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Libertarian women’s history month: Leslie Graves

31 Mar

Leslie Graves (195? – )  started in Libertarian Party and anti-draft activism and gradually moved to behind the scenes activism in tax and term limitation initiatives and then freedom of information issues.  Many libertarians are not familiar with Ms. Graves, who has never been well profiled on the Internet or in any libertarian publication.
Originally from Spring Green, Wisconsin, her father served in the Korean War.

Leslie matriculated at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland in 1972.  A “Great Books” school, St. John’s requires that students read original sources and texts, even in maths and sciences, from Plato to Freud, Leslie’s college years overlapped with another well known (and now long term) libertarian activist studying at St. John’s College, Tom Palmer, with whom she would later work on the 1980 Ed Clark for President campaign, though apparently they never met as undergraduates.   Years later, after raising children and working in the Libertarian Party,  Graves did graduate work in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She co-authored “Is indeterminism the source of the statistical character of evolutionary theory?” in the Philosophy of Science and wrote “Transgressive traditions and art definitions” for the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.   

But in college, Leslie married another “Johnnie,” as St. John’s students are called, Steve Key, and had a daughter, Sara Key.  The marriage dissolved amicably while Sara was an infant, and Leslie moved for a year to Washington, D.C., where she worked with the Ed Crane wing of the libertarian movement that was running Ed Clark’s 1980 Presidential campaign (for which David Koch served as an angel donor and the Vice Presidential candidate).  In 1980, Leslie and Sara became roommates with a libertarian gay couple working for the Clark campaign and the Libertarian Party in the Glover Park neighborhood near the Libertarian Party national headquarters (at that time on Wisconsin Avenue just above Georgetown, over what is now, of course, a Starbucks.)  Leslie was tasked with working as a representative to the Coalition Against Registration and the Draft‘s national board, popularly referred to as the CARD Board.  The anti-draft movement of the time was contentious, as for the first time marxists and socialist front groups, along with honestly socialist parties, had to contend with multiple libertarian groups, including the Libertarian Party, the Young Libertarian Alliance, the Association of Libertarian Feminists, and the Society for Individual Liberty, all finding a Washington, D.C. member and appointing them to represent them and vote for them on the CARD Board.  Leslie was also the state chair for a time of the Wisconsin Libertarian Party,

While in D.C., Leslie met another mid-Westerner, Eric O’Keefe, a handsome Detroit factory worker who had saved money and invested shrewdly in the stock market, and then quit his auto industry job to take the position of Executive Director of the Libertarian Party.  Eric O’Keefe  has since gone on to work for a number of tax and term limitation groups, is on the board of directors of the Cato Institute, and has worked in support of the campaigns of governor Scott Walker.  They married and remain married today, and have had several children who are now adults working in the liberty movement.  In March of 2015 the O’Keefes attended the 35th anniversary of the Ed Clark for President campaign in New Orleans (Eric O’Keefe, pictured right foreground, with David Boaz, Howie Rich, and Andrea Millen Rich; photo credit: F.M. Strandfeldt).  Leslie and Eric were both part of the group of libertarians who ran the Clark campaign and who sought, unsuccessfully, to have Georgetown University international relations professor Earl Ravenal nominated as the 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate.  Leslie was dubbed the “Madame LaFarge” of the libertarian movement by Murray Rothbard, then somewhat cranky in his dotage. Amusingly, Rothbard was at best 5’8″ while Graves was, as she liked to minimize, “5’11 and a half.” (One of Graves’s sisters is an Olympic rower, and in the late 90s the four Graves’s sisters competed in a Nike sponsored rowing event.) Unhappy that his advice about campaigns and elections was often not heeded, Murray exiled Leslie to the Rothbard list of people to be banned from the libertarian movement, for being nefariously associated with the Koch brothers and/or Ed Crane (leftovers are truly second handers – even Koch derangement syndrome was started by a libertarian!)  Like most of the others in this group, Leslie left Libertarian Party activism for good for other political activities, and the Libertarian Party shrank, not matching the Ed Clark/David Koch vote total until the 2012 race of Governor Gary Johnson.

Today, Leslie is the publisher of Balletopedia, which covers elections and campaigns as a specialized wikipedia, as a project of the Lucy Burns Institute, which says its mission is “to connect people and politics,” which she founded in 2006 and until recently served as president.  The Institute also has three other projects, a WikiFOIA, Policypedia, and Judgepedia, which attempt to provide more transparency in government machinations.  In 2012, Graves authored a guidebook titled Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns.

Graves’ political analysis has been included in the Wall Street JournalReutersBloomberg NewsCampaigns and Elections, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Libertarian Women’s History Month: Ayn Rand, in memoriam

6 Mar
Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905, to a not particularly observant Jewish family. Her father was a pharmacist, as is one of the middle class Russian families being slowly ground into starvation in her first novel, We, The Living.  She passed away on March 6, 1982, thirty three years ago today.  Since her passing her influence has grown to a point that she is attacked daily by statist writers, and Congressmen, Senators, and Presidential candidates discuss her books.
At age six she taught herself to read and two years later discovered her first fictional hero in a French magazine for children, thus capturing the heroic vision which sustained her throughout her life. At the age of nine she decided to make fiction writing her career. Opposed to the mysticism and collectivism of Russian culture, she thought of herself as a European writer, especially after discovering Victor Hugo, the novelist she most admired.  Of her early life she wrote about enjoying European and American culture, including light opera and jazz.
While in high school, she was eyewitness to both the liberal Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and then, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced from the outset. To escape the fighting, her family went to the Crimea, where she finished high school. The final Communist victory brought the confiscation of her father’s pharmacy and periods of near-starvation. When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took the United States as her model of what a nation of free people could be.
When her family returned from the Crimea, she entered the University of Petrograd to study philosophy and history, where she was supposed to have been a favorite of a famous Platonist who did not otherwise approve of female students.. Graduating in 1924, she experienced the disintegration of free inquiry and the takeover of the university by communist thugs. Amidst the increasingly gray life, her one great pleasure was Western films and plays. Long an admirer of cinema, she entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting.
In late 1925 she obtained permission to leave Soviet Russia for a visit to relatives in the United States. Although she told Soviet authorities that her visit would be short, she was determined never to return to Russia. She arrived in New York City in February 1926. She spent the next six months with her relatives in Chicago, obtained an extension to her visa, and then left for Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter.  She never saw her family again until near the end of her life, when one of her surviving sisters came across a copy of one of Rand’s novels in a cultural exhibit in Moscow on Russians abroad, and was able to visit her in the U.S.
On Ayn Rand’s second day in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille saw her standing at the gate of his studio, offered her a ride to the set of his movie The King of Kings, and gave her a job, first as an extra, then as a script reader. During the next week at the studio, she met an actor, Frank O’Connor, whom she married in 1929; they were married until his death fifty years later.
After struggling for several years at various non-writing jobs, including one in the wardrobe department at the RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., she sold her first screenplay, “Red Pawn,” to Universal Pictures in 1932 and saw her first stage play, Night of January 16th, produced in Hollywood and then on Broadway. Her first novel, We the Living, was completed in 1934 but was rejected by numerous publishers, until The Macmillan Company in the United States and Cassells and Company in England published the book in 1936. The most autobiographical of her novels, it was based on her years under Soviet tyranny.
She began writing The Fountainhead in 1935. In the character of the architect Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the kind of hero whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as “he could be and ought to be.” The Fountainhead was rejected by twelve publishers but finally accepted by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. When published in 1943, it made history by becoming a best seller through word of mouth two years later, and gained for its author lasting recognition as a champion of individualism.

The Fountainhead polarized critics and received mixed reviews upon its release. The New York Times review of the novel named Rand “a writer of great power” who writes “brilliantly, beautifully and bitterly,” and it stated that she had “written a hymn in praise of the individual… you will not be able to read this masterful book without thinking through some of the basic concepts of our time.” Benjamin DeCasseres, a columnist for the New York Journal-American, wrote of Roark as “an uncompromising individualist” and “one of the most inspiring characters in modern American literature.” Rand sent DeCasseres a letter thanking him for explaining the book’s individualistic themes when many other reviewers did not.There were other positive reviews, but Rand dismissed many of them as either not understanding her message or as being from unimportant publications. A number of negative reviews focused on the length of the novel, such as one that called it “a whale of a book” and another that said “anyone who is taken in by it deserves a stern lecture on paper-rationing.” 

