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Rothbard in The New Republic

In an excellent article for The New Republic, April 6, 2015, “Rand Paul Will Break Republican Hearts, Just Like Reagan Did,” the Canadian journalist Jeet Heer displays a knowledge of libertarianism rare among mainstream journalists. Heer points out that Rand Paul’s bellicose foreign policy statements will make him lose support among libertarians. “Paul, to the disappointment of many of his more orthodox libertarian followers, is increasingly sounding like a typical conservative, especially on foreign policy.”

Heer goes on note that libertarians have in the post-World War II period often found themselves at odds with the Republican Party. He discusses Murray Rothbard’s views at some length. “The late Murray Rothbard, a towering intellectual and political activist in libertarian circles, was a striking example. During the 1940s, he belonged to New York’s Young Republican Club, but during the Cold War he concluded that the GOP’s militarism was a betrayal of the traditional anti-war and isolationist principles of the Old Right. During the 1950s, Rothbard preferred Democrat Adlai Stevenson to Eisenhower, and while some other libertarians like Milton Friedman jumped on the Goldwater bandwagon in the early 1960s, Rothbard still distrusted the Republicans. ‘Goldwater and the Conservative Movement are not only not libertarian, but the preeminent enemies of liberty in our time,’ Rothbard wrote in 1964 in a letter to a small libertarian magazine called the Innovator. ‘For the Goldwaterites are, first, aggressive and ardent champions of American imperialism and intervention in political affairs all over the globe; and, second and most important, are eager advocates of nuclear war against the Soviet Union.’”

Heer next describes Rothbard’s later political alliances, rightly noting the centrality for Rothbard of opposition to war. Surely it is grounds for optimism when one finds a knowledgeable account of Rothbard in The New Republic!