for a clear understanding
of this election not to be a certified pundit. It certainly helps
not to be a member of Clinton’s cadre of professional spinners
was not a repudiation of "incumbents." Not when not
a single Republican incumbent lost in any Congressional, Senate,
or gubernatorial seat. The election was manifestly not simply
"anti-Congress," as George Stephanopoulos said. Many
governorships and state legislatures experienced upheavals as
well. The elections were not an expression of public anger that
President Clinton’s beloved goals were not being met fast enough
by Congress, as Clinton himself claimed. All too many of his goals
(in housing, labor, banking, and foreign policy, for example)
were being realized through regulatory edict.
No, the meaning
of the truly revolutionary election of 1994 is clear to anyone
who has eyes to see and is willing to use them: it was a massive
and unprecedented public repudiation of President Clinton, his
person, his personnel, his ideologies and programs, and all of
his works; plus a repudiation of Clinton’s Democrat Party; and,
most fundamentally, a rejection of the designs, current and proposed,
of the Leviathan he heads.
the uprising of anti-Democrat and anti-Washington, D.C., sentiment
throughout the country during 1994 found its expression at the
polls in November in the only way feasible in the social context
of a mass democracy: by a sweeping and unprecedented electoral
revolution repudiating Democrats and electing Republicans. It
was an event at least as significant for our future as those of
1985–1988 in the former Soviet Union and its satellites,
which in retrospect revealed the internal crumbling of an empire.
But if the
popular revolution constitutes a repudiation of Clinton and Clintonism,
what is the ideology being repudiated, and what principles are
should be clear that what is being rejected is big government
in general (its taxing, mandating, regulating, gun grabbing, and
even its spending) and, in particular, its arrogant ambition to
control the entire society from the political center. Voters and
taxpayers are no longer persuaded of a supposed rationale for
American-style central planning.
On the positive
side, the public is vigorously and fervently affirming its desire
to re-limit and de-centralize government; to increase individual
and community liberty; to reduce taxes, mandates, and government
intrusion; to return to the cultural and social mores of pre-1960s
America, and perhaps much earlier than that.
greet the November results with unalloyed joy? Partly, the answer
is a matter of personal temperament, but there are guidelines
that emerge from a realistic analysis of this new and exciting
In the first
place, conservatives and libertarians should be joyful at the
intense and widespread revolutionary sentiment throughout the
country, ranging from small but numerous grassroots outfits usually
to moderate professionals and academics. The repudiation of the
Democrats at the polls and the rapid translation of general popular
sentiment into electoral action is indeed a cause for celebration.
are great problems and resistances ahead. It is vital that we
prepare for them and be able to deal with them. Rolling back statism
is not going to be easy. The Marxists used to point out, from
long study of historical experience, that no ruling elite in history
has ever voluntarily surrendered its power; or, more correctly,
that a ruling elite has only been toppled when large sectors of
that elite, for whatever reasons, have given up and decided that
the system should be abandoned.
We need to
study the lessons of the most recent collapse of a ruling elite
and its monstrous statist system, the Soviet Union and its satellite
Communist states. There is both good news and at least cautionary
bad news in the history of this collapse and of its continuing
aftermath. The overwhelmingly good news, of course, is the crumbling
of the collectivist U.S.S.R., even though buttressed by systemic
terror and mass murder.
the Soviet Union imploded because it had lost the support, not
only of the general public, but even of large sectors of the ruling
elites themselves. The loss of support came, first, in the general
loss of moral legitimacy, and of faith in Marxism, and then, out
of recognition that the system wasn’t working economically, even
for much of the ruling Communist Party itself.
The bad news,
while scarcely offsetting the good, came from the way in which
the transition from Communism to freedom and free markets was
bungled. Essentially there were two grave and interconnected errors.
First, the reformers didn’t move fast enough, worrying about social
disruption, and not realizing that the faster the shift toward
freedom and private ownership took place, the less would be the
disturbances of the transition and the sooner economic and social
recovery would take place.
attempting to be congenial statesmen, as opposed to counter-revolutionaries,
the reformers not only failed to punish the Communist rulers with,
at the least, the loss of their livelihoods, they left them in
place, insuring that the ruling "ex"-Communist elite
would be able to resist fundamental change.
words, except for the Czech Republic, where feisty free-market
economist and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus was able to drive through
rapid change to a genuine free market, and, to some extent, in
the Baltic states, the reformers were too nice, too eager for
"reconciliation," too slow and cautious. The result
was quasi-disastrous: for everyone gave lip-service to the rhetoric
of free markets and privatization, while in reality, as in Russia,
prices were decontrolled while industry remained in monopoly government
Soviet economist and Mises Institute senior fellow Yuri Maltsev
first pointed out, it was as if the U.S. Post Office maintained
its postal monopoly, while suddenly being allowed to charge $2
for a first-class stamp: the result would be impoverishment for
the public, and more money into the coffers of the State. This
is the reverse of a shift to free markets and private property.
when privatization finally did take place in Russia, too much
of it was "privatization" into the hands of the old
elites, which meant a system more like Communist rule flavored
by "private" gangsterism, than any sort of free market.
But, crucially, free markets and private enterprise took the blame
among the bewildered Russian public.
problem facing the new American Revolution is all too similar:
that, while using the inspiring rhetoric of freedom, tax-cuts,
decentralization, individualism, and a rollback to small government,
the Republican Party elites will be performing deeds in precisely
the opposite direction. In that way, the fair rhetoric of freedom
and small government will be used, to powerful and potentially
disastrous effect, as a cover for cementing big government in
place, and even for advancing us in the direction of collectivism.
betrayal was the precise meaning and function of the Reagan administration.
So effective was Ronald Reagan as a rhetorician, though not a
practitioner, of freedom and small government, that, to this day,
most conservatives have still not cottoned on to the scam of the
For the "Reagan
Revolution" was precisely a taking of the revolutionary,
free-market, and small government spirit of the 1970s, and the
other anti-government vote of 1980, and turning it into its opposite,
without the public or even the activists of that revolution realizing
what was going on.