The year 1943 also saw the publication of The God of the Machine by Isabel Paterson and The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane. Rand, Lane and Paterson have been referred to as the founding mothers of the American libertarian movement with the publication of these works.

Ayn Rand returned to Hollywood in late 1943 to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead, but wartime restrictions delayed production until 1948. Working part time as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions, she began her major novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1946. In 1951 she moved back to New York City and devoted herself full time to the completion of Atlas Shrugged.
Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was her greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel she dramatized her unique philosophy in an intellectual mystery story that integrated ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics and sex. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such individuals possible.  Like her other novels, Atlas is full of very cinematic potential — panoramic views from skyscrapers and mountains, dramatic tensions between siblings, spouses, co-workers.  Her two major novels have been praised by actors like Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada, Les Miserables)  and Joe Mangienello (TrueBlood, Magic Mike) and Atlas was recently made into a trilogy generally viewed as being of at best of made-for-TV-movie quality, by a fan who would lose his rights to produce a film if he did not hurriedly produce one.
Thereafter, Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy—Objectivism, which she characterized as “a philosophy for living on earth.” She published and edited her own periodicals from 1962 to 1976, her essays providing much of the material for six books on Objectivism and its application to the culture. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, in her Manhattan apartment, after a long battle with lung cancer.

Rand is viewed variously as the foremother, midwife, or Alien style involuntary host of the libertarian movement.  Like most famous and successful people she attracted many admirers and fans, some younger and not as established, and they did not always see eye to eye, and often separated in anger over issues that to an outsider seem personal (and very human) but not purely about ideas.  Her associations with people who would go on to be active in the libertarian movement include: economist Murray Rothbard, with whom she had a diremption that was initially about either his wife’s (Joey Rothbard’s) refusal to give up Catholicism or his formulation of an individualist anarchist political philosophy; psychologist Nathaniel Branden and his ex-wife Barbara, who for a time ran a school devoted to popularizing Rand’s ideas; philosophy professor John Hospers, later to be the first presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party; and Joan Kennedy Taylor, one of the editors of the 70s-80s competitor to reason magazine, Libertarian Review.  Kennedy Taylor may be the most interesting of these (all now deceased), historically, for several reasons.  As an editor Taylor discovered Charles Murray and persuaded him to write Losing Ground and his other influential books.  Taylor also edited the Manhattan Young Republican Club’s magazine, Persuasion, in the 60s, and met with Rand, who told her the name for her politics, philosophical but only a political philosophy, not a complete philosophical world view like Objectivism, was “libertarianism.”  Rand later abjured the “L-word” and denounced libertarians for being hippies and anarchists, as Murray Rothbard’s competing vision gained popularity in the movement.*  

Today two competing groups promote her philosophy, the better funded and more apostolic Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), and the more libertarian friendly Atlas Society, which promotes what it calls “open Objectivism.”  Each group was founded by and has a number of philosophy (and other) PhDs, but to outsiders the differences seem somewhat attitudinal.  Both have summer conferences and publications and a presence in DC, but ARI scholars and activities are more numerous and include some new and exciting sub-projects, like that of Alex Epstein on industrial progress and the moral case for fossil fuels.

In addition, a major libertarian foundation, the Cato Institute, has a president, John Allison, who describes himself as an Objectivist, as does former New Mexico governor and sometime Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.   Though all of these people and groups promote her work, my suspicion is that, as with the success of The Fountainhead, her works being passed around by word of mouth among friends may be a greater force, pulling these groups along in its wake. 

Every book by Ayn Rand published in her lifetime is still in print, and hundreds of thousands of copies are sold each year, so far totaling more than twenty five million. Several new volumes have been published posthumously. Her vision of man and her philosophy for living on earth have changed the lives of thousands of readers and launched a philosophic movement with a growing impact on American culture.

Biographical Information on Ayn Rand

Did eastern establishment Jewish quotas create American political culture?

21 Jul
Here’s an research program for people working in American intellectual history:

Did quotas in elite eastern establishment universities in the 20th century shape American culture and intellectual life, especially politics and political economy?

Did limiting the number of Jews then (and perhaps Asians now), mean that those most likely to be allowed in for a limited number of slots available to their ethnic group at eastern establishment schools were slightly better connected, well healed, or assimilated (and therefore more likely to defend establishment corporate statist/crony capitalist/corporate socialist perspectives*), while the more working class/small business family, freshly immigrated, socially awkward, Jews (then, Asians now etc.) who were kept out of establishment universities by quotas ended up at elite schools without quotas (paradigmatically the University of Chicago) and were also more likely to be critical of establishment views, either from a libertarian or a more radical socialist, perspective?

* Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, ad nauseum.

That is,   Allison Portchnik:

Mark Skousen on his ancestor Benjamin Franklin

1 Jul

and the Q&A

The Vietnam war ended 40 years ago – Murray Rothbard on Vietnam

29 Mar

How Murray Rothbard Single-Handedly Brought Down the Saigon Government with Malice Aforethought

