• National Review and the Triumph of the New Right Chapter 12 of The Betrayal of the American Right

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    Garet
    Garrett had called the shots: in referring to the triumph of the
    New Deal and then of American Empire, he had summed up the strategy:
    "revolution within the form." The New Right did not bother,
    would not rouse possible resistance, by directing a frontal assault
    on the old idols: on the dead Senator Taft, on the Bricker Amendment,
    or on the old ideals of individualism and liberty. Instead, they
    ignored some, dropped others, and claimed to come to fulfill the
    general ideals of individualism in a new and superior "fusion"
    of liberty and ordered tradition.

    How, specifically,
    was the deed done? For one thing, by hitting us at our most vulnerable
    point: the blight of anti-Communism. For red-baiting came easily
    to all of us, even the most libertarian. In the first place, there
    were the terrible memories of World War II:
    the way in which the Communist Party had gleefully adopted the mantle
    of war patriots, of "twentieth-century Americanism," and
    had unashamedly smeared all opponents of war as agents of Hitler.
    Conservative and former liberal isolationists could scarcely forget
    and forgive; and hence, when the Cold War began, when the "great
    patriotic coalition" of the U.S. and Russia fell apart, it
    was difficult for the Old Right to resist the temptation to avenge
    themselves, to turn the agents-of-a-foreign-power smear back upon
    their old tormentors. Furthermore, blinded by hatred of Russia as
    an interventionist power, we mistakenly believed that repudiation
    of the fruits of the Russian alliance, including Teheran and Yalta,
    was in itself a repudiation of World War II. We unfortunately did
    not realize – as later New Left historians were to point out
    – that the Cold War and the intervention into World War II
    were part and parcel of the same development: that one was the inevitable
    outgrowth of the other, and that both were an integral part of American
    imperialism rampant.

    But the problem
    was still deeper than that. For our main problem was our simplistic
    view of the ideological-political spectrum. We all assumed that
    there were two poles: a "left" pole of Communism, socialism,
    and total government; and a "right" pole of libertarianism
    and individualist anarchism. Left of center were the liberals and
    Social Democrats; right of center were the conservatives. From that
    simplistic spectrum we concluded, first, that conservatives, no
    matter how divergent, were our "natural" allies, and second,
    that there was little real difference between liberals and Communists.
    Why not then fuzz the truth just a bit, and use the anti-Communist
    bludgeon to hit at the liberals, especially since the liberals had
    become entrenched in power and were running the country? There was
    a temptation that few of us could resist.

    What we didn't
    fully realize at the time was that the Communists and socialists
    had not invented statism or Leviathan government, that the latter
    had been around for centuries, and that the current developing Liberal-conservative
    consensus and in particular the triumph of Liberalism was a reversion
    to the old despotic ancien régime. This ancien
    régime was the Old Order against which the libertarian
    and laissez-faire movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth
    centuries had emerged as a revolutionary opposition: an opposition
    on behalf of economic freedom and individual liberty. Jefferson,
    Cobden, and Thoreau as our forbears were ancestors in more ways
    than one; for both we and they were battling against a mercantilist
    statism that established bureaucratic despotism and corporate monopolies
    at home and waged imperial wars abroad. But if socialism and liberalism
    are reversions to the Old European Conservatism, then it becomes
    clear that it is statist conservatism – now joined by liberalism
    and social democracy – that is still, and not simply in 1800,
    the major enemy of liberty. And if liberals and Communists sound
    alike, this does not mean, as we thought then, that Liberals had
    somehow become crypto-Communists; on the contrary, it was a sign
    that Communists had become Liberals!

    But for us
    this analysis – to be developed by Leonard Liggio – was
    still far in the future. During the 1940s and '50s we merrily engaged
    in red-baiting. My own position was characteristically libertarian:
    I distinguished between "compulsory" red-baiting, using
    the power of the State to repress Communists and leftists, which
    I deplored, and "voluntary" red-baiting by private organizations
    and groups, which I supported. The former included the Smith Act
    prosecutions, the McCarran Act, and the inquisitions of HUAC. Another
    of my blind spots is that I did not realize the virtual impossibility
    of keeping domestic and foreign red-baiting strictly separate; it
    was psychologically and politically impossible to persecute or harass
    Communists or leftists at home, while at the same time pursuing
    a policy of peace, neutrality, and friendship with Communist countries
    overseas. And the global anti-Communist crusaders knew this truth
    all too well.

    From early
    in the postwar period, the major carriers of the anti-Communist
    contagion were the ex-Communist and ex-leftist intellectuals. In
    a climate of growing disillusion with the fatuous propaganda of
    World War II, the ex-Communists hit the intellectual and political
    worlds like a bombshell, more and more forming the spearhead of
    the anti-Communist crusade, domestic and foreign. Sophisticated,
    worldly, veteran polemicists, they had been there: to naive and
    breathless Americans, the ex-leftists were like travelers from an
    unknown and therefore terrifying land, returning with authentic
    tales of horror and warning. Since they, with their special knowledge,
    knew, and since they raised the terrible warnings, who were we to
    deny that truth? The fact that "ex-es" throughout history
    have tried frantically to expiate their guilt and their fear of
    having wasted their lives by attempting to denigrate and exterminate
    their former love – that fact was lost on us as well as on
    most of America.

    From the very
    end of the war, the "ex-es" were everywhere on the Right,
    whipping up fear, pointing the finger, eager to persecute or exterminate
    any Communists they could find, at home and abroad. Several older
    generation "ex-es" from the prewar era were prominent.
    One was George E. Sokolsky, columnist for the New York Sun,
    who had been a Communist in the early 1920s. Particularly prominent
    on the Right was Dr. J.B. Matthews, foremost Communist fellow-traveler
    of the early 1930s, who by the end of that decade was chief investigator
    for the Dies Committee; Matthews was to make a fortune out of his
    famous "card files," a mammoth collection of "Communist
    front" names which he would use to sell his services as finger-man
    for industries and organizations; pleasant and erudite, Matthews
    had been converted from socialism partly by reading Mises's Socialism.
    But the first libertarian-red-baiting marriage was effected shortly
    after the end of the war by the veteran red-baiter Isaac Don Levine,
    who founded a little-known monthly called Plain Talk, which
    featured a curious mixture of libertarian political philosophy and
    ferocious exposés of alleged "Reds" in America.
    It was particularly curious because Don Levine has never, before
    or since that short-lived venture, ever exhibited any interest in
    freedom or libertarianism. When Plain Talk folded Don Levine
    moved to West Germany to play in the revanchist politics
    of East European emigré groups.