It was only
the advent of George Bush, who continued the trend toward collectivism
while virtually abandoning the Reaganite rhetoric, that finally
awakened the conservative public. (Whether Ronald Reagan himself
was aware of his role, or went along with it, is a matter for
future biographers, and is irrelevant to the objective reality
of what actually happened.)
Are we merely
being "cynical" (the latest self-serving Clintonian
term), or only basing our cautionary warnings on one historical
episode? No, we are simply looking at the activity and function
of the Republican elites since World War II.
War II, and especially since the 1950s, the function of the Republican
Party has been to be the "loyal," "moderate,"
"bi-partisan," pseudo-opposition to the collectivist
and leftist program of the Democratic Party. Unlike the more apocalyptic
and impatient Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks (or social democrats,
or corporate liberals, or "responsible" liberals, or
"responsible" conservatives, or neo-conservatives –
the labels change, but the reality remains the same) try to preserve
an illusion of free choice for the American public, including
a two-party system, and at least marginal freedom of speech and
of these "responsible" or "enlightened" moderates
has been to participate in the march to statism, while replacing
the older American ideals of free markets, private property, and
limited government with cloudy and noisy rhetoric about the glories
of "democracy," as opposed to the one-party dictatorship
of the Soviet Union.
is so much the supposed overriding virtue that advancing "democracy"
throughout the globe is now the sole justification for the "moderate,"
"bi-partisan," Republicrat policy of global intervention,
foreign aid, and trade mercantilism. Indeed, now that the collapse
of the Soviet Union has eliminated the specter of a Soviet threat,
what other excuse for such a policy remains?
is familiar with the bi-partisan, monopoly-cartel foreign policy
that has been dominant since World War II, again pursued under
various excuses (the Soviet threat, reconstruction of Europe,
"helping" the Third World, "free-trade," the
global economy, "global democracy," and always an inchoate
but pervasive fear of a "return to isolationism"), Americans
are less familiar with the fact that the dominant Republican policy
during this entire era has been bi-partisan in domestic affairs
If we look
at the actual record and not the rhetoric, we will find that the
function of the Democrat administrations (especially Roosevelt,
Truman, and Johnson), has been to advance the march to collectivism
by Great Leaps Forward, and in the name of "liberalism";
while the function of the Republicans has been, in the name of
opposition or small government or "conservatism," to
fail to roll back any of these "social gains," and indeed,
to engage in more big-government collectivizing of their own (especially
Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush). Indeed, it is arguable that
Nixon did even more to advance big government than his earthy
with maintaining a farcical two-party system, and especially why
bother with small-government rhetoric for the Republicans? In
the first place, the maintenance of some democratic choice, however
illusory, is vital for all varieties of social democrats. They
have long realized that a one-party dictatorship can and probably
will become cordially hated, for its real or perceived failures,
and will eventually be overthrown, possibly along with its entire
two parties means, on the other hand, that the public, growing
weary of the evils of Democrat rule, can turn to out-of-power
Republicans. And then, when they weary of the Republican alternative,
they can turn once again to the eager Democrats waiting in the
wings. And so, the ruling elites maintain a shell game, while
the American public constitute the suckers, or the "marks"
for the ruling con-artists.
nature of the Republican ruling elite was revealed when Barry
Goldwater won the Republican nomination for President in 1964.
Goldwater, or the ideologues and rank-and-file of his conservative
movement, were, or at least seemed to be, genuinely radical, small
government, and anti-Establishment, at least on domestic policy.
The Goldwater nomination scared the Republican elites to such
an extent that, led by Nelson Rockefeller, they openly supported
Johnson for president.
to the elites came from the fact that the "moderates,"
using their domination of the media, finance, and big corporations,
had been able to control the delegates at every Republican presidential
convention since 1940, often in defiance of the manifest will
of the rank-and-file (e.g., Willkie over Taft in 1940, Dewey over
Taft in 1944, Dewey over Bricker in 1948, Eisenhower over Taft
in 1952). Such was their power that they did not, as usually happens
with open party traitors, lose all their influence in the Republican
It was the
specter of the stunning loss of Goldwater that probably accounts
for the eagerness of Ronald Reagan or his conservative movement,
upon securing the nomination in 1980, to agree to what looks very
much like a rigged deal (or what John Randolph of Roanoke once
famously called a "corrupt bargain").
was this: the Republican elites would support their party’s presidential
choice, and guarantee the Reaganauts the trappings and perquisites
of power, in return for Reaganaut agreement not to try seriously
to roll back the Leviathan State against which they had so effectively
campaigned. And after 12 years of enjoyment of power and its perquisites
in the executive branch, the Official Conservative movement seemed
to forget whatever principles it had.
So is our
message unrelieved gloom? Is everything hopeless, are we all in
the ineradicable grip of the ruling elite, and should we all just
go home and forget the whole thing? Certainly not. Apart from
the immorality of giving up, we have so far not mentioned the
truly optimistic side of this equation. We can begin this way:
even given the necessity of the elite maintaining two parties,
why do they even have to indulge in radical rightist, small-government
the disjunction between rhetoric and reality can become embarrassing,
even aggravating, and can eventually lose the elites the support
of the party rank-and-file, as well as the general public. So
why indulge in the rhetoric at all? Goldwater supporter Phyllis
Schlafly famously called for a "choice, not an echo";
but why does the Establishment allow radical choices, even in
is that large sections of the public opposed the New Deal, as
well as each of the advances to collectivism since then. The rhetoric
is not empty for much of the public, and certainly not for most
of the activists of the Republican Party. They seriously believe
the anti–big-government ideology. Similarly, much of the
rank-and-file, and certainly the activist Democrats, are more
openly, more eagerly, collectivist than the Democrat elite, or
the Demopublican elite, would desire.
since government interventionism doesn’t work, since it is despotic,
counter-productive, and destructive of the interests of the mass
of the people, advancing collectivism will generate an increasingly
hostile reaction among the public, what the media elites sneer
at as a "backlash."