by Joseph R. Stromberg
by Joseph R. Stromberg
A Hardy Weed
As the current US foreign policy adventure drags on, it seems as good a time as any to address a recurring charge brought against Murray Rothbard by sundry libertarians (sic), Randians, near-Neo-Conservatives, and other worthies. Strictly speaking, the complaint is not that Rothbard, alone and unaided, brought down the Saigon Government in 1975; even Rothbard’s enemies do not go quite that far. The complaint seems to be that Rothbard “cheered” when that government fell, proving that he was “pro-communist,” had a bad attitude about these things, was crazy and immoral, etc. 
To get a proper handle on this apparently controversial subject, it is best to begin with Rothbard’s writings on the deaths of states.
I. Deaths of States
Rothbard the “Pro-Communist”
In 1975, Murray Rothbard penned two essays on the fall of the Saigon government, a government largely invented, bankrolled, and sustained by the United States. This invention was part of the American project of incorporating Southeast Asia into a kind of US-directed “Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.” [1] The US had of course objected, in the 1930s, to the Japanese version of such a project.
The two articles on the collapse of the Republic of South Vietnam have caused much angst among those conservatives and libertarians who never managed to question any important assumptions about the Cold War. This angst reverberates down the halls of time. Its echo, for some reason, is with us still. 
The first essay, “The Death of a State,” appeared in Rothbard’s newsletter, the Libertarian Forum in April 1975. It began on this note:
What we are seeing these last weeks in Indochina is, for libertarians, a particularly exhilarating experience: the death of a State, or rather two States: Cambodia and South Vietnam. The exhilaration stems from the fact that here is not just another coup d’état, in which the State apparatus remains virtually intact and only a few oligarchs are shuffled at the top. Here is the total and sudden collapse – the smashing – of an entire State apparatus. Its accelerating and rapid disintegration. Of course, the process does not now usher in any sort of libertarian Nirvana, since another bloody State is in the process of taking over. But the disintegration remains, and offers us many instructive lessons. [2]
Thus, at the very outset, Rothbard says in effect, “Yes, another state will replace the one that fell, but the process itself may prove to be interesting and instructive.” The excitement – that which initially draws our interest – has to do with the complete implosion of a state. As for how such an Einsturz might happen, Rothbard writes that Étienne de La Boétie, David Hume, and Ludwig von Mises have long since given the explanation.
Simply put, “no matter how bloody or despotic any State may be, it rests for its existence in the long-run (and not-so-long run) on the consent of the majority of its subjects….” This consent may be “passive resignation, but the important thing is that it rests on the willingness of the masses to obey the orders and the commands of the State apparatus” up to the point, where we see “a sudden and infectious decision of the masses to say: Enough! We’ve had it; we quit.” [3]
So it was with ARVN, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam – “trained for decades by American commanders, armed to the teeth by the United States” – which, in the end, just quit. Rothbard noted that the South Vietnamese government “had no real roots in popular support…. Hence its supporters were mainly only the recipients of American largesse.” Further:
A corollary lesson of the collapse, then, is the long-run impossibility for an imperialist-dominated regime to survive, when opposed by guerrilla warfare backed by the great majority of the population. And this despite the enormous advantage in firepower and in modern weaponry that the imperialist power, and its puppets, initially enjoy.
Rothbard concluded:
Imperialism, then, cannot win; and we have learned this lesson after the Johnson-Nixon regimes managed to murder a million or more Vietnamese, North and South, along with over 50,000 American soldiers. All that blood and treasure just to postpone the inevitable! [4]
(I shall refrain from making a comparison with any current events, given the unpredictability involved – i.e., whether or not any current resistance is “backed by the great majority of the population.”)
Rothbard also observed that “it comes with ill grace indeed” for US spokesmen to lament the looming “bloodbath,” should the communists prevail. “Vietnamization” had been an abject failure, as had US interference in Cambodia. The Ford administration – clinging to the wreckage of the war in Indo-China, was “the true legatee of the Nixon administration,” but at least it had given up “the budding Cowboy police state at home.” [5]  
If Rothbard’s first essay provoked consternation in some libertarian circles, the second must have increased it.
Rothbard’s second salvo, also entitled “The Death of a State,” appeared in Reason Magazine, July 1975. He repeated his theme that state collapse in Indo-China was “exhilarating” and elaborated his interest in it as process. With every mathematically inclined political scientist and international relations scholar in the world (then and now) ransacking history for “case studies” to “test” their dreaded “robust” [6] hypotheses and propositions, we might well think that Rothbard could be allowed to look at events in the light of some generalizations drawn from political history (but apparently not).
Rothbard wrote:
The process by which these states [South Vietnam and Cambodia] have crumpled vindicates once again the insights of the theorists of mass guerrilla warfare, from libertarians such as Charles Lee in the late 18th century to the elaborations of modern Communist theoreticians… that, after a slow, patient protracted struggle, in which the guerrilla armies (backed by the populace) whittle and wear down the massively superior fire power of the State armies (generally backed by other, imperial governments), the final blow occurs in which the State dissolves and disintegrates with remarkable speed. [7]
Again, Rothbard notes that “in Vietnam and Cambodia, one State has been immediately displaced by another – not surprisingly, since the communist-led insurgents are scarcely anarchists or libertarians. But States exist everywhere; there is nothing remarkable in that. What is inspiring is to actually see the final and swift disintegration of a State.”
Those who want to quibble about the words “exhilarating,” “inspiring,” and “rejoicing” might want to answer whether or not the continuance of a state, at the price being then exacted by the RVN and US, could be so described.
Again, Rothbard observes that a state that forfeits “majority support” will fall: “In the end, the ARVN army simply laid down their arms and fled, ignoring the orders of their hierarchical chain of commanders, from the President down to the non-coms.”
Now Rothbard expressed another forbidden thought, noting that “the body blow that these events have delivered to U.S. imperialism” was a “cause for libertarian rejoicing.” It was a blow to the idea that “the United States has the moral duty, and the permanent power, to install, prop up, and rule governments and peoples throughout the world.” Given this blow, a rebirth of non-intervention seemed more than possible.
Hence the “rejoicing.”
After all, Americans “were sick and tired of our long and losing intervention in Vietnam” in a “continuation of the American policy of imperialism – the Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon-Ford policy – that was responsible for pushing Indochina into the arms of communism.” The US accomplished that feat by “bolstering and then replacing French imperialism; by propping up unpopular and corrupt dictatorial regimes in the name of ‘freedom’; by suppressing peasant property and returning it to the imperially-created feudal landlords,” and so on. Further, “it was precisely the idiotic CIA-directed right-wing coup against the popular neutralist Prince Norodom Sihanouk that has now led to the Communist regime there.”
Free Enterprise in South Vietnam
In passing, I wish to note an article that appeared in the Miami Herald on South Vietnamese inflation remedies in late 1971:
The South Vietnamese government announced Friday that it is imposing price controls to curb rises that followed devaluation of the piaster.
The government also announced that it would start strict implementation of a seldom-used 1965 law providing penalties ranging from 10 years in jail to death for spreading rumors harmful to the national economy or seeking to increase the cost of living.
The death penalty will be applied only in extreme cases of hoarding for profit or causing very harmful rumors, such as that currency devaluation is imminent, a government spokesman said.
Prices of some commodities shot up this week, largely because of speculation and hoarding, after Economic Minister Pham Kim Ngoc announced on Monday that the piaster would be devalued 45 to 55 percent as part of an economic reform package. [8]
So, on the face of it, “harmful rumors” about coming devaluations would have been true, and from this we may conclude that the Saigon government, like any other despotic state, wanted to be able to tax the people via inflation, repress the inevitably rising prices by controls, and arrest and possibly kill anyone who mentioned it out loud.
In this regard, the Saigon sideshow was acting in the tradition of Chiang Kai-shek – Chinese despot and Cold War hero to the interventionist right wing (they weren’t called “the China Lobby” for nothing!). Under the economic “management” of Chiang and his close relatives, who made up the core of the Nationalist Government, prices in China rose by a factor of 2,167 between 1937 and 1945. As Joyce and Gabriel Kolko put it, “In the end, the soldiers would not or could not fight, and much of the government bureaucracy was forced into graft and corruption. Translated into social and political terms, Chiang mobilized vital potential support for the Communists and melted the possible resistance to them.” [9]
Between 1965 and 1970, the Saigon government managed to inflate by 604%. This was not quite up to Chiang’s standards, but it did erode the confidence of bureaucrats, soldiers, and pretty much everyone else. [10]         
State Building in South Vietnam     
The key, however, is that had the Saigon government really been “up to it,” it would have effectively turned itself into a rather totalitarian regime in pursuit, no doubt, of some rather fictitious liberty to be realized after it succeeded. But I jest, since the Saigonistas were no more about liberty than the communists were, in the end, about equality. But at the time, if I may be so rude as to mention it, a program of quasi-totalitarian state-building was precisely what high-toned US Cold War liberals, social engineers, and counterinsurgency experts were urging upon the scattered attention of the Saigon state. [11]
Consider what the soft, “winning hearts and minds” school of US counterinsurgency theorists had in mind for South Vietnam, as summarized by D. Michael Shafer: “rapid incorporation of the vulnerable inhabitants of the periphery into the center,” brought about by “physical control of territory and populace; penetration of authority throughout the country; and promotion of economic and social development.” And of course these goals entailed “relocation of people to defended villages” – that is, to the so-called strategic hamlets.
Further, in the eyes of US planners, it was necessary for South Vietnam to “address distributional, racial, and communal problems and remove corrupt or abusive officials.” Along with these reforms, should come general “increases in the quantity of government.” By carrying out their own social revolution, assisted by US advice and superabundant firepower, the Saigon crew would win the wavering people over, by really giving them “the benefits only promised by the insurgents.” [12] (This last point was an especially tall order to the extent that one of the “benefits” sought was precisely to be rid of the Saigon regime.)
The soft school erred, Shafer continues, in “assuming that leaders’ interests are the same as the national interest.” Don’t we all! Thus they overlooked “the possibility that for certain elites the aim of fighting is to defend power and privilege,” and consequently, the commitment of these elites to reform might be a bit limited. Under such circumstances, “increasing the government’s security may decrease that of the population,” driving them into the arms of the insurgents.
Committed to sundry flawed assumptions rooted in the then universally loved modernization theory, the soft school ended with “a prescriptive bent for centralized, paternalistic government.”[13]  
Historian Bruce Miroff underscores the connection between modernization theory and counterinsurgency:
Modernization and counterinsurgency were closely interwoven in New Frontier ideology. Walt W. Rostow was a key figure here in establishing the linkage. The Administration’s leading theoretician of economic development and modernization, Rostow was also one of its most fervent proponents of counterinsurgency. He considered counterinsurgency an integral branch of modernization; hence, he told a graduating class of Green Berets at Fort Bragg in 1961: “Your job is to work with understanding with your fellow citizens in the whole creative process of modernization. From our perspective in Washington you take your place side by side with those others who are committed to help fashion independent, modern societies out of the revolutionary process now going forward. I salute you as I would a group of doctors, teachers, economic planners, agricultural experts, civil servants, or those others who are now leading the way in fashioning new nations and societies.” [14]
According to US planners (as depicted by Shafer), success in the war demanded “the ability to manage modernization.” The state had to make “hard decisions: to invest, not consume; rationalize administration; root out corruption; attack parochial political groupings, etc.” Further, the planners believed “that more government is better government. But this presupposes the very issues at question… that government and populace share the same goals that will be advanced by greater government capabilities at the grassroots level.” And, worse luck, “improving administrative capacity has often meant greater governmental ability to collect taxes, enforce skewed land tenure arrangements, raise conscripts, etc. In short, improved administrative capacity may mean better enforcement of the status quo.” [15]   
Of course, counterinsurgency theory was a general Western fad at the time, resting on a strong record of failure or dubious successes in Algeria, Malaya, Kenya, and elsewhere. The theorists called for “civic action” and “revolutionary war.” Here, the threatened state, or its allies, would use military forces to seize, transform, and carry out the popular revolution in an approved form. The neo-Jacobinism of the project hardly needs underlining. [16]    
Of course none of this actually worked all that well and the hearts-and-minds gang were soon out, replaced by the harder-nosed cost/benefit folk of the RAND Corporation type, who focused on how to coerce the Vietnamese laboratory rats into submission along the lines of rational actor models drawn from mathematized neoclassical economics, or behaviorist psychology.[17]
Noam Chomsky quotes one of these writers, Morton Halperin, as follows:
The events in Vietnam also illustrate the fact that most people tend to be motivated not by abstract appeals, but rather by their perception of the course of action that is most likely to lead to their own personal security and to the satisfaction of their economic, social, and psychological desires. Thus, for example, large-scale American bombing in South Vietnam may have antagonized a number of people; but at the same time it demonstrated to these people that the Vietcong could not guarantee their security as it had been able to do before the bombing…. [18]  
Any burglar or home invader could say as much. And one begins to wonder if states are not only “stationary bandits” but also stationary terrorists. This certainly wasn’t going to win any hearts and minds, but for the planners, if those “subjective factors” could not be dealt with “scientifically” and mathematically, they could not be considered at all. 
So what were the insurgents doing all this while? Eqbal Ahmad suggests that overall, they were behaving better than the Saigon bureaucrats and soldiers – not a difficult feat, apparently. He writes that support for the guerrillas rested on “moral alienation of the masses from the existing government.” Accordingly, the rebels had to “outadminister” more than “outfight” the government. Thus the guerrillas were working with the “human factor” so invisible to US planners. 
Ahmad notes that there are cases like Algeria in which the rebels “lost” militarily but won politically – and this goes straight to the problems of obedience and legitimacy [19] that interested Rothbard.
The National Liberation Front operated by creating parallel hierarchies that displaced official ones. Despite the assumptions of US officials, this was not a case of rule by terror, despite the occasional “conversion or killing of village officials.” Serious and disciplined guerrillas rejected wholesale terrorism and laid “stress on scrupulously ‘correct and just’ behavior toward civilians.” Their “use of terror, therefore, [was] sociologically and psychologically selective.” Thus, “[s]uccessful parallel hierarchies” were “generally based on extant local patterns and experiences….” [20]  
Here, the revolutionaries played to what Eric Wolf refers to as the “natural anarchism” of rebelling peasants – that is, the peasant’s instinctive wish to continue his way of life, but without tax collectors, bureaucrats, and feudal landlords. [21]   That NLF cadres built up an incipient state in the course of the struggle is consistent with the history of other 20th-century peasant-based revolutions led by Marxists. The NLF had on their side the powerful cement of Vietnamese nationalism, another factor the Americans contrived to miss.
In response, Ahmad writes, the US unleashed total war, “punitive measures, and widespread, systematic use of torture.” He observes: “these wars are ‘limited’ only in their consequences for the intervening power. For the country and people under assault they are total.” [22]   
Let us once more consider what the US sought to do in South Vietnam, namely, to build a state able to “incorporate” the people via “physical control” and effective administration, while carrying on an ersatz, top-down social revolution and making a great forward leap into “centralized, paternalistic government,” with the burgeoning state undertaking “economic and social development”; making “hard decisions” about investment vs. consumption, rationalizing administration, rooting out corruption, and “attack[ing] parochial political groupings”; and serving as the vanguard of forced-draft “urbanization” by bombing the rural population into new living arrangements. [23] One theorist even suggested that the South Vietnamese state substitute itself for “intermediate structures” where those were, lamentably, missing. [24] I leave to one side the obvious problem that if the state supplies the intermediate structures, they no longer seem very intermediate and perhaps another word will be needed for them.
From about 1965 on, American policymakers tried to substitute unrestrained US firepower for the “administrative failure” of the Saigon regime, so as to drive peasants into the “protection” of that regime, and where they could not provide support for the guerrillas. But an ineffective and unpopular regime cannot be bombed into strength and public esteem. So here it is: whichever side won, the people were going to get a stronger state than they were used to; absent the Americans, however, they would not be carpet-bombed. Let us leave to one side for a moment, the moral and subjective factors that seem to have been decisive. That done, even on the American theorists’ own argument, a peasant able to see past next week into some middle term might in fact “rationally calculate” that he would be better off under the NLF.
Between their methodologically narrow definition of rationality and their neoclassical inability to treat (and then distinguish degrees of) time-preference, the US counterinsurgency theorists were thoroughly at sea.
Rothbard v. Chomsky, 1977
It is probably worth mentioning the letters-to-the-editor exchanged between Rothbard and Noam Chomsky in Libertarian Review in December 1977. Rothbard had written a piece in the September issue in which he argued that democratic socialism was a chimera. Any serious attempt to realize socialism would necessarily lead in the direction of totalitarian rule. In a footnote, he chided Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman for their skepticism regarding some chilling statements attributed to Cambodian communist officials. [25]
Chomsky wrote an angry letter to Libertarian Review, saying that Rothbard had misrepresented his and Herman’s position. Rothbard replied in kind, reiterating his point that socialism, if undertaken seriously, required violence, brutality and statism. [26] As a lifelong advocate of a laissez-faire market economy, Rothbard was not about to defend any form of socialism. This exchange of letters took place just when former opponents of US intervention in Southeast Asia, many of them socialists, were debating among themselves whether or not it was “moral” to criticize the successor states in Southeast Asia.
In Rothbard’s view, if the bulk of a country’s people opted for socialism in reaction to feudalism, mercantilism, and foreign domination, that did not give the US government the right to wage a savage imperialist war against them. In any case, Rothbard had long rejected the Cold Warriors’ claim that all movements against the status quo, and against western powers that propped up existing regimes, were somehow parts of a centrally-directed campaign of communist aggression, and that therefore, US intervention anywhere and everywhere constituted a form of “defense.”
Hence, Rothbard had no problem opposing the war and criticizing those who came to power in its aftermath, especially since, absent the war, the outcomes would have been substantially different.