    Plain Talk
    disappeared after several years to make way for the weekly Freeman
    in 1950, a far more ambitious and better-financed venture which,
    however, never achieved anything like the influence or readership
    of the later National Review. Again, this was a libertarian-conservative-red-baiting
    coalition venture. Coeditors were two veteran writers and journalists:
    Henry Hazlitt, a laissezfaire economist but never an isolationist;
    and John Chamberlain, a man of libertarian instincts and a former
    isolationist, but an ex-leftist deeply scarred by a Communist cell
    which had been nasty to him in Time magazine.1 And
    so the isolationist cause was never well represented in the Freeman;
    furthermore, Willi Schlamm later came in as book editor, and Chamberlain
    brought in the profoundly antilibertarian Forrest Davis to be a
    third coeditor. Davis, along with Ernest K. Lindley, had written
    the official Roosevelt administration apologia for Pearl Harbor,
    and then moved on to become a ghostwriter for Joe McCarthy.2

    It was, in
    fact, McCarthy and "McCarthyism" that provided the main
    catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right wing from isolationism
    and quasi-libertarianism to simple anti-Communism. Before McCarthy
    launched his famous crusade in February 1950, he had not been particularly
    associated with the right wing of the Republican Party; on the contrary,
    his record was more nearly liberal and centrist, statist rather
    than libertarian. It should be remembered that red-baiting and anti-Communist
    witch-hunting was launched by the liberals and, even after McCarthy
    arose, it was the liberals who were the most effective at this game.
    It was, after all, the liberal Roosevelt administration that passed
    the Smith Act, which was then used against Trotskyites and isolationists
    during World War II and against the Communists after the war; it
    was the liberal Truman administration that prosecuted Alger Hiss
    and the Rosenbergs – and that launched the Cold War; it was
    the eminently liberal Hubert Humphrey who put through a clause in
    the McCarran Act of 1950 threatening concentration camps for "subversives."

    In fact, New
    Left historians Steinke and Weinstein have shown that McCarthy himself
    learned his red-baiting from none other than the saintly Social
    Democratic figure Norman Thomas. During the 1946 campaign, McCarthy
    first ran for the Senate against the great isolationist leader Robert
    LaFollette, Jr. While McCarthy did a little red-baiting of the still-consistent
    isolationist LaFollette in the primary, McCarthy was then a standard
    internationalist, or Vandenberg, Republican, with indeed a few maverick
    endorsements of the idea of negotiating peace with the Soviet Union.
    Then, on August 26, 1946, Norman Thomas, speaking at an annual picnic
    of the Wisconsin Socialist Party, red-baited the Democratic Senatorial
    candidate, Howard J. McMurray. Thomas in particular accused McMurray
    of being endorsed by the Daily Worker, an accusation that
    McCarthy picked up eagerly a few weeks later. McCarthy had gotten
    the bit in his teeth; he had learned how from a veteran of the internecine
    struggles on the Left.3

    McCarthy's
    crusade effectively transformed the mass base of the right wing
    by bringing into the movement a mass of urban Catholics from the
    Eastern seaboard. Before McCarthy, the rank-and-file of the right
    wing was the small-town, isolationist Middle West, the typical readers
    of the old Chicago Tribune. In contrast to the old base,
    the interest of the new urban Catholic constituency in individual
    liberty was, if anything, negative; one might say that their main
    political interest was in stamping out blasphemy and pornography
    at home and in killing Communists at home and abroad. In a sense,
    the subsequent emergence of Bill Buckley and his highly Catholic-ish
    National Review reflected this mass influx and transformation.
    It is surely no accident that Buckley's first emergence on the political
    scene was to coauthor (with his brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell,
    a convert to Catholicism), the leading pro-McCarthy work, McCarthy
    and His Enemies (1954). To the McCarthy banner also flocked
    the increasingly powerful gaggle of ex-Communists and ex-leftists:
    notably, George Sokolsky, a leading McCarthy adviser, and J.B. Matthews,
    who was chief investigator for McCarthy until he stepped on too
    many toes by denouncing the supposedly massive "infiltration"
    of the Protestant clergy by the Communist Party.

    Not seeing
    this transformation process at work at the time, I myself was a
    McCarthy enthusiast. There were two basic reasons. One was that
    while McCarthy was employing the weapon of a governmental committee,
    the great bulk of his victims were not private citizens but government
    officials: bureaucrats and Army officers. Most of McCarthy's red-baiting
    was therefore "voluntary" rather than "compulsory,"
    since the persons being attacked were, as government officials,
    fair game from the libertarian point of view. Besides, day in and
    day out, such Establishment organs as the New York Times kept
    telling us that McCarthy was "tearing down the morale of the
    executive branch"; what more could a libertarian hope for?
    And "tearing down the morale of the Army" to boot! What
    balm for an antimilitarist!

    Recently, I
    had occasion to see once again, after all these years, Emile D'Antonio's
    film of the McCarthy censure hearings, Point of Order. Seeing
    it with an old-time member of the Circle who had also abandoned
    the right wing long since, we were curious about how we would react;
    for neither of us had really rethought the long-dead McCarthy episode.
    Within minutes, we found ourselves cheering once again, though in
    a rather different way, for that determined symbol of the witch-hunt.
    For the film began with McCarthy pointing as his basic premise to
    some crazed map of the United States with the "international
    Communist conspiracy" moving in a series of coordinated arrows
    against the United States. (It was for all the world like some '50s
    issue of the Harvard Lampoon, satirizing an absurd military
    "menace.") But the crucial point is that McCarthy's Army
    and Senatorial adversaries never contested this absurd axiom; and
    once given the axiom, McCarthy's relentless logic was impeccable.
    As Steinke and Weinstein point out, McCarthy did not invent witch-hunting
    and red-baiting. "Nor, as many liberals complain, did he abuse
    or misuse an otherwise useful tool; he simply carried it to its
    logical conclusion." Indeed, he took the liberals' own creation
    and turned it against them, and against the swollen Leviathan Army
    officials as well; and to see them get at least a measure of comeuppance,
    to see the liberals and centrists hoisted on their own petard, was
    sweet indeed. In the words of Steinke and Weinstein, McCarthy

    rode the
    monster too hard, turning it against its creators, and they, realizing
    finally that their creation was out of control, attempted in flaccid
    defense to turn it back upon him.4

    As a bit of
    personal corroboration, I fully remember the reaction of a close
    acquaintance, an old Russian Menshevik, a member of the Russian
    Social Democratic Federation and veteran anti-Communist, when McCarthy's
    movement began. He was positively gleeful, and ardently supported
    the McCarthy crusade; it was only later, when he "went too
    far" that the old Menshevik felt that McCarthy had to be dumped.

