• The New End of Ideology?

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    (This
    piece first appeared in the Libertarian
    Forum, Vol. X, No. 3, March 1977, p. 1. It reflects Rothbard's
    lifelong interest in the long march of American political ideologists
    toward the state-worshipping Center, a process in which Neo-Conservatism
    was just the latest phase. ~ Joseph Stromberg.)

    Back
    in the complacent 1950's, many ex-radical intellectuals
    were busily and happily proclaiming the "end of ideology"
    in America. Led by such right-wing Social Democrats as Daniel
    Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Nathan Glazer, the "consensus
    intellectuals" were sure that hard-edged ideology, whether
    of right or left, would no longer appear in America, and that
    we would all move forward in a new consensus of piecemeal, ad
    hoc, pragmatists, all accepting the current Welfare-Warfare State
    consensus. Since the End of Ideology theory immediately preceded
    the remarkable eruption of the New Left and a decade of stormy
    ideology, the End of Ideology theorists had to quietly dump their
    wishful prophecies into the well-known dustbin of history.

    Now,
    in the peaceful 1970's however, a new form of the end of ideology – in
    practice this time – has emerged, both on the Right and the Left,
    and few analysts have described or examined this new trend. To
    sum up our analysis, both Right and Left are experiencing a scuttling
    of their ideologies, and a reversion to the Establishment Center.

    On
    the Right, a process is being completed which began when Bill
    Buckley and National Review seized control of the Right-wing
    in the late 1950's, and accelerated since the Goldwater defeat
    in 1964. In brief, from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties, Buckley
    and NR ran a conservative movement that was militant and hard-edged:
    in favor of war and imperialism abroad, militarism and the repression
    of "subversives" at home, but also inconsistently combined
    with adherence to the free-market and to a limited libertarian
    rhetoric in social philosophy. Since the failure of Goldwaterism,
    however, Buckley and NR have accelerated their drive toward Establishment
    respectability, being more and more willing to jettison any trace
    of libertarian rhetoric, and to accept grave compromises on the
    question of a free-market economy.

    While
    the Viguerie-Rusher-Phillips "New Majority" movement
    did not succeed last year in taking over the American Independent
    Party, and remain conservative Reaganite Republicans, the New
    Majority begins to appear more and more as point men for the direction
    that the conservative movement is going to take. Put briefly,
    it involves abandoning the free market and liberty completely,
    in order to put together a "right-wing populist" (read
    "neo-fascist") coalition of Southern racists and urban
    Catholic "ethnics," a coalition devoted to the following
    programs: militarism at home and war abroad, repression of dissent
    in the name of "anti-Communism" and "national security,"
    moderate repression of racial minorities, especially blacks, and
    State enforcement of "morality" in the form of the outlawry
    of drugs, prostitution, pornography, and abortion, and the support
    of prayer in the public schools. Inherent in the coalition is
    the frank acceptance of a permanent Welfare State, except that
    it [should] be "moderate" and "efficient"
    (read: "the cutting of welfare aid to blacks.")

    That
    the New Majority may be the wave of the future for conservatism
    is indicated by the fact that, since the defeat of the Reagan
    movement, former Senator Buckley has already called publicly for
    the permanent acceptance of the New Deal welfare state. Already,
    in fact, there seems to be very little difference between the
    Buckleyites and the Right-wing social democrats who now call themselves
    "Neo-conservatives" – the Kristols, Glazers, Moynihans,
    et al.

    In
    the meanwhile, a similar process of adaptation and self-emasculation
    has been occurring on the remnants of the old New Left. One of
    the best things about the New Left was its angry critique of the
    policies and strategies of the Old Left (symbolized by the Communist
    Party) namely, to function as the loyal left-wing of the Democratic
    Party, of modern liberalism – to push for ever more government
    spending, welfare measures, health insurance, minimum wages, etc.
    The New Left had presumably broken with all that; they leveled
    trenchant critiques of the Welfare State as State Capitalism oppressing
    the dependent masses, they attacked centralized bureaucracy, and
    called for radical opposition to the Welfare and Warfare States.
    They scorned coalition with Establishment Democrats as a "coalition
    with the Marines" (in Staughton Lynd's felicitous phrase.)
    But now, after over a decade in the wilderness, the New Left "revolution"
    dead and gone, the remnants of the New Left have sheepishly found
    their way back into the Left-wing of the Democrat Party, calling
    once more for more government spending, welfare payments, health
    insurance, minimum wages, etc. The New Left, now physically older,
    has, to all intents and purposes, rejoined the Old Left. Former
    New Left firebrands are running for office in the Democratic Party,
    or have joined the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee,
    which is frankly in that party formerly scorned as hopelessly
    State Capitalist. The New Leftists assure us that they have not
    sold out, that times have changed, that their old opponents have
    now abandoned the Cold War, but it's still the Old Left coalition
    with the Marines.

    And
    so there is no distinguishable Right and Left anymore, no hard-edged
    ideology for either side; they now form the right and left wings
    of the Establishment, differing still, to be sure, on foreign
    policy and militarism, but really part of one overall, mish-mash
    consensus.

    If
    the Right and Left are disappearing as ideological forces, what
    about the liberals, who still dominate academia, the media, and
    opinion-molding groups? The liberals are, as they have been for
    a long time, in a state of total intellectual confusion. There
    have been no new liberal answers for a long time, and more and
    more liberals realize that their old ideologies have broken down,
    that they are not working. More and more liberals – as well as
    members of the public in general – are realizing that the system
    of statism has been breaking down. But, human nature being what
    it is, they will not give up their crumbling paradigm until a
    better one comes along to replace it. They have to see an attractive
    alternative.

    All
    this provides an unusually favorable opportunity for libertarians.
    For we are functioning in an intellectual climate where there
    is no longer any real, determined, militant ideological competition.
    Ideological decay and confusion are everywhere. But, in this miasma,
    we libertarians have that alternative; we have a new and intellectually
    stimulating and fascinating ideological paradigm, and one that
    explains the collapse of modern statism better than anyone else.
    We have a new and systematic creed, and we are just about the
    only ones who still believe in our ideology. In contrast to the
    Left, Right, and Center, our ideology hasn't ended; it is just
    beginning.

    Murray
    N. Rothbard (1926–1995), the founder of modern libertarianism
    and the dean of the Austrian School of economics, was the author
    of The
    Ethics of Liberty
    and For
    a New Liberty
    and many
    other books and articles
    . He was also academic vice president
    of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Center for Libertarian
    Studies, and the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The
    Rothbard-Rockwell Report
    .

    Murray
    Rothbard Archives

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