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ROCKWELL: Good morning. This is the Lew Rockwell Show. And how great to have as our guest today, Ryan McMaken. Ryan is an LRC columnist, a faithful blogger. Always very, very interesting things that he writes. But I want to start off today by talking to him about the course he’s going to teach this summer. He teaches political science at University of Colorado in Denver, and he’s going to be giving a course on American Conservatism and Libertarianism with some very interesting readings.
Ryan, tell us about this course. Tell us what you hope to achieve with it, and why you think people will and should be interested.
MCMAKEN: Well, for whatever reason, the department came to me several months back and asked me if I’d be interested in teaching a class on Conservatism, and I said yes. And I know there’s been national programs to get classes like that, and so they may have been responding to some requests from students. Who knows? But, of course, I wanted the class to be interesting to me as well as to the students, so I thought perhaps the most interesting way to set it up would be to set it up as a conflict between the Libertarians and the Conservatives. That way we could look at the critiques of each movement and learn something that way. I didn’t want the class basically to be a literature review of Conservative writings.
And so it’s been set up essentially as if you had to personify each side. It’s a debate between Buckley and Rothbard essentially. And I set up the class poster and all the class propaganda that way, with pictures of Buckley and Rothbard kind of going at each other and all of that.
And I think that’s really the interesting way to look at the movement now. And I’ll then be looking at different episodes historically, really since the ’30s, of flashpoints in this conflict between the Libertarians and the Conservatives.
And what’s interesting is that the exact same problems continue, up right to today. And we’re seeing it, I mean, just in the last few days, in the conflict between the party leadership and the Ron Paul movement. It’s all a lot of the same stuff that’s really been going on for decades. And so I’m just going to go back and look through the decades since the ’30s and see, what has this conflict been, and what has it taught us about the nature of the right wing and the Libertarians, and what can we learn from that.
ROCKWELL: The story that Bill Buckley told so successfully came to dominate, came to erase what I would argue is the truth of the situation. But don’t you think it’s being un-erased? Don’t you think that more and more people are becoming aware — maybe because of Rothbard on the web and Ron Paul and many other things — are becoming aware that the story that Buckley and National Review started telling and — well, Buckley in the late ’40s, National Review in the ’50s — is a false story?
MCMAKEN: Well, yes. And it has really no leadership anymore, that whole movement, either. And, yes, 30, 40, 50 years ago, we had the National Review around. It existed in many ways to really purge the movement of undesirable groups that we didn't like. And I think we saw several different episodes of that. There was the original purging back in the ’50s, the early ’50s. We got rid of Frank Chodorov, from The Freeman and from Human Events. It kind of sent him off into the outer darkness to a certain extent there; turned Fees (ph) magazine into just kind of this economics thing, so it didn’t engage anti-Communism as a political issue anymore, and so really kind of cut the Libertarians out originally in that case, because, according to Buckley and that group, they weren’t enough in favor of militant anti-Communism.
And then you had a second set of purges in the ’60s. We got rid of the Birchers. We got rid of the Randians. We got rid of Rothbard and his people.
And then interestingly, again — and there may be episodes I’m missing. But then in 2003, there was another purge where specifically they mentioned Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo, Pat Buchanan and others, who were unpatriotic Conservatives. This was a David Frum column that they put out. We’re going to get rid of those people; they’re shouldn’t be around; they hate America, all that sort of thing. And so there was an attempted purge then.
What became, I think, significant in that period was that the purges kind of ceased to have any effect in that, supposedly, we’re going to have this big cover story and we’re not going to hear from these people every again now that we’ve gotten rid of them. But nobody seemed to care by 2003.
And then now, of course, I think it’s to the point where they would love to purge the movement of Ron Paul, but they can’t. They don’t even dare try because it would just delegitimize the whole thing. And who reads National Review really any more any way? I don’t know. But certainly, it doesn’t have the cache it once did decades ago.
And so there’s been, I think, a big change in the overall movement from that side of it, really commanding everything and telling the story they want and everyone believing it, to a totally different situation now where really the biggest microphone it seems between the Conservatives and the Libertarians is actually Ron Paul, because there doesn’t seem to be any other intellectual force in the movement at all, do you think?
ROCKWELL: No. And I think the Paul movement is, of course, fundamentally Rothbardian in its populist orientation and its focusing on the Fed, on issues of war and peace and other issues.