    But there was
    another reason for my own fascination with the McCarthy phenomenon:
    his populism. For the '50s was an era when liberalism – now
    accurately termed "corporate liberalism" – had triumphed,
    and seemed to be permanently in the saddle. Having now gained the
    seats of power, the liberals had given up their radical veneer of
    the '30s and were now settling down to the cozy enjoyment of their
    power and perquisites. It was a comfortable alliance of Wall Street,
    Big Business, Big Government, Big Unions, and liberal Ivy League
    intellectuals; it seemed to me that while in the long run this unholy
    alliance could only be overthrown by educating a new generation
    of intellectuals, that in the short run the only hope to dislodge
    this new ruling elite was a populist short-circuit. In sum, that
    there was a vital need to appeal directly to the masses, emotionally,
    even demagogically, over the heads of the Establishment:
    of the Ivy League, the mass media, the liberal intellectuals, of
    the Republican-Democrat political party structure. This appeal could
    be done – especially in that period of no organized opposition
    whatever – only by a charismatic leader, a leader who could
    make a direct appeal to the masses and thereby undercut the ruling
    and opinion-molding elite; in sum, by a populist short-circuit.
    It seemed to me that this was what McCarthy was trying to do; and
    that it was largely this appeal, the open-ended sense that there
    was no audacity of which McCarthy was not capable, that frightened
    the liberals, who, from their opposite side of the fence, also saw
    that the only danger to their rule was in just such a whipping up
    of populist emotions.5

    My own quip
    at the time, which roughly summed up this position, was that in
    contrast to the liberals, who approved of McCarthy's "ends"
    (ouster of Communists from offices and jobs) but disapproved of
    his radical and demagogic means, I myself approved his means (radical
    assault on the nation's power structure) but not necessarily his
    ends.

    It is surely
    no accident that, with their power consolidated and a populist appeal
    their only fear, the liberal intellectuals began to push hard for
    their proclamation of the "end of ideology." Hence their
    claim that ideology and hard-nosed doctrines were no longer valuable
    or viable, and their ardent celebration of the newfound American
    consensus. With such enemies and for such reasons, it was hard for
    me not to be a "McCarthyite."

    The leading
    expression of this celebration of consensus combined with the newfound
    fear of ideology and populism was Daniel Bell's collection, The
    New American Right (1955). This collection was also significant
    in drawing together ex-radicals (Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, Richard
    Hofstadter, Nathan Glazer) along with an antipopulist liberal "conservative"
    (Peter Viereck), into this pro-elitist and antipopulist consensus.
    Also noteworthy is the book's dedication to S.M. Levitas, executive
    editor of the Social Democratic New Leader, the publication
    that bound "responsible" red-baiters and liberals into
    the postwar Cold War consensus.6

    The peak of
    my populist and McCarthyite activities came during the height of
    the McCarthy turmoil, in the furor over the activities of Roy Cohn
    and S. David Schine. It was shortly after the founding of the Circle
    Bastiat, and the kids of the Circle, in their capacity as leaders
    of the still-functioning Students for America, were invited to address
    a massive testimonial dinner given for Roy Cohn upon his forced
    ouster from the McCarthy Committee at the Hotel Astor in New York
    on July 26, 1954. Major speakers were such McCarthyite leaders as
    Godfrey P. Schmidt, Colonel Archibald Roosevelt, George Sokolsky,
    Alfred Kohlberg, Bill Buckley, and Rabbi Benjamin Schultz. But the
    speech which drew the most applause, and which gained a considerable
    amount of notoriety, was the brief address given by one of our Circle
    members (George Reisman), which I had written. The speech asked
    why the intensity of the hatred against Cohn and McCarthy by the
    liberal intellectuals; and it answered that a threat against Communists
    in government was also felt to be a threat against the "Socialists
    and New Dealers, who have been running our political life for the
    last twenty-one years, and are still running it!" The speech
    concluded in a rousing populist appeal that

    As the Chicago
    Tribune aptly put it, the Case of Roy Cohn is the American
    Dreyfus Case. As Dreyfus was redeemed, so will Roy Cohn when the
    American people have taken back their government from the criminal
    alliance of Communists, Socialists, New Dealers, and Eisenhower-Dewey
    Republicans.

    Rabbi Schultz,
    presiding at the dinner, warily referred to the tumultuous applause
    for the Reisman speech as a "runaway grand jury," and
    the applause and the speech were mentioned in the accounts of the
    New York Journal-American, the New York Herald-Tribune,
    Jack Lait's column in the New York Mirror, the New York
    World-Telegram and Sun, Murray Kempton's column in the New
    York Post, and Time magazine. Particularly upset was
    the veteran liberal and "extremist-baiting" radio commentator,
    George Hamilton Combs. Combs warned that "the resemblance between
    this crowd and their opposite members of the extreme left is startlingly
    close. This was a rightist version of the Henry Wallace convention
    crowd, the Progressive Party convention of '48."

