The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray N. Rothbard
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
THE "WATERSHED" ELECTION
The media call this a "watershed" election, the election of "change," and it is, although not quite in the way they are celebrating. It was an election driven by the Respectable Media which, over a year ago, anointed Clinton as our savior and managed to engineer his election. The media's final burst of "unbias" came on Election Day when various anchor people urged the public: "Please, if you want change, go out and vote!" (For guess who?) Faking reality, carefully selecting photographs and sound bites, the media contrived at all times to make Clinton look good and Bush look bad. Throwing away any vestige of objectivity, they worked diligently and even frantically at their adopted task. To which circle of Hell should the duplicitous media be consigned?
Indeed, the entire managerial/technocratic/intellectual/cultural elite weighed in to insure the election of Clinton, doing do as if there were no tomorrow and their lives depended on it.
Not only did the usual hundred or so economists bestow their dubious blessings on Clintonomics, not only did business executives support the Democrats as never before, but so did dozens of eminent college presidents, they who are usually so careful to be bland and not to aggravate powerful alumni donors. Apparently, the cause was vital enough for even college presidents to come out of the left-liberal closet. And not to be overlooked are the significant early anointment of Clinton by the powerful AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee) and by the Rockefeller World Empire.
Particularly wrought by this election were two significant political deaths: that of the modern conservative movement, and of the Libertarian Party.
THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT, 1955-1992, RIP
The modern conservative movement was born in 1955 with the founding of National Review. It reached its first peak, followed by a rout, with the Goldwater campaign of 1964, it then grew more pragmatic, and regrouped around Ronald Reagan, riding to a seeming victory in 1980. Increasingly, the conservative movement was based on only one principle: anti-Communism, plus a subsidiary principle: strengthening and aggrandizing the State of Israel, as well as the personality cult around Ronald Reagan. With the fading away of Reagan, and the collapse of Communism and the Cold War, what principles were left? It is no wonder, as Bill Bennett observed on a post-election Crossfire, that "the conservative movement ran out of steam." For those of us nurtured in the pre-Buckley Old Right, the idea of the right wing "running out of steam" would have been incomprehensible. Isn't the political edifice carved out since the New Deal still intact? Our half-century, nay century and a half, of repeal and abolition of statism still lie ahead, almost none of it accomplished. But of course the Old Right was founded on a program of rolling back the Leviathan State to nineteenth-century levels, a far more far-reaching and revolutionary objective than simply keeping the Soviet Union at bay.
The conservative movement fittingly died in an orgy of self-immolation, committing treason to the last vestige of its principles or allies. No group deserves its fate more. Through the length and breadth of the conservative movement, especially its Washington leadership, Official Conservatives and their neoconservative buddies either openly came out for Clinton, or kept their Clintonian bias quasi-private, thinly veiling it by levying potshots at President Bush even after the convention, and damning Bush while keeping strangely mum about the Arkansas governor.
Here are some of the arguments used by conservative leaders in the terrible fall of '92 for their move from Bush to Clinton:
1. Clinton "isn't so bad"; "we can work with him." The song of slimy opportunists everywhere and in all times. Trying to be Talleyrand, trying to keep on top, keeping the jobs and influence and contracts flowing, regardless of regime. Well, I've got news for you, buddies; I can't say I knew Talleyrand personally or that he was a friend of mine, but I can assure you this: You ain't no Talleyrand. You're dealing with clever sharks, hungry after twelve years out of the executive branch. You guys are going nowhere. No one trusts traitors, even the guys you sold out to. Bad cess to all of you you certainly deserve it.
2. Clinton will be so bad he will discredit the Democrats and lead to our triumph in four years. (An argument directly contradictory to (1), though often advanced by the very same people.) This is an example of "the worse the better" argument allegedly advanced by Lenin. But again I've got news for you: Lenin was too smart to make such an argument. I find it particularly irritating that my own name has been invoked as a theorist of "the worse the better" and that therefore this is supposed to be a long-standing "Rothbardian" strategy. Please guys: allow me the courtesy of knowing my own views better than you do.
In the first place, this doctrine is almost always untrue. In most cases, the worse the worse. The government gets worse, things are bad, but the public gets inured to these measures, they can't identify the cause-and-effect relations anyway, and so things steadily get worse. How come that the terrible deeds of the Progressive Era, the Wilson administration, the New Deal, etc. have not already provoked any backlash reaction? How come things just keep getting worse? What makes you bozos think that four years of Clinton will be any different? Most likely, people will be inured to more statism under Clinton, so that we will have four more years to roll back, and less enthusiasm for doing so.