read the rest at

The Vietnam War ended 40 years ago today – Murray Rothbard on Vietnam

29 Mar
Our Anti-Imperialist Heritage

on War

Murray Rothbard
Greatest Enemy of Coercive Government
Copyright Ludwig von Mises Institute

These edited extracts, from an interview in the February 1973 issue of Reasonmagazine, first ran in the June 1999 issue of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, published by the Center for Libertarian Studies. The introduction is taken from “Murray N. Rothbard: A Legacy of Liberty,” by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. and is reprinted with the permission of the Center for Libertarian Studies. We wish to thank the Ludwig von Mises Institute for allowing us to reprint this interview and for providing the photos for our use.


Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995) was just one man with a typewriter, but he inspired a world-wide renewal in the scholarship of liberty. During 45 years of research and writing, in 25 books and thousands of articles, he battled every destructive trend in this century socialism, statism, relativism, and scientism – and awakened a passion for freedom in thousands of scholars, journalists, and activists.
Teaching in New York, Las Vegas, Auburn, and at conferences around the world, Rothbard led the renaissance of the Austrian School of economics. He galvanized an academic and popular fight for liberty and property, against the omnipotent state and its court intellectuals.
Volumes one and two of his magisterial history of economic thought appeared just after his death, published by Edward Elgar. Whereas other texts pretend to an uninterrupted march toward higher levels of truth, Rothbard illuminated a history of unknown geniuses and lost knowledge, of respected charlatans and honored fallacies.
A large collection of Rothbard’s best scholarly articles appears later this year in the publisher’s “Economists of the Century” series. In addition, there are unpublished manuscripts, articles, and letters to fill many more volumes.
Like his beloved teacher, Ludwig von Mises, Rothbard wrote for the public as well as professionals. “Civilization and human existence are at stake, and to preserve and expand it, high theory and scholarship, though important, are not enough,” he wrote in 1993. “Especially in an age of galloping statism, the classical liberal, the advocate of the free market, has an obligation to carry the struggle to all levels of society.”
Rothbard’s theory was his practice. He was involved in nearly every political and social development of his time, from Robert Taft’s presidential campaign to the 1994 elections. His last article, appearing in the Washington Post, warned that Newt Gingrich is more likely to betray the revolution than lead it.

