by Bill Sardi
Recently by Bill Sardi: A Chilling Scenario of the End of America Foretold
It's wonderful to read the words of Murray Rothbard at LewRockwell.com, most which were originally penned over two decades ago, as if they were freshly written to address modern challenges in economics, finance, healthcare, government and freedom. If a man's words have enduring utility, they will and should be re-aired, and the internet has presented a new stage where they can be re-published.
For example, read "What Causes An Economic Depression?" or "The State Waxes Fat Off War," or "Inside The Power Elite." Rothbard was writing for the 21st Century using a typewriter keyboard, not a computer keyboard. Rothbard knew where the reprehensible machinations of money-printing Keynsianism were going to take the world… to socialism, to poverty, to war.
I'm sure many casual readers initially may not recognize that Murray Rothbard's words are literally being resurrected as he died in 1995. In fact, due to the many crises facing governments today, Murray Rothbard's words may be gaining more attention than when he was alive.
So allow me to channel Mr. Rothbard and put him through a gauntlet of questions. I won't make it easy on Rothbard. I will launch some tough questions at him. Methinks any man writing two decades ago, when the volume of knowledge in the world was exponentially limited in comparison to the contemporary explosion of information, would find his own words are out of touch with today's challenges.
Sardi: Mr. Rothbard, as a quick overview, briefly what do you have to say about the current state of affairs in American government today? And can you refrain from replying with the words of Thomas Jefferson, as you often do? Jefferson couldn't have possibly foreseen the events unfolding today.
Rothbard: "Jefferson was disillusioned by the public debt, high taxation, government spending, flood of paper money, and burgeoning of privileged bank monopolies that accompanied the war. He had concluded that his beloved Democratic-Republican Party had actually adopted the economic policies of the despised Hamiltonian federalists."
Sardi: Mr. Rothbard, you surely couldn't have foreseen the huge gap in personal wealth in our modern world, known as the 1% versus the 99% in current discussions. Briefly, what have you to say about this?
Rothbard: (writing about the political theories first penned by James Mill in the 1820 and 1830s, wrote:)
"All government, Mill pointed out, was run by the ruling class, the few who dominated and exploited the ruled, the many. Since all groups tend to act for their selfish interests, he noted, it is absurd to expect the ruling clique to act altruistically for the “public good.” Like everyone else, they will use their opportunities for their own gain, which means to loot the many, and to favor their own or allied special interests as against those of the public."
Sardi: But surely Mr. Rothbard, there must be some collective, some way of pooling public money for the common good, let's say to deliver health care. Such an effort cannot be characterized as selfish, can it?
Rothbard: Government, in its wisdom, perceives a problem (and Lord knows, there are always problems!). The government then intervenes to “solve” that problem. But lo and behold! instead of solving the initial problem, the intervention creates two or three further problems, which the government feels it must intervene to heal, and so on toward socialism…. We stand at the seemingly inexorable brink of fully socialized medicine, or what is euphemistically called “national health insurance.”….
Sardi: But won't you concede that health insurance made it possible for many to afford modern advances in healthcare? Rothbard: Why are (health insurance) rates high and increasing rapidly?… The state was supposed to, and did, put out of business all medical schools that were proprietary and profit-making, that admitted blacks and women, and that did not specialize in orthodox, “allopathic” medicine: particularly homeopaths, who were then a substantial part of the medical profession, and a respectable alternative to orthodox allopathy…. the AMA was able to use government to cartelize the medical profession: to push the supply curve drastically to the left (literally half the medical schools in the country were put out of business by post-Flexner state governments), and thereby to raise medical and hospital prices and doctors’ incomes.
Sardi: But what of the threat of rationed delivery of medical care, Mr. Rothbard? Is your grandmother going to be denied care because she is too old?
Rothbard: In order to stanch the flow of taxes or subsidies, in recent years the government and other third-party insurers have felt obliged to restrict somewhat the flow of goodies: by increasing deductibles, or by putting caps on Medicare payments. All this has been met by howls of anguish from medical customers who have come to think of unlimited third-party payments as some sort of divine right, and from physicians and hospitals that charge the government with “socialistic price controls — for trying to stem its own largesse to the healthcare industry!"