Also, remember this: the major argument that persuaded classical liberals, at the turn of the century, to advocate the income tax, went as follows: Now, taxes are high, because, since they are in the form of indirect, excise taxation, people can't see them. But income taxes will be direct and visible, and therefore the people will make sure that income tax rates will be very low. Hah! You know what happened to that one! The result has been higher, crippling income taxes, plus higher excise and other indirect taxes. Lew Rockwell reports that, twenty years ago, he had an argument with a conservative-libertarian colleague over the New York City public school system, the colleague claiming that it's good that the public schools are getting worse, since then the people will abandon them and turn completely to private schooling. Of course, the schools have only gotten much worse since.
The worse the better is therefore nonsense as strategy; it's also immoral, if anyone still cares about that. Advocating more evil tends to discredit, and rightly so, the guy doing the advocating, plus it tars his ideas with the same brush of immorality. And for what benefit?
The actual "Leninist" doctrine does not in any sense advocate worse times. What it says is that the existing system ("capitalism" for Lenin, "statism and social democracy" for myself) will inevitably lead to various grave crises economic, social, or whatever and that our movement should warn people of these inevitable crises and be prepared to remind the public of our prescience when the crises develop. But it's not at all that we advocate such crises; on the contrary, our task is to warn people of the crises being brought about by the statist system we despise. Evidently, this distinction is too subtle for a number of people who call themselves "Rothbardians," but it is an important one nevertheless.
It is true that the Soviet Union at long last, was destroyed on the rock of its own "inner contradictions"; in other words, in the Soviet Union, things got so bad for so long, that everyone was willing to dump the regime. But is this what our worse-the-better theorists really want: to make things as bad as the Soviet Union, to have seventy years of unremitting horror, of starvation, mass murder, genocide, and Gulags, so that things will then get better? Do they really have the gall to advocate such a strategy?
Furthermore, the Democrats successfully ran against Herbert Hoover for two or three decades. Even though Roosevelt did not succeed in bringing us out of the depression, blaming it all on Hoover proved to have tremendous mileage well into the post-war boom. Does anyone doubt that the Democrats, fortified by their near-absolute control of the media, will be able to run, for decades, regardless of what happens, against the dread specter of the "decade of greed" under Ronald Reagan?
The behavior of the conservative leadership has been truly bizarre in 1992. First, they slammed down on Pat Buchanan, accusing him of undercutting and betraying the president. Then, after the Houston convention, when Pat took the time-honored and honorable course of uniting with the winner against the greater danger, the conservatives oddly turned tail, and started denouncing Bush for the same reasons, and even more heatedly, than Pat had done, and continued to pursue this course through Election Day. How can we explain such seemingly irrational behavior? Only in terms of a hidden agenda.
Consider (a) the conservatives hated Pat's attempt to rally genuine conservatism into a movement to Take Back America; and (b) once Pat was safely out of the way, they could mouth the same language (attacking betrayal of the no-new-tax pledge, etc.) but only because they yearned to bring Bush down and elect the supposed enemy Clinton. The only way to explain such an attitude is to conclude that these Official Conservative leaders wanted above all to bury genuine conservatism, and to promote the election of Clinton. Which makes them duplicitous traitors to their own supposed cause. Why? Either to jump on the bandwagon of the winner, to curry jobs and favors and power, and/or because they remain throughout at the beck and call of their neocon masters.
One thing we at Triple R can assure our readers: the new regime, the new "change agent," will enjoy no "honeymoon" from us; in contrast to other conservative outfits, we pledge unremitting hostility to Clintonian Democracy in all its pomp and works, and in every facet of its being.
The self-immolation and death of the conservative movement accomplished one good thing: it cleared the decks. We must start from scratch, start from under the rubble, discarding the old conservative baggage, and build a new and mighty movement, a new Old Right, dedicated to rolling back the Leviathan State, and to Taking Back every aspect of America, its politics, its economy, its culture, from Clintonian social democracy. Since the Official Conservatives and neocons have left the field, have displayed their turncoat colors, we must build a movement without them, and make sure that, as our movement begins to succeed, that they not be allowed to crawl their way back in. The watchword must be: Never Again!
DID BUSH THROW THE ELECTION?