Q: Why, in your view, is isolationism an essential tenet of libertarian foreign policy?
A: The libertarian position, generally, is to minimize State power as much as possible, down to zero, and isolationism is the full expression in foreign affairs of the domestic objective of whittling down State power. In other words, interventionism is the opposite of isolationism, and of course it goes on up to war, as the aggrandizement of State power crosses national boundaries into other States, pushing other people around etc. So this is the foreign counterpart of the domestic aggression against the internal population. I see the two as united.
The responsibility of trying to limit or abolish foreign intervention is avoided by many conservative libertarians in that they are very, very concerned with things like price control – of course I agree with them. They are very, very concerned about eliminating taxes, licensing, and so forth – with which I agree – but somehow when it comes to foreign policy there’s a black out. The libertarian position against the State, the hostility toward expanding government intervention and so forth, goes by the board – all of a sudden you hear those same people who are worried about government intervention in the steel industry cheering every American act of mass murder in Vietnam or bombing or pushing around people all over the world.
This shows, for one thing, that the powers of the State apparatus to bamboozle the public work better in foreign affairs than in domestic. In foreign affairs you still have this mystique that the nation-State is protecting you from a bogeyman on the other side of the mountain. There are “bad” guys out there out trying to conquer the world and “our” guys are in there trying to protect us. So not only is isolationism the logical corollary of libertarianism, which many libertarians don’t put into practice; in addition, as Randolph Bourne says, “war is the health of the State.”
The State thrives on war – unless, of course, it is defeated and crushed – expands on it, glories in it. For one thing, when one State attacks another State, it is able through this intellectual bamboozlement of the public to convince them that they must rush to the defense of the State because they think the State is defending them.
In other words, if let’s say, Paraguay and Brazil are going to get into a war, each State – the Paraguayan government and the Brazilian government – is able to convince their own subjects that the other government is out to get them and loot them and murder them in their beds and so forth, so they are able to induce their own hapless subjects to fight against the other State, whereas in actual practice, of course, it is the States that have the quarrel, not the people. The people are outside the quarrels of the State and yet the State is able to generate this patriotic mass war hysteria and to call everybody up to the colors physically and spiritually and economically and therefore, of course, aggrandize State power permanently.
Most conservatives and libertarians are very familiar with – and deplore – the increase in State power in the American government in the last 50 or 70 years, but what they don’t seem to realize is that most of these increases took place in giant leaps during wartime. It was wartime that provided the crisis situation – the spark – which enabled the States to put on so-called “emergency” measures, which of course never got lifted, or rarely got lifted.
Even the war of 1812 – seemingly a harmless little escapade—was evil, and also in the domestic sense, in that it ruined the Jeffersonian Party for a long time to come, it established Federalism which means monopoly State-capitalism in essence, it imposed a central bank, it imposed high tariffs, it imposed domestic federal taxation, which never existed before, internal taxation, and it took a long time to get rid of it, and we never really did get back to the pre-War of 1812 level of minimal State power.
Then, of course, the Mexican war had consequences of slave expansion and so forth. But the Civil War was, of course, much worse – the Civil War was really the great turning point, one of the great turning points in the increase of State power, because with the Civil War you now have the total introduction of things like railroad land grants, subsidies of big business, permanent high tariffs, which the Jacksonians had been able to whittle away before the Civil War, and a total revolution in the monetary system so that the old pure gold standard was replaced first by greenback paper, and then by the National Banking Act – a controlled banking system. And for the first time we had the imposition in the United States of an income tax and federal conscription. The income tax was reluctantly eliminated after the Civil War as was conscription: all the other things – such as high excise taxes—continued on as a permanent accretion of State power over the American public.
The third huge increase of power came out of World War I. World War I set both the foreign and the domestic policies for the twentieth century. Woodrow Wilson set the entire pattern for foreign policy from 1917 to the present. There is a total continuity between Wilson, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson and Nixon – the same thing all the way down the line.
Q: You’d include Kennedy in that?
A: Yes Kennedy, right. I don’t want to miss anybody. Every president has been inspired by Woodrow Wilson. It was reported that Richard Nixon’s first act when he came into the White House was to hang a picture of Woodrow Wilson in front of his desk. The same influence has held on domestic affairs. As a matter of fact if I had to single out – this is one of my favorites pastimes – the biggest SOB in American history in the sense of evil impact – I think Woodrow Wilson is way, way at the head of the list for many reasons. The permanent direction which Woodrow Wilson set for foreign policy included the permanent collective security concept, which means America has some sort of God-given role to push everybody around everywhere and set up little democratic governments all over the world, and to suppress any kind of revolution against the status quo – that means any kind of change in the status quo either domestic or foreign. In the domestic sphere the corollary was the shift from a relatively laissez-faire economy – corrupted as it was by the Civil War subsidies it was still and all a relatively laissez-faire capitalism – a deliberate shift to in essence a so-called corporate state, what openly became a Corporate State in Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany.Q: As of what time?A: Well, the Progressive period begins around 1900 with Teddy Roosevelt and so forth. Woodrow Wilson cements it with his so-called reforms which totally subject the banking system to federal power and with the Federal Trade Commission, which did for business what the Interstate Commerce Commission did for the railroads. In other words, he imposed a system of monopoly capitalism, or corporate state monopoly, which we now call the partnership of the government and of big business and industry, which means essentially a corporate state, or we can call it economic Fascism. It culminated in World War I economic planning, for the war consisted of a totally collectivized economy headed by the sainted and revered Bernard Mannes Baruch, head of the War Industries Board.
The economy had a central board and each industry was governed by a committee from the industry – say the iron and steel industry was governed by the Iron and Steel Board, the heads of the board were deliberately selected from the biggest firms in that particular industry and they would negotiate with committees of industry set up by the government, and the government would encourage trade associations in the industries to set up committees and negotiate with these boards.
So what you have is the so-called commodity sections – the government boards selected from the biggest businessmen in the industry and they fixed prices and production and priority and everything else with other committees set up by the same big firm, and everyone loved it. Big businesses loved it, the government loved it and the Progressive intellectuals – as they were called then – said, this is a magnificent third way, a “middle way” as they called it – to battle the old laissez-faire capitalism on the one hand, and the new Proletarian Marxian socialism on the other.
They didn’t like the idea of Marxian socialism because it was messy, emphasized class struggle, and led to a revolution perhaps. What they saw here was a new order – and this was a vision held by Baruch and Hoover and all sorts of Progressive intellectuals from the universities and so forth – they saw a beautiful new order with big government controlling the economy, regulating it, subsidizing it, largely staffed by big businessmen in collaboration with unions, which were deliberately encouraged as disciplinary agents for the labor force, and which were practically created by the war labor system. All this of course was staffed and apologized for by the Progressive intellectuals, who acquired prestige, power, and a great sense of accomplishment pushing people around in their government bureaus.
So we have, then, this unholy partnership of big government, big business, big unions, and intellectuals, and it was developed so much in World War I planning that the business leaders and the government leaders who pushed the thing were very reluctant to see it end. They saw in it not just a wartime measure; this was the model they wanted for the permanent peacetime economy. They wanted to end all messy competition. As one big business writer said, “As General Sherman said ‘war is Hell, competition is war, and therefore competition is Hell.'” They wanted to eliminate competition, and to establish a system of industrial “cooperation” monopolies. And they were very sorry to see the War Industries Board scrapped when the war was over.
As a matter of fact, it almost wasn’t scrapped. Wilson finally decided to scrap it, but it was touch and go. Then afterwards the same people – Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Bernard Baruch, all the people who had earned their stripes in World War I mobilization planning – for the rest of their lives tried and then succeeded in reestablishing World War I planning – it was known as war collectivism – as a permanent peacetime set up. Herbert Hoover during the 1920s was trying to use the power of the government to encourage and support trade association cartel agreements, and Franklin Roosevelt also. When Roosevelt and the New Deal got in, they used not only the same agencies as World War I collectivism, but the same people.
In case after case the people were brought back to do for the economy what had been done in war, to treat the depression in a military manner, and then World War II, of course, finishes it. In World War II, we have another big quantum leap – enormous government spending and military-industrial pump priming, and the permanent cold war, and so we then have the plans for a permanent peacetime welfare-warfare state – a corporate state – pushed through of course by partnership of these powerful forces plus intellectuals, done by means of wartime crisis.
Q: The notion of collective security is something that many Americans today take for granted as desirable and essential.
A: Well I think the concept of collective security is (1) a disaster and (2) anti-libertarian. Viet Nam again brings this thing to the fore, in the sense of masking imperial interventionist policy on the part of the American government in the rhetoric of the cloak of righteousness and moralistic pieties. Let’s take two hypothetical states—this is the technique von Mises used to use, I think, with good effect—take the hypothetical states of Ruritania and Waldavia, somewhere off in the Balkans or whatever. The Ruritanian State invades the Waldavian State. The collective-security view is that this constitutes aggression, it’s evil per se – an evil State attacking a victim State, the Ruritanian State being the aggressor in this case, and then it becomes the duty of every other State in the whole wide world – the United States being somehow the divinely appointed chief and almost sole pourer out of resources in this effort – to step in to defend the so-called victim, and crush the aggressor.
Now this has very many important consequences. One is that every crummy little interstate conflict anywhere in the world becomes escalated and maximized into world wide global conflict. With this kind of policy it means that no dispute anywhere, however trivial, can ever be kept trivial or kept isolated to the parties of the dispute, as they become globalized and bring everybody else into the holocaust. The second problem is that the whole idea of the aggressor State and the victim State is based on the phony analogy of the individual citizen – individual person – suffering an aggression against him.
You remember the big argument President Truman used about Korea—he said, “We are not engaged in a war, we are engaged in a police action, a UN police action against the North Korean aggressor.” Now when he said that he was not just using peculiar and phony rhetoric. The rhetoric came out of the Wilsonian collective security ideology, which was: if you see armies crossing frontiers somewhere, this constitutes aggression. It means that in the same sense as if he sees Jones beating up Smith on the street, the policeman on the block rushes to his defense, and so therefore the United States and the United Nations become the policemen rushing to defend the victim.
Now there are several problems in this. One is that even in the case of Jones and Smith, the presumption is if you see Jones beating up Smith that you should rush to Smith’s defense. However, there might be certain mitigating circumstances. Smith might have just beaten up Jones’s kid, and Jones might be retaliating; in other words, Smith might have started the fight – you don’t know that without historical investigation so to speak of the Smith-Jones relationship.
In the case of States, you have a completely different situation because this ideology assumes that the Waldavian State and Ruritanian State are somehow the rightful owners of all their territory, just as Jones owns his watch and Smith does, too, and then Smith beats Jones up or takes his watch away from him, this is aggression. The analogy then becomes, if Ruritania invades Waldavia, this means that Waldavian territory, Waldavian property, rightful property, has been taken away from them by the Ruritanian aggressor.