    Particularly
    interesting is the fact that the by-now-notorious concluding lines
    of the speech became enshrined in Peter Viereck's contribution to
    the Daniel Bell book, "The Revolt Against the Elite."
    Viereck saw the Reisman phraseology as a dangerous "outburst
    of direct democracy" which "comes straight from the leftist
    rhetoric of the old Populists and Progressives, a rhetoric forever
    urging the People to take back u2018their' government from the conspiring
    Powers That Be." Precisely. Viereck also explained that he
    meant by "direct democracy," "our mob tradition of
    Tom Paine, Jacobinism, and the Midwestern Populist parties,"
    which "is government by referendum and mass petition, such
    as the McCarthyite Committee of Ten Million." Being "immediate
    and hotheaded," direct democracy "facilitates revolution,
    demagogy, and Robespierrian thought control" – in contrast,
    I suppose, to the quieter but more pervasive elitist "thought
    control" of corporate liberalism.7

    Since I failed
    to understand the interplay of domestic and foreign red-baiting
    that was at work in the McCarthy movement, I was bewildered when
    McCarthy, after his outrageous censure by the Senate in late 1954,
    turned to whooping it up for war on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek in
    Asia. Why this turnabout? It was clear that the New Right forces
    behind McCarthy were now convinced that domestic red-baiting, angering
    as it did the Center-Right establishment, had become counterproductive,
    and that from now on the full stress must be on pushing for war
    against Communism abroad. In retrospect it is clear that a major
    force for this turn was the sinister figure of the millionaire Far
    Eastern importer, Alfred Kohlberg, a major backer of McCarthy who
    supplied him with much of his material, and boasted of his position
    as Dean of the powerful "China Lobby" on behalf of Chiang
    Kai-shek. While a failure in the short run, the McCarthy movement
    had done its work of shifting the entire focus of the right wing
    from libertarian, antistatist, and isolationist concerns to a focus
    and concentration upon the alleged Communist "menace."
    A diversion from domestic to foreign affairs would not only consolidate
    the right wing; it would also draw no real opposition from liberals
    and internationalist Republicans who had, after all, begun the Cold
    War in the first place.

    The short-run
    collapse of the McCarthy movement was clearly due, furthermore,
    to the lack of any sort of McCarthyite organization. There
    were leaders, there was press support, there was a large mass base,
    but there were no channels of organization, no intermediary links,
    either in journals of opinion or of more direct popular organizations,
    between the leaders and the base. In late 1955, William F. Buckley
    and his newly formed weekly, National Review, set out to
    remedy that lack.

    In 1951, when
    Bill Buckley first burst upon the scene with his God and Man
    at Yale, he liked to refer to himself as a "libertarian"
    or even at times as an "anarchist"; for in those early
    days Buckley's major ideological mentor was Frank Chodorov rather
    than, as it would soon become, the notorious Whittaker Chambers.
    But even in those early "libertarian" days, there was
    one clinker that made his libertarianism only phony rhetoric: the
    global anti-Communist crusade. Thus, take one of Buckley's early
    efforts, "A Young Republican's View," published in Commonweal,
    January 25, 1952. Buckley began the article in unexceptionable libertarian
    fashion, affirming that the enemy is the State, and endorsing the
    view of Herbert Spencer that the State is "begotten of aggression
    and by aggression." Buckley also contributed excellent quotations
    from such leading individualists of the past as H.L. Mencken and
    Albert Jay Nock, and criticized the Republican Party for offering
    no real alternative to the burgeoning of statism. But then in the
    remainder of the article he gave the case away, for there loomed
    the alleged Soviet menace, and all libertarian principles had to
    go by the board for the duration. Thus, Buckley declared that the
    "thus far invincible aggressiveness of the Soviet Union"
    imminently threatens American security, and that therefore "we
    have to accept Big Government for the duration – for neither
    an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through
    the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores."
    In short, a totalitarian bureaucracy must be accepted so long as
    the Soviet Union exists (presumably for its alleged threat of imposing
    upon us a totalitarian bureaucracy?). In consequence, Buckley concluded
    that we must all support "the extensive and productive tax
    laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign
    policy," as well as "large armies and air forces, atomic
    energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant
    centralization of power in Washington – even with Truman at
    the reins of it all."8 Thus, even at his most libertarian,
    even before Buckley came to accept Big Government and morality laws
    as ends in themselves, the pretended National Review "fusion"
    between liberty and order, between individualism and anti-Communism,
    was a phony – the individualist and libertarian part of the
    fusion was strictly rhetorical, to be saved for abstract theorizing
    and after-dinner discourse. The guts of the New Conservatism was
    the mobilization of Big Government for the worldwide crusade against
    Communism.

    And so, when
    National Review was founded with much expertise and financing
    in late 1955, the magazine was a coming together to direct the newly
    transformed right wing on the part of two groups: all the veteran
    ex-Communist journalists and intellectuals, and the new group of
    younger Catholics whose major goal was anti-Communism. Thus, the
    central and guiding theme for both groups in this Unholy Coalition
    was the extirpation of Communism, at home and particularly abroad.
    Prominent on the new magazine were leading ex-leftists: James Burnham,
    former Trotskyite; Frank S. Meyer, formerly on the national committee
    of the Communist Party and head of its Chicago training school;
    ex-German Communist leader William S. Schlamm; Dr. J.B. Matthews;
    ex-leftist Max Eastman; ex-Communist Ralph DeToledano; former leading
    German Communist theoretician Professor Karl Wittfogel; John Chamberlain,
    a leading leftist intellectual of the thirties; ex-fellow traveler
    Eugene Lyons; ex-Communist Will Herberg; former Communist spy Whittaker
    Chambers; and a whole slew of others.

    The Catholic
    wing consisted of two parts. One was a charming but ineffectual
    group of older European or European-oriented monarchists and authoritarians:
    e.g., the erudite Austrian Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn; the poet Roy
    Campbell; the pro-Spanish Carlist Frederick Wilhelmsen; and the
    Englishman Sir Arnold Lunn. I remember one night a heated discussion
    at a conservative gathering about the respective merits of the Habsburgs,
    the Stu-arts, the Bourbons, the Carlists, the Crown of St. Stephen,
    and the Crown of St. Wenceslas; and which monarchy should be restored
    first. Whatever the merits of the monarchist position, this was
    not an argument relevant to the American tradition, let alone the
    American cultural and political scene of the day. In retrospect,
    did Buckley keep this group around as exotic trimming, as an intellectual
    counterpart to his own social jet set?