collectivist, social democratic rule destroys the prosperity,
the freedom, and the cultural, social, and ethical principles
and practices of the mass of the American people, working and
middle classes alike. Rule by the statist elite is not benign
or simply a matter of who happens to be in office: it is rule
by a growing army of leeches and parasites battening off the income
and wealth of hard-working Americans, destroying their property,
corrupting their customs and institutions, sneering at their religion.
result must be what happens whenever parasites multiply at the
expense of a host: at first gradual descent into ruin, and then
finally collapse. (And therefore, if anyone cares, destruction
of the parasites themselves.)
ruling elite lives chronically in what the Marxists would call
an "inner contradiction": it thrives by imposing increasing
misery and impoverishment upon the great majority of the American
elite, even while ever increasing, has to comprise a minority
of the population, otherwise the entire system would collapse
very quickly. But the elite is ruling over, and demolishing, the
very people, the very majority, who are supposed to keep these
destructive elites perpetually in power by periodic exercise of
their much-lauded "democratic" franchise. How do the
elites get away with this, year after year, decade after decade,
without suffering severe retribution at the polls?
means of establishing and maintaining this domination is by co-opting,
by bringing within the ruling elite, the opinion-moulding classes
in society. These opinion-moulders are the professional shapers
of opinion: theorists, academics, journalists and other media
movers and shakers, script writers and directors, writers, pundits,
think-tankers, consultants, agitators, and social therapists.
There are two essential roles for these assorted and proliferating
technocrats and intellectuals: to weave apologies for the statist
regime, and to help staff the interventionist bureaucracy and
to plan the system.
to any social or political movement are money, numbers, and ideas.
The opinion-moulding classes, the technocrats and intellectuals
supply the ideas, the propaganda, and the personnel to staff the
new statist dispensation. The critical funding is supplied by
figures in the power elite: various members of the wealthy or
big business (usually corporate) classes. The very name "Rockefeller
Republican" reflects this basic reality.
leaders and firms can be highly productive servants of consumers
in a free-market economy, they are also, all too often, seekers
after subsidies, contracts, privileges, or cartels furnished by
big government. Often, too, business lobbyists and leaders are
the sparkplugs for the statist, interventionist system.
businessmen get out of this unholy coalition on behalf of the
super-state are subsidies and privileges from big government.
What do intellectuals and opinion-moulders get out of it? An increasing
number of cushy jobs in the bureaucracy, or in the government-subsidized
sector, staffing the welfare-regulatory state, and apologizing
for its policies, as well as propagandizing for them among the
public. To put it bluntly, intellectuals, theorists, pundits,
media elites, etc. get to live a life which they could not attain
on the free market, but which they can gain at taxpayer expense
– along with the social prestige that goes with the munificent
grants and salaries.
is not to deny that the intellectuals, therapists, media folk,
et al., may be "sincere" ideologues and believers
in the glorious coming age of egalitarian collectivism. Many of
them are driven by the ancient Christian heresy, updated to secularist
and New Age versions, of themselves as a cadre of Saints imposing
upon the country and the world a communistic Kingdom of God on
It is, in
any event, difficult for an outsider to pronounce conclusively
on anyone else’s motivations. But it still cannot be a coincidence
that the ideology of Left-liberal intellectuals coincides with
their own vested economic interest in the money, jobs, and power
that burgeoning collectivism brings them. In any case, any movement
that so closely blends ideology and an economic interest in looting
the public provides a powerful motivation indeed.
pro-state coalition consists of those who receive, or expect to
receive, government checks and privileges. So far, we have pinpointed
big business, intellectuals, technocrats, and the bureaucracy.
But numbers, voters, are needed as well, and in the burgeoning
and expanding state of today, the above groups are supplemented
by other more numerous favored recipients of government largess:
welfare clients and, especially in the last several decades, members
of various minority social groups who are defined by the elites
as being among the "victims" and the "oppressed."
As more and
more of the "oppressed" are discovered or invented by
the Left, ever more of them receive subsidies, favorable regulations,
and other badges of "victimhood" from the government.
And as the "oppressed" expand in ever-widening circles,
be they blacks, women, Hispanics, American Indians, the disabled,
and on and on ad infinitum, the voting power of the Left
is ever expanded, again at the expense of the American majority.
the growing number of receivers of government largess, the opinion-moulding
elites must continue to perform their essential task of convincing
or soft-soaping the oppressed majority into not realizing what
is going on. The majority must be kept contented, and quiescent.
Through control of the media, especially the national, "respectable"
and respected media, the rulers attempt to persuade the deluded
majority that all is well, that any voice except the "moderate"
and "respectable" wings of both parties are dangerous
"extremists" and loonies who must be shunned at all
elite and the media try their best to keep the country’s tack
on a "moderate . . . vital center" – the "center,"
of course, drifting neatly leftward decade after decade. "Extremes"
of both Right and Left should be shunned, in the view of the Establishment.
Its attitudes toward both extremes, however, are very different.
are reviled as crazed or evil reactionaries who want to go beyond
the acceptable task of merely slowing down collectivist change.
Instead, they actually want to "turn back the clock of history"
and repeal or abolish big government. The Left, on the other hand,
are more gently criticized as impatient and too radical, and who
therefore would go too far too fast and provoke a dangerous counter-reaction
from the ever-dangerous Right. The Left, in other words, is in
danger of giving the show away.
going smoothly for the vital center until the election of 1992.