Here I must advance the hypothesis, the fascinating possibility, that Bush deliberately threw the election. This possibility must not be ruled immediately out of court merely because "conspiracy" analysis is not fashionable.
If Bush did not throw the election, why did he systematically retreat, and apologize for, every single effective line of action during his campaign? Why, when he attacked Clinton, did he retreat the next day after the corrupt liberal media expressed their phony outrage? Why did Bush not only repudiate the heroic Floyd Brown, Mr. Negative Campaign, who was the source of the famous Willie Horton ad in 1988, but also threaten legal action against Brown's attempt to get the Gennifer Flower tapes before the public? Why was Bush almost as apoplectic about Floyd Brown, who was trying to get him elected, as was Ron Brown and the Clinton campaign?
Why was Bush, allegedly a gut fighter in campaigning, so strangely passive most of the time, and in the debates?
Why, after suddenly becoming determined and getting his act together after the third debate and coming up to a dead heat by the final weekend, why did Bush suddenly lose it, become frenetic, and call his opponents "bozos" and Al Gore "Ozone Man"? Did he feel the race was getting too close?
Why did he repudiate the family values theme after it was drawing blood, and even had the gall through his campaign officials to blame Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson for the rotten state of his own campaign?
The easy answer, of course, is that Bush is a wimp without convictions, and therefore ready to bend with every tide. Certainly, that's a plausible response. But what clinched the conspiracy view for me was an unremarked but important event on October 16. That day, an Op-Ed article was written for the New York Times endorsing Clinton. It was a terrible article, badly written and lacking any content, simply saying, in effect, "I trust Bill Clinton to lead us through the next four years." The only remarkable point about the article, and clearly the sole reason it was published, was the name of its author: David Rockefeller, Jr., head of Rockefeller Financial Services.
In other words: David, Jr. was signaling to one and all, including the president, that, for the first time since 1964, the Rockefeller World Empire (RWE) was openly endorsing a Democrat. Usually, in every election, the RWE has been content to exert control over both sides, and leave it at that, sticking with their nominal Republicanism. Matters must be serious when the RWE has to openly signal its support for the Democrats.
That's when I first thought of my "conspiracy hypothesis"; before that, I just thought that Bush was being his usual inept self. Consider this possible scenario: George Bush enters the palatial office of David Rockefeller, Senior, the Godfather, capo di tutti capi of the Rockefeller World Empire.
"Sit down, George," David says in the gravelly voice made famous by Marlon Brando as Don Corleone.
"George," David begins, "let me tell you something. You are going to lose this election."
"But Godfather," protests George, "haven't I been a good and faithful servant of the Family?"
"Yes, you have, George," Rockefeller assures him, "But conditions have changed. Our multicultural friends demand another Leap Forward. So you're going to lose, but George, it's important that you lose with dignity, with honor. Nothing negative against Clinton. We don't want to spoil his administration."
"George, I can assure you," Rockefeller tells the shaken Bush, "if you lose with dignity, your children will prosper, your grandchildren will prosper. If not," Rockefeller makes a cutting gesture across his throat.
All right: if this scenario is untrue, answer me this: Why was George Bush so darned happy on Election Night? Why were we depressed, but he, the ostensible loser, happy? The answer that he was "relieved" that the whole thing was over doesn't account for his joy. How about: relief that he hadn't blown the deal and actually won the election?
FOUR YEARS, AHHRGGHH!
Election Night was, indeed, true misery: total loss across the board, made particularly piquant by the spectacle of all three candidates having a grand old time while we sat moping in front of the TV. There was, of course, the entire Clinton and Gore entourage boogying across the stage, Clinton's endless victory talk, continuing smooching between Willie and Hillary, and through it all the strains of left-egalitarian, post-millennial pietist Christian hymns being sung by a black choir. Then, cut to Dallas, where little jug-ears and Margot lived it up, shouted, and danced, to the cheers of the enraptured throng of mindless Perotvians.
What were they so happy about? After all, "Just-call-me Ross, you're the boss" got nowhere close to attaining the presidency. And, finally, George and Barbara beaming with happiness. It was all too much to bear. Sure, George: you're going off to Kennebunkport, and Jim Baker is going to Wyoming, but the rest of us are going to be stuck with four years of an unholy mess.