Now the point is for the libertarian that none of these States have any rightful property, that the Ruritanian government does not properly and justly own the entire land area of the country – the property should be owned by individual citizens, the State apparatus has then no title, no just claim. So if the Ruritanian State crosses the frontier and fights the Waldavian State, this does not make the Ruritanian State any more of an aggressor than the original Waldavian State. Both of them are aggressors over their subject populations. Considering that and the whole idea that every other government should rush in and defend Waldavia means that not only is every small conflict escalated to a global scale – it also means that every small aggression is maximized in the global scale.
In other words, since all governments aggress against their citizens through taxes, through conscription, through mass murder called war, the more governments that enter into the picture – the more the United States, Britain, or whatever rushes in to defend Waldavia – the more innocent civilians get killed, the more innocent people are forced to pay taxes, the more innocent people are conscripted. So the way to minimize aggression when you are dealing with States is to agitate and press for nobody to enter into any conflict at all – hopefully for no government to go to war with any other government – and if any government does go to war, for the third, fourth, and fifth party to stay the blazes out.
Apart from all this, the boundaries of each State – Waldavian, Ruritanian, American, French, British – since they are not justly owned by any sort of process of capital investment or homesteading or anything else, since all State boundaries have always been the result of previous conquests—so in many cases the so-called aggressor state has a better claim than the so-called victim state.
For example, suppose that Ruritania is “aggressing” and declares war on Waldavia and starts seizing the Northwestern part of Waldavia. Well, it’s very possible that the Northwestern part of Waldavia is ethnically Ruritanian, had Ruritanian customs, and that 100 years ago, the Waldavian State had conquered it and now the Ruritanians were taking it back. This is a perfectly legitimate claim, so the point is, then, that all interstate wars intensify aggression – maximize it – and that some wars are even more unjust than others. In other words, all government wars are unjust, although some governments have less unjust claims in the sense that they might have. Well, let’s put it this way, in the case of the Ruritanian-Waldavian thing, when the Ruritanians are simply taking back ethnically Ruritanian territory and the Ruritanian masses were yearning to rejoin their homeland – then libertarians, it seems to me, would say that war would then be just if the following conditions were satisfied: (1) There were no taxes imposed; (2) No innocent civilians got killed; (3) Nobody got conscripted – in other words, it was a purely voluntary fight. Obviously to meet these conditions, it would be almost impossible but there are different gradations – you know, real life wars, approaching this. A “just war” would be for all these conditions to be met.
Q: What is your view of the applicability of the concept of collective security to, say, a situation involving a private nongovernmental band of pirates?
A: Well I wouldn’t call it collective security. First of all, I don’t like the word “collective.” Collective implies some sort of nonexistent collectivity that acts – has a being and acts; only individuals exist, only individuals act. So that if private people get aggressed against by pirates I would certainly be in favor of and certainly support the right of these individual victims to defend themselves against piracy by banding together, or by hiring other agencies to defend themselves. I don’t like to call that collective, because collective implies some sort of coercive totality.
Q: Let’s assume, then, you have some type of mutual defense pact entered into by private individuals to defend themselves against a band of private nongovernmental pirate. Let’s say that it would be probable that there would be innocent victims of the tactics that were most appropriate in defending private interests. What would be your view on the propriety of such tactics?
A: I think – first, one of the points that I should have mentioned about wars, why I am opposed to all of them – is that in modern times the scale of weaponry that’s used is escalated so that it’s almost impossible not to murder innocent civilians. Part of the reason for this is not only the march of technology, the fact that if you use a bow and arrow you can pinpoint it against the enemy army, you can pinpoint it at the retinue of a king. If you use H bombs or B-29s or whatever, of course, you can’t pinpoint the warring soldiers and officers – you have to start the mass murdering of civilians.
There’s another reason for this: the State apparatus gathers to itself the entire population of its territory. If you happen to live in France you as a French citizen, even though you might hate the war that France is conducting against Portugal, you are committed to it by the very nature of the state system. So that if the French government goes to war with the Portuguese government, the Portuguese government would undoubtedly bomb, if it could, the French civilian population. So, in other words, the very nature of interstate war puts innocent civilians into great jeopardy, especially with modern technology.
However, if you didn’t have State war, if States were eliminated or if you are only talking about private marauders versus private defenders, then the situation completely changes. Then you don’t only have one state and one geographical area secure in its home base, and the other state somewhere else in its geographical area on its home base. In other words, to put it bluntly, you are not going to have either the marauders or the defenders bombing each other because they are only perhaps five blocks apart. So the result of this is that you only use H bomb and mass murder – commit genocide against an enemy – if they are way out there somewhere and you can’t see them. The beauty of nonstate – interprivate, if you want to put it that way, warfare is that it has to be pinpointed—it has to be, in order not to commit suicide in the process—and so that the scale of weaponry has to be reduced to, say, machine-gun level.
In that situation, I don’t see why civilians have to be injured at all. After all, look at private crime now: suppose somebody beats somebody over the head and steals his pocketbook and runs down the street. The police right now do not spray machine-gun fire on the entire crowd in order to shoot down the criminal. The principle is that no innocent person can get killed, and if the criminal escapes, it’s tough luck, because the most important principle for the libertarian and among the domestic police is not to use force against noncriminals. There’s an ancient maxim that it’s more important to let a hundred criminals escape than to injure one innocent person, so (1) I would be totally opposed to injuring any non-criminals and (2) if you shift from State war – interstate warfare – down to private warfare, the likelihood of doing that, of pursuing this kind of libertarian non-injuring of civilians, will be greatly increased.
Q: Do you care to comment on the view that the only war in which the United States has been involved which could be justified is the Revolutionary War?
A: Yes, I agree 100% with that! The difference between the Revolutionary War and an interstate war is that, in the first place, an interstate war is a war of one government against another – it’s a war that aggresses against the innocent civilians of the opposite government, it’s a war that increases taxes at home, and conscription usually, to pay for it. Revolutionary war is a war against the state apparatus, a war from below by the armed public. It doesn’t have to injure innocent civilians, and it usually doesn’t. It often does not involve taxes or conscription – if it does, it does so on a very small scale.
The American revolutionary effort didn’t have any taxation even on a state level for the first few years of the Revolutionary war. In other words, put it this way – when you have a revolutionary war against the existing state apparatus – say the American people against the British Crown and their collaborationists at home, the guerrilla revolutionary effort can pinpoint their attacks against the State apparatus. They do the pinpointing, and they have to do the pinpointing. They can do it and they have to do it – in other words, they don’t spray innocent people with machine guns, they don’t H-bomb if they have the H bomb, their object is to zap the forces of the existing government of the Crown – the Crown officers and so forth.
On the other hand, the reason why they don’t injure civilians is usually not just from moral reasons, but from basic strategic ones – that is, that no revolutionary, no people’s war can succeed unless it has the broad support of the mass of the population. Mao tse Tung and Che Guevara, of course, enunciated this – as “The guerrillas are to the people as fish are to water.” But actually Charles Lee saw this much earlier – he was the brilliant Revolutionary theorist who was the second in command to George Washington for the first few years of the American Revolution. He was a British soldier of fortune and libertarian and wandered all over the world picking up military insights. As soon as the American Revolution broke out, Lee rushed to the United States to help out in the war effort, and was made second in command.
Lee set the pattern for the American victory, not Washington – well, I won’t go into that, but Lee set the pattern by pointing out that the American Revolution could only succeed as a people’s war from below – a guerrilla struggle, it you will – against the superior fire power of the British government. The government’s lacking the essential popular support, the guerrillas therefore become the people, and people became the guerrillas in the old battle grounds of Lexington and Concord, which victories were the first great American guerrilla action. The British, just as the Americans now in Vietnam, had very great difficulty distinguishing between the peasants and the guerrillas. They say they all look alike – well, they are alike, they are them. In other words, peasants in the daytime pick up the guns at night and pop the British soldiers.
Joey Rothbard: Not the British soldiers.
A: Well, in the American Revolution, it was the British soldiers, in the Viet Nam war, it is the American soldiers, but the principle is the same. The interesting thing is that on the other hand, the counterrevolutionary forces, in other words, the Government battling against the Revolution, has to do just the opposite: they have superior fire power for various reasons, they have the official army, but they don’t have the support of the population – so in their kind of warfare, they have to amass genocidal terror against the civilian population, they try to break the morale of the civilians, try to cut their support off from the guerrillas and so forth. The Americans have done this with the infamous strategic hamlet policy in Viet Nam, herding the peasants into hamlets so that they couldn’t support the guerrillas; the British did it in the Boer War in the early 20th century; the American government did it in the Philippines in the early part of the 20th century; and I think the British would have done it in the Revolutionary war if they had had the resources to do so. The British actually did some of this, you know, though they had not carried counterrevolutionary warfare to its present height. But the principle is there so that if you have a revolution against the State apparatus, the revolutionary warfare—apart from the goals of the revolution or the counterrevolution – is almost necessarily libertarian and the counterrevolutionary warfare is almost necessarily genocidal or anti-libertarian.
Q: What are the basic elements of a proper libertarian foreign policy?A: Well, the basic elements of any libertarian foreign policy is to pressure the government to do nothing abroad, just to pack up shop and go home. General Smeadly Butler, one of my great heroes, formerly of the Marine Corps, in the late 1930s proposed a constitutional amendment in The Woman’s Home Companion. His article was a sensation for awhile but of course the amendment never was adopted and has now been forgotten. But it was kind of a charming constitutional amendment – I recommend that everybody read it. In essence it says something like this: no American soldier, plane, or ship shall be sent any place outside America. In other words, complete abstinence from any kind of American military intervention and political and economic intervention.
Q: You would be referring to American government planes, I assume – what about commercial flights?
A: Oh yes, you know, abstinence from government intervention. It was the idea of isolationism. The sneer against isolationism always was that isolationists were parochial, narrow-minded characters who don’t know that there is a world out there and want to hide their heads in the sand. In fact it’s the opposite – the true principle of isolationism is that the government should be isolated, the government should do nothing abroad and people who trade, interchange, and engage in voluntary travel, migration, and so forth should be allowed to peacefully do so. The idea is to isolate the government, not to isolate the country.
There’s another aspect, of course; this would apply to any government, but the thing is there is also an extra aspect – empirically it so happens that the American government since the days of Woodrow Wilson has been the main threat to the peace of the world, the main imperialist, the main embarker on a policy of meddling in every conceivable country every place in the world to make sure their government shapes up properly. So that the policy of American isolationism is more important for libertarian principle than any other country’s isolationism.