I was just going to mention, you make such a good point about the effect on them of also having no Buckley any more. I knew Bill Buckley a little bit. Tremendously smart, tremendous charismatic, just a man of huge abilities. I happen to think a bad man. But he certainly was just extraordinarily cultured and mannered and just a very, very impressive guy. And he did have an effect in purging people. He was very, very proud of that role, by the way. He also — not only did he do what you said to Frank Chodorov, he got rid of Frank Chodorov from the organization that he founded. It was originally Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. He purged Frank from that and it became the — and installed a Neo-Con in charge of it, Victor Milione, an early Neo-Con. They changed the name to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
And Buckley was very, very proud of what he’d done. He loved being the grand inquisitor. Although, or I don’t quite know how he saw himself in that sense.
But he was very proud of his role. But Lowry or Bill Kristol, or whatever, none of — (laughing) — none of these guys come up to Buckley’s ankle as a public figure. So they really lost all their cache. They’ve lost, as you say, their ability to purge. I think they’ve largely lost their ability to influence. All they do now is just champion the state. I mean, it’s a little bit like this recent “Wall Street Journal” editorial where they say, don’t question anything the government does in national security because, if the government says you’re a terrorist, you’re a terrorist, and anything can be done to you. And you’re an unpatriotic guy. Really, you might even be suspicious yourself if you’re questioning —
— what’s being done to these terrorists. So that’s what they’ve come down to.
But it certainly is not influencing young people. Young people are eschewing it. They’re having nothing to do with it. And I think this panics them. I think they’re worried about the future because of what Ron Paul has done.
MCMAKEN: And in earlier ages — and you may remember this. I mean, from the —
ROCKWELL: Unfortunately, I probably do, yes. But go ahead.
MCMAKEN: From the perspective of a young person working within the movement, what was the effect of, say, a purge being handed down by Buckley? Because I can imagine now how an average Paulian would regard a column in National Review or really in any of these organs saying, oh, yes, well, we’re done with those people; they’re out. But was there a demoralizing effect among the youth, say, back in the late ’60s when they told us all that Rothbard was terrible and no good?
ROCKWELL: Only among a small minority. Most people went along with Buckley. I mean, most — (laughing) — this is hard to imagine. Most, a lot of young guys even tried to even imitate Bill Buckley in terms of their own mannerisms —
— in the way he tapped his teeth with a pencil or whatever, and how he would — his use of vocabulary and so forth. He was a colossus. So some of us, of course, when, say, he purged the Birchers, you know, just made us dislike him more, especially because, of course, he was purging the Birchers for war-and-peace reasons. This is never discussed but, because Robert Welch, then the head of the Birch Society, had come out against the Vietnam War, so that’s why the Birches were purged, not for any of the other reasons they talk about.
And, indeed, I think National Review was started perhaps by CIA money; certainly with the aid of many CIA-connected people, to get rid of the peace movement which had existed in the Old Right and to make everyone a Cold Warrior. So originally, they sort of kept all the other ideological attributes of what was then the right wing movement. Those, of course, have been gradually purged themselves in the years since.
But the key thing they worried about was war and peace. And, of course, they always wanted war.
And I remember when Ron was running in 1988 on the Libertarian Party ticket and he was interviewed by Buckley on Firing Line. It’s on YouTube. Very interesting to see. And the thing that kept bugging Buckley, openly bugging Buckley, and he was bugging Ron over the course of this hour interview, was that the Libertarian Party wanted to abolish the CIA, and Ron Paul did, too. And he thought this was the most outrageous, most horrendous, most, you know, ridiculous, evil thing he had ever heard of.
So, you know, they say there’s no such thing as an ex CIA agent any more than there’s an ex KGB agent or any of — ex Mossad agent or MI6 agent, any of these organizations. You’re in it for life. And I think certainly Buckley continued to be oriented to the national security establishment, the CIA, which, of course, is a group that specializes in overthrowing foreign governments and killing people, lying, professional lying, stealing, all allegedly for the country, right? But, of course not — for the government and for themselves. But everything is so changed.
So when he did these purges, of course, the Libertarians were outraged when he tried to get rid of the Rothbardians. All of us, Objectivists and others, were outraged when he wanted to purge the Randians. It doesn’t mean we agreed with everything, right, or with the Birchers, but just this whole process seemed like a Communist outrage. It seemed like the way the Communist Party operated.