Which brings me to the esthetic horror of contemplating Four Years of this insufferable turkey, this smirking, prancing, perpetually smiling, hoarse-voiced, Arkansas-accented, implacable drone gabbling out his neo-liberal platitudes. My problem is that, after less than a year of exposure to Slick Willie, I can't stand him: I can't stand his voice, his face and image, and I can't stand the media's loving recitation of His Greatness. Any of this comes on, and I start yelling back at the screen.
I thought I was in bad shape when I found that a friend of mine, a young Canadian scholar, is so incensed at any sight or sound of Slick Willie, or any news about him, that he not only shouts, but also hurls books and other objects at the TV screen. I haven't reached that point yet. Also, my friend's situation is far worse, since he has conceived an equally fiery hatred toward the Toronto Blue Jays, who, to my friend's horror, marched to victory in the World Series.
THE "YEAR OF THE WOMAN" MYTH
Continuing our election analysis, let us put to rest one of the great, phony myths of this election: that 1992 was slated to be the Year of the Woman. In particular, Women, observing the horrifying martyrdom of "Professor" Anita Hill on TV, took up arms to make sure that never again will a "male" Senate inflict such barbarity on Women. Talk about media faking of reality!
After the actual TV hearings, most people, even most women, were convinced that Hill was a malicious liar, a woman "scorned," in the words of Senator Heflin. Given a year of assiduous mythmaking, and most of the people are now buying the leftist martyrdom line. Note, too, the brazen inconsistency of feminist doctrine. On the one hand, they want to be "treated equally with men" in politics or in the rest of what used to be a "man's world." On the other hand, let the male senators treat Hill with just ordinary Senatorial asperity toward a witness, and shrieks and sobs go up to the very Heavens: Oooh, you big bad men, you! In fact, the Senators treated Hill with abject tip-toeing deference and the supposedly Satanic Specter was just ordinarily tough toward La Hill.
Well, if Women were rising up everywhere to establish their Year and avenge the martyred Professor Hill, then surely Senator Specter would be defeated. And yet, he unaccountably triumphed over the Chief Woman Lynn Yeakel, the would-be avenging angel! Across the board, eleven women ran for the U.S. Senate; of these five won (Boxer, Feinstein, Murray, Braun, and Mikulski), but six lost (Yeakel, Geri Rothman-Serot, Gloria O'Dell, Claire Sargent, Jean Lloyd-Jones, and Charlene Haar). Then, if we want to throw in the governor's races, three women ran for governor (Arnesen, Leonard, Bradley), but all three lost. Year of the Woman? Not hardly.
So: if it wasn't the Year of the Woman, what kind of year was it?
Oddly enough, like most other years, this was The Year of the Incumbent! What? In a year when incumbents were supposed to be dropping like flies, when the masses were rising up angry against the Ins, and especially against Congress, and everyone demanded Change? That's right.
In these female races for Senate, for example, in almost all cases, the winner was either the incumbent or someone of the same party running for the seat of an incumbent who had either retired or lost in the primary. Barbara Mikulski was reelected; Barbara Boxer was running for the seat of the retiring Alan Cranston; Patti Murray, the gnome in "tennis shoes," was running for the seat of retiring fellow-Democrat Brock Adams; and Carol Braun was running for the seat of the incumbent she had beaten in the Democrat primary, Alan Dixon.
Of the females who lost their Senate contests, every one of them ran against an incumbent. Similarly, the three women who lost for governor ran against incumbents. Once again, incumbents almost all triumphed, in this as in most previous years. And in the case of Carol Braun, she was able to defeat the incumbent in the primary, by squeezing in past the mutual negative campaigning of the overconfident Dixon and other, better-known opponents. Braun's more a fluke than a vindication of the honor of American, or Negro, Womanhood.
In fact, in the entire panoply of Senate races, only two or three incumbents, or incumbents' seats, were defeated in November. One was the weak candidate, the liberal California Republican John Seymour. He had never been elected but had been appointed to the post by the unpopular liberal Republican governor Pete Wilson. The only straightforward defeat of a previously elected incumbent was the toppling of Senator Robert Kasten, liberal Republican from Wisconsin, by the clownish Russell Feingold, who claimed endorsements from the dead Elvis Presley.
The only other incumbent in doubt is left-liberal Georgia Senator Wyche Fowler, who got 49 percent of the vote as against 48 percent for quasi-libertarian Republican challenger, Paul Coverdell. Georgia is the only state in the country with the excellent provision that failure to gain more than 50 percent of a senatorial vote requires a runoff. This provision for majority rule has idiotically been denounced by the legal and political Establishment as "racist" simply because the majority white population of that or any state might decide not to vote for a black minority candidate. But doesn't the very meaning of "democracy," which these people claim to revere, rest on the concept of majority rule?