How do I Libertarian you? Let me count the ways…

14 Jan
Last week Glenn Beck upset some libertarians by saying he was going to create a libertarian TV network:
Glenn Beck Relaunching The Blaze As Global Libertarian News Network

Beck takes a shot at Fox as he expands his news network with foreign bureaus and a new show. “I consider myself a libertarian… I’m a lot closer to Penn Jillette than I am to Chuck Hagel.”

Glenn Beck announced plans Tuesday during his online television program to expand the news operation in his media company, The Blaze, and refocus it as a libertarian network, opening three foreign bureaus, debuting a nightly newsmagazine show, and relocating his New York staff to showy new offices.                   
Beck introduced his ambitious plans by standing in front of a split screen with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on one side and Fox News’s Sean Hannity on the other, and bemoaning the fact that cable news has devolved into the “far left [and] far right… yelling at each other.”
“We’re not gonna play in that crazy space as a network,” he said, adding, “I consider myself a libertarian… I’m a lot closer to Penn Jillette than I am to Chuck Hagel.”
He said over the next 60 days, The Blaze will open three foreign bureaus in cities that are “important to America.” He will also relocate his New York staff from their current midtown offices into a building that will “send a very clear message to everyone in New York… it will piss everyone off.”
Beck also showed a teaser for a new nightly 30-minute newsmagazine show calledFor the Record.

“Our Nightline will be a nightly half hour broadcast to update you on a topic that no one else quite frankly has the balls to do. I will,” he said.
The trailer for the show — which he said will be “the most expensive show on the network, including mine” — featured future episodes exposing the NSA for turning America into a “surveillance state,” and warning that the UN “want[s] your guns,” both big issues in libertarian circles.
After the in-your-face trailer ended, Beck chuckled, “Security is going to be a real issue for the people in our company.”
The Blaze also has plans to hire investigative journalists and plans to produce more documentaries, Beck said.
“We are currently looking for our own Woodwards and Bernsteins,” he said. “Maybe they don’t exist anymore, and if that’s the case I don’t really care. We’ll grow our own!”
Beck launched his online TV network, then called GBTV, in 2011, and has brought all his media properties — including a news and opinion site, a monthly magazine, and an online radio network — under umbrella of The Blaze brand. Last year, the network began airing on a Dish Network channel, and last week, Beck revealed that he tried to buy the channel currently airing Al Gore’s Current TV — a sign that he hopes to expand into cable soon.
But Beck’s decision to orient the network’s programming around libertarian politics — or at least brand it that way — could be a play for younger, conservative viewers, who find the Republican Party, and the network that most closely aligns with its ideals, Fox, distasteful.

I’ve been watching Beck since he was on HLN in the late afternoon, long before he went to FOX News.  I was unhappy to see FOX cancel him, as I thought he was the best thing on their show.