    The other wing
    of younger Catholics was far more important for the purposes of
    the new magazine. These were the younger American anti-Communists,
    most prominently the various members of the Buckley family (who
    in closeness and lifestyle has seemed a right-wing version of the
    Kennedys), which included at first Buckley's brother-in-law and
    college roommate, L. Brent Bozell; and Buckley's then favorite disciple
    later turned leftist, Garry Wills. Rounding out the Catholic aura
    at National Review was the fact that two of its leading editors
    became Catholic converts: Frank Meyer and political scientist Willmoore
    Kendall. It was the essence of National Review as an anti-Communist
    organ that accounted for its being a coalition of ex-Stalinists
    and Trotskyites and younger Catholics, and led observers to remark
    on the curious absence of American Protestants (who had of course
    been the staple of the Old Right) from the heart of the Buckleyite
    New Right.9

    In this formidable
    but profoundly statist grouping, interest in individual liberty
    was minimal or negative, being largely confined to some of the book
    reviews by John Chamberlain and to whatever time Frank Meyer could
    manage to take off from advocacy of all-out war against the Soviet
    bloc. Interest in free-market economics was minimal and largely
    rhetorical, confined to occasional pieces by Henry Hazlitt, who
    for his part had never been an isolationist and who endorsed the
    hard-line foreign policy of the magazine.

    In the light
    of hindsight, we should now ask whether or not a major objective
    of National Review from its inception was to transform the
    right wing from an isolationist to global warmongering anti-Communist
    movement; and, particularly, whether or not the entire effort was
    in essence a CIA operation. We now know that Bill Buckley, for the
    two years prior to establishing National Review, was admittedly
    a CIA agent in Mexico City, and that the sinister E. Howard Hunt
    was his control. His sister Priscilla, who became managing editor
    of National Review, was also in the CIA; and other editors
    James Burnham and Willmoore Kendall had at least been recipients
    of CIA largesse in the anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom.
    In addition, Burnham has been identified by two reliable sources
    as a consultant for the CIA in the years after World War II.10
    Moreover, Garry Wills relates in his memoirs of the conservative
    movement that Frank Meyer, to whom he was close at the time, was
    convinced that the magazine was a CIA operation. With his Leninist-trained
    nose for intrigue, Meyer must be considered an important witness.

    Furthermore,
    it was a standard practice in the CIA, at least in those early years,
    that no one ever resigned from the CIA. A friend of mine who joined
    the Agency in the early 1950s told me that if, before the age of
    retirement, he was mentioned as having left the CIA for another
    job, that I was to disregard it, since it would only be a cover
    for continuing Agency work. On that testimony, the case for NR
    being a CIA operation becomes even stronger. Also suggestive
    is the fact that a character even more sinister than E. Howard Hunt,
    William J. Casey, appears at key moments of the establishment of
    the New over the Old Right. It was Casey who, as attorney, presided
    over the incorporation of National Review and had arranged
    the details of the ouster of Felix Morley from Human Events.

    At any rate,
    in retrospect, it is clear that libertarians and Old Rightists,
    including myself, had made a great mistake in endorsing domestic
    red-baiting, a red-baiting that proved to be the major entering
    wedge for the complete transformation of the original right wing.
    We should have listened more carefully to Frank Chodorov, and to
    his splendidly libertarian stand on domestic red-baiting: "How
    to get rid of the communists in the government? Easy. Just abolish
    the jobs."11 It was the jobs and their functioning
    that was the important thing, not the quality of the people who
    happened to fill them. More fully, Chodorov wrote:

    And now we
    come to the spy-hunt – which is, in reality, a heresy trial.
    What is it that perturbs the inquisitors? They do not ask the
    suspects: Do you believe in Power? Do you adhere to the idea that
    the individual exists for the glory of the State? . . . Are you
    against taxes, or would you raise them until they absorbed the
    entire output of the country? . . . Are you opposed to the principle
    of conscription? Do you favor more "social gains" under
    the aegis of an enlarged bureaucracy? Or, would you advocate dismantling
    of the public trough at which these bureaucrats feed? In short,
    do you deny Power?

    Such questions
    might prove embarrassing, to the investigators. The answers might
    bring out a similarity between their ideas and purposes and those
    of the suspected. They too worship Power. Under the circumstances,
    they limit themselves to one question: Are you a member of the
    Communist Party? And this turns out to mean, have you aligned
    yourselves with the Moscow branch of the church?

    Power-worship
    is presently sectarianized along nationalistic lines. . . . Each
    nation guards its orthodoxy. . . . Where Power is attainable,
    the contest between rival sects is unavoidable. . . . War is the
    apotheosis of Power, the ultimate expression of the faith and
    solidarization of its achievement.12

    And Frank had
    also written:

    The case
    against the communists involves a principle of transcending importance.
    It is the right to be wrong. Heterodoxy is a necessary condition
    of a free society. . . . The right to make a choice . . . is important
    to me, for the freedom of selection is necessary to my sense of
    personality; it is important to society, because only from the
    juxtaposition of ideas can we hope to approach the ideal of truth.

    Whenever
    I choose an idea or label it "right," I imply the prerogative
    of another to reject that idea and label it "wrong."
    To invalidate his right is to invalidate mine. That is, I must
    brook error if I would preserve my freedom of thought. . . . If
    men are punished for espousing communism, shall we stop there?
    Once we deny the right to be wrong, we put a vise on the human
    mind and put the temptation to turn the handle into the hands
    of ruthlessness.13

    While anti-Communism
    was the central root of the decay of the Old Right and the replacement
    by its statist opposite in National Review, there was another
    important force in transforming the American right wing, especially
    in vitiating its "domestic" libertarianism and even its
    rhetorical devotion to individual liberty. This was the sudden emergence
    of Russell Kirk as the leader of the New Conservatism, with the
    publication of his book The Conservative Mind in 1953. Kirk,
    who became a regular columnist of National Review as soon
    as it was founded, created a sensation with his book and quickly
    became adopted as the conservative darling of the "vital center."
    In fact, before Buckley became prominent as the leading conservative
    spokesman of the media, Russell Kirk was the most prominent conservative.
    After the appearance of his book, Kirk began to make speeches around
    the country, often in a friendly "vital center" tandem
    with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

    For Kirk was
    far more acceptable to "vital center" corporate liberalism
    than was the Old Right. Scorning any trait of individualism or rigorous
    free-market economics, Kirk was instead quite close to the Conservatism
    of Peter Viereck; to Kirk, Big Government and domestic statism were
    perfectly acceptable, provided that they were steeped in some sort
    of Burkean tradition and enjoyed a Christian framework. Indeed,
    it was clear that Kirk's ideal society was an ordered English squirearchy,
    ruled by the Anglican Church and Tory landlords in happy tandem.14
    Here there was no fiery individualism, no trace of populism
    or radicalism to upset the ruling classes or the liberal intellectual
    Establishment. Here at last was a Rightist with whom liberals,
    while not exactly agreeing, could engage in a cozy dialogue.