At any rate, the remaining 3 percent of the Georgia vote (70,000 votes), were earned by Jim Hudson, of the Libertarian Party. Hudson, displaying remarkable maturity and good sense for a Libertarian, promptly threw his support to Coverdell for the runoff, so a Coverdell upset is now possible. We can, however, expect the newly triumphant Clinton machine to do everything in its power to vindicate and reconfirm the Clinton "New South" of left-liberalism with a Southern accent. (Late scoop: Coverdell won despite Slick Willie's efforts. Hurray!)
Leading newspapers and pundits have happily referred to the Clinton victory as a "landslide" bestowing a "mandate" upon the victor. Oh, really? Well, let's see. In 1992, 189 million Americans were eligible to vote: that is, people over eighteen, who were not convicted felons. Of these, 55 percent voted, the highest turnout rate in twenty years. Of these 104 million who cast their ballots, 43 percent, or 44.7 million people, voted for Slick Willie for president. This means that 23.6 percent of voting-age Americans voted for Clinton: less than one-quarter of our fellow-Americans. That's a "landslide"?
One of the most truly repellent pronouncements of that dismal Election Night was made by my least favorite pollster-pundit, Bill Schneider, left-liberal whose position at the American Enterprise Institute fools many people into thinking of him as a conservative. On CNN, Schneider burbled happily that the Electoral College is so wonderful because winning politicians are given "the appearance of a mandate," or landslide. In short: the Electoral College enables the winning president to sucker the public into thinking that they have given him a sweeping mandate.
Hold on to this truth: 24 percent ain't no mandate!
WHAT TO DO NOW?
Left-wing anarchist Joe Hill, before being executed for murder, urged his followers: "Don't mourn, organize." It's good advice for any movement suffering a loss, especially since none of us can truly mourn the defeat of George Bush in the first place. Bush deserved to lose; it's just that we didn't deserve to have Clinton win. We have a long row to hoe; we must organize a movement to Take Back every aspect of America: its politics, its economy, its culture, from triumphant Fabian-Clintonian social democracy.
In a sense, even though our path is now more difficult, our task is at least far clearer, made more evident by the collapse of the conservative movement and of the Libertarian Party. We must build a new movement from under the rubble of the old. But because of this rubble, we have an opportunity to start from scratch, to build a brand new movement on far firmer and stauncher principles: rolling back the Leviathan State, and restoring the Old Republic in all of its aspects and facets. We must build a frankly "reactionary" movement dedicated to "turning the clock back": to restoring the principles and institutions and culture on which America's liberty and prosperity and genuine greatness were founded. That means we must set our face from the very beginning against opportunism and "pragmatism," against forming a Loyal Opposition to the Enemy, and against succumbing to the siren song of "caring" and "compassion" that undermine passionate concern for liberty and justice.
As a political vehicle, the Democratic Party is patently hopeless. In Las Vegas, an old-fashioned "Jeffersonian Democrat" ran for the State House against a liberal Republican. As a Jeffersonian Democrat myself, I was delighted to see this quixotic gesture; but the gentleman, Knight Allen, had no money from the puzzled Democrats and he was beaten by two-to-one. The old "conservative Southern Democrat" party is also gone with the wind. The Democrat Party must be written off as irredeemable.
That leaves the Republican Party as the political vehicle that must be taken back before any other political goal can be achieved. Here, the mass of conservatives who still think of Jack Kemp or Bill Bennett as beloved leaders must be awakened, and fast, to the true statist nature of these neocon Pied Pipers. Paleocons must also have the maturity to use third-party vehicles as clubs with which to hammer both Kempian and Bush-Baker country club Republicans into continuing defeat. Here, perhaps Howie Phillips's Taxpayer Party network will be able to play an important role.
In forging a new paleoconservative movement, two tasks in particular must be accomplished: Developing the principles of a new, revitalized "reactionary" movement; and instructing the right-wing masses, on the basis of such principles, who the good guys and the bad guys are, and how they can be distinguished. Both of these cognate tasks are intellectual ones, goals which must be achieved before any further attempts at mass organizing. Organizing without first deciding on principles and people can only end in another, and more rapid, disaster.
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