Do You Distort Us? Let Me Count the Ways: An Open Letter to Virginia
the space of a
couple paragraphs on your website you have managed to malign
LewRockwell.com’s editor-in-chief, its columnists, Murray Rothbard,
and the State of Mississippi. As a contributing editor at LewRockwell.com,
I would like to address your calumny.
describe LewRockwell.com (hereafter LRC) as "a site pretty
much dedicated to equating ‘libertarianism’ with the decidedly anti-freedom
policies of the Old South (along with extreme foreign policy isolationism
and a misanthropic strand of anarchism inspired by Murray Rothbard)."
You continue, "Rockwell et al. are just against the government
that ended state-supported slavery and Jim Crow."
LRC underscores on its homepage, it is "the anti-state, anti-war,
pro-market news site." Its main intellectual source is indeed
Murray Rothbard: author of treatises ranging from economics (e.g.,
Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought
Economy, and State) and history (e.g., Conceived
in Liberty) to works of political theory (e.g., For
a New Liberty and The
Ethics of Liberty) and commentary (Making
Economic Sense and The
Irrepressible Rothbard). (This is but a smidgen of Rothbard’s
may be read here.)
I, for one, unabashedly admit that Rothbard’s passionate profligacy
on behalf of liberty has been an inspiration.
have conflated LRC’s opposition to the Confederacy’s conquest with
endorsement of slavery and segregation. The conflation is hardly
atypical, but it is nonetheless erroneous (and, I would add, peculiar
coming from a professed classical liberal).
LRC lacks a compulsory view of the Union-Confederacy War (we are
LRC, not the CPUSA), I venture to say its writers and readers have
a Rothbardian view of that watershed conflict, i.e., they oppose
slavery and Abraham Lincoln’s unitary jihad alike. Rothbard
condemned Lincoln’s anti-constitutional invasion of the South, his
tyrannical political philosophy, and the egregious expropriation
part and parcel of slavery, writing in Volume I of Conceived
essence of slavery is that human beings, with their inherent
freedom of will, with individual desires and convictions and
purposes, are used as capital, as tools for the benefit
of their master. The slave is therefore habitually forced into
types and degrees of work that he would not have freely undertaken;
by necessity, therefore, the bit and the lash become the motor
of the slave system. The myth of the kindly master camouflages
the inherent brutality and savagery of the slave system."
further discussion, see "A
have discussed elsewhere, Lincoln’s notion of union would have
entailed conquering Massachusetts had it seceded to nullify the
Fugitive Slave Law and its basis in the Constitution provisions
that had long incensed decidedly anti-slavery individuals such as
William Lloyd Garrison and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Consider that: an
army deployed to suppress a state for abolitionist withdrawal. Accordingly,
perhaps secession was not and is not an intrinsic abomination; and
perhaps, as M.E. Bradford observed, "It is at our peril that
we continue to reverence his [Lincoln’s] name."
contemporaneous precursor of Rothbard and LRC’s writers was Lysander
Spooner, who observed in No
another of the frauds of these [Republican] men is, that they
are now establishing, and that the war was destined to establish,
‘a government of consent.’ The only idea they have ever manifested
as to what is a government of consent, is this – that it is
one to which everybody must consent, or be shot. This idea was
the dominant one on which the war was carried on; and it is
the dominant one, now that we have got what is called ‘peace.’"
words were written not by a bitter member of the planter elite but
by a Massachusetts abolitionist sympathetic to John Brown. (Spooner
had even planned a kidnapping of Virginia Governor Henry Wise to
achieve Brown’s release after Harper’s Ferry.) Spooner was an ardent
libertarian, and he recognized the evisceration of consensual government
concomitant with the Confederacy’s annihilation.
disclosure: Yes, Ms. Postrel, many at LRC further consider many
of the Confederacy’s principles meritorious. Anti-protectionism,
executive confinement, devolutionary governance these are values
all libertarians should share. (And no, that does not mean we endorse
the white supremacist, pro-slavery provisions of the Confederate
let me add that as the founder and editor of an
anti-slavery website who has written about
today’s epidemic bondage, I take umbrage at having my objections
to Lincoln’s sanguinary dogma equated with pro-slavery rhetoric.
I am unsure whether this misrepresentation is more risible or repugnant.
a few words on Jim Crow: Since this system, inter alia, perpetrated
coercive disassociation and violated freedom of contract, and since
Rothbardians cherish the property rights on which Jim Crow trampled,
your insinuation that we lament the dissolution of Jim Crow is problematic,
to say the least.
gears to the "extreme foreign policy isolationism and…misanthropic
strand of anarchism" you attribute to Rothbard, what exactly
is "extreme foreign policy isolationism?" Is it opposition
to the chronic, unconstitutional deployment of troops to partake
in dubious battle, attended by draconian domestic policies? (For
just two studies of the latter malady, see Michael Linfield’s Freedom
under Fire: U.S. Civil Liberties in Times of War and Bruce
D. Porter’s War
and the Rise of the State: The Military Foundations of Modern Politics.)
Is it opposition to supra-national entities such as NATO that undermine
American sovereignty and impose commitments that would have been
anathema to the founders?
for Rothbard’s "misanthropic strand of anarchism," his
rich affection for family and friends refutes your bizarre assertion.
(See Justin Raimondo’s An
Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.) Misanthropic
individuals don’t tend to be gregarious husbands, Ms. Postrel.
your aspersions, though, the disdainful asininity of "Mississippi
is a backward place" takes the cake. Indeed, Mississippi is
so troglodytic that it has been home to William Faulkner, Shelby
Foote, Richard Ford, Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, and other illiterates.
(Your biography at
Reason’s website indicates you majored in English at
Princeton. Did As
I Lay Dying, The
Last Gentleman, or Losing
Battles not make the cut?)
has been bashed by big dogs such as the Wall Street Journal and
National Review Online, and we’re still here. Your contribution
to the mud parade won’t change that, but it’s a shame to see a professed
classical liberal partake in such tripe.
Kantor [send him mail]
and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida