The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
they finally got David Duke. But he sure scared the bejesus out
of them. It took a massive campaign of hysteria, of fear and hate,
orchestrated by all wings of the Ruling Elite, from Official right
to left, from President Bush and the official Republican Party through
the New York-Washington-run national media through the local elites
and down to local left-wing activists. It took a massive scare campaign,
not only invoking the old bogey images of the Klan and Hitler, but
also, more concretely, a virtual threat to boycott Louisiana, to
pull out tourists and conventions, to lose jobs by businesses leaving
the state. It took a campaign of slander that resorted to questioning
the sincerity of Duke's conversion to Christianity even challenging
him to name his "official church." Even my old friend Doug Bandow
participated in this cabal in the Wall Street Journal, which
virtually flipped its wig in anti-Duke hysteria, to the extent of
attacking Duke for being governed by self-interest(!) presumably
in contrast to all other politicians motivated by deep devotion
to the public weal? It took a lot of gall for Bandow to do this,
since he is not a sacramental Christian (where one can point out
that the person under attack was not received into the sacramental
Church), but a pietist one, who is opposed to any sort of official
creed or liturgy. So how can a pietist Christian challenge the bona
fides of another one? And in a world where no one challenges the
Christian credentials of a Chuck Colson or a Jeb Magruder? But logic
went out the window: for the entire Establishment, the ruling elite,
was at stake, and in that sort of battle, all supposedly clashing
wings of the Establishment weld together as one unit and fight with
any weapons that might be at hand.
But even so: David
Duke picked up 55 percent of the white vote; he lost in the runoff
because the fear campaign brought a massive outpouring of black
voters. But note the excitement; politics in Louisiana rose from
the usual torpor that we have been used to for decades and brought
out a turnout rate 80 percent that hasn't been seen
since the nineteenth century, when party politics was fiercely partisan
One point that has
nowhere been noted: populism won in Louisiana, because in the first
primary the two winners were Duke, a right-wing populist, and Edwin
Edwards, a left-wing populist. Out in the cold were the two Establishment
candidates: incumbent Governor Buddy Roemer, high-tax, high-spend
"reform" Democrat embraced by the Bush Administration in an attempt
to stop the dread Duke; and the forgotten man, Clyde Holloway, the
official Republican candidate, a good Establishment conservative,
who got only five percent of the vote. (Poor Human Events
kept complaining during the campaign: why are the media ignoring
Clyde Holloway? The simple answer is that he never got anywhere:
an instructive metaphor for what will eventually be the fate of
A left-wing populist,
former Governor Edwards is a long-time Cajun crook, whose motto
has been the rollicking laissez les bon temps roulez ("let
the good times roll"). He has always been allegedly hated by businessmen
and by conservative elites. But this was crisis time; and in crisis
the truth is revealed: there is no fundamental difference between
left-wing populism and the system we have now. Left-wing populism:
rousing the masses to attack "the rich," amounts to more of the
same: high taxes, wild spending, massive redistribution of working
and middle-class incomes to the ruling coalition of: big government,
big business, and the New Class of bureaucrats, technocrats, and
ideologues and their numerous dependent groups. And so, in the crunch,
left-wing populism phony populism disappeared, and
all crookery was forgiven in the mighty Edwards coalition. It is
instructive that the Establishment professes to believe in Edwards'
teary promises of personal reform ("I'm 65 now; the good times have
mellowed"), while refusing to believe in the sincerity of David
They said in the 60s,
when they gently chided the violent left: "stop using violence,
work within the system." And sure enough it worked, as the former
New Left now leads the respectable intellectual classes. So why
wasn't the Establishment willing to forgive and forget when a right-wing
radical like David Duke stopped advocating violence, took off the
Klan robes, and started working within the system? If it was OK
to be a Commie, or a Weatherman, or whatever in your wild youth,
why isn't it OK to have been Klansmen? Or to put it more precisely,
if it was OK for the revered Justice Hugo Black, or for the lion
of the Senate, Robert Byrd, to have been a Klansman, why not David
Duke? The answer is obvious: Black and Byrd became members of the
liberal elite, of the Establishment, whereas Duke continued to be
a right-wing populist, and therefore anti-Establishment, this time
even more dangerous because "within the system."
It is fascinating that
there was nothing in Duke's current program or campaign that could
not also be embraced by paleoconservatives or paleo-libertarians;
lower taxes, dismantling the bureaucracy, slashing the welfare system,
attacking affirmative action and racial set-asides, calling for
equal rights for all Americans, including whites: what's wrong with
any of that? And of course the mighty anti-Duke coalition did not
choose to oppose Duke on any of these issues. Indeed, even the most
leftist of his opponents grudgingly admitted that he had a point.
Instead, the Establishment concentrated on the very "negative campaigning"
that they profess to abhor (especially when directed against them).
(Ironic note: TV pundits, who regularly have face lifts twice a
year, bitterly attacked Duke for his alleged face lift. And nobody
WHAT IS RIGHT-WING
The basic right-wing
populist insight is that we live in a statist country and a statist
world dominated by a ruling elite, consisting of a coalition of
Big Government, Big Business, and various influential special interest
groups. More specifically, the old America of individual liberty,
private property, and minimal government has been replaced by a
coalition of politicians and bureaucrats allied with, and even dominated
by, powerful corporate and Old Money financial elites (e.g., the
Rockefellers, the Trilateralists); and the New Class of technocrats
and intellectuals, including Ivy League academics and media elites,
who constitute the opinion-moulding class in society. In short,
we are ruled by an updated, twentieth-century coalition of Throne
and Altar, except that this Throne is various big business groups,
and the Altar is secular, statist intellectuals, although mixed
in with the secularists is a judicious infusion of Social Gospel,
mainstream Christians. The ruling class in the State has always
needed intellectuals to apologize for their rule and to sucker the
masses into subservience, i.e., into paying the taxes and going
along with State rule. In the old days, in most societies, a form
of priestcraft or State Church constituted the opinion-moulders
who apologized for that rule. Now, in a more secular age, we have
technocrats, "social scientists," and media intellectuals, who apologize
for the State system and staff in the ranks of its bureaucracy.
Libertarians have often
seen the problem plainly, but as strategists for social change they
have badly missed the boat. In what we might call "the Hayek model,"
they have called for spreading correct ideas, and thereby converting
the intellectual elites to liberty, beginning with top philosophers
and then slowly trickling on down through the decades to converting
journalists and other media opinion-moulders. And of course, ideas
are the key, and spreading correct doctrine is a necessary part
of any libertarian strategy. It might be said that the process takes
too long, but a long-range strategy is important, and contrasts
to the tragic futility of official conservatism which is interested
only in the lesser-of-two-evils for the current election and therefore
loses in the medium, let along the long, run. But the real error
is not so much the emphasis on the long run, but on ignoring the
fundamental fact that the problem is not just intellectual error.
The problem is that the intellectual elites benefit from the current
system; in a crucial sense, they are part of the ruling class. The
process of Hayekian conversion assumes that everyone, or at least
all intellectuals, are interested solely in the truth, and that
economic self-interest never gets in the way. Anyone at all acquainted
with intellectuals or academics should be disabused of this notion,
and fast. Any libertarian strategy must recognize that intellectuals
and opinion-moulders are part of the fundamental problem, not just
because of error, but because their own self-interest is tied into
the ruling system.
Why then did communism
implode? Because in the end the system was working so badly that
even the nomenklatura got fed up and threw in the towel.
The Marxists have correctly pointed out that a social system collapses
when the ruling class becomes demoralized and loses its will to
power; manifest failure of the communist system brought about that
demoralization. But doing nothing, or relying only on educating
the elites in correct ideas, will mean that our own statist system
will not end until our entire society, like that of the Soviet Union,
has been reduced to rubble. Surely, we must not sit still for that.
A strategy for liberty must be far more active and aggressive.
Hence the importance,
for libertarians or for minimal government conservatives, of having
a one-two punch in their armor: not simply of spreading correct
ideas, but also of exposing the corrupt ruling elites and how they
benefit from the existing system, more specifically how they are
ripping us off. Ripping the mask off elites is "negative campaigning"
at its finest and most fundamental.