And, of course, many of these Conservatives, not including Buckley, were ex Communists. The ex Communists dominated the Conservative movement rather than going into a monastery and doing penance for the rest of their lives —
— for what they had done. They were telling everybody else what to do, after having flipped 180 degrees, or maybe not, maybe just flipped a little bit. Then they’re speaking from the moral mountain and telling us what to do.
So they had a huge, bad effect. But that’s all gone. It’s all over. Buckley’s gone. Buckleyism is gone. National Review is just another magazine. The various pygmies who control National Review have no effect on anybody.
So, yes, they’ve gone after Ron Paul relatively gently, by their normal standards, a number of times. And, of course, it’s always rebounded against them. As you point out, they don’t actually dare go after him. He’s such a much bigger figure than anybody they’re associated with — Krauthammer or Kristol or, you know, go down the list of creeps. Ron Paul is today’s colossus. He’s today’s Buckley, only he’s a very good man instead of what Buckley was.
So this is a thrilling time to be alive, is all I can say.
MCMAKEN: And that’s what I notice as well. And, of course, Paul is something of an anomaly in the sense that he’s not really a politician. In fact, he’s more of a — he’s an intellectual-movement type of person in that he stays in Congress because this enables him to spread this message. And so it’s as you say, doing exactly now what Buckley had done decades before. I’m going to go in, I’m going to start Young Americans for Freedom, in Buckley’s case; in Paul’s case, you’ve got Young Americans for Liberty. YAF, by the way, seems to have completely disappeared. I don’t know —
MCMAKEN: — if they do anything anymore.
ROCKWELL: They have been vicious against Ron Paul. And then they went virtually out of existence. Their last act was to attack Ron at a CPAC meeting in a press release, a vicious press release. I think that was the end of them.
MCMAKEN: Well —
ROCKWELL: So, very funny, very funny.
MCMAKEN: Well, I was recently invited to speak very briefly about this class at an event here in Denver that they had. It had been around for years. I got the impression it was a free-market event. And I thought, oh, well, it’s just going to be yet another one of these Conservative events and I know what sort of people are going to be there but I’ll go anyway; maybe there will be some good Libertarians there. Well, I walk into the room, the whole room is filled with Young Americans for Liberty people. I mean, that was 90 percent of the audience.
And so it wasn’t, anymore, you go to these groups put on by Conservative groups, you know, some of the more peripheral Conservative groups, like, say, the Leadership Institute and things like that, and half the people I encounter there now are Ron Paul people.
MCMAKEN: If not more so, because that’s all the young people.
ROCKWELL: That’s true of ISI, too, by the way. I’ve attended a lot of ISI programs and they were what you might expect from a Conservative organization. Now, today, in a sense, Frank Chodorov is back. The ISI meetings, they’re full of Paulians.
ROCKWELL: So the Libertarians are back, even there.
MCMAKEN: And you remember how it was, say, in 2003. I mean, you just wouldn’t have dared show your face as a Libertarian at any of these sorts of things.
Which kind of brings me then to the other issue. Yes, OK, we know that if that one big factor then over the last decade has really been the decline of the intellectual power of the regular Conservatives, the mainstream right, as we would call it, but what else has gone over that time? And I think to really illustrate how much things have changed really over the last 10 years, I would just describe how things were 10 years ago when I was writing my master’s thesis. Part of the reason that they brought me in to teach this class is because it was with a lot of the faculty at UCD where I worked on my master’s thesis, which was on the topic of the anti-war movement on the American right wing. And so they just remembered me, that I had done that topic and done an intellectual history on the right wing.
But that was back in 2001 when I was doing most of that research. And I can tell you, back then — (laughing) — if you wanted to get information on the Old Right, on the anti-war movement in the right wing and all that stuff, you had basically maybe three options. You could go to antiwar.com, LewRockwell.com or Chronicles magazine. And, of course, Chronicles didn’t have anything online, so you actually had to go to the stacks in an old library and photocopy old articles and that sort of thing. And, of course, that wasn’t Libertarian, although it had a lot of comment on the foreign policy issue.
And at that point, LRC was three years old and antiwar.com was maybe five years old, something like that. And so it didn’t have anywhere near the volume of information that it has now. And the Internet just didn’t have all of the stuff that it has now. And, yes, Ron Paul was obscure. I mean, your choices of what sort of people you would read, the articles you would have — there was no Tom Woods back then. You didn’t have Judge Napolitano on TV. You never saw Lew Rockwell on TV back then. And then, all of a sudden, in 2012 — I mean, just to compare the two years, it’s just amazing how completely different it is now, compared to 10 years ago.