America was going through one of its periodic revulsions from
the party in power, Bush was increasingly disliked, and the power
elite, from the Rockefellers and Wall Street to the neo-conservative
pundits who infest our press and our TV screens, decided that
it was time for another change. They engaged in a blistering propaganda
campaign against Bush for his tax increases (the same people ignored
Reagan’s tax increases) and excoriated him for selling out the
voters’ mandate for smaller government (at a Heritage Foundation
event just before the election, for example, an employee carried
a realistic and bloodied head of Bush around on a platter).
crucially, the elites assured the rest of us that Bill Clinton
was an acceptable Moderate, a "New Democrat," at worst
a centrist who would only supply a nuanced difference from the
centrist Republican Bush, and, at best, a person whom Washington
and New York moderates and conservatives and Wall Street could
But the ruling
elite, whether Right- or Left-tinged, is neither omnipotent nor
omniscient – they goof just like the rest of us. Instead
of a moderate leftist, they got a driven, almost fanatical leftist
administration, propelled by the president’s almost maniacal energy,
and the arrogant and self-righteous Hillary’s scary blend of Hard
Left ideology and implacable drive for power.
and all-encompassing Clintonian shift leftward upset the Establishment’s
applecart. The sudden Hard Left move, blended with an unprecedented
nationwide reaction of loathing for Clinton’s persona and character,
opened up a gap in the center, and provoked an intense and widespread
public detestation of Clinton and of big government generally.
had been tipped over, and had had enough; it was fed up. An old
friend reminds me that the Republicans could well have campaigned
on the simple but highly effective slogan of their last great
party victory of 1946: "Had Enough? Vote Republican!"
In short, the right-wing populist, semi-libertarian, anti-big
government revolution had been fully launched.
What is the
ruling elite to do now? It has a difficult task on its hands –
a task which those genuinely devoted to the free market must be
sure to make impossible.
elite must do the following. First, it must make sure that, whatever
their rhetoric, the Republican leadership in Congress (and its
eventual presidential nominee) keep matters nicely centrist and
"moderate," and, however they dress it up, maintain
and even advance the big-government program.
least for the next two years, they must see to it that Clinton
swings back to his earlier New Democrat trappings, and drops his
Hard Left program. In this way, the newly triumphant centrists
of both parties could engage once again in cozy collaboration,
and the financial and media elites could sink back comfortably
into their familiar smooth-sailing, steadily advancing collectivistic
It is no
accident that both of these courses of action imply the thwarting
of democracy and democratic choice. There is no doubt that the
Democratic Party base – leftists, minorities, teacher unions,
etc. – as well the party militants and activists, are clamoring
for the continuation and even acceleration of Clinton’s Hard Left
On the other
hand, the popular will, as expressed in the sweep of 1994, by
the middle and working class majority, and certainly by the militants
and activists of the Republican Party, is in favor of rolling
back and toppling big government and the welfare state. Not only
that, they are fed up, angry, and determined to do so: that is,
they are in a revolutionary mood.
noticed how the social democratic elites, though eternally yammering
about the vital importance of "democracy," American
and global, quickly turn sour on a democratic choice whenever
it is something they don’t like? How quick they then are to thwart
the democratic will, by media smears, calumny and outright coercive
ruling elite lives by fleecing and dominating the ruled, their
economic interests must always be in opposition. But the fascinating
feature of the American scene in recent decades has been the unprecedented
conflict, the fundamental clash, between the ruling liberal/intellectual/business/bureaucratic
elites on the one hand, and the mass of Americans on the other.
The conflict is not just on taxes and subsidies, but across the
board socially, culturally, morally, aesthetically, religiously.
In a penetrating
article in the December 1994 Harper’s, the late sociologist
Christopher Lasch, presaging his imminent book, The
Revolt of the Elites, points out how the American elites
have been in fundamental revolt against virtually all the basic
American values, customs, and traditions. Increasing realization
of this clash by the American grass roots has fueled and accelerated
the right-wing populist revolution, a revolution not only against
Washington rule, taxes, and controls, but also against the entire
panoply of attitudes and mores that the elite are trying to foist
upon the recalcitrant American public. The public has finally
caught on and is rising up angry.
187: A Case Study
Proposition 187 provides a fascinating case study of the vital
rift between the intellectual, business, and media elites, and
the general public. There is the massive funding and propaganda
the elites are willing to expend to thwart the desires of the
people; the mobilizing of support by "oppressed" minorities;
and finally, when all else fails, the willingness to wheel in
the instruments of anti-democratic coercion to block, permanently
if possible, the manifest will of the great majority of the American
people. In short, "democracy" in action!
years, a flood of immigrants, largely illegal, has been inundating
California, some from Asia but mainly from Mexico and other Latin
American countries. These immigrants have dominated and transformed
much of the culture, proving unassimilable and swamping tax-supported
facilities such as medical care, the welfare rolls, and the public
schools. In consequence, former immigration official Harold Ezell
helped frame a ballot initiative, Prop. 187, which simply called
for the abolition of all taxpayer funding for illegal immigrants
provided a clear-cut choice, an up-or-down referendum on the total
abolition of a welfare program for an entire class of people who
also happen to be lawbreakers. If we are right in our assessment
of the electorate, such an initiative should gain the support
of not only every conservative and libertarian, but of every sane
American. Surely, illegals shouldn’t be able to leach off the
Prop. 187 spread like wildfire, it got signatures galore, and
it quickly spurted to a 2:1 lead in the polls, although its organized
supporters were only a network of small, grass-roots groups that
no one had ever heard of. But every single one of the prominent,
massively funded elite groups not only opposed Prop. 187, but
also smeared it unmercifully.
included big media, big business, big unions, organized teachers,
organized medicine, organized hospitals, social workers (the latter
four groups of course benefitting from taxpayer funds channeled
to them via the welfare-medical-public school support system),
intellectuals, writers, academics, leftists, neo-conservatives,
etc. They denounced Prop. 187 grass-roots proponents as nativists,
fascists, racists, xenophobes, Nazis, you name it, and even accused
them of advocating poverty, starvation, and typhoid fever.
this richly-funded campaign of hysteria and smear was the entire
official libertarian (or Left-libertarian) movement, including
virtually every "free-market" and "libertarian"
think tank except the Mises Institute. The Libertarian Party of
California weighed in too, taking the remarkable step of fiercely
opposing a popular measure that would eliminate taxpayer funding
of illegals, and implausibly promising that if enough illegals
came here, they would eventually rise up and slash the welfare
libertarian Orange County Register bitterly denounced Prop.