Sardi: The very idea of gold-backed currency seems far-fetched in today's modern world of finance. Libertarians continue to espouse a gold standard. But wouldn't such a standard handcuff the growth of the world economies? Wouldn't a return to a gold standard be archaic? Rothbard: To advocate the complete, uninhibited gold standard runs the risk, in this day and age, of being classified with the dodo bird… Now gold is considered an absurd anachronism, a relic of a tribal fetish…
Suppose that I decided to abandon the slow, difficult process of producing services for money, or of mining money, and instead decided to print my own? What would I print? I might manufacture a paper ticket, and print upon it "10 Rothbards." I could then proclaim the ticket as "money," and enter a store to purchase groceries with my embossed Rothbards… And what would be the inevitable consequence? Obviously, that no one would pay attention to the Rothbards, which would be properly treated as an arrogant joke… Names, therefore, whatever they may be, "Rothbard," "Jones," or even "dollar," could not have arisen as money on the free market. How, then did such names as "dollar" and "peso" originate and emerge in their own right as independent moneys? The answer is that these names invariably originated as names for units of weight of a money commodity, either gold or silver. In short, they began not as pure names, but as names of units of weight of particular money commodities… For example, the British pound was originally just that: a pound of silver money…
Economists, of course, admit that our modern national moneys emerged originally from gold and silver, but they are inclined to dismiss this process as a historical accident from which we have now been happily emancipated.
…I therefore advocate as the soundest monetary system and the only one fully compatible with the free market and with the absence of force or fraud from any source a 100 percent gold standard. This is the only system compatible with the fullest preservation of the rights of property. It is the only system that assures the end of inflation and, with it, of the business cycle
Sardi: The libertarian position you take is often characterized as opposed to war. Surely you are not so naïve as to think the U.S. should allow potential terrorists to make bombs and all manner of deadly weapons that can be targeted against the U.S. population. Mustn't we roust them out before they launch their weapons?
Rothbard: … Any war against another State, therefore, involves the increase and extension of taxation-aggression over its own people. Conflicts between private individuals can be, and usually are, voluntarily waged and financed by the parties concerned. Revolutions can be, and often are, financed and fought by voluntary contributions of the public. But State wars can only be waged through aggression against the taxpayer.
… All State wars, therefore, involve increased aggression against the State’s own taxpayers, and almost all State wars (all, in modern warfare) involve the maximum aggression (murder) against the innocent civilians ruled by the enemy State. On the other hand, revolutions are generally financed voluntarily and may pinpoint their violence to the State rulers, and private conflicts may confine their violence to the actual criminals. The libertarian must, therefore, conclude that, while some revolutions and some private conflicts may be legitimate, State wars are always to be condemned.
… Each State has a monopoly of violence and, therefore, of defense only over its territorial area. It has no such monopoly; in fact, it has no power at all, over any other geographical area… the overriding consideration for the libertarian is the condemnation of any State participation in war.
…The great Randolph Bourne realized that “war is the health of the State.” It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society. Society becomes a herd, seeking to kill its alleged enemies, rooting out and suppressing all dissent from the official war effort, happily betraying truth for the supposed public interest. Society becomes an armed camp, with the values and the morale — as Albert Jay Nock once phrased it — of an “army on the march.”
All this evidence demonstrates that the State is far more interested in preserving its own power than in defending the rights of private citizens.
Sardi: Do you think libertarianism will ever become more than a sidebar in political and economic thought? What of the most visible and popular libertarian of our times, Congressman Ron Paul? The public has rallied to his side over time and young people have begun to learn about libertarian thought. But the votes have not followed.
Rothbard: The libertarian movement has… indeed, been too often prone to “pursue our busy little seminars on whether or not to demunicipalize the garbage collectors,” while ignoring and failing to apply libertarian theory to the most vital problem of our time: war and peace. There is a sense in which libertarians have been utopian rather than strategic in their thinking, with a tendency to divorce the ideal system that we envisage from the realities of the world in which we live. In short, too many of us have divorced theory from practice, and have then been content to hold the pure libertarian society as an abstract ideal for some remotely future time, while in the concrete world of today we follow unthinkingly the orthodox “conservative” line. To live liberty, to begin the hard but essential strategic struggle of changing the unsatisfactory world of today in the direction of our ideals, we must realize and demonstrate to the world that libertarian theory can be brought sharply to bear upon all of the world’s crucial problems. By coming to grips with these problems, we can demonstrate that libertarianism is not just a beautiful ideal somewhere on Cloud Nine, but a tough-minded body of truths that enables us to take our stand and to cope with the whole host of issues of our day.
Sardi: Thank you Mr. Rothbard. I hope we can come back again soon for another interview.