So while, yes, Buckley is gone and National Review has kind of faded into the background, I mean, what happened on the other side of that? How was this movement able to build from 2002 to 2012?
ROCKWELL: Well, of course, I lot of it is the Internet and the growth of the Internet. It didn’t hurt that the Mises Institute put all of Rothbard’s works up online for free. There’s a famous think tank in Washington that has a big summer intern program. And for years, two of their key people would give a joint lecture to the kids that pretty much consisted of, don’t read Rothbard.
He’s an evil son of a gun. He’s a “this”; he’s a “that.” Don’t read him. You know, well, and they’ve been doing this, you know, in the ’70s and all through the years. Needless to say, any kid with a brain, when they hear that, the first thing they want to do is go read Rothbard.
What is this all about? Well, who is this guy?
In the old days, they had to go to the stacks. Today, of course, they can find it in three minutes, two minutes, 30 seconds, three seconds.
Recently, there was a controversy when I said online that I thought that Murray was a much bigger figure among today’s young people than Milton Friedman, even though, at the time and in the economics profession and so forth and in the culture, Friedman, who was always an advisor to Republican presidents and an excuser of Republican policies and so forth, was, by far, the bigger figure. So one of the people who wrote in to denounce me and had a comment, he said, look, you can’t really say this because it’s unfair. All of Rothbard is available for free on the web and Friedman books are all very expensive and you have to buy them or you have to go to the library.
ROCKWELL: So I though, oh, unfair, yes, right. So —
So we have everything of Mises. We have Chodorov. We have Albert Jay Nock. We have, you know, all the great guys, to the extent we can, for free on the web. We have the physical books, too, but we — all over the world, people are — I mean, Rothbard, Rothbard is today a much huger figure than he was in his lifetime. And Buckley barely exists. Does anybody read Buckley any more? Does anybody read — I mean, he was a best-selling author, best-selling novelist. He had a very well-read column and so forth. He’s disappeared like, you know, a cup of spilled water on an August day. I mean, he’s just gone.
MCMAKEN: Well, and part of the reason I think, there, is the Conservatives don’t even care about their own heritage, intellectually. It’s just about cheering on whoever the current Republican president is and just rooting for your side. And so they don’t even bother with quoting that.
ROCKWELL: But I think it’s also a deliberate policy by the leaders of the Conservative movement. I always think of Rush Limbaugh announcing, “Just listen to me. Don’t read anybody else. Don’t listen to anybody else. I’ll tell you all you need to know.” It’s semi-joking or sarcastic, but not actually a kind of a statement.
Because they don’t want people reading the old literature because they might read dangerous stuff. They might come upon ideas that they’re not supposed to hear about. So, yes, they’re just supposed to concentrate on the immense importance of installing Romney as versus Obama. You know, that’s Conservatism. And while that appeals to careerists and it appeals to some people, it certainly doesn’t appeal to idealistic young people who are always the carriers of any new revolution.
I think we have so much reason to be optimistic, despite all the, you know, drones in your backyard or whatever else is coming out of Washington recently. Because really, forget the election. Ron Paul has won the future by the millions of young people, not only in this country, but all around the world. He’s got a following all around the world. And these kids are reading. The people who are following Rich Lowry are not reading books, or if they’re reading books, they’re reading the latest book by Michelle Malkin or whatever. They’re not reading the classics. The Ron Paul people are reading the classics. It’s shaping them. It’s forming them. It’s forming our entire movement. It’s why we’re going to win.
MCMAKEN: Well, then I think that really highlights the importance of consistency and strength on the intellectual side of the movement, which I think, unfortunately, even some good Libertarian activists don’t really appreciate. I’m afraid that some people will be discouraged if Ron Paul, as is probably going to happen, is not going to win the general election. And then a lot of people are going to think, well, we lost an election, so what does that mean? That means the movement is dead. Which, of course, it doesn’t mean that at all because, of course, we were doing it all for the last couple of decades in pushing these ideas, getting people to believe in that. It’s not like Ron Paul just runs for office and, suddenly, everybody decides that they’re Libertarian. There was a whole intellectual movement behind that. And it continues, and has been greatly magnified by what Paul has done. And I’m sure he’ll continue to be a personality and someone who will lead this movement, much in the way that Buckley did.