187 day after day, and vilified Orange County Republican Congressman
Dana Rohrabacher, who had long been close to the Register
and the libertarian movement, for favoring Prop. 187. These editorials
provoked an unprecedented number of angry letters from the tax-paying
part, the neo-conservative and official libertarian think tanks
joined the elite condemnation of Prop. 187. Working closely with
Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute, Cesar Conda of the Alexis
de Tocqueville Institution circulated a statement against the
measure that was signed by individuals at the Heritage Foundation,
the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the
Reason Foundation, and even the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Street Journal denounced the initiative almost as savagely
as did the Establishment liberal Los Angeles Times, while
neo-conservative presidential hopefuls Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett
cut their own political throats by issuing a joint statement,
from the center of the Leviathan, Washington, D.C., urging Californians
to defeat the measure. This act was self-destructive because Governor
Pete Wilson, leading the rest of the California Republican Party,
saved his political bacon by climbing early onto Prop. 187, and
riding the issue to come from far behind to crush leftist Kathleen
of the think tanks is a relatively easy puzzle to solve. The big
foundations that make large grants to right-of-center organizations
were emphatically against Prop. 187. Also having an influence
was the desire for media plaudits and social acceptance in the
D.C. hothouse, where one wrong answer leads to loss of respectability.
But the interesting
question is why did Kemp and Bennett join in the campaign against
Prop. 187, and why do they continue to denounce it even after
it has passed? After all, they could have said nothing; not being
Californians, they could have stayed out of the fray.
reports reveal that Kemp and Bennett were "persuaded"
to take this foolhardy stand by the famed William Kristol, in
dynastic and apostolic succession to his father Irving as godfather
of the neo-conservative movement.
It is intriguing
to speculate on the means by which Kristol managed to work his
persuasive wiles. Surely the inducement was not wholly intellectual;
and surely Kemp and Bennett, especially in dealing with the godfather,
have to keep their eye, not simply on their presidential ambitions,
but also on the extremely lucrative and not very onerous institutional
positions that they now enjoy.
In the meantime,
as per the usual pattern, the ruling elites were able to mobilize
the "oppressed" sectors of the public against Prop.
187, so that blacks and groups that have been and will continue
to be heavily immigrant, such as Asians and Jews, voted in clear
if modest majorities against the measure.
against Prop. 187, of course, were the Hispanics, who constitute
the bulk of legal and illegal immigrants into that state, with
many of the illegals voting illegally as well. Polarizing the
situation further, Mexicans and other Hispanics demonstrated in
large numbers, waving Mexican and other Latin American flags,
brandishing signs in Spanish, and generally enraging white voters.
Even the Mexican government weighed in, with the dictator Salinas
and his successor Zedillo denouncing Prop. 187 as a "human
After a massive
October blitz by the media and the other elites, media polls pronounced
that Prop. 187 had moved from 2:1 in favor to neck-and-neck, explaining
that "once the public had had a chance to examine Prop. 187,
they now realized," and blah blah. When the smoke had cleared
on election night, however, it turned out that after all the money
and all the propaganda, Prop. 187 had passed by just about . .
. 2:1! In short, either the media polls had lied, or, more likely,
the public, sensing the media hostility and the ideological and
cultural clash, simply lied to the pollsters.
and most instructive single point about this saga is simply this:
the elites, having lost abysmally despite their strenuous efforts,
and having seen the democratic will go against them in no uncertain
fashion, quickly turned to naked coercion. It took less than 24
hours after the election for a federal judge to take out what
will be a multi-year injunction, blocking any operation of Prop.
187, until at some future date, the federal judiciary should rule
it unconstitutional. And, in a couple of years, no doubt the federal
judicial despots, headed by the Supreme Court, will so declare.
neocons, official conservatives, and all elites, once the federal
judiciary, in particular the venerated Supreme Court, speaks,
everyone is supposed to shut up and swallow the result. But why?
Because an independent judiciary and judicial review are supposed
to be sacred, and supply wise checks and balances on other branches
is the greatest con, the biggest liberal shell game, of all. For
the whole point of the Constitution was to bind the central government
with chains of steel, to keep it tightly and strictly limited,
so as to safeguard the rights and powers of the states, local
communities, and individual Americans.
In the early
years of the American Republic, no political leader or statesman
waited for the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution; and
the Court did not have the monopoly of interpreting the Constitution
or of enforcing it. Unfortunately, in practice, the federal judiciary
is not "independent" at all. It is appointed by the
President, confirmed by the Senate, and is from the very beginning
part of the federal government itself.
But, as John
C. Calhoun wisely warned in 1850, once we allow the Supreme Court
to be the monopoly interpreter of governmental – and therefore
of its own – power, eventual despotism by the federal government
and its kept judiciary becomes inevitable. And that is precisely
what has happened. From being the instrument of binding down and
severely limiting the power of the federal Leviathan, the Supreme
Court and the rest of the judiciary have twisted and totally transformed
the Constitution into a "living" instrument and thereby
a crucial tool of its own despotic and virtually absolute power
over the lives of every American citizen.
One of the
highly popular measures among the American people these days is
term limits for state and federal legislatures. But the tragedy
of the movement is its misplaced focus. Liberals are right, for
once, when they point out that the public can "limit"
legislative terms on their own, as they did gloriously in the
November 1994 elections, by exercising their democratic will and
throwing the rascals out.
But of course
liberals, like official conservatives, cleverly fail to focus
on those areas of government that are in no way accountable to
the American public, and who cannot be thrown out of office by
democratic vote at the polls. It is these imperial, swollen, and
tyrannical branches of government that desperately need term limits
and that no one is doing anything about. Namely, the executive
branch which, apart from the president himself by third-term limit,
is locked permanently into civil service and who therefore cannot
be kicked out by the voters; and, above all, the federal judges,
who are there for fourteen years, or, in the case of the ruling
Supreme Court oligarchy, fastened upon us for life.
