Crane/Cato Once More An Open Letter to the Crane Machine

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This article
was first published in the June-July, 1981, issue of
, Vol. 15.3-4.

Dear Friends:

And I mean
friends, for most of you have been and even still are my friends.
Some of us have been good friends for many years, and we have fought
many joyous battles together, arm-in-arm. Why are we now on opposite
sides of the barricades? Why? I can assure you that fighting against
you now is not at all joyous, but a very painful experience, as
I presume that it is for you. Why? Why have we forsaken each other?

I know
what your motivations were for entering the Crane Machine, and they
were not power-lust or opportunism. You joined the Crane Machine
for the same reason I once did, because you burned with a passion
for human liberty, and because you wanted to spend your lives, 24
hours a day, in a noble struggle for the libertarian cause. Having
realized that liberty was the only just system for mankind you were
not content to remain as parlor libertarians. You wanted to do
something, to put your considerable talents and energies to work,
full-time, to try to achieve the triumph of liberty. You wanted
to become “professional libertarians,” and when you saw the prospect
of jobs and careers opening up as lifelong libertarians, you jumped
at the chance.

I don’t
blame you for that; on the contrary, your motive was a noble one,
and probably remains so today. Let us hope that someday there will
by a myriad of opportunities and institutions so that all of you
can work full time in the libertarian cause.

But, my dear
friends, dear brothers and sisters and (alas) former comrades,
you forgot the pitfalls. In the heady excitement of working full-time
as libertarians, as part of a cohesive and well-integrated team,
it was easy for you to forget, to lose hold of the larger picture
amidst the exciting day-to-day details of working for liberty. As
able technicians, it was easy for you to get so wrapped up in the
daily technique, the process at work, that the ultimate goals
and principles began to grow kind of hazy. Didn’t they? So that
little by little, day by day, the means – the razzle-dazzle,
the jobs, the excitement, the intake of funds and the output of
product, began to be transmuted into the ends themselves. Didn’t
they? Your daily lives, your daily work became the reality,
while the reason you entered the whole thing, the very reason for
your existence as libertarian in the first place, became ever more
remote and ethereal didn’t it?

And so, when
Boss Crane, either impelled or followed by his Donor, gave the signal
in the spring of ’79 to downplay all those now remote principles
and go for the big numbers, you went along didn’t you? I wasn’t
surprised that you made the shift and went along, but I tell you
frankly one thing that still shocks and hurts: That you shifted
your gears so damned easily and smoothly, apparently without a second
thought or a backward glance. Was it really that easy to
surrender, my old and dear friends? Didn’t you at least have some
pricks of conscience, some moments of doubt, some second thoughts?
Some qualms in the middle of the night, or when you looked at yourselves
in the mirror?

I know that
most of you are not doing it for the money, because you and I know
that, contrary to myth, pay in the Crane Machine is crummy. I know
that it is the action that keeps you there, the heady wine of working
full-time on behalf of liberty.

But, oh my
friends, what good is the action if it has become corrupt?
What good is the means if it contradicts and sells out the ends,
the goals which once brought you and me together? What good is the
process, be it ever so exciting, if it is betraying everything we
have long sought to accomplish?

Please, I beseech
you in the name of liberty and of all we once meant to each other,
to think that you may be mistaken. I plead with you to take off
a few days and rethink your present courage – in the good old Randian
phrase, to “check your premises.” To think that you may have allowed
yourself to be manipulated by a ruthless politico to betray the
cause of liberty rather than advance it. Consider for a moment:
surely you must know in your heart that your Boss has total contempt
for you just as he has for the entire human race. That he values
you only as pawns that he can use to advance his power and his will.
Do you think he would spare you for a single moment if it became
in his interest to toss you down the tubes? Do you think he is ever
moved by a single iota of sentiment, of reverence, of friendship,
of love?

And even if
you are still blinded by all other considerations, dear technicians,
you should at least wake up to the fact that, in the long run, you
are on a sinking ship. Eventually, you are going to lose, and I’ll
tell you why. I don’t care if your Boss is backed by a billion dollars.
The libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party are not a corporation
or a military machine. They are not for sale. Except for the handful
of Crane Machine members, we are every one of us independent people.
We are all men and women of principle, and we are all passionately
devoted to the cause of liberty. And in the LP, every single one
of us has a vote. Once they have wakened up fully to what the Crane
Machine has been doing, and they are in the process of waking up,
believe me, the LP will overthrow the Crane Machine, and all the
action that has lured and kept you in its clutches will be over,
gone, kaput.

And the reason
for your defeat is not only that your Machine has been systematically
betraying principle. It is because your Boss, the man who aspires
to be the leader of a political party, lacks the most important
qualification for that post. To be leader of a political machine,
one must be well liked and trusted by his own constituents, his
party members. Mayor Daley was loved and trusted by his organization,
because he clearly liked them, and because he always kept his
word. And so with Jim Farley, and with all other successful
political bosses. They commanded loyalty because their organization
liked and trusted them. But Boss Crane is cordially and fiercely
detested by almost all LP members who know him. He has a reputation
for almost never keeping his word. Honestly, do you think he would
keep his word to you if he saw some advantage in not doing so? And
Crane is not smart enough to even try to mask his contempt for his
fellow libertarians or LP members, so that people cotton to him
very quickly. How can a person like that succeed in politics?

Consider: the
Crane Machine is in a small minority, and it gets smaller by the
minute as more and more LPers wake up to the truth and join the
ranks of its opponents. The rising, swelling opposition, my friends,
is at the gates.

But do not
despair, because as the movement grows, the Crane Machine will no
longer be the sole means of employment as professional libertarians.
Other libertarians, other institutions, other jobs, even other Donors,
will spring up, and provide healthy competition at long last for
libertarian careers. More and more, the action will be elsewhere.
The Death of the Crane Machine will not be the end of the libertarian
movement; on the contrary, the movement will be far healthier and
stronger as this blight is removed from its midst.

And so, dear
old friends, I beseech you, I entreat you, I plead with you, to
leave the dank and fetid air of the Crane Machine, to abandon the
sweet smell of corruption, to quit the foul Corridors of Power.
Come out, get out, and join me in the clean fresh air of freedom.
If you leave, I will rejoice, and embrace you, and then once again
we can fight for liberty together, arm in arm, as true comrades.
My dear lost friends, let us find each other again, so we can sing
once more the sweet songs of freedom.

~ Murray


N. Rothbard
(1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School,
founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer of
the Mises Institute. He was
also editor — with Lew Rockwell — of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
, and appointed Lew as his literary
executor. See
his books.

Best of Murray Rothbard

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