But I was looking and contrasting that on who was on the other side. And you brought up Limbaugh. And a friend of mine who is sympathetic to the mainstream Conservative side said — and he didn’t mean this in a good way. He said, I think really the intellectual Conservative movement and their ideas are really just dictated by talk radio now. He didn’t really think there was any kind of real intellectual backing. There aren’t any scholarly books being read. It’s just, what did the TV guys say; what did the radio guy say? And it pretty much doesn’t get beyond that.
So if that’s what you’re building that side of the movement on, I don’t see how that can have much appeal to young people or people who actually want to be knowledgeable on the subject.
ROCKWELL: Not only Limbaugh but despicable Mark Levine or the boob, Sean Hannity. I mean, look at these people — (laughing). They obviously have talent as entertainers for some people, but they’re actually anti-intellectual. The entire leadership of the Conservative movement is, in fact, anti-intellectual. So this is also something — even though, as you say, there are plenty of Libertarians who don’t put the right emphasis on things, who think that electoral politics is the be-all and the end-all, which, by the way, Ron Paul does not think. He thinks that the intellectual side is, by far, the more significant.
And I think your friend is right. These talk show hosts, so shallow, so hectoring, sometimes resembling propaganda artists for, you know, Radio Moscow or something, from another side of things. Just very unpleasant. I think also declining in listenership. I think they don’t have the power they used to have. Even with Obama in the White House, they’ve not ever come back to their status under Clinton.
So as to politics, my own view is we can’t seek our salvation in Washington or in government of any sort. I don’t think it’s actually possible to take over the Republican Party. I mean, it’s part of the government. Why don’t you try taking over the Department of Justice? I mean, you can’t —
It’s one thing to use politics, as Ron has done so successfully to promote his ideas, but it’s quite another thing to think, I’m going to take power and force my will. You can’t wear the ring and triumph against Mordor. It can’t be done. So the people who go into politics for the typical reasons already have a problem. So my guess is there’s going to be a lessening of an interest in politics with Ron’s — after Ron’s campaign. And I think that’s good. I think we can’t actually achieve anything through politics, which, after all, is the government’s weapon, all based on force and violence, coercion and the threats of coercion, ordering people around, putting a gun to peoples’ head and telling them what to do. That’s never the path to anything decent.
MCMAKEN: Well, and there’s probably a certain value in a lot of these activists taking part in the whole party convention process just because they’ll get a taste of just how truly awful the process is.
ROCKWELL: And they are, by the way.
ROCKWELL: A lot of them, they can’t believe it. They can’t believe how they’re treated. They can’t believe they’re being kicked in the teeth. Their guts are hated by the people in control. They were naïve, I guess, enough to think that somebody could take power from the old guard and they wouldn’t try to kill you in return.
MCMAKEN: Yes. There’s not going to be a friendly transfer of power, no matter how polite you are, of course. There’s a lot of money at stake, jobs, prestige, all that sort of thing. People don’t want to give that up.
And just like a lot of former military people are the best Libertarians in many cases, because they’ve seen how that all works up close and personal.
But how does this victory look then, if it doesn’t consist of taking control of a party? Now, there, of course, can be no final victory, or there’s no such thing as the final triumph of the liberty movement or anything like that. But say you do become very successful at really undercutting the power of the state. What does that look like then? What institutions are taken over, if any? What happens there?
ROCKWELL: Well, if you read Murray’s introduction to The Politics of Obedience, by Etiene de la Boetie, the 16th century writer, early Libertarian who talks about consent, he writes a wonderful essay. He didn’t publish it under his own name at the time because he would have been executed by the king, but he says political philosophers are always wondering, how do we, you might say, engineer consent. How do we get more people to support the regime? How do we enlist the population in what we’re doing? And de la Boetie said, well, to me, the interesting question is, why the heck does anybody obey? Why do you obey when it’s so clearly against your own interest? And he says, in fact, all that is necessary to win is the withdrawal of consent.
This is why, for example, the government spends so much time trying to get everybody to vote. It’s why the public schools spend so much time getting you to agree to the legitimacy of the regime. Because they require the consent of the people! The parasites must necessarily be much smaller than the host or they can’t live it up like they like to, and they can’t run their wars and do all the rest. So they’re always a tiny minority. Democracy, disguised as this. One of the reasons they love democracy. But still, the facts of the situation are most of us are not beneficiaries from the regime; we’re the victims of the regime.
And to the extent that more and more people withdraw their consent and mentally don’t go along, if enough of us do that, it dramatically weakens the government. And I think, as you say, there’s never going to be a final victory this side of the next life, but we can certainly turn the tide. We can certainly put things in the opposing direction.