What we really
need is not term limits for elected politicians, but the abolition
of the civil service (which only began in the 1880s) and its alleged
"merit system" of technocratic and bureaucratic elites;
and, above all, elimination of the despotic judiciary.
ideological spectrum, from leftist to liberal to neo-conservative
to official conservative, "democracy" has been treated
as a shibboleth, as an ultimate moral absolute, virtually replacing
all other moral principles including the Ten Commandments and
the Sermon on the Mount. But despite this universal adherence,
as Mises Institute senior fellow David Gordon has pointed out,
"virtually no argument is ever offered to support the desirability
of . . . democracy, and the little that is available seems distressingly
weak." The overriding imperative of democracy is considered
self-evident and sacred, apparently above discussion among mere
fact, is so great about democracy? Democracy is scarcely a virtue
in itself, much less an overriding one, and not nearly as important
as liberty, property rights, a free market, or strictly limited
government. Democracy is simply a process, a means of selecting
government rulers and policies. It has but one virtue, but this
can indeed be an important one: it provides a peaceful means for
the triumph of the popular will.
in the old phrase, can serve as a peaceful and non-disruptive
"substitute for bullets." That is why it makes sense
to exhort people who advocate a radical (in the sense of sharp,
not necessarily leftist) change from the existing polity to "work
within the system" to convince a majority of voters rather
than to engage in violent revolution.
voters desire radical change, therefore, it becomes vitally important
to reflect that change quickly and smoothly in political institutions;
blockage of that desire subverts the democratic process itself,
and polarizes the situation so as to threaten or even bring about
violent conflict in society. If ballots are indeed to be a substitute
for bullets, then the ballots have to be allowed to work and take
This is what
makes the blockage of voter mandates such as Prop. 187 so dangerous
and destructive. And yet, it is clear that the ruling elites,
failing at the ballot box, are ready and eager to use anti-democratic
means to suppress the desires of the voters.
is only one example. Another is the Gatt treaty setting up a World
Trade Organization to impose global mercantilism, which was overwhelmingly
opposed by the voters. It was brought to a vote in a repudiated
and lame-duck Congress, by politicians who, as Mises Institute
president Lew Rockwell pointed out, were virtually wearing price
tags around their necks.
that the federal judiciary would find nothing unconstitutional
about this. But it is ready to manufacture all sorts of constitutional
"rights" which appear nowhere in the Constitution and
are soundly opposed by the electorate. These include the right
to an education, including the existence of well-funded public
schools; the right of gays not to be discriminated against; civil
rights, affirmative action, and on and on.
Here we need
deal only with the famous Roe v. Wade decision, in which
the Supreme Court manufactured a federal "right" to
abortion; ever since the founding of the Constitution, matters
such as these were always considered part of the jurisdiction
of state governments and the police power. The federal government
is only supposed to deal with foreign affairs and disputes between
Times columnist and Mises Institute adjunct scholar Samuel
Francis has pointed out, the horror at anti-abortionists employing
violence against abortion doctors and clinics is appropriate,
but misses the crucial point: namely, that those who believe that
abortion is murder and should be outlawed were told, like everyone
else, to be peaceful and "work within" the democratic
system. They did so, and persuaded voters and legislatures of
a number of states to restrict or even outlaw abortion.
But all of
this has been for nought, because the unelected, unaccountable,
life-tenured Supreme Court has pronounced abortion a federal right,
thereby bypassing every state legislature, and everyone is now
supposed to roll over and play dead. But in that case, aren’t
such anti-democratic pronouncements of the Supreme Court despots
an open invitation to violence?
to violence by a few anti-abortionists, the pro-abortion movement
has come dangerously close to calling for suppression of free
speech: since they claim that those who believe that abortion
is murder are really responsible for the violence since they have
created an ideological atmosphere, a "climate of hate,"
which sets the stage for violence. But the shoe, of course, is
really on the other foot. The stage, the conditions for the violence,
have been set, not by anti-abortion writers and theorists, but
by the absolute tyrants on the Supreme Court and those who weave
apologetics for that absolute rule.
It was not
always thus. The truly democratic spirit of the Old Republic was
much better expressed in the famous words of President Andrew
Jackson about the leading big-government man of that epoch: "Mr.
Justice Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."
Do About the Judiciary
ingredient of a truly effective revolution is that something must
be done about the tyrannical judiciary. It is not enough, though
vital, to advocate other essential legislative measures to roll
back and abolish big government and the welfare state. The federal
judiciary must be defanged for any of these programs to work.
that public pressure and voting can gain working control of Congress,
it must then proceed against the federal judiciary. How? Impeachment
is much too slow and cumbersome a process, and can only be done
judge by judge. A constitutional amendment, to be submitted by
Congress or the required number of states, the favorite goal of
the term limits and Prop. 187 movements, is better, but is also
very slow and can be blocked by a minority of the people. The
swiftest and most direct path would be for Congress to act, as
it can without cumbersome amendments, to remove virtually the
entire jurisdiction of the federal judiciary.
it is so desired, Congress can repeal the various federal judiciary
acts and pass a new one returning the federal courts to their
original very narrow and limited jurisdiction. And while, within
the Constitution, Congress has to pay each Supreme Court member
his existing salary, it can, using its appropriation power, strip
the judges of all staff, clerks, buildings, perquisites, etc.
the Constitution only mandates a Supreme Court; Congress can abolish
the rest of the federal judiciary, including the district and
appeals courts, and thereby effectively crush the power of the
Supreme Court by leaving it alone to try to handle all the thousands
of cases that come annually before the federal courts. In a war
between Congress and the federal courts, Congress possesses all
the trump cards.
Revolution Already Been Betrayed?
It took less
than twenty-four hours for the great, peaceful, democratic, popular
revolution against big government and all its works to be betrayed.