    It was Kirk,
    in fact, who brought the words "Conservatism" and "New
    Conservatism" into general acceptance on the right wing. Before
    that, knowledgeable libertarians had hated the word, and with good
    reason; for weren't the conservatives the ancient enemy, the eighteenth-
    and nineteenth-century Tory and reactionary suppressors of individual
    liberty, the ancient champions of the Old Order of Throne-and-Altar
    against which the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberals had
    fought so valiantly? And so the older classical-liberals and individualists
    resisted the term bitterly: Ludwig von Mises, a classical liberal,
    scorned the term; F.A. Hayek insisted on calling himself an "Old
    Whig"; and when Frank Chodorov was called a "conservative"
    in the pages of National Review, he wrote an outraged letter
    declaring, "As for me, I will punch anyone who calls me a conservative
    in the nose. I am a radical."15 Before Russell Kirk,
    the word "conservative," being redolent of reaction and
    the Old Order, was a Left smear-word applied to the right wing;
    it was only after Kirk that the right wing, including the new National
    Review, rushed to embrace this previously hated term.

    The Kirkian
    influence was soon evident in right-wing youth meetings. I remember
    one gathering when, to my dismay, one Gridley Wright, an aristocratic
    leader of Yale campus conservatism, declared that the true ideological
    struggle of our day, between left and right, had nothing to do with
    free-market economics or with individual liberty versus statism.
    The true struggle, he declared, was Christianity versus atheism,
    and good manners versus boorishness and materialistic greed: the
    materialist greed, for example, of the starving peoples of India
    who were trying to earn an income, a bit of subsistence. It was
    easy, of course, for a wealthy Yale man whose father owned a large
    chunk of Montana to decry the "materialistic greed" of
    the poor; was this what the right wing was coming to?

    Russell Kirk
    also succeeded in altering our historical pantheon of heroes. Mencken,
    Nock, Thoreau, Jefferson, Paine, and Garrison were condemned as
    rationalists, atheists, or anarchists, and were replaced by such
    reactionaries and antilibertarians as Burke, Metternich, De Maistre,
    or Alexander Hamilton.16

    With its formidable
    array of anti-Communists and Catholic traditionalists, National
    Review quickly took over the lead and direction of the New Right,
    which it rapidly remolded in its own image. The "official"
    line of National Review was what came to be called "fusionist,"
    whose leading practitioners were Meyer and Buckley; "fusionism"
    stressed the dominance of anti-Communism and Christian order, to
    be sure, but retained some libertarian rhetoric in a subordinate
    rank. The importance of the libertarian and Old Right rhetoric was
    largely political; for it would have been difficult for National
    Review to lead a conservative political revival in this country
    in the garb of monarchy and Inquisition. Without fusionism, the
    transformation of the right wing could not have taken place within
    the form, and might have alienated much of the right-wing mass base.
    Many of the other National Review intellectuals were, in
    contrast, impatient with any concessions to liberty. These included
    Kirk's Tory traditionalism; the various wings of monarchists; and
    Willmoore Kendall's open call for suppression of freedom of speech.
    The great thrust of Kendall, a National Review editor for
    many years, was his view that it is the right and duty of the "majority"
    of the community – as embodied, say, in Congress – to
    suppress any individual who disturbs that community with radical
    doctrines. Socrates, opined Kendall, not only should have
    been killed by the Greek community, but it was their bounden moral
    duty to kill him.

    Kendall, incidentally,
    was symptomatic of the change in attitude toward the Supreme Court
    from Old Right to New. One of the major doctrines of the Old Right
    was the defense of the Supreme Court's role in outlawing congressional
    and executive incursions against individual liberty; but now
    the New Right, as typified by Kendall, bitterly attacked the
    Supreme Court day in and day out, and for what? Precisely for presuming
    to defend the liberty of the individual against the incursions of
    Congress and the Executive.

    Thus, the Old
    Right had always bitterly attacked the judicial doctrines of Felix
    Frankfurter, who was considered a left-wing monster for undercutting
    the activist role of the Supreme Court in declaring various extensions
    of government power to be unconstitutional; but now Kendall and
    National Review were leading the Right in hailing Frankfurter
    precisely for this permissive placing of the judicial imprimatur
    on almost any action of the federal government. By staying in the
    same place, Felix Frankfurter had shifted from being a villain to
    a hero of the newly transformed Right, while it was now such libertarian
    activists as Justices Black and Douglas who received the abuse of
    the right wing. It was getting to be an ever weirder right-wing
    world that I was inhabiting. It was indeed the venerable Alexander
    Bickel, a disciple of Frankfurter's at Yale Law School, who converted
    young professor Robert Bork from a libertarian to a majoritarian
    jurist.

    At the opposite
    pole from the Catholic ultras, but at one with them in being opposed
    to liberty and individualism, was James Burnham, who since the inception
    of National Review has been its cold, hard-nosed, amoral
    political strategist and resident Machiavellian. Burnham, whose
    National Review column was entitled "The Third World
    War," was the magazine's leading power and global anti-Communist
    strategist. In a lifetime of political writing, James Burnham has
    shown only one fleeting bit of positive interest in individual liberty:
    and that was a call in National Review for the legalization
    of firecrackers!

    On the more
    directly political front, National Review obviously needed
    a "fusionist" for its political tactician, for the direct
    guidance of conservatism as a political movement. It found that
    tactician in its publisher, the former Deweyite Young Republican
    Bill Rusher. A brilliant political organizer, Rusher was able, by
    the late 1950s, to take over control of the College Young Republicans,
    and then the National Young Republican Federation.