So I think to the extent that people don’t pay attention to every word that drips from the lips of Obama — terrible that I ever look at this show, but there’s a political show —
— by Todd — I’m not thinking of his first name — the MSNBC political director.
MCMAKEN: Sure, I know who you’re talking about.
ROCKWELL: And one of the things he starts off his show every morning with is, “What’s the soup of the day at the White House.” Well, today it’s crab bisque, or whatever. I mean, it’s like announcing, what is the king eating at Versailles today.
So the —
MCMAKEN: Or what’s the first lady wearing, right? Like we care about that.
ROCKWELL: Yes. All of that kind of stuff. So the more that we don’t pay attention to that and when we laugh at it — it’s always important to laugh at the government and all its works. The more that we don’t pay attention, the more we concentrate on educating ourselves, which, as Nock always pointed out, when people talked about saving the world, he said, really, all you can do is present the world with one improved unit. Learn yourself. Educate yourself. Then others will come to you, and that’s the way a movement spreads.
But it is an intellectual struggle, but the government is weakened to the extent that people don’t want anything to do with it. They can’t actually jail us all, shoot us all or whatever. And when this sort of thing takes place — and it has happened in history. I think of the — mention the politically incorrect example of Iran. Even people within the regime begin to reject the regime and then the whole thing comes down. When the Shah of Iran had a vast secret police, the SAVAK, a vicious, vicious secret police — towards the end, he was doing vast money printing and put on price and wage controls. Of course, the big businessmen never got into any trouble if they raised prices, but the small businessman did. And he would send the police into the market areas, and if a businessman had raised his prices, they would take him out and beat the soles of his feet off with bamboo staves.
ROCKWELL: Right. So that kind of stuff. Of course, vast numbers of prisons, huge government structure, all the big businesses on his side. The Ayatollah Khomeini sent tapes into Iran and, within a relatively short period, the entire government dried up and blew away. I mean, it was just gone. Nobody ever talks about the fact that while Khomeini had a very important religious appeal, he also was attacking the government for high taxes, for money printing and similar things. And he was far more free market than the Shah. That, of course, has reversed itself, unfortunately. The current guy, Ahmadinejad, is a big Keynesian.
But anyway, Khomeini actually had a free-market streak in him, which I’ve always thought was part of the reason for his appeal, aside, of course, from the basic religious appeal.
But just by sending sermons on cassette tapes into Iran, he brought the government down. It’s the same sort of thing that Murray Rothbard talks about in Conceived in Liberty with the Pennsylvania government, where long after anybody was paying attention to them, they’re still passing laws in the state legislature and the governor is issuing edicts, or whatever, and nobody paid any attention to them. And finally, they just got on a ship and went back to England.
So there are examples. And you don’t have to have — well, and we can talk about Gandhi, too. It’s a slightly different thing with the mass civil disobedience. But if people reject the government — and, first of all, it’s important that they intellectually reject the government, then they don’t believe all of the — they don’t maybe talk about the government as “we.” They don’t say, should we go to Mars? Should we bomb the people in Yemen? You know, this sort of thing. Of course, it’s not “we.” It’s the government.
So to the extent that they stop thinking of the government as “we,” they start to resist the public schools and home school their children or send them to good private schools or unschool them, to the extent that they secede from the regime in every way possible, but first of all, intellectually and spiritually. This is tremendously weakening.
Now, it might not sound persuasive. I would urge everybody to read Rothbard’s — we’ll link to it in this podcast, as well as, of course, to the books you’re going to be using as textbooks and readings for your course. But read Rothbard’s — de la Boetie is magnificent. Rothbard’s introduction is tremendous. And he explains really how it’s possible to overthrow a tyrannical government without violence. How it’s actually possible by withdrawing your consent, laughing at them, and becoming yourself a beacon of liberty by what you know, by the way you’ve educated yourself in economics and political science and history, theology and so forth, that you are able to become a beacon of resistance yourself. And not the kind, by the way, that they arrest you for! You’re not forming a resistance organization with cells in various cities to do whatever. That’s not the way to go, I would say, morally. It’s certainly not the way to go practically. Those kinds of things are the government’s weapons. They shoot people. They torture people. They put people in cages for life without trial and so forth. That’s their style. That’s not our style. So our style — and Ron Paul always points this out — is nonviolent. And it’s intellectual. And it can actually work.