Not just by the courts, but most strikingly by the leadership
among Republican Congressmen and Senators now positioned to thwart
the will of the new Republicans whom the public installed to carry
out their wishes. The leadership was egged on by our old friend
William Kristol, who, at every post-election speech, urged Republicans
not to go on "kamikaze" or "suicide" missions
against big government. Instead, he urged them to focus on institutional
reforms, win symbolic victories against one or two programs, slowly
build public support for new reforms, etc.
should be the goal of all this tinkering and maneuvering? The
goal, as he told an Empower America audience, is for Republicans
to win back the White House in 1996. To Kristol and his friends,
power for its own sake is the sole end of politics. What about
limited government, liberty, property, and the like? Those are
fine ideas to feed the conservative masses, but they have no relevance
rank-and-file of conservatives has long caught on to Bob "High
Tax" Dole, the major and dangerous betrayer of the Revolution
is Newt Gingrich, who often engages in fiery, revolutionary, rightist
rhetoric while actually collaborating with and sidling up to the
collectivist welfare state. In the eighties, his spending record
was not especially conservative and, indeed, was below average
for Republicans. Recall too that the major legislative victory
of this self-proclaimed "free trader" was the imposition
of trade sanctions on South Africa, which he and Jack Kemp worked
so hard for.
the conservative public is all too often taken in by mere rhetoric
and fails to weigh the actual deeds of their political icons.
So the danger is that Gingrich will succeed not only in betraying,
but in conning the revolutionary public into thinking that they
have already won and can shut up shop and go home. There are a
few critical tests of whether Gingrich or his "contract"
is really, in actual deed, keeping faith with the revolution or
whether he, or the other Republican leaders, are betraying it.
Are tax rates, especially income taxes, substantially reduced
(and, as soon as possible, abolished)? More important, is total
tax revenue substantially reduced? Unfortunately, all the Republican
leaders, including Gingrich, are still firmly committed to the
axiom underlying the disastrous Bush-Democrat budget agreement
of 1990: that any cut in tax revenue anywhere must be "balanced"
by increased taxes, or "fees," or "contributions,"
somewhere else. So, in addition to big tax cuts in income taxes,
no new or increased taxes should be proposed in any other area.
Spending. There must be big cuts in federal government spending,
and that means real cuts, "cut-cuts," and not "capping,"
cuts in the rate of growth of spending, cuts in projected increases,
consolidations, spending transfers, and all the rest of the nonsense
that has altered the meaning of the simple word "cut."
So far, "revolutionary" Gingrich has only talked about
capping some spending to allow "cost of living" increases
and transferring spending responsibilities from one agency or
level of government to another.
But do I
mean, horrors! cuts in defense, cuts in Social Security, cuts
in Medicare, and all the rest? Yes, yes, and yes. It would be
simplest and most effective to pass, say, an immediate, mandated
30% federal spending cut, to take effect in the first year. The
slash would override any existing entitlements, and the bureaucrats
could work out their hysteria by deciding what should be cut within
this 30% mandate.
Deregulation of business and of individuals should be massive
and immediate. There is no conceivable worthy argument for gradualism
or "phasing in" in this area. It goes without saying
that all unfunded mandates to states or individuals should be
abolished forthwith. All "civil rights," disabilities
"rights," regulations, etc. should be abolished. The
same goes for any ballot or campaign regulations, let alone "reforms."
Regulations and controls on labor relations, including the Norris-LaGuardia
anti-injunction act and the sainted National Labor Relations Act,
should be abolished.
A serious move should be made to privatize federal government
operations, and if not, to turn them over to the states, or at
least, to private competition. A clear example would be the losing,
inefficient, backward Postal Service. Federal public lands is
another excellent example. Divesting federal assets, in addition
to being a great good in itself, and aiding the Western anti-federal
land revolution, would also help lower government expenditures.
the Bureaucracy. Again, capping, or slowing the rate of increase,
of government employees, doesn’t make a cut. There must be massive
reductions, including abolition of entire useless and counter-productive
government agencies. As a good start, how about abolishing the
Departments of Energy, Education, HUD, Health and Human Services,
and Commerce? And that means abolishing their functions as well.
Otherwise, in a typical bureaucratic trick, the same functions
would be shuffled to other existing departments or agencies,
Preferences and Gun Control. Every honest pollster has to
admit that these two issues were crucially important in the election,
especially among a segment of the white male population who had
previously evinced little interest in politics. Any government
that denies a person the right to defend himself against private
and public intrusion, and also prevents students and workers from
realizing gains from their own hard work and study, is not a morally
legitimate government. Yet at the urging of the Republican elite,
the party has said nothing on these two issues. Gingrich himself
has pledged not to repeal the Brady Bill, and the subject of civil-rights
socialism is still banned from public discussion. Republicans
are well positioned to break the ban, but the leadership is not
interested in doing so.
Counterfeit Money. Money is the most important single feature
of the economy, and one way in which the government finances its
own deficits and creates perpetual inflation is through what is
essentially the printing of counterfeit money. To end this critical
and destructive feature of statism and government intervention,
we must return to a sound, free market money, which means a return
to a gold-coin standard for the dollar and the abolition of another
crucial despotic federal agency not subject to popular or Congressional
control: the Federal Reserve System, by which the government cartelizes
and subsidizes the banking system. Short of abolition of the Fed,
its operations should be "capped" or frozen, that is,
it should never be allowed to purchase more assets.
Intervention, Including Foreign Aid and International Bureaucracies.
Here is yet another case where all the "respectable"
ruling elites, be they bureaucrats, academics, think tanks, big
media, big business, banks, etc. are in total and admitted conflict
with the general public. Under cover of the alleged necessity
for "bi-partisanship," the elites have imposed intervention,
foreign aid, internationally managed trade, and approaches to
world economic and even political government, against the wishes
of the great majority of the American public.
case, from the United Nations and the Marshall Plan to Nafta and
GATT, the Republican leadership has gone in lockstep with the
Democrats. As a result, Clinton was able to wheel in every ex-President,
regardless of party, to agitate for each new measure of his. And
at each step of the way, the President and the elites have threatened
disaster to the world if each step is even delayed. And so far
they have gotten away with it, despite the wishes of the public.
above checklist, and sticking to these guidelines, every reader
can easily decide for himself whether Gingrich, Dole, et al. have
betrayed, or have cleaved to, the popular anti-big government,
anti-Washington revolution. Forget such unenforceable diversions
and gimmicks as the balanced-budget amendment, changing committee
names, imposing new laws on Congress, or such relative trivia
as the capital-gains tax cut, and look to real tax cuts, really
balanced budgets, repealed regulations, and eliminated agencies.
test of whether the revolution has already been betrayed is to
look at the truly outrageous action of Gingrich and Dole in betraying
not only the popular revolution, but even their own recent victory.