This two-pronged strategy
is (a) to build up a cadre of our own libertarians, minimal-government
opinion-moulders, based on correct ideas; and (b) to tap the masses
directly, to short-circuit the dominant media and intellectual elites,
to rouse the masses of people against the elites that are looting
them, and confusing them, and oppressing them, both socially and
economically. But this strategy must fuse the abstract and the concrete;
it must not simply attack elites in the abstract, but must focus
specifically on the existing statist system, on those who
right now constitute the ruling classes.
Libertarians have long
been puzzled about whom, about which groups, to reach out to. The
simple answer: everyone, is not enough, because to be relevant politically,
we must concentrate strategically on those groups who are most oppressed
and who also have the most social leverage.
The reality of the
current system is that it constitutes an unholy alliance of "corporate
liberal" Big Business and media elites, who, through big government,
have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who,
among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle
and working classes in America. Therefore, the proper strategy of
libertarians and paleos is a strategy of "right-wing populism,"
that is: to expose and denounce this unholy alliance, and to call
for getting this preppie-underclass-liberal media alliance off the
backs of the rest of us: the middle and working classes.
A RIGHT-WING POPULIST
A right-wing populist
program, then, must concentrate on dismantling the crucial existing
areas of State and elite rule, and on liberating the average American
from the most flagrant and oppressive features of that rule. In
l. Slash Taxes.
All taxes, sales, business, property, etc., but especially the most
oppressive politically and personally: the income tax. We must work
toward repeal of the income tax and abolition of the IRS.
2. Slash Welfare.
Get rid of underclass rule by abolishing the welfare system, or,
short of abolition, severely cutting and restricting it.
3. Abolish Racial
or Group Privileges. Abolish affirmative action, set aside racial
quotas, etc., and point out that the root of such quotas is the
entire "civil rights" structure, which tramples on the property
rights of every American.
4. Take Back the
Streets: Crush Criminals. And by this I mean, of course, not
"white collar criminals" or "inside traders" but violent street
criminals robbers, muggers, rapists, murderers. Cops must
be unleashed, and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject
of course to liability when they are in error.
5. Take Back the
Streets: Get Rid of the Bums. Again: unleash the cops to clear
the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares?
Hopefully, they will disappear, that is, move from the ranks of
the petted and cosseted bum class to the ranks of the productive
members of society.
6. Abolish the Fed;
Attack the Banksters. Money and banking are recondite issues.
But the realities can be made vivid: the Fed is an organized cartel
of banksters, who are creating inflation, ripping off the public,
destroying the savings of the average American. The hundreds of
billions of taxpayer handouts to S&L banksters will be chicken-feed
compared to the coming collapse of the commercial banks.
7. America First.
A key point, and not meant to be seventh in priority. The American
economy is not only in recession; it is stagnating. The average
family is worse off now than it was two decades ago. Come home America.
Stop supporting bums abroad. Stop all foreign aid, which is aid
to banksters and their bonds and their export industries. Stop gloabaloney,
and let's solve our problems at home.
8. Defend Family
Values. Which means, get the State out of the family, and replace
State control with parental control. In the long run, this means
ending public schools, and replacing them with private schools.
But we must realize that voucher and even tax credit schemes are
not, despite Milton Friedman, transitional demands on the path to
privatized education; instead, they will make matters worse by fastening
government control more totally upon the private schools. Within
the sound alternative is decentralization, and back to local, community
neighborhood control of the schools.
Further: We must reject
once and for all the left-libertarian view that all government-operated
resources must be cesspools. We must try, short of ultimate privatization,
to operate government facilities in a manner most conducive to a
business, or to neighborhood control. But that means: that the public
schools must allow prayer, and we must abandon the absurd left-atheist
interpretation of the First Amendment that "establishment of religion"
means not allowing prayer in public schools, or a creche in a schoolyard
or a public square at Christmas. We must return to common sense,
and original intent, in constitutional interpretation.
So far: every one of
these right-wing populist programs is totally consistent with a
hard-core libertarian position. But all real-world politics is coalition
politics, and there are other areas where libertarians might well
compromise with their paleo or traditionalist or other partners
in a populist coalition. For example, on family values, take such
vexed problems as pornography, prostitution, or abortion. Here,
pro-legalization and pro-choice libertarians should be willing to
compromise on a decentralist stance; that is, to end the tyranny
of the federal courts, and to leave these problems up to states
and better yet, localities and neighborhoods, that is, to "community