Now, when is it going to work? We can’t know. It might be well beyond even your lifetime, let alone my lifetime. On the other hand, when social events start to happen, when social change starts to take place, it can really be amazingly fast. So we don’t know. I mean, it could be, especially with the economic crisis that’s continuing and getting worse that, unfortunately, can lead to worse things, man on the white horse and et cetera, or it can lead to radical good change. It’s up to us to try to make that happen.
Again, the first thing to do, as Nock and Rothbard and Chodorov and all these men would tell us, educate yourself. Understand Austrian economics. Understand real history. Understand political science. Understand the nature of the state. Understand some political philosophy. You’re a layperson, of course. You’re not another Ryan McMaken. But in your job, in your private time —
— you can learn what’s necessary. You become a beacon. And this is happening more and more. It’s happening with the young. I’ve run into kids who are, like, 12 years old, who are interested in this sort of thing, not to speak of teenagers, college students, young working people, all of whom realize they’ve been stepped on; they’re going to be stepped on. They want to change things. And we can change things. And I think this is the path to it, withdrawing your consent.
MCMAKEN: Well, and I think it’s worth pointing out that we thought the Soviet Union was going to collapse in 1985, or maybe even 1987, and we thought the British were going to be forced out in 1774. I mean, it’s really hard to predict.
But I do encounter that with some of the younger activists, is just a certain impatience with, well, if it doesn’t work this time, when is it going to work. And it’s as you say, I guess, you just have to keep in mind that people like Rothbard and Chodorov, they died before they saw the fruit of their work. But where would we be now without them?
And I think another important component is that the United States is actually one of the few Western, industrialized counties at least that has an existing free-market movement with a nice intellectual underpinning and a real following. And so kind of just one of the things I hope — (laughing) — that if the situation becomes very bad, if you do have a situation of state collapse, do you actually have something here that’s Libertarian to replace it? And a lot of places don’t have that. And so I think that’s a hopeful sign here. What do you think?
ROCKWELL: Well, I think so.
I just want to mention one other thing about the struggle. And Rothbard exemplified this for me much more than anybody else I’ve ever known. It’s fun to fight. It’s fun to resist these people. It’s fun to learn the truth. It’s fun to expose them. It’s fun to laugh at them. This whole movement is fun. It’s, of course, extremely serious, extremely important also, but it’s just a lot of fun. So even if things don’t happen as quickly as we’d like them to happen — and when do they ever — we’re having fun. Ron Paul has fun. You know, he loves doing what he does. That sort of man is the model for us.
But you’re exactly right. We have a huge — on your other point, a huge movement of people who understand economics, who understand black markets, if it comes to that, who understand the intellectual underpinnings of a free society, much more so than — I don’t know if any other country, but certainly many of the countries I’m familiar with don’t have this — Canada, Mexico, England, France and so forth. It’s growing in other countries. It’s not absent in other countries. But we do have this here. There is an infrastructure. And, of course, we — sort of the basic insight of Libertarianism is we don’t need to be managed. Society does not need an outside manager. We, as individuals, don’t need managers. We don’t need central planners. We don’t need this gang in Washington telling us what to do and ripping us off and stepping on us and putting the boot on the throat and all the rest of the things they do, and love doing, by the way. Just as we have fun fighting them, they have fun — maybe like the devil’s fun — but they have fun crushing people.
I mean, the people who rise in politics, as Hayek pointed out, are the worst possible people. They actually like starting wars. They like sending out young men to kill and be killed. They actually enjoy that. They love feeling up people at the airport. They love the fear that they can engender in somebody’s eyes when they tell them they’re from the FBI or whatever. They love — they like to put their thumb on you and go, aagh. I mean, that’s their fun in life. So that’s the other side.
But there are a whole lot of regular people who don’t want to run other peoples’ lives. They have enough trouble taking care of their own family. They’re not interested in running the next household or the next village or the next — let alone, the next country or the world. And they’re far more preponderant.
Also, we have the truth on our side. I mean, that’s certainly — (laughing) — an important point, too.
But, yes, we have the infrastructure. So, yes, if there is a currency collapse — I’m afraid we’ve got serious troubles ahead. How serious, I don’t know. But we are equipped much more so, than would have been — than was true in the Great Depression, for example, to explain to people what’s happening, why it’s happening, why it didn’t need to happen, and what we can do about it.