    Heading a group
    called the "Syndicate," Rusher has managed to control
    the national Young Republications ever since. In 1959, National
    Review organized the founding of the Young Americans for Freedom
    at Bill Buckley's estate at Sharon, Connecticut. Young Americans
    for Freedom soon grew to many thousand strong, and became in effect
    the collegiate youth-activist arm of the National Review political
    complex. Unfortunately, the bulk of young libertarians at the time
    stayed solidly in the conservative movement; heedless of the foreign
    policy betrayal of the Old Right, these young libertarians and semi-libertarians
    well served the purposes of National Review by lending the
    patina of libertarian rhetoric to such ventures as Young Americans
    for Freedom. Thus, Young Americans for Freedom's founding Sharon
    Statement was its only even remotely close approach to libertarianism;
    its actual activities have always been confined to anticommunism,
    including the attempted interdiction of trade with the Communist
    countries – and lately were expanded to attempting legal suppression
    of left-wing student rebellions. But the libertarian veneer was
    supplied not only by the title and by parts of the Sharon Statement,
    but also by the fact that Young Americans for Freedom's first president,
    Robert M. Schuchman, was a libertarian anti-Communist who had once
    been close to the old Circle Bastiat. More typical of the mass base
    of conservative youth was the considerable contingent at Sharon
    who objected to the title of the new organization, because, they
    said, "Freedom is a left-wing word." It would have been
    far more candid, though less politically astute, if the noble word
    freedom had been left out of Young Americans for Freedom's
    title.

    By the late
    1950s, Barry Goldwater had been decided upon as the political leader
    of the New Right, and it was Rusher and the National Review clique
    that inspired the Draft Goldwater movement and Youth for Goldwater
    in 1960. Goldwater's ideological manifesto of 1960, The Conscience
    of a Conservative, was ghostwritten by Brent Bozell, who wrote
    fiery articles in National Review attacking liberty even
    as an abstract principle, and upholding the function of the State
    in imposing and enforcing moral and religious creeds. Its foreign
    policy chapter, "The Soviet Menace," was a thinly disguised
    plea for all-out offensive war against the Soviet Union and other
    Communist nations. The Goldwater movement of 1960 was a warm-up
    for the future; and when Nixon was defeated in the 1960 election,
    Rusher and National Review launched a well-coordinated campaign
    to capture the Republican Party for Barry Goldwater in 1964.

    It was this
    drastic shift to all-out and pervasive war-mongering that I found
    hardest to swallow. For years I had thought of myself politically
    as an "extreme right-winger," but this emotional identification
    with the right was becoming increasingly difficult. To be a political
    ally of Senator Taft was one thing; to be an ally of statists who
    thirsted for all-out war against Russia was quite another. For the
    first five years of its existence I moved in National Review
    circles. I had known Frank Meyer as a fellow analyst for the
    William Volker Fund, and through Meyer had met Buckley and the rest
    of the editorial staff. I attended National Review luncheons,
    rallies, and cocktail parties, and wrote a fair number of articles
    and book reviews for the magazine. But the more I circulated among
    these people, the greater my horror because I realized with growing
    certainty that what they wanted above all was total war against
    the Soviet Union; their fanatical warmongering would settle for
    no less.

    Of course the
    New Rightists of National Review would never quite dare to
    admit this crazed goal in public, but the objective would always
    be slyly implied. At right-wing rallies no one cheered a single
    iota for the free market, if this minor item were ever so much as
    mentioned; what really stirred up the animals were demagogic appeals
    by National Review leaders for total victory, total destruction
    of the Communist world. It was that which brought the right-wing
    masses out of their seats. It was National Review editor
    Brent Bozell who trumpeted, at a right-wing rally: "I would
    favor destroying not only the whole world, but the entire universe
    out to the furthermost star, rather than suffer Communism to live."
    It was National Review editor Frank Meyer who once told me:
    "I have a vision, a great vision of the future: a totally devastated
    Soviet Union." I knew that this was the vision that really
    animated the new Conservatism. Frank Meyer, for example, had the
    following argument with his wife, Elsie, over foreign-policy strategy:
    Should we drop the H-Bomb on Moscow and destroy the Soviet Union
    immediately and without warning (Frank), or should we give
    the Soviet regime 24 hours with which to comply with an ultimatum
    to resign (Elsie)?

    In the meanwhile,
    isolationist or antiwar sentiment disappeared totally from right-wing
    publications or organizations, as rightists hastened to follow the
    lead of National Review and its burgeoning political and
    activist organizations. The death of Colonel McCormick of the Chicago
    Tribune and the ouster of Felix Morley from Human Events
    meant that these crucial mass periodicals would swing behind
    the new pro-war line. Harry Elmer Barnes, the leader and promoter
    of World War II revisionism, was somehow able to publish an excellent
    article on Hiroshima in National Review, but apart from that,
    found that conservative interest in revisionism, prominent after
    World War II, had dried up and become hostile.17 For
    as William Henry Chamberlin had discovered, the Munich analogy was
    a powerful one to use against opponents of the new war drive; besides,
    any questioning of American intervention in the previous war crusade
    inevitably cast doubts on its current role, let alone on New Right
    agitation for an even hotter war. Right-wing publishers like Henry
    Regnery and Devin-Adair lost interest in isolationist or revisionist
    works. Once in a while, a few libertarians who had not fallen silent
    about the war drive or even joined it expressed their opposition
    and concern; but they could only do so in private correspondence.
    There was no other outlet available.18

    Particularly
    disgraceful was National Review's refusal to give the great
    John T. Flynn an outlet for his opposition to the Cold War. The
    doughty veteran Flynn, who had, interestingly enough, championed
    Joe McCarthy, bitterly opposed the New Right emphasis on a global
    military crusade. In the fall of 1956, Flynn submitted an article
    to National Review attacking the Cold War crusade, and charging,
    as he had in the 1940s, that militarism was a "job-making boondoggle,"
    whose purpose was not to defend but to bolster "the economic
    system with jobs for soldiers and jobs and profits in the munitions
    plants." Presenting figures for swollen military spending between
    the start of Roosevelt's war buildup in 1939 and 1954, Flynn argued
    that the economy no longer consisted of a "socialist sector"
    and a "capitalist sector." Instead, Flynn warned, there
    was only the "racket" of military spending, "with
    the soldier-politician in the middle – unaware of the hell-broth
    of war, taxes and debt." The Eisenhower administration, Flynn
    charged, was no better than its Democratic predecessors; the administration
    is spending $66 billion a year, most going for "so-called u2018national
    security'" and only a "small fraction" spent on "the
    legitimate functions of government."