For they have scrambled, not only to pass the Clinton-Bush Gatt/WTO,
but also to defy their own voters by agreeing to rush it through
a totally discredited, Democrat-run, lame-duck Congress. The usual
media outlets were strangely silent on the views of the American
public, but an independent poll showed that 75% of the people
opposed what as essentially a criminal procedure.
spectacle of the defeated and discredited Tom Foley presiding
over the shoving through of Gatt, with the help of Gingrich and
Dole, and with the aid of the unconstitutional "fast track,"
was too much to bear. Foley is now lounging at home on the $123,804
pension he is "entitled" to for his years of government
"service." Even after we kick them out of office, we
can’t stop these leeches from voting for global government schemes
and sucking the blood of the taxpayer!
In this shocking
and abject surrender to the Executive, Congress agreed to cut
its own throat by depriving itself (and all its constituents)
of the power to discuss and amend this monstrous treaty and even
to collude in calling it an "agreement," so they can
violate the clear constitutional requirement for a two-thirds
vote of the Senate.
can generally count on liberals to support big-government legislation
like Gatt, Nafta, and the rest of the mercantilist-managerial
apparatus of global economic control. But we must not forget,
as the Wall Street Journal bragged the day of the Senate
vote, that "The House GOP has now provided the bulk of votes
for Bill Clinton’s two notable achievements – Nafta and GATT."
and file is not at fault for these travesties of multinational
statism. Many decent Republicans, including the others from Gingrich’s
state, voted against the treaty. But Gingrich will now use his
power to punish such dissenters, and the incident will not be
the last plunge taken by the Republican leadership into the politics
assessment does not mean that there is no hope, that nothing can
be done. On the contrary, what can and must be done is to mobilize
the radical and revolutionary sentiment among the people. We need
to translate the public’s deeply held views into continuing pressure
upon the government, especially on the Senators and Congressmen
they have recently elected.
the freshman Congressmen, in particular, there are many genuine
rightists and populists who sincerely burn to roll back big government,
and who are not beholden to the Gingriches and the Rockefellers
of the Republican Establishment. The voters and their organizations,
aided by the truly conservative members of Congress, could keep
pressuring the political elites to start putting into effect,
instead of blocking, the will of the very voters that put them
into power. If not, they can be swept away.
can be done without education. It is the crucially important task
of conservative or libertarian intellectuals, think tanks, and
opinion leaders such as the Mises Institute, to educate the public,
businessmen, students, academics, journalists, and politicians
about the true nature of what is going on, and about the vicious
nature of the bi-partisan ruling elites.
We must remember
that the elites are a minority of the population; they have gotten
away with their deceit and their misinformation because they have
been in effective control of the institutional (media, intellectuals,
etc.) channels that mould public opinion.
Most of the
public have already come to a healthy suspicion and distrust of
all the elites, and of their tendency to deceive and betray. But
this mood of healthy distrust is not enough; the public and the
worthy people in the media, academia, and politics, also have
to understand what is really going on. In particular, they have
to realize what measures would fulfill the popular will and carry
through its desired revolution; what measures could only divert
and scuttle the revolution against big government; and why and
how the ruling opinion moulders have been deceiving them.
Institute, small as it is, is uniquely positioned to lead this
education revolution. It is not beholden to government grants,
big corporate interests, or even to the large foundations. That
means it cannot be dictated to. Though relatively poor in overall
resources, the Mises Institute possesses the most important assets
of all: clarity of purpose and independence.
In the 12
years of its existence, Lew Rockwell carefully guarded these two
assets, relying entirely on the financial support of principled
individuals and unconnected businesses, and he has done this to
the astonishment and anger of Left-liberals, official conservatives,
and the legions of politico-think-tankers and Left-intellectuals
on the make.
In all these
tasks, the Mises Institute has already been extraordinarily effective.
Standing virtually alone, and with severely limited resources,
the Mises Institute has had a remarkably strong ideological impact.
Just one example: the Mises Institute was first in print back
in January with a sweeping denunciation of the World Trade Organization
that not only exposed the present attempt to impose global trade
management, but also delved into its history, tracing the WTO
back through the 1970s, the 1940s, and even back to Woodrow Wilson’s
"World Trade Tribunal."
along with the rest of the Mises Institute’s work, defined the
debate on the Right, Left, and center. Even one day before the
House vote, an Associated Press story, in its section providing
historical perspective, plagiarized from the Mises Institute virtually
word for word.
didn’t win – although it gave Clinton and his allies in the
Republican Party plenty of trouble – but it did mobilize
the American people and make sure that the revolution against
big government will continue and intensify. And at its intellectual
head will be the Institute.
entering the public and intellectual debate from a principled
and consistent libertarian and free-market perspective, the Mises
Institute has already exposed the lies of that multitude of statists,
would-be world planners, neo-Keynesian economists, left-over Marxists,
and pretenders who dare to use such glorious words as "liberty,
. . . free markets," and "free trade" to connive
at the exact opposite.
word "liberal" was stolen from us by the social democrats
a long time ago. Now we are in danger of these other words being
filched from us as well. Only light from those dedicated to the
truth can dispel this fog.
Institute has already been exerting the greatest ideological and
political leverage per person and per dollar of any organization
in this country. Any increase in its resources will be multiplied
beyond measure in degree of impact.
stress the importance of ideas in society and politics tend to
concentrate solely on the long run, on future generations. All
that is true and important and must never be forgotten. But ideas
are not only for the ages; they are vitally important in the here-and-now.
of revolutionary ferment in particular, social and political change
tends to be sudden and swift. The elections of November 1994 are
only one striking example. The Mises Institute has a unique and
glorious opportunity to make its ideas – of liberty, of free
markets, of private property – count right now, and to help
take back our glorious America from those who have betrayed its
soul and its spirit.
N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian
School, founder of modern libertarianism, and academic vice
president of the Mises Institute.
He was also editor — with Lew Rockwell — of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his
literary executor. See