MCMAKEN: And I think you see that now in just daily life. You know, I’m not a movement guy. I’ve always had just regular jobs, so I don’t spend my day surrounded by Rothbardians or anything like that. But I can tell you, what you can say now in mixed groups about — say, you trash the Federal Reserve or just make really what would have been considered 10 years ago outlandishly kooky, crazy Libertarian-type statements, are now regarded as, well, maybe not correct, but just the sorts of things people say now. And — (laughing) — so the fact that you can get away with saying the things without being regarded as just the weirdest guy anybody has ever met, I think that’s a big change there, as well.
ROCKWELL: Well, it’s true even on the most radical subjects. I mean, something like taking an Anarcho-Capitalist position of free market, private property, in favor of free market, private property anarchism, you were practically a Communist when I was a kid if you discussed such things. Now, virtually nobody agrees with you, but they’ll discuss it.
And you mentioned the Fed. This is, of course — that was Rothbard. Now, this is entirely Ron Paul. I can remember talking to people about the Fed during the Goldwater — (laughing) — the Goldwater campaign. Of course, I had no luck whatsoever in interesting anybody. And I once tried to start an organization called the Committee to End the Fed. Nobody was interested. Nobody cared.
And their eyes glazed over. Ron Paul has made it an issue. I mean, people realize now, which Murray always said is the key, not only that it’s promulgating economic error and making things worse economically, but that it’s ripping us off. Murray always said those are the two key things to get people involved, that there’s a rip-off going on and that they’re in error as well. So now, I find people don’t even want to defend the Fed.
ROCKWELL: Now maybe they have a tough time thinking of getting rid of it, because it’s there, it’s been there since 1913 and so forth. But it’s huge progress. Unbelievable progress on that issue, so that the Fed hires, for the first time ever, P.R. people to defend it. So the Fed officials are going out, giving speeches all over the place to try to get better P.R. They feel under attack. We know this from any number of stories with unnamed Fed officials speaking. For the first time ever, they feel under attack. And we have one guy in Forbes magazine saying, look, this is horrendous; Ron Paul must shut up. Because you can’t actually make anybody focus on the Fed because then it makes it difficult for these selfless, brilliant and wonderful technocrats, who are running the economy, to do their work. If anybody is — he said it’s not enough that people are not against the Fed; they shouldn’t even be for the Fed. They should pay no attention to the Fed. Which, I must say, always was my view that that was what they wanted. Now we all pay attention to the Fed, and not just guys on Wall Street. Their power is circumscribed. You wouldn’t think it’s possible. Their power has been circumscribed by what Ron Paul has done to make them an issue. There, again, is the model.
Or think about what Tom DiLorenzo has done with the case of Abraham Lincoln. Before Tom wrote his books on Lincoln, telling the truth about this dictator, he was Saint Abraham. Now, any teacher or professor giving the normal line on Lincoln has to be concerned that there’s some kid in his class who has read one of these books and actually knows —
— what the truth is about this guy. He’s actually changed the minds of so many young people.
So it can be done. How did it happen in Tom’s case? A lot of research, years of work and of scholarship, and wonderful writing skills, producing two great books. Ron Paul, 40 years of work, 40 years of studying the Fed and Austrian economics and Libertarianism. But what fruit that’s borne! It is possible to change. It is possible to make progress. We are making progress.
MCMAKEN: Yes, I guess if I were being approached — as I’ve gotten e-mails recently from some of the new activists who — they’re discouraged, right? They’re being fought tooth and nail. But I guess all I can say to them — (laughing) — is trust me, you’re winning.
I mean, things are going well. You may not see it because you were 16 during the last presidential election or whatever, but hang in there because, yes, things are going in your way.
ROCKWELL: Well, when they slap you on the back and smile at you and shake your hand, there’s trouble.
ROCKWELL: It’s only when they hate your guts, you know you’re doing good.
MCMAKEN: You definitely do, yes.
Well, that’s all I had for you today, Lew. And that was a wonderful discussion. It went a little long. But, yes, it was great.
ROCKWELL: Well, Ryan, you make the time go by fast. And congratulations on your course. Keep writing and blogging for LRC. And, again, we’ll link to all the books that you’re going to use and we’ll link to some of the other books that we’ve discussed today and other writings.
And great to have you on the show, and thanks for interviewing me.
Thank you, Ryan.
MCMAKEN: Thank you very much, Lew. See you.
ROCKWELL: Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There’s a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.
Ryan McMaken [send him mail] is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.