    A fascinating
    interchange followed between Buckley and Flynn. Rejecting Flynn's
    article in a letter on October 22, 1956, Buckley had the unmitigated
    chutzpah to tell this veteran anti-Communist that he didn't understand
    the nature of the Soviet military threat, and condescendingly advised
    him to read William Henry Chamberlin's latest pot-boiler in National
    Review describing "the difference in the nature of the
    threat posed by the Commies and the Nazis." Trying to sugar-coat
    the pill, Buckley sent Flynn $100 along with the rejection note.
    The next day, Flynn returned the $100, sarcastically adding that
    he was "greatly obliged" to Buckley for "the little
    lecture."

    In this way,
    Buckley used the same argument for depriving Flynn of a publishing
    outlet that Bruce Bliven and the war liberals had employed when
    ousting Flynn from the New Republic in the 1940s. In both
    cases Flynn was accused of overlooking the alleged foreign threat
    to the United States, and in both cases Flynn's attempted answer
    was to stress that the real menace to American liberties was militarism,
    socialism, and fascism at home, imposed in the name of combating
    an alleged foreign threat. Flynn denied the existence of a Soviet
    military threat, and warned prophetically that the executive branch
    of the government was about to involve us in a futile war in Indo-China.19

    Virtually the
    only published echo of the Old Right was a book by the redoubtable
    Felix Morley who, in the course of decrying the modern New Deal
    and post-New Deal destruction of federalism by strong central government,
    roundly attacked the developing and existing American Empire and
    militarism.20

    Meanwhile,
    National Review's image of me was that of a lovable though
    Utopian libertarian purist who, however, must be kept strictly confined
    to propounding laissez-faire economics, to which National
    Review had a kind of residual rhetorical attachment. There was
    even talk at one time of my becoming an economic columnist for National
    Review. But above all I was supposed to stay out of political
    matters and leave to the warmongering ideologues of National
    Review the gutsy real-world task of defending me from the depredations
    of world Communism, and allowing me the luxury of spinning Utopias
    about private fire-fighting services. I was increasingly unwilling
    to play that kind of a castrate role.

    1. Don Levine
      had been slated to be a coeditor, but was booted out before the
      venture began because he had angered financial backers of the
      Freeman by attacking Merwin K. Hart in Plain Talk as
      being "anti-Semitic" (read: anti-Zionist).
    2. His most
      famous ghostwritten piece was McCarthy's famous attack on the
      record of General George Marshall – an attack, significantly,
      which began during World War II, thus deliberately ignoring Marshall's
      black record on Pearl Harbor.
    3. On this
      instructive episode, see John Steinke and James Weinstein, "McCarthy
      and the Liberals," in For a New America: Essays in History
      and Politics from Studies on the Left, 1959–1967, James Weinstein
      and David Eakins, eds. (New York: Random House, 1970), pp. 180–93.
    4. Ibid., p.
      180.
    5. It is precisely
      this sort of analysis that has made many astute members of the
      New Left in a sense sympathetic to the George Wallace movement
      of recent years. For while the Wallaceite program may be
      questionable, his analysis of the Establishment and his
      tapping of middle-class sentiment against the ruling elite that
      oppresses them earns from the New Left a considerable amount of
      sympathy.
    6. Daniel Bell,
      ed., The New American Right (New York: Criterion Books,
      1955). The book was updated eight years later, with new chapters
      added from the perspective of the early 1960s. Daniel Bell, ed.,
      The New American Right: Expanded and Updated (Garden City,
      N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1963). From a later perspective, it is
      clear that this was a protoneoconservative book, Bell, Glazer,
      and Lipset becoming prominent neocons in the 1970s and 1980s.
    7. Peter Viereck,
      "Revolt Against the Elite," in New American Right,
      Bell, ed., pp. 97–98, 116.
    8. William
      F. Buckley, Jr., "A Young Republican's View," Commonweal
      55, no. 16 (January 25, 1952): 391–93.
    9. Thus, see
      George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America
      Since 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1976), p. 127; and Samuel
      Francis, "Beautiful Losers: the Failure of American Conservatism,"
      Chronicles (May 1991): 16.
    10. See Nash,
      Conservative Intellectual Movement, p. 372.
    11. Frank Chodorov,
      "Trailing the Trend," analysis 6, no. 6 (April
      1950): 3. Quoted in Hamilton, "Introduction," p. 25.
    12. Frank Chodorov,
      "The Spy-Hunt," analysis 4, no. 11 (September
      1948): 1–2. Reprinted in Chodorov, Out of Step (New York:
      Devin-Adair, 1962), pp. 181–83.
    13. Frank Chodorov,
      "How to Curb the Commies," analysis 5, no. 7
      (May 1949): 2.
    14. Kirk, too,
      was to follow other National Review leaders into Catholicism
      a decade later.
    15. Letter to
      National Review 2, no. 20 (October 6, 1956): 23. Cited
      in Hamilton, "Introduction," p. 29.
    16. Kirk himself
      never equaled the success of The Conservative Mind. His
      later columns in National Review were largely confined
      to attacks upon the follies of progressive education. To be fair,
      Nash's work reveals that Kirk was really an isolationist Old Rightist
      during World War II; his shift to the New Conservatism in the
      early 1950s remains something of a mystery. Nash, Conservative
      Intellectual Movement, pp. 70–76.
    17. Harry Elmer
      Barnes, "Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe," National
      Review 5, no. 19 (May 10, 1958): 441–43. See Murray N. Rothbard,
      "Harry Elmer Barnes as Revisionist of the Cold War,"
      in Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader, A. Goddard, ed.
      (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Ralph Myles, 1968), pp. 314–38.
    18. Thus, see
      the letters in the late 1950s of Roland W. ("Rollie")
      Holmes, and of Dr. Paul Poirot of the FEE staff, in Toy, "Ideology
      and Conflict," pp. 206–07.
    19. On Buckley's
      rejection of the Flynn article, see Ronald Radosh, Prophets
      on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism
      (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975), pp. 272–73; and Radosh,
      "Preface," in John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching (New
      York: Free Life Editions, 1973), pp. xiv–xv.
    20. Felix Morley,
      Freedom and Federalism (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1959),
      especially the chapters "Democracy and Empire," "Nationalization
      through Foreign Policy," and "The Need for an Enemy."

    Table
    of Contents: The Betrayal of the American Right

    Murray
    Rothbard Archives

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