It was fun but awkward to watch him back then when he interviewed Penn Jillette.  He clearly likes Jillette; one suspects he appreciates his showmanship, since Beck is very much the showman, much more than most TV presenters.  (Beck is probably more skilled than Oprah at the medium of television, and his talent simply isn’t, and probably cannot be, recognized by those with partisan blinders.)  At least once I have seen Beck ask if Jillette would invite him into his home even though they disagree about religion, opining that he (Beck) would invite an otherwise agreeable atheist like Jillette to meet his family; on one such occasion Jillette pulled back and seemed to announce that his atheism was orthodox and biblical in its ritual purity, with no mixing of mystics and non-mystics in the home, and no otherworldly influences allowed on his children.  Awkward!

I can see how libertarians could get in a snit (here/) over Beck creating a libertarian TV network.  Libertarianism is becoming more popular.  When it does you can’t control who will be representing it and what spin they will put on it, and  some people who really aren’t libertarian on every issue (but are way libertarian compared to the political establishment), will call themselves libertarians.  Ron Paul had his past odious associations, including those newsletter authors; and still he brought people into the movement.  Rand Paul may not be a libertarian on every issue, and once or twice has said things he shouldn’t have; and yet he still is so far superior to what we have now that I think it is silly and counterproductive to criticize him.  Why not let go at Jillette or Drew Carey as well for some reason or other – not being great beauties or being “too” critical of religion?  I think we may be repeating the Rand/Rothbard problem, where instead of simply criticizing each other’s ideas, drama, high dudgeon, and calls for ostracism abound.

Given all that I think it is funny that I keep coming across people around the world naming their ventures “Libertarian” when they have even less to do with politics or policy than a TV network would.

Here is a milliner in England who makes fanciful hats, who calls her company The Libertarian:

And then there is a property management company, that calls itself The Libertarian:


The Libertarian is a family owned and managed commercial property company based in London Bridge. We have properties in London Bridge and Romford.

Why come to us?We are 100% family owned so our sole priority is with our tenants rather than external investors. We are open, flexible and always responsive to our tenants’ requirements. We have a hands on approach where you will always have a direct line of communication with us to make sure you have the easiest and most stress free transition into your new home for your business.Nick Riley, Director/Owner – started in the business from an early age, when instead of being taken to football matches by his father, he was taken to work and given a shovel. He graduated with a Masters in mechanical engineering in 2000 and spent the following years working as a Project Engineer/Manager for Tyco Infrastructure and Bovis Lend Lease in Australia. He assumed the role of director and company secretary of The Libertarian in 2009 and has steered the business towards the acquisition of further property and the modernisation of the existing stock. Nick is co-owner with his sister, Melissa Riley.

So Beck wants to call his TV network libertarian?  What’s the problem?  He’s been evolving in a libertarian direction for years.  He’s almost the only TV presenter (aside from Stossel, Napolitano and Cavuto) who has a clue about inflationism and deficit financing of state expansion and how it causes business cycles, the core and major and unremarked political issue of the past century.

The problem of a growing liberty movement is not going away.  For example, every time a state Libertarian Party gets permanent ballot status (as my Congressional campaign just produced in the District of Columbia), control of that party rests with organized groups of people who choose to register as Libertarians, whomever they may be.  If you don’t like their positions you will actually have to educate and persuade them, beyond telling them they are not libertarians.

The Koch brothers and the Liberty movement

11 Feb
I have a long history of brief brushes with Charles and David Koch.

In 1980 I was kind of a college intern for the Ed Clark for President Campaign.  David Koch was the Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate, allowing the LP to finance itself despite the Federal Election Commission and campaign finance rules meant to crush new parties and challenges to incumbents (the only people who can give big donations to a campaign are the candidates themselves).  I actually ran into David Koch at an Americans for Prosperity event in DC a year ago and told him that I had worked on his campaign in 1980 and he said “That was my baptism by fire!”

After the Clark campaign, I was attacked by Murray Rothbard (who had never spoken to me, though when I was 20 and he was 60+ we had from time to time been in the same room).  I am at the very end of his long list of “Craniacs” (agents of Ed Crane) and members of the “Kochtopus” (people who work on projects funded by the Kochs) in one of his many screeds, this one published in his newsletter Libertarian Forum (now archived by the Ludwig von Mises institute at ).  Rothbard famously in his dotage became a cranky old man who attacked anyone who did not worship him, as the South Park kids would say, an A-U-T-H-O-R-O-Y-T-A-Y. (In this Rothbard was repeating a libertarian cycle of abuse, himself in the 50s having been abused by Ayn Rand, who disapproved of his Catholic wife Joey.  I am tempted to begin my own version of the Ron Paul Newsletters, covering the libertarian movement, to be entitled Cranky Old Jews.)  Except for working for 11 months for the Clark campaign, I have never been paid by anything funded by the Koch brothers, though I once wrote Charles Koch a letter for some reason (in the 80s) and got a letter back from him.

Ed Crane

Fast forward to the 90s.  Among my real estate clients was a Yugoslavian defector, a female Olympic athlete, who had lived in Manhattan for a decade or two — and dated David Koch.  It’s always funny to run into people, especially through real estate, who are connected to people you know in some other aspect of life.  My client was rather wistful.  It was clear that David Koch was the one, or at least the wallet, that got away.

And apparently the libertarian movement is now in the same position as my client.

The Kochs fund a number of libertarian think tanks and groups, like the CATO Institute.  In the past decade or so they have also given maximum amounts of money to Republican candidates and PACS, and famously organize retreats for multi-millionaire donors which Soros and Podesta funded brothels like the Center for American Regress constantly write about and attempt to infiltrate.  They have also given a lot of money to various tea party groups, including Americans for Prosperity.

Curiously, when Rand Paul ran for Senate, the Kochs gave money to the conventional Republican he was running against in the primary (I am told — I have not checked this at, but you can go there as I have in the past and see the donations to Republicans, and no LP candidates, in general).  Only after Rand was the nominee did the Kochs donate to him.

Now I am extremely grateful to the Kochs for their funding of all aspects of the tea party and liberty movements, including libertarian groups.  According to multiple off the record sources, the Kochs do plan to use their donor status to effect a “vertical integration” of the libertarian movement organizations they fund into the tea party movement.  This is in part occasioned by the recent death of CATO board member William Niskanen.  Niskanen, Ed Crane, and Charles and David Koch are the board.  The board is now down from 4 to 3, and so the Kochs, if in agreement, control what will happen.  (Probably coincidentally next week there is a CATO lunch forum for a tea party book.)  According to my sources, this integration will include the Reason Foundation and other groups that the Kochs help to fund.  It might include many firings or resignations by CATO and other staffers and scholars who concentrate on civil liberty or foreign policy issues.

I am not sure that strategically this is a mistake.  Perhaps the idea is that libertarians are well established enough in academia in spots that egg heady think tanks are no longer a priority.  But the Kochs’ friendship with Herman Cain does make one pause and wonder if the new orientation will include shunning foreign policy and civil liberty issues.  We will have to keep a watch.

Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution
(Henry Holt, 2012)

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Noon (Luncheon to Follow)
Featuring the authors Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, Cofounders, Tea Party Patriots; with comments by John FundAmerican Spectator; moderated by Edward H. Crane, President, Cato Institute.
Mount Vernon Place, Undercroft Auditorium, 900 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
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In 2009, an unemployed mother of two and a politically inexperienced northern California attorney met on a conference call that would end up launching one of the largest grassroots political movements in American history. Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin have since become the faces behind the Tea Party Patriots. By promoting the basic principles of free markets, limited government, and fiscal responsibility, the Patriots have capitalized on the recent groundswell of discontent around the country, inspiring a much-needed resurgence in the importance of constitutional constraints. In their new book, Meckler and Martin explain the genesis of this movement, what the Tea Party is and is not, and what its plans are for the future. Join us for the launch of this book by two emerging leaders, with comments by John Fund, a senior editor at the American Spectator and former political columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

Cato events, unless otherwise noted, are free of charge. To register for this event, please fill out the form below and click submit or email, fax (202) 371-0841, or call (202) 789-5229 by noon, Wednesday, February 15, 2012. News media inquiries only (no registrations), please call (202) 789-5200.